Iceland

We flew Icelandair to Reykjavik, arriving at about 6:45 in the morning. I had been planning on sleeping on the flight over, but no such luck. Because of the time zones, we had lost 7 hours, so it was according to my body, it was just before midnight. I was tired, but not totally exhausted. There is a bus service called “Flybus” that we had reserved to get from the airport to our hotel (Hotel Fron). The bus takes you to the bus terminal; from there, you board a smaller shuttle bus that takes you into town. The shuttle dropped us in front of our hotel, but it was much too early to check in. So, we dropped off our luggage, and went in search of breakfast. There was a café down the block that I had read about in a Lonely Planet book, so we stopped in there. Clayton was not feeling well; he was dizzy and pale. He went outside for some fresh air while I ordered breakfast. The breakfast menu was not exactly what I was expecting! There were croissants (of course) and coffee, but their breakfast sandwiches were just that – sandwiches with lettuce and tomato on sandwich bread. Clayton eventually came in and had a croissant, but the coffee was not to his liking. I ate some of my sandwich, but not much. We went back to the hotel, hoping that they would soon have a room available for us. We were surprised by how busy the hotel was. There were many people in the lobby waiting with us; most were waiting for tours for the day. We got in to our room about noon. It was quite nice by European standards. We had reserved a small apartment, so had a kitchenette, table and couch in addition to the bed and ensuite bathroom. By now, Clayton was hungry, so we went down the block to the Chuck Norris Grill. We had seen this earlier, and were kind of amused by it. Who would expect a Chuck Norris themed restaurant in Iceland? Clayton likes plain food – hamburgers are his lunch and dinner of choice, so we were thinking this place would be right up his alley.

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Clayton had a hamburger; I had a wonderful sandwich. I can’t remember what all it had on it, other than roast beef and caramelized onions, but it was yummy!

We walked around the main part of Reykjavik for a bit.

I am surprised I did not take any pictures. I thought for sure that I had, Reykjavik is a charming town. There were many stores selling Icelandic sweaters, and I found a few that I liked, but figured I would buy one the next day, after our tour. There were many ethnic restaurants; Mediterranean food seemed to be a popular theme. We noticed that Bernaise sauce is served on hamburgers in many restaurants. Also, chopped eggs were an ingredient on most sandwiches. I had read that hot dogs were a very popular food in Iceland, but I did not see them being served anywhere. No Starbucks, but plenty of STRONG coffee everywhere. There are no McDonalds here; they went out of business in the 2007 economic crash, and never re-opened. Burger King, KFC, Subway, Quiznos, Dominos, Taco Bell etc. were seen all over. We were exhausted, so decided to skip dinner and go back to our room to relax. I think we collapsed in bed by about 8:30 pm.

The next day, Tuesday, we had a tour scheduled. Rather than do the Golden Circle, which is the most popular tour, we opted for a South Shore tour. Our hotel had a continental breakfast included, so we ate in their café. They had muesli, which seemed to be quite popular, and the makings for “breakfast” sandwiches. Many seemed to be making open faced sandwiches with lettuce and tomato. The tour guide picked us up at about 8:45, and we were off for our adventure.

Our tour guide, Gerda (sp?) was excellent. We had about 10 in our group. The weather was horrendous; the wind was blowing so hard, the rain was almost horizontal! She told us many fascinating facts about Iceland. 2/3 of the population live in Reykjavik (200,000 of the 300,000 Icelandic residents). There is only one small prison that houses 157 prisoners. There are an additional 150 or so that are “wait-listed” and will be incarcerated when there is room. There is a second prison that is being built. Of those 157 inmates, two are women. Because there are so few women, they are housed in a two-bedroom apartment. Both are in prison for killing their (abusive) husbands. They have life sentences, which translates to about 10 years locked up.

According to Gerda, Iceland has one of the lowest disease rates in the world. She attributed this to a couple of things: socialized medicine (up until the economic crash, there were no co-pays; medical care was completely free), and the fact that Iceland controls imported food items very carefully. For example, all of the beef is imported frozen in order to kill any bacteria, etc. There are cattle on the island, but they have evolved into small, compact animals due to the conditions on the island.

The island is volcanic, and there is considerable geothermal activity. Their water is heated geothermally, so has a unique sulfurous smell. We had both noticed this smell when showering; it was good to know that the water smells like that everywhere on the island! Swimming is a very popular pastime in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon is very well known, but there are many other, less expensive, places to swim.

I would love to be able to tell you where my pictures were taken, but the names were fairly unpronounceable.

This is the famous church. As you can see, I took the picture through the bus window, so it is not a great picture. . .We were picking up a couple staying at the Leiffur Erikson Hotel. We looped back three times to pick them up, but they were no-shows.

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We gave up on finding our tour mates, and the tour began.

Below are various photos from our drive.  It was a VERY wet and windy day, but we loved every minute of it!  There were many waterfalls.  It was so windy that one waterfall had water that was blowing back up!

We grabbed lunch at a mini-mart (sandwiches, with egg salad, of course! And Skyr, Icelandic yogurt), and continued our drive.  We saw adorable Icelandic ponies, cattle, sheep, etc.  The animals here are very compact due to the poor eating conditions for them.  They have longer than normal hair to help keep them warm in the wet climate that they live in.  None of the animals are “good eating”, so meat must be imported.

It was a very full day; we did not get back to town until evening.  We got to experience a brief snow storm.  We returned to our hotel exhausted, and packed up our stuff for our early morning flight to Venice. No Icelandic sweater for me; all the stores were closed when we returned.

My only disappointment was that I had wanted to see the Northern Lights, but the weather did not cooperate.  All the more reason to return!

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