Back in January, I was having lunch with Ellen at work and explained my Iceland dilemma: my family had snagged a package deal for a long Easter weekend trip, and I was deciding whether to join them. Her “you’re an idiot, why is this even a question?” face was telling, so I did. Great decision.
I arrived on Saturday morning, joining Randi in our AirBnB after she had already spent a couple of days touring, riding horses and befriending our host’s cat. (Once again, my heart beats for AirBnB and the quirky, joyful extra dimension it adds to travelling.) Notwithstanding my foolish lack of sleep on the overnight flight, we set off on a two hour walking tour of Reykjavik with a great guide who came armed with a fiercely dry sense of humour.
Now Reykjavik is not a big place, and strictly speaking, you don’t really need two hours to walk around it and take in the sights. Indeed, the recent tourism boom seems to have taken Iceland a little by surprise, and so to fill the void of major sightseeing spots our guide turned to such topics as the country’s school system, tax rates and parental leave policies. Don’t get me wrong, these things were right up my street, but given the wind I would have appreciated it just as much indoors.
After meeting up with my family, we headed to one of Reykjavik’s many outdoor public pools for an authentic Icelandic bathe. (Not to mention an authentic Icelandic forced naked shower beforehand: this is not the Anglo-American way.) I loved these baths, and wish very hard that some geothermal heating might hit Chicago in the near future.
Finally, that night we headed out on a coach trip hunting the Northern Lights, which were soon located! We soon discovered that fancy cameras are much better at capturing their colours than feeble human eyes: I saw mostly white shimmers across the sky, but will allow photographs to falsify my memory after the fact.
Sunday was our big Golden Circle excursion day, and our guide Siggi drove us around in a monster jeep which – as he cheerfully informed us – was the product of a Frankenstein melding of two smaller vehicles. But it proved more than capable of bouncing through the snow and ice while we visited the Gullfoss waterfall, exploding geysers, a field of super-friendly horses and the border between the American and Eurasian continental plates. But the absolute highlight of the trip was the snowmobiling session! After first letting Katie prove out the theory that you don’t actually need to know how to drive a car in order to master a snowmobile, Randi promoted me from passenger to driver on ours, and I’m pleased to report that no injuries were sustained.
After a French farewell dinner with the family on Sunday night, Randi and I tried out another public pool on Monday morning and took a final walk by the ocean before heading home. There’s a definite atmosphere of quiet, Nordic utilitarianism to the city, and walking around made me think sympathetically on Hillary Clinton’s famous “we’re not Denmark” line. Not that we don’t have much to learn from Denmark, or Iceland, but you can’t just transplant a culture from an island of 320,000 people and hope that it sticks.
Still, this was definitely an Easter weekend to remember, and served up some unforgettable landscapes. Come join the Icelandic tourist boom now before they get fed up of us all invading their country!
Ellen Wohlberg, Beth Dubowe-Lawrence, Julie Ann Self, Kristina Francisco, Stephanie Francesca Pereira, Randi Lawrence liked this post.