Eric’s 40th: Iceland overview

After a two hour flight from London we landed in Keflavik airport. Volcanic rock, virtually no trees, and a very windy, cloudy 45 degrees met us on arrival – it felt like a totally different world.

Much of our time in Iceland was spent driving, and over the course of six days we put approximately 1,100 miles on our non-four wheel drive rental and we still only saw a relatively small portion of the island.

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click map to enlarge

Iceland is rather expensive but there were a few money-saving tips we heard about before we arrived:

  • Buy alcohol at the airport duty free for a 30-50% discount. This is indeed accurate, as alcohol is only available through state-run stores with a significant tax attached. There is a duty free store conveniently located in the baggage claim.
  • Skip restaurants and go to grocery stores – especially for breakfast and lunch items.
  • Laundromats aren’t readily available, so for longer trips bring clothes that are washable in a sink or look for an apartment that has a washing machine.

Also, Iceland has a wonderful weather app, Vedur, that is highly recommended on an island that sees a lot of bad weather as it will provide alerts for storms and heavy winds.

Where We Stayed

Mengi Apartments

With a location close to the famous Hallgrimskirkja church and within walking distance to all of downtown this was a great place for us to stay our first and last evenings of the trip. On our first night we were in the top 2nd floor unit. Featuring lots of windows in a large living room, and a bedroom away from the street, we really liked this apartment. The kitchen was great with helpful items for serving our takeout and breakfast. Bonus points for the record player and Icelandic vinyl!

our loft apartment in Reykjavik

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On our last night we stayed in the ground floor apartment, which has its entry on the street. This apartment is partially underground, so the living room windows have a foot-level view of the sidewalk. Given the proximity to the sidewalk this apartment is not nearly as private, and a bit louder. The bedroom is on the side and faces an alley off the street, so it is also a little louder than upstairs. Though a little smaller, there is still plenty of room.

The con to both apartments- in both bathrooms, the towels were really, really rough, and the shower soap was empty. Also, the water smelled a bit like sulfur. Relatively minor, and if we were staying more than a night I’m sure it could have been addressed. We’d definitely consider staying here again, and would look to reserve the 1st or 2nd floor units for the additional privacy they would provide.

Bella Apartments

We stayed in one of the double rooms which was OK – we had enough room for our luggage, and the bathroom was adequate.

However, our stay here was definitely strange.  First, the building is still under construction, including the lobby. So there is construction dust and it is not fully functional. For example, this is the landing on the second floor:

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free instant coffee is thoughtful but who is going to iron here?

There was no front desk to check in but Leandra spotted our receipt and keys so she grabbed those and we headed upstairs to our room. Later that evening the owner(?) asked for her receipt back as it was her only copy. Considering others did the same thing we did, we wondered why she would leave out her only payment copy in the open lobby?

Second, the website still states “Free Wi-Fi access is available throughout the entire property as well as a washer and a dryer.” Wifi was available everywhere (although weak in our room), but a washer and dryer are only available in the apartments. We argued with the on-site person about this poorly worded statement on their website (who was using one of the rooms as the office since the lobby is still under construction) and they eventually let us use the washer in one of the apartments. A month later they still haven’t changed the wording on their website.

Third, for a brand new hotel there were a few small issues with paint, dirt, etc, that surprised us. The location was fine and although Selfoss isn’t a very large town the sidewalks aren’t great for walking so we just drove most places.  Overall, I can’t recommend staying here over the next few months given the continuing construction and experience we had.

Icelandair Hotel Vik

After our time in Selfoss, the comfort level definitely improved with the Icelandair Hotel Vik. Our room was comfortable and surprisingly spacious, and the bathroom was the nicest we had in Iceland with an amazing walk-in shower (and no rotten egg smell!).

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our hotel from across the street; the lobby/bar area

Our rate included breakfast, and we enjoyed our experience each morning with a range of pastries, granola, meats, cheeses, and a waffle maker.

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The one negative was a fairly territorial oystercatcher that insisted on pecking at his reflection in the window. Silly at 10pm, extremely irritating at 3am. Can’t really fault the hotel for it, but definitely try to get a room off the ground floor…

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the guilty party with a friend at breakfast

Memory Monday: Cocktails @ The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell

I found this bar listed in an article on excellent bars several months before our trip and planned to surprise Eric here for birthday-eve drinks. Upon arrival we grabbed an open couch near the door but were told that table was reserved and did we … [Continue reading]

Eric’s 40th: Kew Gardens & Richmond

To help celebrate my birthday Leandra treated me to an afternoon at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (better known as Kew Gardens). The District line took us within a few blocks of the entrance, and after scanning our internet pre-purchased tickets we … [Continue reading]

Eric’s 40th: A birthday in London

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After breakfast we left our hotel and headed north to the Brick Lane area. As we came to the north end of the street we found a collection of street vendors selling delicious smelling ethnic foods, so we made a note to come hungry on Sunday next … [Continue reading]

Eric’s 40th: where we stayed in London

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London - Tower of London - located a block from the Tower Hill metro stop, this hotel is well positioned for exploring Tower Bridge, Bermondsey, Shoreditch, and other parts of East London. Upon check-in we were given the … [Continue reading]

Eric’s 40th: a day in Boston

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We had the option of a four hour layover or a ten hour layover, and since we hadn't been to Boston, we choose the ten hour option. Because we would have carry-on bags we knew we'd need to store them somewhere and unfortunately, the airport doesn't … [Continue reading]

Eric’s 40th: IcelandAir

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How to celebrate my 4oth birthday - how could it not involve travel? When we noticed some nice fares on Icelandair to London we started thinking about a trip. Then I remembered that Icelandair allows stopovers as long as 7 days... So a long weekend … [Continue reading]