Saturday, September 12, 2015

European Adventures...Iceland

Welcome to Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. After a short 6.5 hour flight from Seattle on Icelandair you land at the international airport in Keflavik.  The airport was built by the United States in 1942 during World War II stopover service for transatlantic military flights was in operation. During the war the airport complex only served military purposes, but at war's end it became a refueling stop for the quickly developing international civil aviation crossing the Atlantic.

Driving from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik
The drive into the city (via Greyline, Flybus, taxi or rental car) is about 45 minutes (31 miles). After leaving the airport, the drive is via a four-lane highway that makes you feel like  you are way far from anything. 

Lodging: in Reykjavik there are all kinds of accommodations: large and small European style hotels, airbnb/VRBO rentals, guesthouses and hostels.  We were lucky to be located in The Charming Center of Reykjavik heart of the City Center, a spacious attic one bedroom apartment (yellow building top floor in above photo), and the gracious hosts Birna & Daniel.  Since the flights arrive so early in the day, we rented the apartment for the day before we go there so that could check in as soon as we arrived (usual check in is 2 pm).  
Dirty Breakfast from The Laundromat Cafe 
Getting around: is quite easy. We rented a car this time and used a consolidator  quick and easy, or you can use Flybus or Greyline Iceland.  

Adjusting to the time change: now comes the fun part.  It all depends on how long you are in Iceland, and how adventurous you are. First off, jet lag... it's going to happen, just get over it.  Since you arrive so early in the morning (if from the West Coast)  the first day you will be in a bit of a fog. Get out, walk around, resist the urge to take a nap.  We suggest trying one of the "pre jet lag" schedules, we used Jet Lag Rooster (also available as an app) We started it three days prior to departure, and yes, do take the Melatonen for about 3-5 days at bedtime if you are having problems adjusting. 
You should be able to leave your luggage with the front desk if you are at a hotel, if renting an apartment, see if you can leave the luggage with them, or rent a luggage locker.  If renting a car, just lock them in the trunk.  

Staying connected: as with any foreign travel, it can be very pricey, depending on your cell phone company and you need to stay connected.  We found that renting a 3G portable WI-FI hotspot with 4GB of data (not cell calls) was the way to go.  We rented it from Iceland Camping and Equipment .  The cost is around $7 per day (plus tax), with a minimum rental of 3 days ($22.46).  It gives you tons of data to use, and it's coverage is great.  Most of the country is covered (even in the remote ares) by cell service.If you want one, I suggest you pre-order one, it just makes it easier.  The little unit is about half the size of a bar of soap, and holds a charge for 3 or so hours.  It comes with a USB/220v charger. 

Food/Restaurants: are plentiful as are bars/pubs and coffee houses. The first stop after the drive in from the airport was The Laundromat Cafe. I recommend the "dirty breakfast" for a pick-me-up after your flight.  For a great soup/salad bar try the homemade specialties at  Kryddlegin hjortu ("Seasoned Hearts"), the soups (vegetable, mushroom, chicken/peanut and Kjosupa - Icelandic lamb soup) were out of this world. Shalimar Indian/Pakistan cuisine was right across the street from our apartment, and always busy.  The food is wonderful, spicy and with just the right amount of heat. The hot garlic Nan right out of the Tandoori oven is great for sopping up the extra sauce (we had the Set Menu #2), and the rice pudding for dessert is AMAZING!!

Food in Iceland is not cheep, plan on spending $15 and up for breakfast, about the same for lunch, and $30-$40 plus for dinner.  Many of the higher end restaurants offer a tasting menu in the evenings for $80 and up.  But...all the food is very good.  Restaurant reviews (as are other reviews) are plentiful on TripAdvisor. We use both TripAdvisor and Yelp a lot, but Yelp has not come to Iceland yet. 

Bakeries: there are quite a few to choose from.  One of the moist popular (and very good, the breads are to die for) is  Bakari Sandholt. Nothing better than a thick slice of bread spared with the Icelandic butter Smjor

Grocery stores: are splatted all around.  Small by US standards, but never the less a great way to pick up something quick. 10-11, Bonus, Hagkaup.

Water...drink tap water, it is the coldest and best tasting water "in the world", and no, it's not just a hype.  Hot water... yes it smells (sulfur), and yes it is really hot. It comes from hot water springs and Icelanders do not need hot water heaters.  Get used to bit of an off smell, let me say that your skin will be softer than ever.'s expensive. Street parking is by zones (Zone 1 is most expensive and so on).  The further away from the city center (or shopping street) the price changes.  Either old school parking meters or the newer ticket kiosks, and a few parking houses. Check here for  more information on parking. 
Night life, or should I say "party on"...depending on where you stay, things can get quite noisy.  There is quite a party culture in Iceland, and it centers around the many bars in the city.  Lets just say that on the weekends, it really gets going about midnight and ends just as the sun comes up.  Just bring a few ear plugs (unless you plan on being part of he party) and deal with it, it's part of being somewhere different that your used to.  
The Language: good luck.  The spoken word has very few sounds like English.  Icelandic is one of the Nordic languages, which are a subgroup of the Germanic languages.  Many of the words are extremely long. Don't worry, everyone speaks English, and there us  no attitude. 
Currency: is the Icelandic Króner.  One US dollar = 124.45 ISK (on 9/6/2015) so when your dinner bill for two is 16,181 Króner, don't faint. 

Reykjavik Cathedral and Icelandic Parliment --- in the center of town.

Things To See And Do

In The City: instead of listing places, click on the caption below the photos and it will take you to various sites with moire information about the location.
Make sure if it is a clear day to take the elevator up to the top, the view is amazing
Lake Tjörnin, beautiful in-city lake

Lake Tjörnin
Beautiful Concert Hall and Conference Center located very close to the old harbor.  

Laugavegur og Skólavöroustigur
Literal translation "wash road".  Shops, restaurants, tea/coffee houses, bars, and much much more.  A great place to people watch...and it is not just for tourists. 

Perlan (web photo)
Great views on a clear day from the observation deck.

Out in the country: is kind of like saying "take a 10-day drive".  The Ring Road (Route 1) is 828 miles around.  For the quick down and dirty, the Golden Circle is the way to see some of the sights.  There are numerous companies that offer many different land excursions, but renting a car and going it that way is the only way in my book.  Driving is easy, the roads are good (a bit narrow though), and well marked.  I suggest a GPS if you have one or using your smart phone (see above).

The Golden Circle: we started out from Reykjavik heading East on Hwy 36 to Pingvellir National Park. 
Then Hwy 356 to Laugarvatn, Hwy 37 and 35 to Geysir and on to Gullfloss.  Return to Reykjavik via Hwy 35 to Hwy 1.  

Roadside stop on the way to  Pingvellir National Park. 
Iceland's wild Heather
Great cloud formations abound
Grazing sheep
Þingvellir is a site of historical, cultural, and geological importance and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. It lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is at the northern end of Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.

Þingvallavatn is a rift valley lake in southwestern Iceland. With a surface of 84 km² it is the largest natural lake in Iceland. Its greatest depth is at 114 m. At the northern shore of the lake, at Þingvellir (after which the lake is named), the Alþingi, the national parliament, was founded in the year 930.
Cracks and faults of which the famous Almannagjá canyon is the largest, is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet.
Thingvellir Church and adjacent farm
Lava formations, Thingvellir National Park
The present church at Þingvellir was consecrated in 1859, and in 1907 the spire was rebuilt and altered. There are three bells in the spire, one of them ancient, another donated by bishop Jón Vídalín when he was ordained in 1698, and a third that was made to "ring in" independence in 1944.

Rift Zone stream

geysir HOT SPRING area 
Hot mineral water flowing out of the hot springs

Strokkur which spouts water 30 meters (100 ft) into the air every few minutes.

driving back TO REYJavic

Here's a great YouTube video on  Southern Iceland. 

 Stokkseyri is a small (445 population) on the southern coast of Iceland.  Stop for some great lobster soup at Fjörubordids

Stokkseyri seawall 

Hvítá  River
Gullfoss (Golden Falls)
The wide Hvítá rushes southward. About a kilometer above the falls it turns sharply to the right and flows down into a wide curved three-step "staircase" and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 m and 21 m) into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep.
The crevice, about 20 m (66 ft) wide, and 2.5 km in length, extends perpendicular to the flow of the river. The average amount of water running over this waterfall is 140 m³/s in the summertime and 80 m³/s in the wintertime. The highest flood measured was 2000 m³/s
 sights around REYKJAVIK 
Cathedral Of Christ The King




Seltjarnarnes peninsula

Grotta  lighthouse, Rekjavik

The Viking Store, Reykjavik 

Statues at Perlan
Statues at Perlan

"The Unknown Bureaucrat"

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February Tree-Top Baking "Pop-Up"

Tree-Top's First "Pop-Up" Market

Missing your Tree-Top favorite? Well, the wait's over --- we'll be baking for a Pop-Up Event Saturday at the Bayview Cash Store. We'll be selling from 11 am to 2 pm in the Hub...just inside the front door.

We will have some of your all time favorites (carrot cake for sure),  and our every popular flaky Danish Kringle. 

There will also be those ever popular Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons and ANZAC Biscuits 

And so much more.  For a full list of what we will be offering, check our our website.