Day One - Welcome to Iceland!
With the arrival of the COVID vaccines in the spring of the year we decided to roll the dice and plan a vacation. Our England/Scotland trip was wiped out by it last year, and given pandemic unpredictability, we were a little hesitant to try that destination again. Seeing the Northern Lights is a bucket list item and we had heard good things about Iceland's beauty, so we began planning a 5 day trip to the island nation for October.
The first hurdle we had to clear was getting tested in order to meet Iceland's criteria for entry. You would think that it would be easy to get tested but actually it was more of a rigamarole than it should have been, having to pretend that we had mild symptoms in order to get the test. Thankfully we were all negative and so it was off to Dulles for a Sunday evening "red eye" to Iceland.
Aside from the woman at the airlines check-in counter (who was spectacularly unpleasant, unhelpful, and pretentious) the experience with Icelandair was pretty good. They departed right on time and we had a smooth flight, arriving almost 30 minutes early at Keflavik International Airport. After retrieving bags and getting through customs we needed to focus on getting our rental car.
Stepping out into the parking lot was a rude awakening! It was mid-70s when we left DC, and here it was probably 35° with a brisk wind and light showers. After what seemed like an hour (but was perhaps 15 minutes) we got on the shuttle to the rental car place.
Icelandic Observation #1: It's really windy most of the time!
The rental was a Suzuki Vitara, clean but clearly with a little wear on it. We probably sat in the parking lot for 10 minutes waiting for the defroster to clear the front window of condensation before finally using tissues. Leaving the lot we had to navigate to the town of Grindavik to check in to our hotel, and that was when we discovered what a good friend Apple Maps was going to be for navigating in Iceland - it kept us sane when dealing with street names like Grindavikurvegur!
Our check-in time at the Northern Light Inn was not until 3pm, so the plan was to get some breakfast at the hotel and then hopefully hang out and perhaps get our room a little earlier. We did the breakfast buffet at the Inn ($20+ a head) and by the time we were done the Inn keeper ("Siggi") told us that our room was almost ready. We were ever so glad, and this was a precursor of our experience in Iceland - hard working, friendly people.
After crashing for about two hours we forced ourselves to get up and make the roughly 30 minute trip to Reykjavik for some exploration.