Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Sunday, 23 December 2007


This entry into the annual Katla Baking Goods gingerbread competition at Smáralind Mall caught my eye because of its originality, and mostly because of the Not Welcome sign at the entrance to the cave. It wasn't until I got home that I realized this is a Seussian scene, and that a cute little marzipan Grinch is stationed by the entrance to the cave.

The infamous Grinch also plays a role in Smáralind's annual Christmas Pageant, and the 2000 movie with, alas, a poor flailing Jim Carrey, was shown on RUV, the national tv station, last night.

Is green the new Xmas red? If Grinch (who turned 50 this year!) and our favorite holiday movie, Elf have anything to do with it, I'd say yes.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Thanks to all the brave men and women at Reykjavik's Flugbjörgunarsveit, or Air Rescue Corps, for supplying us with a sweet little evergreen for our living room. Though recent dispatches have basically been to retrieve pieces of rooftop corrugated iron from surrounding trees during last week's heavy winds, all of Iceland's Rescue Corps deserve intense admiration for braving our wilderness in the name of saving lives from our island's very fickle appetites.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007


A beautiful frosty late afternoon scene from Vífilsstaðavatn just outside of central Garðabær, about a twenty minute drive from downtown Reykjavik.

This nature area has a number of outstanding walking trails, and when you're done strolling through the lava beds and heaths you can pop over to Ikea, just visible as a tiny blue and yellow glow on the central horizon in this shot, for an inexpensive meal of Swedish meatballs and potatoes.

Friday, 7 December 2007


'Tis the season...this bell is new, I think, strung up just to the west of the official centerpoint of the city of Reykjavik (there's a plaque in the sidewalk in front of this yellow Restaurant Reykjavik that makes that claim.) I've never been to Reykjavik's very own Ice Bar, located inside this building, nor have I tried their fish buffet, but if you're into that kind of thing you can find this restaurant just across the street from the main tourist info center, the red number 4 on this map.

Thursday, 6 December 2007


I got an odd email the other day, one requesting info on palm trees in Iceland. Here, I'll just go ahead and let you read it yourself:

Hi Maria,
I have been a fan of your blog since last January when I was doing some research for my trip to Iceland. Now I visit your blog and am longing to go back.
I've recently been researching the existence (or possibility) of palm trees growing in Iceland. I saw your photo of people enjoying the outside patio at Sirkus and found it odd that there is a mural on the wall of palm trees.
Do you know of any palm trees in Iceland? I'm having trouble finding some images.

Thank you,

I was intending to give Michelle some outdated bla bla about how Iceland is the northernmost banana grower in the world (here's an interesting article comparing Iceland's banana days to Iran's running out of gas) but then I remembered that banana plants are more bushes than trees. I was also going to mention the huge plastic palm at Perlan, but then, on my way home today an amazing thing happened.

Right there, at the end of the Great Wall of China Asian restaurant on Vesturgata, stood a small but stately palm! And I can promise you it hadn't been there only twenty minutes before when I'd walked the same sidewalk in the other direction! There was Michelle's Icelandic palm tree, and all I had to do was whip out my Olympus to snap the shot she wanted. Of course this tree is also not real, but it's Michelle's image conjured up on the snowy streets of Reykjavik like magic.

Sunday, 2 December 2007


At coffee hour in Iceland people are on the move: on their way home from work, from school, on their way to a cafe or to their amma's house for a cup and a slice of spice cake. At this time of year it's a lovely hour when the weather is right, like on this early evening last week down by the city lake. The pretty church is the Reykjavik Independant Church which, along with being where my parents were married and where my sister was baptized, has been the setting of a number of very beautiful concerts by the likes of Sigur Rós, Múm and Amiina. (Here's another lovely shot of the church by Weekend Photo.) And the white building to the right is the National Gallery of Iceland, an inspirational place to spend a coffee hour (with a cappuchino and kleina from Kaffitár, the in-house café.)

Oh, and be sure to get you and your loved ones a *New* Iceland Eyes 2008 calendar, mug and/or tee shirt! Check out the links on the side bar to see what's inside the calendar and what options you have with the tees. The calendar, by the way, was awarded Zazzle's Today's Best last week, as well as being in the Top 10 calendars viewed. You love it online, you'll love in person!!!

(More cool stuff always on the way, and do let me know if you have a favorite Iceland Eyes photo that we can make something from.)

Friday, 30 November 2007


My father Thor has his own garage band, or at least knows some guys who come over to jam jazz-style every so often. He had a pretty rockin' music career here in Iceland back in 1958-59, singing and drumming with some of the very best talent on the island at the time, many who are now considered legendary, including singer Ellý Vilhjálms. After just a few years in show business he made the decision to enlist in the US Navy, a choice he's never regrette. He's always drummed though, instinctively, every time he hears good music - on the steering wheel, on a desk, while watching tv...anywhere! : ) It's pretty cool that he's still at it, but I suppose one never un-becomes a musician, do they? I asked him to give up some detail on the guys who sat in on this session and here's what he wrote:

From left to right: Friðrik Theodorsson or Frikki T. on trombone, new
to me, Jón Möller on piano, he was one of first guys I played with at
the age of 17, me and Hans Jensson tenor sax. Hans was in the original
Elvar Berg Band from the 60's.

With music, you just get better with time!

Dad also translated into English an article that appeared in the Morgunblaðið newspaper this week, and I thought it would be fun to post it. Here goes:

Quality Jam with Stone…..

Famous in the story of Icelandic jazz is when the Austrian piano master Friedrick Gulda came to Reykjavik, played Beethoven with the symphony then wound up at a jam session where Gunnar Ormslev, Jón Páll, Bjössi Bassi and others played with the American drummer Gene Stone.

Gulda hadn’t thought about sitting down at the piano but after listening to Gene play with the others could not resist and got into it. This was such a memorable, rare event in European jazz that it’s still talked about. Now 37 years later Stone is again in Reykjavik and drove one of the most enjoyable jam sessions ever heard on our ”Frozen Rock”.

It must be fun for a base player to have a swinging “driver” at the drums and bassist Þorgrímur Jónsson was inspired. Great bass tones took advantage of the packed Duckling and his solo’s were short, well build, spiced. Jón Páll played the guitar like he did 37 years ago but better and more mature. He touched every nerve in “Round Midnight” and his solo in “I Hear A Rhapsody” was packed with energy. Sigurður Flosason (alto sax), Ólafur Jónsson (tenor sax) and Óskar Guðjónsson (soprano and tenor sax), had great moments and it was pure pleasure to listen to them in “Lover Man” which critics agree that this take and a recording back in 1976 featuring Ormslev, Rúnar Georgs(tenor sax) and Jón Páll are truly the most memorable moments in Icelandic jazz.

Ellington’s exiting “Caravan” and “Tizolsvar” the end numbers were up tempo and Stone played his solo reminiscent of Buddy Rich and the horns along with Jón Páll spiced their solos with eastern influence in the style of old Hollywood movies. A very enjoyable and artistic performance.

Critic: Vernhard Linnet

Monday, 26 November 2007


Painted rainbows and flowers defy the onslaught of frosty arctic winds at the Freyjugata playground near our home. Once again, though, this snow didn't last longer than a day and a night, and has since melted away under drizzly rains.

It is dark in the mornings and evenings, though, and I'm going to offer a little psa* here by highly encouraging visitors in the dimmer seasons to have some kind of reflective item on them while walking about. It may seem nerdy to have a dangling plastic reflector badge pinned to your fancy coat, but it's better than getting hit by a car. Period. Go to a bike store and get something like the stuff seen here and remember to look both ways while crossing, especially at the t-intersection just in front of Hallgrímskirkja. As can be seen in that photo, drivers seriously cut the turn there and we don't want any injured visitors, now do we?

*public service announcement

Friday, 23 November 2007


The darkness and rains beautifully enhance the winter lights draped among the bare trees of the city. Every year there seems to be more of them, helping to ease us through the season, especially as the snows, with their soft white glow, come less and less frequently.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Skyline Rvk

Good things come in small packages. This definitely fits for the itsy-bitsy city of Reykjavik (expanding suburbs exempt).

After a long weekend in sprawling Paris with its Napoleon III tracts of Hausmann housing running for miles, I'm glad to be back in the heart of a compact metropolis, richer for the experience.

Thursday, 15 November 2007


Out in Grafarvogur, or Grave Valley, a twenty minute drive from downtown Reykjavik, is this little downtownish shopping complex wrapped conveniently around a decent sized parking lot. Its called Spöngin, and surprisingly it's very lively for a suburban mini-mall. It's become what mini-mall designers hope their malls will become: a place to gather, shop and greet. It helps that there's a college, Borgarholtsskóli, a stone's throw away, and a good set of core stores. There's even a gym, filled to the brim on any given Tuesday with the healthy and fit, as seen through the World Class window above.

Read this little article to get a cool view of literary culture surging out of this largest of Reykjavik's many, ever-spreading suburbs. The writers in this Gravarvogur Writers Club prove that explosive things can come out of even the quietest of places.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


Just a little eye candy...

This is not the Icelandic national hairdo, but just a fancy net job for a young gymnastics competitor who performed very nicely in her events. Psychologically, the hairdo helps!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


The Westman Islands, Vestmannaeyjar, are these fanatastic volcanic sculptures rising from the Atlantic just south of Iceland. They are a mere ten to twenty thousand years young, basically the tops of massive magma cones jutting vigorously out of the cold arctic waters at that seam in the earth's crust we call the Reykjanes Ridge.

Getting ready for our retreat from the big island of Heimaey on Sunday after Valentina's (and her team Ármann's) excellent victory in gymnastics, I thought I was all set to discourage anyone and everyone from traveling to Vestmannaeyjar by sea on the ferry Herjólfur. After all, the waters between Iceland proper and the Wetsmans are notoriously unsettling at best and our trip over with two hundred little gymnasts on Friday night had been a gut-wrenching experience. But as the ship left dock we passed through the amazing strait shown above and I changed my mind. The five minute sail past eerie rock faces through calm deep turquoise waters somehow made the impending three hours of probable seasickness seem worth it.

I myself will fly next time I go, and I will go to the islands again. I'd say a flight over then a tour of the archipelago with one of the local boat companies is the way to experience the absolute magic of the Westman Islands in the best possible health. I'm sure the other hundreds of nauseous travelers with me on the ferry rides would agree. Of course if you have to do the ferry, take lots of warm clothing and stand at the rails, taking in the awsome power of the ocean. It kept me fresh and absolutely magnified my respect for those who brave the open seas.

(Here also is an interesting site on techtonic movement. Enjoy!)

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


A Sunday afternoon scene from the Westman Islands, or Vestmannareyjar, off of Iceland's south coast. I'll go more into detail later on the hows and whys Valentina and I were there this past weekend later, but for now take in the photos at Nick's and Bard's sites and read about these natural gems of the sea at the very attractive Visit Westman Islands site.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


I've added a hit counter there to the left and the number I chose is not random but an actual Google Analytics assements of visits to my site over the past year. Thanks to all who've dropped by ... 33,000+ visitors in twelve months is definitely not too shabby!

Monday, 29 October 2007


We got a light dusting of snow over the weekend, just enough to ensure that everyone not equipped with winter tires slides around a bit while braking and has a hard time of it on inclines. I saw a slow-mo collision on Skólavördurstígur today that was exactly due to this half a centimeter of snow we've gotten, and even though it can be a pain, I'm assuming I'm not the only person in town to hope we get a good meter or two more of the white stuff this year, just like it used to be in the old days.

Saturday, 27 October 2007


This shop is called Drekinn, or The Dragon, and my dad says it's the new best hot dog place in town. The hip cats who grace the ads on the side of the building are actually the owners and they've done a decent job of sprucing the place up and adding a measure of coolness that most corner shops lack. I still joke with Valentina that she's not allowed to hang out there though, no matter how nice the owners are. I dread the idea of some future her lurking around in front of any shop, smoking cigarettes and drinking half-liter cans of Coke. Thankfully it's not an image that sounds at all enticing to her, either!

I actually initially tok this shot because I thought it was kind of cool that the bakery had left seven boxes of buns and some other vendor a box of something else there on the doorstep on a Saturday morning, and that it was all still intact and undisturbed. I'm t hinking if we had more homeless, poor and starving here those boxes would have disappeared long before I walked by at 9 am.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


Here's a happy Valentina and Marsibil at a fall meeting of the girls who went to the YWCA summer camp Vindáshlíð. I've always thought it unfortunate that the acronym for the Young Women's Christian Society here in Iceland is KFUK (if you can give me the full name I'll give you a gold star!) There used to be an office for the society downtown on Austurstræti when I was a kid visiting my amma, and I was always a little shocked because I wasn't sure if the people who worked there knew what the name looked like to an English speaker. To this day it doesn't sit right with me, though the society itself is a wonderful thing and my daughter certainly enjoyed her stay at their camp this summer.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Day After

I suppose I can't let Reykjavik's annual Iceland Airwaves music festival weekend pass by without posting something about it. I only saw one act this year, at the Mál og Menning bookstore on Laugavegur this afternoon, and I don't even know who it was. Some swell female crooner and a couple of jazzy backup guys (Babar maybe?). The fesitval was sold out this year again and my father said yesterday that the main shooping street, Laugavegur, was swarming with foreign accents and people hauling music equipment around. That's the cool thing about this festival: Reykjavik becomes, for one weekend, a very international place, just like a tiny San Francisco or like a small slice of London, or New York. And this year the organizers tackled the overcrowded venue issue by holding free concerts all over town, like the one I witnessed at the bookstore today. They get a big plus for that!

This still life is one I happened across this morning, the day after the last big concert night of the festival. A broken beer bottle, a lighter, an empty cig box, stubs, a half-full ashtray and a copy of yesterday's Grapevine festival guide all grace the scene, a fine memorial to last night's downtown action.

Thursday, 18 October 2007


See if you can figure out what happened moments after this picture was taken...

If you answered, "the muscled-up SUV with the hyper-inflated tires can't make it past the two cars left jutting out at irresponsible angles by Icelanders who can't, or can't be bothered to, parallel park and it's a one way street, as are all of the side streets (going in the wrong direction) the SUV has already passed, and the driver wouldn't be able to back up anyway because there are at least seven cars in line behing him," you'd have answered correctly. By sheer luck of timing the owner of the silver car showed up before road rage made a mess of everyone's easy Sunday afternoon.

And the owner of the black car? I wouldn't be surprised to find out that his vehicle got a bit bumped that day as, even with the other car gone, the ferry of over-bloated highland adventure jeeps and vans that just had to drive that particular quaint street that day still had a hard time getting past the blockage.

Just another simple scene from the pretty little city of Reykjavik!

Monday, 15 October 2007


Something about this scene, even though it involves a trash can, seemed pretty to me. Probably the colors, and the idea that the owner of this double stroller has passed out of that phase of their life and is moving on. Out with the old and all that.

The city of Reykjavik has also been cleaning house recently, saying good riddance to our mayor of a year and a half due to a scandal involving a public utility and private profiteers. I'll let Iceland Review do the honors of explaining the situation in more detail. It's a complicated series of events involving power plays, money and alliances that, frankly, are beyond my desire to understand. Ahh, politics. Sometimes a simple scene like the one above and the story it seems to tell are very welcome in our often overly-convoluted civic lives.

Thursday, 11 October 2007


There's a crazy number of moths flitting around town these days. I'm not sure if I've just not noticed them in previous years, or if we're having some kind of trend related to global warming and such. Kids here call them butterflies (fiðrildi), though they're technically mölfluga, or "grain flies," in Icelandic (see here for a proper description of the difference between moths and butterflies.) Since we don't have very many insects here, and really no true butterflies (except a type of small white one and Painted Ladies on occasion), kids often have little reference as to what a true temperate climate butterfly looks like, with big colorful wings and all that. The only butterfly our little one, Óðinn, has seen is the cute and smiley mascot for Baby TV, our very favorite channel to watch.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Sigur Rós

I went to the premier of the new Sigur Rós documentary, Heima, last night and it was a beautiful experience. I have my own few photos from their Reykjavik show (here and here), but I'll let the trailer to the film do all the talking. Do watch it!

I chose this photo from the Sigur Rós Iceland Tour page because my Valentína was in the audience when they played this show at Ásbyrgi. And also because the tour was for the people of Iceland, a colorful group of whom are shown here, enthralled.


Fall's here, so I thought I'd post a photo from the last days of summer, just to remind us how wonderful we had it during the hot months this year.

Buskers and street musicians are not usually permitted to play for any amount of time on the sidewalks of Reykjavik (unfortunately) though this collaboration of young musicians was able to put in a good few hours' session of jazz. Maybe they'd gotten permission, because it wasn't the authorities that eventually drove them to pack up, but a well-tipsy local who couldn't seem to stop from getting overly involoved in what they were doing. You can see him boogying down in this shot, but in between dance moves he was trying wholehertedly to help the musicians play their instruments, much to their frustration. They had humor for it for a while, then called it a day. I'm sure the interloper has nothing but fond memories of his sunny sumer day jamming with the boys.

Thursday, 13 September 2007


They poured into town yesterday and doused themselves silly in support of their hometeam, Northern Ireland. Despite their best efforts though, including liters and liters of beer, Iceland bested their boys by 2 to 1 in last night's UEFA qualifying match. It was fun, I suppose, while it lasted!

Friday, 10 August 2007


If J.J. Abrams does film his impending Star Trek movie here, I will have a chance to fulfill the dream of a lifetime: to take part, on screen, in the Star Trek universe. It all started when Pabbi took me to get Leonard Nemoy's autograph at the opening of a condo complex in Pacific Grove in 1974 or so. We used to watch reruns of the original show together when I was little, and I've followed every series and movie since then (I don't follow conventions and I'm not a member of the offical web site, but I love it anyway!) Just the other day I remorsed over the fact that I'd maybe never get to live my dream (even beinging a backround extra in full, unrecognizable costume would make me happy) and that a whole generation of kids (who don't have access to perpetual reruns like in the States, my daughter included) have no idea what Star Trek is all about. Now J.J. Abrams, the creater of my very favorite modern show, Alias, as well as Lost, is going to save our children from ignorance, and help me live my dream. Stoked! (note from my future self in 2011: J.J. quit on the idea, so I'm still waiting...)

On another note, I got a very sweet email from a reader who'd asked me some questions about traveling here with kids before their vacation. She's written to let me know how it went, and I thought I'd just reprint it here for everyone to enjoy. Oh, and the lambkins in the photo is a resident of the Reykjavík Zoo and Family Animal Park she mentions below:

Dear Maria,

We are back from an amazing 10 days in Iceland, most of it spent in
Reykjavik but with a couple of trips out of the city (to the Blue
Lagoon, and the Golden Circle tour with the physicists from the
conference). Thank you so much for your tips - it was even better
than we could have imagined. The weather was spectacular (best summer
in 35 years - thank you for sharing it with us), and the city is so
perfectly-sized and friendly. We went to the Family Fun Park three
times (!), and to many of the pools -- including a really wonderful
day on Saturday, when we visited Abersafn and then walked up the
river to Arbaerslaug. It could not have been more gorgeous.

We discovered a few little playgrounds around town - the one on the
green hill at the foot of Bankastraeti/Laugavegur, and the little
preschool playground at the bottom of the Tjorn. But really we had
the most fun just toodling around the city, with James on his
scooter. We were staying at a place on Ranargata, so on the first day
out we went through Ingolfstorg, which has that excellent ramp. Every
single day we had to make a pilgrimage back there, sometimes twice or
three times, so scooter-boy could do about a dozen loops on the ramp.
It was funny to encounter the other scootering kids in the mornings,
and the leather-clad bikies in the evenings.

How lucky you are to be bringing up your children in such a great
place. It reminds me in some ways of New Zealand twenty years ago; I
hope Iceland doesn't change as much as NZ has, in the ways that
aren't so good.

I was also very struck by the attitude to children, which seems very
calm and dignified and matter-of-fact and accepting. I knew Iceland
was a kid-friendly place, but I didn't anticipate how that
"friendliness" would manifest itself. Occasional scooter near-misses
were greeted with smiles (except from the occasional grouchy
tourist), and it took me a while to notice that my kids and I would
make it through the day without encountering those well-meaning but
patronising comments from adults that are so common elsewhere... I
don't know if I'm expressing myself well, here, but it seems that
much of the way children are spoken to (or about) here in the US is
either very grumpy or very sugary. In our whole time in Iceland, I
don't think anybody mentioned Toby's adorable curls or his cute
little sandals all the time we were there, or said to James "So, are
you the big brother? are you a good big brother?" I got the
impression that while children are well-loved, you'd no more talk
about somebody's children in those terms than you'd talk to or about
somebody's spouse that way. Which I love, by the way - why *do*
people pat children on the heads or on the bottom, when we don't do
that to adults?? It was fascinating... I wonder if you'd concur with
my interpretation, or whether I was just seeing things through
tourist-coloured glasses :-)

Anyway, we've been raving about the trip to all our friends, and hope
to make it back again some day. Thank you again for your tips in
advance, and I'll keep reading your lovely blog...


Monday, 30 July 2007


Inspiration can't be forced, and since most of mine is directed toward home improvement these days, I'm kind of at a loss for words. I'll let the Icelandican do the honors via her blog. She's a talented fourteen year old writer who's posting a chapter (or more!) a week of her story-in-progress, and who's not afraid of a little decent critique to nudge the efforts along. Pop on over and give her a hello...just be sure to find chapter one before you dig into six because she's building up stacks of suspense that you wouldn't want to miss.

And for visuals, here's a slightly different shot of Hallgrímskirkja than the ones we're all so very used to (with all due respect to moddular, who's photo I've used as an example...)

Keep it real.

Sunday, 22 July 2007


Happy Birthday to my Valentína! Today she is 10 years old, double digits for the first time. She is the most positive, diligent, humorous and caring person I know and I am blessed to have her in my life.

I took this shot of her at Tivoli in Copenhagen on our trip this spring. It was her dream for the two of us to go together for over four years, and we had an absolute blast! Today she's at a family reunion with her father, so I'll miss her on her big day, but it's to my absolute joy that I get to spend another excellent year with her when this, her most recent adventure, comes to a close.

Big kisses! Love, Mamma.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007


Congratulations to Esther and Joi on their Saturday wedding!

This pic is not from the wedding but from their stag/bachelorette party (the two groups merged at a very nice summer house for bbq, bolla and bonfire as the days separate activities wound down.) We had a fantastic time round the blazing bál of love that night, and an even better time at their very glamourous and romantic recent nuptials. They are just out of frame in this shot, but when I get my paws on an official wedding photo, it'll be up for sure.

Once again, love and kisses to the newlyweds and a warm thanks for a wonderful and memorable event!

Monday, 9 July 2007

Flora and Fauna

Here is our Óðinn reorganizing things at the world's most northerly Botanical Garden, in Akureyri (the garden is located just to the right of the 600 on thismap.) The garden is especially beautiful and highly recommended to everyone traveling to Iceland's lovely northern city.

I received an email from a University of Washington student who is coming here for a two month internship and who is having trouble finding lodgings. She will be arriving next week and has asked if I can help her out in any way. Do any of my local readers know of a room or apartment available for rent? If so, please either leave a comment or email me so we can help her out. Much appreciated...

Oh, and one more thing. Check out this blog. My parent's across the street neighbor is swimming the English Channel as I write (3 p.m. GMT) and this blog is keeping track of his progress with text (in Icelandic, unfortunately) and photos (which speak an international language, thankfully). He's also active in adult gymnastics, and trained for this swim by working out in the Atlantic waters just off of Nautholsvík, shown in previous posts. Go Benni Go!

Monday, 2 July 2007


Here's another shot of our lovely little beach at Nauthólsvík. I'm sure it was packed with beautiful bodies this weekend, as the weather here has been fantastic. I'm always so happy for tourists and other visitors when they get to experience real summer in full bloom on this often stark volcanic island!

My niece Mekkin (who was shown playing with dolphins in an earlier post) is here for the summer, and being fourteen years old is gainfully employed in the unglingavinna program the state provides. Teens (or unglinga) are paid a small but better-than-nothing wage to smarten up the towns and cities by planting annuals and plucking weeds, mowing public lawns and picking trash from park bushes. For most Icelanders it was their first real job, and I'm really proud of Mekkin for choosing to come here from California to improve her Icelandic (she was born here so it's all up there in her head somewhere!), immerse herself in her native culture and show her independence. I used to laugh at the sight of "lazy" teens laying about in parks, pulling weeds at the rate of two or three an hour, but I completely appreciate that nearly all of them choose to take on these jobs as opposed to laying about at home doing nothing for the summer months. When the weather is great like it's been, there's even the added bonus of grabbing a nice tan while they're at it!

This country is undergoing massive growth right now, if all the building and prettification is any sign. Iceland has an overall Can-Do attitude that's manifesting in improvements to infrastructure, the expansion of universities and colleges, an almost overwhelming number of new commercial enterprises and residential neighborhoods, and quite possibly, the application of our natural resources to new and more viable industries. I was wondering the other day if Iceland as a nation has attracted, through our genius blend of historical relevance (we are The Vikings) and size-doesn't-matter arrogance, it's almost incomprehensible prosperity, a la The Secret. The Law of Attraction states that if you believe something to be so, and stay focused on that belief, material reality will manifest that belief. We have always believed ourselves to be special, to be strong, to be survivors and to be creators, and we are. The evidence is manifest and apparent everywhere you look and listen on this best little island in the world.

Monday, 25 June 2007


For those who've never been here to Reykjavik and/or haven't experienced Nauthólsvík, that this photo is taken in Iceland might come as a charming surprise. This bathing spot, with it's imported white sand (from Norway I thinK? We only have black volcanic sand here naturally) and heated water (a hot spring is fed into a man-made seawater lagoon which heats the mix) is very popular with locals and is lined with bodies just like a Floridan strand when temperatures rise over 15°C.

I'd suggest getting up to Perlan (update, July 2011: Perlan is for sale, if your interesting in investing in cool architecture!) by bus, bike or car, checking that out, then walking down to this beach through the Öskjuhlíð forest and looping back up to to Perlan through the very beautiful Fossvogskirkjugarður, or Fossvog Cemetery. Check out areas 2 and 3 on this map for better directions. It's a very beautiful nature hike right in the heart of the Capitol region.

Sunday, 24 June 2007


This super-sized chess game took place during the 17th of June celebration last weekend. The "board" is right there on the corner of Bankastræti and Lækjargata, and it's always cool seeing people, like the young man and woman shown here, matching wits on a grand scale.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007


So Sunday was our big 17th of June National Holiday, in theory celebrating independence from Denmark and the establishment of the Republic of Iceland, but in fact celebrating the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, who I'll let you read up on all by yourself courtesy of the above link to Wikipedia.

The celebration downtown is a perfect start-of-summer chance for Iceland's up and coming to flirt, fancy and frolic. These three gents seemed so utterly charmed and amused by their pretty blonde friend, while she was doing a fine job of keeping them attractively at bay. The joy of youth!

(They saw me snap the shot, so I'm hoping I'm not invading anyone's privacy by posting this happy photo, but if anyone knows them and objects to this post, let me know and I'll pull it. I'm hoping that doesn't happen!)

Saturday, 16 June 2007


A fancy garden in Eskifjörður, on the east coast of Iceland...

The woman who created this fantasy world is pretty much blind, so the tenth grade class of the Eskifjörður school took it upon themselves to pretty it up during the last week of school. If you're ever in Eskifjörður, you can see this garden for yourself...it's by one of the last houses on the eastern end of town.

Friday, 15 June 2007


This sign points to Stóragjá, or Big Rift, a very cool underground hot pool on the eastern bank of Mývatn. At least I think this is the right trail. I walked it once ten or so years ago and after a few minutes' stroll found myself next to a fissure in a big head of lava that a rope ladder descended down into. We were to strip to our skivvies and climb down the ladder into the darkness of the lava formation, something I wasn't so sure about. Peer pressure won out, though, and I took one cautious step at a time into the unknown. About four or five feet down my toe dipped into water, warm water, pleasantly warm, hot tub temperature water, and as my eyes adjusted to the dark I realized that I was in an underground cavern about the size of an average kitchen, with a high ceiling and filled with very comfortable water. I was totally blown away! There was a slight ledge that I could almost sit on and light from outside to help reveal the rough design of this natural wonder. The only drawback was my constant worry that something was about to grab my toes and pull me under. But that's nothing new...I've had a phobia about lakes and their unseen inhabitants for ages. It's something about the stillness of the water that gets me. Give me a roiling ocean over a lake any day!

Anyway, I'm pretty sure this is the path we took to the underground pool. When I Googled Stóragjá I got this pretty cool picture and the key information that guides don't recommend dipping into the water because it's laden with bacteria due to slow water movement. So I guess it's another "at your own risk" Icelandic attraction. All I know is, I'm glad I did it, but I'm more glad I didn't know it was a bacteria soup before I went in!

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


And here we have Dettifoss, or Falling Falls, Europe's mightiest cascade. We've been on a little road trip this past week and have a few tokens to show for it, including this picture composed and shot by my Valentína.

After posting this picture I went to bed and, as I was drifting off to sleep, thought about how close to the edge of the falls Óðinn and I look to be. And as close as we look to be is as close as we really were! Oddly enough, while we were all confident and fearless as we pranced about on the rocky ledge to the sounds of 500 cubic meters of water per second gushing only yards away, I got panicky at the memory of it there safe in my bed almost a week later. What if we'd have fallen? But we didn't, and we had a great time out there in the wilds of the barren Icelandic north.

The road to Dettifoss is a little less than an hour's drive east of Mývatn (or Midge Lake.) There are actually two roads, on either side of the river, and while both are rough, the eastern one is accessible to all vehicles most of the year while the western one, which some has the better vantage point being a little bit lower and closer to the actual cascade, is really for 4-wheel drive only. The amazing thing with this place is exactly what was causing me so much concern while drifting off to sleep, namely that there are no barriers between you and this amazing force of nature. It's right there, and you can step to the very edge of the chasm at your own risk. Take the challenge, if you dare, but be warned that this land is fickle and the weather precocious and all it takes is a moment of distraction and a good gust of wind, a sudden rain, or a snap fog to change any lovely Icelandic landscape into a disconcerting and dangerous thing.

Update July 2011: This is the waterfall where Ridley Scott [video] has been shooting his Prometheus, starring Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace. This will be a definite go-see when it comes out, especially with Damon Lindelof as screenwriter.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


Last weekend the seventh annual Hátíð hafsins, or Sea Festival, was held down by the Reykjavik Harbor, where I spotted these jaunty little crafts all decked out for the festivities. this celebration is to show respect for and remembrance of all those who've helped make Iceland what it is today by braving the cold and tempestuous North Atlantic Seas for often elusive catch.

As it is, the strength of the króna rises and falls based on predictions of ocean yield. Some might say that basing an entire nation's economy on one industry is a risky thing to do, and that diversification into other profitable ventures, including applying our extensive geothermal energy resource to other growth sectors in addition to aluminum, is the way to go. Yahoo, a company dedicated to going green, has recently shown interest in installing a high-energy consumption server farm here, which, if Iceland has the forsight to move ahead with, would be, most assuredly, a very good thing.

On a more pop/rock note, those of you who followed Rock Star: Supernova will recognize the name on the center boat. I'm sure this vessel is just as hard working, if not as talented on stage, as Iceland's other, more famous, Magni.

Friday, 1 June 2007


It's not cool to like malls, I know. They supposedly represent everything my ideological peer group would reject: materialism, snobbery, conformity and suburban living. The ambient lighting dulls the senses, air conditioning systems deplete oxygen and a constant auditory drone turns even the sprightly into tensed up zombies. All these things are true to one extent or another, but some malls I enjoy anyway. I liked Vallco, back in Cupertino, where I held my first customer service job as a bakery counter girl at Grain D'or (with the best épi's in town!) and I like our local Kringlan here in Reykjavik. Call me a rebel (or just a closet suburbanite), but something about the contained system of a clean well-lighted shopping center makes me feel part of a greater whole.

I like people watching, and that about sums up the lure of Kringlan for me. Since we live literally only yards away from the main outdoor shopping area in Reykjavik, I'm supposed to be a purist, a loyalist, shunning the capitalist box of shops and services that comprise the indoor mall. I should only buy what's available within walking distance of my front door and haughtily scoff at parents who stroll and tug their bleary eyed kids from franchise to franchise on weekends. But as much as I love living right in the heart of downtown with its unique collection of cafes and boutiques, I still go to Kringlan with Valentína and Óðinn once a month or so, hook us up with ice cream and watch the parade of fellow countrymen and women trundle and glide by. Honestly, what better way to discover life in Reykjavik outside of our little mid-town cultural bubble? So, once a month, with good ice cream, a strict budget and a specific time limit and I go home to the heart of the city satisfied.

p.s. if you haven't already, go ahead and join the comment explosion below!

Monday, 28 May 2007


Thank you for all of you who've written such excellent words for the Great Comment Drive (see post below). I know there's plenty more visitors out there who've yet to jot down a quick hello, so don't be shy!

Here's a new set of intense Icelandic names, as promised. These are all men's names, and a very small selection of all the fascinating monnikers approved by the state. Most date back to the settlement age and as such are heroic as well as descriptive. The one exception is Blær, which can also be a girl's name. It's only in the last twenty five years that it's been used, namby-pamby hippie name that it is. Hard to imagine a true Viking suffering being called Gentle Breeze!

Austmann: Eastern Man
Ástríkur: Rich with Passion
Ástbjörn: Passion Bear
Álfur: Elf
Ás: [a] God
Björgólfur Rescue Wolf
Blær: Breeze
Búri: Peasant
Bogi: Bow (weapon)
Dómaldur: Judge
Eldgrímur: Fire Mask
Fífill: Dandelion
Friðbjartur: Bright peace
Garpur: Brave
Hugi: Thought
Hreinn: Clean
Knútur: Knot
Ljósálfur: Light Elf
Muninn: Memory
Safír: Sapphire
Svanlaugur: Swan Pool
Veturliði: Winter Traveller

Friday, 25 May 2007

Flow Those Comments on Down

Don't Forget to Join the Great Comments Drive...details below

This pretty stream flows down to the main street, Strandgata, in Eskifjörður, in East Iceland. As you can see at the linked site, this little fishing town in very long and skinny, skirting as it does the base of a fine mountain that looms over the fjord below.

As I've written of before, my grandmother grew up in Reyðafjörður just to the south of this town, in the house shown in this post from last summer's trip around the island. During the first part of June Reyðafjörður is going to be turned into a carnival, sponsored by Alcoa to celebrate the grand opening of their new aluminum plant. Should be sight to see. My mother is taking my grandmother, Ásta Beck, to visit the little house her father built, and that she was born in 93 years ago, right around the same time, but I don't think they'll be in town for the actual celebration. That might be a good thing...

If you've gotten this far in reading this post I'd love to ask you to quickly drop a word or two of comment before you go. This site is not controversial and doesn't necessarily beg conversation, but I recently checked Google Analytics to see how many visitors I've been getting (something I haven't done in almost a year) and I was blown away by how many people stop by (well into the four digits per month!) It would be a blast to see how many of you can take a minute to just write a quick hi! or somesuch (I promise I'm not fishing for complements.) And be sure to leave your own web address if you're not with Blogger so that people can check out your site too...Thanks in advance!

Upcoming post: Stay tuned for the next episode of Crazy Icelandic Names. Here's a sample of what you can look forward to!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Frank Style

Frank Style, originally uploaded by blue eyes.

My favorite sweater spotted on a train in Denmark...

Monday, 21 May 2007


Another brain tease from the streets and gardens of Reykjavik. This was part of this year's Reykjavik Arts Festival, though I don't know much more about it. There were at least six autos in varying states of trauma and discord sprinkled throughout the city, and if I'm not mistaken they're still there. Very fascinating and super entertaining for the kiddies, as you can see.

This wreck and the others are the work of a very grumpy giant who was awakened from his slumber beneath the streets of our city by French archaologists, and who rampaged through Reykjavik until he was consoled by his sweet daughter and brought home again. This very vivid fairy tale was the production of the Royal de Luxe street theater company who headlined the festival. I so wanted to witness their giant marionette performance but was, alas, in Copenhagen at the time. I'm told the experience was fantastic...

Saturday, 19 May 2007


P4090040, originally uploaded by blue eyes.

A little teaser...can you find the beer bottle in this picture? How it got where it got I can't fathom, but I'm sure it involved a tipsy+ person on a late Saturday night.

For those of you who've been here, this store, Stella, is located on Bankastræti, or Bank Street, so named because the first bank in Reykjavik was housed in this very building, circa 1886.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Volcano show

Just got back from Copenhagen! Went with Valentina on a mother-daughter trip, or mæðgurferð. We did Tivoli and Bakken and drank many 7-11 slurpees and shopped and shopped and shopped. We behaved like true tourists and had a great time doing it!

Speaking of tourists, this tiny little theater and it's Volcano Show is a perfect stop for visitors to Reykjavik. Even though it's about a two minute walk from our door, I've never been. I love the big red rock with it's cool iron decoration, though. I've heard that the film is a definite must for those who want to know more about our harrowing geological past (and future!), and since it's a homespun affair (a father-son production), I think that everyone should give it a go. I even promise to check it out myself. Soon.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


Here's our local seasonal Australian street clown come back to town just like the swallows and plovers. His name's Wally and he's real good at what he does, busking and entertaining in the town square and always, always gathering a crowd. Thank goodness, I say, for a big dose of down under humor to make our lives more fun!

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Red Rock

Some scenery from the wilds of outer Reykjavik. There's no snow on the ground anymore, but the pretty rises of Rauðholar are just as red as they were 4600 years ago when lava poured over this plain, gathering iron ore along the way that oxidized beautifully, if I may say so.

To read a little more about this location, go here. Or you can read this Planetary Science Research Discoveriespage about similarities between the rootless cones of Rauðholar and those of Mars. Fascinating stuff.

By the way, go to London Calling to read Luis's great synopsis of Iceland and its people. He's pretty much summed it all up in one well-written blog post.

Friday, 4 May 2007


A pump or a dial, I don't know. But this beautiful object glistened and steamed in the May sunshine on the rise behind the town of Hveragerði today. It's obviously connected to the thermal hot spots that puff and bubble in this region, though what actual purpose it serves is beyond me.

I imagined a town Pump Man, a brawny hunk of muscle, coming out every day to turn the iron wheel clockwise, opening the geothermal taps for business. And geothermal energy is well utilized in Hveragerði where hothouses grow our cucumbers, tomatos and roses all year round and the swimming pool steam bath smells of sulpher straight from the source. At some designated time of night, Pump Man would then walk with certainty back to the wheel and close the valves, containing again the intensity of heat and power that throbs eternally just beneath our island's crust.

Thursday, 3 May 2007


Spooky, eh? The first time Valentina and I saw this critter, or one jsut like him (her?) was at the Skógar Folk Museum in south Iceland. We were told by a kind old gentleman who worked there that he's seen plenty of kids burst into tears when they grasped what was going on with this lamb. Others, like my girl, just showed intense curiosity and a bit of wonder at the weirdness of the world.

This lambkins is displayed in the window of a nice new wool store (don't know the name!) on Hafnarstræti, just next door to the Dubliners pub, downtown Reykjavik, for all to see and marvel at.

While cruising and perusing the web I found a great and very up-to-date listing of Reykjavik stores on the Reykjavik.com website. The English language monthly Grapevine also has a good listing of shops here, and is well worth reading overall to get a good feel for what's really going on here in the political and cultural scene. Check it out.