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Where they went

Where they went: Iceland

Email|Print| Text size + By Diane Daniel
August 7, 2005

WHO: Christine Liu, 22, and Nick Knouf, 25, both of Cambridge

WHERE: Reykjavik, Iceland

WHEN: Three days in March

WHY: ''We met each other last fall and realized we both had this dream to go to Reykjavik -- not a common dream people have," said Knouf, who with fellow MIT graduate student Liu co-hosts a radio show called Sigtronica (www.sigtronica.org) on WMBR (88.1 FM). It features electronic music, much of it from Icelandic artists. ''We're both humongous Björk fans," said Liu, as well as fans of Sigur Ros and Mum. They decided to make a quick trip during spring break.

MUSIC LEADS THE WAY: ''After listening to the artists, you want to know more about that scene," Liu said. ''The rest seeps through, the burgeoning arts scene, performance art, the club culture. When we got there, we said, oh, wow, the country is also very beautiful, too. Everyone asks us, 'Was it freezing?' At that time, it was warmer than Boston."

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ''The city just had this elfin charm," Liu said. ''There's also a moonlike quality to it. At a playground behind our hotel, the ground was sort of this grayish volcanic crushed rock. All the houses are cute. Everyone had something in their window, everything from potted plants to plastic dinosaur toys."

STICKER SHOCK: They sought out the Grai Kotturinn (Gray Cat) for lunch because ''it's a coffee shop that lots of artists and writers frequent," Knouf said. Added Liu, ''It was cozy and dark, with candles, even though it was midday. The waitress was dressed really bohemian and books were all around, with artwork on the walls. And they had really strong coffee." The $20 grilled cheese sandwich, however, woke them up faster than the coffee. Still, ''I love food in general," said Liu. ''And foreign food written in Icelandic is irresistible."

NATURE CALLS: The following day, they took a tour to the country's famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal swimming area. ''There's this incredible pristine blue lagoon in the middle of a moonlike landscape," Knouf said. ''And it's not just a tourist-only place." Added Liu, ''It's amazing that the whole island runs on geothermic water."

OUT AND ABOUT: ''Walking around town, everyone was dressed well and had their own personal style, bohemian, with lots of layers and very colorful. Everyone carried it off well," Liu said. Their favorite shop on the hip Laugavegur Street, a strip that includes Prada and Diesel stores as well as homegrown shops, was Spaksmannsspjarir, a boutique and label meaning ''Wise Men's Clothing." ''It has this kind of ethereal quality, but also taking cues from modern life, and cyberish, too," Knouf said. ''The presentation is amazing. They have torso mannequin pieces that they drape the clothing on, then hang it from the ceiling."

LATE-NIGHT LIFE: ''The city doesn't start partying until midnight," Knouf said. ''People weren't even on the streets at 10:30." Clubs were free, so they visited several, including the Gaukurinn and Cafe Victor. ''We were kind of surprised that the music being played was very disco," Liu said. ''We were hoping to meet someone who would invite us to an underground party." No such luck. On Thursday night their clubbing efforts were thwarted by the arrival of Good Friday. Everything closed at midnight and the city just about shut down the next day. ''It was a little disappointing at first,' Liu said, ''but then we walked around and saw the architecture."

To see other reader vacation snapshots, visit www.boston.com/wheretheywent. Send story suggestions to ddaniel@globe.com.

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