A Night at the Top of the World.

The beautiful, imposing church at the center of Reykjavik. Had to look up the name on Google because it just doesnt seem to stay in my brain: Hallgrimskirkja. Icelandic is a kooky language. You should have seen the street names!

(Note: Yes, it’s true. I’m home and have been for three weeks already. But the blog isn’t complete and I JUST CAN’T STAND to leave it so. Continuing onward then…)

Flying fromInverness to Birmingham was a cinch. A bit of a wait, a bit of looking around for the Icelandair counter, and I was off through security once again. Wow. Birmingham airport is serious about security. A very long series of lines. A lot of people. All kinds of people going all kinds of places. Who needs Heathrow? Not me. Plenty to see right here.

Meandering through the lines at Birmmingham security. The lady behind me, in full-face covering and traveling with small children. I talked with the kids and joked with them in hopes of making them more comfortable as they went through the line. Hope it worked.

Made it through security and to my gate with plenty of time. On to the next flight. Destination: Reykjavik. From England, it’s only about three hours. I love Icelandair because the planes are super clean, the announcements are in Icelandic (crazy, kooky sounding language) and they have these cool overhead lights that cast northern-lights like graphics on the interior ceilings of the plane. I sat between an Indian woman flying home from a visit to her home country and an American woman who’d been visiting her son working in in England. I don’t usually chat with my fellow passengers past the initial hello and a few friendly comments. But compared experiences of visits, food, the Brits and travel through the entire flight. A pleasant way to pass the time. Plus knitting, of course. And watching the northern lights!

Arriving in Reykjavik, I was supposed to find the “fly bus” into town. Okay, here’s one of those components of travel that makes absolutely no sense to you when someone explains it. The city of Reykjavik is about 40 minutes away from the airport. To get into the city, you buy a ticket for the “fly bus”. The ticket gets you on the bus and comes with a transfer ticket as well. The bus goes to a terminal in town, then you switch to a smaller shuttle (based on your ticket color) which does drop offs at all the girls, guest houses and hostels. Yikes! Can’t I just take a taxi? Answer: sure you can. And it will cost you about a million dollars. So, just bite the bullet and get a fly bus ticket (round trip about $50). Luckily, most everyone arriving in Reykjavik airport is going into the city. You just sort of follow the crowd. They look as bewildered as you do. Once on the bus, you can hear all the people saying to each other, in a variety of languages, “What a very strange system! I hope this all works!” (I know that’s what they were saying because that’s what the English-speakers were saying to each other and everyone on the bus had the exact same expression on their face.

Guess what? It basically worked! I got to my guesthouse. Unfortunately, I was preceded to the check in counter by a big group of German visitors. They were very confused and needy, unable to sort themselves out with keys and room assignments, so the one guesthouse staff person had to attend to them for a full 45 minutes!!! I waited patiently. Thank goodness for knitting. Time and time again I’ve laughed at those graphics and stickers that say “I knit so I won’t kill people”. I shouldn’t laugh. They proclaim truth!

My room, once I got to it, was the most basic of basics. A bed. A small table with a lamp. One pillow. A small wardrobe for hanging clothes. A sink in the corner. Bathroom down the hall. All this for just over $100. Iceland is lovely and clean and interesting but damned expensive. Consider yourself warned. I A TENTH of all my trip funds during my one overnight there. Ai!

Dropped my stuff and went out to find food. I had three things going for me. One, my trip organizer from the Cotswolds tour sent me an email full of recommendations and directions. Two, it was broad daylight and would be until about two in the morning. And three, because of number two, most shops, restaurants, etc were open until 10 pm. There were tons of people out and about!

I found a restaurant that serves traditional Icelandic food. Yum. Didn’t order any fish dishes. But since I’d successfully navigated the get-yourself-into-Reykjavik-and-locate-your-bed challenge, I decided to celebrate with a beer. That, with the traditiona rye bread, started the meal off right!


The rest of dinner was just as good (lamb, peas, red cabbage). I ventured out onto the streets below to do a little exploring. First order of business: the Icelandic hand knitting guild’s store on Ffjoriduflissionkik Blvd. (Okay, that’s not really the name of the street, but it might as well have been.)  

On the way to the knitting guild, I looked at tons of interesting galleries, shops and food venues. People were milling about, speaking in every language under the sun. Clearly, the center of Rekjavik is the realm of tourists and those who cater to them. But it was still fun to look at the buildings, the wares, and to feel the last cool air of my trip. I wore a sweater and rain jacket. Though light, the sky was gray and spotted rain occasionally. 

Then I made my way to the guild store and was, of course, in complete heaven. Stacks and stacks of traditional Icelandic sweaters, all hand knit there on the island (NOT in China!). Racks of beautiful felted shawls, coats and ruanas. Mittens, slipper, scarves and hats. Neat rows of folded blankets in multiple colors, sizes and styles. Again, made there in Iceland. And then yarn. YARN! Lots of Lopi. At about three bucks a skein. Do you know how much that stuff costs in the States?!?!? About six or seven times that! It was the only bargain to be had in Iceland, believe me. 

Hey! That doesnt look like Iceland! Indeed, it’s not. Its’s Santa Fe. Just a little foreshadowing…
THIS is Iceland. Where you can be excited about wool sweaters even in July.
Do I look happy at the handknitting guild store? I was happy. Very happy.

But did I buy wool? No. I’m no dummy. Buy all the skeins of yarn I’d need to knit a traditional wool sweater when I have skein upon skein of yarn at home? I’d get to make the sweater in, uh… about 2022. No. I bought a sweater. And its cost was one of the reasons my cost of the overnight in Iceland was so high. But heck, how often am I in Iceland anyway? I expect not to be back anytime remotely soon. Unless Rowan Tree Travel  has an emergency and needs me to lead a group to Scotland. Which I’m very willing to do. At the drop of a hat. Hope you are reading this, Heather.

A bit more wandering while the light was good, looking at buildings and people and finally settling on some ice cream at 10 pm-ish (yes, the ice cream shop was still open). Lovely colors. Turns out that the light was good until the two hours in the middle of the night when the sun just dips below the horizon. I discovered that’s what the blackout curtain in my guesthouse room was for!

See that street sign? That was the shortest street name I saw. Also note predominance of gray — gray sky, gray buildings, gray car, gray sidewalks. Everything was in various shades of dark and light. Then occasionally you would come across a golden yellow or leaf green building and it would strike you like a blast of fresh air. Wonderful.
No shortage of bright colors on the interior of the buildings though. Here, tanned fish skins (yes, really) offered up in array of colors. They look and feel like tanned leather but have these amazing patterns and textures from the acales. Brought one back for my sister Anna, who works with leather occasionally. (In purple, of course.)
Another view of downtown. There were people about. I was avoiding them in the photos.
These people know how to venerate wool.

I finally went to my room and attempted to sleep. Of course, the last night before catching a final series of flights home, starting with early morning shuttle pick up, does not engender relaxation. I think I slept. Some. In between episodes of checking the time and that my three alarms were set on my phone, that is. And finally, FINALLY, the phone said it was time to get up and get dressed and get my butt to the airport. Where I would start the long series of flights home. 

Shuttle to Fly Bus. Fly Bus to Keflavik airport. Keflavik to Boston. Boston to Denver. Denver to Albuquerque. Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Home.

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4 thoughts on “A Night at the Top of the World.

  1. So grateful for all of your talents and your interests and your adventures and your willingness to share them with us along the way. And I look forward to gazing upon your Icelandic sweater but not for many months.

    Like

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