St. Louis - Keflavík - Reykjavík
Having mostly started our previous vacations in the morning, somehow leaving for the airport in the evening made things seem less real.
It didn’t feel like I was really on vacation. In fact, that feeling wouldn’t hit until I was furiously waiting for a checked bag I thought would never come. But I’ll get to that later…
Admittedly, we got to the airport in a manner any dad would deem prudent—four hours ahead of time. We thought we’d get a jump on the crowd, but WOW had other plans. We waited nearly 45 minutes before the desk attendants showed and started checking bags.
In the meantime, we sat at a Starbucks—paid $5 for a drink I couldn’t be bothered to actually want—and watched the desk. It was an exercise equally inane and frustrating. It was one of many small frustrations that threatened to loom over our holiday. Considering we were privileged enough to afford an international flight to a remote country, our bougie problems weren’t actually problems, though.
That being said, Jodie did start her trip, before even stepping foot in the airport, with some good old fashioned identity fraud. It involved Florida swap trash—I assume—paying off a $200+ outstanding–I assume, again—water bill and $50 worth of Dominos pizza. To paraphrase Hannibal Burress, I hope your kids forget how to read, you sunburned, drunk on mouthwash, swamp ape.
Eventually, WOW got things moving. But then we had to deal with the TSA, who, frankly, couldn’t be trusted to run a child’s lemonade stand. Not only was it a training day (one infinitely less cool than the Denzel movie) but these government show ponies confiscated the jar of peanut butter in our carry on. Apparently, peanut butter is a liquid and/or gel, even though it’s obviously neither.
So much for cheap peanut butter sandwiches on the road.
The flight was fairly uneventful. I downloaded the new Lost in Space Netflix series to watch, which starts with a crash landing because I’m that sort of optimist. Once we were at altitude, I downed two gin and tonics, as you do, when you’re trying to force yourself to sleep during a six-hour, overnight flight.
We disembarked with surprising efficiency at Keflavík International Airport, but I assume that’s standard in Nordic countries. Our next frustration met us at the baggage claim, or at least, it met me. Jodie found her bag immediately, while I watched the same eight suitcases make their rounds like an asshole for 20 minutes before I went to customer service.
I was filled with rage, but had to keep my cool in this buttoned-down country. Also, I think people who yell at service employees deserve their own ring in Hell. I filled out a form and talked to a rep—you know, all those hoops you’re supposed to jump through that ultimately don’t do much.
I was left wondering how you can not find a giant bag on a sparsely populated direct flight. I also started to worry that I would have to make do with the contents of my carry-on bag. But praise Odin, my bag finally showed up at the “odd-shaped” bag dump, even though, objectively, my suitcase is a square.
Next, we found our car rental rep, and he brought us to our Suzuki Jimny, an SUV that a Smurf could drive. We got a deal on the price, and upon inspecting the vehicle, I quickly saw why. If I’m being charitable, you might describe it as “dinged.”
But nonetheless, Jodie loved it.
She proceeded to drive it to Reykjavík while simultaneously getting an intense forearm workout. Oh, how one takes quality power steering for granted. With her driving, it left me to watch out the window. I saw an almost alien landscape pass by. What grit or pure insanity it must have taken to land here and say, “Yeah, this is our new home.”
In Reykjavík, we checked into our hotel and took a nap. We learned this lesson traveling to Ireland several years ago. After waking up drooling to my phone’s alarm, we prepared to explore. We headed down the hill from the hotel to Reykjavík’s main drag.
We, but more accurately I, had decided on eating at Skal! In the Hlemmur Mathöll. We sat down at the counter and easily ordered two beers, Briós, underneath a buzzing neon Skal! sign. Locals and other travelers alike ordered around us. It’s borderline infuriating how well Nordic people speak English, while I could realistically only talk to a German baby.
We started with the beef tartare with horseradish, miso and breadcrumbs. I got the lamb ribs because Iceland is renowned for its lamb, and I’m determined to eat all the best lamb in the world. New Zealand, you’re next. Jodie got the Arctic char, which we can’t get particularly fresh, that often in the Midwest. The food emanated Iceland while still taking flavors from elsewhere.
Afterward, we walked around the city heading toward Hallgrímskirkja. The wind stung my ears as we walked uphill, but it was worth it upon seeing the church for the first time. I’m not religious. However, to quote Ron Swanson, “Those bastards know how to build an edifice.” Even without religion, one can’t help being filled with awe in its presence.
We walked inside among the other tourists and listened to the traditional pipe organ bellow—beautiful but ominous. Maybe it only seemed ominous because I’ve seen too many vampire movies.
We left and headed to the harbor, as Jodie is often fond of, growing up with trips to the Carolina coast. Luckily, Kex Hostel (and bar) was nearby.
The eclectic, hip bar was full of travelers like us—few Icelandic people, except for the staff. But there were plenty of people aside from Americans. Different accents and and languages surrounded us. We had a few pints overlooking the sea in candlelight. It was a fitting nightcap to our first day in Iceland.
I settled in for the night—full of Icelandic vodka and Danish beer—ready to head to Akureyri.