Iceland - Day 1

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Entering Keflavík

Botanical Gardens

Refecting Pond at Gardens

Geyser Sculpture

Laekjargata, Reykjavík

Tjörnin

Reykjavík Fishing Harbor

Restaurant at Viğey

Icelandic Horses at Sunset

We arrived at Keflavík Airport early on a gray, rainy Sunday morning. We went through customs, got our luggage, and used the ATM machine located at the airport to get our first supply of Icelandic króna (ISK). By then our driver, Bjorn, had located us. Bjorn helped us into his van and we got our first look at this incredible country. Wherever we looked, there were no trees to be seen - only the lava which melted across the ground perhaps a thousand years ago. Bjorn was a very interesting speaker and talked with us about his country for the 40-minute ride into Reykjavík - that name means "Smoky Bay", a misnomer, since the "smoke" is really steam from geothermal springs.

We checked into our accommodations for the next two nights at Hotel Island. Our rooms were somewhat small, although certainly nice. We ate breakfast and then got complementary passes and walked several blocks to the Laugardalur swimming pool. As with all the public pools in Iceland, it is the custom to first shower with soap, then put on your bathing suit. We then entered the pool area outside, which incidentally is open year-round. There are several jacuzzis, each a bit hotter than the one next to it. The main pool is also heated, but it's not as warm as the jacuzzis. Many people were swimming laps, enjoying the slides, and playing basketball in the water. While relaxing in one of the jacuzzis, we met a woman who was originally from the U.S., and had met her Icelandic husband while both were attending university in North Carolina. He became an ambassador and was posted all over the world, and although she is a widow now, her life is in Iceland. It was fascinating to talk with her.

After an hour or so, we changed back into our slacks and sweaters and continued walking in the Laugardalur area. We enjoyed the Botanical Gardens, with their statues, ponds, and a geyser sculpture.

We returned to our hotel for a short nap (90 minutes - 2 hours) which was just enough to take the edge off of not having been able to sleep on our flight. We took a taxi to the city's center, and walked down Laekjargata and then by the Lake (Tjörnin). The weather by now had become sunny - with a brilliant blue sky. We browsed in some of the shops, and got the kids a light lunch at McDonalds, which has a surprise - a beautiful enclosed courtyard with flowers in a garden setting! We walked around the fishing harbor and saw a carnival, which was set up, but either we were too early or it just wasn't very crowded. This being a holiday, we had heard that many of the 150 thousand or so people who live in Reykjavík were elsewhere.

Wanting to sample public transportation here, we stopped at the bus terminal where we studied the bus routes. Then we took the #4 bus back to Sundahofn harbor, where we waited for the ferry to Viğey Island. The Captain (I believe his name was Gisli) and the mate (Almar) were quite friendly, entertaining us as one recorded a new greeting on his cell phone's voicemail function.

The trip to the island took perhaps 5 minutes, where we walked up the hill to a charming restaurant by the same name. We gave the owners our printout from the "Eye on Iceland" website review, and after dining there I must say that we all agreed it is an exceptional restaurant. Mike had salmon, I had a special lamb and beef, and the kids had the beef tenderloin. The sauces were excellent, and the vegetables - especially the mushrooms - were exquisite.

The sun was still bright but soon to be setting as we headed toward the 10 PM ferry. We walked back to the hotel - past the swimming pool - and fell into bed! The vacation was off to a great start!

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