Four years ago this month, Kenny and I took an overnight flight from New York to Reykjavik in Iceland for a 10-day vacation. Because it was August (and not because we checked a weather report), we expected some sunny weather. So we decided to save some money and camp out on a grassy lot behind the city’s youth hostel. We bought our $30 tent at Target and packed two L.L. Bean sleeping bags to stay warm.
And it rained the entire time.
Well, almost the entire time. There were pockets of sunshine, like in the picture above, or at least gray but dry air.
The air is one of the many things I remember about our trip.
I also remember the faint smell of rotten eggs that popped up around the country during our stay. (Pure hot water in Iceland is filtered through volcanic rock, which makes it smell of sulphur or rotten eggs.)
I remember that sheets of rain soaked through our thin tent and our backpacks, leaving all of our clothes wet on the first night.
I remember swimming in The Blue Lagoon, a warm, sea blue geothermal pool rich in minerals, and slathering the white mud placed in boxes around the Lagoon on my face as a mask.
And I remember walking through Reykjavik one evening when we decided we were tired of being wet and had spent enough money and it was time to cut our trip short. We stayed for only four days. (Though I’d love to visit Iceland again – I’ll just get a hotel room next time!)
But what I completely missed – and honestly I don’t know how this happened – is that Iceland is a chocolate-eating country, especially during the Easter holiday. The Nói Síríus chocolate factory alone produces 300,000 eggs every year – that’s one for every Icelander.
These aren’t just any old hollowed-out Easter eggs either, according to the Iceland Board of Tourism. First, you can buy the eggs in up to 10 – 10! – different sizes. Each egg is stuffed with candy and a slip of paper printed with a proverb or other bit of wisdom, kind of like a chocolate fortune cookie. People actually “mark” the holiday by giving and receiving these chocolate Easter eggs.
The tourism board also touts regular old Icelandic chocolate. The Nói Síríus factory is located right in Reykjavik, perhaps even steps from the campsite where I stayed.
But the only reason I know about this chocolate is because I saw stacks of the bars in Whole Foods last week. After I bought a 70% extra bitter bar, I realized there are actually two bars in every creamy white paper package.
The bars at my local Whole Foods are pure chocolate – no cherries, nuts, coffee, or mint here – and are classified by their cacao count – milk, semi-sweet, bitter, extra-bitter, etc.
The 70% bar is a smooth dark chocolate. The small squares are so rich that I’m satisfied with one or two of them at a time.
I’ve found my new go-to chocolate bar. Too bad I didn’t realize it when I was in Iceland.
What foods have you discovered – or not discovered – while on vacation?