Sunday, April 3, 2016

Iceland - Arrival

I'm sure this trip will end up being a lot of blog posts. As always, I write to help me remember and to more easily share information with friends and family. Japan was a 14 day trip that turned into about 36 blog posts. Cuba was a two day trip that turned into 12 blog posts. Iceland is a four day trip, so it should fall someplace in-between, right?

Booked in October, our trip is falling about six months after the bombing in Paris, and less than a week after the airport bombing in Brussels (yes, I know there have been way too many other bombings, but none others in cities where I have lived, thank goodness). We were a little apprehensive about the flight out of Newark. The apprehension mounted when we could not check into our flight or select seats 12 hours before the flight, so we arrived a good 4 hours early, only to learn the ticket booth does not open until 3 hours before the flight. We were first in line. They were able to quickly seat us together. We breezed through security in less than 10 minutes. We still had over 2 1/2 hours to kill before the flight. So we had dinner. Um....the world's skimpiest dinner (at least until we got to Iceland and had an even skimpier meal).

We flew IcelandAir from Newark to Iceland. WOW is now coming on the scene, but IcelandAir seems to be the biggest airline in town. The other issue with WOW is they only fly out of Baltimore and Boston, adding to the expense and hassles.

The flight started with a rough bout of turbulence -- totally understandable since the forecast called for 50 MPH wind gusts. The flight was fairly uneventful, but Don and I each had a "kicker" behind us and someone tilting their seats back as far as possible in front of us. Made for a LONG 5 hour flight.

IcelandAir includes a suitcase and non-alcoholic drinks in their prices, and use of a blanket and pillow. No food -- even though it is a six hour flight. The seats are tight. The announcements are frequent and in two languages. I felt the pilot woke us up much too early (about 30 minutes before landing). The trip home seemed better because it was not a red eye and the people in front of us did not lean back.

The airport is undergoing major construction. Tourism is a booming business. It is now about 30% of their economy. 

There was not much to do between landing and getting off on the tarmac and getting our luggage. Made me wonder about what we would find for dinner on the way out of there, but was pleasantly surprised by how much they have on the Departures side. Security at the airport was non-existent. We later learned crime is very low in Iceland. They only have about 114 prisoners in the whole country (seems like mostly bankers from the 2008 economic crisis). Customs was simple. We went to the right because we had nothing to declare, others went to the left. We didn't even have a form to fill out.

It was lightly snowing when we landed. The light coating of snow made the countryside look like images of the moon. Unfortunately I think I was too tired to take pictures. It looked completely different on the way back -- like spring was there to stay.

Suitcases in hand we took the FlyBus on Reykjavik Excursions, along with hundreds of other tourists from the airport to the center of the city. It is easy. The big tour bus took us on a 45 minute ride to a bus depot where we switched to a smaller bus that could maneuver the city streets. That was less painful than I ever imagined. The smaller bus ride took about 5 to 10 minutes to Hotel Fron. On the drive we noticed how dark it still was at 7 AM. When the sun came out, the sky looked white. We saw people bicycle commuting on the road parallel to the highway -- yes, in the snow. Don made sure to check out their snow tires.

Our biggest moment of luck came when the hotel said our room was ready. Yes, at 8 AM we could take a nap while other travelers were waiting in the lobby for their rooms to become available. Score!

Our room was a one bedroom apartment complete with a small kitchenette, pull out sofa, and view of a parking lot. We were in a three story blue building behind the main building. Never heard a peep of noise from the street or neighbors. The room darkening curtains would be a necessity in the summer. The microwave was perfect for making tea. The staff was wonderful. They called the tour companies to check on whether or not tours were still happening (especially important with the Northern Lights tours). Polite, but not overly friendly. Just right.

After a two hour nap we were ready to hit the ground running, or at least walking.

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