A reasonably timed flight for once – well atleast the departure from Saskatoon! My sister came to the airport to see me off – I didn’t think she would and it meant a lot. Tyler, Erica and Ryan came to see James off and I know that also meant alot to him. It was a very weird feeling, like we should only be leaving for a few weeks or months tops, but with a tension and awkwardness that suggested otherwise. I did OK until my Moms eyes were welling…
A flight to Toronto is a flight to Toronto (especially when flying Air Canada) Luckily our luggage was checked through to Iceland – we only had 2 hours in T.O., had no boarding passes, a long walk to do, get through T.O. security – too much in too short of time to ALSO wait for luggage! Unsure of what to do about our lack of boarding passes or where to go we headed to the International section of T.O. airport – where we recieved sketchy instructions to the boonies of the airport to check-in with Iceland Air. Luckily few wander into the section of Pearson airport and we were able to waltz through check-in and security in minutes. Security continued on the routine of stopping me and “ruffling” aka briefly patting one part of my bag down. The woman was being coaxed into it by all the other guards lolling about, but I am beginning to wonder if that is what the green dot on my passport from Paris stands for… It was a decent flight- one that lets you closer your eyes and wake up to a new city. We had to bring a lunch with us, as Iceland air doesn’t feed you free of charge – but my apples from the tree in Saskatoon looked way better than the 8 Euro fruit salad (of melon and rouge grapes) the lady beside me had. Bur for a flight from Saskatoon to London costing ~$500, what can you expect? I admit, I was worried but it turned out to be and average 3 star airline, like Air Canada with 6ft, naturally blonde stewards, that just happened to be from a bankrupt country!
We arrived early, ungodly hour of the morning early. Whether due to this hour, the bankruptcy, or just a more European mindset- Iceland did things a bit different. Rarely have I entered a country and had the border control guy not ask a question let alone not say anything – or even look to see if my passport matched myself.
We took the Flybus into Reykjavik and were dropped off at the Bolholt Apartments. A nice little place, $20 pp/pn and had a little kitchenette with cereal, a fridge and toaster! It seems during off peak season the front desk is rarely managed. With the help of another couple, we were able to get our keys – by dialling a number, to get a code to open a box, which has a key, which opens another box with the room keys in it, again – different. After a quick nap and a nibble on dry cereal, we headed out on the “Golden Circle Tour” – which covers ~300 km from Reykavik to central Iceland and back. We had a tour guide who either had no chance of being funny, or just couldn’t deliver a joke in English, when he made sense, he was quite informative. The first stop on the tour was the Pingvellir National Park – the site of the convergence of teh North American and Eurasian tectonic plates – which move ~ 2 inches/year. This park also hosts the first site of Parliament in Iceland and the “National Burial Plot” – which isn’t necessarily reserved for Icelandic natives. The president of Slovakia showed up to check out the plates with a pretty fancy car with #1 on the plates. Our next stop was at the Gullfoss or Golden Waterfall. The surrounding area was quite beautiful – some spots were the Saskatchewan – moonscape looking parts of the rest of Iceland but broke into hills and cliffs mixing a Mazda commercial and the toast to Ned on the Irish cliffs in Waking Ned Devine. There were no barriers or warning signs to keep you from falling form the cliffs and into the abyss of Gullfoss. The roar of the waterfall, the drop of temperature as you made the descent, the mist coming off it was all truly spectacular. The freedom and closeness to such a powerful state of nature was something that looking overtop of Niagara Falls doesn’t match.
Following Gullfoss we began the circle back and stopped to see the geysirs (apparently pronounced, “gaysur”). We were particularily interested in the the geysir Strokkur – exploding ~25m every 3-5 minutes.
Tips for watching Geysirs:
- sneak up and wait
- water will slowly fill up
- bubble comes up
Careful where you stand or you may get doused in hot, rotten egg smelling water.
After the tour we were in dire need of food and sleep; the tour guide recommended a fplace to eat with a whale and puffin menu – but I could never eat a puffin! We had delicious Thai food instead. It was required we try some Icelandic food and we did manage three out of the “50 Must Try Foods” book in under 48 hours – not too bad. The first was Skyr , a yogurt type delight that had indiscernably illustrated fruits on the labels and would hold your spoon vertical (however it is amazingly yummy, the best type of yogurt I’ve ever tasted – James). Second was much more atrocious and only warranted one sip – Maltextrakt. Don’t the the “k” and the joining of the words fool you – it really is malt extract. Those poor, poor Icelandic folk at Christmas. Back to the delicious part is Appelsin, a carbonated beverage tasting of Orange Crush and Vanilla – nothing like apples as I would have assumed.
While Iceland may not be a stopover I would always make, I would like to go back- if nothing else but for more Skyr and to go to the Blue Lagoon. Alas, we had to depart for London and they are far more sticky about bringing yogurt through customs.
Fun Fact from Inflight Entertainment System: 98% of Icelanders believe in fairies and trolls.