After I left the Icelandic Phallological Museum - Reykjavik - Iceland and wandered along Laugavegur, I spotted the Sun Voyager sculpture down near the harbor and veered toward the sea. This stainless steel sculpture was designed by Jón Gunnar Árnason in 1986 as the winner of a competition to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of Reykjavik.
Sólfar (Icelandic The Traveler/Voyager of the Sun) was envisioned as a dreamboat, an ode to the sun, which symbolizes light and hope.
I circled back to the museum and giggled at what I saw on the far right of the window. The "Member of the Month" is a giraffe's *ahem.*
There are 280 animal *ahems* and one human *ahem.* The whale *ahem* is taller than me! I know, because I took a picture standing next to it. It's natural history! Yeah! Natural history!
I would say it's the "wandering" part of "Wandering Chopsticks," except
that there is a food component involving a horse's *ahem* covered in rosemary
and other spices. Really! I can't make this stuff up!
At this point, I should give the big WARNING: NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK caution. Also, WARNING: NOT SUITABLE FOR THOSE WHO ARE EASILY OFFENDED. But, if you're a pruriently curious weirdo, like most of my Facebook readers seemed to be when I queried about whether I should blog this, then go right ahead and click below.
After breakfast at Kex Hostel, I grabbed a roundtrip shuttle to the Blue Lagoon for 2,500 Icelandic krona (ISK), about $21 USD. The Blue Lagoon, Bláa lónið in Icelandic (Ha! Yeah, right, like I could even attempt to say that.), is a man-made geothermal spa created as overfill for a nearby plant. The Eurasian and American tectonic plates literally meet at the lagoon. There's a scientific explanation about the geothermal seawater coming into contact with cooling magmatic intrusions, capturing minerals, silica, and algae that make it good for your skin, but really, all you need to know is eerie warm aqua water that you can laze about in because it's good for you.
It was also the first pit stop on the Amazing Race 6. :P
The Blue Lagoon is closer to the airport than Reykjavik, so a lot of people either stop off on their way in, or before their flight out. Since my flight landed so early, I'd be waiting around for hours for the spa to open so I couldn't do that, but keep in mind that it's an option if your flight times are more accommodating.
While chatting with my mom during my layover in Washington, D.C., she was surprised that the entire country only had 320,000 people. I told her since there's so few people, they still keep the old system of last names such as "son" or "dottir" to signify parentage. When we exited the shuttle, everyone asked the driver if we needed a receipt. He has our names and remembers our faces, he said. Huh!
I followed the crowd through the rock formations toward the spa.
Even though flying on Icelandair was the cheapest option to get to Norway, I didn't book it until I found an affordable hotel first. I had heard horror stories about how expensive Iceland was, especially so after the 2008 financial crisis. (A high school friend visited around that time and said he spent $50 on a pizza.) Since I was traveling alone, I figured hostels were my best bet. A bit of Googling turned up this Dwell article on Kex Hostel, a relatively new hostel that was hipster heaven with its mid-century modern furniture and other vintage fixtures that were sourced from America and Germany. The article mentioned that even locals visited to enjoy the restaurant and bar. Sounded pretty good to me.
There were a limited number of private rooms, so I ended up booking a bunk in a 10-bed mixed dorm room for 4,300 Icelandic krona (ISK) a night, roughly $36 USD. It was also another 1,000 ISK ($8 USD) for a comforter and towel for both nights. They did not charge a fee for not being a member of their hostel, which I had read other places do. I also booked my bus ticket from Keflavik airport to the hostel through them for 3,500 ISK roundtrip ($30 USD). There were some back and forth emails as I inquired about tours and whatnot, and every single person who responded to me was super, super nice. Also, even better, they did not charge my credit card until I actually arrived.
The back side of the hostel is located just a few blocks from Laugavegur, a popular shopping street. To the left of the hostel, the black glass building at the bottom of the picture is Harpa, a new concert hall and conference center. There are a bunch of restaurants located around there, so not too far away. The Embassy of India is across the street. Kex Hostel faces the water so there's a nice view of ships heading out to sea.
Ah well, you knew I couldn't keep up the real-time updates on the blog. So let's go back to the day before I left for vacation. I had a 5-hour flight to Washington, D.C., then several hours layover, and a 5 1/2-hour flight to my destination. Could you believe neither of those flights had free meal service?
So in between trying to get my house in order, I managed to run to Saigon's Bakery and Sandwiches in San Gabriel to grab some Vietnamese sandwiches for the road. This location is by the San Gabriel Superstore, so it's a convenient stop-in after grocery shopping. I've been going to Saigon's Bakery and Sandwiches for years now, and have to say it's my favorite Vietnamese French bread, light, airy and crispy. It also has the best Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich), seasoned and flavorful, not just steamed like at other places. The sandwiches also wear well for travel. The bread doesn't get hard and dry and the filling isn't all fatty, absolute musts when I buy them a day in advance before a flight.
Freshly toasted, I'm still partial to Banh Mi & Che Cali Restaurant - Alhambra's crunchy soft bread and the pate they use just does it for me. But for price point, Saigon's Bakery and Sandwiches is actually cheaper now. Banh Mi Che Cali charges tax, Saigon's Bakery already has the tax in the price. So it's a few cents cheaper, but hey, those pennies add up. The Vietnamese French bread sandwiches here are $2.25 each (The baguette sandwiches are $2.75 each.), and they're buy 2, get 1 free. They used to be buy 3, get 1 free baguette, and buy 6, get a free sandwich. But this summer, they lowered their price point to many a happy customer, namely me!