Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland

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.  🙂

Being good puppies, not begging at the breakfast table

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.)

50 Comments

  1. Your journey to Iceland still sounds amazing even with all the hiccups! My nephew did his student exchange program in Finland 5 years ago and visited Iceland. He said it was gorgeous. He posted photos of the “midnight sun,” a sight to behold! Welcome back the the Bay and hopefully you brought some COOLER air with you!! It’s a horrible 106 here in Sacramento 🙁

    • Iceland seems to be renowned for its natural beauty. We will have to go back one day, ideally with our own vehicle. Although fuel is extremely expensive as well at around $7-$8 a gallon. We did bring cool air back to the Bay area, but it is all being released in Oakland, where it is a chilly 75F or so. Hope it cools down in Sacramento soon!

  2. What a busy trip you have had. We have been thinking of stopping in Iceland some time in transit. I had heard it is extraordinarily expensive. Hoping you are feeling more rested and settled. Travel can be arduous and exhausting. Welcome home, well at least for three weeks. 🙂

    • Thanks, Sue. It feels good to be “home” and surrounded by sweet pups again. I think doing a stop-over of a week (with IcelandAir, a free stopover up to a week is available) is a great way to see some of the country. We noticed that there are a lot of day tours out of Reykjavik to get a good sense of the area.

  3. Oh Liesbet, what a long journey! Iceland sounds and looks fascinating; I didn’t know that it was so expensive. That definitely kicks it off my list of places to visit.
    Three weeks without travel sounds like just what the doctor ordered. I hope you are able to recharge your batteries in that time. Be kind to yourself!

    • Karen, it feels so nice to sit still in the same spot for a bit. And, we thoroughly are enjoying the company of our two temporary pets as well. Going for two walks a day provides enough exercise and sitting behind the computer to finally catch up on a few things feels right as well. I’ll try to get some reading in during the warm afternoons as well. A balance we like for now. Recharging as we speak. 🙂 Thank you for the kind words and wishes.

  4. I’m glad to see you are back with your posts! I have heard from many people that Iceland is not to be missed. On the other hand, I’ve heard that it is crazy expensive. After enjoying the favourable exchange rate in Mexico, that would be hard to get used to. I’m looking forward to hearing about your latest sit!

    • Mexico is on the other spectrum of affordability, for sure. It is one of the reasons (and the climate, of course) that we are hoping to find a house sit south of the border this winter. We’ve only been back to California for a few days and we are blowing the budget already. Of course, with nothing in the fridge and the cupboards, one has to start somewhere. 🙂 Happy to be back online, Janis! Well, kind of… 🙂

      • I know of a housesit website specifically for Mexico… do you subscribe to it?

        • We haven’t paid for the specific Mexico house sit site, but I should start checking it out. Browsing is free, I think, and I can sign up when something of interest shows up. We are members of the Mexico House Sit Facebook page. To be honest, I am not actively searching yet for the winter time, but just look at the notifications that arrive in my inbox and apply to what sounds attractive. In a couple of months, I will up my game a bit, if we haven’t found anything after October yet. Thanks for the suggestion, Janis.

  5. You’ve exhausted me! I have known where you are at various times during this trip, but when you summarize it all at once, it sounds like an absolute whirlwind of activity! All good, of course. We found Iceland to be super expensive also, so we scrimped where we could and splurged on occasion during a nine-day trip one summer. That return trip sounds debilitating – get some sleep and relax well these next few weeks!

    • Following your advice as we speak, Lexie! We are almost caught up on sleep and actually like the early starts to be somewhat productive during the day. Late afternoon, things start to deteriorate and by eight (Mark) and nine (me), we need to sleep again. 🙂 So nice that you managed to visit Iceland on a nine-day trip. If it was action-packed, you must have seen quite a bit during that time. I think the best way to scrimp is by cooking your own meals and not buying alcohol or drinking out. And, to do lots of hiking instead of other, expensive activities. Although, one thing that sounds really nice to do in Iceland is to ride a horse or pony through the outstanding landscapes…

  6. Whew!!! Sounds like a little down time is called for. Beautiful photos 🙂

    • Thanks, Ingrid. I’m getting back on a balanced schedule, hopefully by Monday. The weather is nice and we are happy. 🙂

  7. Wow, talk about an epic journey. Gotta love international travel, huh?

    Iceland looks incredibly beautiful. I bet you’re glad you took the time. Thanks for sharing the photos with us.

    • Now I know how you felt after your trip to China, Holli. Travel sure can be tiresome. We are happy we stopped in Reykjavik; it shook our (my) usual, annual Boston-Brussels trip up a bit. One day I will learn that an adventurous mind leads to a tired body… 🙂

  8. Scott’s flown Icelandic Air too. He doesn’t have anything good to say about the experience. Crazy to have long haul flights not provide any food except if you buy it.

    • True. We did know ahead of time, though. Usually, we take our own lunches with us when we fly/travel, but during this two-day jaunt, that would have become a soggy mess. 🙂 Also, we have come to rely on airport lounges lately, thanks to our fancy credit card, to stuff ourselves with free healthy food before getting on a plane. Well, Reykjavik does not have one of these lounges and the ones in Boston were off-limits, because we left the international terminal to fly domestic… Yeah… We did not expect that. There went the budget. Having to buy food in a plane and an airport. We hate it. 🙂

  9. Your photographs of Iceland are fabulous, Liesbeth. I love the family shots too!

  10. It looks like you and Mark had a great visit back to Belgium, but your travel back to the US sounded brutal. Welcome back!

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    • Thank you, Stephanie! It is good to be back. For some reason, I am starting to feel more at home in the US than elsewhere. Spending too much time in this country can do that to you… 🙂

  11. What a beautiful stop! I know it would take me all three weeks to recover from that long journey. Glad you made it back in one piece.

    • Thanks, Lucy. I’m glad you say that about the three weeks. My best friend just told me I shouldn’t be too hard on myself and have this need to be productive all the time. Reading your words makes me feel better about taking the weekend off to relax. Catching up and writing can wait until Monday! 🙂

  12. It sounds like you have packed so much into these adventures it will be great to take it easy in one place for a while. Your two new canine companions look adorable and we wish you lots of fun together! :o) xxx

    • Thank you, Xenia and co! We are enjoying the company of these two, and all the carnivorous plants (how interesting) and the fish in the colorful aquarium. Our attention has shifted to the animal world again! 🙂 A lot of people seem to think that we are putting “too much hay on our forks” (speaking Dutch, you might know this expression), so maybe it is time to finally take it a bit easier. How convenient, just when I promised to work on my memoir in earnest again. 🙂

  13. I guess you OD’d! But what else can you do when opportunity presents itself? Good job you’d had all that spoiling first. 🙂 🙂 Wishing you a restful weekend, Liesbet.

    • I knew you’d understand, Jo! 🙂 And there are similar opportunities that arose for this summer, so, I am taking your advice and am having a restful weekend. It sure takes a while to get rid of that feeling of exhaustion. Have a nice weekend back home!

  14. Not surprised you are exhausted! Your new charges are a pair of cuties though.

    • Very different characters, Anabel! We are enjoying our time with them. Stella, the Chihuahua cracks us up! Such personality.

  15. You definitely have been busy, Liesbet. But it looks like time very well spent. I LOVE your family photos!

    • Thanks, Donna. I had to put it all in one post (Belgium visit and Reykjavik), since I am trying to only write one post a week, in order to focus on other writing (I haven’t forgotten about the guest post :-)), and I still have more stories and adventures to share. I hope we can keep our early bird schedule up! 🙂

  16. Sounds like a wonderful time with family and friends. Isn’t it incredible how fast that time when you are back “home” goes by so quickly? And without a moment to breathe? And you stopped in Iceland too. I got pretty exhausted reading about all the flights as of course we have so been there, done that and the long hours, the jet lag are always pretty daunting, but usually worth it. Your new house sit sounds great with the two poochies included in the package!

    Peta

    • I’m not surprised you recognize the feeling, Peta, with all the travel that you and Ben do. I do realize that we put ourselves in these situations often, because of not wanting to spend the money to be more comfortable. Our bodies are getting older, though, and sometimes, spending a bit more for an easier flight might be worth it. But, not yet. 🙂

      I hope to write a blog post about this sit in a few weeks. It is a relatively short one, unfortunately, but we are enjoying the neighborhood, the pets and the carnivorous plants!

  17. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland, but have been warned about how expensive it is. I’d like to go during the winter, whereas my partner wants to go in the summer. I guess an autumn or spring trip is on the cards. Did you suffer with any jet lag?
    I’m in the middle of writing a post about time. Reading your post has given me some new material to add to it.

    • As a matter of fact, it is now almost a week later and we are still getting up early and being exhausted by 4pm. A nine hour time difference is quite big. We find a three hour, six hour or even a 12 hour difference easier to deal with.

      You should do a stop-over in Iceland on your way to the US one day, Hugh. You can stay for up to a week without having to pay extra for your plane ticket (when traveling with IcelandAir) and there are interesting tours from the capital. Or, since Iceland is only a short hop away from the UK (only a two-hour flight or so, I think, since it was 3 hours from Belgium), you can go on a romantic winter weekend away to see the Northern Lights! If you surprise your partner, he can’t say “no”, right? 🙂

      • Usually take me at least a week for for every hour of difference to get over jet lag. At least Iceland is in the same timezone as the UK, apart from in the Summer when it’s an hour behind. I don’t believe they have daylight saving hours.
        A romantic winter weekend to see the Northern Lights sounds perfect to me, Liesbet. Thanks for the suggestion.

  18. Seems to me the older I get the faster time flies. Your Iceland photos show such serene landscapes, but I felt the chill while looking at them!

    • That is a realization I have come to notice as well these last years. In turn, I want to use my precious time even better and more effectively than ever before and try to chew more than I can bite! There is so much to do and to see, but we have to be careful not to lose the joy and the meaning in taking things slowly and prioritizing projects and activities. 🙂

  19. Great to catch up with your news and travel Liesbet! Wishing you well in your next house sit.

    • Thanks, Denzil. I was thinking about you when I was in Belgium, but as always, we were short on time. I didn’t meet you and I didn’t even get to do any of the hikes you so enthusiastically and accurately and interestingly describe on your blog… 🙁 Maybe next time!!!

  20. Wow, what a trip! Every time you travel learn more savvy tips that are also helpful to other travelers. I told you, a book is awaiting! 🙂

    • Many books, I presume… If only I could just stop traveling and stop collecting experiences for a while and focus on the ones of the last decade. 🙂

  21. Brave travelers, rest now. Glorious photos by the way. My brother and his wife visited Iceland in April. They claimed to have a grand time.

    • I have only heard positive stories about Iceland. And, I believe them – most people don’t mind spending money on vacation. Just not sure whether those people have also seen the amazing nature in to New Zealand, Alaska or Canada as well. 🙂 Resting as we speak, and writing again!!

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