I turned 29 on Wednesday (I share a birthday with Saul Bass, I just found out, which is neat) and to commemorate this solemn occasion, Iceland gifted me one of the most lovely days I’ve seen since arriving here in August. It was sunny and mild and clear and even a bit warm at times. It was a perfect day for a walk along the shore, a visit to the “zoo” (explanation of the quotes to follow), a light lunch in a greenhouse, another walk around a botanical garden, a dinner by the harbor, and yet another walk along the shore to cap off the evening. Which is convenient, because that is exactly what we did.
Because Mark understands that eggs are perhaps the fastest way to my heart, he made me a delicious breakfast to kick off the day: a bird’s nest, or a fried egg that is cleverly fried inside the bread.
Then, while he set about diligently grading papers, I went on a short walk and read on one of the benches along the path.
We then made our way to a Reykjavík institution that I have been very eager to visit since I first became aware of it, the Fjölskyldu- og húsdýragarðurinn. This has been rendered in English as the “Reykjavík Zoo and Family Park,” but literally means “the family and domestic animal park.” Per the English page on the website,
The Zoo section opened 1990. It’s main focus is on Icelandic farm animals as well as several wild native species. 19 animal species counting about 150 individuals live in the Zoo. We emphasize on showing as much variety in colours and variations as well as both genders and its young ones.
In the Zoo you will find: Horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, foxes, minks, reindeers, seals, hens, chickens, turkey, pigeons, rabbits, guinea pigs, geese, ducks, dogs and cats. Presently we also have some rear visitors, wild birds that need treatment.
The latest division at the Zoo is an Aquarium opened in December 2004, focusing on species from the North-Atlantic Ocean. Although the Aquarium is in a temporary housing it already contains over 20 fish species plus other ocean creatures such as molluscs, crabs and echinoderms.
I am so very into a “zoo” or “domestic animal park” that features seals and guinea pigs and chickens and foxes. And luckily, the park is situated right across from the (free) Reykjavík Botanical Garden and its lovely, but seasonal greenhouse cafe, Cafe Flóra. Per the Garden website:
The Botanic Garden is an outdoor collection of living plants. It was founded in 1961 and is run by the City of Reykjavík.
The gardens main role is to conserve plants for education, research and delight. It conserves some 5000 plant species in eight plant collections. The collections give an idea of the enormous diversity of vegetation in the northern temperate zone.
Such a delight to do all these outdoorsy, springy things on a warm, sunny day. Unfortunately, we had missed the Running of the Pigs (or just the time when the pigs are brought out into their larger outdoor paddock for some stretching time), but we were in time to see the seals get fed. So we wandered around the various pens and enclosures and entertained ourselves with sheep and goats and bunnies and the world’s most terrifying fish while waiting for the main event. I will restrain myself from posting all of my photos here, but if you want to see them all, check out the photo blog. Some highlights:
Then it was time for seal-feeding! I took three videos of seals-being-seals (one of them while they were just swimming and two during feeding time, when a man came out with two buckets of fish and talked about something that we couldn’t hear at all while he tossed around the fish.) I will not make you watch three seal videos (although they are short!) unless you want to. Just one:
We saw some arctic foxes and lizards after the seal feeding (didn’t take pictures, oddly), but it is very hard to go up from happy, hungry seals. And we were getting peckish ourselves. So we went across to Café Flóra, found a warm seat in the corner, and had a delightful mini-lunch: white wine and a Mediterranean veggie and goat cheese bruschetta that was served beautifully on a slate board and just perfect to split between the two of us. Mark graded some more (he’s very responsible) and I read some of my book and watched all the little kids running around and trying to get the hang of hide and seek (a couple of them were of the “if I close my eyes, no one can see me” mindset).
After our lunch, we walked around the Botanical Garden, and then made our way into town for fancy cocktails at the ever-so-hip Slippbarinn and a truly delicious dinner, facing the harbor, at Höfnin. Having also gotten quite good at planning ahead for Icelandic holidays when the grocery stores close (the next day was “Ascension Day,” another Christian holiday that is celebrated in Iceland that somehow I hadn’t been previously aware of), we stopped in at 10-11 to pick up some food for a light dinner the next night, hopped the bus home, and made it back with light to spare. Which seemed as good a reason as any to take another walk, and come full circle on a rather perfect day:
Not a bad way to start the end of my twenties, if I do say so myself.