Iceland – Day 1

I got a job interview!

It’s always good to start with good news, right?

The company is in Phoenix and sells life insurance. It’s not exactly my dream scenario but it’s a job (until I hear back from the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, I’ll take what I can get). There’s nothing I detest more than job interviews, but I need a job so we’ll see how it goes. I have high hopes!

So, Iceland.

Iceland.

Where do I begin?

I suppose it all began with the flight across the ocean, but then that started with the purchase of tickets, and that began with a discussion. So, the discussion. How did I come about the decision to go to Iceland? It happened in a day, in a matter of hours. My parents and I were planning a trip for after I graduated NAU in May. I wanted to do a road trip up the West coast, through San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, and possibly up to Vancouver, but that was looking a bit expensive so we started talking about just flying to Seattle. I looked up flights to Seattle. I looked up flights to Iceland. It turned out that me flying alone to Iceland would be cheaper than the three of us flying to Seattle, so I went for it! I didn’t have to hear “that’s okay with me if that’s what you want to do” more than once to book the flight (so, really, this all started with a road trip being too expensive…. whoops).

This was the beginning of April. I graduated May 14th, and my flight was May 30th.

Iceland had been at the top of my list for years and I was giddy with excitement, so for the next month I had fun spending countless hours researching restaurants and attractions… a slim margin of which I actually ended up going to, of course.

Day 1 – May 30th & May 31st – Two Days for the Price of One!

I can never sleep the night before I travel, and I can’t sleep on planes, so bare in mind everything I’m about to tell you was done on two hours of sleep.

I left Phoenix at 6 AM on May 30th and got to the Keflavik airport at 7 AM on May 31st, after a 7 hour layover at JFK which very nearly killed me.

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The airport is a 45 minute drive southwest of Reykjavik so they have buses that you can book in advance (or when you get there). Luckily, I caught my bus, but, unluckily, the bus driver was terrible. I actually thought I wasn’t going to see Reykjavik after all. But I survived, and met a guy from Canada on the bus. He had a really cool nose ring, beautiful eyes, and long hair. He was a musician and we talked about instruments, and languages, and travel. After Iceland he was going on to Norway and Sweden. I told him how beautiful Sweden is, and wished I was going with him.

I walked to my hostel but couldn’t check in until 3, so I just left my suitcase in their locked luggage room and headed over to the parliament where the free city walking tours meet. It took me a while to find it, as two different people told me it was the grey building in front of the square with the statue, and there is more than one gray building in front of a square with a statue, in the same general area in Reykjavik, so…. Anyway , I found it, and walked around the city for two hours with the tour guide. It was a great way to familiarize myself with the city and get a better idea of where things are located, even if it was freezing cold and I was shaking the entire time. The most notable parts of the tour were learning about a graveyard that was turned into a park, a gorgeous cat I saw (cats are everywhere in Reykjavik. I love it), the city hall, and my first long-anticipated glimpse of the Harpa concert hall. The city hall is located on the edge of a “small pond” that the locals like to visit to feed the ducks. The best part was a piece of artwork hanging inside that was made to resemble a vagina. I think that really says a lot about Iceland and its view of women, which is absolutely refreshing. But more on that later.

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So after the tour, and a taste of free licorice (yum!), I walked over to Hallgrímskirkja. For me, this is the landmark of Reykjavik (well, that and the Harpa, which I got a view of from the walking tour), and it’s so much bigger and better in person. It took my breath away when it first came into view, especially since I came from an angle that isn’t as common in photographs.

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70% of Iceland is Lutheran, though it is not a predominately religious country

I didn’t explore the church more because I was starving, so I went on ahead to Cafe Loki which was just across the street. I ordered the traditional Icelandic meat soup, the first bowl of many during my trip. It’s simple, tasty, and healthy with just lamb, potatoes, carrots, and onions.

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the lamb in all the restaurants in Iceland comes from lambs who are allowed to graze freely wherever they so please — pictures of sheep to come

I started heading in the direction of my hostel, and stopped at the Handknitting Association of Iceland and bought some mittens before my hands froze off. Then I spotted 12 Tonar, a famous record shop that was among my top destinations in Reykjavik.I had a couple hours to kill before I could check into the hostel, so I walked in and immediately discovered my happy place. The owner of the shop, who is also the owner of one of Iceland’s premier record labels, greeted me and asked if he could help me. I was a little star struck so I fumbled a bit as I asked him for recommendations for someone who likes Sigur Ros. He pointed me towards several CDs, and I took them over to the couches where they let you sit and listen to anything you want (happy place!). I didn’t spend nearly as much time in there as I could have because the room was starting to spin (two hours of sleep and two days of traveling, remember?), so I purchased the best CD I heard and went to my hostel. The CD actually turned out to be amazing – I am in love!

Here’s one of the songs from the CD. I highly recommend Svanur as well.

I was planning on taking a nap, but when I got into my room (an all-female room with 6 beds), there was a Canadian girl in there who was absolutely adorable and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. After a short rest I ended up going to dinner with her and two of her other friends. We went to Icelandic Fish & Chips, where I got the baked fish dish. It was the first fish I’ve ever liked. Before I went to Iceland I hated fish, but now I love it! I always wondered if I hated seafood because I never had anything fresh in Arizona, and now I have my answer: fresh fish is delicious! And boy does Iceland have fresh fish…I would live here in a heartbeat.

After our meal we went to the Volcano House (which was actually attached to the restaurant) and watched the movie about volcanoes. As far as movies about volcanoes go, it was pretty cool. It was nice to have some background for the things I would be seeing in the next few days. One of their other friends ran into us after the show and we walked over to the famous hot dog stand so she could get some food (famous because Bill Clinton ate there… I don’t get it either. But apparently it IS pretty good). They were doing a comedy tour after that, but I had to get some sleep. On the way back I stopped by the 24/7 market to get groceries. I needed some produce that I could eat for breakfast and on my tours. There I encountered one of the mysteries of my trip: my receipt says 76 isk for the big bag of apples and nearly 700 isk for one bunch of bananas (that’s about 60 cents and 5 dollars). Typo? It’s anyone’s guess (yes I know, such an exciting mystery).

Anyway, I made it back to the hostel and conked out. I needed that sleep for the week ahead!

The main thing that struck me throughout the day was how I was able to talk to people. Usually I’m very shy and quiet. I don’t typically make friends easily, but I was able to meet some really nice people. It’s an experience I’ll never forget, and the main thing I’ll take from this trip. Traveling really does open me up and make me more confident and comfortable with myself. While traveling I’m not only exploring a new culture but also my own mind, and that’s something I wouldn’t have understood before I left the country for the first time (when I went to Sweden a few years ago). That is why travel is so important, not to mention the empathy it fosters for other people.

Travel far enough, you meet yourself – David Mitchell

Some more pictures from the day:

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Day 2 to come! I can’t promise that it will be tomorrow, but it will be soon! I don’t imagine it will be as long as this post was, but then again I can’t promise that either.

Thank you for hanging around and making it this far! þar til við hittumst aftur!

 

Andrea

xx

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