September 5, 2014
Near Hella, Iceland
The Guesthouse, a few miles off the Golden Circle, along the Southern Coast road toward Vik, sits on the shoulder of a long ridge overlooking a wide and well watered valley, verdant with good grass and dotted with Icelandic horses and stacks of hay baled and sheathed in plastic for the winter. The weather is wet and cold and the days are still long, sparking wild green growth that is refreshing following the baked brown, heat-scorched, drought-thirsted Arkansas we had flown out of thirty-six hours earlier. Above the stables half a dozen cabins ranging in size from two to six rooms spread up the hill. Up the road is the main guesthouse and dining room. The walls of our cabin are creamy softwood panels accentuated with dark knots and sleek reading lamps above each of the three beds. The kitchenette is functional and manages to look simultaneously rustic and sleekly European. The beds are warm. The light is soft under overcast and lasts long into the evening.
The rhythms of Hestheimar are horse rhythms. Sturdy Icelandic horses dominate the valley and are one of the reasons for coming here. Later in the week we will ride, but for tonight we hike up the road to the main guesthouse and dining room for a delicious dinner, family style, of baked fish, vegetables, salad, bread, and rhubarb pudding with ice cream for dessert.
For breakfast we are treated to coffee, fruit, vegetables, cold cuts and cheeses, caviar, breads, jams, and pastries. A bottle of cod liver oil sits on the buffet table, though none of the Americans are brave enough to drink it. Our guide, Sigudar, laughs at us and pours a tablespoon for himself. “For your health,” he says.
Outside the dining hall we are greeted by painted rock statues, cheerful little figures I assume to be magical in some way, though I’m not quite sure whether they represent elves, trolls, or just plain whimsy.