Today is the last day of our journey. We’re traveling back to Reykjavik where we will spend the night and leave bright and early for the airport tomorrow morning. The skies are mostly clear, a nice change after so much rainy weather. The temps are pretty mild too, low to mid 40’s.
We went by the Nordic Visitor office to return the cell phone and chat with Hannah, the travel agent who helped us book this trip and the one a couple years ago. She said the weather has been pretty much gray, cold and wet since March with very little snow other than a heavy snowfall up North in early December. Global warming, no doubt.
Returning the rental car was a real bummer. A dent in the right rear door that wasn’t there when we picked the car up somehow appeared. Matt said he’d noticed it a couple days prior but wasn’t sure if it was new. There were several days when the wind could have grabbed the door and pushed it into something but none of us recalled a specific time when that happened. None of that mattered to Enterprise Car Rental, all they wanted to know was the credit card number to charge the $300,000 kr deductible. Fortunately, the damage should be covered by American Express but we’ll have to file the paperwork to get it reimbursed. Grrrr.
We checked in to Hotel Fronn where we stayed our first night, dropped off our luggage and set out to explore the town. It’s great staying right in downtown where we can easily walk to lots of shops, restaurants and bars. The whole downtown area is pretty clean, feels safe and is easily walkable. There’s a good mix of shopping options from Icelandic/Viking themed souvenirs, wool clothing, adorable felted wool animals, upscale outdoor clothing and designer fashion as well as reasonably affordable high quality options. Riley got a nice pair of Fjall Raven hiking pants that actually have an inseam long enough for him. That almost never happens. It took two visits to the store, though. The first time they tried to find the one pair in that size they were sure they had but gave up looking through all of the boxes in the back to find them so we left empty handed. Disappointed that they hadn’t been diligent enough to keep looking, he tried to find the same pants online but it was hard to find the exact same pants without knowing the style name so we went back to take another look at the label. The clerk was happy to see him walk in and handed him the pants in his size! She had gone back back and found them after we’d left so it worked out well for everyone.
I’d spotted a store with the same yellow raincoat Chandler had been tempted to get as we’d passed by in the shuttle on the way to the hotel. He’d been second guessing the decision not to get it and now had another chance. After more deliberation, and considering several other similar options, he decided it’s better hang on to the money for now. Probably a wise choice since it rains only about 30 days of the year in Colorado.
Today was a good day to indulge in food and drink. We were hungry for lunch and Matt had never had the famous Íslendingar hot dog so we stopped at the stand near the waterfront and had lamb dogs with brown mustard, hollandaise and crispy onions then checked out the bakery around the corner before cashing in the coupons for free beer we found in the rental car. Icelandic Craft bar was cozy and not very crowded. Free draft beer made it even better, especially considering how expensive everything is here.
We walked around some more, browsing in stores and taking pictures of the colorful buildings downtown then we decided to check out a local brewery that we’d seen online that offered tours. The RVK Craft Brewery is located in what I guess would be called uptown, about 2km outside of the downtown tourist area. Along the way we were approached by a young woman shopkeeper who, at that moment, was having a large piece of furniture delivered and needed help carrying it into her shop. Riley and Matt helped the line delivery guy carry a big wooden bureau and set it up near the back of the wedding dress shop. Great timing for her and the delivery guy!
No tours were available at the brewery when we arrived but we could see into the brewhouse through a large glass wall from the tasting room. One of the owners was sitting at the bar and answered questions while another fellow was hosing everything down and cleaning all the equipment after a day of brewing. We sampled a flight of the eight different beers they offer. Matt and I tasted each one, leaving the bottom third in each glass for Chandler since he’s still recovering from a cold. Hopefully our germs won’t make it worse! We know we want to avoid getting his. Riley even tried a sip of the sour, which was my favorite, and reaffirmed his long standing decision not to drink alcohol. The ginger beer was strong enough for his taste. All of them were good, but I didn’t much care for the dark ones. The other favorite was an IPA that tasted and smelled like a freshly cut Christmas tree. Matt could offer a more detailed description of each so maybe I can convince him to add to this…
The brewery was less than two years old and fairly small in square footage and fermenting capacity. They had a 4.5 barrel, 3-vessel brewhouse and I saw at least 5 matching jacketed fermenters, and a what looked like a double-sized brite tank. Like everything in Iceland this was also a stream-fired operation and, I’m guessing because they are on the bottom floor within a large commercial building, they are using condensers to contain the steam produced by the brewhouse rather than piping it outside through a vent in the wall. They did have some sort of automated keg filler crammed into the small footprint of the production side. The beers were about as you would expect…nice variety from light to dark, all fairly true to style with a little extra “oomph” to try to stand out amongst the other breweries. They did have a style that is coming back in the craft beer stage, the Grissette. This was the beer of the Belgian miners, similar to Saison’s being the beer of the farmer. By style, it has a light profile body with low ABV% (not RVK’s versions) a malted wheat base and is a little hoppy, fermented with a saison yeast, so sort of like an earthy Belgian lager? It was very similar to many small breweries in the states and cool to see the craft beer culture is very much global.
Later on, we walked back down to a restaurant near the Icelandic Craft Bar for dinner. Íslenski Barinn is a restaurant Chandler discovered when he was here last year and wanted to try the traditional Icelandic dish of fermented shark. We didn’t have that this time, not surprisingly once is enough. We did have great food though. Riley and I shared a beef burger (we could have had a horse burger or reindeer burger), Matt had a chicken burger with feta cheese and Chandler had a seafood pie, similar to a Shepherds pie. It’s a good thing we did a lot of walking today.
We ended the day with the usual Farkle challenge. Matt was eager to continue his reign as the undefeated champion but Chandler wasn’t going to give up so easily. Over dinner, Matt discussed his winning strategy, careful not to reveal all of his secrets while Chandler researched the mathematical probability of dice rolls and formulated his own strategy based on statistics. All of that effort was wasted though. I relied on my own secret weapon (blowing on the dice) and handily won both games. Matt would insist that his losses were owed to the “non- regulation table” screwing with his dice throwing form. The wood being “too soft”. Whatever excuse works, haha.
I’m so very thankful that we’ve been able to explore such an awesome place and share the experience together. Just having this big stretch of time together has been worth every penny. Those days are far too few and infrequent now that everyone is grown and finding their own way. I’m grateful for the easiness, comraderie and respect that everyone has for each other. I know that’s not always the case with parents and children or with siblings, especially when there are just two. I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing the journey and I look forward to one day re-reading all of this and remembering every detail.