I must admit that despite the countless times that I’ve passed throughon my way between Reykjavík and Akureyri, I had never taken the time to explore the town apart from the roadside gas station. It’s approximately a three-hour drive from Reykjavík and a great place for a pit stop—but it’s also full of surprises, as I was about to discover.
“There’s no TV, except for that one,” Inga Elsa Bergþórsdóttir says, pointing towards the window facing the beach and the waves beating rhythmically against the shore. “We call it slow TV,” she smiles. “In clear weather, we see Strandafjöllin,” she adds of the mountains on the western coast of the Westfjords peninsula. “Sometimes there are whales and, in winter, the Northern Lights. When they see the view, I’ve had people burst into tears, exclaiming, ‘Do you know how lucky you are?’ There are people who only ever see the next building outside their window back home.”
Brimslóð–literally “Trail of the Surf”–is the name of the street that leads along the seashore of the charming old town of Blönduós, the part of town passersby never notice.
Brimslóð seems an apt name for the sanctuary Inga and her husband and Gísli Egill Hrafnsson created for themselves in an old car repair shop by the peaceful Blönduós shore. They call it Brimslóð Atelier, for it has remained a workshop for photography, writing, art, design, and food creations. Inga points out the steel beam used for lifting heavy vehicles – otherwise, there’s nothing that gives away the building’s original purpose. “My mother came from Blönduós,” she explains of her motivation to base her “workshop” three hours north of Reykjavík, where she lives. “It started out as a holiday retreat for the family. Then we thought of turning it into a guesthouse part of the year.”
The atmosphere at Brimslóð Atelier is very homely, with shared bathrooms and communal tables. “Strangers sit next to each other, start talking, and after a while, it seems like they’re close friends,” says Inga. She and her husband are passionate about cooking, upholding culinary traditions, and making the most of what nature has to offer. Their cookbooks have been published in many languages and are mostly sold out. However, a few copies are available at Brimslóð.
Inga is preparing a surprise three-course dinner in her open kitchen with the aid of Magda, her assistant. Tonight, she will serve a sublime seafood soup with freshly baked bread as a starter, delicious Arctic char as a main course, and a scrumptious French chocolate cake for dessert. In summer, she and Gísli offer workshops focusing on seasonal cooking. They take visitors fishing in lakes and foraging for their food on the beach, in the forest, or the heather-covered hills. They also use herbs and vegetables from Brimslóð’s garden. “We tailor the workshops to the participants’ wishes,” explains Inga.
“People love it, just to dig into the vegetable garden. Some people have never touched soil with their fingers before! We interweave the experience with storytelling, explaining the traditions and methods.”
The couple has also opened a second guesthouse next door, the oldest house in Blönduós, which dates to 1882. It belonged to a Danish merchant family who moved the house with them from Denmark and settled along the shoreline in Blönduós. The house was already under preservation yet in a poor state when Inga and Gísli took it over. They meticulously renovated it, maintaining its original spirit through old crossbeams and pillars. They also preserved the merchant family’s original vegetable garden. Inga presents one of the guesthouse’s suites on the upper floor. The room is elegantly renovated and fitted with stylish furniture. “This is the presidential balcony,” she says of the expansive scene facing the sea.
It’s easy to imagine how one might feel presidential sitting here in the sun and listening to the rhythm of the waves, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.