My friend Brad flew up from Florida to join my mom and I on this trip and we met him at the Baltimore Airport. It took us two hours to get out of DC because of traffic, which is essentially the same amount of time it took Brad to fly up from Orlando. It was great to see Brad after two plus months of being apart. We got his bags and joined my mom over in the international pier of the airport only to learn that Icelandic Air's computers were down on the entire eastern seaboard, so they were issuing tickets by hand. We made it to the gate on time though and boarded the plane. As we were walking down the gangplank you'll never believe who I was walking behind... Quentin Tarantino... he was apparently on his way to some film festival in Iceland. I didn't have enough courage to speak to/bother him, but luckily there was such an asshole walking in front of him. Tarantino was really nice about it and answered all the guys questions though. But it was really cool, it's now upped my celebrity sightings to a total of two and a half (I smacked into Colin Powell once; and I saw the Green Day tour busses on the road once, but I only consider that half since I never saw the band members).
The plane flight was average, nothing out of the ordinary. I had the window seat and a really crappy meal of chicken with stuff. When we landed it was still dark and there wasn't much of a view out of the window. We got into the Reykjavik terminal, which is really nice and modern, and changed money into Icelandic Krona. The exchange rate was about $1 US to 60 ISK. Next we rented a car from Hertz (we'd made the reservation online earlier in the week) and got on the road in our little Toyota. It was still dark out, even though it was about 9am. We drove to the US military instillation, the Keflavik Naval Air Station (NAS) where we were staying at the Lodge to save some money since Iceland is super expensive for everything. We checked into our rooms (3 single rooms, $24 per person per night), took showers and hit the road again to go explore.
Brad drove into Reykjavik and after we got severely lost we finally found Perlan, or the Pearl, which is this big dome structure on top of one of the city's hills. It stores natural hot water to disperse for heating the city and also has a great restaurant, cafe, observation deck, and Viking Museum. We went to lunch at the cafe and had our first encounter with how expensive things were. We spent about $70 on three meals, and it was mainly just lunch food. I had two bowls of this amazing cream of asparagus soup with bread and butter. Icelandic butter is to die for... it's so so good, and we ate it at just about every meal. I also had this really good soft drink called Applesin, sort of like orange soda. We did the Viking Museum after lunch and it was a really unique layout. We were given CD players and headphones and you listened to corresponding tracks in front of numbered displays. The displays were life size, wax sculpture dioramas of various parts of Icelandic history. The CD explained about the Vikings exploration and settlement, interesting characters in their history and other things I'm sure. I was so jet lagged by this time, and I'd finally been fed, that I got insanely sleepy and unfortunately digested little of what I heard. I ended up sitting down and watching this looping video of how the Viking exhibits had been made until Brad and my Mom were done. Everyone was really tired too so we headed back to the NAS and all took naps.
When we woke up we went to a local grocery store to buy some snacks and poke around. My mom and I love to go to grocery stores in foreign countries because they give you such a picture of what it's like to live there. There are always amazing things to look at and usually really yummy things to eat. So we quickly filled a shopping basket with chips (Paprika, one of my favorite flavors from Germany), candy (chocolate with licorice [which was so nasty I can't even tell you], kinder eggs [!!!! and if you don't know what these are, go find some immediately], these coconut/chocolate/wafer bars that were called Florida [really good too], these hazlenut/chocolate cookies [exactly like the Girl Scout cookies Tagalongs but with hazlenut instead of peanut butter... these were amazing, I pretty much ate the entire box myself]), drinks (coke, juices), bread, butter, cheese, ham, turkey, some mini lamb meatballs, and last but not least these dried/seasoned fish snacks. We all made a pact to eat one... and they were the single most horrible things... I gagged before I could even chew three times. My mom spit hers out too, Brad was the only one that actually ate one.
After the store we decided that we were all still pretty tired so instead of going into Reykjavik for dinner or activities we went to the Bowling Alley on the NAS. We'd hoped to bowl, but it was closed for League tournament. We ate at the snack bar though which is always yummy, and provides you with enough grease to last the rest of your life. My mom and Brad sat and discussed baseball while I just watched the bowling and all the people. It was really interesting for me, because I felt strangely at home. Now that I no longer have an ID card and can't go on base anymore, when I am on base it's always like coming home for me. All of the interactions that go on on base are pretty much the same anywhere, so it was cool to have that sense of home even though I was all the way in Iceland. We rented movies too, but never ended up watching them. Back at the lodge, we all congregated in my room and tried to play a game of scrabble, but we were all pretty tired, so called it a night.
Day II to come soon...