Saturday, May 19, 2012

Reykjavik, Iceland

Today we started our journey by flying from Boston, MA to Reykjavik, Iceland. This will be our first trip to Iceland. We are looking forward to the cooler temperatures. We will spend 2 nights in Reykjavik and then fly to London for an overnight near Southampton.

I started my day much earlier than anticipated. I woke at 3:30 am to complete my final preparations for our departure. I also had some actual 'work' to do as well. With only 3 hours of sleep I knew I was going to pay for it later.

We like traveling light and not checking bags. This is for a couple of obvious reasons. Primarily, we are worried the bags may not make the flight and we don't want to waste time trying to locate them or hoping they catch up with us. Secondly, we dislike standing at a crowded baggage carousel waiting (and hoping) for them to arrive. Some airports are better than others but we have decided, whenever possible, to avoid this all together. We always seem to meet people on during our travels who were unfortunate to have the airline misplace their luggage. At the end of a trip if our bags are too heavy from new purchases we will check them for the flight home. There are luggage forwarding companies that provide baggage pickup and delivery for those that do not want to travel with luggage. However, it is more cost effective and faster just to take our bags with us.

I am a girl and not surprisingly, I like clothes. I do not want to compromise when packing and most of the time can fit almost everything I want to bring in one carry-on. Nonetheless, I can also sympathize with a 6' 5" linebacker who cannot fit all of his clothing into a small bag. Just a tuxedo or suit would take up too much room. We are currently using the Heys xCase which weights 6.5 lbs. I usually pack the following for a 2 - 3 week trip: 6 dresses, 5 pairs trousers, 8 silk tops and the rest is casual shirts, pants and "delicates". I usually don't do laundry but do use the ships pressing service.

I was busy with work the night before our trip so did not start packing until 7:30 pm. I also was going through papers that I will bring on the trip with background and information on the ports we will visit. I should not have waited until the last minute but that is how it worked oit. I didn't get to bed until 12:30 am and not exactly sure what is actually in my bag. Cannot wait to unpack on the ship and see what I have!

The carry-on baggage allowance on Icelandair is one 6kg (13 lbs) bag plus a personal item in Economy Class. Icelandair recently changed their carry on baggage policy. For those with tickets issued on or after April 1, 2012 the new allowance is an amazing 10kg (22 lbs). My bag fully packed weighs 27 lbs. My mother's bag weighs 21 lbs. So I am over and my mother's is under the limit if our tickets had been issued more recently instead of many months ago. I think it would make more sense for Icelandair to state a change to their baggage allowance for an effective date instead of by when the ticket was issued. Luckily, Icelandair has online checkin 36 hours prior to departure. It will be intereseting to see how they will monitor the issue date of a ticket once you have your online boarding pass and are boarding the plane.

This is how we roll, literally

Since we lived in the Boston suburbs for many years it is always nice to return even for a short stopover. As our flight to Iceland did not depart until 9:30 pm we took the shuttle bus to the Hyatt Harborside hotel which as the eponymous name implies, is yes, located on Boston Harbor. The hotel has a wondeful view of the harbor and the Boston Skyline. We are very familiar with the Hyatt and actually happened to be here on the first night of their Grand Opening in 1992. My sister met us here for a snack and it was nice to spend some time together. Her spousal equivalent (Ted) could not make it because he had a work conflict. The hotel has a terrace so we sat outside and admired the view.

Back at Logan Airport a few hours later we used our online boarding passes and went through security. The shuttle dropped us off at a different location at terminal E that was actually closer to terminal C. The TSA agent was terrible. He didn't understand why my boarding pass had tomorrows date on it. I had to explain that it shows the time for departure for Boston on the left and the arrival time in Iceland which is the next day on the right. It was really strange! There were hardly any people going through this checkpoint and I learned later that the main security area took one area to complete.

The international terminal at Logan is not impressive. The shopping is limited and there are not many places to sit. We managed to find a good spot near the gate and watched the great efficiency that Lufthansa executed to load their flight to Munich. It was very impressive! They closed the boarding door exactly on time.

While we were waiting for our flight to board I noticed they had a scale to weight luggage and wondered if we would have to gate check our bags. I did over hear one of the Icelandair agents say to look for oversized bags.

This is our first time traveling on Icelandair. The flight time from Boston to Reykjavik is only 4 1/2 hours flying time. At this time of year the sun only sets for a few hours In Iceland so it should get light just a few hours into the flight. On May 18th when we arrive in Iceland and on the following days through July 24th, the time for first light and last light is exaclty the same, 11:00 pm. Kind of interesting. I think they call it midnight twilight. On the 18th the sunset is at 10:30 pm with sunrise at 2:30 am.

I was surprised Icelandair's fleet is prodominately comprised of 757 aircraft that have been refurbished. The flight boarded on time and we wheeled our bags on without incident. There was not much leg room in economy. I had my personal item under the seat in front of me and I was not very comfortable. They had little peddles under the seat in front but with my back there they were blocked. We departed the gate 5 minutes early and I could see the Lufthansa plane to Munich had not left yet. We taxied and wings were up shortly thereafter. There was thankfully inflight entertainment in each seat. IFE was a little limiting but there were a couple of good choices. I was interested in the Icelandic films (they had several) but I ended up watching The Descendants. The flight attendants were professional and courteous. Meals were available for a small fee but I was not hungry and the menu frankly did not look enticing.

Two hours into the flight I could see the sunrise in the distance. Three hours after leaving Boston I could get a faint view of southern Greenland 500 miles away. The flight was smooth and seemed to go by very quickly. I did notice my mother pacing in the aisle a few times so I don't think it was as pleseant an experience for her.

We landed at Keflavik airport at 5:57 am, almost 30 minutes early. Breezed through immigration and took the Flybus for 2500 krona each to the central bus terminal and then continued on to the Hilton Nordica. We did not have to change buses but the name Fly Bus is a bit of a misnomer. We certainly did not fly. The entire trip took over 120 minutes. The speed limit must have been around 50 mph.

We finally arrived at the hotel but were not able to check into our room. I realize that checking in early in Europe is not expected but I had read several reviews claiming that people could get an early check in. I was very tired and wanted to rest for a few hours so we stored our bags at reception and as a Gold Hilton Honors member we were given access to the Executive Lounge on the 8th floor. This room has a fantastic view of the water and mountains as well as an excellent assortment of hot and cold breakfast items.

The Hilton is about a 20 minute walk from the center of Reykjavik and the hotel also offers a shuttle several times a day. It was now 8:30 am so we went to the lobby where I curled up in a ball (sitting up) and fell asleep for about an hour until the shuttle was due to depart at 10:00 am. My mother didn't have any jet lag so luckily she was functioning perfectly. I woke up and felt a little better. I was still out of it as I managed to get hit with the revolking door upon exiting the hotel to get on the bus. The shuttle departed and we were in the downtown shopping area in about 8 minutes.

The weather was crisp with temps in the high 40's. The sun was out but it was mostly overcast. I had mittens but forgot my scarf. We decided not to bring heavy coats with us as we would only need them in Iceland. We walked along Laugavegur which is the main shopping street. We stopped by KronKron, and Andersen & Lauth. They had some interesting clothes. We also went into a Nordic shop and a few others with knits and Icelandic sweaters. The wool is really rough and not soft. We did not make any purchases.

We could see the beautiful Harpa building in the distance. This the new concert hall for the symphony and opera which opened in 2011. It is very beautiful.

Other sights were the massive Hallgrimskirkja Luthern Church. It is volcano shaped and took 40 years to complete. We were too tired to walk all the way up the street to see it but could tell even further away it is quite imposing.

At At 12:30 pm we had a lunch reservation at Fiskgelagid (Fish Company). However, we were done with shopping early but is was only 11:15 am. I noticed we were right by the Radisson hotel so I decided to make a quick detour and stop by Baejarins Beztu for what some people say is the world's best hot dog.

We each ordered a hot dog, called a Pylsur with everything except ketchup. The hot dogs are made of pork, beef and lamb and come with two kinds of onions (raw and fried). They add a remoulade which has gerkins. I don't know if they are the best on the planet, but they were darn good! I almost wanted another.

After our rather unorthodox pre lunch snack we walked over to Fiskgelagid for lunch. The restaurant is partially at ground level. It is very cozy and has an interesting decor.

The menu offered many Icelandic specialities. My mother ordered the Plaice which was a very light fish and I had the Summer sushi 2012 which had lobster, salmon, tuna, "snow" and orange. The bread and butter selection was yummy. The middle one is an apple jelly.

Our lunch order came soon after and looked tasted even better than they looked. The presentation was spectacular and the food was delicious.

We also ordered dessert which was tiramisu. It had raspberries, chocolate and caramel. It was one of the best desserts I have ever had!

The entire meal including one glass of red wine and green tea was only $55 USD. Amazing.

Below is a photo of the candles in one of the other rooms of the restaurant.

After lunch we returned to the hotel by taxi. On the way back the taxi drove past the Solfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture but I not quick enough to snap a photo. It is an abstract form of a viking ship. Perhaps tomorrow we can go by it again so I can get a photo.

Back at the Hilton we were able to check into our room. We were upgraded to an Executive room on the 8th floor (room 802) that was right next door to the Executive lounge. The room is a little spartan but huge. The windows open which is great to get fresh air. We also have the same great view as the lounge of the mountains.

This a photo of the stairs looking down from the 8th floor.

After a much needed nap I woke around 5:00 pm and decided to go to the lobby as the wifi was not working in the room. I worked on the blog a bit and checked email. We had a dinner reservation downtown but decided to cancel it and just have a snack up in the lounge. We were the only the people there but were told that they expected 30 people tonight.

They had a nice selection of items including sushi, beer and wine. We weren't very hungry so this was perfect. Below are photos of the food in the lounge.

We went back to room and went to bed around 10:30 pm. Of course it was still light outside.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic beginning to your journey - love it and can't wait to read more! I have always wanted to visit Iceland - have a wonderful time!

    Regards ~