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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura | Iceland

If you remember, I was in Iceland recently for the MidAtlantic Seminar in Reykjavik. After the prolonged wait on the coach at the airport for the passengers on other flights coming in from New York and Seattle, we finally made our way on the one hour ride to the hotel, the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura. With 220 rooms and a complimentary city shuttle, the Natura is an affordable alternative to the city center hotels. From the outside you might think, "Oh no -- it's an old Howard Johnson's," but don't worry. Inside the renovations make the Natura a comfortable and inviting hotel for travelers. The hotel has an image gallery and I encourage you to look at the pictures and see what a great hotel the Natura truly is. The hotel is at the center of the block of buildings at this location that abuts the domestic airport with one building dedicated to IcelandAir. Although right next to the airport, I rarely heard a sound, but that might be because I didn't spend much time in my room.

Upon arrival to the hotel, the coach unloaded the conference participants and soon the hotel lobby was filled with people waiting to check in. Since everyone in Iceland speaks English, the process wasn't a slow one because of a language barrier. There were simply so many people needing to get a room and everyone was extremely tired, irritable, and cranky. However, the front desk clerks maintained their professionalism and decorum and did an excellent job with getting everyone to their rooms in a timely manner. There were only a few front desk clerks available to complete the check in and as a result, it took quite some time to get to my room and I wasn't inside it until about 10 am.

The elevators are tiny, but there are stairs available right next to the elevators. When I opened the door to my room, it was in stark contrast to the light, modern decor in the lobby. This area is probably the last scheduled for renovation, but it serves its purpose. It's clean and maintained and the bed was ridiculously comfortable. There was a tube TV and I have to admit I have been spoiled with flat screen TV's so it is a little strange to see a chunky TV in a hotel room. There is a desk and chair behind the TV and a small table and chairs near the window. Underneath the TV was a mini-fridge, which I erroneously used to put a bottle of water that I purchased my first day in Iceland. The water in Iceland is so good that you can drink it from the tap. Therefore, don't buy bottle water since it will taste exactly like that from the tap.

The bathroom was small, but functional and clean. There is a shower stall and no tub so if you are traveling with children who are used to being bathed in a tub, be prepared. The water pressure was strong and the water nice and hot, but more on how they get their hot water later. They provide hand soap and "shampoo" in the shower, which is a body and hair shampoo. Outside of the bathroom was a large closet with an ironing board and iron, multiple wooden hangers, and shelving to store clothing. There was more than enough space for me in this room and again, although the furniture was dated, it didn't really bother me at all. Yes, I tend to gravitate more toward the more modern hotels, but since the Natura is under renovations and moving in that direction, I wouldn't hesitate to stay here again.

Prior to my arrival in Iceland, I was given an opportunity to choose excursions during the down time I would have in between the activities of the MidAtlantic Seminar. The first was to take place only about 1 1/2 hours after my arrival in Reykjavik. I decided to lay down on the bed for about an hour and set my alarm on my iPhone to get me up at 11 am. The alarm went off and I made the executive decision that despite my strong desire to see Gulfoss Geysir, I couldn't do it. I rolled over and slept in until 2 pm with sleep being the victor on my first day in Iceland. When I woke up, I showered, dressed, and made my way downstairs to the hotel's restaurant, Satt. For my breakfast/lunch, I had a wonderful open-faced sandwich with veggies and a little cheese (yes, cheese -- remember I get what I can when I travel!) and a little carrot salad on top. It was so good and a great way to start my day. I was also able to get a soy latte and I knew then that Iceland was my kind of place.

During the day, Satt is a great restaurant to pop in for breakfast or lunch and on warmer days, you can sit outside on their patio. They have one side with small tables and one long table to sit communal style. On the other side it is more of a lounge area with comfy chairs and side tables. Service is casual and relaxed and you can order a coffee and cake or other dessert if you like or a full meal. Toward the restroom area is a large, but otherwise hidden area where they serve breakfast. Breakfast is traditional European style with cheeses, meats, breads, and vegetables, as well as Skyr, muesli, and other cereals.

Opal!
At night Satt transforms itself into a fun place to sit and have drinks with friends. This picture is of the exact moment in time when the attractive young bartender, Gunnar, introduced me to red Opal, a strange liquor that both repelled me and made me want to watch other people's faces as they tried it. Apparently the Icelandic people like the taste of their candy Opal so much that they turned it into 27% alcohol. If you like licorice you might like it. It was strong and tasted like cough medicine, but I can't turn down an opportunity to try something new. Gunnar also introduced me to the Opal with the green and white label and the liquid is white in color. Far easier to drink, but still strong in taste. At the airport on the way home I tried to get some, but was told that it is very rare and hard to find. Next time! Another drink I tried is Brennivin, the Icelandic schnapps. Called svarti dauði or "Black Death," I was told it was made with anise seeds, but I definitely tasted caraway seeds. When I did a little research, I found that it is made from fermented potato mash and is flavoured with caraway seeds. I knew it!

Although the Natura is not in downtown Reyjkavik, it still has much to offer anyone traveling to Reykjavik. In addition to the regular shuttles to the downtown area, they also have bike rentals available. Although you probably want to spend most of your time outside of the hotel, in addition to Satt, they also have internet access in the lobby, conference facilities, and a spa area downstairs. Inside the spa there was a large fitness center, sauna, steam room, and a beautiful saltwater pool. I spent over an hour in the pool and it was glorious! There are many hotel choices in Reykjavik and I definitely wouldn't discount the Natura because of its location. It is extremely close to the Perlan, which is where the hot water storage tanks have been situated for some time. In 1991 the tanks were updated and a structure placed on top that includes probably the best view of the city and a place to get a drink and some food. Also nearby is the Kringlan mall so don't forget to squeeze some shopping in before leaving. Of course, you'll want to do more traditional shopping in downtown Reykjavik, but how can you pass up a marathon shopping spree? Next time there will be more pictures of Reykjavik and the rest of Iceland and you won't want to miss it.

Marian Krueger
Email: mkrueger@travelshopgirl.com

1 comment:

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