July 7, 2007
Well, we are back home in Seattle. I’m a bit sad today. The sun is out and the mountains are in their full glory. I am happy to live in such a wonderful country and city, but I already miss Iceland and the people we met there. They say 7/7/07 is lucky so I’ll just have to hold to that for now. Interestingly enough I’ve read a lot about how today, 07/07/07 is a day that all the churches are booked up for weddings. Even in Reykjavik our hotel concierge said that the churches have been booked for ages on this auspicious day. I feel lucky to have been married on 6/26/07 in one of the greatest places I’ve been to.
Our last day (Friday, July 6th) was full of excitement. Not in all the good ways…. First of all, Greg was quite ill our last night here (after eating bad lobster at the most expensive restaurant in town. I think the lobster tail dinner cost as much as the hotel room). So Friday morning I fired off an email to the restaurant asking them if anyone else had taken ill. I didn’t eat the lobster so I felt strong enough to walk into the centre of Reykjavik and past the restaurant where the said poisoning had happened. Funny because I think Greg thought that the only one that would poison him would be me. Now that I’m “the wife” I could off the husband or something like that. And live off of the spoils. But no… it was a lowly crustacean. Oh well.
I had some coffee and wandered around a bit. There are several great bookstores right in the downtown area. Yes, in most ways they are there for the tourists, but who cares? Besides the requisite postcards, maps, books on the Vikings, the Sagas, and tour guides, they have a great collection of books and magazines from all over the world. Iceland boasts 100% literacy so it isn’t surprising that bookstores are so popular. The most popular authors to date from Iceland are Hallador Laxness, one of the world’s least recognizable Nobel laureates and author of many books, one of which I have read, “Independent People” which was out of print for decades until its 1997 reissue. At the most basic level, it’s a book about sheep and a stubbornly stupid Icelandic crofter. Yet, through subject matter that almost nobody can identify with first hand, Laxness deftly manipulates the themes that come to write themselves upon all of our lives. Little did I know when I read it that I would someday visit Iceland. While that’s the hallmark of any good book, Laxness manages to do it with remarkable subtlety through a completely obvious character. It’s a rare read.
The other recognizable name from Iceland is a man called “Nonni” who writes children’s books and currently lives in Aeuryeki. There is a museum dedicated to him there and his house is still there. There are two cookbooks that I have been eyeballing, “Cold Cuisine” and “Iceland Cooks”. They feature some of the wonderful foods served here from lamb to cod to lobster to puffin to putrified shark. And both have gorgeous photographs from all over the country. I’d buy one or both, but they are expensive and will take up valuable suitcase space so I will look for them at home on the internet. Reykjavik is getting the reputation for a foodie town and many chefs here are becoming world reknown. Not, however, the one that served the tainted lobster to my husband. :)
Back at the hotel we managed to misplace our keys to the camper/truck so spent a good hour tearing apart the hotel room. The thing was, we switched rooms 2 different times at this hotel; once because they gave us a single instead of a double, the next time because our room was so hot. Somewhere along the lines the keys went missing. Hmm… on a brighter note, while trying to locate them, we unpacked and repacked our bags and managed to fit Greg’s tripod in one of the bags. Yay, now we don’t have to carry it. But, no keys. So we decided to call the camper company and have them come pick up the camper at the hotel parking lot instead of us returning it to them in Keflavik, the airport location. We called and they agreed to drive to the hotel (one hour) with the spare set of camper keys and pick us up, but then the keys were found. The people at the SAS Radisson Saga Hotel, like everyone in Iceland were super friendly, nice and patient with us. They found the keys in one of the earlier rooms just in time for us to call the camper people and halt them from coming into Reykjavik to pick us up.
We drove the camper back to the station in Keflavik and then it was on to the airport to wait for our flight to NYC. It was raining pretty hard on the 45 minute drive from Reykjavik and was quite windy. This is the worst weather we’ve seen the entire time we’ve been here, but in typical fashion, clears out fairly quickly. The airport had a great departure lounge (are we surprised?) with free wi-fi so we hung out. Greg is slowly feeling better, but probably still regretting that he didn’t order the puffin instead of the lobster. We boarded our plane after a trip to the duty free for a bottle of Reyka, the Icelandic vodka we love and it was on to our Icelandic Air flight to JFK Airport in NYC.
Five and 1/2 hours later, we’re back on American soil. We flew right over Greenland and got a wonderful view from the window of the plane of this amazing island with ice flows all over the sea surrounding it. I think a trip here in the future is necessary. Onll 30,000 live on this massive island, most in Inuit villages. Still the hiking here would be amazing. After an uneventful trip through customs and immigration, it’s on to the Ramada JFK Hotel for the night as we are too late to make a connecting flight to Seattle. I can see the Manhattan skyline in the distance from our hotel room and can vaguely make out the sound of the Yankees playing a baseball game from the next room’s tv set blaring. I’m sad, but tired, so it’s off to bed for me. Looking at the Manhattan skyline always makes me sad as there are no World Trade Center towers. It breaks my heart every single time I’m here.
We have an early morning wake-up call to make our jetBlue flight to Seattle. Drifting off to sleep, I think about the top things I will miss about Iceland. Here they are in no particular order…
1) The campsite at Joklursarlon where we stayed the night by the side of the road.
2) Suisse Mochas. Yum! The coffee was great. I think it’s the water from the glaciers that they use to make it with.
3) The sophistication of Reykjavik. Everything “works” here.
4) Lamb. Tasty even cooked on the camper stove by me and I’m not a good cook. I’ll miss seeing the sheep everywhere grazing in the fields and up on the cliffs.
5) The Bonus Pig
6) The N1’s
7) Mentos lime and green tea chewing gum. Tasted like lime skittles but better.
8) The glorious sunshine and how much the people in Iceland appreciated it. 23 hours a day was fabulous!
9) The hope that a puffin will be sighted
10) The gratitude there will certainly be sheep that will be seen.
11) Waterfalls (Foss) everywhere.
12) Steam from the earth. Even the sulphur smell that accompanies it will be missed.
13) Endless hot water for showers
14) Lovely cold drinking water from the faucets
15) The Museums. Every single one we went into, whether in Reykjavik or in the middle of nowhere was great. High tech, interesting, clean, and efficient.
16) The Icelandic horses. Beautiful! They have 5 gaits too, the last one being a walk/trot which when you see them doing it, looks graceful.
17) The constantly changing scenery. Lava fields one moment, farmland the next, followed by glaciers and then fields of purple lupine.
18) Not figuring out the exchange rate of Icelandic krona to US dollars. Really, it wouldn’t have been worth it. This place is expensive.
19) Trying to pronounce the names of the places we’ve visited.
20) The friendliness of the people and the fact that they all (with the exception of 3 people I think that we encountered) spoke excellent English.
21) Skyr. I almost forgot this one, but the tasty yogurt/cheese whatever it is stuff is very good. I sampled a variety of flavours and the one I like the most was pear. Followed by cappuccino, blueberry, strawberry, and then vanilla. I wish I could find this stuff in the states. I think I should try and learn how to make it. The trick will be getting the milk from the free-range Icelandic cows to start with. Iceland isn’t a huge country, but has very good dairy products. Even the little sample of Icelandic butter they served on the plane was very good.
One last note. The Reyka vodka was taken from us at JFK airport as we went through security to fly back to Seattle. Grumble grumble. I’m pissed about this which is ridiculous. I even got mad at Greg! Go figure. Maybe because it was the one thing we tried to bring home from Iceland. Everything else like t-shirts, clothing, trinkets, and other products were simply too expensive. The vodka wasn’t. Oh well… Welcome home.