Iceland: En Route and Day 1

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Everything about our departure was very easy. That’s one of the nice things about a medium-sized airport like Denver. There isn’t an international terminal or anything crazy that you have to do, so we were through security in about 10 minutes and waiting at our gate. I was surprised that Icelandair doesn’t offer complimentary meals; I’ve never been on an international flight that doesn’t. The flight was about 7 hours and went by extremely quickly. They had a lot of good entertainment options on the TV’s, so I was able to watch a couple of things and then tried to nap for maybe an hour. Like most people, I hate airline seats, so I didn’t get any actual sleep.

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Arriving at the airport was very exciting. I always love checking out all of the other destinations at airports that are big on connections to see where people are going. When we arrived at 6:30am we saw flights departing for Sweden and London Gatwick. We had no issues with our bags or immigration or customs, and were walking outside to meet our transfer at about 6:50am. Someone (me) forgot to print out our itinerary, and it was emailed a few months ago so I couldn’t find it in my inbox. Both Kristin and I thought there would be someone waiting for us with one of those little signs. We walked through the group of probably 20 drivers holding signs, and didn’t see one for us. It was one of those not trying to feel rejected moments, where we didn’t make it obvious we were looking for the signs in fear that there wouldn’t be one for us. And, of course, there wasn’t.

Luckily the airport had free wifi, so I was able to get on my email and see that we had to go to a ticket window to get vouchers for the coach bus that would take us into town. Major sigh. It all worked out.

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About an hour after getting on the bus, we arrived at our hotel. We paid 30 Euro to check-in then, at about 8am, and the rate included breakfast for each of us. We decided a quick nap before our city tour would be a good idea, and it really was.

 When we later made friends who were also traveling on the Groupon, we found out how lucky we were to be assigned to this particular hotel. It is right in the middle of Reykjavik and we were able to walk everywhere. Most of the other Denver Grouponers were at a hotel outside of the city center, and though they were provided with a bus pass, it still wasn’t as convenient as where we stayed. The picture of the exterior of our hotel was actually taken on our last night, but that is what it looks like. You can also see the beautiful view from our hotel room above.

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Stop one on the city tour was Bessastaoir. This is a compound visible from much of the city, but isolated to get to. We were very surprised to learn that this is the vacation home for the Iceland’s presidents, and since the flag was up, he and his family were in residence. We were able to walk around most of the compound, and even right up to the front door.

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We also saw a few of the neighboring port cities where high-tech fancy condos are placed next to fish refineries. Supposedly these are very hip areas to live.

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Our next stop was the Perlan, a cool circular building that is tourist attraction as well an event center. Our guide told us that it’s a very popular place to ring in the New Year, and we could see why.

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After driving around the Laugardalur sports and recreation area which has one of the cities most popular geothermal pools, we visited the Hofoi house, where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had a summit in 1986. From the way the guide talked, it seems like this is a very proud part of Iceland’s history, having two leaders meet here during the Cold War.

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The final stop on the city tour was at the Hallgrimskirkja church and the old town center where the Iceland parliament and town hall are located. The church was a very unique design and we enjoyed walking around the grounds.

After returning to the hotel, we went for an early dinner and then relaxed in the hotel room and went to bed early to catch up on sleep.