Friday, July 18, 2014

Let's go to Iceland!

Iceland is an odd (in a good way) little place. 
The weather has been atypical for "summer" here. Unseasonably cool, like everywhere else it seems. Rainy and in the 50s (F), but I was prepared for that, having stalked the weather sites pre-departure. 

Departure... ah, yes. My outbound flights switched 4 times before being cancelled altogether due to bad storms in New York. I was re-routed and re-booked for the next day. Rather than the direct flight I'd reserved, I now had a long layover in Minneapolis. For part of this, I played Tom Hanks in The Terminal. You see, Delta directed me away from Terminal 1 to it's lesser stepsister Terminal 2 (a walk, a tram, then a Metro stop away) where I would "check in at Iceland Air." They failed to mention, though, that I couldn't check in for 4 hours--when the check-in counter for that flight opened. Since these flights to Reykjavík are only offered once daily, it doesn't pay to have Iceland Air staff on site or a counter open outside a limited check-in window. So, in fact, I had to check in at the "Sun Country Airlines" counter-- não têm nada a ver!-- an airline I've never even heard of.  At this point I'm not very confident in any of this process, and I'm definitely not enjoying my foray into the dramedy, "Dealing With Delta." 

Had I known any of these key details, I would have stayed in T1 and used a United Club pass to while away the layover time. There were no airline lounges in T2 and all the restaurants were located beyond security--where I couldn't go without a boarding pass that I wouldn't be issued for 4 hours. D'oh! So I'm stuck in baggage claim. I'd have entertained myself with conveyor belt rides if I thought I'd have gotten away with it.

Not one to give up, I made my way back to T1, where there was a single restaurant in the pre-security zone. 

Ahh, the savory reward of perseverance. 

With the passenger overload on Iceland Air from Delta's cancelled flight, I wound up in Business Class: it was a nice surprise/recompense for the frustration. It wasn't as luxurious as business class on U.S. airlines (I was served a microwaved ham & cheese baguette), but the extra wiggle room was appreciated!

If you look close, my plane bears the name of the famed 2010 volcano. 
Phonetically, in English, approximately: 
AY-uh few-at-luh you-coo
Foneticamente em português:
Ê-ó fio-at-lá eu-quel
(I spent 40 minutes on a bus ride working that out. You're welcome.)

Resulting from the flight delays, my lodging reservations were all shaken up. Not a big deal, but I had to cancel the swanky hotel night at the Blue Lagoon because I added a day to the end of the trip--shifting everything--and they couldn't accommodate the change. 

Arriving too early to check in to the hostel, and tired, I winged it at the airport and bumped my Blue Lagoon visit to NOW. (Why Not?) 

The Icelanders have this tourist spectacle down to a science. You can check luggage at the first "room" off the bus. You pay for your entrance package at the reception area just down the path. You get a fuzzy robe, slippers, a locker key, and head the to changing rooms. There are showers with everything you need: shampoo, conditioner, soap. Extra towels. Out the other end of the changing area is the main lagoon. 

Glorious. Even on a grey day, utterly surreal. 

Honestly, no filters or enhancements on these photos. This is the real deal. Beautiful black lava rock against a murky-white, powder-blue lagoon. Spectacular.

Dive in. 



Have a smoothie and a mud mask. 

Ahhhh. I would do it again. 
Sure it's touristy. (The locals have secret places every bit as lovely that they enjoy--and good for them.) But this is a tourist trap worth visiting. 
Still, I was glad I had cancelled the swanky hotel because a few hours is plenty: an overnight stay would have been overkill melted on a boredom sandwich.

I took an afternoon bus into town. (There's only one town in Iceland, when you get down to it.) 

The Loft Hostel is great. Well located, well staffed, clean, and fun. Great bar on the top (4th) floor--though the the locals boast about the hostel bar's "spectacular" views which leaves me entirely puzzled. I get that the 4th floor in Reykjavík equates to 60th floor in Chicago... yet it doesn't, you know? Not much of an awe-inspiring panorama.

Nevertheless, I'd found a happy home for my celebratory week. Vamo lá gente!