16 August 2006

Laugavegur before 9

This morning I awoke to yet another sunny, fresh day. Rather than taking the bus, I decided to walk the nicest part of my current commute. There’s a fantastic bakery a few doors down from where I am staying, so I bought a ham and cheese-filled croissant and a skyr from a cheery bakery girl before I set out. Their shelves were piled high, and the back area bustled with employees preparing for the influx of morning business.

The route I chose went down by Tjörnin, past the lovely houses on the west side. There’s a kindergarten there, so I passed a stream of skipping short people, trailing coat-bearing parents. There were some tourists sunning themselves on the park benches at the pond’s edge, map clutched in hand, and I said a cheery “goðan daginn!” to them (confusion ensued). Further towards the center of town, the tourist concentration got thicker- strategically folded maps poking from their various guidebooks, their gore-tex rain jackets swishing as they assembled around tour-busses packing them in for Golden Circle trips.

On Laugavegur, the mix was a little different- still the visitors, but now mixed with people striding to work, singly or in pairs. Ipod headphones prevailed, but others, like me, were just listening to the sounds of the town in the morning- the purring of an occasional idling delivery truck, but mostly so silent I could hear the chirrup of someone’s cellphone in their livingroom somewhere. One of the best things about walking at this time is the smells- a topnote of sea flavor and coffee, the fresh mossy main scent of Iceland itself, and then hints of the unashamed honesty of proper baking- full-cream butter, real whole eggs, flour and sugar. I was reminded of the time a friend and I were in Quebec City and we followed that delectable smell until we found its source on a narrow cobbled street.

But back to Reykjavík mornings- a single shopowner doing window inventory, the painting-in-progress paraphernalia in the vestibule of Rokk og Rósir (closed for renovations today!), the jangle of keys as another opened an office door. The few coffeeshops that are open early had put their tables out on the street, and the sun had drawn several early coffee-drinkers doing a desultory flip through Blaðið. It’s hard to believe that this idyllic Penny Lane is my hometown’s main street.

A few nights ago, K and I did tarot cards, and I pulled one that reminded me to live in the moment, something I find never so easy as when I am walking somewhere like this. Boston, London, Paris or Reykjavík. Walking solo is part of the rhythm and the reminder.

Vehicle spotting: I’m changing it up just for this post, since I saw an oddity today. Staring idly out of the bus window, I saw a car with a New York license plate. It’s something so burned in my memory at first it didn’t register as strange, but then my mind woke up to the out-of-context trigger. I knew it was possible to drive on a US plate here for a limited time, but I’ve never actually seen it. The narrow US font and the bas-relief statue of liberty looks so peculiar next to the blocky letters and simple insignia of Icelandic plates and the summer influx of EU ones (well, except for the Akureyri residents and their wonderfully royal county shield).


Professor Batty said...

...fantastic! I can't wait to get back (October) I get as much satisfaction from walking the streets of Reykjavik as I do at any of the "tourist" sites...

Jen said...

I love this entry about mornings in Reykjavik. As someone who was just there, I will always remember the crispy feel of the early morning after coming out of a bar at 5am. After all the music and drunken reverie, the outdoors was even more alive than inside!

ECS said...

Hi professor! Didn't realize you were coming to visit the fair land. I hope we have good weather for you!

Jen: the weekend street scene IS almost more fun than inside, at least in the summer.

I've also realized that this walks-in-the-neighborhood theme is a favorite of mine, as evidenced by this and this entry, one more than a year old.

cK said...

Walking is by far the best way to get to know a place. You see up close the way people live. You smell the food being prepared, hear dialogues unfolding. You see emotions play out, symbols arranged. You feel everything rise up right through the soles of your feet.

Sometimes I think we're grossly deficient in understanding the meaning of "place" in the US; even of "home." And then I think that maybe this is because we're so determined to drive our cars everywhere, avoiding as much as we can one another and anything we make together.

sb said...

Being in the moment is what I've been thinking about intensly lately as one never ever knows what tomorrow may hold. Even though as you know E, it is my profession now full time to gaze at those cards and see the 'beyond' Certain things yes, one will experience, yet... being in the moment is the most precious thing.
Our relationships with every single individual are based upon 'the moment' and treasuring that. People too often are thinking a year ahead or 20 years ahead. Only those that endure wars and tremendous losses know what it is truly to be just right there, in the moment. Dr.Wayne Dyer speaks about it in one of his books.
I'd love to see some pics from downtown :D

Anonymous said...

Hey, I may be heading in your direction, as usual, if you like, I'll give you my email, and maybe I can bring some stuff out from the US for you.

Anonymous said...

Oops...On the previous post, it's John...I brought some stuff out at the beginning of february

dtw said...

Ah, watching life go about, what a lovely pastime. Ideally enjoyed in the morning, I believe. The variety of happenings and people and scents seems to be at its richest. One of the reasons why I never sleep late when I'm traveling. Mornings are way too interesting to be wasted on sleeping!