02 July 2007

a chacun son paradis

Saturday continued the glorious weather theme from last week, so I headed out to Snæfellsnes with K, the Danish vistors M and J & L, the Italian nephew. Unlike when I went in January, the hillsides now were bursting with green, the fields spotted with baby horses & sheep. It was a great day for mowing, so tractors spiraled alongside the road, and the scent of grass rose from the neat strips of drying hay as we drove out.

First stop, the yellow beach at Búðir. After nearly 2 years in Iceland, I've gotten used to beaches being black. It's how the world works here, so this one looking so much like the New England quartz sand shores seemed out of place. When I got a closer look though, things were back to Iceland-usual. The shimmering shiny "sand" was actually tiny particles of cream shells, crushed so fine they resembled sand, and mixed with just a peppery touch of lava black.

I could not imagine a more spectacular setting for a beach, tucked between black lava turrets, below mountains still spotted with snow, sprinkled with tiny flowers, and surrounded by the crystal-clear rich teal water. Happily, the area was also quite unspoiled by interfering constructions, so the only visible architecture was the scenically placed little church.

We still had more things to see though, so we headed back to the car, through the fluffy horsetail, the cool grass speckled with buttercups, the waving lupines. On the road for a little longer, K dropped all the visitors off with me as the guide, to walk from Árnarstapi to Hellnar along the hillock-y cliffs. The path hugs the coastline for the first part, offering views to the lava-sculpture western edge of the island, and to the right, glimpses of Snæfellsjökull, hugging clouds to its upper crest. A little further, the lava closes off the sea, and it's just you and all the miniature Arctic flowers growing in the stone cracks. On Saturday they were at their most splendid, a mix of buttercups and columbines, and dozens of other small-scale plants, including wild thyme. The scent of the last one mixed with all the sea flavors coming from over the cliff, a rich combination I gulped deeply in hopes of storing it for wintertime memories.

When we came to the rocky Hellnar shore, we walked through a wedding celebration in full swing- kids romping in the grass, adults dozing on the hillsides, and two grills busily prepping lamb. After a Kaldi and cake stop in the delectable café there, we continued on to Djúpalónssandur. Although I've been to these beaches at the end of Snæfellsnes many times by now, I still ended up leaving with pockets full of the smooth pebbles, looking more like candies than something washed up and tumbled by the surf.

By then, it was getting to suppertime, so we clambered back in the car and rounded the end of the peninsula, destination Grundarfjörður. Here, down by the sea, is an unassuming restaurant, still wearing stained-glass Christmas wreath decor in the window. The inside is jammed with what looks like everyone's leftover house decorations, homegrown paintings, and a dizzying variety of lighting from a multicolored glass chandelier to vintage wall sconces. The tables were covered in white crochet tablecloths, and in the ladies room, someone had handpainted two Italian cherubs on the wall next to the sink. Truly a homemade restaurant. The food was a simple, plentiful, and insanely inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffet- the traditional kjötsúpa, lamb, two kinds of fish, sauces, fries, potatoes, and salad.

The proprietor is a former policeman, an endearing older gentleman who told us all to be "dugleg að borða" (diligent eaters), and with food this good, it was not a problem. The kjötsúpa was the best I'd tasted anywhere in the country, and after a day at the beach, the buffet style was appreciated by all. After we'd all enjoyed several helpings, we were offered schnapps ("to wash down the flavor of all this terrible food"), coffee, and exhortations to sign the guestbook. K was sent with greetings for her whole family back in Reykjavík (her ancestors are from the area), and an offer for a bottle of cognac, "just for the back seat to sip on during the ride back".

We left the restaurant in approaching gloom, with the sun hiding behind the imposing shape of Kirkjufell, and the clouds rolling in overhead. After such a glorious day, a slightly more subdued lighting was the right kind atmosphere for the trip back, and when we finally reached Borgarnes, there was one last flash of orange before we all turned our eyes Reykjavíkwards, roadsore from all the driving but full of fish and glorious memories.


Djaddi said...

Cool trip! I'm looking forward to visit that area soon. I'll keep that restaurant in mind!

SOe said...

great post and amazing pictures

christophe said...

un titre en français! ça fait plaisir...! ici c'est moi christophe... le français du vatnajökull du mois d'octobre. Je suis d'accord avec ton titre en tout cas! moi, je change de vie en ce moment... j'espère que toi, tu vas bien. je t'embrasse. Christophe

tsduff said...

Snaefellsness was one of my very first amazing trips in Iceland - so it has a tender spot in my heart. I bet the air smells fabulous.

You are getting pretty darn good with your Icelandic...

ECS said...

djaddi: I've been to Snæfellsnes about six times this year and I am still madly in love with it. Twice in the matter of a week is no problem, so I highly recommend it. You'll not be disappointed!

soe: thanks! I've been trying out a new camera which is now mine, so I'm thinking a lot more photos are to come. I've got a bit to learn yet.

cristophe! C'est superbe de te voir ici. Le titre est aussi un chanson de MC Solaar, mais je pense que Snæfellsnes est vraiment le paradis.

tsduff: The air smelled fantastic, but it's always great almost everywhere in Iceland, except for downtown RVK on the 23rd of December.