Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"I think there is a 'U' in it."

The Icelandic language is difficult to say the least - 36 letters including 12 vowels. Two consonants are common to Old English. Most words look they were formed by one of our cats walking on the keyboard. Modern Icelandic is so similar to the language the Vikings used most people in Iceland can read the early Viking texts.

While Reykjavik is easy to navigate on foot, the street names can be quite difficult to read. Our first night in the city we were walking back to our hotel and we came to an intersection. I looked at the street sign and announced, "This isn't our street, I think ours has a 'u' in it." Michael started laughing so hard when he heard this - as you can see from his photos below, just about every street name has a 'u' in it!

In case you were wondering - the photo below is the street name where our hotel was located - and while it has just about every other letter in the alphabet there is no 'u' in it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Destination Iceland

Michael surprised me with a trip to Iceland for my birthday this year! I knew we were going on a trip, but until he handed me my boarding pass at the airport I did not know the destination.

He started off my having me pack for a warm weather destination and a cold weather destination. It was just too hard for me to pack for two different trips, he finally told me to pack for the cold and to make sure I had a good pair of snow boots. But I also had to pack a separate bag with a swimsuit and change of clothes.....very curious.

I was pretty sure we were headed to London until he told me the temperature range of our destination. I did a bit of searching and decided we were headed to Oslo, Glasgow, or Iceland. But the swimsuit really threw me for a loop. At one point I was even thinking we really weren't headed to somewhere cold and he was just throwing me off the real destination.

The flight was an easy 4.5 hours. We left NYC at 8pm and landed about 6am in Iceland. They are 5 hours ahead of NYC. Icelandic Air was wonderful. Each seat had a personal entertainment system. Between the free movies and tv shows the flight was very quick.

They also sold Icelandic beer - I enjoyed a Polar Bear while Michael had a Gull (pronounced like bull with a 'g'). As it turns out my favorite Icelandic beer was Viking Pils.

When we landed in Iceland we had to go through an additional security check before entering the country. Apparently anyone coming off of a flight that did not originate in the EU has to be screened again. Once through security we got our passport stamp and hit up the Duty Free shopping. Alcohol is heavily taxed in Iceland. Michael's research suggested buying some wine/cocktails in Duty Free before you left the airport. We didn't get too much but did pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy on my birthday.

The airport looked like an IKEA catalog - complete with the yellow arrows on the floor to direct you to the exit. The airport is clean and modern with simple lines and lots of light colored wood and big windows.
There are buses that take you from the airport to Reykjavik and to the Blue Lagoon. Taxi cabs are very expensive in Iceland, about $120 to get you from the airport to town but the Fly Bus is just about $20/person. Michael arranged for us to go right from the airport to the Blue Lagoon - a beautiful geothermal hot spring.

Now I understood why we needed swimsuits in a separate bag. The bus company locked our larger bags away and we took just small carry on bags in to the facility. The hot springs were warm and relaxing, a perfect way to spend the day.

We spent the next two days exploring Reykjavik. The town is clean and everyone speaks English and getting around on foot is very easy. The architecture isn't amazing due to practical reasons. There are very few tall buildings because of the earthquakes and constant seismic activity. Many of the houses are covered in corrugated metal sheets because of the harsh weather. Reykjavik doesn't have the old world charm of other European cities but many of the buildings are painted bright colors and the landscape is interesting because it is different.

We took two day trips to explore different parts of the country. One was the Golden Circle tour that took us to a huge waterfall, a geothermal area with an erupting geyser, and a national park where you can see the Atlantic rift.

The other tour was to Southern Iceland - we walked on a glacier, visited a small fishing village, and saw more waterfalls.

The last night in Iceland we were able to see the Northern Lights. They were faint, but still quite incredible.

We at the most amazing seafood when dining in Iceland. I wasn't expecting such a fabulous culinary experience.

It was the trip of a lifetime and an amazing birthday present. My plan it to do some additional blog posts that give more details - but I needed to get some pictures posted before my readers revolt. ;-)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Best Gift Ever

According to the cats- they have completely taken over the throw I received as a Christmas present. It is a microsuede on one side and some kind of soft fleece on the other side. They love it - this is the only time you will see them all sleeping so close to one another.