Northern Lights in Iceland - Day 5: Two Forms of Whales...

November 18th, 2013

After two days of heavy touring, we needed a day to ourselves.  Good thing we had already planned today to be a day to ourselves.  We thought we'd go for a breakfast out and about in the city.  What we hadn't planned for was that Reykjavik doesn't really come alive until later in the morning.  So much so that we couldn't find a place open for breakfast.  So we wandered for a while.  Then a little while longer.  We first thought about going back to C is for Cookie.  But we remembered another bakery around the corner.  We found that one.

Good morning, Reykjavik!!
Bernhoftsbakari was a bakery.  Not really a cafe.  So there wasn't much room for us to linger.  We all ended up with good treats, but I think we would have been more comfortable with C is for Cookie.  Whatever though, the food was still good.

The one thing we really hadn't done yet was shop.  There was a bit of shopping on Day 1, but we didn't really know what was ahead of us.  I always like doing the shopping near the end.  Obviously, if there's something amazing that has to be purchased, it'll be done immediately.  But wandering the streets of wherever after knowing where we're going or what we're seeing is how I like to roll.  Plus, by the end, usually the most I can mentally handle is some light shopping.

Probably should have bought this.  It includes a mash-up between my two favorite things!!
The surprising part of Reykjavik was the sheer lack of American/English stores and restaurants.  A random Subway or Ruby Tuesday (Seriously.  Seriously!!) will show up occasionally.  And there was a Timberland shop right across the street from the 66 Degrees store.  Which...ballsy, Timberland.  66 Degrees is an Icelandic outerwear store.  Think, well...Timberland, but from Iceland.  We found many, many items in 66 Degrees that we wanted to take home.  There was a lighter jacket, a sweater, gloves.  Really...I could have taken any of them and been happy as a clam.  But man, the prices were high.  Waaaay out of my budget.  I was still feeling the sting of my coat purchase for this trip in general (and for winter in Chicago, cause...Chicago know...) and once I saw the prices here on the coats, I wasn't feeling the sting anymore.  I mean, I didn't buy anything.  But I really wanted something.  Ultimately, I ended up with a few little souvenirs.  Nothing of substance.  Which was fine, I guess.  My money tends to be spent for food anyway.

We ended up in the Visitor's Center again.  I don't entirely remember why, but while we were there, we asked the workers what they would recommend for lunch.  Richelle and I wanted to find a Thai place we'd read about.  It was inexpensive (for Iceland) and supposedly very tasty.  But it was only open for dinner.  And we had dinner plans already.  The guide did mention a place we'd had on our list of places to try.  That was a place with lobster soup.  That place is the Sea Baron.

Saegreifinn (the Sea Baron) is known far and wide as being the best lobster soup in Reykjavik.  Well...let's see about that.  We were actually a little early for the opening, so we wandered for a few.  And of course, it started snowing.  Again.  Which didn't instill us with a ton of confidence about our upcoming excursion.  But it did make for excellent weather to eat lobster soup.

The Sea Baron is in one of these buildings...
The shop itself is a tiny little place.  I can imagine during the busy season, people are lined out the door.  You had a few choices.  Lobster soup (of course).  There were also several different types of kabobs.  Danielle opted for a scallop kabob.  We could have tried a whale kabob, but we knew whale would be on the docket for later.  Lobster soup came with some bread and butter.  And just the lobster soup itself is more of a meal than you can eat.  Then again, we had breakfast a little late.  The scallop kabob was perfectly cooked too.  I don't want to take anything away from that one.  But the soup.  Jesus, the soup.  It's a "don't miss" kind of place.  Seriously.  I wouldn't lie to you.  Not about this.

Once we had plenty of lobster in our bellies, we went our separate ways for the afternoon.  Richelle and I were going whale watching.  Danielle and Brett (who met us after lunch) were going on a "Hidden People" tour in (I believe) a more suburban area.  They were going to test out the bus system.  Which, nice.  They didn't have to pay for bus fare (Thanks, Natura!!)

We had decided on the Elding Whale Watching Tour.  I don't think there was a reason.  But out of the two tours, we chose this one.  They had a pretty good setup.  We walked up the gangplank and into the boat, where we were given some giganto overalls to wear.  These were overalls that fit over your pants AND your winter coat.  It's not slimming.  Not by a long shot.  But it's something to keep you warm.  And dry.  And that was definitely what we needed on this day.

Elding said from the beginning...if you think you might get seasick, take the pill now.  I've never been seasick before, but I've been motion sick for the last few weeks in busses and such (my own fault - a Demon Cold plus traveling plus exhaustion plus iPhone reading on a bus was making me more susceptible to motion sickness), so I wasn't sure if I should take something.  I didn't.  I'm still not sure if that was the right choice.  Elding also said if you think you're going to be sick to stay outside and do not go into the bathroom.

Richelle and I found a place outside on the midlevel of the boat.  We had seats and a view of the water.  We also had high expectations of seeing whales.  Especially when we were told that several days ago, a family or Orcas or Killer Whales were spotted.  We weren't sure we would see anything.  It was nearing winter.  Who knew if anything was left in the area??  But we had hope.

The boat set out and we saw some birds.  Then a few porpoises.  And then...nothing.  Really.  We never saw anything.  But, here's where it got fun.

Sights from the boat.
The swells started after about an hour at sea.  They weren't always bad, mostly intermittent.  In the middle of a quiet time, I looked at Richelle and asked if she wanted to go inside for a bit to warm up.  While we had many, many layers of clothes on at this point, it was still stupid cold.  I was losing feeling in my feet and I didn't think this was a good sign.  So we went downstairs into the boat for a bit.

It actually didn't take long to find a seat downstairs.  But as I looked around, I noticed people were  You knew people inside weren't doing so well in the seasickness arena.  And that's when  the swells started up again.  And that's when I started to feel it.  I turned to Richelle again and basically said we needed to go upstairs now.  Or there were going to be problems.  Our original seats were still open, so we slid back into them.  Slid was the appropriate term.  Ice from the weather plus a slick surface on the boat (I'll get to the reason in a few) made for difficult walking circumstances.  The slick surface is the main reason I didn't walk around much.  Well, that and the gigantic jumpsuits.  It was a total Christmas Story situation ("I can't put my arms down!!").  It was not easy to walk.

When we sat back down upstairs, we noticed a change in the demeanor of the folks on the boat.  At this point, we'd resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren't going to see any whales.  My main goal was to try to combat the seasickness that had washed over me.  There was an hour left.  I was going to spend it staring straight ahead at the scenery.  And that's when the puking started.

My view for a significant amount of time.
Not me.  I didn't puke.  I want to make that perfectly clear at the beginning.  I. Did. Not. Puke.

The first guy was pretty inconspicuous.  I didn't even notice he was hurling over the side of the boat until near the end.  And he did not move from his spot for the next hour.  He leaned against the railing and steadied himself as the swells made themselves known.  Actually, the swells were strong enough that we had to use our arms as hooks around the back of the bench to keep from sliding off of the seats.  That's about the time when the second dude slid up to the railing and hurled his guts out.  The first guy joined in as well.  And Richelle and I needed to move seats at this point.  There was a little more splatter than we wanted to see and the smell was a little...wafty.

Focusing on this scene.  Not the sickies.  Even though I'm telling stories more about the sickies...
I don't want to spend the entire time telling stories about folks puking.  Well...I actually do.  But I don't need to.  By the end of the journey, we had a minimum of four pukers up on this level.  Who knows how many in the level above or below.  When we docked and we finally took our overalls off, we chatted with the bartender.  He was the guy who gave us our complimentary ticket to come back in the next two years for another go at seeing the whales.  I also asked him if today was a particularly pukey day.  He chuckled a bit and said no.  But he did mention how people just shouldn't use the bathroom if they got seasick.  Enclosed spaces will make you sicker.  And once one person was sick in the bathroom, everyone was sick in the bathroom.  We felt pretty dang good that we weren't those people.  As we exited the boats, the other workers were hosing down all surfaces on the deck...and windows.  Gotta clean off the vomit somehow.

After the tour, we deserved a treat.  Why??  Because we just did.  Stop judging the constant need for treats!!  The original thought was to go back to C is for Cookie.  We loved it much a few days before.  And the discussion was about having the apple cake and hot chocolate again.  But we also knew there wasn't a ton of time before dinner.  And we had a few last minute items to pick up before dinner.  We'd seen a tea place pretty close to dinner that we thought might work.  Te & Kaffi fit the bill.  I snagged an amazing hot chocolate and a caramel apple cake.  Bjork was playing in the background.  Iceland all the way.
Hello, gorgeous.
Richelle and I were a little early for dinner.  Weeks ago, we had decided on the Grillmarket for our last meal in Iceland.  Our reservation was for 7p, but we had plenty of time for a drink first.  The Grillmarket was the most Chicago place we'd been to in Iceland.  It had the industrial feel of a hip Chicago joint.  We walked down the stairs to a nice bar and dining area and figured out what to drink.  Around the time we got our first glass of wine, Brett and Danielle joined us.

We all took our wine to the table and began the discussion about food.  We knew the first course from the time we made our reservation.  Sliders.  Lobster.  Whale.  Puffin.  Richelle and I paused for a moment, because as we were on our whale watching tour, they mentioned conservation of whales and NOT EATING THEM.  Apparently, Icelanders don't eat whale.  It's only the tourists that eat whale.  Errr...about that...we ended up with the sliders.  And they were...simply amazing.  Whale was fatty and oily and just wonderful.  I'll say this...I won't ever have it again.  But I'm beyond thrilled I had it once.

Whale, Lobster, Puffin.
There was a small discussion about going with the Tasting Menu at the Grillmarket.  But we wouldn't have had the sliders.  And Danielle was worried she'd just end up with plates of vegetables.  So we decided against that one.  But I did end up with a glorious Meat Gourmet.  Lamb, Duck and Beef.  Perfect.  Today was a big meal.  An expensive meal.  But a great ending to our day.  To our trip.  Good wine, good food, good company.  It's everything you could ask for.

Lamb, Duck, Beef.  And Curly Fries.  Cause, why not??
We just missed one of the busses back to the hotel, so the decision was made to walk back to the hotel.  There were no polar bears on the horizon, so we all felt pretty safe.  It was also time to say goodbye to Brett.  His flight home was early in the morning.  Ours, later in the afternoon.  But we all had to pack tonight.  After we bid Brett farewell, we made it back to the hotel for a late night of organizing and packing.  The least fun part of travel we have to do...


  1. Awesome stories! And you are more brave than I am. Not sure I could go on the boat and then also not sure I could eat whale. :)


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