View of downtown Reykjavik, as seen from the bell tower at Hallgrim's Church
One of the truly great factors about travelling overseas is that it provides ample scope for seeking out the bizarre and unconventional, and I maintain to this very day that there are two places visited to date which I classify as being strangely singular, one of the them being the Japanese island of Okinawa (the home of karate), the other being Iceland. The discouraging factor for many is the exorbitant cost of living which has since become less of an issue in the wake of Iceland's 'economic changes', but cost factors would never deter myself from checking out a destination as alluring as this. The journey from Keflavik airport to downtown Reykjavik is best made during sunlight hours, when the surreal lunar-like landscape which leads the way makes you question whether you're still on the face of the earth, let alone on the European continent.
Strokkur, Geysir, caught on film at time of eruption - there she blows!
Reading reviews about the hotel prior to my arrival made it seem like I was in for a real treat, but the fact that the hotel itself was ordinary, but still substantial, suggested that some critics' musings must surely be taken with a pinch of salt. It occured to me as I combed the streets of downtown Reykjavik how sparsely-populated the city seemed, and how just one full meal at a local restaurant could easily take a sizeable bite out of my allocated budget. Instead, I went in search of the harbourfront kiosk selling what tasted like the greatest hotdog on earth, and the neighbouring indoor flea market, something of a Reykjavik institution, was a fun way to while away a casual hour or two. I had watched the cult classic film 101 Reykjavik prior to my visit to the city, and somehow, it now all made perfect sense in the general scheme of things, but all the same, I relished the opportunity I had to get a feel for the place, and its wildly-attractive unconventional feel, such as the uniqueness of Hallgrim's church.
The sumptuous waters of the Blue Lagoon, spa bathing in excelsis!
The must-do excursion from Reykjavik is the rewarding Golden Circle tour, and as it took in a weird-looking crater, Gulfoss waterfall and the spectacular mineral springs at Geysir, the jet of water being periodically thrust into the air analogically represented to me one of the trip's few 'pinnacles'. Stopping off at the outdoor spa centre the Blue Lagoon on the way back to the airport was a terrific way to seal off this trip, and the unusual milky allure of the spa resort's warm water, and surrounding scenery summed up pretty much what this whole island was about - in equal parts inviting, unique and downright essential.