On Wednesday, early in the morning, just as day was dawning, my brother and his girlfriend flew back to England. They came for a five-day visit, and although the weather was pretty upsetting, we managed to get quite a lot in. I picked them up from BSÍ at 2 o'clock on Thursday morning - as I recall, it was drizzling, which set the tone for the duration. Once Thursday had arrived in earnest, we got up and went for a stroll around Reykjavík. I showed them Hallgrímskirkja, the Tjörn, Austurvöllur, some of the main streets and that crazy bookshop on the corner of Klapparstígur and Hverfisgata. We went to Kaffitár (one of my favourite Reykjavík cafés), and to Bæjarins Beztu to get eina með öllu. Then I sort of ran out of ideas. The thing is,  as I may have mentioned before, Reykjavík is not that big, and in any case just walking around looking at things is significantly less enjoyable when you're battling through the wind and drizzle.

In that sense, it's a bit like Sheffield (where I was at university for four years) - it's a nice place to live, but it's hard to put your finger on many specific things that you can show to visitors. That, and the frequent precipitation. Most of my leisure time in Reykjavík  (as in Sheffield) revolves around cafés, bars and walking round looking at ducks. Of course, I have only lived here in Reykjavík for a few months, so I am barely more than a visitor myself. Presumably a lifelong Reykvíkingur might have done a better job. 

On Friday they went off to the Blue Lagoon. I declined to accompany them because I've been there before, and it's quite expensive. Although, on a side note, my friend told me the other day that it's a cheaper price for Icelanders. What? Is that legal? How do you prove your Icelandic status to get this cheaper price? I have a kennitala and speak a bit of Icelandic, would that do? Anyway, we went out around six to meet the father and the eleven-year-old for a drink at Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar, and got some Mexican take-away on the way home. After dinner, the father let us try all his whiskeys (Scottish and Japanese), and also some cured razorbill. Yep, never eaten that before. It was really tasty. 


On Saturday we had a proper 'tourist day'. We borrowed the smaller of the two cars and set off to see Þingvellir, the geysers and Gullfoss. It didn't rain all the time, but it was certainly not ideal. However, the English are trained from childhood to pretend to be having a good time on holidays, even if they are wet and cold. And in any case, these things are impressive even if the weather is rubbish. At one point Strokkur (one of the geysers) erupted all over some idiots who'd stood downwind from it. They were not burnt, luckily for them, but they were extremely wet. Then, almost immediately, it erupted again, before they'd managed to move. Thus cheered by the misfortunes of others, we went on our way. An interesting thing about geysers is that the English word geyser is taken from the name of one of the geysers, "Geysir", which comes from the Icelandic verb að gjósa, meaning "to gush". The Icelandic word for geyser is goshver, which literally translates as "eruption hot-spring". How about that. I once read somewhere that geyser is the only English word to come from modern Icelandic. I don't think I can think of another one (although of course there are hundreds that come from Old Norse / Old Icelandic), but I would make the case for adopting foss. Foss is the Icelandic word for waterfall, and I just think it's such a lovely word - much better than waterfall.

Well, that was a bit of a detour - back to the visit. On Sunday we went for breakfast at Grái Kötturinn ("The Grey Cat"), which was very good, and then to Kolaportið, which was full of car-boot-sale style rubbish as before, and where James bought some harðfiskur. Then to Perlan ("The Pearl"), which has a Saga Museum on the ground floor and a viewing platform at the top offering some of the best views it's possible to get over Reykjavík. The Saga Museum was a lot of fun, although I knew everything already because I'm a massive saga nerd.  I was a bit disappointed to note the absence of the most famous saga scene of all - how can they have a Saga Museum and not include the burning of Njáll?  Maybe they thought it would be too distressing for children or something, although on second thoughts that is probably not the reason, considering they had Freydís Eiríksdóttir pressing a sword into her naked breast and some nun called Katrín being burnt for heresy. After we were finished taking posed shots of us holding hands with Ingólfur Arnarson, etc, we went up to the viewing platform. It was startlingly windy. We were genuinely getting blown about, the wind was so strong. So we looked at the view quickly and then went back inside. Then we went home for the six-year-old's birthday party. He will now be referred to as the seven-year-old. There was a lot of cake and awkward silence. That evening I saw on the news that some people at Keflavík had been trapped on a plane for six hours because of the extreme winds, and also a sheep pen had blown away, so it wasn't just us being pathetic.

Monday and Tuesday were mostly given over to more wandering around Reykjavík - although on Monday night we did go out for dinner at Sægreifinn, which I would highly recommend. You can get a massive cup of lobster soup with as much bread as you like, or various seafood kebabs, including minke whale, for really quite cheaps. Whale is sort of like weird beef.  

The funniest thing was watching the two younger kids (discounting baby) trying to interact with two people who did not speak Icelandic. I had to do a lot of interpreting. They seemed to be under the impression that James was actually called James Bond, and addressed him as such. The seven-year-old was also very keen to teach them some Icelandic, but focused on words like "double" and "washing machine", so not the most useful things that visitors to Iceland could learn. 

There are probably some things I've forgotten to write about, but you get the general idea. It was really good to see him again, and to meet his girlfriend for the first time. Despite the weather, I think they enjoyed Iceland. I didn't think to take any photos of anything, but I might be able to get some that my brother took. In the mean time, look at this weather forecast for the coming week. Jesus.


  1. When you started talking about the Saga museum, I jumped to the conclusion that you were talking about the holidays for the over-50s.

    That would have fewer swords and naked breasts in it, and less burning. But only marginally fewer.

  2. Haha I wonder if there is a Saga Museum somewhere in the world... It's a frightening concept. I think there would have to be a lot of cagouls and sudoku puzzle books. And naked breasts, goes without saying.