Layovers, gotta love them! Especially when you can leave the airport! When I shop my flights, I always try to put a layover long enough to visit a new city. This time, I landed in Iceland! I had about 8 hours to get from the Keflavik International airport to downtown Reykjavik, visit and back for my connecting flight. We landed around 6 am giving me the chance to walk around the city before the hustle and bustle (of other tourists, that is!), and see the world wake up, little by little.
The 45 minute shuttle into town revealed, along the way a magnificient, natural, untouched scenery. The sun slowly rising in the horizon, the black, volcanic rocks, the small geysers a bit further, the green grass. The weather, a bit colder than how I left it in Montreal (around 9C to 14C at high noon). Since I’m not a fan of cold, or fall-type weather, I was fully-equipped with gloves, scarf and tuque, just in case.
Walking around, there is a store with the best slogan, especially for summer lovers living in colder climates. “Waiting for summer since 1926.”, is 66° North’s slogan, they sell winter clothes, of course! Makes you want to buy a gore-tex pullover in the middle of August!
As a chef, though, I didn’t get the opportunity to taste as many food specialties as I had planned since the restaurants with such offerings were opened only for dinner. My choice of new food was found at breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, I tried an Icelandic specialty which is eaten especially at Christmas, though is eaten year-round, hangikjöt and flatkökur (traditional smoked lamb on buttered, rye flatbread). I must also mention that the smoked lamb is part of SlowFood’s Arc of Taste for the preservation of food tradition and biodiversity. For lunch, I had marinated arctic char, it can’t be passed up, as gravlax and marinated fish are specialties in Iceland. I also saw a lot of dried fish “chips” everywhere, and dried jerky-style, lamb or horse meats.
I have also discovered, in the new hip part of town near the port, a woman and her Café Haïti. Being of Haitian descent, I had to investigate. As I arrived, I could smell the “soup joumou” she was preparing. I got to ask her (before she disappeared back to the kitchen) what she was doing in this cold end of the world! She laughed and said that, she had though of going to Montreal or in North America, but found a better opportunity for her here in Iceland, where she imports Haitian coffee and distributes it, her café being a point of sale. Since she was in preparation for the lunch service, I left and went on my way, as there are a lot of things to see, which require more than a layover!
Harpa, all the museums, the geysers, the aurora borealis, all the natural wonders, all the food! July vacation anyone!