Iceland: Reykjanes Penninsula
We headed back down the West coast of Iceland from Snaefellnes, moving to a new lodging South of the capital in a village called Vogar. We chose this village for the second part of our Iceland trip since it was close to the airport and Reykjavik, but also a quiet remove from the city. On our way down the coast, we stopped to visit the town of Borgarnes, which we had bypassed on our way up to Snaefellnes. I had read about a small playground for children in the town that had been hand-built over the years by a local resident and we thought it would make for a nice waypoint on our drive. After a little wandering around, we found the park tucked into a hill by the school.
Bjossarolo, as it is called, was built it over a span of several decades, using re-purposed lumber and other scrap items, such as old steering wheels. The man who built it loved children and wanted them to have a place to explore. There was a fort with several access points, a few swings, slides, cars to drive and more. Jonas loved trying out everything and the park is ingeniously bulit into a hillside, so it is somewhat blocked from the cold wind.
It was a great location to enjoy the sun and get out some energy before more driving.
We had lunch at a kaffehaus which was used as a location in the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." I guess in the film, the cafe was transformed into a Papa John's Pizza (love the American product placement) and they had still photos from the movie in the cafe. It was a nice spot for our standard Icelandic lunch (soup, bread and coffee) and to pick up some treats for the road. I also bought some lovely handspun Icelandic wool, colored with plant-based dyes. It's a thin type of wool called tviband which is traditionally knit into a shawl called a hyrna. A shawl for myself is already on my needles.
We drove directly from Borgarnes to Vogar, bypassing Reykjavik. Our lodging was an Airbnb rental and we wanted to check in with our host, Dagmar. Her rental is in the loft of her house and was lovely. The photo above is from the window of our loft. She was very welcoming and had made us warm skonsur, which are very simlar to pancakes, complete with homemade jam to go along with them. The skonsur were delicious and perfectly timed, since we had to drive straight to the Blue Lagoon for our reservation. The Blue Lagoon, a geothermic pool built into black lava with a white silica mud bottom, is everything you are warned about: expensive, touristy and magical. We spent several evening hours warming ourselves in the steamy pools, painting our skin with the mud and relaxing. Jonas loved the experience and we felt it was worth the side trip. I didn't take any photos while we were there, but this image captures the pool fairly well. The color of the water is a strange, irridescent blue and we did feel quite restored after our soak.
The next day we had originally planned to go into Reykjavik for the day, but instead opted for a day exploring the southern penninsula, Reykjanes. The area has lots of geothermal features, rugged sea cliffs and a few small villages. We walked the trail along the coast out to the lighthouse at Gardur and found this old fishing boat along the way.
The fact that fisherman once braved the North Atlantic Ocean in this vessel baffles me. We were chilled enough walking in the sunshine right by the coast in our puffy coats. Can you imagine fishing, wearing seal-skin rainwear, in a brutally cold ocean? Icelanders are a tough, tough people. At Gardur, we found a more sea-worthy vessel to explore.
On the walk out to the lighthouse we had promised Jonas a warm drink if we could find one. There was an odd cafe by the lighthouse, which seemed to exclusively serve tourist busses. The owner insisted we wait to pay until after we had eaten our cakes and cocoa, but when we went to settle up her credit card reader wouldn't work properly and we had no kroner on hand. We were trapped for a small while until she called the bank and was able to fix the issue. Luckily we didn't have to leave Jonas for collateral while we went in search of a cash machine.
On the way to another village, Grindavik, we stopped at a few geothermic sites which were interesting. If you walked along the boardwalk near this fumarole, the cloud would sprinkle you with a warm and salty rain. The area reminded us of Yellowstone, but not quite so dramatic.
More dramatic are the sea cliffs -- filled with nesting birds. We walked to the top of a large hill to check out the view. In Grindavik, we beachcombed and found a cafe for another Icelandic lunch. The barkeeper there was a younger man who was easily the most chatty Icelander we met. He gave Jonas a length of "splice" -- a type of fishing rope he had been braiding. We hung out in the cafe until they began to set up for a broadcast of the football game. The atmosphere in this part of Iceland reminded me very much of the countryside of Ireland. Those small, windblown islands have some kindred features.
We returned to our loft and prepared for an early departure in the morning. Nick ventured out on his own and found a very well-built stone roundhouse out in the fields.
In the morning we boarded our flight to Paris and watched the golden grasses blow on the island as we ascended. Iceland is a beautiful, quiet country we hope to visit again.
Next stop, France.