Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Iceland: More than just a hockey team in "D2: The Mighty Ducks"

Back in early March I got a bit stressed. My stars weren't properly aligning for a spring vacation - though that did eventually happen. Stress was relieved of duty when I got an email from Travel Zoo, or some equivalent travel email, announcing Iceland Air was having a lovely seat sale. Round-trip from Halifax to Reykjavik for certain dates was only $515. I mentally consulted the list of people I knew and started segmenting it into those who 1) have a passport, 2) like travelling, 3) would be able to take time off in June, 4) could afford to drop $515 rather suddenly on a plane ticket, and 5) is fluent in Icelandic. (Note: randomly and suddenly buying plane tickets is one of my favourite things.)
Brain did a few computations and determined my mum to be the most likely travel partner, despite her lack of proficiency in Icelandic. SIGH. I forwarded the email to her and our plane tickets were booked a few days later.
Race forward to June 23 and we were on our way!
As I like lists, here are some thoughts on Iceland:

  • So easy! Iceland is incredibly easy to travel to. I had read a blog post not too long prior to leaving saying that Iceland was a great destination for those easing themselves into a trip abroad. It's easy to find ones way around Reykjavik, everything in the city seemed to be quite close, menus are generally offered in English, everyone speaks English, and there are many tour companies happy to take your money (thrilled, even) which will take you outside the city. I can't comment on the experience of renting a car and exploring, but I can't imagine it would be too difficult provided one kept to the main roads.
  • No smell! Iceland is part of Europe, but Reykjavik doesn't smell like some of the bigger European cities. Maybe this is due to a lack of take-aways (*cough* Edinburgh *cough* London), or it just being more Scandinavian. Apparently Iceland is part of Scandanavia, so that's appropriately appropriate.
  • Blond brigade. One day my mum and I rented bikes and somehow entered the back entry way of a petting zoo we were going to visit. I'm still not sure if we were supposed to follow the honour system and just go pay anyway, but we got distracted by over-the-top cute Icelandic ponies and parades of blond children. No exaggeration: blond children everywhere. Not just kind of blond, but white-blondish. My dark mane and hairy arms would had destroyed their gene pool. Based on some of the older children, the blond starts becoming darker when puberty hits and it's more common to have darker blond, dirty blond, or, gasp, brown hair. We did see a ginger kid, clearly a descendant of Leif Ericson. His name was probably Eric Leifson. Bringing us to...

  • Jennifer Roysdottir. That would be my name in Iceland, "Jennifer, Roy's daughter". My brother would be Jeff Roysson. Seriously. Apparently, due to this I suppose, names in the phone book are listed by first name as opposed to last name. This would also save of a ton of time in PEI, perhaps removing the need for the "Who's your father?" query.
  • Not so pricey. Unless I was doing my currency conversion really wrong, things weren't nearly as expensive as I expected. I thought I would be fighting back tears every time I opened my wallet, but instead I just unceremoniously opened my wallet without displaying emotion as there wasn't need for any emotion. Similar to most vacation destinations, you could pay $5 for street food, or you could spend $60 on a multi-course meal, with a variety of options in between the two price points. Clothing tended to be more expensive, but that seems to be a European thing.

  • What's cheap? The lamb dinner I had was perhaps $17.00, in PEI it would had been $25.00 plus tax and tip.

  • Baseball. Saw some kids playing baseball. I don't think I have ever seen that outside of North America. I saw an article in a free English publication about the team.

  • Jet lag?! I don't know what you're talking about. I don't think I ever got over the not-substantial three-hour time difference. I'm a bit of night owl anyway, so would usually fall asleep around 1:30 or 2:00 and get up for free (!) breakfast around 8:00. Due to my ability to sleep almost anywhere, I usually would then fall asleep on the bus. But what does one do in Reykjavik until 1:30am? YOU AND YOUR MOM HIT UP THE CLUUUUBS! ..... not really. BUT! Given that the sun is was still powering on at 11:30pm, lots of late night walks were a given. And it wasn't just us, the city was full of people out walking. I never actually saw the sun fully vanish, the darkest it got while I was awake was dusky (at 2:00) and I woke up by the blazing sun at 4:00. I loved it.
  • Icelandic ponies. I think they might be wearing wigs. Pretty sure.
  • Hockey. Iceland's hockey team is training hard for the next Goodwill Junior Games, and hoping to finally beat Team USA. It will be an underdog story perfect for a Disney movie. (D2: The Mighty Ducks reference!! Obviously I needed to put in at least one.)

  • Illegal drinking? I think you're allowed to legally drink in public but I never confirmed it. Regardless, my mum and I shared a leftover beverage which *wasn't pop* in the airport's front lawn. I pried off the non-twist-off bottle cap with a pair of tweezers, after my mum bloodied up her knuckles trying to open it with a key.

  • Mind if I smoke? Different than many European cities I've been to, I did not see many smokers in Reykjavik. Curious.
  • "Vik".Reykjavik, Keflavik, Vik, etc. Many town/villages seem to end with 'vik'. According to Google Translate, 'vik' in Iceland means 'difficult'. Which doesn't make a lot of sense. However, in Norwegian it apparently means cove, and in Swedish it means bay. That might make the most sense.
That's all! Not really, Iceland is a fantastic country and I highly recommend visiting it. I have tonnes more to say about it, but apparently blog posts are best as short blurgs as opposed to multi-volume novels. (Yeah, I missed that memo.)