Iceland

Suzanne and I just got back from a five-trip to Iceland. It was great. It was about 60º Fahrenheit and rained every day, which is just like Humboldt here in the winter, so the weather was no big deal.

But first, the passport adventure. For the third time in a row I allowed by passport to expire and discovered it only on the verge of going overseas. (Actually, I discovered one while my plane was landing in Mexico). I studied the internet, got all the papers and filled them out, and went to the passport agency on the Friday before we were to leave. If it had not gone right I would not have been able to go. But it did go right. After all, I have experience in last-minute passport acquisition!

Iceland is small, about 100,000 population total. That’s just larger than this little rural county I live in and much fewer than most American cities. Reykjavik is its only city, and pretty darn small. We walked everywhere. 

The food was exquisite. We ate a huge breakfast every morning in our hotel and skipped, or snacked, for lunch, and went for the gusto with dinner. I tried to eat some local food every time, which meant salmon (×2), codfish, reindeer burger, and lamb. (And as a bonus, excellent Chinese food when we were in San Francisco before and after.) The Settlement Museum is built around the oldest house foundation in Iceland with excellent displays all around it.  

But the greatest, most interesting parts were outside of the city. We went on a super jeep out to the area called Torsmork. It looked like virgin land. An American park has roads and camping sites. None here. Wild streams cut everywhere and we had to drive across them in places where the fords changed significantly from the time we crossed and then recrossed it. We did some hiking around—me as long as I could and Suzanne for even farther. One time she reached a waterfall with a rope and chain next to it, so she climbed up it and went to the next fall, where no such amenity awaited. 

Iceland is famous for its horses. They have a particular gait called the tölt that is exceptionally smooth at high speeds. I was looking forward to it, but was sick as a dog that day so Suzanne went. It was cold and raining and after a couple of hours everyone went into a natural hot spring, so she loved it. 

One day we rented a car to go and see a horse show. The flier said 4:00, but it was really at 7:00 so we drove to the Law Rock. It provided that thrill of being in a famous place that I’d read about in just about every saga I’ve read. Interestingly, most of the tourists seemed to miss the rock itself. A bonus landmark is the long craters, cracks in the rock, that mark where the North American and European Plates push apart. We got back in time for the horse show and thoroughly enjoyed it, even if a bit corny. Afterwards we got to talk to the riders and pet the horses, then tour the stables where all the livestock was chowing down. Wonderful. The horses never get any vaccinations or regular medication because there are no horse diseases in Iceland. No horses are allowed to come there, and when one leaves, it can never go back.

Iceland is basically entirely volcanic. 80% of its energy is provided by thermal heat, but the best part about it are the many hot pools all around the city. The one we frequented had a swimming pool, wading pool, and two hot tubs that were outside. One was hot, and the other one was really hot. A few people were in each, until work got out and they got pretty crowded. It was pretty inexpensive.

We had planned to go to a different hotel on the last two days, but they needed cash instead of a credit card—mind you, everything in Iceland was accessible by credit card. Suzanne even bought a stamp that way. So we blew it off and Suzanne booked us for two more nights in the hotel where we were staying. Yay! That is, until we went to check in again and they had no record of it, even though we had already paid. They spent a couple of hours trying to find a comparable place for us, but in the end we ended up being upgraded to a much more deluxe hotel in the same chain. For two days. It was splendid, and a great way to end the vacation. 

On the last day we got to hang out with Pedro the Icelander, Pedro Zivani the author of the Icelandic supplement for Chaosium games; and his wife, Hejaz. Wonderful people, great lunch, beautiful house, great visit. Then back to the airport and zoom home.

The flights were very nice—nicer than expected. 8½ hours one way from San Francisco, direct flight (!). The food sold was good. But the real bonus was that the airplane tickets were just $99 PER PERSON ONE WAY. It was with WOW airlines, and those cheap prices are still available to Iceland and Europe so it’s a great time to purchase some tickets!