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July 24, 2015

Two Weeks in Iceland, Day 14,15,16: Reykjavik

The next three days were spent getting to know Reykjavik better. 
There were lots of tourists in town, and coming from the near-deserted landscape of the West Fjords this was a little bit of a shock to the system! But we were grateful to be staying in one place for more than a few hours, and happy to say goodbye to the car in favour of exploring by foot. It felt good to be taking things slower.

Our first day was nice weather - sunny and cloudy in turn. We had planned to go on a free "Literary Reykjavik" walking tour after a morning hanging out in a cafe, writing in our travel diaries. When the time came we decided to skip the tour, instead taking it easy browsing some Reykjavik shops, making dinner and walking to the local thermal pool, Laugardalslaug. The facilities were incredible - with many hotpots, an Olympic-sized lap pool and another big pool, as well as some fun slides with disco lights inside. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of Laugardalslaug, but by this point I was becoming so attached to our near-daily swimming pool trips that I was dreading the return to Japan. 

Lucky Records was great to browse, and lit a fire in Kamil to one day own a record player. 

I also took some time to browse Reykjavik's selection of vintage shops, including Sputnik & the Red Cross. I noticed that the vintage clothes in fashion were really different to those in Japan: more bohemian style with lots of fringing, kimono as outerwear, used Converse and Nikes, 80s and 90s dresses (Indian cotton, summer dresses tie-dyed in neutrals and earthy tones, plus floral dresses too). I saw lots of nice things but most items were out of my budget.

The street art and colourful buildings in Reykjavik add to the city's already very likeable personality.

Our second morning in Reykjavik was spent walking up and down the main street, then to Tjörnin (The Pond) and the National Museum, although once we got there we decided not to go inside. We needed fresh air so we took a stroll to the cemetery with lots of old, mossy gravestones and lovely trees.

At Reykjavik City hall, you can marvel over a 3D topographic map of Iceland for free. Walking slowly around the perimeter of the map, we retraced our steps over the last 13 days' road trip.

On our very final morning in Iceland, we took a walk past Harpa on our way to the Kolaportið flea market. I love the rainbow fish-scale effect of Harpa's exterior. It's easy to see why it's a major city landmark of Reykjavik.

Kolaportið flea market was a mix of junk-filled stalls and genuinely interesting secondhand stalls selling books, records and clothes. My favourite was a stall with lots of old Icelandic postcards,  stamps, letters and photos from the past. I was fascinated by the collection of old Hollywood photographs: a box filled with official photos that were released to the press, with captions attached like "BY THE POOL. FROM HEAD TO TOE, HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS CHERYL WALKER PRESENTS THE STREAM-LINED VERSION OF THE MODERN WATER NYMPH, 1944".

We ate our last Icelandic pylsur across the road from Kolaportið and finished off souvenir shopping for friends back home before settling in for a nice long session of diary writing and reading at Cafe Babalu, a spot that was on my life of places to visit in Reykjavik since the beginning. It was nice and quiet upstairs, and we enjoyed multiple pots of tea on a cosy little couch. The waitress had cute purple sparkly socks that matched her lilac hair and the cheesecake was good. The English Breakfast tea was amazing.

By this stage, all we had time for was one last spoonful of Skyr and one last Icelandic summer sunset - although if we're being technical, the sun never fully sets in the middle of summer to leave the night sky black, instead it ducks down below the horizon for a little while leaving a vibrant midnight sky that could be confused for 6pm back home.

We packed our bags and washed and went to bed, ready for an early ride to the airport the next morning.

Iceland was so incredibly kind to us and it was truly a trip that I will never forget. Leaving wasn't easy, but I didn't feel like anything was missing from our trip, having covered so much ground in 16 days. We saw as much of Iceland's varied landscapes, animals, tourist spots and hidden spots as possible. Add to that lots of bathing, swimming, hiking, eating, laughing - what more could you ask for?

Thank you Iceland, I love you. Takk Fyrir!

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