Iceland 2011: Reykjavik

The final blog of the trip. I had breakfast, packed and went out into Reykjavik at dawn. It was a clear morning and felt far too warm for my usual five layers and I was very tempted to run back to the hotel to abandon my mittens and a couple of jumpers.

I went down to the seafront. The snow on the way was deep and crunchy and very winter-wonderlandy. On the seafront, I stood and took more photos of Esja and the white mountains in the distance and then it struck me that although the sky over Esja was clear and pastel-coloured because of the dawn, the sky over downtown was black – really black, really maybe-a-volcano-has-erupted black. I wandered down past Harpa to the harbour but before I got there, the snow started.

At first it was weird snow – it was very very sharp, the sort that cuts your face if you don’t take shelter, and Harpa is a great shelter. I looked up into the structure and realised finally how the lights in it work – the front is panels of coloured glass which glow weirdly and for a couple of days I thought the light was just reflections from cars or something like that. But no, there are coloured strip lights inside.

The snow stopped so I went out again and tried to look at the harbour but it started again – huge soft flakes this time. I walked along the main shopping street in the snow and it had stopped by the time I reached my street, so I crossed the road and took photos of the horse statue and of the coloured houses and of my footprints. It was weird walking back where I’d just come from, through fresh snow and seeing my own footprints, looking like two people with one leg each walking in different directions.

I went back to the hotel, checked out and got picked up for the airport. This time I got a good view of Reykjanes. I want to see it in summer when it’s a black lava field of nothingness but this week it’s a white wilderness and it’s stunning. I could see the power station from the main road – there was a massive cloud of steam rising up and next to it, a smaller fainter haze of steam that was the Blue Lagoon.

At the airport I checked in using the automatic machine. It had defeated me at Heathrow and I’d had to check in using a real person because the machine ignored my passport but I was determined to do it this time. Once again, the machine ignored my passport. I tried “I do not have my document” and it processed and processed and processed and then gave me an error. I moved onto the next machine and that one did work. As soon as I put my passport in the slot, the lights turned red and it scanned and gave me a luggage sticker and a boarding pass and I handed over my bag and went outside to take photos of the sculptures – a dinosaur claw breaking out of an egg and a stained glass section of rainbow.

I got through security without being searched and wandered the shops. I bought a lava stone bracelet and looked at the Blue Lagoon lotions and potions and then found a cafe that sold bread and butter and apple juice and then went to my gate. On the way, I passed a plane being loaded and it had its name on the nose – Eyjafjallajokull, so that got a photo. All Icelandair planes are named after volcanoes. I’d flown out on Eldborg.

At the gate, it began to dawn on me a lot of people had trolleys to get their stuff to the plane. Hand luggage, carry-on, whatever you want to call it. If you need a trolley to get it through departures, you’ve got too much of it. If you can’t carry it, you shouldn’t be taking it on, and that also applies to wheely suitcases because I always but always fall over them when I’m trying to get through the plane door.

Also, if you can stand in a queue watching people get their passports and boarding passes scanned for ten minutes, then get to the desk before you realise you need your passport, then you shouldn’t be allowed on the plane. (Planes would be much less crowded if I ran an airline)

This plane was Keilir, which is the conical volcano I spotted from Halgrimskirkja and which I could see as we drove across Reykjanes. I’d spotted blankets on the way over and wondered how to get one. Turns out you just jump up and grab one so I settled down in my seat with no neighbours, snuggled up under my blanket and spent the journey playing with the screen. On the way over, it had frozen over Scotland and I’d been stuck watching the map for two hours. This time it worked fine. The girls in front of me, on the other hand, their screens froze and the stewardess switched them off and switched them back on again. And switched off my entire row as well. Once it was back on, I watched the Unique Iceland documentary, which shows tourists what to see and finishes with the line “And finally, say it with me…. Eyjafjallajokull!”, then I watched an episode of the Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother and finally, half an hour of Titanic before we touched down in Heathrow. Where it was far too hot for all the layers I’d put on in Reykjavik and I went out into a London December in just a t-shirt.

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