(Note from Future Chelsea: I’m going to experiment here and try to consolidate the raft of vacation pictures into a few super-posts instead of a scattered basket of one at a time.)
Thanks to Michael’s epic super planning (and, incidentally, going to work all the time and making the monies), we got to fulfill a lifelong dream for my mom and take her to London for a week! The trip was not without its challenges, but even with the unexpected difficulties, it was such a privilege. So much fun, so many fascinating sights, and thanks to Instagram I won’t lose all my memories right away! We definitely plan to go back in a few years. I wonder how much time one would have to spend in London to feel like they had seen everything they wanted to…
As you might be able to tell, this is not London. We were supposed to have a three hour layover in Reykjavik, but our flight from MSP left two hours late. The flight attendants assured us they’d hold the connection for us, but despite the fact that we were off the plane before the connection even left the gate, by the time we got through passport control, our plane was long gone. Michael is awesome, though, and walked right up to the service desk and got us taken care of.
Perhaps because Icelandair’s parent company is responsible for most of the tourism industry in Iceland, they treated us unbelievably well while we were there. At a US airport, I would have felt lucky to get a room in an adjacent airport hotel for the night, and more likely expected a patch of the terminal floor for a nap and a coupon for a Subway sandwich. Instead, we got two very nice hotel rooms, multi-course meals at very nice restaurants, and the long bus ride from the airport into Reykjavik was paid for as well. My rough estimate puts the pile of vouchers around nine hundred dollars.
Regrettably, I was too busy staring at the landscape to get any pictures of our drive into the city. The surrounding countryside was beautiful in a very unearthly way. Dark black dirt and what seemed like only four types of plant – a short grass, a shorter grass, lichens, and purple lupines. Mountains in the distance. Craggy shore, tiny houses, crevasses and far-off steam plumes.
We got mom installed in her room, dropped off our bags, and went to look around the city. Four days before the solstice and it’s still pretty chilly. I was kind of freaked out from the change of plans (and probably from the fatigue), but I found yarn, one block from our hotel! Everything’s going to be fine.
From our hotel window. We’re right on the main street of downtown Reykjavik. Iceland wasn’t even on my short list of “places I’d like to travel someday,” but it definitely is now.
We had our complimentary three-course lunch at CenterHotel
Thingholt’s Ísafold Restaurant
and then went for a wander. Following the glinting green cube in the distance took us down to the Harpa Concert Hall, a giant convention center on Faxa Bay.
This wasn’t the plan but I’m not sorry it happened. Thanks to the friendly Scottish woman who offered to take our picture. (I’m actually impressed at how swollen my ankles got on the plane, so I feel the need to point it out here. Apologies. Go back to looking at the lovely mountains.)
We went back to the hotel for a nap and then back out again. Mom was too tired to do any exploring after our dinner at SKÝ Restaurant
(I remember that the food was delicious, but honestly was hard-pressed to pay much attention – the view of the bay from the 8th floor was taking up the bulk of my brain.) (I do remember there was skyr with berries, at least.), so we took her back and did a little more exploring.
I love that we got this opportunity. Unfortunately, between the evening flight and the jet lag and the adrenaline, we did eventually have to give in and go back to the hotel. I wanted to look at this street art show, and visit the Hallgrímskirkja, but I was stumbling and slurring my words by the time we got back up to the main street. To be fair, everyone in the city seemed a tiny bit drunk from the unending daylight, but I am always weak in the face of sleep.
I think we settled for four hours of sleep. It never got dark, of course, but I slept like an angel. I remember being awakened by some guys singing in the street around 3 o’clock in the morning – based on the accent, they were Icelandic but singing an American song. I remember smiling as I turned over to go back to sleep, looking forward to telling Michael about it, but by the time the alarm went off I’d forgotten what the song was.
Farewell, unexpected hotel. You were a delightful surprise.
Waiting for our shuttle to the airport, looking at the bay and the few people actually out on the street at four o’clock in the morning. I suspect Icelanders don’t get a lot of sleep in the summer, but they’re relatively cheerful about it.
Delicious airport breakfast. I’ve since noticed a few different kinds of skyr (which is a kind of cheese, not the yogurt it disguises itself as) at Target, but nothing like as good as what we had while we were there. I shall not discuss here what turned into a very poor experience at Keflavik Airport – suffice it to say we made it out and onto our 22-hours late connection after a great and unexpected adventure.