Exploring And Working In Reykjavík

This was definitely a work-cation, and I took advantage of that mobility to explore. But I also needed consistency to stay “in the zone”, which meant working at my new favorite cafe most of the time.

I did visit the one I liked from two years ago, just to get that odd twitch of nostalgia that comes from walking back into a place that I’d etched into my memory only because I never thought I’d see it again.

Back in the cafe from two years ago!

It was a lot less crowded than two years ago, which made sense because of the pandemic. For the first time I sat on the bottom floor, within easy view of my bike, and had a chance to do some people-watching. The people watched me as well — or at least they watched Valoria the recumbent.

Strangers love the bike!

I wrote code without headphones for a while, and the conversation from the next table drifted in. It was a man and a woman clearly having some kind of mandatory socialization meeting for their jobs.  They were both contractors for an international company and the man was newly stationed in Iceland, and still finding his feet.

They were digging down trying to find anything to talk about that wasn’t the usual “Where have you gone; what was it like; where are you going next; blah blah blah”.  I felt sorry for them both.

After a while I wanted to lean over and suggest other topics, just to cheer them up. “Hey, there are 20 things right here on the coffee shop walls that are fun to talk about!  Look at the cover story on the New Yorker sitting right next to you.  Look at that Icelandic woman with the tattoo of Betty Paige getting shot full of arrows on her arm.  Talk about the logistics of sourcing Peruvian coffee out of Iceland in a pandemic…”

They eventually defaulted down to complaining about Donald Trump. Always a lively choice… And a strong reminder for me just then, that where you are on the planet doesn’t matter half so much as where your headspace is.

When tourism shut down last year it was like turning off a money faucet for almost the entire country. Many things have re-opened, but some did not weather the drought. For example the kitschy, vaguely insulting store I saw two years ago on the main street, called “I DON’T SPEAK ICELANDIC”, which was previously full of souvenirs pitched at the more wealthy and less discerning tourists, was now a dusty, empty glass box.

The city didn’t feel any less inviting for it though, and the weather was nice. But I’d only booked this much time in Reykjavík because I wanted to get work done, and potentially see the Directorate of Immigration. I wasn’t interested in the bar scene and didn’t want to do the shuttle-based excursions.

What I did want, was fish:

Fish and chips out of a wagon? You bet I'll try it!

Oh yes, the fish! THE FISH!!

Now this is the good stuff.

Pretty sure this is the best fish and chips you can get in the city.

I also had time for local cats, of course. There were plenty.

Hahaa now this human is my property!
Local cat rubs are the best!
Another local cat!
Do I spy a local cat?

Writing code for hours is often taxing to the brain, and leaves me in a state where I want to ride my bike or take a nap afterward, even when I’m in a city with live music, friendly people, and museums full of curious exhibits. I really should have checked out more indoor things, but I mostly explored via bicycle seat and took photos.

Kids and tipsy adults hopped along this all day long.

A sweeping view of the cathedral.


It’s been a real trip sitting in different places and observing the tourists, which outnumber Icelanders here in the Reykjavik downtown by 3 to 1.  Makes me wish I could understand Icelandic, because the English conversations are really repetitive.


Crocs, lattes and Instagram ahoy?


Yeah, lots of crocs and lattes. But worse.


Dongs, bongs, and songs?


It’s bongs, crocs, heels, American Express, unnecessary taxis, shiny pants, shouting, bongs, vapes, and inadequate layers.


So, just getting through the day.


In style!


Always Be Vaping.


Yes; that’s an ironclad rule here, if you’re a tourist.

Here by Tómas Guðmundsson's statue you can listen to Hjalti Rögnvaldsson perform the poems "Hótel jörð" and "Við Vatnsmýri" from the book Fagra veröld, published in Reykjavík in 1933.

Hangin' with the poet Tómas Guðmundsson.

I guarantee this is not the most profitable shop in the city.
This should be in every workplace.
Puddles! I must ride through them.
The Lebowski is still there despite COVID-19.
Houses by the lake. Charming!
Are you enthusiastic about fish? We here in Iceland are very enthusiastic about fish.
This is where you can sit and gaze quixotically out to sea, then go for a short walk and eat a burger.
I dig this vehicle.
Bringing my bike back after a nice day of riding.
This ad was everywhere.

That cheeky Nordic sense of humor??

The economy has slowed for the nordic tchotchke business, but it’s still going!

Sending snax back to the nephews.

Like last time, I mailed a pile of weird candy to the nephews back home. I did not include a middle finger sculpture.

Care for a ginger beer?

This translate app is a miracle of software engineering and also hilarious.

Glass bottles don’t ship well, otherwise I would have included this funky drink. The translation app made the usual amusing hash out of it.

My “coffee, work, and explore” routine continued in the city for another week, and the most traveling I did was switching to a different AirBnB. Every now and then I would spot a cycle tourist, or an advertisement, or a map printed on a wall, and remember that I had an adventure to continue.

Ancient map used as wallpaper in a fish restaurant.

Ancient map spotted on a restaurant wall.

Soon! Soon I will head into the hills.

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