Posts Tagged ‘iceland’

Hótel Búðir

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016 | Reviews, Travel

hotel-budir

Hótel Búðir, spelt Hotel Budir in English, is a hotel located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It does not have a hot tub, or proper blinds for the windows, but what it lacks in these features it more than makes up for in location. Not to mention the friendly staff, excellent food and lovely decor.

hotel-budir-view-1

You could definitely have a worse view. The other window, and the bathroom, look out across the Snæfellsjökull glacier.

bathroom-view

The hotel seems to have a bit of a rock and roll attitude. Some of the rooms only seem accessible by crossing the roof. This is definitely worth a visit even if you are not in one of those rooms, simply for the panoramic view.

budir-roof

Their restaurant is busy, but the food is tasty, beautifully presented and comes in reasonable-sized portions.

budir-church

Just up above the hotel is Búðir church. It has been re-built several times since the original.

budir-church-silhouette

Beyond the church is the ocean, and a surprising amount of sandy beach.

elina-on-the-beach

Without a doubt, Hótel Búðir offered us the most beautiful location of the trip. Mountains, a glacier, a waterfall and the ocean, all visible from the same room.

Ion Hotel, Iceland

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016 | Reviews, Travel

ion-hotel

The Ion Adventure Hotel is located in Þingvellir, Iceland. You get there by taking route 36, unless it is winter, in which case you have to go a different way because the road is closed. Winter remember, is October to May.

With the whole area to choose from, they decided to build the hotel next to the geothermal power station. You really can smell the sulphur, which smells like eggs, but it didn’t bother us.

power-station
“We have the whole of Iceland to choose from: where shall we build our hotel?” “Next to the power station!” “But won’t it smell of eggs the whole time?” “Yes, it will be a feature.”

The location is very convient for exploring Geysir, Gullfuss and Þingvellir. All of these are within an hour’s drive. When both the clouds clear and the wind blows the steam from the power station out of the way, you get a beautiful view.

ion-hotel-spa

They have a huge huge tub (it is an eight metre pool, half a metre deep). If anything it was too hot, especially for Elina and the bump. I loved it. I went in twice a day, once after breakfast and once before going to bed. It was only really that Elina insisted on doing things that caused me to get out.

Once end of the building is given over to their Northern Lights Bars. We didn’t see any of the Northern Lights, given it was light the whole time, but we did get a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

northern-lights-bar

Click to see in full size.

They have a restaurant, and also offer a bar menu (which seems to be bigger than the restaurant menu) in the Northern Lights Bar.

ion-hotel-food

The room itself was nice. There was desk and chair, the bed was comfortable, and it came with a floor to ceiling window looking out onto the snow-capped mountain. The curtains did an excellent job of blocking out the light.

ion-window-handle

Some of it felt a bit dated, and maybe in need of a little love. The above shows the handle on our window. However, the window did open fully, and much of the hotel was modern: every room had an iPad Mini and their communal areas were filled with Sonos Play:3s.

I would definitely stay here again. The staff were friendly, the room was nice and the view was excellent.

Geysir

Friday, July 1st, 2016 | Travel

geysir

Geysir is the original exploding hot spring: the one all the other geysers are named after. Technically it refers to Great Geysir which goes off infrequently, if at all. However, there is a smaller, and still very impressive one (pictured above) that reliably goes off every four minutes or so.

geysir-eruption

The hot springs around it really are hot. The hottest parts are behind a fence, but even sticking my finger in the run off is not something I would want to do for long.

hot-springs

In the video below, you can see the steam coming off the water.

If you’re visiting, do not miss the excellent range of ice creams in the visitor’s centre. It isn’t more magical than seeing the eruption, but it is very tasty.

Gullfoss

Thursday, June 30th, 2016 | Photos, Travel

gullfoss-1

Gullfoss is the largest waterfall in Europe. This is dubious claim because Iceland isn’t really in continental Europe. However, it is a very impressive waterfall. It is located quite high up and has a wonderful view of the mountains surrounding it.

gullfoss-mountains

Click for a larger version. The spray from the water creates its own rainbow.

gullfoss-rainbow

gullfoss-2

gullfoss-3

I also recorded a video of the water going over the edge:

Grillmarkaðurinn, Reykjavik

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

grill-market

Grillmarkaðurinn, Grill Market in English, is a sister restaurant to Fiskmarkaðurinn. As you might be able to guess from the names, this one is a little less focused on fish and a little more focused on meat. However, there is still a lot of crossover.

They make a good seafood soup for example and can cook a decent steak too. The real winner of the meal was Elina’s grilled redfish. It came with a crab roll that could have been a main course in itself. I did not enjoy it as much as Fish Market, but it was still a fine meal.

Fish Market, Reykjavik

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

the-fish-market

Fiskmarkaðurinn, known as Fish Market in English, is a restaurant in downtown Reykjavik.

They were fully booked when we rocked up and asked for a table. However, they said we could eat in the bar area. This was actually a stroke of luck. The seating was comfortable, and even a pregnant woman can eat at the little table. It was screened off from the main restaurant, giving us some piece and quiet.

We created our own tapas by ordering four starters and sharing them all. Each dish was carefully prepared and presented with it’s own unique accompaniments. These do not always get the attention they deserve in Iceland, but this was not the case here.

fish-market-food

It was, in my opinion, the best food we had in Iceland.

They even have a cookbook, which I purchased a copy of. It is full of ingredients I think I will struggle to find in Leeds, so it’s even more impressive that they can source them in a country whose entire population is half that of Leeds.

Blue Lagoon

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 | Travel

blue-lagoon

After months of hyping the Blue Lagoon up to myself, I was sure it would actually be a disappointment when we got there. But it wasn’t. It was amazing. We spent seven hours there, and only left after that because Elina was bored.

We booked the 9am-10am slot, which made for an early start. However, when we got there there was no queue, whereas when we left at 4pm, the queue was huge. The ticket is for the whole day, so being lazy is the only advantage of booking a later slot.

The water is heated to around body temperature and there are warmer and cooler bits. There is a special section at the far end that is extra hot. The in-water bar is brilliant, once you pushed your way past all the Finns. You just rock up and order a drink, including alcohol, slushies and smoothies. Everything is charged to your electronic bracelet that you pay for at the end of your trip.

Some of the stuff was a bit naff: such as the cave, but the real area for improvement would probably by the additional of some shade. We spent some time hanging out in one little corner to avoid too much direct sunlight.

We had lunch in the Lava restaurant.

lava-restaurant

The food was very good, and you could eat in your bathrobe. Our package included some sparking wine, which they had an alcohol-free version of.

After lunch we had an in-water massage. This was alright. You lay face up on a matt with a wet towel over you while the masseur does his stuff.

The water was almost completely opaque. This is something to do with the amount of minerals in it but was a big plus point. I thought I was going to have to get out every time I needed a wee…

blue-lagoon-from-cafe

It was an expensive day. We paid to get in, then we paid for our in-water massage, and our extras, and lunch was expensive. However, for me, this was the highlight of the trip. A very relaxing and and enjoyable day.

Icelandair

Monday, June 27th, 2016 | Reviews, Travel

icelandair

We flew to Iceland with Icelandair. How original. It was the most expensive airline we have ever flown with. It was a little over £600 for return tickets for the both of us.

Seat reservations

This was a disaster. We pre-booked our seats so that we could sit together. However, when it came to checking in online, our seats were changed so that we were no longer together. I spoke to both the baggage drop-off people and the people at the gate, but none of them could help. In the end, the woman sat next to me was kind enough to swap with Elina so we could sit together.

However, what is the point of having a seat reservation system that you do not honour. It is actually worse than having no seat reservation system as at least in that case you would know to check in straight away.

Ryanair have a brilliant seat reservation system. It costs you some cash, but we had a whole stewardess whose entire job seemed to be guarding our seats so that nobody else sat there. When Ryanair blow you out of the water for customer service, maybe you should take a look at what you are doing.

We had no problems on the return flight and received the seats we had booked.

Delays

On the outgoing flight, we boarded on time. However, we then sat on the tarmac for an additional forty minutes before going anywhere as the luggage was loaded, then unloaded, then loaded into a different part of the plane.

On the way back, our flight time was pushed back by one hour fifty minutes. This worked out well for us, as we were notified beforehand and meant we could sleep in a little bit longer, but the fact that it was changed was still annoying. Even after this, it took off twenty minutes late.

Entertainment system

Every seat comes with a built-in touch-screen entertainment system. This was pretty annoying. Before the flight takes off it shows adverts for the whole time. Elina finds flickering screens irritating but there was no way to turn it off.

Once the flight started it turned off automatically. You then had to turn it back on and watch another two minutes of adverts before it let you do anything. It then had a limited range of media available. There were maybe a dozen TV shows to pick from, including three episodes of Friends and three episodes of Family Guy. There were also films, a flick tracker, some games for the kids and a few other features.

Economy comfort

Our outgoing flight was economy comfort rather than economy as by some bizarre twist, this worked out to be the cheapest option. I think it was a mistake to do this because it was much nicer than flying coach and now that I have experienced it, I do not want to go back.

On Icelandair you get a bigger, nicer seat. It is only two seats each side (coach is three) with a generous armrest in the middle that you can put things on. You also get a blanket, a bottle of water, a pair of headphones and hot food and drink included, including alcohol.

Economy

On the way back, we were back in coach. This was fine, the leg room was pretty standard for a plane and having nobody in the seat next to us provided us with a great place to put our coats. You still get the entertainment system and free soft drinks.

Þrír frakkar, Reykjavik

Sunday, June 26th, 2016 | Food, Travel

three-coats

Nestled away on a residential street in Reykjavik is a small restaurant named Þrír frakkar. This translates to “Three Coats” in English. It was listed in the “cheap eats” section of our travel guide, but certainly is not. If you have the budget though, it is well worth a visit.

shark-and-puffin
Smoked puffin (top) and shark (bottom)

We started with smoked puffin and shark. The puffin came with the best mustard I have ever had. I am not a fan of English mustard because it is so strong. Whereas American mustard is so watered down it might as well just be labelled “yellow sauce”. This was the first I have had that has a wonderful flavour without being overpowering.

The shark was less good. It was cubes of shark meat, and a liqueur to go with it. Despite not being a drinker, I thought I would give it a go. It turns out that liqueur meant vodka. I couldn’t even finish the thing; I was smashed: I had to go outside for a breath of fresh air.

horse-steak
Horse tenderloin

For my main, I had horse tenderloin. It was superb. I am not sure it was better than beef, but it was certainly just as good. Cutting in and taking a bite was every bit as pleasurable as tucking into a beautiful steak at Blackhouse.

It came with a béarnaise sauce, like every meal I have eaten here in Iceland. Another thing I noticed about Iceland is that they all come with a pub-style side salad of lettuce and tomato too. No matter how fancy the restaurant, they all seem to do this.

Elina had a gratin, which she actually ordered this time.

Chuck Norris Grill

Sunday, June 26th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

chuck-norris-grill

After a week of eating fish, we were in the mood of something different. Realistically, there is only so many times you can walk past a place called Chuck Norris Grill and not venture in.

The decor did not disappoint.

chuck-norris-grill-wall

Disappointingly, the food itself was not Chuck Norris themed. They could manage a reasonably-well cooked steak however.

chuck-norris-grill-food

Having been battered by Icelandic prices for a week, it was nice to go somewhere a little cheaper. I do not have a desire to go back, but it is a reasonable joint to visit once.