There's a magic to some cities. It's as if the place itself-encompassing all buildings and surrounding environment and humans and animals-has one soul and that soul is magic. I've felt it a few times in my life. Normally on the first morning when I wake up and look out a window or walk down the street in the soft, early sunlight the feeling comes on steady and unrelenting. It's a mix of excitement and young love and I rarely have words enough to describe. This feeling was strong in Reykjavik. It could have been the surrounding, snow capped hills, or the blue of the ocean, or the colors of the buildings, or the sun shining bright through our window, or the physical high of travel. It was all of these things, actually, and I was in love.
And don't get me wrong, there was some dirt. Not physical dirt, the city of Reykjavik is beautifully clean, but cranes and construction noises and graffiti and trash cans behind the colored houses. There was dirt, but much like falling in love with a human, the dirt became beautiful all the same and all I could do was simply walk and look.
Colors and shapes were drawing my eye at every corner. Volcanic concrete and strong, straight lines, and crayon colors. We walked through the streets, some skinny and others busy with traffic. We walked to the water and around the old warehouses that housed new boutiques and office spaces. We walked through a fish factory and down the walkway along the blue bay. We ate arctic char and drank beer and watched soccer with some Spaniards and Englishmen. These days that we spent in the city are all blurred. But beautifully blurred because it was all magic in a place of magic.
Our favorite spot and one we found ourselves walking to almost every morning was Mokka Kaffi. It was the first espresso house on the entire Island. The interiors were soft and brooding with auburn leather seats running alongside wood panels. One morning the owner, a beautiful older woman being helped outside by a younger woman walked past me and tapped my feet off of the seat where I was reclining with my legs propped up. I imagined she designed the cafe and I felt an intense admiration for her as well as slight embarrassment (and entertainment) at my American, lazy coffee drinking posture. It was here we found the best people watching, waffles, and cappuccinos and we never wanted to leave.
As I was contemplating whether to do more of a guide for the city, I just kept coming back to the fact that all I wanted to do was walk and drink a cappuccino at Mokka Kaffi and catch a glimpse of the owner once more so she could see I was sitting up straight. So if you find yourself in Reykjavik, which I greatly hope you do-walk. Walk and open your eyes and silence your speech. You'll feel the magic. And don't forget to get the waffles and a cappuccino.
*We were in the city during a bit of a civil shift. Their prime minister had resigned due to the release of the Panama Papers. There was a loud but calm protest every evening at the city center. Eric would walk down there before dinner while I was napping in the room and got some amazing pictures. Unfortunately I was dumb and opened the camera before the roll was complete and so they came out grainy and washed out. But they're still awesome and here are a few of my favorites.