Iceland: An experience
We planned for a company meeting to be in Iceland, with just about a month’s notice. You can do that, when you’re a fairly small company. Having been back from London during the winter, where it was snowing in the New Year, I was not exactly jumping high to visit Iceland. Ice? Gasp.
It was not exactly easy to get to Iceland: KUL – SIN – FRA – CPH – KEF. Five countries, in a little over a day (would have been about it, had it not been due to a delayed flight from Copenhagen — seemed that the plane was snowed in from Iceland). Upon getting my boarding pass for the last leg, I was asked by the SAS ticketing agent if I’d like a window seat – I naturally replied aisle, and he confirmed my choice with me, as if shocked. Then I realised, there might be some interesting sights from the plane, so I took his advice and got a window seat. Icelandair is nice! (in comparison to Lufthansa). Odd plane though – they run Windows (noticed from the mouse pointer), but the entire entertainment system is touchscreen based. Their magazine made a special mention that their playing cards were mentioned in Monocle’s Travel Top Fifty 2009/2010; they were for sale for 3 euros. I figured I’ll pick it up on the way back. Anyway, the view from the window seat? Completely amazing.
I arrived for the meeting on Friday, so missed a bit of the first day. It was pretty much in time for dinner, when I arrived at the Radisson SAS 1919 (important detail – there are 2 Radisson hotels here), so we headed to a restaurant called the Viking Village. Here we tried shark, had some nice lamb, and tried skyr, which they seemingly adulterated with something rather sweet along the way!
The next day, we had dinner at Orange. Before we stumbled upon it, we somehow found that on the 2nd floor, there was also the Malaysian Embassy. Very interesting :) Orange was beautiful, and Monty got us a tasting platter – something like a 5 course dinner, matched with appropriate wines, for each course! We ate like kings. It started with langoustines, then we had whale (which I think tastes a little like beef, maybe a little rare beef?). After that we had beef, and we got some pre-dessert strawberry foam, followed finally by our dessert (another variation of skyr). Being Friday, we all headed out for some drinks, so it was a night infused with lots of salmiakki, whiskey, and beer (this after the wines we had!).
Dinner on Sunday was at Hereford Steakhouse. For me, it started with a Cognac-infused langoustine soup, and for my main, I decided that I’d go for a steak and lobster tail. Skipped dessert, as I was pretty damn tired from the night before.
Monday was an excursion day. We tried our hand at horse riding. These Icelandic horses are apparently quite pony-sized, due to living in extreme conditions, thus eating less. We rode for about two hours, and it was the first time for me (and many of us). Let’s say I now have new respect for horse riders, and those folk at the races. You’d think it was cold; but the coldest part was stopping, giving the horses a break, and allowing the few to have a smoke break. I failed at getting my horse tied once we reached the stables – maybe I just had a stubborn horse (it was apparently a willing horse, not one for beginners). Consequently, I hurt a finger on my left hand, making it rather difficult to type!
The Blue Lagoon. Another photo, showing the steam.
For me, our visit to The Blue Lagoon was the highlight of the trip. I absolutely loved it. This alone, is worth visiting Iceland for. We were told that we’d be bored within an hour. Rubbish. We spent a good three to four hours there. They have a steam room, a sauna (which was a bit too cool for my liking), and of course, the geothermal spa. If more time permitted, I would have probably gone for a massage; apparently you can get one done while in the water. They clay-like mud, is quite relaxing when applied to skin. Your head is above water, but your body is submerged in the warm water. So when the cold winds do come, you still feel quite nice. Lifting your body up a little out of the water is also fun – kind of like “hot/cold treatments”. The experience is truly indescribable – you must experience it for yourself. Before going in, we decided to also grab lunch here – a day of lamb. Well presented, and very tasty, especially with the accompanying wine. Beware the bus journey: it took us over an hour to reach Reykjavik!
Monday’s dinner was at a restaurant close-by to the hotel. It was at Laekjarbrekka, situated a little on top of a hill. This place screamed romantic diners and fancy dining. They had good value for money sets, so I grabbed the langoustine set. It started off with a most amazing langoustine soup, flavoured with cream and Cognac, and we moved quite quickly to the main course (pictured), which consisted of langoustines, a langoustine tempura, and a baked/puff pastry item filled with langoustine. Paired with some rose wine, and a few shots of vodka before (I’m told that if you feel a cold coming, you should have some vodka – keeps the gremlins at bay), this was a most excellent meal. Dessert was home-made ice-cream, and again the presentation was fabulous. Truly a restaurant to take your romantic date to.
Anyway, the entire set of photos is on Flickr: Reykjavik, Iceland.
A few other notes:
- You can buy shark meat at the airport.
- Whale meat you need to visit Noatun.
- The airport Skybus is cheaper when you buy a return ticket. But when the flight leaves at 7am, you’ll have to get a taxi to the bus terminal, and then board the bus to the airport from there.
- Keflavik airport was voted #4 best European airport in 2008. Beware, their security insists you remove all electronic items from your hand carry. Cables included. This process can take some unnecessary time.
- Credit cards are accepted everywhere – taxis, kebab shops, pizza parlours, the post office, etc. I have yet to see Icelandic krona, because I survived quite well without it. If your transaction is under-1000kr, you may not even be required to sign the docket.
- The Keflavik airport does not have free WiFi. Power plugs are non-existent at the waiting lounges, but there’s plenty of power at the coffee places before you hit your departure gates.
- Nightlife is pretty disappointing if its not a weekend. Even on March 1, to celebrate the end of “beer prohibition” (beer was only legal in 1989, afaik), the crowds were not all that great. In fact, not many bars were open, even!
All in all, it was great fun meeting everyone (a lot of old colleagues from MySQL now work at Monty Program), I think the meeting was rather productive (I’ll write about that in another post), and the time outside of the meeting was simply fabulous. Good choice for a meeting Monty!