Every first Wednesday of the month, when creating an update about my writing progress (or digress), I am baffled by how quick another month has passed. Today, back in Northern California, I wonder how two months have disappeared, since we watched Lola in Sebastopol. Of course, I know what happened. Time didn’t just dissolve; it decided to go crazy fast while Mark and I were occupied by a million things! So much so, that I didn’t even post my weekly Wednesday blog, yesterday. Besides being exhausted beyond belief and unable to concentrate on writing a post, Mark and I got settled at our current three-week house and pet sit in a great neighborhood of Oakland, CA. We organized our life, caught up on two missed workdays of Wirie work, went on a massive grocery shopping spree (we had no food left, since we stored our car and belongings for two months) and both took our new pets for two decent walks. Full disclosure: we did split up the chore parts. 🙂
I already mentioned before how busy we were in Massachusetts, visiting with Mark’s parents for three weeks. Once in Belgium, that did not get much better: meeting up with friends and family, getting rid of most of my stuff at my parents’ house, interviewing for house sits, work commitments, spending quality time with my mom and dad and trying to fit in some walks or bike rides for exercise and to enjoy the incredibly beautiful weather. Add two long weekends away and those four weeks passed by in a jiffy! I didn’t even have time to post updates on the blog or Facebook. We both had a wonderful time, though, and were spoiled rotten!
Mark and I flew to Brussels with Icelandic Air to save some money. It was the first trans-Atlantic flight I ever took where no food was provided. Flying via Iceland also made the travel time much longer, but it fit the budget better, and, it had a decent stopover on the return journey as an added bonus. On the way to Belgium, the eight-hour layover at night was spent – quite uncomfortably – in the Keflavik Airport waiting room.
On our return trip to Boston, we hoped to see some of Iceland during the eighteen hours of that stopover. Iceland has become a very popular destination. But, in our opinion, it is extremely expensive. Even more so than we anticipated. Many ex-visitors rave about the Blue Lagoon, a natural attraction where one soaks in hot water, perfect for some relaxation or a short stay. When quick research showed us this two or three-hour diversion would cost $250 (including transportation) for the two of us, the option was off the table.
Getting into the capital, Reykjavik, from the international airport in Keflavik takes about an hour. The cheapest and presumably least convenient way to do this is by public transportation, which actually takes over an hour. Cost for these bus tickets: about $70 return for both of us. For another $10, a shuttle bus is available – it cuts down the waiting and stopping times and delivers one closer to the desired accommodation (or right at your hotel for another fee). The cheapest place to stay in the city costs a bit over $100. And then, I haven’t even mentioned dinner out somewhere. Did I ever say we are on a budget? Was this whole Iceland-idea a mistake?
Not until later, did I realize we could have booked the 6-hour “Golden Circle Express” excursion that evening and book a place closer to the airport. Next time!? This time around, we opted to take the cheapest Grey Line shuttle bus (which was an adventure in itself and nothing like promised on their website) to the city, book an apartment for the night with miles/points and explore Reykjavik in the evening for a few hours. Because we were nearing the longest day of the year, when the sun doesn’t really set, there was no rush to get out and about. Except for the fact that we were already pretty tired upon arrival. Mark caught up on a bit of work and off we went.
It was still relatively warm and sunny out at 7pm. The locals, happily sporting shorts and T-shirts, called it a heat wave – the thermometer hit a whopping 58°F (14°C). Later that night, all of a sudden, the sky turned grey, the wind picked up and I was more than chilled in my long clothes, wool hat and rain jacket! Iceland is famous for its swift changes in the weather and perpetual windy conditions. We had an enjoyable evening nevertheless.
Everything in town is within walking distance. First, we followed the road to the Hallgrimskirkja (the church of Hallgrimur). Standing 243 feet (74 meters) tall, it is Reykjavik’s most famous church – Iceland’s tallest – and the country’s sixth-tallest building overall. It is an impressive structure seen from almost everywhere in the city. You can take an elevator to the top of the tower ($9 per person) for a bird eye’s view of Reykjavik and surroundings. The design of the church is unique and the interior quite simple.
We had a nice, healthy and “affordable” dinner at Noodle Station, before we turned towards the waterfront and walked along the deep blue bay. The views across it were stunning. The little bit we saw of Iceland’s landscape reminds me of New Zealand and Alaska. Back in the center of town, it cooled off substantially. We briskly climbed a small hill, walked to Lake Tjörnin, photographed a few interesting and colorful buildings, grabbed more clothes and finished the day by watching the nightlife slowly unfold around 10pm. The comfortable bed at Apartment K (an amazingly well-equipped apartment we highly recommend) called!
While our plane to the US left at the respectable hour of 10:30am, it didn’t quite feel like that when the alarm clock went off at 6am. Restricted shuttle bus hours had us leave early for an incredibly long, seemingly unending day, traveling back in time… After a 7-hour plane ride to Boston, a 4-hour layover, a 6-hour flight to San Francisco, an hour-long bus ride, a pick-up by friends at the bus stop, grabbing our car and a 45-minute drive to our next house sit in Oakland (needing to find a gas station in the dark to put air in one of the tires, only having $1.25 instead of the required $1.50 for said air, waiting for another customer to show up at the quiet station at 10:15pm, and being told there was another fuel station with free air around the corner not included), we finally greeted our new temporary dogs Tucker and Stella and went to bed around midnight, totally exhausted. In Belgium, it was already 9am the next morning by then. We both look forward to this three-week house sit, without ANY travel! 🙂
(PS: If you tap on, click on or hover over the photos, you can read the captions and more information.)