Iceland 2017: Sept 22

It’s ridiculous to leave home at 7am for a flight at ten past one. But by the time I’d got petrol, battled rush hour in Winchester and sat through four-way temporary traffic lights in Billingshurst, it was getting on for 11 before I arrived at Gatwick’s Summer Special car park. I have never liked leaving my car in a waiting bay & handing my keys to a stranger but this was official parking & it was right next to Long Stay, with barbed wire fences & gates and… it would have been a much better use of space to just make a traditional car park out of it.

I took the shuttle bus to the airport. Checked in, whizzed through security without getting searched, had a late breakfast of toast (toast with cheese wasn’t available until 12) in a pub actually literally packed to the rafters with men drinking pints of lager and yelling the Drunk Man Cheer.

At 12.25 my gate was announced. I fled & found my plane was Bláfell, Blue Mountain, a flat-topped volcano in northern Iceland. My favourite thing about Icelandair planes is the entertainment system, which I’ve never encountered on low-cost short haul European flights but my second favourite is that all the planes are named after volcanoes.

We were late boarding. We were late moving. We sat for twenty minutes on the edge of the runway – I was watching The Matrix & also watching the time counter on it. We were half an hour late landing at Keflavik, after heading right across Reykjanes and circling over Faxaflói back to the airport through heavy rainclouds – it had been beautiful clear sunny weather all the way to the south coast of Iceland & the couple next to me clung to each other all through the descent. We were late disembarking – staff shortage to operate the jetbridge. Has Icelandic tourism grown too much too fast? Ooh, I don’t know!

I got the bus into town. On the north side was a very bright double full rainbow the likes of which I’ve never seen before. On the south side was black sky & a window so heavily streaked with rain that you couldn’t see out. We stopped at Greyline’s terminal, tumbled into minibuses & went off to our corners of Reykjavik. They now deliver to a dozen tourist bus stops rather than to hotel or guesthouse doors. I’d booked bus stop 6 at the Culture House thinking I might want to have a look at Reykjavik on my way to my guesthouse. In the rain, carrying luggage. I hopped on a different minibus & went to bus stop 8, my actual closest.

Guesthouse Andrea is really an annex of Guesthouse Aurora, which is where I had to go to check in & collect keys and where breakfast is served. Andrea is a basalt-grey fronted house on a residential street in Asgard – the streets around the distinctive Hallgrímskirkja which are named after Norse gods. I’m on Njarðargata, named after the father of the Vanar, Frej & Freyja, if I remember rightly. I may not.

First stop after dropping my luggage was shopping. I was horrified to find my favourite big book/tourist shop has become a Hard Rock Cafe but Eymundsson’s is still intact, fortunately. Other things have changed – there’s something hugely different about the square outside the Greyline office too but I can’t put my finger on what.

Down at Tjörnin, the pond is still water rather than ice so the ducks, geese & swans are not confined yet to the one unfrozen corner. You’re also now requested to not feed them between 15th May and 15th August to help protect ducklings from seagulls.

I was getting hungry by now and it was raining so off I went to 1011 for food. Iceland is getting rid of plastic bags this month – I had my big bag and I’d also brought my Svalbardbutikken shopping bag. I have a mini kitchen in my room – well, I have a sink, a fridge, two hot plates & a couple of cups – so juice, cheese and bread were top of the shopping list. And star crisps, although I had to settle for red cheese as they didn’t have the green ones.

By the time I got back, having got lost in Asgard – Njarðargata is at 90° to Skólavorðustigur, not parallel to it – I was hot and then because the window was open, I was cold. Very cold. I’m going to freeze to death in my campervan on Monday cold. And I’d been up a very long time by then.

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