Thursday, June 10, 2010

Iceland Day 0: Reykjavik

I blog from my tiny hotel room at the CenterHotel Klöpp in charming downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. It's 5:30 a.m. for my Pacific Time-body, though already 12:30 p.m. here. Despite having gotten only about 11 hours of sleep (about six of those were of any quality) in the past two days I am already loving it and eager to hit the town. But first a quick blog entry.

What I've learned: 10:40 p.m. is way too early for a red eye flight to NYC. Despite exhaustion before getting on board the plane, I managed only about 3.5 hours of sleep on the flight and never more than about 90 consecutive minutes. Following that with a 7+ hour layover at Terminal 7 at JFK blows, too. I ended up eating McDonald's twice! But I did get a great 15-minute chair massage (me sitting in one of those backward chairs getting massaged by somebody), which then included an additional 20 minutes in the Joe Mayo massage chair (Sharper Image style chair that squeezes you and beats you up but it feels good).

IcelandAir names its planes after the country's volcanoes. None are named after the one that just erupted in the glacier Eyjafjallajokull. Mine was Askja. I had one of the only seats without a working seat monitor. :( But no worries, an incredibly uneventful flight (in a good way). Oddity: of the at most four Asians I saw on the flight, three of us were in one row and we were all solo travelers.

This is my first trip out of the country in any real way. With all due respect to the sovereignty of Southern Ontario (Toronto) and Nogales, Mexico (which is directly across from Nogales, AZ), this time it counts—as in, without a passport this one cannot happen. As an international traveling virgin, I didn't expect having to go through airport security after I landed, which we did at Keflakvik Airport. It wasn't a horrible thing, but did take a while.

Being in the northernmost capital city in the world in June means all the elementary school lessons about daylight are true. This was the darkness we were greeted by at 12:30ish a.m. Or 0:30ish a.m. since we're on 24-hour time.

As Pekke, our FlyBus driver said, this is as dark as it gets and were the country not blanketed in clouds, we'd see the sun and the lights wouldn't even be on.

The European hotel experience took a bit of adjustment. When I got dropped off at the hotel, there was no one at the desk. I had emailed the hotel last week asking whether I needed to make special arrangements since I was getting in at like 1:30 a.m., but they assured me that this wouldn't be a problem with their 24-hour desk service. I saw a jacket and messenger bag on the chair but um, no human and no sign saying "be back in" or "if not here do ..."

After 10 minutes of literally standing there and calling out "hello" a few times, I pick up a phone on the desk and think about trying to call the hotel, and voila it rings before I dial. It sounds like someone picks up, but there's no voice. After a few seconds I say "hello" and no answer. Then a few seconds after that I see a guy emerge from a hall carrying a cell phone and he checks me in. Nice guy who explained that the only thing I'm going to be able to get to eat at 2 a.m. is from 1011, which is Iceland's 7-11. Btw, the few Icelanders I've met so far all speak practically perfect English.

The walk around Reykjavik at 2 a.m. was AWESOME. It's narrow streets, beyond safe feeling, even the high-end stores leave their display lights on and there aren't any bars on the windows or any tagging, (except on one sign at the bus station). Being June it's also very light out. I'm starved and exhausted but I'm so energized by being in such a different place that I walk for a good 25 minutes.

When I get to the 1011 it's underwhelming. Lots of days-old looking pre-made sandwiches, frozen goods (but I have no microwave) and American food (just like America!). :( I ended up buying an OJ and a Myllu Möffin, which was a muffin. More specifically an "original American style" which I didn't notice until I got to my hotel room. Other signs of America included a KFC, Subway, two A-Team bus stop posters and a restaurant on the road from the airport to Reykjavik called "American Style." In a country where cured shark is the national food, I am going to do my best to avoid.

Icelandic word learned: "Takk" (pronounced / tok /) which is "thanks."

And with that I'm off to start Day 1 in Iceland.

1 comment:

conbon said...

i wish i could give you a hug or at least a pat on the back as you break your out-of-the-country virginity. wohoo!