Monday, September 7, 2015

A Long Layover in Iceland

Our plane landed in Keflavik, Iceland just past 6:00 in the morning local time. My challenge was to keep everyone awake for our 10 hour layover and our internal clocks were set to 11pm at night. Our first stop was immigration and we got the first stamp that welcomed us into the Schengen zone. The blond agent spoke great English and said that she had previously traveled to Salamanca and that it was a beautiful area and to enjoy our year in Spain. Customs was a choice of to declare or not to declare but no forms or agents or anything so I assumed we had nothing that needed to be declared in our carry-ons. As soon as we reached the main lobby, there was a young blond man holding up a list of people with reservations for Thrifty car rental and he provided us with front door service to the off site rental office. This was very much appreciated as it was very cold, wet, and windy.

Erika had been in tears since landing when I realized that going horseback riding was going to be out of the question. She's homesick and fighting this move at every chance she gets. She's not making things any easier for herself and instead she's making the experience less than great for the rest of the family. It might have been a mistake to let the girls bring their cells so they can stay in touch with everyone back home. She keeps texting Grandma and crying all over again.

After we checked out our car, a red little 2016 Ford Fiesta, we started off towards Reykjavík about 45 kilometers from the airport. We use T-Mobile for our cell service at home and it now includes free unlimited data and text messaging around the world so it was the perfect plan for us. I could only get messaging to work on my phone and Jose got messaging and data to work on his. I pulled over at the entrance to Keflavik to get my bearings using the map (gasp!). We hopped out of the car to take a quick picture with metal figures that looked like children. The wind was blowing a fine rain at this point.

When we reached Reykjavík, we drove in circles trying to get our bearing on the map. My co-pilot needs some serious navigation lessons. I've been my mother's navigator since I was young so I forget that reading a map does not come naturally to everyone. We found our way to the top of the hill where the church Hallgrímskirkja was located and ran out to take some pictures in the rain. I asked a man walking through the plaza where we might be able to find a restaurant for breakfast at this hour but he said nothing was open except for a bread store down the road and gas stations.

It took a few minutes to drive around and find the "bread store."  It turned out to be quite a busy bakery called Sandholt with a cafe in the back. We decided to dine in and use the WiFi to plan our next step. The kids selected pastries along with hot chocolate. Jose got a sandwich of egg salad and bacon along with a cappuccino. I ordered the quiche of feta, basil, and sun ripened tomatoes with my hot chocolate. The girls didn't like their drinks because they are stronger and richer than the American versions.

We decided to go find one of the local thermal pools and relax in the hot waters. We looked into going to the famous Blue Lagoon but it was fully booked and cost 35€ per person. The local pool was closer to 35€ for two adults, two kids, four towel rentals, and one swimsuit rental for Jose. We picked out Árbæjarlaug as it had great reviews for being a family friendly location with a water slide for the girls. There were lots of signs to guide you through their rules. The first was to remove your shoes before entering the locker room and there were plastic bags to place them in. Next, all the lockers are free. Just place your items inside and remove the key. Everyone is required to take a cleansing shower without any swimsuit on before getting dressed and entering the pools. There is an indoor pool with a water canal to the outside pools so to can easily go back and forth. Each pool was labeled with the approximate temperatures of 37°-38°, 38°-40°, 40°-42°, and 42°-44°. I have yet to learn my Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion so I started off in the coolest water and worked my way all the way up to 40°-42°,that was plenty hot for me! It was still cold, windy, and raining but we felt great sitting in the bubbling waters. The girls love swimming pools wherever we go so it was the perfect alternative to going horseback riding.

We soaked for a couple hours and then headed into Reykjavík to find ice cream and souvenirs. I had read about a place called Eldur and Is and it ended up being a few blocks away from the church and restaurant this morning. We found a parking spot and got out to walk around and explore. We found the ice cream parlor at the end of the rainbow, literally.
The Skólavörðustígur street is painted like a rainbow in honor of Reykjavík's Gay Pride festival that takes place every year in August. We walked around and found our souvenirs and postcards. We found the post office which was closed so the girls wrote their postcards against the door and we popped them into the mailbox. Then it was time to find our way back to the airport and drop off the car. We filled up the gas tank and I found some bungee cords when I went in search of some rope to tie down our suitcases once we hit Madrid. I forgot that small detail in our packing. Off to hopefully get some shut eye on this last leg.


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