Saturday, February 25, 2023

First Stop, Iceland

Trip date: June 2022


Currently there are only two ways to reach Greenland; fly in from Copenhagen or fly in from Reykjavik. On my way there last summer I chose to use some points and fly Saga Class on Icelandair from Seattle to Reykjavik. 

I've had many very nice flights on Icelandair, especially when traveling in Saga Class. The only con is that the airline doesn't have layflat beds but if I'm getting off in Iceland it's a very comfortable ride. 

I had a snack and a glass of wine in the Saga Lounge at SeaTac, then settled in to 4F (and had an empty seat next to me!), did a little work using the free wifi you get in Saga Class, and enjoyed a really great happy hour followed by a delicious dinner. 7 ½ hours later we landed and I boarded the Flybus into Reykjavik. I always make reservations in advance so that I can just walk on but they have the buses lined up pretty well if you want to buy a ticket once on the ground.

I was booked in at the Marriott Ion City Hotel which was in the Hlemmur area, right on Laugavegur. This was my 4th trip to Reykjavik and I was staying in yet another new-to-me area. The main reason I booked this particular hotel is that I had a coveted reservation at Michelin-starred Ox Restaurant that evening, which was connected to the hotel. 

It was 11:30am when I arrived at the hotel and the front desk told me my room would be ready at 1:30pm. Great news as I was very much in need of a nap! I walked down Laugavegur and took myself to lunch at Messinn for a bowl of delicious lobster soup. It was excellent!

The Ion City hotel is very cute, nice modern design and the rooms are large by Europe standards (and only 16 of them). It is a little loud at night as it is right in the heart of the city, lots of bars and restaurants are close, but it wasn't too bad.

After my nap it was time to do a little happy hour crawl around town. First up was Jungle Cocktail Bar which more than a few people had recommended. 

It's a beautiful bar, and more importantly the drinks were fantastic! I had only planned on staying for one but the menu was so interesting and the bartenders so nice that I ended up having two. Highly recommend and during happy hour, from 4-6pm, drinks were only 1600 ISK instead of 2600 ISK!

My next stop was Kokteil Barinn, which is a full cocktail bar on its own, but I wanted to enjoy a glass of bubbles while sitting in their Champagne Train!
I had an absolutely gorgeous glass of 2015 Pol Roger Rosé for a fraction of the normal 3790 ISK since it was happy hour! And sitting in the vintage train car was very fun! I will absolutely come back here and try some cocktails in the main bar next time I'm in town. 

I walked down the block, back to my hotel, and checked in for my dinner at Ox. Hidden in the back of Sumac restaurant and behind a closed door, is the Michelin one-star restaurant. 11 seats are gathered around an open, old-fashioned looking kitchen and 3 chefs were busy preparing our 20-course dinner.

I had such a fantastic time here! My dinner mates were all super fun and interesting and the food was spectacular! The menu lists the dishes by ingredients such as salmon + spruce + sea urchin and then the chefs walked us through each dish, usually while plating it. 

Courses were paired with interesting wines, spirits, and juices and were hyper regional and seasonal. It felt like I was at a great dinner party with private chefs. I really loved it!

In the morning I packed my bags and left them at the front desk so I could enjoy my day in the city. I found the absolutely delicious Brod & Co just a few blocks down and bought a box of croissants and cardamom rolls to take to Greenland (I hadn't read about any bakeries in Ilulissat). One of the rolls even had licorice in it (Scandinavians love their licorice and I'm a big fan too!)

It was super sunny and warm out so I decided to take a long walk down to the waterfront. Strolling in Reykjavik is always interesting as the city is growing so much that there are always new things to see. And indeed parts of the town that I am pretty familiar with now have changed dramatically!

I did a big loop around the shipyard and marina and then made my way to the concert hall Harpa where I had lunch reservations at their newly opened restaurant Hnoss. They had a lovely 2-course lunch menu offering; I had a delicious lamb tartare smørrebrød and also a prawn salad one. I really only needed to order one of these but I couldn't decide between the two!

After lunch I stopped at Kaldi Bar and enjoyed a great gin & tonic outside on one of their picnic tables. The bartender joined me and while chatting I found out she was an actor and was in one of my favorite shows Vikings! A great way to finish up my quick Iceland visit!

What wasn't a great way to wrap up my visit was by realizing I had booked my Flybus for 3am instead of 3pm! After a frenzied call to the company I found out that there wasn't a scheduled bus for another 2 hours! I took a taxi to the main bus station and they graciously drove me in a shuttle to catch a bus on a different route that was headed to the airport. PHEW!

All Iceland photos here.

Other posts from this trip:

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