Archive for the ‘Iceland’ Category

Visiting Iceland for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Snaefel from Sumara leaving Reykjavik for the Westman Isles

Sadly I’m not spending Christmas in Iceland this year but quite a few of my friends are, so I asked Gudrun if she had any tips. Well Gudrun has come up Trumps with a huge list of sugestions and advice which I have attached below.
Thank you so much for this I’m sure everyone will have a really great time.

“First of all – do not assume “things” will be open from around midday on the 24th until midday 26th – less than 5 years ago there were no or very few restaurants and shops open and the public transport didnt run at all! this is changing, but I dont quite know to what extent, so worth a warning!

As I dont know your interests or timings im just going to brainstorm!!!!

you have probably found these already, but : – these are the busses – maps times etc. – this is the official reykjavik sight, with all services etc – but allso events (probably the same set as on

My favourite spots in town are
Perlan – nice 180 degree view – self serv caffe where you can get ice-cream – restaurant in the glass “pearl” , which is said to be quite good, dont know about the cost – then there is a wee “forest” around the building, with paths and short walk down to the sea.
Nauthólsvík – is by the sea beneath the Perlan – there is a this is Reykjavik´s beach and people do go swimming there all year round and there is a special christmas/New Year mega swimming event. there is also a small pool which has an aditional hot spring source . there is also a nice new caffe/restaurant nearby
Harpan – nessesery to view and visit – caffe which im told is fine, and a restaurant, which is grand both food and price!
Hallgrímskirkja – you can go up to the top of the tower – great view and a bit more of the Reykjavik rooftop view than the Perlan.
Grasagardurin, Laugardal ( plus the Zoo) – its a bit of a botanic garden and next door is a Zoo (I think a small collection of Icelandic animals rather than a traditional Zoo!!!) but a nice area to walk around, Cafe Flora )sorry cant find enlish but this is the location) is an excellent café and do great food and close to one of the large swimming pools and ice-skating ring . a bus ride from the centre.
The National Museum is quite new and nice, with a caffe – its very good on the early history, but:
Árbæjarsafn – the open air museum is better on how Icelanders used to live – got a couple of “mud”-houses and a -church where i got married once up on the time
If you like walking – one can walk from Árbæjarsafn down to Perlan without crossing a road (took me about 2 hours) and then on the coastal path, round the peninsular , past villas and a golf curse, Grótta light house, which you can walk upto on low tide and need to be careful not to get stranded, then along the north coast , all the way to the harbour – or of course you can get the bus to any of those places and do a smaller part of the path.
SwimingPools are I think all good and all heated with geothermal water – most of them are outside
Its lovely to walk around the lake in the centre – surrounded with old houses and some of the older “public art” – and one of the art Galleries
On the eve of the 23rd – Þolláksmessa – all the shops are open til midnight and Laugavegur – the old shopping street is closed to traffic and heaving with people, walking, singing, shopping, playing instruments, possibly giving away hot chocolate. there is usually “classical concert” on the balcony of “Sólon Íslandus” ( a caffé close to the town centre end of the street)

restaurants – caffes

Sægreifinn – by the harbour – definitely worth a visit! got a great story to it – these seam like icelandic sushi – small tasty tasters – easy going surrounding has been suggested to me as a fun/good bistro
Cafe Paris in the centre is one of the older ones and is steady good
Grandakaffi – Grandavegi 10 on the harbour – this one is one of my old favourites – it has not changed since the 70´s 80´s – uesd to open at 5 in the morning and only fishermen and eccentrics go there, but it has a great view of the fishing boats and more active part of the harbour – do old fashioned cakes and “kleinur” – also open sandwiches
Mokka kaffi – is also one of the old favourites – tiny – usually full of old eccentrics form the art scene – the nations favourite for “hot chocolate and waffles with jam and cream”
Laundromat Cafe | Austurstræti 9, 101 Reykjavík – a bit trendy, arty – based on a Danish concept and has a laundrette and a children’s playground in the basement
Geysi- this is in one of the old houses in the old centre and I think very popular and reasonably prised – there are lots in thos old houses but I dont know them – some are quite expensive, but probably good – one is opposite where I am staying and I have only been in for a glas of wine called :
Fjalarkötturinn – nice bar area atmos
Fiskfélagið – has been suggested to me, but I havent been – “the fishing association”
Þrír Frakkar – – “three overcoats” – this is one of the steady good ones – set up by one of our Jamy Olivers and has been at the top for a long while, but i am told quite reasonably prised

hangikjöt – smoked lamb – must
Icelandic lamb is usually very very nice
Kjötsúpa ö is the traditional lamb stew – not easy to come by in restaurants, but worth a try if you do
fish is usually good and cooked well, but probably just as expensive as meat
a lot of places do really good substantial soups – like seafood soups, with nice bread,
Sigin Skata – Skate – this refers to a dish which is nowadays pretty much only cooked on the 23rd of Dec and stinks like ammoniac – definitely acquired taste, but an absolut must yearly experience for a lot of Icelanders.
Shark – this is at the top of the things that might stretch your tolerance! – i would say worth a try!!!
Soured whale – less smelly and not a very strong taste – more of a texture
Dry fish – I like it just with a bit of butter – very dry and a bit blunt first, but gets tastier as you chew!
then there are Haggis and Black pudding type of things called Lifrapylsa and Blóðmör
Svið – Sheap heads – these are my favoured, but I have not been able to get any of my english friends to even try.

But seriously – Generally I think the food here is excellent quality, a cuisine that has been developed from lots of different cuisines – probably a bit of a “fusion” – there are Italian, Chines, Indian, Thai, Argentinian, etc. but you might not just stumble upon one – might need to ask.

Kolaportid – is a flee market in the centre, by the harbour – only open on weekends and i dont know how its open over the
Also by the harbour is a “hot-dog bar” called “Bæjarinns bestu” “the best in town” – pilgrimage !

the art Galleries are all good an worth a visit if you are interested.

For icelandic wool or knitting there are lots of shops for that, but Handprjónasambandið – Skólavörðustígur 19 is the one Icelanders use most – “the association of hand knitters” and is in a way the most old fashioned, but always has all the colours that are produced and I think the most compatible prise, and all knitted in Iceland, still have the sort of “home-made” stamp on them – some of the other shops are selling machine knitted stuff from eastern Europe and China!!!

there are some day tours from Reykjavík, but you as the daylight is a bit limited at this time of the year, one needs to make sure they fit within that time as driving in the dark is not of much interest at all.

the northern lights have been quite jolly here in the autumn, but I dont know what the expectations for the christmas periods are, there is a site that is a bit like weather report – but i cant find it just now.

Blue Lagoon is really rather special, quite expensive, but unique and would go well with a set of northern lights”

From Gudrun x

Blog Update

Monday, August 15th, 2011

There’s a new post “Stretched Limos” that appears before “Land Ahoy” but I’ve only just posted it. The email got lost in the spam filter. I’ve put it in the right sequence, otherwise it will look if Alasdair is going backwards – although I guess that’s always possible!


“Land Ahoy”

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Position N56,41 x W006,41 Wind F4 Westerly rather unstable.

Now we are sailing downwind through the Sea of theHebrides with Coll on our starboard bow. We hit some rough seas as the depth dropped from 1000m to about 100m but it is more peaceful now except for the occasional viscous squall which drives through with heavy rain and violent winds. But they are quick to go. Gudrun and Ray have been great crew. Gudrun has only been sailing a few times with Peter Mercer on the East England coast and once with me on the Limfjord in Denmark and up to Skagen.This was her first
offshore passage so it was a pretty tough choice but she has been great, not a moan – even when hurled across the cabin, and no signs of seasickness. Ray has a strange sailing CV. His first long passage was after a handshake with me that we would sail the Atlantic. He did a short course on the Clyde then crossed the Biscay on Sumara and then the Atlantic to Barbados. He sailed back from Spitzbergen to the Faroes, Iceland to Scotland (2006), Scotland to Bergan and England  to Denmark. All on Sumara!

Ray is a hugely practical person with great knot skills and can stow things away like no one else.

We are hoping to arrive in Tobermory early this evening for a desperately needed shower and a beer. Opps here comes a squall best get on the helm!

Sent at 11.06GMT 14th August 2001

Stretched Limos

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Position N57,26 x W010,02  Wind force 6 southerly.

Now we are under reefed staysail and two reefs in the main. She is in the groove banking a bit of south which may be useful if the wind veers at all. It is getting rather rough. Now I need to pump the bilge. It takes about 20 strokes an hour on the starboard tack but virtually none on the port tack. Down below is bone dry, not a drip through the decks. A testament to the way Terry built her.

I’ve been reading a book called Niav Super. I’ve been reading it for about a year now because it is in Norwegian – only a few more chapters to go. The main character writes lots of lists. Mainly silly ones. I have started to write a list of things I like and things I dislike about Iceland. It’s too long to blog in these rough seas but one of my favourites is:

– The Stretched Limo for Hire on Heimay. Heimay is only 7km long, you could walk around the island in a day easily. It is a natural paradise, an outdoor kind of place. But the Icelanders think big. “If New York has stretched limos then we shall have stretched limos”. The fact that the population of the Island is only a couple of thousand and there is only one town is not important. I wish I had hired it for a tour. Imagine Ray, Gudrun and me in a limo on the Westmann Islands. The shear ridiculousness of it is highly appealing. The stretched limo sums up a lot about Iceland. They are about to open (20th August) the third biggest concert hall in the world. It rivals the Sydney and the new Oslo Opera Houses but it is a concert hall – or rather five concert halls. The population of Reykjavik is only a couple of hundred thousand. You would need one percent of the population there to fill it! Swimming pools are another Icelandic feature. Every town and village has a splendid pool w  ith hot tubs. Even if only 500 people live there. Iceland is a think big country. My list of good things is much longer than my list of bad things!

Now we are having bacon and banana in pita bread. Yummy.

Sent at 10.18GMT 13th August


Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Position N57,59 x W011. Wind force 5 – 6 South easterly.

Last night we had pasta with reindeer meat balls. At least we hope they were reindeer meat balls and not reindeers balls. Come to think of it the reindeer on the can did have a surprised expression on his face. As the journey nears its end the food becomes more exotic. All the M and S curries have been eaten and we are left with cans of bear meat, smoked whale, dried fish and catfish balls (lets not go there). We also seem to have sheeps
head onboard. I can only think Gudrun sneeked it in the shopping trolley in the same way John used to do with Haribo Gummi Bears. As a special treat, Gudruns mother boils a couple of sheeps heads as a treat for her when she visits Iceland. What a lovely thought. I’m not sure if the eyes and teeth are still in but I suspect they might be.

Now I am wedged horizontally in a place free from spray while the boat beats into a lumpy sea. We dropped the staysail a few hours ago and are back under two deep reefs and a reefed yankee with the lee rail under. The barometer plummeted a few hours ago but seems to have steadied now. Our course is rubbish so it is unlikely we will weather Barra Head on this tack. We will plug away at it. Rounding a headland and bearing off is one of those amazing feelings, the harder the beat the better the feeling. Well that is my hope! Alasdair

Sent at 15.34GMT on 12th August


No fulmars even!

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

We picked up one ship “Italian Reefer” on the AIS passing about 6 miles away and have seen one aeroplane trail in the sky but otherwise it is pretty empty. No fulmars even! Our track is slightly south of course so we don’t get stopped by the lumpy sea. The reefs are still in but it appears the wind is easing a bit so next watch I may shake one out. We are intending to head straight for Tobermory and should arrive on Sunday. Maybe Thembi will be there? Still looks like a SW gale on Sunday so it should be challenging. Gudrun bashed her head against the handrail today, nothing broken but a nasty swelling. I’m glad my boat is so narrow or it could have been more serious. Now I am really looking forward to getting home, going for a walk in the park and meeting friends again and getting back to work.

Sent at 17.35GMT 11th August

Nothing Remarkable

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Position N59,48 x W013,12. Wind easterly force 5
Still making progress into a boisterous sea. We recorded our first ship passing 8 miles away but never saw it. Long dark nights now. Gales still forecast near landfall time and with no gearbox we may hove too at sea for a day or so or make a dash for Tobermory. St Kilda looks pretty unlikely now.

Sent at 04.11 GMT 11th August

Rough Ride

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Position N60,50 x W014,53. Force 6-7 easterly
It is pretty uncomfortable now with two deep reefs and a reefed yankee. The waves are around 10ft and occasionally breaking over the yacht but the sun is popping out between the clouds so it is an attractive view. This weather is set to continue until tomorrow afternoon before easing off a bit but gales are due at the weekend and we are unlikely to make a safe harbour in time. We may hove too and ride the weather out at sea.

Sent at 10.52GMT 10th August

Gearbox Stuffed

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Position N61,32.2 x W016,11. Wind SW F3 and fading out.

We have had a lovely sail this afternoon but the wind eventually died off. I started the engine but there was no thrust from the gearbox. I checked with Jim at Dunstaffnage and he thinks the cones must be worn out. With a blast of throttle it does eventually pick up but it is getting worse and I suspect we will have no engine power soon. The weather ahead isn’t too great with east and southeast gales forecast as the deep low passes through. We will plug on but once again St Kilda is looking unlikely.

Sent at 16.58GMT 9th August

So far, so good!

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Position N62,01.386 x W017,04.007. Wind SW Force 3. Sunny
At last we were able to turn off the engine and hoist the genoa. We have been making 4kts in the right direction through the night with 361nm left to go before getting to St Kilda. Yesterday afternoon the topping lift chafed through and trailed in the sea. I had to go up the mast to replace it. With the swell rocking the boat it is quite exciting clinging to the top of a 38ft mast with one hand while the other tries to thread a rope through a pulley. We treated ourselves to a tuna pasta diner and some Melvin Bragg to celebrate. Last night
I was joined by a small pod of pilot whales who were very entertaining.
Sadly the Grib weather information is telling us about a depression leaving Newfoundland and heading our way. The latest chart shows it deepening rapidly on Saturday just
as we would hope to arrive at St Kilda. We will try to monitor it, maybe it will drift off northwards. On these long North Atlantic passages you are almost certain to get clobbered by a gale at some point. We will prepare in advance and treat it like “A simple and manageable job” – “En enkel og overkomelig jobb”.

Thembi arrived in Ullapool at midnight after a cracking sail through the Summer Isles. We all really enjoyed Thembi’s company (and climbing skills) on the trip. I should imagine the Argyll Pub will be busy tonight. I think we have made some lasting friendships after an adventure like this one has been.

Later today we are going to have some shooting practice if it says calm. Now I can hear the
rhythmic deep tone of the foghorn going off every 5 seconds – oh no, its just Ray snoring.

Sent at 08.07GMT 9th August