Monday, June 14, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn Inaugural and Maiden Voyage - Part XI - Land Ho!

On Saturday evening we arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland...again...and stayed at the Radison Blu 1919 Hotel. The hotel, and most all four star hotels in Reykjavik (there are no five star hotels) are within the same small area.  For a quick stay the hotel was just fine.  A standard room was comfortable and everything worked (free internet included), though you will be your own bellman.  One criticism - and this is a weird one - the blinds do not darken the room enough.  At 2:00 a.m. it was a light as 5:00 p.m. so the room never got dark.

Anyway, my wife and I walked over to The Seafood Cellar (it is actually named Sjavarkjallarinn, but have fun trying to say that!) for a greatly anticipated meal.  This smallish restaurant is, in fact, located in the cellar of the tourist office, but is anything but touristy.  It would have been quite romantic except for the two large groups who had booked the place.  (To be fair, we were warned in advance, but this was our only night in town, so we went for it.)  The word on the street was that the Chef's Menu was the thing to order. It was!  (You know you are in for it when the very attentive staff gets a gleam in their eyes when you order it.)

Shared dish after dish.  Venison, lobster, arctic char, lamb, tuna, prawns, cod, salmon, ling, and more...it kept coming and coming and coming.  And it kept arriving in different and wonderful ways, both in preparation and presentation.  And just when you are ready to give up...the desserts start appearing (yes, plural) and then the finale:  an oriental spin on ice cream in a smoking bowl placed in the center of the table.

Our dinner lasted over three hours, but went quickly.  And then we emerged from The Cellar expecting dark and it was light...very light.  But we were so full getting to sleep was not an issue.

We arose the next morning to find we were both stiff and sore.  At first we thought it must be the bed, but it felt OK.  Then my wife said, "Everything...even my lungs...hurt" and I realized I suffered pretty much the same way.  Then it hit me:  It was the horseback riding on those famously smooth riding Icelandic horses two days prior.  It caught up with us and we had a 5.5 hour flight home ahead of us.

Before we departed, we took a walk around Reykjavik and, as I do, stumbled upon a Sunday market and the ever important fish market.  I sampled dried catfish, some smoked something and then the infamous fermented shark (Hákarl) which has a putrid smell.  I, as instructed, ate some first and then smelled it later.  If I did it the other way around, I probably would not have been able to eat it.  I hate to say it, but I rather liked the small portion I tried.  I would not sit down with a plate of the stuff any time soon, but I can proudly say I survived it.

After buying some things for the kids, we ate lunch an upscale bistro serving local food, Geysir.  I had a fantastic seafood soup followed by a perfectly prepared piece of cod.  It was a very nice way to enjoy my last bit of Iceland.

Our trip to the airport was a bit much.  I could not figure out why it cost about US$150 for a taxi to the airport, so I went for the Flybus at $15 per person.  Jammed in, move your own bags, it was a very long trip into the middle of absolutely nowhere to the airport.  Next time - and I will return to Iceland - I am going to spring for the taxi.

Check-in was a breeze and the Icelandair Saga Class Lounge was quite nice.  Stepping into the new Icelandair jet was like a step back in time.  Nice, clean plane with great leather seating (no fly flat seats, but at 5.5 hours, it would be kind of a waste) and attractive flight attendants in older style uniforms that smiled and gave great service.  While the meal service wasn't as fancy as some larger carriers, the choices were good (I had a bento box of sushi and such prepared by a local restaurant) and some pretty decent wines. 

So now the adventure is over, but I will post some of my concluding thoughts...after I have a couple of days to think them through.