September 11 (Sunny)
The trip from Seattle to Reykjavik itself was about 10 hours(?). Flying with IcelandAir was a pleasant experience (on par with other discount airlines such as WestJet). Per Tripadvisor’s advice I brought with me my unlocked iPhone and got a Siminn prepaid phone card on the flight (around $20) and I strongly encourage everyone to do so. If there was ONE thing that’s reasonably priced in Iceland it was its telecommunication. For such a remote country I had impeccable 3G connection literally in the middle of nowhere… Google Maps saved my ass more than once when my GPS unit decided to nap during snow storms.
When the plane approached Keflavik Airport I looked out the window and almost immediately I began doubting myself because the scenery was so barren!!!! (for MILES!). Icelanders were so chill and informal – as I went through customs the border agent was wearing pajama bottoms and a border agent top LOL. He even smiled at me and wished me a pleasant journey! (obviously I’ve been conditioned by US customs where agents are emotionless robots feared by everyone). The “international” airport itself was tiny/homey but functional, and before leaving customs I bought the maximum amount of alcohol allowed ([Tip #1] I think I bought a case of beer and a bottle of wine. I also Whatsapp-ed my mom who was transferring from London at the time to do the same – another tip courtesy of tripadvisor). Alcohol was probably worth more than gold in Iceland because it cost a fortune if you wanted to get one in a restaurant haha.
The car rental people were waiting for me at the airport with a new Toyota Landcruiser: a luxurious behemoth compared to the 20 year old Honda Civic that I was driving in Canada. It was awesome because Iceland was the perfect place to overcome my fear of driving huge vehicles: great roads with very little traffic. After signing papers and quick vehicle inspection I decided to pick up groceries/supplies for the next ten days at the supermarket because the Land Cruiser will serve as our hotel for a couple of nights (it was called Bonus Supermarket – Giant pink pig as its mascot… you can’t miss it). I flew in early morning and my mom’s flight was not for another 6 hours so there were plenty of time to get errands done. I also spotted fighter jets flying overhead with regular frequency around Keflavik which was kind of odd because… it’s Iceland (one of the most peaceful countries in the world!). Later I found out NATO operated a base out of Keflavik Airport.
A quick 30 minute drive was all it took to get to Reykjavik (Capital city of Iceland). Reykjavik was a beautiful and quaint city (very walkable in September). We went to a few “touristy spots” such as the conference center, the harbor, and the most impressive building in town which was the church (Hallgrímskirkja) that resembled a rocket (or the basalt columns at Svartifoss). We turned in early to combat the jetlag that night. (Aside: the B&B that we stayed at only accepted paypal which I didn’t have, I only booked for one night but I told the owner that I will come back at the end of the trip… and she replied “Don’t worry about paying now you can pay for the two nights when you come back, what’s your name again?” This lady was so trusting even to a random stranger.. she only had my name! – I stayed at “The Blue House B&B” and it was a wonderful experience)