Iceland

A Week in Iceland

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

When I signed up I thought our tour of Iceland was very reasonably priced. I think I mostly got my money’s worth but what seemed to be a nearly week-long tour (Sunday to Saturday) turned out to be really a 3.5 day tour. The group left the US on Sunday and arrived at the hotel midday Monday. So we had a half-day on Monday, all day Tuesday, an off-day (?!) on Wednesday and all day tours on Thursday and Friday. We had welcome and farewell dinners included, breakfast each day and our 3-star hotel. And a lot of that time was spent riding the bus. That’s not a knock on our tour operator because short of busing people to new hotels each night I don’t know how else you’d run a tour but it’s just something to think about if you’re considering visiting Iceland on a tour. If you’d like to visit on your own, English is everywhere and the only trouble you might have getting around is trying to verify any written directions against posted signs. The Icelandic language has some non-Roman characters and some names are quite long so if you’re driving by yourself it might be easy to miss a turn if one nearby has a similar name!

That being said, I’m glad I went and my roommate and I decided we’d like to come back during a warmer time of year than mid-October unless we want to see the Northern Lights.

A lot of places think the saying “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes” was coined just for them but I’m here to tell you it is definitely true about Iceland. In any given half-hour you’re liable to have some sun, rain, fog, partly cloudy skies, maybe a little hail or snow. It’s kinda crazy though I’ve never been anywhere that I saw so many rainbows in such a short period of time. We didn’t see much of the sun during our visit, unfortunately. But we gained an appreciation for the hardy souls that live here year ’round. Several of the folks in our tour group were avid skiers and while I knew there weren’t many alpine resorts in Iceland I figured they were quite good at cross-country skiing. But when I asked our guide about it she indicated that is just not done here. While someone might ski over to a neighboring farm, the weather is so changeable that it’s dangerous to go out distance-skiing as you might get caught in a storm. Wow!

So here are some of the highlights of our trip.

Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja, or the church of Hallgrímur is a Lutheran church in Reykjavik. It is one of the tallest structures in the country and the largest church in Iceland. It was named after a 17th century poet and clergyman. The notable tower was completed first but it took 41 years to build with construction completing in 1986.  Its exterior is quite impressive and as I was going through my photos I realized I personally failed to get a single one of the outside of the building!  We only had fifteen minutes to stop here so my roommate and I split the photo-taking so that’s her photo of the exterior as well as one of the shots from the tower.  The views from the tower give a nice overview to the surrounding area and I thought it was worth the price to see it.

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Categories: Europe, Iceland, Tours | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

For our tour of Iceland the tour company had us staying at the Plaza, one of six hotels in the area owned by CenterHotels. The CenterHotels website says they offer “six first class hotels in the city center of Reykjavik” but then follows it up by mentioning their 3- and 4-star hotels. Well, I’m sorry but a 3-star hotel is not “first class”. I realize that the whole tone of this paragraph makes me sound spoiled and entitled. Several folks on our tour did not seem to have a problem with the hotel. But I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed as this hotel was definitely a step down from any we’ve used in the last several years. Lodging in Iceland is expensive and I guess our tour was so reasonably priced because we were at a second-tier hotel.

That being said, if you’re not as choosy as I am, the hotel has a fantastic location and the price includes breakfast. The staff was great and very international and for the most part very young. They always seemed to be smiling and were quite helpful.

Photo courtesy Center Hotels website.

The hotel has two wings and I’m not sure if they’re connected above the ground floor or not. (Our room was on the ground floor so I didn’t spend much time exploring other floors.) I do know each wing had its own elevator. The halls and the rooms both had hardwood floors. I believe my roommate and I actually got a slightly larger room, believe it or not. Continue reading

Categories: Europe, Hotel, Iceland, Lodging Review, Other Hotels | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

We arrived in Reykjavik from the airport on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. After temperatures in the 70s (F) in Amsterdam, it was no surprise to find the weather a good bit colder in Iceland. Our driver dropped us off at the back door of the Radisson Blu 1919. As there was road construction on one corner we couldn’t tell the building was as pretty as some other photos of it that I’ve found online. In 1919 the first steamship company in Iceland was formed and its headquarters were in this building – thus the 1919 in the hotel’s name.

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Categories: Europe, Hotel, Iceland, Lodging Review, Radisson | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

The genesis of this trip was a friend telling me about a group tour of Iceland that several friends were going on and asking if I wanted to go or not. Of course the tour wanted to sell us airfare and options using points and miles aren’t all that plentiful, especially if fixed dates are involved.

The group tour was only a week and since October is when we we usually take a two-week vacation anyway, my travel companion and I decided to use our miles to get to Europe, enjoy a few days there, then buy tickets to Iceland, do the tour and then fly to another city in Europe where our miles could get us back to the US in business class. Continue reading

Categories: Award Travel, Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Iberia, Iceland, Icelandair, IHG, Marriott, Netherlands, OneWorld, Radisson, Starwood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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