Reykjavik: Laundromat Cafe, Seafarer’s Day, Marbles & Bees

June 1

It poured a heavy rain all night and into the morning. I started the morning graced by the company of Sigrun, Stu and a hot cup of Earl Grey. I found an amazing Indiegogo project on Facebook. It’s goal is to create solar roadways to lower emissions, create sustainable energy, create jobs in the US among other coolness… it’s a silly but informative video, check it out!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways

Heh, you thought I was already obnoxiously gung-ho about being eco friendly before I came to Iceland – but now I’m even more committed after being reminded how amazing this Earth is and how we’re freakin’ ruining it at break-neck speed. I already have a list of changes I’d like to make as soon as I get home. I’m actually pretty excited to see how quickly I can drop off the fossil-fuel grid and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

I gathered my laundry in my sleeping bag’s stuff-sack and walked across town to the Laundromat Cafe. The Laundromat Cafe is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a bustling, yummy cafe where you can do your laundry in the basement for about $7. The place is notoriously packed with people so when I walked in and saw it was only 1/3 full I was so excited! I knew I’d be able to find a good seat and to get on the wifi without a problem. When I walked in, dripping wet from the rain, I stood there with a dumb look on my face for a while, unsure what to do. A young woman helped me and gave me a shot of detergent and seven 100ISK coins for the laundry but when I went to pay for it I realized I had left my wallet all the way back at the house. Oh god dammit!

I sulkily walked back to the house in the pouring rain. An hour later I made it back to the cafe and by then the gloomy sky aptly fit my mood. The place was packed now. I waited in a long line and finally got my detergent and coins and headed down the stairs.

Downstairs the vibe was much different than the hip cafe upstairs; there were herds of loud children in a kid-friendly play area, and several mothers at the cafe tables along the wall. In the center of the area was a small laundry room with three washers and three dryers. I’m going to be overly descriptive of the laundromat portion because it’s a little intimidating and I couldn’t find any information on it before visiting so hopefully this will help someone out!

I must have had that dumb look on my face again when I was staring at the washing machines because a nice man started to help me. He tried to show me everything he had just learned but we still couldn’t get my machine working and neither could a second fellow. We all joked about what an interesting adventure using these machines was turning out to be, and then I ran upstairs to ask for help. The waiter of course got everything working right away which made me feel pretty dumb, but when you’re socially inept and you’re intimidated by a situation it’s a bit harder to think straight.

For anyone interested, here’s what it all looks like and how it works:

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The Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik. A hip place to wash your underwear with strangers.

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The laundry room at Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik. This kind woman is who I passed on my washing knowledge to before I left the cafe. She and her hubby were a pleasure to talk to!

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The instructions for the washing machines. Read it now before you’re standing in a crowded room feeling pressured to figure everything out. 🙂 The main coin-box numbers apply to both the washers and dryers and the smaller numbers just below the timer are for deciding whether you want washer #3(press #1) or dryer #3(press #2). Put in your coins into the box with the corresponding number on your washer then press #1 to tell it you’re on a washing machine. 
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I apologize I forgot to take photos specifically of the machines, but here’s a decent enough zoom. In the front flip-up compartment on the top left of the machine you can add your detergent; liquid on left, powdered on right. Wash buttons from left to right: Pick your temperature and wash-type (95/60/40-normal wash, then 60/40-gentle, handwash, spin only). The extra options under the LCD: the running man is quick wash, the vertical line in a bucket is for liquid detergent, not sure what the spin-cycle-looking button is for – maybe extra spin? -, last button is for extra water. Start button is on the right, and the tiny icons in a vertical line are indicators of where the wash is in the cycle.

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The dryer. Pick a temperature from the left 4 buttons and press the power button on the right. Easy enough 🙂 30 minutes of dry time was plenty for my medium sized load of travel clothes.

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The cafe. Order the Clean Brunch if you have mucho coin to spend and a big appetite to quench (or the Dirty Brunch, if you’re a meat eater) it’s all quite delicious. The ginger mango juice is soooo yummy too!

I went back upstairs after successfully getting my washer to start and tried to find a seat. There was very little space left so I asked a couple sitting at a 7-top if I could squeeze into the corner with them. They of course said yes and within 5 minutes they had left and an older woman and then a French couple joined me at the table. It took quite a while to flag someone down to order and get the wifi password, and by the time my food came I had to run downstairs to move my clothes to the dryer (40 minutes).

I had no trouble, thankfully with the dryer and the same nice man who initially tried to help me was folding his laundry so we started to chat. His name is Thubten Comerford (pronounced tube-ten)and was in town as a speaker for the Startup Iceland event going on at the big Harpa concert hall. He explained that he is a Twitter guru and the event is all about how to super-charge small startups and create a sustainable economy here in Iceland. It sounded so cool! It reminded me of the TEDx FrontRange event I work with back home and I, half jokingly, asked if he needed a personal photographer tomorrow. He said he’d check and see if that was something we could do. I laughed and said it would be awesome and we traded cards.

After Thubten and I finished chatting I went up and ate my now cold though delicious “clean brunch”. It had pancakes, Skyr with maple syrup nuts and coconut flakes, fresh fruits, a big salad with hummus and oil dressing, fried tomatoes and potatoes, eggs, and a shot of ginger mango juice. The “dirty brunch” has 3 types of meat instead of fresh hummus and a big beautiful salad.

I couldn’t get connected to the wifi, which has been pretty par for the course at busy cafes here so I cut my stay short and packed up as soon as I had finished eating and my timer for the dryer went off. When I got downstairs a new American couple was standing there with the same look on their faces I’d been sporting earlier and so I decided to pass on the kindness of showing them how to use the machines since Thubten had done it for me. They were lovely folks! We chatted about what we do for a living and I gave them my card.

After the Laundromat Cafe I called Sigrun to see where she and her 10 year old cousin, Baldur, whom she was watching for the day, were. There was a huge family event going on down by the harbor because it was SeaFarer’s Day and she said they were already there. I was only 5 blocks away and when I arrived I found them in line for riding on a mock-emergency rescue setup that went over the water to the other side of the dock. It looked like fun!

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This is Baldur as they sent him across the water on the rescue contraption.

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After Balder’s ride we went inside the Maritime Museum and there were many people having a lovely brunch in the event room and dancing a two-step on the neighboring dance floor. Sigrun and Baldur jumped right in and started dancing.

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We boarded the Icelandic Coast Guard ship next to the museum and took the tour, then looked at the displays of at least 20 different fish that are brought in at this harbor. That part was kind of disgusting because everyone (though mostly kiddos) were handling the freshly dead fish and the smell was so strong. There were Skates, Angler fish, Rockfish, and many other huge and small critters. I had no idea Angler fish were as large as they are, holy cow! Such incredible creatures.

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We walked around a bit more and Baldur played with some of the neat games that were set up for kiddos at the park.

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When they were ready to head back to the house for some pancakes I split off and went to the cafe that one of the folks I’d met in Akureyri had recommended to me, Mokka. Unfortunately, it was packed and some kiddos were loudly goofing around (I’m not a big fan of crowds or screaming and the Seafarer’s Day event had me exhausted already)… and there was no wifi. I forgot to ask about the wifi until after I ordered so I enjoyed my drink, which was lovely, and chatted with a nice man next to me. He thought I was Icelandic (the third person that day to do so!) and began chatting at me and I had to stop him and say “Sorry?”. He smiled and said I looked very Icelandic so he just assumed. I’ll take that as a compliment! He was sitting at a small table piled up with his lunch dishes, a few open notebooks and writing utensils and his glasses. He is short and a bit portly, has long wavy grey and white hair and a small beard, smiling eyes and a rolling briefcase covered in duct tape on the handle. He kind of looked like a wise sansei, and he proudly told me he comes from Iceland and many other countries when I asked him if he was a native. I told him that I was mostly Irish and German, with a minuscule amount of Comanche blood mixed in a few generations back (Dad told me that this year, I had never known!). He asked what Comanche was and I was embarrassed that I didn’t know anything about them and their history. After chatting a bit I told him I was sorry but very much needed to get some work done and he smiled and said, “So do I,” and we quietly worked next to one another for a while longer. When I was ready to post to the blog I boogied up the street to use the wifi and get another latte at my tried-and-true favorite, Cafe Babalu.

I wrote and edited for a couple hours and then Skyped with my dad, step mom, sister, brother-in-law and husband while they were all celebrating my dad’s birthday back home. I wanted to be there when Jason gave dad the present I got him. Thanks to some trading of photography skills earlier in the year I was able to have a very talented glass-blowing friend make me a set of handmade marbles for him. Dad makes these beautiful hardwood game boards that use marbles and dice – a sort of Sorry game. I wanted him to have a special set of marbles made just for him so that we can use them when we play as a family. It’s been so hard keeping this secret for nearly six months! I was so excited that I almost gave them to him the day they were delivered.

When I got home Stu was at work and Sigrun and Andy were relaxing. I went out to the car for the evening to relax and talk to Jason. We giggled and chatted for a while until a US phone number persistently kept interrupting us. I finally answered it and it was the gentleman from the Colorado Bee Keepers. A few weeks ago I had seen a Facebook post about how they were looking for backyards to host bee hives. I had been contemplating learning how to keep bees in the future and thought this would be a perfect baby-step for me. They take care of the hive every two weeks and we’ll get to have our very own pollinating specialists all summer and keep a quarter of the honey in the fall as payment. I’m hoping to pick their brains throughout the year and get a good feel for it so I can take care of my own hives down the road.

The man, Cameron, said he was ready to come by and install my bee hive! I told him I was still in Iceland but Jason was home and to head on over. I called Jason back to let him know what was happening and then I (not so) patiently waited for him to call me back and tell me how it went.

Jason called me back and said the 6 folks that came to install the hive were extremely nice and loved our yard. They were very happy with the place we chose for the bees and they set up the hive so quickly Jason could hardly believe it. He said they plopped down two support blocks, sat the hive box on top, slipped in the comb slats and queen, then dumped the bees. I wish so badly I could have been there to experience and document it, but Jason did send me a couple of photos:

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See the queen on the far right? Jason said she was moving pretty fast. It’s probably so stressful for them to be relocated like that!

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I know the marbles and my bees have nothing to do with Iceland, but I’m very excited about both of them. Today was one of those days I wished I could be in two places at once. 🙂

When I got off the phone with Jason I noticed I’d gotten an email from Thubten saying to meet him at the Harpa concert center tomorrow morning at 9. Holy moley! I was so excited that I’d get to photograph and attend the Startup Iceland event I could hardly sleep.

Reykjavik: Dinner With Friends, Botanic Garden & Street Art

May 27

From my parking spot in front of Sigrun and Andy’s place I was surprised to see the day begin without any rain. The updated forecast for the day was cloudy with a slim chance of rain so I excitedly packed my day bag and planned to walk the city. I remembered seeing something in the guidebook about the Reykjavik botanic gardens and thought a stroll through some lush green gardens is just what I needed after all this gloomy weather.

I left the house on foot and figured I’d find directions once I was out and about. The gardens turned out to be about 40 minutes away on foot so I hesitated. In the end I figured it’d be good for me to get out and pound the pavement a bit since I’ve been mostly driving for the last few weeks and haven’t gotten much exercise. Besides, you can get to know a city more intimately when you walk it!

I along the way I passed what looked like an Olympic training center and down a grassy hill then through a beautiful tree-covered lane. I saw a small zoo on my right and I talked to the brindle striped cows laying on some rolling hills on the other side of the fence.

The gardens turned out to be absolutely lovely – and free! Oh how I dig free things! I thought about how much my mom would enjoy the place since she’s a natural plant whisperer (and my go-to person for all things green). I slowly walked on the white wooden bridges over narrow ponds, strolled through rock gardens and got lost in thought listening to the birds sassing each other in the trees above. I even encountered a ferocious Icelandic beast!:

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I always get so inspired when visiting beautiful locations. I take a mental picture of the best designs and tuck them away in my mind for when I get home and can work on my own garden – and this place gave me several fantastic ideas to try! My favorite elements from Iceland that I’m hoping to somehow incorporate in my home garden are the rolling grassy mini hills, stacked stone walls, and the turf houses.

Near the back corner of the gardens was a greenhouse. As I got closer I saw it was a cafe! Oh boy, oh boy, oh, boy! You know how I love my cafes.

I went inside Cafe Flora and it was absolutely fantastic. Gorgeous wooden garden tables and chairs, a koi pond, a big fruit laden fig tree, grape vines, a condiments table made of the trunks of trees… I was in heaven!

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Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-123_WEB I asked the barista for a double latte and got her opinion on what she’d recommend for lunch. She said the soup of the day was a coconut curry with shrimp and parsley. I’m not big on meat any more but I thought I’d give it a try (you know, when in Rome…). It was served in a hot, lidded glass crock on a bamboo board with a few slices of fresh sourdough grain bread and a little square of butter wrapped in parchment paper.

As the girl brought me my soup I couldn’t help but do a wiggly happy dance in my chair and clap my hands. She laughed and shook her head at me and it made me realize most people probably don’t get this excited about food. I guess Gastronomy has always pleased me. Tasty food is one thing, but tasty food served up in a beautiful presentation is happiness on a whole new level. More so, tasty food presented beautifully and sourced responsibly? Oh Jeezus!  Plug your ears because I’m apt to gush about that meal for weeks.

Maybe I’m meant to be a food blogger? A traveling food blogger? Hmmm, I have an idea… oh dammit!  theveggietraveler.com URL is already taken. Fine, back to the drawing board I go. 😉

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The bread was so soft and flakey on the inside with a thick and chewy crust. I slathered each piece with the fresh butter and then dipped them into the curry soup. I was such a perfect blend of flavors! The soup was savory though the coconut gave a hint of sweetness, and there were big hearty chunks of onions, carrots, parsley, squash and butter beans. I even tried a few of the tiny shrimp and they were so fresh and tender they practically melted in my mouth.

I enjoyed my lunch and wrote for a couple of hours in the warm, deliciously earthy smelling greenhouse. I wanted to stay right there for the rest of my life. It was heaven. I would probably live in a greenhouse if it were a feasible thing to do.

The day was so relaxing and lovely, though my stomach was not being very accepting of the shrimp and I whispered an apology to it for trying to trick it into eating meat. I promised not to do it again no matter how fresh and incredible it may be.

I meandered back towards the house and admired the fantastic pedestrian and bicycle lanes next to the large roadway. Why do we not do this in Colorado? Cycling is so popular in the state it seems insane not to. There’s even a well-known joke about Coloradans and their obsession with cycling: How do you know if someone’s from Colorado? They carry an $8,000 bike on the roof of a $1,000 car.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen these pedestrian roads back home but Sigrun tells me it’s very common in Sweden and I’ve seen it in Denmark too. It seems simple enough; if we combined the widths of the current sidewalks into one wide pedestrian/bike road on either side of the automobile road it would save us so much grief. Less bicyclists would be killed or injured, drivers wouldn’t have to get frustrated with cyclists, and it would inevitably encourage people to travel via something other than gas-guzzling cars.

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I noticed both of my cameras were nearly drained of battery so I went back to the house to charge them while I took the forced downtime to nap and surf the web a bit. I made tentative plans with the group that I had met in Akureyri to meet for a beer at Micro Bar before they flew home. Chad and Mandi were heading back to Austin, Texas in the morning.

Sigrun arrived home and I told her about the plans for Micro Bar and she said Keir and Emily were cooking dinner that night and suggested we should all go together after we ate. I headed back out for a walk through the city since the weather was so beautiful. I didn’t want to miss a minute of non-rainy weather.

I ventured down the main shopping street and snapped photos of the colorful street art. I still find new pieces every time I walk down there. It’s incredible!

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I found a tiny little door that lead back to a small fashion shop. When I entered I found a spread of beautiful foods and another photographer who was carefully placing the food. I realized I maybe shouldn’t be there. I asked the man if he was working and he said he was the culinary photographer for a food magazine in Reykjavik and they were having a party for the publication. His name is AoThor (check out his food and people photography, it’s lovely!) and we chatted a little and traded cards before I boogied out of there because I felt like I was crashing a party I hadn’t been invited to.

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I headed South and then up the hill to the old wealthy neighborhoods on the East side of Reykjavik where the houses are grand with sprawling manicured gardens, and I even found the old cemetery. It was so beautiful and peaceful there, with trees growing up from many burial plots and stone walls cradling family burial plots. It’s exactly how I imagine a cemetery should be.

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I returned just before 8:00, and everyone eventually trickled back home and the dinner-making and the sharing of our respective days commenced. They made a delightful parmesan and broccoli pasta dish together and Keir brought out 5 Icelandic beers to share and sample. We all got a small jar to use as our beer sampling cup (mine was an olive jar. I love it!) and we worked through the brews while they thrilled me with their knowledge. Andy and Keir would be talking about something English and completely foreign to me and I’d have to stop them and request they explain it to me. I felt as if  I was a child hanging out with adults since I didn’t know half of the things they were laughing about. They were gracious though and happily explained things to me such as what a genuine  Cornish pasty is. I would very much like to try to make these!

Keir sliced up a little cake with marbled frosting and we shared it while enjoying a porter beer and then we headed out towards Micro Bar. I really enjoy all the walking I do in the city, though I’ve added it all up and I walked 4.5 hours this day alone. I think soreness is in my near future…

Andy decided to stay home since he had work in the morning. We were a bit late to Micro Bar and so we had missed Mandi and Chad, but I bought the 4 of us a round of beers and we talked until midnight and decided it was bedtime. I had worn my Loveland Aleworks t-shirt and had to get a photo of it while at Micro Bar! As we were taking the photos a few fairly intoxicated Americans started asking what all the photos were for and one of them was from Arvada, Colorado. I told them how fabulous Loveland Aleworks and all the microbreweries in Loveland are and he said he’ll have to make a point of heading up there next time he’s back home. I seem to become quite a braggart about my awesome little town when I’m away from it. 🙂

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