Sunday, July 23, 2017

Isafjordur Diaries Day 1

Isafjordur as seen when we landed

I thought I would have time to write last night or read a book, but I slept 16 hours. What began as a nap at 4:30 ended at 8:30pm, past the closing time of the cafes and bars. We wondered the streets in search of food and settled on doritos chips and a wrap from a convenience store. We ate those chips on the dark walk home, and I couldn’t help but remember how yesterday I had seated a buttery croissant on the dark streets in the morning before we left Reykjavik. It seems like walking and eating in the dark is the theme of this trip. We we got to the hostel I watched about an hour of Mad Max with Jonason while sitting on comfy leather cushions. On our walked I had peeked into the windows of several homes and seen people watching TV in the warmth of their houses. I wanted to be like them. Maybe in that sense we had a very authentic night in  Isafjordur. It wasn’t spent the way I thought it would be: by sipping coffee at Braedraborg and having a cocktail at Edinborg, but it was spent the way locals spent it: indoors and warm in front of the television.
I am blown away by this beauty. I can’t put my camera down. I want to savor this view as much as possible. Especially since I arrived in a blizzard and know how precious it is. The snow can quickly seize these mountains and nothing is visible. I am thankful for the clear twilight we had, and for this clear morning. I didn’t realize how precious these views are - how quickly they can be taken by the weather. That’s why I didn’t linger in the library too long, and that is why I held off on going to the cafe, ultimately missing out on it altogether. I wanted to be outside, gazing at these mountains, taking pictures of them. I didn’t know when the next storm would come. I kept looking in the direction of the wind, uncertain of what it would bring.
- November 26th Husid in Isafjordur, 11:55am

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Isafjordur: the epic journey there and back

Isafjordur on arrival

Getting to Isafjordur in the winter is an adventure in and of itself. What is a popular tourist destination by ship and by car in the summer becomes inaccessible by both modes in the winter. The roads are often to treacherous to pass and the boats stay docked until spring. Therefore, our only way was by plane.

Flying domestically in Iceland is risky business. Not because of accidents, but because of delays and cancellations. Weather is very unpredictable and the strong winds and sudden storms make flying uncomfortable and turbulence frequent and severe. I knew all this before I booked a one-day trip to Isafjodur via plane. But I learned the hard way.

Walking to the airport at 9:00am
We awoke before dawn to board our flight. “Before dawn” meant 9:00am because Reykvakik darkness in the winter extends to practically 11:00am. We were lucky enough to be staying near the city center, so instead of taking a taxi or bus to Reykjavik Airport, we walked 30 minutes. It is a small airport and the walk is easy, with sidewalks all the way and only one terminal with one entrance and one gate.

boarding our propellor plane

We hung out by baggage claim while we waited to board. We really didn’t need to show up until 30 minutes before flying, but our American instincts made us arrive an hour early.

departing Reykjavik

The flight to Isafjordur was pretty smooth until we went in for our descent. That’s when the bumps and shakes started and they only became more extreme as we approached the ground. I looked out the window and saw a menacing snow storm brewing. Suddenly I felt the plane begin  rapid ascent back into the air. When we were back in stable air the pilot announced that a sudden snow storm had overtaken the town, and the strong winds were preventing us from landing safely, so we had to hold in the air and wait for the storm to pass. As the plane dangled in the air like an ornament on a Christmas tree, I felt the storm shake us from below. We were wobbling us and down for what felt like an eternity. Then with warning, the plane rushed down to the ground, and with a few big final shakes, landed smoothly on the runway of Isafjordur airport.

descending into the menacing snowstorm

I had emailed the tourist bureau before our trip and they informed me that the only way to the town was by a red shuttle. The shuttle service was one man who made his living from taking tourists and local to and from the airport on the one flight a day. The bureau also informed me that is was cash-only. This is very unusual for Iceland, because everywhere is Reykjavik takes credit cards, so it is almost completely unnecessary to every handle cash in the country…except when you take the red shuttle from Isafjordur airport. So we came prepared with cash is small bills, which the guy greatly appreciated, and no other tourist seemed to know the protocol. It really doesn’t matter where he drops you off in town, because you can talk across the whole place in 20 minutes.

we made it!

the shuttle bus into town
When it was time to leave I assumed the process would be just as simple. But oh how I was wrong…

First our flight back was delayed two hours for unknown reasons. We passed time by hanging out in a local restaurant and heading to Isafjordur’s amazing library. Then at the library I checked again and found that our flight was canceled and that we would be rebooked on a flight leaving the next day. This was really annoying as we had to spend another night in Isafjordur which was not planned or budgeted. Then on the morning of the second day, our flight was delayed by an hour again. This was a bad sign, as yesterday’s delay was what lead to the cancellation of our flight, so I was worried about yet another delay, but thankfully we took off only an hour an a half later than expected.

At the airport we watched the incoming plane land, and could feel how strong the wind was that afternoon. The pilot warned us of a rocky ascent and a turbulent ride back to Reykjavik, but at that point, I was just glad to be on the plane.

leaving town for Reykjavik

the half-melted mountains below us

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Reykjavik café catalog and observations

When touring the best of Reykjavik’s very eclectic and happenin’ café scene,  I noticed some interesting cultural observations in my three short days. I'm not sure if they tie back to Icelandic culture in general, or if the practices evolved simply for practical reasons. Either way, here is what you are likely to experience in Reykjavik’s cafes:

  • People bring their kids. Whether they are toddlers babies you will see a lot of little kids in Iceland’s cafes.
  • There if often no wifi, so it’s not exactly a laptop culture.
  • Many cafes are open early (around 7:00 or 8:00am and stay open late 10:00 or 11:00pm and serve alcohol.
  • All cafes serve chocolate in its many forms: chocolate bars, hot chocolate, swiss mocha, etc.
  • There are often more people reading newspapers and books than people on their laptops or phones.
  • There are no sizes for coffee (small, medium, large or 8oz, 12 oz, 16oz). Instead there are only two was you can order: single shot or double shot.
  • There are no syrups or flavored sweeteners – just plain sugar you can add yourself.

Now, as for the cafes themselves, let me introduce you to a few of my favorites:

My favorite place for it’s film noir atmosphere. We came in the morning before dawn, when the morning darkness felt like night. The coffee was excellent and the low tables and booths felt like great places for telling secrets.

Stofan Café
Amazing atmosphere with eclectic furniture and style. Both the top level and basement are very well lit and spacious. The coffee was good but not any better than Mokka or the other places I liked. That being said, if I lived in Reykjavik I would be a regular here.

C is for Cookie
With few hours in the Reykjavik winter, we headed to C is for Cookie at still-dark 8:00am for before our flight to Isafjordur. The White Chocolate Mokka was perfect, and I enjoyed the living room ambiance and chill vide of this café.

Reykjavik Roasters
This is probably the most popular coffee join in Reykjavik and arguably the best coffee in town. For some reason, it didn’t  quite fit with me. There were very few places to sit, the coffee was average, and I just didn’t fall in love with it like I do other places.

Laundromat Café
More of a restaurant than a café, this is a place you come to socialize, not play on your laptop. It’s usually crowded and noisy, but the drinks were outstanding.


A quirky café, popular for it’s eccentric atmosphere and the fact that it is open very late. The coffee is nothing to brag about, but working among the barrage of decorations was an interesting experience.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

LA Street Style Day 1

After a 9-year absence, my fashionable friend Emma returned to LA from Japan this summer. I flew down from Portland to meet with her. Emma and I lived in LA in the mid-2000s and have a lot of good memories together. To honor our friendship, I dug through my closet and picked out a few dresses that I bought back in 2007-2008 when we lived in Orange County together. This is a dress I wore 10 years ago, and one I haven't worn agin until this trip. All items pictured vintage and purchased at various stores around LA. I'm pretty sure this dress came from Goodwill. 

Emma, on the other hand, went with the opposite theme. She bought an entire new wardrobe for this trip. 

And of course, we took a ton of selfies on our first day together.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Reykjavik Diary Excerpts

I am writing from the airplane over Greenland. I can’t be sure of that because it’s complete dark and will remain that way for several hours. We’ve traveled north to indulge in some of that excellent winter darkness. Maybe it’s the excitement. I haven’t been to Iceland in five years. It holds a special place in my heart because this is the first adventure my partner and I went on together. This is where I began my blog. With the colorful front doors of Reykjavik.
    - November 23, 9:49pm plane over Greenland

We got off to a rocky start in Reykjavik. After sitting touch at a Thai restaurant and not being served, we gave up and ate an expensive meal that burned my tongue at Cafe Loki. I was uncomfortable in my many layers of clothing, which were itchy and hard to walk in, and made me sweat underneath. The weather was also grating on me. We arrived on a particularly windy and rainy day where the rain blew into my face no matter which direction I looked. There were so many English-speaking tourists that I am convince Reykjavik has lost its magic. It is not a city of nostalgia, it a packaged place with a pre-determined experience.
At 2:55pm on the day we arrived I am so so so tired. I hate this cafe and the fact that we have to sit facing the bathroom. And the fact that I just spent 24 dollars of two coffees and a chocolate bar.
-       Reykjavik Roasters, November 24, 2:55pm

The sun is already coming up in Reykjavik. I mean, we can’t see the sun but the sky is getting lighter. As we move norther though, we’ll be chasing the darkness. Perhaps we will arrive in Isafjordur at dawn. It will be 11:00am.
I will always remember this morning - walking in the dark in a silent and empty Reykjavik while eating a buttery croissant. It felt like 9:00pm but it was just before 8:00am. My body grows tired with the darkness.
       - C is for Cookie, November 25th 8:35am

Isafjordur Diaries Day 1

Isafjordur as seen when we landed I thought I would have time to write last night or read a book, but I slept 16 hours. What began ...