Reykjavik 24/1

By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 12, 2006

Q. We have 24 hours in Reykjavik, Iceland, on our way to London. How can we maximize our time?

Megan Hyland, Arlington

A. With its caffeinated cafe culture and insomniac clubs, Reykjavik barely sleeps -- which is ideal for visitors with limited time. "You can do a version of Reykjavik in 24 hours," says Krista Mahr, editor of Iceland Review ( ), a Reykjavik magazine. "You can get a sense of its immediate downtown and do a couple of interesting things."

One of Iceland's biggest attractions is the Blue Lagoon and buses depart regularly from the airport to the geothermal pool. You can spend several hours soaking, then fill the remainder of your visit downtown, a walkable quarter busy with restaurants, cafes and boutiques featuring Icelandic designs. (For logistics, Mahr recommends going to the lagoon first and exploring the city thereafter.)

If, however, you prefer to experience the full scope of the waterfront capital, Mahr recommends foregoing the lagoon and heading straight to the city center. Grab coffee at Mokka Kaffi or a bagel, lox and local art at the Grai Kotturinn. While downtown, take in some culture at the National Gallery of Art, the Bad Taste Gallery, the Museum of Photography, etc.

The Reykjavik Tourist Card includes admission to many of the city's main attractions; the 24-hour card costs about $15.50.

Geothermal pools are big in Reykjavik, and the greater city has 16 watery holes, including Sundhollin, a facility with outdoor "hot pots." Swim until dinnertime, which picks up around 9 p.m. For eats, Mahr likes Sjavarkjallarinn, which serves traditional fare like salmon and reindeer, and Vegamot, which prepares upmarket pub food.

To do Reykjavik right, you have to hit the club scene -- and you have skimp on slumber. The It spots are Kaffibarinn, an intimate bar with deejays; Cafe Oliver, a haunt of the young and beautiful; and Sirkus, which Mahr calls "crowded, loud and unpredictable." Before departing for the airport, swing by a pylsa stand for an Icelandic hot dog with everything on it. Info: Visit Reykjavik, .

Can you suggest some companies that rent vacation homes in the historic district of Charleston, S.C.?

Mary Michelsen, Vienna

Charleston's historic district is equally divided between commercial properties and private residences. However, many realty companies either rent long-term or specialize in island or beach houses. The exception is Historic Charleston Bed and Breakfast (800-743-3583, ), which represents more than 50 historic district properties, most built before 1860. (You can also rent through individual owners.) The firm offers three types of rentals: single rooms in a historic home; first-floor accommodations, or more specifically, former slaves' residences that have been converted into apartments; and carriage houses, which once sheltered horses and buggies but have since been transformed into small cottages.

For the most part, the owners stay in the house with the guests, but interaction is minimal, since the first-floor (actually basement-level) lodging has a separate private entrance and the carriage house sits behind the grand domicile. Reservationist Paige Duvall describes the carriage houses as "small versions of the main house" and says they come with all of the amenities of its larger neighbor: furniture, pots and pans, central heating, air conditioning.

For location, Duvall recommends the area from Calhoun Street to the peninsula tip. For example, the Tradd Street property is an 1861 merchant's home with two one-bedroom units, including a carriage house. Cost is from $130 to $150 a night.

For apartments in a former tenement building, the three units at Vendue Range sleep four people each and sit on Waterfront Park, where the cruise ships tie up. Cost is from $150 to $190 a night. But Duvall warns that properties may incur a 12.5 percent tax or a 4 percent tax depending on whether they are considered a hotel or a private home B&B.

For a list of other rental companies: Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 843-853-8000, .


James Shumate of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., has a suggestion for visiting the whisky trail in Scotland (Feb. 19). Shumate recommends the Dalwhinnie distillery in central Scotland. "The tour is great," he says by e-mail, "and they are very accommodating in the salesroom."

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@, fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Include your name and home town.

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