Sunday, November 29, 2015

Iceland Adventures: Reykjavik

Iceland Adventures – Getting There – 8/22/15

“You’re going where?”  Iceland.
“Who goes to Iceland?”  Me and other adventurous hikers.
“Sounds cold.”  It can be.
“Will you see the northern lights?”  No, not in August.

My friend Cathy proposed hiking the Laugevegurinn in Iceland, considered one of the world’s best multi-day treks.  Four hikers jumped on board (Paul, Kim, Mike and me).  Since we’re going all that way, shouldn’t we spend some time exploring the country?  And as easy as that, a two-week epic adventure was born. 

As my husband Jim put it, “You go on a trip of a lifetime about once a year.” 

Dates were set, a rough itinerary was sketched out, planning and logistics duties were divided up.  Paul and Kim arranged car rentals, Cathy booked hut-to-hut hiking permits and ferry reservations, Mike handled accommodations in Reykjavik, gear storage and bus shuttles to and from the hike, and I took care of Airbnb rentals in the tiny towns we visited.  We researched hiking on Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the remote Westfjords and scheduled the Laugevegurinn for the last four days of our trip. 

Reminiscing over the photos and writing about this months later, I am as excited as when we were there.  Would love to go again.  Put this on your bucket list.  

WOW Air flies from Boston and Baltimore to Reykjavik and then on to points in Europe.  The airline is clever, tongue-in-cheek and all flight crew members are unbelievably gorgeous.  But don’t expect a complimen- tary beverage on your flight.

At 5:30 a.m. we landed in climate shock.  We left 95 degrees in shorts and flip-flops.  Why was everyone else wearing boots and winter coats?  And what’s this drizzling rain all about?  We dragged our luggage to the rental car building, picked up our Suzuki Grand Vitara (Is it big enough for 5 people with lots of gear?  Yes, we’d like the GPS feature, please.)  God bless Paul for being our driver for the trip. 

Rendevoused with Mike, who had already been in Iceland for two weeks, then set off for a walkaround and breakfast in Reykjavik.

Already liking the vibe

Most shops were not yet open, but multitudes of people were streaming towards the main street. Everyone looked fit and athletic. We were just in time for the Reykjavik annual marathon, of course! 

At a cafe we enjoyed omelets, croissants and coffee, and learned that the server doesn’t bring the check.  Customers pay at the register after the meal, giving your table number and what you had to eat.  No tipping. 

We split up, Cathy and Kim and I setting off to explore while Mike and Paul managed logistics with hotel rooms, cars and gear.  Downtown Reykjavik is invitingly walkable, artsy and quirky.

Anyone lost a glove?
Touristy photo op:  trolls (prevalent in Icelandic folklore along with elves, gnomes and fairies)   

Runners passing the Reykjavik Opera House

A rainbow painted on one of the main streets for the Gay Pride festival earlier in August.  It leads to…

… Hallgrímskirkja Church, constructed beginning in 1945 and completed in 1986.  This Lutheran church is Reykjavik’s main land- mark.  Inside the sanctuary, we listened to a choir rehearsing with amazing acoustics. 

We walked through the nearby sculpture garden of the Einar Jónsson Museum.

Graffiti is prominent, some sophomoric but much of it sophisti- cated.  I got the impression that it is welcomed or at least broadly tolerated, probably some commissioned.  I found it fascinating.  Once I started noticing, graffiti was everywhere. 

The stores were open now and we wandered through bookstores and gift shops.  Cathy enjoys clothes shopping, and we learned that in Iceland clothing is for sale everywhere, including coffee shops and fuel stations.  We exchanged a little cash for Icelandic krona and checked out the visitor center, collecting maps and guidebooks. 

The VC was near the race start, and we cheered with the crowd as the 5K runners lined up.  Everyone sang along to Icelandic songs and then the race began with Springsteen’s “Born To Run” blasting from the sound system – mind blown!  Lots of energy!  What a great welcome to Iceland!

We regrouped, found some lunch in an upstairs restaurant, then walked back toward the apartment Mike had secured for us.  At a small grocery store en route we stocked up on breakfast and lunch supplies for the next several days.  Discovered skyr, an Icelandic cultured dairy product similar to creamy Greek yogurt but with a milder taste.  We bought individual servings with fruit added (my favorite was pear). They say skyr has been an Icelandic food for a thousand years.  We loved it.

Our apartment was great, two bedrooms and a foldout couch, a bathroom and a full kitchen.  Everyone repacked gear for the road trip, gathering our backpacking gear for storage.  We shared a little happy hour toast around the kitchen table.

Finding supper was a challenge as Reykjavik is a busy social place at night, crowded restaurants and long waits.  We landed at an Italian restaurant with a sign on the door “desperately need waiter” and got to practice our patience as one young woman did her best to run the place. 

Tylenol PM and lights out!  We’d been up for 35 hours and tomorrow we hit the road.

“Every story has two sides and every song has twelve versions.” ~Icelandic proverb


Linda W. said...

You travel to the most amazing places!

Danny Bernstein said...

I love Jim's comment -
You go on a trip of a lifetime about once a year.

Can I use it?