It’s been a distracting month…or three or six. But, C shipped out (and is waiting for word on whether he’ll be shipping back in—silly shutdown); I cleaned my closets and thrown out unnecessary tchotchkes in a fall cleaning frenzy; I’ve walked around in perfect weather mooning up at the autumn sun, trying to label that exact shade of sky blue (probably “damn blue”); now, it’s time to write about Iceland.
Iceland had been a dream for a while because it was somewhere beautiful and remote and Sigur Ros made that gorgeous concert movie about it. Most credit to that last bit. C had the dream, too, so we booked it 10 months in advance, a month into dating. I don’t tell many people that because it’s insane, but we got a crazy good deal, y’all.
We threw in a camper van, some (one) manual transmission lessons to drive that camper van, and a couple of water-resistant road maps. That adjective is very important in Iceland.
Iceland Fact #1: It’s extremely friendly to foreign tourists. In fact, it relies on foreign tourists. Most of the population speaks impeccable English, and the airport is well-known as a hub for a couple days layover on the way to Europe. You can hop into the country for a few waterfalls and hot dogs, then hop back on the plane to Paris.
Fact #2: There’s a famous hot dog stand in Reykjavik we hit coming and going. I think they’re good. I ate both of mine too fast to give a definitive answer (cold + hunger), but I can tell you for sure they had fried onions on them. Great texture.
Reykjavik is situated on a slight hill along a bay. The name translates to “smoky bay.” And it’s too cute. The city is easy to walk and to navigate, even jetlagged and running on zero sleep. We dropped our bags at the hostel (more on that later), walked down to the bay then up to Hallgrimskirkja, a modern hulk of a church that towers atop the hill over the generally two- and three-story city center. Quick rides to the top of the steeple afforded a good view of the bright capital.
We also checked out the National Museum of Iceland to brush up on Viking history. The small population today descended from both Scandinavian and Celtic settlers. It’s a fun mix.
Over a happy hour beer, we decided we were too old and too tired to be sharing a hostel dorm with eight other travelers and lucked into a private room at a new place with an en suite bathroom, a view and some serious Scandinavian design chops. That was a lesson, after rolling easily through packed European hostels. I’m past that point. I need some quiet space while traveling.
We drove the camper van to the Blue Lagoon the next day, dog paddled around in the milky blue water then ate sandwiches in the parking lot. Not a lot of glamorous meals on this trip because Iceland is a lot more expensive than Iowa.
Fact #3: Campers have the run of Iceland. We heard various rules while circumnavigating the island: Campers can stay anywhere for one night, campers can stay anywhere as long as its public land, campers can stay outside national parks…
Confused, and interested in having an enclosed place to pee during the freezing night, we relied on the little tent icons on our (waterproof) maps, and ended up camping for free most of the time anyway because it was so late in the season. Most of those sites were spare fields next to farmhouses. The owners supplied a bathroom, and you could pay extra for showers or, that first night by the ocean, duck eggs. Also that first night, we shared the place with a handful of other campers. By the end of the trip, we spent each night solo. That was a brand new breed of quiet.