If planning on jetting to Europe, I highly suggest IcelandAir. Not only are the rates great, but during the mandatory Keflavík Airport lay-over, you're encouraged to delay the second-leg of your flight at no-additional cost, enabling you to sight-see in their magical country for as long as you fancy. We took advantage of this during a recent journey to Stockholm, and rented a car, and a cute apartment for two nights, smack in the center of radical Reykjavík.
The first thing we experienced upon arrival, was an early morning soak in the Blue Lagoon (of no relation to the lame 1980 Brooke Shields film), which began our visit to the land-of-trolls with languid limbs and geo-thermally glowing skin (see the lagoon above, and the results below).
After lagooning and noshing on fresh salmon, fruit and skyr (Icelandic yogurt, with which I'm now obsessed), we drove into Old Town Reykjavík, and picked-up double-espressos at the charming corner-café, Kaffismidja Íslands (below, left), which is furnished with mis-matched chairs, sewing tables, and an old record player to choose your own sipping soundtrack (Prince was playing when we walked in, so it was love at first latte).
We then headed over to Frida Frænka (above, right), a two-story vintage emporium located in a large wooden barn, where you can stuff your suitcase with charming finds, yet still have króna left-over for hot dogs and Brennivín. It is one of those stores where every inch is adorned with treasures, and the ceiling is covered in colored-glass lamps, making it sparkly like jewels when the sun shines through. My purchases were: mid-century glass cork-handled cocktail stirrers ($6), a dead-stock lace-trimmed white rayon slip ($20), a dead-stock roll of '70s wood-grain contact paper, ($6) and a giant gold '80s cuff bracelet that mimics gathered fabric ($8), all pictured below (along with LPs and trompe-l'oeil sweater napkins, which will be perfect for holiday cocktails).
We also went for a sunset stroll in Reykjavík's 50 year-old Botanic Gardens (above), where we saw little grass-covered Hobbit cottages, and sipped organic tea at the seasonal Café Flora. Afterward, we had a perfect dinner at Icelandic Fish & Chips, where you are given awesome dipping "skyronnaises" to accompany your organic haddock and cod, which are fried in a healthy spelt batter, so you don't feel guilty after feasting like a famished viking.
Our second day began with the sulfur-scented revelation that Iceland's tap water is pumped straight from the geothermal springs, causing all of my showering sessions to resemble an Herbal Essences commercial. It's no wonder many of the women look like they were airbrushed with stardust. I'm seriously considering moving.
The next morning, after Icelandic pastry-time . . . we took a drive, and despite the fact that we could be on Hoarders for the amount of LPs we possess, we were stoked to discover Lucky Records. It's that rare kind of music shop experience where the proprietor is sweet, you find lots of items on your dream-wish-list, the prices are kind, and the store itself is immaculate. Therefore, we walked out with a mean stack of mint-condition platters, including Amanda Lear's coveted album, Never Trust a Pretty Face, Feast by The Creatures, and Grace Jones's Warm Leatherette. It's never a good sign when you need to ship a box back home on the first day of a month-long trip, but Lucky quickly made that a reality.
After hours of intense record hunting, the perfect thing is to pop over to Reykjavík's legendary hot dog stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, and order one with "eina með öllu" (mustard, ketchup, sweet remoulade, and crispy fried onions). I'm actually not one to eat such atrocities, but the consensus is that you haven't really experienced Icelandic eats, if you haven't indulged, and I'm happy I did. We then took a zillion photos of the Expressionist-inspired Church of Hallgrímur, built in 1945 on Reykjavík's highest peak, watching over the city, reminding me of the massive sets for Fritz Lang's machine-age film, Metropolis.
After a walk, we dined at the popular bistro, 3 Frakkar (meaning: 3 overcoats), for hearty Icelandic comfort-cuisine. Though not as adventurous as the woman we overheard requesting seal, reindeer and puffin (I'm just glad there were no 9 yr. old girls around to hear this), we loved our creamy fish stew and smoked haddock.
After dinner I was craving a hot chocolate, yet all the coffee houses were closed, so we ventured into the Damon Albarn (Gorillaz, Blur) owned, Kaffibarinn, and the bartender not only whipped me up hot cocoa in a tall beer mug, but it was the best one I've had, ever. We sat and listened to the DJ mixing sexy beats, then returned to our happy pad to pack for Sweden. We hope to return again soon though, as there are still mountains-beyond-mountains of mystical, moss-covered things to experience, outside the city.