August 16, 2006
Why, oh why, am I going to Iceland? Mostly because Tom wanted to, but after I agreed to go (on the condition we go to France in April) I started researching the island and am utterly intrigued by what I’ve read. I can’t wait to get this trip started. We depart at noon today flying on Icelandic Air which, by the way, allows carry-on luggage so my laptop separation anxiety has waned. An apocryphal tale to get the trip started…An Icelandic magistrate discovered that the Arctic Circle ran right through his house. He decided that it not only bisected his bedroom, it bisected his bed: the magistrate slept on one side of the Arctic Circle, his wife on the other and rarely did either cross the great divide.
August 16, 2006, later that day
It’s 6:45 p.m. in Minneapolis and our flight to Iceland has just been delayed for about forty-five minutes. It is apparent the flight is full of Icelanders because the check-in gal (a Minnesotan) is stumbling repeatedly over names like Brennisteinsalda, Eyvindayhver, Raufarholshellir and Magnus. Her butchery is music to my ears. The flight to Reykjavik is only five and one half hours so my iPod battery will outlast the flight..whew. Before departing Phoenix I made sure I downloaded several short films, some Hitchcock episodes and a good audiobook so I’m set.
August 17, 2006
We touched down on Iceland soil at about 6:30 a.m., which was 11:30 p.m. Phoenix time. The airport is 40 minutes from Reykjavik. The road to the capital took us through a lunar landscape of recent volcanic activity uncharacteristic of the rest of Iceland. We arrived at Hotel Odinsve, in the heart of Reykjavik, and were greeted with a smorgasbord breakfast: smoked salmon, shrimp, salami, an assortment of delicious breads, granola, fruit, you get the picture. Delicious. I haven’t mentioned how tired I am because I’m trying not to think about it but I’m tired! As with past trips out of the country Tom established rules about sleeping. Rule #1-No sleeping! Rule #2-No sleeping! Of course, he always breaks the rules but they’re out there for me to follow. So, I scheduled a city tour for 2:30 in the afternoon just so we’d be forced to stay awake. I hope to capture some interesting images of the city and retreat to the hotel for some well deserved rest.
August 17, 2006, later that day
Our tour of the city was great but the photos were not. It seems Reykjavik is having something of a heat wave with nary a cloud in the sky. It must have been 70 degrees-very rare since the high is usually 52 degrees this time of year. Bright, sunny, mid-day skies-not so good for photography-excellent for my attitude. Anyway, on to dinner. For convenience we ate at the hotel restaurant. The place is called SiggiHall and is named after the chef. Only later did I find out the chef and the restaurant are quite famous. We started with a sample of shrimp, graflax and spiced herring with tartar-smetana. Next, cod baked under olive and herb crust with spring turnips, pearl onions, lima beans and sea weed with extra virgin olive oil from Umbria. Finally, pannacotta with skyr, apple sorbet, lime, ginger and caramel sauce and mint-apple-lime salad. Throw in a glass of wine or two between courses and, well, it was worth the 13,000 kronur we had to shell out.
August 18, 2006
I won’t go in to details but suffice it to say we slept in. So much so that we nearly missed breakfast. Today is a day of rest as the marathon is tomorrow. We were told it was an easy 30 minute walk to the Expo to get our numbers for the race. It wasn’t. An hour into the stroll I asked Tom, “Are we there yet?” He mumbled, “Almost.” Sure walking on the bike path that runs along the sea was beautiful but beauty can only take one so far. At some point one has to wonder…where’s the WC and convenience store? I’m parched. We finally stumbled upon the Expo, got the race packet and headed back to the hotel. By the time we got there my shoes had worn a small blister on my toe. Perfect. A blister before the race, how fortunate for me. We are going back for a “Pasta Party” later tonight. We are taking the bus.
August 19, 2006
I’ve got one word for you-WINDY! Oh, there was wind. I’ve got two more words for you-NOT FLAT! Despite these two important factors the run was beautiful. The gun went off at 10:00 am for the half marathon so we had plenty of time to eat and hydrate beforehand. I’m awaiting official results but I’d say I had a mediocre race whilst Tom did quite well. Anymore it’s not about the finish time it’s about the journey to get there. This, I think, is the beginning of wisdom, a sentiment with which, I’m sure, my old coach Fred would agree. The race has brought people from all over the world to the capital city of Iceland. There is a celebration separate from the marathon today. It is called Culture Day-a street festival with art, music, literature, food, dance and everything in between. After our traditional Icelandic dinner we will be attending a free performance by some of Iceland’s most famous opera singers. Time for a nap before the evening’s festivities.
August 19, 2006, later that day
I’ve neglected writing for a few days. I was a bit under the weather and pretty busy. Let’s see, where should I begin? We decided to treat ourselves to a fine dinner after the race. We went to Laekjarbrekkja and dined sumptuously on highland lamb and Icelandic lobster. Tres Magnifique! It was then out into the streets for Culture Night. The streets, once deserted, now athrong with revellers. We heard a tenor singing Puccini from a restaurant balcony and Icelandic rock from the street corners. We stopped at a bakery for pastry and watched the fireworks explode in front of a cobalt electric blue 11:00 o’clock night sky. We chatted with an elderly Icelandic couple who chided us for wearing shorts on such a chilly night. “Oh,” I said slyly, “This is warm compared to where we come from.” We hit the sheets at midnight but didn’t sleep ‘til 4:00 a.m. for the cacophony outside our window.
August 20, 2006
Late for the bus! I guess 9:00 a.m. really means 8:30 in Icelandic. I delayed sixty people on a crazy tour bus while Tom toweled off. Call it my way of making friends and influencing people. Anyway, after all the hard stares the tour got underway. We took the “Golden Circle” tour.
Without boring you with the details, suffice it to say we toured for ten hours and saw many of the notable sights outside the Reykjavik area: the rift valley between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates where the first parliament in all of Europe took place; THE GEYSIR from which the word geyser is derived; the largest waterfall in all of Europe, which was saved singled-handedly from destruction by the efforts of a young farm girl, Sigridur Tomasdottir; the infamous and ominous Hekla, the quintessential and scary destructive volcano. After all that we stopped at the Blue Lagoon, a thermal sea water hot spring with healing properties. It was other-worldly.
August 21, 2006
It was United Nations at the Avis counter. The wait took forever so I napped in the lobby while Tom stood in line. But we were on the Ring Road before noon. We were heading northeast to Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland at 15,000 people. Iceland is all about waterfalls and rocky escarpments that jut up from the land in unnatural steepness and, of course, the ever present fjordurs (a word that Tom finds irresitible to pronounce - he thinks he can speak Icelandic now). The drive that should have taken five hours took seven as we finally pulled into the Ibudir Guesthouse parking lot at about 7:30 p.m. It is a quaint place, half apartment, half B&B with a gruff, surly, no nonsense landlady named Inge. Don’t get her mad! Tom tried to ask her a question while she was busy doing something and it took all she had not to take a swing at him with her meaty forearm. With plenty of daylight left we took a walk about town and found a delightful restaurant on the top floor of a building on the waterfront. We sat outside. From our perch we watched a cruise ship embark for the Arctic Ocean.
August 22, 2006
Our first day to really sleep in and we took advantage of it. I’m not sure how I did it but I slept until 10:00 a.m. I awoke to a bright blue cloudless calm morning. It was heavenly, a day I won’t soon forget. We took a drive up the east side of Eyjafjordur. The light was coming from the west, shining through a brilliant blue arctic sky. It lit up the landscape with sublime beatific effulgence. Tom said it was psychadelic electric. But I leave all that silliness to him. We stopped in the middle of this dreamy landscape at Laufas (“leaf mountain” in Icelandic). We had rhubarb pie (delish!) and coffee (“kaffi”) and talked to the owner about pronunciations of Icelandic words. It must have been 75 degrees as we strolled the grounds peering into the windows of the turf houses and the old church, against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks, waterfalls and late summer flowers.
August 23, 2006
They say it rains a lot in Iceland. We’ve seen no evidence of that. As we begin our journey to the Arctic Circle the forecast is sunny skies with a high of 70 degrees and winds at two miles per hour. What?! Can you say global warming? I thought I’d need at least a jacket when I stepped over the imaginary line. I’m not complaining. The weather has been fantastic. It’s just that it’s not at all what I expected. Anyway, we drive to Dalvik, hop on a ferry for a three hour ride through the Arctic Ocean/Greenland Sea to the island of Grimsey where we actually cross 66 degrees, 33 minutes north. To be continued…
August 23, 2006, much later
Later that evening…I didn’t think we’d top yesterday but, well, we did. The sea was as smooth as glass. The sun was brilliant. Porpoises swam in the wake of the boat. The glacial headlands fell behind us like some receding Faerieland. It took over three hours to go a mere twenty-four miles. We sat on the upper deck, open to the arctic sun. They said there had not been a day like this in a decade. After we disembarked we found the one road on the island and set out to conquer the Circle. Oh, we conquered it! We hiked beyond the Circle to the edge of the island and sat atop a grassy down that fell off into a sheer cliff three hundred feet to the ocean. There were thousands of birds singing and circling as we picniced on the grassy precipice. Tom was sweating worse than he was in the half-marathon. Oh, it was warm! Then back to the tiny grocery for water and to the bakery where we got our certificates attesting to having bested the Arctic Circle. An exclusive club has two new members.