Reykjavik to Gatwick to Longfield

Reykjavik, Iceland to Gatwick Airport to Longfield, UK

A year ago today (July 25, 2014), we left Iceland for the UK.

Very Early Morning

Our flight to Gatwick was leaving at 7:30am and so, in order to get to the airport in time, we needed to decide how early to get up, when (and how) to get a taxi to take us to the bus station to get the Flybus shuttle back to airport (knowing that the shuttle to the airport would take an hour).

So here’s how the decision process unfolded:

  • the flight leaves at 7:30am – it’s an international flight – they want us to be there two hours ahead
  • that meant arriving at the airport at 5:30am
  • the shuttle to the airport takes an hour – that meant getting the shuttle at 4:30am
  • we needed to take a taxi to bus station to pick up the shuttle – that meant booking a taxi for 4:00am
  • even though we had packed everything the night before, we still needed to get showered, dressed and have a quick breakfast – that meant getting up at 3:00am
  • Yep – 3:00am – a very early morning indeed.

We were concerned about booking the taxi. It was once again the problem with not even being able to pronounce the name of the street we were on. Fortunately, the gentleman that we had rented the apartment from said he would call the taxi company and arrange for a 4:00am pick up.

We were waiting outside at about 3:50am, in a slight drizzle, and the taxi showed up five minutes early at 3:55am, so we didn’t even have time for any panic about whether the taxi company would remember.

Once at the bus station – 20 minutes early for the shuttle – we settled in to wait.

We noticed several people going to a kiosk and scanning their etickets and receiving actual tickets, so we decided to check it out.

As luck would have it, the instructions were also in English or we would have been totally lost. However, it became clear to us that we needed to scan the QR code on our eticket and print out an actual ticket. We did that without any problems and then had our tickets in hand when the bus was ready to go.

Flight to Gatwick

Upon arrival at the Reykjavik airport it became apparent that self-checkin was the norm.

We used one of the many available kiosks and typed in our last name and locator code for our reservation. The machine not only printed out our boarding passes but our luggage tags as well.

The only thing we needed to do after that was drop off our luggage at a specific spot and head to our gate to wait for our flight. All very organized and automated.

The flight took off on schedule and we arrived in Gatwick, also on schedule, at 11:30am UK time.

Two Together Rail Pass

Rail Pass Photo - Geoff
Rail Pass Photo – Geoff
Rail Pass Photo - Vicky
Rail Pass Photo – Vicky

Once again, having done our research in Canada prior to our trip, we were prepared to purchase a rail pass called a Two Together Pass. As the name suggests, it is for two people traveling together. It applies a 30% discount to any off-peak rail travel for the two people shown on the pass when they are, obviously, traveling together.

Because of our research we knew we needed two passport-size photos – one of each of us – and a completed application form. We had all of that with us and ready in my handy dandy travel file.

Not only did the British Rail agent help us get our pass, she also issued our tickets to Longfield as well as our return tickets for August 10th, when we would need to return to Victoria Station to catch the Megabus to Paris. And all at the 30% discount thanks to our Two Together Pass.

The Two Together Pass cost us £30, but with all the train travel we had planned for our stay in the UK, it more than paid for itself and then some. Yes, it was worth the investment.

Train to Longfield

Our tickets to Longfield were valid all day as we were already in off-peak time. Peak time is each morning (except for Sundays, which all off-peak all day) until about 9:30am. The rest of each day is considered off-peak.

That meant we didn’t have to rush to get a particular train.

There are many trains leaving from Gatwick and the station has more than one level. We had to ask where we needed to go to catch our train and were directed up a stairway and from there we were able to check the departure boards to find our platform.

Getting to Longfield required changing trains at Victoria Station, but once again, checking the departure boards helped us find the correct platform.

It doesn’t take very long to get from Victoria Station to Longfield – just a couple of stops.

Taxi to Resort

We were happy to find that there were a couple of taxis waiting just outside the Longfield train station. We loaded up our luggage, told the driver where we were going and were at the resort in short order after a taxi fare of less than £10.

Our Base for the Next Sixteen Days

For the next sixteen days this naturist resort was going to be our base while in the UK. It was conveniently located for getting into London and area by rail and we had planned to use the rail system for all of our planned excursions – of which we had many.

We picked this resort for several reasons:

  • it was a naturist resort and we are naturists
  • it was conveniently located for easy access to London
  • it was considerably less expensive than a hotel room in London and had a pool, hot tubs and a small restaurant

Basically a Wooden Tent

Basic Accommodations
Basic Accommodations

We knew we were booking “basic” accommodations but didn’t realize until we got there just how basic the accommodations were.

For all intents and purposes, what we had rented was a wooden tent. It was a small cabin – about the size of a garden shed – with a small, covered terrace that could accommodate two chairs, and nothing more. The inside was a single room, with a queen-size bed and a night table and nothing else. The toilet and shower facilities were in a separate building that was also where the hot tubs were and the restaurant as well.

It was all we really needed. It was the right price. It was a good location. But it was truly basic.

Another Long Day of Travel

It was another long day of travel by the time we got settled in.

We took advantage of the hot tubs and then a decent meal of fish & chips in restaurant, before turning in early.

Exploring Downtown Reykjavik

Exploring Downtown Reykjavik

A year ago today (July 24, 2014), we were exploring downtown Reykjavik.

Tourist and Souvenir Shops

Viking Ship Sculpture
Viking Ship Sculpture

The main street in downtown Reykjavik sports many, many souvenir and gift shops. However, everything is very expensive. That just seems to be the way it is in Iceland.

It was fun browsing through some of the shops and looking at all the cute things they had for sale, but we were never actually tempted to buy anything.

Well, that’s not entirely true. We both loved a t-shirt the poked fun at the difficult Icelandic language. It was a simple t-shirt that read “What part of Eyjafjallajökull don’t you understand?” (Yes, this is what we named one of our posts.) We both thought it was perfect but at $30 for a t-shirt we couldn’t justify the purchase. As we have said before, on such long trips, budget is always a consideration and this was just the fourth day of our trip.

As it turned out, our only souvenir of Iceland was the plastic grocery bag from the Bonus supermarket. (see our first post about Iceland) And, of course, our pictures, videos and memories.

Whale and Puffin Dinner

We browsed many of the restaurant menus as we walked through the downtown area and can confirm that it is definitely expensive to eat out here. One particular sign caught our eye though and we had to do a double-take. At first glance, we thought the name of the restaurant was The Whale and Puffin Diner and thought that was a really cute name.

But, no, it was a restaurant actually offering a whale and puffin dinner! That’s right – real whale and real puffin – for dinner! We were shocked and dismayed that such a thing was allowed.

Thermal Swimming Pool, Hot Tubs and Steam Bath

Original Pool and Hot Tub Bldg.
Original Pool and Hot Tub Bldg.

The walk through the downtown area eventually lead us to a public swimming pool and steam bath complex that we had identified with the help of Google Maps. It was one of the first ones to be built in the city but was still in amazing condition.

Everything is, of course, heated with geothermal water/energy.

Locker Rooms and Showering

Some North Americans may find it a little uncomfortable in the locker rooms and shower area. There are signs on the walls indicating, by way of pictographs, which parts of your body to clean particularly well, with soap, before entering the pool and hot tub area. Also, you are required to shower without your swimsuit on and there are no enclosed shower stalls. There are, however, a few enclosed change rooms in the locker room area although most people don’t bother with them. And, yes, swimsuits are required in the pool, hot tubs and steam bath.

Pool and Hot Tubs

The pool was huge and while not particularly cool, it was not anywhere near as warm as the geothermal hot tubs that were located outside on a balcony-type terrace with a lovely view of the immediate area.

There were two hot tubs at two different temperatures. The larger of the two was relatively easy to get into, although pretty hot nonetheless. The smaller one was very, very hot and we were only able to stay in that one for short periods of time.

Steam Bath

The steam bath was quite small and we were the only ones in it at the time we used it.

We found we preferred to alternate between the two hot tubs and the pool and did that for quite a while before leaving and heading back home.

Getting Used to the Bus System

This time we decided to take the other bus route home as it seemed to run more frequently and we had no difficulty recognizing where we needed to get off and we easily found our way back home.

So it really didn’t take us that long to get our bearings and be able to find our way around some parts of Reykjavik.

But this is our last day. Tomorrow will be a very early morning for us in order to catch our 7:30am flight to Gatwick.

A Note About IcelandAir

When we originally began planning this trip, Iceland wasn’t even part of the equation. The trip was going to start in the UK. So what happened?

When we were searching for the cheapest most economical flight to the UK, we found that IcelandAir had the best price – yes, to Gatwick – but with a stopover in Reykjavik. We then noticed that IcelandAir also offered up to a stopover in Iceland, for up to seven days, at NO EXTRA COST on the airfare.

So, our reasoning was, “Hey, we’ve never been to Iceland. Let’s go!” It only added three days to our trip, no more on the airfare, and only three nights accommodation. We figured it was worth the relatively small additional cost it added to the trip and jumped at the chance to accept IcelandAir’s offer and spend some time exploring their country.

We are glad we did.

 

Rift Valley, Gullfoss and Geysers, Oh My!

Golden Circle Tour Adventure

A year ago today (July 23, 2014) we embarked on the Golden Circle Tour in Iceland.

What To Do In Reykjavik

When we were researching Reykjavik for things to do while we were there, we considered several options. We wanted to pick something that was the best value for money (the budget is always a consideration). Some of the experiences we considered included whale watching, various tours, local bus passes, Hop On, Hop Off buses, etc.

As we had such a short time in Reykjavik, we decided on the Golden Circle Tour, a day-long trip that would hit the highlights of the natural wonders of the area.

Getting The Best Price

The Golden Circle Tour is offered by many tour companies so, prior to leaving Canada, we began our search for the best tour at the best price.

We found one that looked like the best deal and, wanting to be sure, we called them to confirm the tour, the price and the pick up points. They picked up from many local hotels and bed & breakfast places, but we were staying in neither. They were, however, able to locate the closest pick up point for us when we gave them the address of our rental apartment (I needed to email them the address as, once again, I simply couldn’t pronounce it or even spell it for them because of the special letter that was included in the address – the one that looks like a stylized “d” with a cross – “ð”.)

Serendipitous Price

As luck would have it, the very act of calling, apparently, entitled us to a 5% discount on the price and we’d already determined that this tour company had the best price anyway.

Needless to say, we went ahead and booked the tour, got the address of the pick up point and printed out a Google map with directions and estimated walking time. The walk should only take us about 10 minutes.

Golden Circle Tour

We arrived at the pickup point in plenty of time. I am a firm believer that it’s much better to be very early than just a couple of minutes late. So, we had about 20 minutes to wait but it was a pleasant morning.

Apparently smaller shuttles were dispatched to pick up the other travelers from their various hotels. These shuttles then converged on the tour company’s office in downtown Reykjavik where the large tour bus was waiting.

We were all ushered into the tour company’s office where we needed to exchange the printed confirmation of our booking for an actual ticket. Once that was done we were allowed to board the bus.

I am always amazed at the number of people traveling at any given time, in any given location. It seems no matter where we go there are always several tours and they all seem to fill up. Our tour was no exception. There may have been one or two empty seats on the bus and that was it.

Geothermal Energy

At the beginning of the tour, we drove along a highway past the rather bleak Icelandic landscape. There are no real trees to speak of, a few bushes and the rest consists mostly of rocks, lichen and moss.

As you know, Iceland has a lot of volcanic activity resulting in lots of heat, lava, etc. just beneath the surface. They have harnessed a lot of this energy, using geothermal plants, to heat water and pipe it into Reykjavik. No house in Reykjavik has a hot water heater. The geothermal heated water is piped directly into each house. So, unlike us, they have two water lines coming into the house – one for hot water and one for cold. Also, no one has to shovel snow off their walkways. The hot water lines run right under that roads and walkways and melt the snow as it falls. What a great idea!

One little downfall, for us anyway, is that the hot water has a bit of a sulfur smell to it. When we thought that this was heated cold water (like we’re used to) we were hesitant to even taste the cold water from the tap. But when we ran the cold water, we didn’t notice the smell at all and the water tasted just fine. We understood why when we were told about the separate hot and cold water pipes coming into the house and the absence of any hot water heater. It’s only the hot water that has the sulfur smell and, apparently, that is added to the water to keep the pipes clean.

These pipelines, from the geothermal plants, run for miles and miles with little loss of heat/energy. Amazing!

The Rift Valley

Rift Valley Iceland
Rift Valley

Our first major stop on the tour (we stopped for a bit to get a good view of the geothermal pipelines) was the Rift Valley. This is an active tectonic area where the North American and Eurasian plates meet and are moving away from each other at a specific rate.

Our tour guide told us all to stay close as we only had a little time here and we might not find our way back to the bus. We were dropped off at the top of a cliff that overlooked the Rift Valley and would need to meet the bus in the valley. She didn’t bother to mention, or point out, exactly where the bus would be, nor did she make it very easy to follow her – no sign being held up like other tour guides, no attempt to make sure she had the whole group with her.

We managed to get separated from the group even though we were trying very hard to keep an eye on her. We can only surmise that she and the majority of the group moved on (there were several paths leading in many directions) while we were busy taking pictures and video.

At some point we just realized that we didn’t recognize anyone that was around us and didn’t see our tour guide at all. All we knew is when we were expected to be at the bus but that didn’t help much as we didn’t know exactly where the bus was supposed to be.

We saw two parking lots containing several tour buses. We stopped at each one (they were fairly far apart) and didn’t see our bus. We asked some of the other bus drivers but they just shrugged their shoulders and were particularly unhelpful. We then moved on to a small church that we were sure was part of the tour and saw a third parking lot that wasn’t easily visible from the other parking lots we had been to.  As we headed off in that direction we began to recognize some of the people from our group and then saw our tour guide and our bus.

By this time it was too late for us to visit the little church because we had wasted so much time trying to find our group and where the bus was parked, even worrying if they had, perhaps, already left without us.

We asked the tour guide why she hadn’t simply pointed out where the bus would be parked when we were at the top of the cliff as the area would have been easily visible from there. She just shrugged her shoulders and said, “That’s why I tell everyone to stick together.” That made no sense to us. If some people, like us, did get separated from the group, didn’t it make more sense for them to know where the bus would be, particularly with the fact that there were THREE parking lots for tour buses.

But, she just didn’t seem to comprehend our objection and we didn’t understand why she couldn’t grasp what we were saying.

We just got back on the bus, shaking our heads but glad to be back with the group anyway.

Finally! An Icelandic Word We Can Pronounce.

Gullfoss Iceland
Gullfoss (Golden Falls)

The next stop on our tour was Gullfoss or Golden Falls. Gullfoss, an Icelandic word, is pronounced just like it looks. So, finally, we had an Icelandic word that we could actually pronounce. A rarity, to be sure.

As we were heading to that destination we kept expecting to see some waterfalls, off in the distance, coming down the side of a mountain. But, there weren’t any real mountains visible and there weren’t any discernible waterfalls from any of the hills, or volcano cones, in the distance.

To our surprise, we pulled into a rather flat area and parking lot. It seemed an unlikely place to see what was supposed to be a very impressive waterfall.

This stop also included a restaurant that served traditional Icelandic soup. We had packed a lunch for the trip but thought that it might be a nice experience to have some authentic Icelandic soup. Well, not at almost $12.00 per bowl! We simply couldn’t believe how many people were buying it – and for whole families – at that price. However, everything at this cafeteria-style restaurant was outrageously expensive and we were certainly glad that we had packed a lunch after all.

Gullfoss from Stairway
Gullfoss from Stairway

Next to the restaurant was a boardwalk that lead down to the fall. That’s right – DOWN to the falls.

As it turned out, the falls were part of the large, somewhat narrow canyon that was carved into the landscape. And they certainly were impressive.

The water fell over several levels of large, flat steps into a narrow canyon and you could view it from two levels, accessed by either a gravel path or a wooden staircase. Trying to describe it in mere words would not do it justice. Even the pictures and video we took does not do it justice. If you find yourself in Iceland, we recommend a visit.

 

 

Geysers

Geyser Just Prior to Erupting
Geyser Just Prior to Erupting

We had passed the geyser area on our way to Gulfoss and, after getting back on our tour bus, we headed back to spend some time there.

Our tour guide had hoped that the bus would be able to fit in a parking lot close to the geysers but when we got there that lot was full. The next option was to park across the street from the park, which is what happened.

It wasn’t much of a walk, so it didn’t really matter to us that the bus couldn’t use the closer parking lot.

Geysers Iceland
Geyser Erupting

Once again, words cannot express adequately the beauty and size of the geysers and the thermal pools. One geyser in particular went off on a regular basis and we were able to watch it erupt several times. You were never quite sure if you were going to get sprayed or not and you had to be careful not to get too close because the water was very, VERY hot.

We were also able to take some photos and videos of the geyser erupting. You had to be pretty patient, but it was certainly worth the wait.

Geothermal Plant

Our final stop on the tour was a geothermal plant where the hot water was treated and, believe it or not, cooled down, to be sent down the pipeline into Reykjavik.

There was, of course, the requisite gift shop and a small cafe – both very expensive. But, on top of that, if you actually wanted to tour the plant, there was a charge for that, too. It equated to about $10.00 each for a 15-minute tour. We passed on the tour, as did most of our group.

Back To Reykjavik

The tour bus headed back to Reykjavik from the geothermal plant and we arrived back in the early evening. We were dropped off close to our road and this time we were able to find our way back to our apartment without assistance.

It was a pleasant day, a great experience, and we’re glad we went.

Geoff Also Made a Video of The Golden Circle Tour

What Part of Eyjafjallajökull Don’t You Understand?

Welcome to Iceland!

A year ago today (July 22, 2014), we landed in Iceland.

Early Morning Arrival in Reykjavik
No matter how you cut it – Eastern Daylight Time in Canada or Local Time in Iceland – it was an early morning arrival.
We arrived at 6:30am local time, which was 2:30am back at home. We collected our luggage and headed for the FlyBus shuttle, after a short stop at their duty-free shop. We had pre-booked the shuttle, over the internet, almost as soon as we booked our flight – so well, well in advance. For arrivals, the schedule is actually pretty flexible because they take into account that delays are a part of life. Our return shuttle ticket, however, was for a very specific time.

The shuttle takes almost an hour to get into Reykjavik and, of course, they waited until the shuttle was full, so it was around 8:00am by the time we began our trip into Reykjavik.

Barren Landscape

Being used to living in Northern Ontario, the landscape of Iceland seem rather barren. Very few trees or bushes, lots of rocks and moss, but still beautiful in its own way. The landscape changed little on the one-hour ride into Reykjavik. For most of the trip, we were much too bleary-eyed to appreciate it, or take much in. However, we looked forward to exploring this country at our first opportunity.

Apartment in Reykjavik
We rented a small apartment, through Vacation Rentals By Owner, for the duration of our stay. This is a much better option than a hotel room, as far as we’re concerned. Even more so in this case because we discovered, both by checking online and talking to people who had been here, that eating out in Reykjavik is very, very expensive. This way, we could do our own cooking rather than spend a small fortune in restaurants. On top of that, an apartment gives us a lot more space than any standard hotel room.
As it turned out, our apartment was not far from the bus station where the shuttle dropped us off – about a 10 minute taxi ride. We had to give the taxi driver a print out of the address because there was simply no way we could pronounce the name of the street – or even recognize some of the letters. Really! Here’s the name of the street – Hlyngerði. No matter how many times someone told me how to pronounce it, I just couldn’t wrap my tongue around it and gave up. That held true for a large number of street names and other Icelandic words as well.
The owners of the apartment (it was the lower portion of their house) had left the door unlocked for us because they knew we would be arriving early.
We were pleasantly surprised with the apartment. There’s always that worry in the back of your mind when booking something like this over the internet, but we were glad to find it was exactly as advertised. The apartment had a fully equipped kitchen, a combined living room and dining room and the living room had a leather sofa, chair and love seat, so that gives you some idea of the size. Also, there was a decent size bathroom with a large shower. The bedroom, though small, was comfortable and sufficient for a 3-day stay with a queen-size bed.

Take a Nap or Stay Up and Power Through the Jet Lag?
As we sorted out our luggage and checked out our accommodations, we needed to make the decision to either take a nap or stay up in an attempt to reset our internal clocks to the local time.
We had napped a little on the plane, but that was certainly not a restful sleep. We were amazed that we were not dog-tired when we finally got to our apartment. There was also the need to get some groceries so we could start making our own meals.
So, the decision was made, we’d stay up and, perhaps, make it an early night. At this point we had already been up for 24 hours.
After taking showers, we both felt completely refreshed and ready to enjoy the rest of our day.

Bonus Grocery Bag
Bonus Grocery Bag

Grocery Shopping
As part of our (possibly obsessive) planning, we had printed out a Google map on how to get from our apartment to a local grocery store. It predicted it would be about a 20-minute walk and that was about right.
Once again, even trying to pronounce any of the street names was just an exercise in futility but, with map in hand, we could at least compare the street names on the map with the actual street signs, which is exactly what we did.
We followed the map’s instructions exactly and did not see the store we were looking for. The name of the store was Bonus – Yay! a name we could actually pronounce.
As we approached the end of the street we stopped a local couple and asked – fortunately most Icelandic people also speak English – and they simply pointed over our shoulders. The store we were looking for was just around the last corner. If we had walked just a few more steps we would have seen it!

Help! Grocery Labels All in Icelandic!
Okay, most grocery items you can tell what they are just by looking at them, but that doesn’t hold for everything.
We were okay picking out our veggies – not a big problem there. But when it came to the frozen fish, all of the labels were in Icelandic. Sure, we could tell what was salmon – or maybe that was Arctic char? Hmmmmm.
We picked up some lovely looking fillets that we thought were haddock, but we couldn’t be sure. We asked one of the employees, but he was unable to translate for us. He went to get someone who could, but it seemed that there was no one available that would be able to give us a proper translation.
We bought the fish anyway and then Geoff entered the Icelandic words into Google Translate and what came out was – Haddock Fillets, Frozen at Sea. We had made the correct choice. Good thing because, given the size of the package, we would be having fish for dinner for the three nights we were in Reykjavik.

Off To Explore Reykjavik

Travel File Closed
Travel File

In our travel package, I had a map with directions from our apartment to the old harbor in downtown Reykjavik. (For every extended trip we take, I make up an accordion file that contains just about everything – copies of tickets, any reservations, maps, schedules, things to do, you name it. I’m actually a bit obsessive about it and, for this trip, the file got quite large.)
Along the way, we deviated from the map somewhat but were still able to find our way to the old harbor after almost two hours of walking.

Traditional Icelandic Donut modeled by Geoff
Traditional Icelandic Donut modeled by Geoff

Actually, we had almost given up finding the downtown. We stopped by a small bakery and had a wonderful cup of coffee and a traditional Icelandic donut – not very sweet, but lovely nonetheless. The proprietor of the bakery gave us directions to the old harbor – we were almost there!
Heading out towards the harbor we took some time to visit the HARPA building – a architecturally unique structure. We took a few pictures there and then we pointed in the direction of downtown.
At this point we were really starting to fade. We enjoyed some of the sights along the main street, including taking each other’s pictures with some very impressive trolls, then headed down to the bus station determined to come back to give proper time to exploring the downtown area.
At the bus station we showed the lady behind the counter the address of our accommodations. Trying to actually pronounce the name of our street was totally out of the question.
The lady at the bus station sold us some tickets and told us to take either of two buses. We picked one, only to see the other one leave before our’s arrived. Oh well! Also, it started to rain a bit and we had to seek shelter under an overhang while we waited for our bus.

Lovely Weather
We spoke to a few people about what a nice day it had been for most of that day and they assured us that it was the best day they had had that year! Yikes! it was already well into July! So, we decided to take credit for the beautiful day saying we had brought the sunshine and warm weather with us.
When our bus finally arrived we hopped on with some trepidation about recognizing the stop where we would need to get off.

Finding Our Way Home
Thankfully, Geoff recognized the stop and we got off. However, we did manage to get a bit turned around and accidentally headed off in the wrong direction. We stopped one gentleman, and showed him the address we were looking for. Unfortunately, he was unable to help and apologized profusely.
We wandered around a bit more, trying to get our bearings, but to no avail. We then asked another gentleman if he knew which way we should be going and he not only said he did, but that he was going that way as well.
He walked with us, past his own apartment (which he pointed out to us) and walked us almost all the way to our door. What a lovely thing for him to do. We thanked him and he headed back towards his home as we headed to our apartment to settle in for the night.
That night consisted of a lovely fish dinner, using some of the haddock we had purchased earlier, and then early to bed.

The Icelandic Language (and thank goodness everyone speaks English!)

The most recognized Icelandic word is probably the one in the title of this post – Eyjafjallajökull. Yes, that’s the name of the volcano that erupted in April and May 2010 that caused so many problems for air travel.

Try as we might, we simply couldn’t wrap our mouths around the correct pronunciation, or any other Icelandic words for that matter – like the name of the street our apartment is on.

Many very helpful people tried, during the course of our stay, to help us with such pronunciations. They were extremely patient but each time we tried they’d say, “No, it’s …” and they’d make the sound again, waiting for us to give it another try. And, each try, we would mangle the word beyond recognition.

We simply had to accept that speaking Icelandic was not one of the skills we were ever going to master and just learn to be grateful that everyone (that’s right – everyone) in Iceland also speaks English.

We did, however, look up the translation for Eyjafjallajökull. It’s actually three words, if you separate it right – eyja fjalla jökull – which translates to island mountain glacier. However, knowing that in no way improved any of our attempts to pronounce the Icelandic word.

No Cash Required

While doing research for our trip, we had learned that cash isn’t really required in Iceland. Almost everything is done electronically. And, we found that was true.

Our first experience was at the duty-free store at the airport. They actually do things a bit differently in Iceland. You can buy duty-free items when ENTERING the country. Okay, it’s not surprising that such a store would accept debit or credit cards.

However, when it came to the taxi, we were a bit concerned that we didn’t have any cash. We explained that to the cab driver and he assured us that was not a problem. And, sure enough, he had a wireless device in his taxi that would accept credit card or debit card payments.

No Tipping?

When we paid the taxi driver, we also found out that tipping was not something that was done. You simply paid the bill you were presented with – nothing else. We found, in our experience in Iceland, that that was the norm.

We never did bother to get any Icelandic cash at all for the three days we were there. We just didn’t need it.

Looking Forward To Tomorrow
We needed to get a good night’s sleep, and get up somewhat early the next day when we were taking the Golden Circle Tour. We had to meet the bus at 8:30am at a bed and breakfast establishment just a short walk from where we were staying. We had printed out another Google map to make sure we could find our way there. But we’ll pick that up tomorrow after a much-needed sleep.

Short Video of Our First Day in Iceland

Jumping in Front of a Bus

A Year Ago Today

Well, it’s been a year since we started our last adventure, so we figured it was time to start blogging about it, and also try to figure out where the heck a year went!

While we were traveling we didn’t have much time to blog and frequently didn’t have consistent internet access. So, we’re now back home, well rested from our adventure and have decided to blog by looking back a year. For us, it’s a great way to remember the wonderful time we had so it doesn’t fade from our memories so quickly.

We hope you’ll enjoy following along as we visit some amazing places.

But, yes, this trip started with us jumping in front of a bus – a Greyhound bus to be exact.

Early Morning Start

On July 21, 2014, a year ago today, very, very early in the morning (it was about 5:30am and still dark), we began our adventure.

Although the place that we had to wait to catch our bus was not a long walk from our home, we had more luggage than we cared to carry that far. The solution: we drove to the designated spot, dropped our luggage and I stayed with it while Geoff took the car back home, prepared it for being left for a few months and then walked back to where I was waiting.

But, we still haven’t gotten to the reason we would have to jump in front of a bus yet.

You see, we live in a very small town in Northern Ontario. Our town, at that time, was not a regular stop on Greyhound’s schedule – you need to wave down the bus. Seems easy enough – right?

Well, at 6:00am, while it was still dark, the idea of a bus driver seeing us frantically waving our arms at the side of the road seemed less than certain.

Trying to be as Certain as Possible

We had, of course, called the nearest Greyhound station a few days before to be sure they left a message for the driver that there would be passengers (us) waiting. However, we also knew that the only thing that station could do was leave a note for the driver as there would be no official actually at the station when the driver made his designated stop there around 4:00am. We had to trust that the people we spoke with would remember to leave the note and that the driver would remember to pick it up.

Now, this might seem like a lot worrying. Couldn’t we just get the next bus if we missed this one?

Well, no. If we missed this bus then the entire trip was in jeopardy. While this bus got us to Thunder Bay way ahead of our flight time, the next bus, which was more than 12 hours later, would mean that we would miss our flight.

As we like to do, everything was pre-planned and pre-booked months in advance for various reasons but mostly to get the best prices so the trip wouldn’t be too expensive. Near the end of our journey we faced another very tight schedule that could have been a disaster if we missed connections, but that’s in another post.

We were pleased to see another couple was also waiting for the bus this early in the morning. They said they had also asked Greyhound to make sure the driver knew they’d be waiting.

Let the Worrying Begin!

The estimated time for our bus to arrive, according to Greyhound’s website, was 6:15am. Well, 6:15 came and went, as did 6:20, 6:25 and 6:30. Naturally, we were all speculating what might have happened; an accident on the highway, bus breakdown, etc. We were consoling ourselves with the fact that we had been there so early that we couldn’t possibly have missed the bus. Right?

Just as we were about to call Greyhound, hoping that someone would be available, some very large headlights appeared in the distance. Now, we’d already seen many transport trucks go by, mistaking many of them for the bus, but this time we were almost certain.

Time to Jump in Front of the Bus

Greyhound Bus When We Arrived in Thunder Bay
Greyhound Bus When We Arrived in Thunder Bay

Geoff ran to the edge of the highway and began to wave his arms, hoping that he didn’t have to actually jump directly in front of a moving bus. As luck would have it, the driver saw him, using his turn signals to indicate that and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. The bus may have been a bit late, but we still had lots of time to get to the Thunder Bay airport.

Once we arrived at the Thunder Bay Greyhound bus station, we immediately grabbed a taxi and headed directly to the airport.

The taxi fare was a little more than expected – about $30 Canadian. I guess we didn’t realize just how far the airport was from the bus station.

Long Journey to Iceland Begins

We settled in at the airport to wait for our first of three flights that we would be taking today. Once again, all of these flights had to leave on time (or close to) for everything to work out. The one advantage was that we had booked all of these flights directly with IcelandAir, so if we missed any of them because of delays, cancelations, etc., they would have to reschedule us

Here’s the schedule of what needed to happen today (We’ll talk about the schedules we had to hit tomorrow – tomorrow).

  • 6:15am – Bus to Thunder Bay
  • 1:35pm – Flight from Thunder Bay to Toronto Island (Billy Bishop) Airport (2 hour flight)
  • 5:00pm – Flight from Toronto Airport to Newark, New Jersey International Airport (1-1/2 hour flight)
  • 8:45pm – Flight from New Jersey to Reykjavík-Keflavík Airport, Iceland (5-1/2 hour flight – arriving the next morning at 6:15am Iceland time)

Why So Many Flights?

You may be asking yourself at this point, “Why so many flights? Surely there’s a direct flight from Toronto to Reykjavik.” Well, yes, there is. However, we’re always looking for the cheapest most economical way to travel because, well, we’re cheap frugal. 😉

Anyway, we missed out, by a day or two, on the least expensive fare involving only two flights. That left us with the three flight option, at a significant savings, so that’s what we booked.

Yes, it made for a long day that was a little stressful, but, as long as it all came together as anticipated, we decided it wouldn’t be that bad.

It All Comes Together

As it happens, with some tiny glitches, everything came together and we were on our way to Iceland!