Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Iceland 2.34: Hvolsvöllur, Reykjanes and Grindavík

The long drive west along Route 1 was actually rather dull in terms of both the weather and the scenery.  Heavy rain had started soon after we left Reynisfjara, and the landscape became much less dramatic once we were past the Eyjafjallajökull museum in Þorvaldseyri.  In order to relieve the boredom and stretch our legs, we decided to visit an exhibition about Njáls Saga (one of the original stories telling the history of Icelandic settlement).  Rather more interesting, in fact, were the farm co-operative museum and the area where an enormous tapestry was being constructed.  Think Bayeux, but brought up to date a bit.  Sadly there was nobody working on the tapestry on a Saturday, but a whole wall was dedicated to showing what it will look like when it's finished.

By the time we reached Selfoss the weather had started to clear up a bit, so we made the short diversion to Hveragerði in order to pick up some presents to take home with us.  We then left the main road, heading south into the Reykjanes peninsula.  This area is famous for its bird life, and - since the sun was now shining - we drove down to one of the large cliffs which was home to thousands of nesting kittiwakes, along with a handful of fulmars and puffins.

Just inland from the cliffs there was a sandy area absolutely covered in wild flowers.  I walked away from the car and waited to see if anything turned up; and, sure enough, my patience was rewarded with visits from both golden plovers and whimbrels.

Our bed for the night was at the evocatively-named "Northern Light Inn" which is right next door to the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland's top tourist attractions.  What the brochures don't show, however, is that the location is also the site of an enormous geothermal power station and right in the middle of a huge lava field!  Despite the less than attractive views, the hotel was absolutely excellent.  It claims to be one of the best places to watch the aurora borealis, boasting a 360 degree indoor viewing area.  The hotel even manages to have its own personalised number plates.

Rather than eat at the hotel's restaurant, we decided to go to the local fishing town of Grindavík to see what we could find.  Our guide book listed various eateries, all but one of which was either shut or had been converted into something different.  After driving around what felt like a ghost town for 20 minutes or so, we eventually accepted the inevitable and headed for the Bryggjan Café on the harbour side.  It was the only place which was open, after all.  We needn't have worried, however, as the welcome was warm and friendly, and the food on offer was to die for.  Lobster soup with home made bread followed by home-made cake, all washed down with Faroese beer.  Simple, honest fare which was some of the best we'd encountered anywhere in Iceland.

Sadly it was now end of our final full day on this particular trip, but the Bryggjan Café provided a fitting location for our "last supper".