Tuesday, 24 April 2007


A charming outdoor café scene from the Segafredo cafe at Lækjartorg, central Reykjavik (just across from the burn site.)

Here's a recent email from a reader asking for info on a very important topic: food.

Hi, Maria I actually stumbled across your website while looking up information about Iceland for my up-coming trip there. I'm going to Iceland in June with two of my close friends and we're staying at a guesthouse. I was told that the prices in Iceland are high, particularly on foods and beverages. None of us want to spend 50 dollars on every meal, so what would you suggest we do? I was told to go to the grocery store, are the prices there reasonable? Also do you know of any decent restaurants or sandwich shops/coffee shops that won't charge us an arm and a leg for everything? Any information you could give me would be really appreciated. Thanks soooo much! :)


And here's my reply:

Hi Stacie and thanks for writing.

I'd say your best bet is going to be to shop at Bonus, which is a low(er) price supermarket chain here in Iceland. Conveniently, there's one located on Laugavegur, the main shopping street in midtown Reykjavik (find the number 12 on this map then look to the right of it; you'll see a little movie camera that looks like a clover...that's where Bonus is.) Bonus definitely has the best prices in town, so do some shopping there for your basic food needs. You should also buy good bread at one of the bakeries sprinkled about town...fresh bread is always worth it (but buy your toppings, etc at Bonus!)

If you eat meat, you should bust out for a hot dog as often as you can...they're made with good quality lamb meat and only cost 150 kronur on average. Oh, and while you're at Bonus, try out the Skyr.is drink...skyr is like yogurt but it's not...it's also super high in protein and non-fat. Good energy food!

As I've written in my blog, don't bother with eating beef here...the cattle are a little Too Hearty to make for a good meal. Unless of course you find Vitabar and get yourself a bleu cheese burger with fries...a great deal and a good burger. The kebab place just burned up, so you can't get a falafel anymore (not any I'd recommend at least, though I haven't tried any other places) but you should try Icelandic Fish & Chips which is all organic and super tasty too...it's located just to the left of the 7 on this map. There's also a really good Thai place, KruaThai, pretty much at the same location.

My biggest piece of advice is to stop converting from krona to dollars while you're here. It's hard to do, but the krona is so strong now that you'll just freak yourself out if you try to constantly figure out how much this or that costs in bucks. Do this: treat 100 krona like a dollar, 1000 krona like ten dollars and 5000 krona like fifty dollars. Even though at the current exchange rate 5000 krona is more like $85, in general what you get for your money here is of good quality. It's like shopping at Whole Foods instead of Discount Barn, or whatever (though cut the fruit and veg some slack...we're on an island in the arctic, remember!). You can easily feed yourself for 1000kr/day if you have to, but give yourself the freedom to sit down at a restaurant and have a good dish and drink for 2-3000 krona every once in a while. And you don't need to tip. The servers get paid just fine, hourly (1000-1500 kr/hour). And there's no tax added on, so the price you see is what you pay.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Mekkin and Friend

My beautiful niece Mekkin is 14 today. Happy Birthday, Baby!

My sister took Mexsie to Sea World in San Diego the other day to swim with dolphins (it sounds so romantic that I had to italicize). Super cool birthday present, right? She took this very happy photo of Mekkin and her new buddy, whose name I unfortunately don't know, but will try to find out.

I have to admit that while I'm captivated by how much fun they seem to be having, I'm drooling over the sunlight that's bathing this shot in it's warm glow. The thermometer is slowly rising here and cute fuzzy little buds can be seen on the bare birch trees, but the sun isn't shining. Or as my Amma always says, "it is shining, we just can't see it for the clouds."

Enough about the weather, though. I should be writing about important things like politics and the upcoming election, carbon-neutrality and melting glaciers. Instead, I'm going to direct you to Vanity Fair's Green Issue with Leo and Knut on the cover. Leonardo was photograhed here in Iceland, at Jökulsárlón, while Knut was snapped at home in Berlin. Our friend Gunni worked on the shoot and said,"This is going to sound weird coming from me [he's very much a man's man] but Leonardo DiCaprio is gorgeous in person!" So now you know...

Saturday, 21 April 2007


Reykjavik burned the other night. Or at least a part of it did. Anyone whose ever been to this city has walked, or at least driven, past the site of the recent conflagration: the corner of Lækjargata and Austurstræti, or just between the red 3 and the red 10 on this map.

This is the back view of the green timber Cafe Opera/Kebabhús building that sits facing Lækjargata. It was basically gutted, but it looks like the support structure is still intact, which is more than can be said for the white Pravda building that faces Austurstræti. It was totally demolished from the roof down, except for the exterior walls.

It turns out a little belatedly that the Pravda building is one of the oldest in Reykajvik (though only 200 years old) and has a deep history in the city's development. I say belatedly because it's housed one skanky bar/club after another for the past, at least, twenty years. Not many people knew that underneath the beer-stained hardwood and past the deeply saturated smell of cigarettes that a historical gem resided. At least I didn't know.

Everyone's determined to rectify that cultural mistake now, though, by rebuilding it and doing something proper with this slice of city history the next time around.

Friday, 13 April 2007


Björk, originally uploaded by blue eyes.

Björk debuted her latest album, Volta last Monday here in Reykjavik. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go. I actually haven't talked to anyone who did go, so I can't report on how it was. I do know that the album is officially due out May 7th but that it leaked early onto the internet. It seems there's some confusion about the artwork for the album and a general kind of fuzzy buzz on music websites and such. Whether you love or hate her sound, it's always got a certain amazing power and definite originality, so kudos to her.

A little story: I was at Sirkus, one of our favorite little scrappy bars one night about three years ago when a smallish person appeared next to me as I finished ordering a drink. A quick glance showed me that this person had something odd going on in lieu of a hat. I looked at her and said calmly, "Excuse me, but you have a polar bear on your head."

"Yes, I know," she replied.

We lifted our glasses slightly, made quick eye contact and moved on into the night. Yes, it was Björk.

(By the way, the image is courtesy of www.bjork.fr/Wallpapers.html)

Wednesday, 11 April 2007


A beautiful construction in the heart of Reykjavik!

I asked the owner of these houses (both the treehouse and the big, pretty white number that the hanging bridge links to) if it was ok for me to take a picture of this fantastic abode and he, very proudly, answeredJá, auðvitað, or "yes, of course." I can honestly say that if we'd had a tree like this and if Dad had built us a treehouse (which he could do with ease) I would have spent all of my time in it with my kitty, some cookies and a good book. Actually, I still would today!

Anyway, kudos to the builder of this childhood dream, located on the corner of Baronstígur and Laufásvegur, or just by the number 26 on this map.

Also, please visit The Travel Cooler, a very sweet web site dedicated to informing the cooler traveler about the world at large. If you stop by now you'll see on their home page that they've taken a little interview with me. This is the direct link to the interview for when my mug is replaced by a new one on the home page, bu definitely spend some time on this site...Anni and Dawn have gathered together some very good reading and excellent pix.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Dr. Spock

Our good friend Arnþór Snær, or Addi, or Chico Rockstar, took this photo at the infamous Aldrei fór ég suður or "I Never Went South" (or more stylishly, "I Never Went Down") rock festival in the northwestern town of Ísafjörður ("Ice Fjord"). This festival is kind of the antithesis to Iceland Airwaves, even down to being held at opposite times of the year. It has a "you want rock, come and get it!" feel, demanding that attendees hop on planes and boats and things to get to the isolated nothern fishing town that sponsors it. I'm sure the town was turned lopsided by the influx of power chords and guitar solos that churned throught the Easter holiday nights this past weekend, and that, I'm sure, was exactly the plan.

This shot is of Óttar Proppé, a friend of mine, who's by day a mild mannered buyer for a bookstore (and has even been interviewed by BBC World Service Radio for his opinion on the state of literature sales today) and at night the spandexed singer for at least two bands that I know of (including Dr. Spock.) Another classic case of an overtly multi-talented Icelander...

By the way, I occasionally get emails from people I call Icelandophiles, i.e. who are interested in visiting or moving here and are looking for information about our lovely Lava Rock. With their consent I'm going to post their emails to me here on this blog so that others can possibly help them out with their questions. Here's one from Fernanda in Brazil:

Dear Maria,

I'm one of the readers of your blog, I've first discovered it in internet looking for information about Iceland. I'm in love with Iceland and the idea of going there as soon as possible for few months. I'm 24 years old, brazilian and since 2 years ago with residence in Barcelona - Spain. I'm journalist and came to Spain to study documentary cinema. I'm wishing to go to Iceland on next april or may with my camera and computer. I still don't have a clear idea about my project, but I'm sure I'll enjoy to film (and live) in Iceland. My main doubt now is about work. I've been teaching portuguese here and I was wondering how hard would be to find a job as portuguse/spanish teacher in Reykjavik. You're English teacher, right? May be you could tell me something about the subject...

Kind regards,
Fernanda Baldissera

And here's part of what I wrote back to her:

Thank you for writing, Fernanda. I love getting emails from people who seem drawn to Iceland! I have to keep this short right now, but I wanted to let you know that there is a strong Spanish/Portugese community here...small but strong. I even know a Brazilian or two! Your best bet right now would be to check out the International House ( www.ahus.is/) here in Reykjavik. It is a great resource for people new to Iceland, and might be a way for you to find something for yourself to do while here.

Fernanda's email is feca_b@yahoo.com if you would like to (respectfully) write to her about her imminent travels to wonderful little Iceland.