Sunday, February 21, 2010

Iceland Day One

I’m writing from Reykjavik’s Hotel Loftleidir where, as I noted on Facebook, the interweb comes at a price. If it is free or substantially less costly from the north, where we go tomorrow, I shall post these notes and possibly more from there.

Aside from very little sleep (for me, anyway; Blaine slept like a baby just as he is right now) on the flight from JFK, it hasn’t been a bad trip at all, 24 hours in. We got a pleasant surprise when the Delta agent in Richmond told us that they could, in fact, check our luggage all the way through to Reykjavik. We had thought that we would have to get it from Delta then carry it across terminals at JFK to re-check it with Icelandair. Both bags arrived with us in Reykjavik, even sitting next to each other on the baggage claim carousel.

We did score a window and middle seat on the north side of the plane for the flight to Reykjavik; unfortunately, there were no Northern Lights to be seen. I did play around a bit with handheld photography from the plane as we taxied out and after we took off. The flight itself was uneventful except for some almost wicked turbulence over Newfoundland. Icelandair offers dinner for a charge; we declined, figuring sleep was more important than food. In between trying to sleep and looking out the window for any glint of the aurora, I followed our progress on the seat-back screen.
Speaking of the seats, they were decorated with gems about the Icelandic language, such as this one for the row in which we were sitting. We landed only a bit late, around 7:10 a.m. instead of 6:45 a.m. The disconcerting thing was that it was still pitch-black. I tried another handheld shot or two as we were taxiing to the terminal; this will show you just how dark it was at 7:20 or so. Even passengers arriving to stay in Iceland rather than transfer to a flight to a mainland European city have to clear security upon arrival in Iceland, something I’ve never encountered before. Perhaps because our flight arrived a bit late, the process went quite smoothly, without any delays. We hit the ATM and then, because Keflavik Airport is actually some distance from Reykjavik, hopped a bus into the city. By this time, between 8:00 and 8:30, there was a line of white on the horizon signaling the coming sunrise. Even after our arrival at the hotel a bit after 9:00, the sun wasn’t really what you might call “up.” It will be interesting to see when it starts to set this evening or afternoon. I’m now updating this and can report that it didn’t start to get dark until around 6:00. I was surprised by this until I remembered that the fact that Iceland adheres to Greenwich Mean Time essentially puts it on a permanent two-hour daylight savings time basis. This means more dark in the morning but more light later in the day, after work or school.

In the meantime, we are about to get ready to be picked up to go whale watching. Because of winds off Reykjavik, we will be leaving instead from Grindavik on the south coast, near the Blue Lagoon we will visit later in the week. When we confirmed the pickup time, we learned that there has been a pod of orcas in the area lately, so we might cheat the “whale sightings are not guaranteed” clause in the booking documents. We shall see.

And we did, indeed, see, not orcas but two humpback whales. First, though, obligatory photos of the two of us in the sea suits provided for our comfort.
The other thing provided for comfort, mine anyway, was seasick pills. I took one as we set out and managed to get through the rather rough voyage in much better shape than some people did. I was actually fine as long as I was shooting photos. It was only when I stood around doing nothing that I started to feel disconcerted by the motion. Needless to say, I took a lot of photos. Here are two of my best
and two from Blaine.

A few more random notes. Someone on the plane from New York was somewhat dismissive about our Reykavik Hotel. I, on the other hand, think it’s delightful (except for the interweb tariff). Here’s a shot down the spiral staircase that we take up to our room. And each room is dedicated to a different local artist, as shown by the room number plate on the door of our room. There are also various works of art in the common areas. This photo is outside the lift on our floor while this one is on the floor below.
Before we came, I read four mysteries by Arnaldur Indridason that are set in Reykjavik. I mention this because I had the chance to investigate an explanatory detail given at the start of the first book. Here’s a clip from the local phone book. Yes, the listing is by first name rather than last. Iceland still uses the traditional “son” and “dottir” surname convention, which means that it’s easier to find someone by their first name than last.

Finally, I have to give a shout out to the reason I’m here on this trip as well as throw out a shot I snapped quickly at breakfast. Not bad, if I do say so myself … the photo and the subject thereof.

P.S. on Sunday, from Lake Myvatn. The interweb is free here, so I shall try to post again tomorrow. First attempt at seeing the aurora is in a few hours. Know, though, that our landing at the airport an hour away was delayed due to snow and that the first half of our drive to the hotel was in white-out conditions. That said, it then turned sunny and we toured the lake under a true-blue sky. I also broke my promise not to get a sweater when we happened on a shop in which a local woman was selling sweaters to the shopkeeper. Blaine knows my fiber obsession well enough to know that I was telling the truth when I told him that the yarn in the sweater would cost me more at home than the sweater itself would. Photo to come. First, though, I need to take today's shots off the camera and get ready for later. Fingers crossed for clear skies!

1 comment:

Rich said...

Keep posting! The whale watching looked fun. I hope you see some's one of my dreams to see it. I wanna see a picture! Glad you are having fun. I'm having fun today because the sun is shining, which it almost never does in Rochester between November and May.