Our Icelandic Saga- part 1

Itinerary:

Dates: December 26 – January 2

Our Odyssey:

I wrote about our holiday vacation to Iceland as it unfolded in my journal, and have decided to post these entries in the format I wrote them. So we’ll start at the beginning …

Tuesday, December 27 – Reykjavik, Iceland

Well we’ve been in Iceland for about 18 hours and I’ll be honest- this is not exactly a
winter wonderland.

When we landed at 5am this morning on our WOW airlines flight from Baltimore to
Keflavik International Airport, I started to realize the weather may not be our
friend this week. It was incredibly windy and rainy, and, while not
particularly cold (30s F), the wind had an unpleasant bite.

My research had suggested that we can do all the same things people do in the summer in Iceland in a winter trip, with the addition of ice caving and northern lights.
Sounded like a winning deal to me! But now I realize the gamble you take with a
winter visit to Iceland.

Frankly, our weather is shit. The cloud coverage means we probably won’t get to see northern lights (though keeping fingers crossed…), and our trip to lava caves and to
snorkel between the tectonic plates for Wednesday has been canceled due to
severe weather.

View on day 1 from our hostel bedroom.

Vacation is still better than work, and I love doing anything with Tim, but I’ll admit this
one hasn’t been easy so far.

The flight itself on WOW left Baltimore at 6pm and then flew 6 hours to Iceland. Because
it was early and relatively short, we only were able to sleep briefly. Also, being a budget airline, WOW’s seats were pretty uncomfortable and there were no complimentary snacks or beverages. It’s very no-frills.

When we arrived we made our way to the bus that would transfer us to our hostel. It was
a 40 minute ride on a cramped bus from the airport to Reykjavik, and then we also had to transfer from that bus to another with a 20 minute wait at the bus station in between. Being so sleepy and cold, I personally felt pretty grumpy about how difficult it was to get to our hostel, especially since we thought we were only taking one bus. The company, Fly Bus, didn’t exactly say at the time of booking that there would be so many steps to the process.

When we finally got to our hostel, Kex, it was only 7am and still too early to check
in. We made ourselves comfortable on a couch and slept until a little before noon.

We were scheduled to take a city tour in the afternoon, but our guide never showed up.
I was pretty disappointed and anxious about getting a refund (the company hadn’t responded to our repeated attempts to contact them), but Tim, in his ever cheerful spirits, got us excited for our own self-guided adventure through downtown.

At 2pm we were able to check into our room, so we settled in and bundled up for our windy walk through town. Before heading outside, we stopped by the tour booking desk in the hostel to see if the representative there could help us both with a map and with our missed tour. She called the company and was able to get to a person! We explained the situation and they agreed to refund us. Whew!

From our hostel we then set out to explore downtown Reykjavik, starting with a walk to its most iconic landmark, the Hallgrimskirkja church. It is the largest church in Iceland and the country’s sixth tallest building. Named for Icelandic poet Hallgrímur Pétursson, the church was built between 1945 and 1986 and designed to resemble the lava flows of Iceland’s landscape.

Hallgrimskirkja

We then walked to some other notable sites, including the main square, where we saw charming Reykjavik Cathedral and parliament. We also went down to water and saw lovely swans and ducks braving the Icelandic winter.

We then stumbled upon a hotdog stand. Believe it or not, Reykjavik is known for its street hotdogs, so of course we had to try it. The secret? In addition to pork and beef, there is also lamb meat in their hotdogs. They were delicious!

We saw a cute pub across the street and decided to pop in to try some Icelandic brews. We split three local beers (a lager, a stout and an amber) and chatted with our
bar neighbors, a couple from London. After our beers we all went to another taproom next door where Tim and I split a flight of beer (including my first taste of barley wine and the most sour Porter I’ve ever had). Since I hadn’t drank in nearly a month, I felt rather tipsy from these small portions!

Reykjavik Cathedral looking cute for the holidays

On our walk home we grabbed dinner to go from an Indian place and once in our room back at the hostel, enjoyed some of the best garlic naan and chicken tikka marsala I’ve ever had.

We also found out that, unfortunately, our tour for tomorrow, to snorkel between the European and North American tectonic plates and to explore a lava cave, had to be canceled due to the weather.

While we had a fantastic and spontaneous day, missing two of the three tours we booked for our entire trip made me worry my decision to go to Iceland in December may have been a silly one. After all, it’s dark, cold, windy and snowy. And we live in Wisconsin so it’s not like we’re getting any exciting novelty.

Tim and I both agreed that as long as our third tour doesn’t get canceled (scheduled to depart Thursday and return Saturday night, visiting sites on the Golden Circle, ice caving and glacier hiking), we wouldn’t worry. For tomorrow we decided we’d take advantage of the free day to sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and then venture out to the National Museum of Iceland to learn about the history and culture.

And with our first, rather impromptu, day in Reykjavik behind us, and another equally unplanned day ahead of us, we turned in for bed.

Om nom nom

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