My friend A from the US has been visiting this past week, and on her first weekend, we went up to Snæfellsnes and stayed in Hellnar at the fantastically situated hotel there. It's not big, and is obviously more popular with the locals (I'd say I heard about 90% Icelandic in the mornings), but when you're eating breakfast with the view of the whole peninsula spread out in front of you, you can understand why.
We borrowed a car (thanks K & S!) and toured the area at the most leisurely pace I've ever explored, watching birds on the cliffs, stacking pebbles at Djúpalónssandur, surprising sheep at the tippy-tip of the peninsula, visiting horses and wandering along the lava cliff pathway between Hellnar and Arnarstapi.
I rediscovered the secret hot spring I'd been to years ago, and we watched the midnight sun splash across the mountains while tucked in the bathwater-perfect pool. The next day we spent half the day lazing on the yellow sand beach, watching the volcano gathering clouds to its peak at regular intervals. That beach is so marvelous- it's in a lovely location, with the soft sand clustered between the lava cliffs, but so still and unpopulated that I could hear the busy flight of every individual fly as it hurried over my head between grass tufts.
We also hiked across the lava at Búðir, to the caves there, inspecting the hundreds of tiny plants that give such life to these lava expanses- forget-me-nots, wild purple geraniums, herds of buttercups, columbines, poppies, and arctic birch.
A is really into birds, so I learned all about the types that live and nest here. It's baby bird season now, so the seas were full of little bobbing fluff-bits, baby eider ducks feeding on the reedy seaweed at the shore edge. The arctic terns are also in full swirl, so driving on the northern end of Snæfellsnes was full of terns in the turns ("those are the bachelors", said S).
Since the first weekend, the weather has continued the freakishly unicelandic streak, and the only disagreeable thing about it is that it brings the flies. We were at Þingvellir a few nights ago in a haze of midges (thanks H for the evening tour!). Still, the lake was lovely as always, and the flowers are obviously enjoying all the heat. We finished the ring around the lake as the sun dropped behind the mountains, and returned to Reykjavík among the swirls of fog that had developed in the low-lying areas.
Having her around has made me do some of the things I have always meant to do, like visit the Landsbókasafn on Hverfisgata where some of the oldest books in Iceland are on display in a lovely turn-of-the-century building that's all marble floors and droll door handles. We also spent an afternoon walking in the botanical gardens, and sipping coffee in the little café there. It's cottonwood season now, so the white seed parts have covered whole sections of lawn and built up in piles that look like fairy snow- slow drifting, and even packable like a snowball that oozes moisture when squeezed hard. When we were in the gardens, the plants were almost all in bloom and had also captured the cottonwood fluff, frosting branches and blossoms in a thin halo of white filaments.
This is my second July here, and I'm amazed at everything I have managed to miss the first time around. Perhaps it's the weather this year being consistently, suspiciously sunny, perhaps it was something else. At any rate, it's continuing to be one of the best places to spend a summer.