So I am off to Greenland with a quick two day stop in Rekjavik where i would pick up my flight connection in two days.  This was my second trip to Rekjavik with the first one being in May 2021 after COVID vaccines were available.  Iceland was the first country in the world to open and I was itching to travel so Iceland it was.

During my first trip, there were very few tourists around and limited services.  What a difference two years can make.  The airport was packed when I arrived and downtown Rekjavik was buzzing bordering on too many.

I managed to hit the highlight on my first trip to Rekjavik: Golden Circle, Snafesllnes Peninsula, South Coast and a food tour (including the dreaded fermented shark), but the one thing I really wanted to see, puffins, would have to wait as they cancelled the trip and decided not to open until June, about a week after I returned home.

My next shot at seeing puffins came last year when I was in Scotland, but sorry to say, bird flu cancelled my trip to the little island off the Scottish coast.  Would the third time be the charm??  The answer is YES!

So after I landed, I picked up my rental car (a very cute Toyota Aygo hybrid), checked into my hotel at the airport and then drove the 45 minutes into Rekjavik where I had booked a small boat puffin tour with Whale Safari Iceland.  I managed to find the location and parked my car half way between the office and the Harpa (where I would be meeting a group for a food tour at 4:00).

Now since I did not have to be at the Whale Safari office until 2:00, I had a an hour or so to spare so wandered the old harbour in some rare Rekjavik sunshine, found a little cabin on serving lobster bisque and enjoyed a steaming bowl before heading bac to the Whale Safari office.

Puffin about to jump

Once back at the office, I was fitted with a dry suit and a life jacket and 12 of us set off for the boat dock where we each took a seat on a very bouncy chair (designed to cushion and move with the waves).  Our guide Mikel (Mee kel) gave us a safety briefing and we were soon motoring to the first of two islands less than ten minutes from the harbor.

Puffin flying off
Puffin in the water

Fortunately, the trip was smooth, but the clouds rolled back in as they are prone to do in Rekjavik, but it didn’t dampen my thrill when the first little puffin flew overheard.  Now puffins have very heavy bones so they do not fly far above the water and when not in breeding season (May to August) they spend most of their time in the Arctic waters.

The boat took us pretty close to the island where we saw dozens of puffins on the land near holes they had dug for their nests.  There were puffins bobbing in the water and puffins flying low to the water.  We even saw a puffin catch a long skinny fish and fly off with it dangling from its beak.

Puffin with a fish
Puffin near their nest
Puffin floating off the island

We spent about 20 minutes at Akurey Island bobbing around the shore before moving on to Lundey island, which has a much larger population of puffins.  Here, puffins were literally everywhere in the water.  And despite the huge presence of the birds, the boat captain did a very good job of steering clear of the birds and giving them plenty of space.

We motored around the circumference of the island just as a few drops of rain started to fall.  Fortunately, the rain held off as we headed back to the harbor.  I was thrilled that I finally saw the elusive puffins!

So the next stop was a food tour with Wake Up Rekjavik  I had taken one before and enjoyed it so much, I thought what the heck I would go again.  It turned out that 3 of the 5 stops were the same as before, but there were two new stops.  However, what really made this tour so much fun was our guide, Stevie (his name is actually 36 letters long, so he obviously had to come up with something shorter so Stevie it was).

Arctic char and roast lamb at stop #1
Iceland parliament
Ploff at stop #2
Arctic char at stop #2
Fabulous Icelandic rye bread

Now Stevie was part historian, part actor (he is studying theater) and part party animal.  Stevie regaled us with stories about the best bars and the best beer in Rekjavik while interspersing the history of the city.  And the food was as spectacular as I remembered from the first trip.  Our first stop was Fjallkronan, with its amazing roast lamb on a crostini and a smoked arctic char.  Fantastic.

We then moved on through the main square in Rekjavik, past the “huge” parliament buildings (where a sole protester was voicing her displeasure with chalk) and down the street to Messinn Seafood Restaurant where we head grilled arctic char and ploff, an Icelandic dish made of mashed arctic char, cheese, onions and spices, and the famous Icelandic rye bread (delish).  The star, however, was the grilled arctic char … light, fluffy and not at all oily or fatty.  I could eat it every day if given the choice.  It was wonderful.

After the fabulous seafood, it was time to move on to the Icelandic hot dog and the stand made famous by Bill Clinton.  Not Bill Clinton aside, the noble hot dog became a symbol of Icelandic fare because the downtown area was at one time filled with posh restaurants that required one to dress up to eat.  Enter the hot dog stand where all you needed was a few kroner and one could be yours without even putting on dress shoes.

Now I am not a huge fan of the “dressed” dog, which Icelanders eat with mustard, ketchup, raw onions, fried onions, and a form of mayonnaise.  However, I am a fan of the Clinton: mustard only.  So while everyone else order the dressed dog, I enjoyed my hot dog as did the 42nd president … mustard only.

The hot dog stand

Now while we were standing there eating our hot dogs, one unfortunate woman was not paying attention and a seagull swooped in and literally stole her hot dog and flew off.  It happened so fast that no one got a picture, but it was    Absolutely hilarious.

Anyway, after the hot dog, we walked up the hill past the Prime Minister’s offices and then down the street to the Icelandic Bar where we had lamb stew, a small glass of the local summer lager and of course, a tooth pick size piece of fermented shark.

The Icelandic bar

Now two things I Iearned from the hilarious Stevie while we were in the bar: beer was banned in Iceland until 1989.  Long story, but apparently after prohibition the ban on beer remained.  When the ban was finally lifted on March 1, 1989, the country went on a beer bender and to this day March 1 is national holiday.  What a country!

Second, Stevie’s first big acting gig was a feature role in a high school sex ed film.  I won’t go into the details, but Stevie had us in stitches retelling of his lines.  My favourite part though was Stevie calling it his “first big acting gig”. Hilarious.

Now this was the second time I had been in the Icelandic Bar and the thing I really missed this time was the live web cam of Fagradalsfjall volcano blowing every 8 to 10 minutes.  Seriously.  When I was in Rekjavik the first time, the volcano had been active for just over 2 months and they had a live steam of in the bar.  It was awesome.

The rainbow road in Rekjavik
Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral
Rye bread ice cream and doughnut at last stop

Anyway, our last stop was up the street along the Rainbow Road (named for the colourful street painted to celebrate Pride month and it became so popular, the road remains painted year round) to the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral and then across the street to Kaffi Loki where we had “dessert”: an Icelandic donut and rye bread ice cream.  Both were spectacular.

By now, I was done in and I still had a 45 minute drive back to the airport where my hotel was located.  (I had booked the airport hotel because my flight to Greenland was originally scheduled for Saturday morning, but then they changed it to Saturday afternoon and I decided to just keep the room since day 2 tours were just as close to the airport as they were to Rekjavik.

Anyway, I managed to get back the hotel and was in bed by 9:00 p.m. despite the fact that it was still broad daylight.  I was exhausted and needed some sleep for day 2 in Rekjavik.

Author: lawyerchick92

I am a lawyer by trade, but long to be a full time traveller. My life changed for the better when my brother donated a kidney to me on October 14, 2002.

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