Iceland?! Why Iceland? You may be wondering. To be honest, it hadn’t particularly been on my list, but my sister had been an AFS exchange student there for a year between high school and college, and has kept in touch with her host family and been back a couple of times. She wanted to take WCN, and, as he’s just finished 8th grade, this seemed like a good time – in that window to appreciate and remember the trip, but not too cool to travel with his Mom. When I heard the trip was in the works I invited myself along. Then it turns out Iceland has become quite the tourist destination these days, and several people I know have been and/or have family connections there. Go figure.
Taxied to the gate, and we were near the exit so were able to get off the plane fairly quickly. This is a small airport, WCN observed as we walked down the jetway. OK, maybe this is real…
Through the terminal to Immigration. Handed over the passport, answered how long I was staying, got stamped and I was in. WOOT! And, first stamp for the boy! He was pretty excited about that.
Next to the baggage pickup. There were already bags on the carousel, which, after they went around for a while and don’t seem to be picked up by anyone from our flight, we realized were probably from a previous flight. There was a pause, which some people used to visit the Duty Free shop (stocking up on alcohol seems to be a Thing) and then more bags started to appear. This is not the black bag you are looking for…
Eventually the luggages came, we rolled out through the Customs Nothing to Declare line and … there were my sister’s host parents! Introductions and off to their van. I had long sleeves and long pants on, so the 8 degrees felt fine. The clock said 05:45, and, although overcast, it was plenty light out. Sure, it’s morning. Just keep telling yourself that…
and we’re not in California anymore, Dorothy! The terrain outside the airport made me think of the Kona Coast. Volcanic expanses. Some undulations in the terrain, and texture, but the primary feel was horizontal and open. No trees, no verticals chopping up the space or limiting line of sight. The color was different though, not the red brown bare lava of Hawaii, but greygreensilver of mosses and lichens covering most everything.
Hafnarfjörður, a suburb of Reykjavík, where we’d be staying with the host parents, was about a half hour from the airport, and pretty much the first urban area we encountered. We went to their apartment, in a mid-rise building overlooking the golf course and harbor.
Breakfast! Slices of bread, crackers, some what I would call lunch meat and cheese, but also jam, marmalade and superyummy butter. And warm caffeinated beverages, yay!
Next order of business, “We will throw you in the swimming pool!” Which, they didn’t literally throw us, but we did go. Followed the swimming pool etiquette – put things in the locker, fully showered without swimsuit, then put the swimsuit on, rinsed it too and out to the pool. The pool was outdoors, but the water temperature was comfortably warm – warmer than US pools – and felt nice compared to the air temperature. The pool was 25m, with several marked lanes full of lap swimmers, and also a shallower open area. There were 2 water slides, a small cold plunge, and then 3 hot pots. The first pot was 37-39, the second 39-41 and the third 41-43. “Body temperature is 37.” Most people went in the first pot.
I alternated between paddling and floating about in the shallow part of the pool and the first pot. I tested the water in the cold box but did not go in. The parents saw and chatted with people they knew, in addition to exercise it seemed very much a social gathering place. One of the times we were in the pot, WCN remarked, “This might be why Icelandic people have such long life expectancy.”
Once we were out of the pool Faðir gave us a tour of the town area along the harbor, pointing out a bakery – Vort Daglegt Brauð (Our Daily Bread), driving along the shopping street and pointing out the downtown attractions, another swimming pool, the ice house and the dock area. The weather had cleared to a beautiful sunny day.
We returned to the apartment and relaxed a bit, I was really trying to pretend I was on the day time schedule thing, but as I sat there in a very comfy chair I could not keep my eyes open. When I awoke from my nap it was lunch time. The spread was similar to breakfast, with the addition of some Icelandic foods: (1) skyr, a yogurt-like dairy product, which many people eat with cream, (2) kleinur, similar to an old-fashioned doughnut, but different shape – a small fold rather than a ring, and (3) rúgbrauð (rye bread), which was not like a yeast loaf, but dense and moist like brown bread. Very tasty with the butter of awesome.
Later Móðir (Mother) and Faðir (Father) went out shopping, and my sister and I tagged along. It’s always fascinating to see how markets are similar and different. I was surprised to see a Mexican food section.
After returning from the hunting and gathering, my sister, WCN and I went out for a walk. We checked out the view over the golf course and I walked to the harbor and back through another residential neighborhood. After I got back we played some cards then it was dinner time! Cod (tastyfresh) with onions, small potatoes, and a green salad with feta and dried figs (note to self about that! yummy!)
Then it was time for football! (Soccer for the US Americans.) Iceland was playing Portugal in the pool play of the UEFA Euro 2016. Once the game started, Móðir said “There are no cars on the street. Believe me, it will be like this for two hours!” That is, everyone would be watching the game. “For a nation of 330,000 – those are our boys!” Portugal, with star Cristiano Ronaldo, was favored, but Iceland managed to swing a 1-1 tie, which apparently was as good as a win.
Although the clock said bed time, the sun was still a ways above the horizon. Mid June in Iceland, it wasn’t really going to get dark. I still managed to fall asleep right asleep away, although I didn’t sleep entirely through the night, it was quite restful.
June 14, 2016