Here are some of the great things about Vesturbær, the West End of Reykjavík.
Pétursbúð The West Side's answer to the Corner Store down the street in Bedford, Mass., the site of my first solo shopping trip. The word on the street is that Björk herself once bought her Ramen noodles here. I bought my pasta there last week on the way home.
Christ the King Cathedral Go Catholics! Having grown up culturally Irish-Catholic, seeing the old lady on the hill always makes me feel at home. Now if they'd just wear green on Evacuation Day...
Sundlaug Vesturbæjar The local-pride swimming pool has the best steam room in the Land, with seaside sunsets that stream in through glass block. The friendly crews of exchange students who gather evenings in the back hot tub even make up for the measly narrow swim lanes. Just don't go on Friday evenings, unless you know what you're looking for.
The Burning Bush Some way down Öldugata, someone has wrapped their front-yard tree in so many white lights that it glows like a halfway marker beacon on the predawn work trek. It's a brilliant tree that's visible for blocks and makes a January morning feel just a little bit better.
Áfram KR! Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur (KR) was the first soccer club in the Land, and still the most legendary. Their NFL-referee-look jerseys sow confusion on the playing field and their winning record instills a Yankee-like hatred in the hearts of opposing-teams' fans.
Melabúðin The only food store in the Land that's fun to shop. For just a second, you can pretend you're in a crowded food co-op in Park Slope as you crash wire food baskets and storm the meat counter with your fellow shoppers. The selection of nuts and candies is pretty good too, as long as you don't mind reaching over the handknit-hat-wearing heads of three Icelandic kids to get to them.
The sea At the bottom of the slope that is the West End, there is the vast expanse of Reykjavík's bay, ringed by the lighthouse at Grótta, the mountains Esja and Akrafjall, and the distant peninsula Snæfellsnes with its legendary volcano looming menacingly out of the sea.