Friday, December 19, 2014

Sights to See: Reykjavik Art Museum; Reykjavik, Iceland


Reykjavik Art Museum  Ticket valid at all three museums on the same day.  Under 18 free.  Guided tours in English available June-August.  This museum is housed in three buildings situated across the city.  It addition to displaying distinguished Icelandic art and international art, the museum promotes local emerging artists.  Combined, the three museums own more than 70,000 pieces. 

Hafnarhus  Tryggvagata 17, downtown by the harbor.  Daily 10-5, Thurs to 8.  Located in a refurbished 1930s fish warehouse, this is the largest of the branches.


Erro exhibit at Hafnarhus branch of Reykjavik Art Museum in Iceland
It houses a permanent collection of Erro, one of Europe’s most notable pop artists.  Temporary shows are progressive and experimental.  A stylish cafe is popular for lunch and refreshment.



“Reactive Wall” (2009) is a temporary show by artist Mojoko (a pseudonym of Steve Lawler) and software programmer Shan-Liang that shows bright graphics that are seen on a black wall reacting to sound made through a microphone. 

Kjarvalsstadir  Flokagata 24.  Daily 10-5.  This branch is in a Nordic-modern building with floor-to-ceiling windows that looks out to Klambratun Park.  It is named for influential Iceland painter Johannes S. Kjarval and houses a comprehensive collection of his works.  Exhibitions focus on paintings and sculptures of established masters of modern art. 

Asmundarsafn  Sigtun 105.  Daily; hrs. vary.  Sculpture garden is admission-free.

interior of Asmundarsafn sculpture gallery in Reykjavik, Iceland


sculpture garden at Asmundarsafn sculpture gallery in Reykjavik, Iceland
This sculpture museum is in the former home and workshop of sculptor Asmundur Sveinsson, who designed and constructed most of the building himself.  An upstairs dome room gallery doubles as a whispering chamber.  Sveinsson’s works are displayed both inside and out. 

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images and video ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Good Eats: Bæjarins Bestu Pylsur; Reykjavik, Iceland


Bæjarins Bestu Pylsur  Tryggvagotu 1, +354 511 1566.  Located off a big parking lot behind the old town, this food cart reputedly serves up the town’s best hot dog and has been doing that since 1937.  Icelanders love their hot dogs, which are made mostly from free-range, grass-fed, organic, hormone-free Icelandic lamb.  Ask for one with everything--“ein með öllu”—and you’ll get ketchup, sweet brown mustard (“pylsusinnep”), remoulade sauce (a mix of mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs), raw onions, and crispy fried onions.  Pointing at the condiments you also works.


Bæjarins Bestu Pylsur food cart serves up hot dogs in Reykjavik, Iceland
Seventy percent of the country’s 300,000-plus residents have eaten here, as have Bill Clinton (in 2004, he ordered a dog with just mustard) and Metallica band members.  The day I was here, two children were eating naked dogs.  A hot dog (“pylsur”) costs 350 to 380 ISK (around $3).  They're also sold at gas stations, convenience stores, and the airport—where I finally got mine.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Monday, December 15, 2014

Things to Do: shopping; Reykjavik, Iceland


Laugavegur is the longest shopping street in Reykjavik with the most shops.  It eventually becomes Bankastraeti.


Skolavordustigur with view of Hallgrimskirkja church, Reykjavik, Iceland
Skolavordustigur is an attractive street at the junction of these two streets, and runs up the hill towards the Hallgrimskirkja church.

Go off the main streets to discover quirky little shops selling all manner of tempting goods.


piles of sweaters in Handknitting Association of Iceland shop on Skolavordustigur, Reykjavik, Iceland





knit Santas in Handknitting Association of Iceland shop on Skolavordustigur, Reykjavik, Iceland
Handknitting Association of Iceland  Laugavegur 53b; Skolavordustigur 19 (the main store).  This cooperative shop features traditional hand-knit Iopapeysa sweaters.  These aren’t inexpensive, generally running between $150 and $200.  I am regretting that I didn’t buy a few of the red knitted Santas. 


66° North shop in Reykjavik, Iceland
66° North  Bankastraeti 5 and 9.  Started in 1926 to make outdoor clothing to protect fishermen and other workers from Arctic weather extremes, this well-known local brand now produces edgy, fashionable clothing.  Sweet little items for children are also available.  




Tiger shop in Reykjavik, Iceland
Tiger  Laugavegur 13; www.likealocalguide.com/reykjavik/tiger.  This bright shop is filled with mostly small, colorful Scandinavian items.

Many more shops are found in the old city center.  This one is exceptional:


exterior of Kraum Centre for Icelandic Craft in Reyjkavik, Iceland


merchandise inf Kraum Centre for Icelandic Craft in Reyjkavik, Iceland
Kraum Centre for Icelandic Craft  Adalstræti 10.  The city’s oldest wood house is now home to an intriguing collection of Icelandic pottery, jewelry, household utensils, and clothes, plus whimsy in the form of a fuzzy sheep-fleece topped stool (I so wish I had bought one!).

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, December 12, 2014

Sights to See: Hallgrimskirkja Church; Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre; Höfði House; Reykjavik, Iceland


Three Iconic Buildings in Reykjavik, Iceland


exterior of Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland
Hallgrimskirkja Church  101 Reykjavik.  Daily 9am-5pm, to 9pm in summer.  Free; admission fee for tower.  The tallest building in town, this architecturally interesting Lutheran church (more than 95% of Icelanders are Lutheran) can be seen from almost everywhere in town.  Its interior is stark and filled with light.  It features a sweeping two-sided staircase to heaven, or you can take an elevator.



exterior of Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre  Resembling an enormous honeycomb, sun shimmers through the unusual geometric windows.  This state-of-the-art building was completed in 2011 and is home to the Icelandic symphony and opera.  It also hosts art exhibitions, musical performances, and international conferences.  A good restaurant offers a view of the harbor’s icy blue waters. 


exterior of Höfði House in Reykjavik, Iceland
Höfði House  This famous 1909 house is where presidents Mikhail Gorbachov and Ronald Reagan met for the Reykjavik summit in 1986.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Great Sleeps: Hilton Reykjavik Nordica and Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina, Reykjavik, Iceland


Hilton Reykjavik Nordica  in the financial district, 1.5 mi./5 min. to town.  Restaurant.  Breakfast included.  This hotel is just a short journey from the city center via complimentary city bus and only 5 minutes from the Laugardalur geothermal swimming pool and sports center.


guest room at Hilton Reykjavik Nordica in Reykjavik, Iceland
It has typical clean-lined Scandinavian style and is in a great location overlooking the sea and mountains surrounding Reykjavik.


view from guest room #520 at Hilton Reykjavik Nordica in Reykjavik, Iceland

Ask for an ocean-view room on right side of building. 



entrance to Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina in Reykjavik, Iceland
Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina  downtown harbor district.  108 rooms.  Restaurant.  Located in the heart of town, this hotel has a quirky and colorful decor that blends modern Icelandic design with old objects salvaged from the surrounding harbor.  All furniture and fittings are custom-made in Iceland.  The bright lobby and other common areas are whimsical, but the hotel also manages to be comfortable and cozy.  Many restaurants and bars are nearby.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sights to See: Reykjavik, Iceland


city view of Reykjavik, Iceland
The most northern capital in the world, Reykjavik--pronounced “Ray-kah-vik”--gets plenty of sometimes-sulphur-stinky hot water from the ground.  Though small, it is one of Europe’s party capitals and is filled with lively techno and rock bars and has plenty of cool cafes and trendy restaurants.  Crisp, clean air makes it memorable.


view of purple WOW airline offices in Reykjavik, Iceland
purple WOW airline offices
A half day on foot lets you can see the main sights downtown, which include colorful architecture and street art graffiti.  The old center is European quaint, with cobblestones and winding streets (unfortunately, a fire there in 1913 destroyed many old wood buildings).


city view of Reykjavik, Iceland
Surprisingly, Reykjavik is not only the closest European city to New York but is also generally warmer in January than New York.  Perhaps not such a surprise, since it has almost 40 publishing houses, is that it was named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2011.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sights to See: Iceland


A “land of fire and ice,” Iceland was the last country in Europe to be settled--by Norwegians in the area of Reykjavik in 874 (Celtic settlers from Ireland and Scotland arrived later).  It is also officially the youngest country in the world.  The Icelandic language dates back to Vikings.  Independence from Denmark came in 1944. 


Iceland's Northeast
     Though much of its terrain is desolate and with few trees, this volcanic island is surprisingly diverse, with moss-covered lava fields, a gigantic glacier, and a few snow-covered peaks.


Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano eruption 2014
Bardarbunga volcano eruption 2014
     Iceland's many volcanoes remain very active.  Chaos ensued a few years ago when a volatile volcano literally blew its top, and the resulting air debris upset European air travel.  The notorious volcanoes are in the center of the island, basically in the middle of nowhere, and the locals are just fine with that.
     Most of the country’s 320,000 people live along the 850-mile-long Ring Road/Route 1 around the perimeter.  The interior is uninhabited, and there are no roads through it.  Reykjavik is home to 60% of the people.  Almost 95% of homes have geo-thermal power, and the many thermal pools are popular places for people to socialize. 
     Iceland elected the world’s first female president in 1980, had the first openly gay prime minister (gay marriage is allowed), and has almost 40 publishing houses.   
     My first impressions of the country were of flat land, a faint odor of sulphur, and grey skies.  That was later tempered by driving through the more mountainous terrain of the northeast and experiencing there some crisp air and blue skies.  I noticed that they drive on the right and have many sensible round-abouts.  I gathered from a cab driver that they aren’t terribly fond of Norwegians, whom he described as speaking “like they have a potato in the throat.”
     Among the many fascinating facts about Iceland is that more than 90,000 citizens of the 320,000 population own firearms, which are mostly rifles and shotguns used for hunting.  Murders average only two per year, and prison capacity is 150 prisoners.  When that limit is reached, overflow prisoners are allowed to go about their regular lives waiting for their turn for punishment. 
     And even though Iceland is at the top of the world near the Arctic Circle, winter temperatures can be warmer than New York, London, or Paris.  In summer, you can get away with wearing just a light sweater weather.  And, blessedly, there are no ticks or mosquitos. 

More things to do in Iceland. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Good Eats: Rajbhog, NYC--Queens--Jackson Heights


Rajbhog  72-17 37th Ave., (718) 458-8512.


Rajbhog Indian restaurant in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY
This simple spot specializes in gourmet vegetarian-vegan-Jain-kosher dishes and serves up a delicious lunch buffet that is served from behind the counter.


buffet at Rajbhog Indian restaurant in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY

You select several items, which are spooned into individual serving dishes, and then take them on a tray to a table.  Sharing allows tasting many items.  A tasty spiced mango lassi is available, and an exotic Bombay-style vegetable burger is also an option.  My favorites were the samosa and an eggplant dish.  A selection of sweets are available and included with some meal packages.

Rajbhog Sweets on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, November 21, 2014

Good Eats: Afghan Kebab & Grill, NYC--Queens--Jackson Heights


Afghan Kebab & Grill  74-16 37th Ave., (718) 507-8800.  Though meat eaters will find a delicious array of items that includes kebabs and more galore, I dined with vegetarians and discovered some delicious options.  The vegetarian sambosa filled with mashed potatoes is a tasty starter and is sometimes available in a version stuffed with spinach or pumpkin.


vegetarian dishes at Afghan Kebab & Grill in Jackson Heights, Queens, NYC
Vegetarian main dish choices include spinach, eggplant, and roasted cauliflower and are served with a plate of seasoned rice.  A so-so salad and bread are included.  Several toppings spice things up—my favorites were the cilantro and yogurt sauces, but I wasn’t crazy about the all-purpose mayonnaise sauce.  A guava lassi is available, and though delicious, tastes surprisingly similar to the mango version.


interior of Afghan Kebab & Grill in Jackson Heights, Queens, NYC
The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable and there was enough room to keep my infant granddaughter’s stroller next to our table.

Afghan Kebab House #4 on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Good Eats: Nine-Ten restaurant, La Jolla, California


Nine-Ten  910 Prospect St., (858) 964-5400.  B-L-D daily; $$$. This exceptional restaurant is situated off the lobby of The Grande Colonial hotel.


interior of Nine-Ten restaurant in La Jolla, California
It features lively action and a sidewalk view in a dining area beside the front bar.  Additionally, a sedate back dining room on an open-air terrace provides a modest ocean view.  Chef Jason Knibb is king of the kitchen, assisted by Pastry Chef Rachel King, who is queen of the desserts.  Dishes are highly creative, presentations are beautiful, and flavors surprise the palate.  Everyone gets a basket of superb housemade lavash cracker bread and must restrain themselves from eating every crumb so as to leave room for the feast to follow.


beet salad at Nine-Ten restaurant in La Jolla, California
My dinner began with a gorgeous salad composed of beets of many colors.


salmon with black morels at Nine-Ten restaurant in La Jolla, California
Then came a pretty and delicious and perfectly cooked wild-caught salmon steak with black morels and a bed of sweet corn kernels.


basil panna cotta at Nine-Ten restaurant in La Jolla, California
Dessert was a refreshing, very unusual, and again pretty and tasty basil panna cotta with blueberry meringue, fresh peaches, and nectarine sorbet.  The entire meal was definitely not the usual.  A bar menu is also available; stand-out items include a charcuterie plate, lamb meatballs, and a burger with housemade pickles.  Happy Hour runs Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 6:30 pm.

Nine Ten on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers