Reykjavik, Iceland - Part 1

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

View from the top of Hallgrimskirkja.
When I was 16, something magical happened.
I fell asleep in front of the television and when I awoke again, I saw a documentary showcasing the most stunning landscape I'd ever seen.
It was Iceland.

I was instantly fascinated with this northern European island that seemed so incredibly mysterious, dark, and isolated.
It was in that moment that I started dreaming of travelling to Iceland.

Fast forward 7 years.
It's May and I had just wrapped up my final year of university. I was thirsty for a new adventure, one I wanted to embark on alone. I wanted to do something by myself and for myself. What better place to do this in than my dream destination.

My Icelandic journey began at Vancouver International airport on May 14th. I didn't tell many people where I was off to. And the ones I did tell kept asking the question, "Seriously? Iceland? Why?" To which I would respond with, "It's next on the list."

I had no idea, but I was going to be on the inaugural flight from Vancouver to Reykjavik with Icelandair. When I arrived at our gate, I found a news crew, official airport staff, and a DJ from Iceland all partying it up. A massive cake replicating the Icelandic flag with the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano situated on top was ready to be eaten by the passengers.
This was my type of boarding lounge.

After a 7 hour flight which consisted of watching one of my favourite films of all time, Garden State, and listening to a healthy dose of Bjork and Sigur RosI was welcomed to a rainy morning in Reykjavik and honestly, couldn't have asked for better weather. Again, what drew me to Iceland was the mystery of it all. I wanted darkness to greet me (as depressing as that sounds).

I hopped on a bus ready to take me to my hostel in the city centre. As we drove along, my eyes were glued to what was outside. It felt like I was on Mars. Rock after rock after rock on the ground as mountains tumbled above. I heard another passenger on the bus, obviously Canadian say, "This reminds me of Saskatchewan." Mate, a bit different than the Canadian prairies, don't you think?!

My first impression of Reykjavik? Quaint. The city seemed so pleasant and sweet. The rocks turned into rolling green hills where cute Scandinavian neighbourhoods lined the streets. But what I will say is that I noticed an undeniable contrast between old and new. The new houses had a chic modern twist to them and the old houses bleed with old European influence. 

The hostel I stayed at was called Hlemmur Square. I picked it because it was cheap. But when I arrived, I notice how slick and minimal (in all the good ways) it was. I was told the hostel was less than a year old. I've had my fair share of staying in hostels around the world and I gotta say, Hlemmur Square has been my favourite. A little cafe and bar welcomes travellers in and an Icelandic folk band plays in the lounge in the evenings. Another thing I adored about Hlemmur were the big windows. I came to Iceland in the Spring meaning 22 hours of daylight. The morning sun was spilling through the windows as I walked in. It was just such a beautiful and simple moment to usher me in.

Hlemmur Square
I stayed in a 12 all female room, which was pretty luxurious (we got our own robes!) and I had some pretty rad chicks in my dorm to chat to: A woman from Singapore who was literally travelling the world, having touched all seven continents. I was fascinated by her travels to Antarctica and how she and her tour group had to take a detour to a Russian military base for a medical emergency on board. A fierce 19 year old from Germany who had just been living in Iceland for three months. I loved walking back into the hostel and hearing her crazy boy stories. And an American girl who sailed all over the world for a Semester on Sea.
I was in good company with other solo female travellers. 

Looking outside my window at the hostel, Hlemmur Sqaure - this is 11:00pm
Having arrived in Reykjavik at 6:30am (nearly midnight in Vancouver) I forced myself to face the day without sleep and go explore right away. There was no time to lose.

I'm all about aimlessly wandering. I just follow where my two legs take me. Hlemmur Sqaure was located on Laugavegur, one of the main streets in Reykjavik that takes you right into the city centre. Adorable cafes, ultra cool restaurants, hip clothing stores, and tourist shops made up the street. I think I looked in nearly every window.
With my trusty Zara parka, Topshop toque, Oxblood Doc Martens, and camera in hand, I was ready for some city adventures.

Iceland OOTD.

Walked pass a record store and this little lady was hiding in the corner.
The rain had stopped and the gloomy Reykjavik morning brought on a winter like chill, which I was completely okay with. My aimless wandering took me all over the city. I usually walk at the speed of light, but this time I really took my time to walk up and down every street, looking high and low. I didn't want to miss anything Reykjavik had to offer.

Reykjavik is a very quiet city. No hustle and bustle, but a lot of innovation and creativity. I love a city that can celebrate the arts and Reykjavik does just that. From music festivals like Iceland Airwaves to small events celebrating local artists, Iceland is a country of inspiration. It's no wonder so many films are starting to be filmed in this hidden gem of a country.
Also, everyone walking the streets were good looking. Style game was spot on (sweaters, toques, a good pair of boots) and everyone was just a natural beauty. I was into it.

Just like me, cute little cats roamed the streets too.

After some exploring, I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch. I went back to the cutest cafe I saw on my wander. It was along Laugavegur and called Bakari Sandholt. The natural light from the Iceland sun poured into the cafe and it felt enchanting. I knew I picked the perfect place. With a brie sandwich in one hand and a latte in the other, I was at peace. I took out my map of Iceland and began scheming.

I couldn't help but to do a bit of people watching too. A loved up French couple shared a coffee in the corner and a Father and Daughter laughed together over a hot chocolate. It was all wonderful.

Bakari Sandholt
After taking my sweet time in the cafe and planning what else I wanted to see for the rest of the day, I decided to head up to one of the most prominent landmarks in the city - Hallgrimskirkja.

Stay tuned for Reykjavik - Part 2 


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