Emily C. Skaftun

(skŏf • tŭn) n. A writer of speculative fiction.

Tag: travel (page 2 of 2)

Israel in summer, part 2: To the sea of Gallilee

In the morning our tour started. Our group is really small—there’s the Texans, two women from NY, Mary the blond and Randi, the odd couple of Nori and Ken, and Sadira, master of scarf-wearing. Our tour guide/driver, Tomer, is much more mellow than whoever picked us up from the airport, thank the stars.

We started at Ceaserea, where the ruins are impressive in the way of all ruins. The amphitheater is still used for shows, which seems really cool. On the other end, restaurants nestle among the ruins. I would have enjoyed visiting them if we’d been there without the group. We also stopped at a section of aqueduct on the beach, which was very pretty with the blue Mediterranean behind.

Aqueduct and sea behind.

Aqueduct and sea behind.

Next we drove to Haifa, and paused to look the Bahai shrine up and down–literally. We looked up at it, and then we looked down at it. I would have liked to see inside the actual building, but it is nevertheless neat to have seen two of the shrines now. The gardens are incredible. I wonder what it takes to be allowed to walk the length of them. A shame that everyone isn’t doing so. What good is it to create a marvel and not let people fully enjoy it?

The Bahai shrine, from the top.

The Bahai shrine, from the top.

From there we sped on to a Druze village. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t noticeably different from any other little roadside town. We had a decent but not mind-blowing lunch and then were harangued by merchants wanting to show us their “hand-made” merchandise, which I am sure I could buy at Target.

Next we stopped at Megida (Armageddon), which was more ruins and hot hot heat. It takes a lot of imagination to appreciate ruins, and I was out of that brand of imagination for the day. One nice thing is that they let people crawl all over the ruins here; they’re not all precious about them like so many other places. But I guess that goes with them being not all that impressive, really. We did walk down to a tunnel dug under the city walls to reach the town’s water source. Pretty cool thing to have done in ye olden times, and a welcome break from the heat.

The original Underground Tour.

The original Underground Tour.

Our last tourist stop was at the Jordan River, supposedly the site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. It was pretty. A great many people in robes were being baptized there, and across the way horses were running about for no apparent reason. We were able to just step into the river, where tiny fishes nibbled and tickled our ankles. Have I been saved now?

These fish live on a diet of almost exclusively sin.

These fish live on a diet of almost exclusively sin.

Finally we reached the Kibbutz where we stay for two nights. I am still not totally clear on the kibbutz concept, and hope it gets explained tomorrow. Our accommodations are what you’d expect from any hotel. We had a nice dinner and nicer chat with our traveling companions, and then Husband and I tried to walk the “promenade” that loops around the kibbutz but probably were going the wrong way and so we turned around and came back that way. Lame.

Israel in summer, part 1: Tel Aviv, or nothing is open

I joke that we are trying to visit all the “I” countries—Iceland, Israel, etc. It’s not true, of course. We’re in no hurry to see Iraq or Iran, despite the lovely things I’ve heard about the city of Tehran.

Actually this trip was Mom’s idea. Is it a religious thing? That residual Catholicism can be hard to get over. Who knows. Mom said let’s go to Israel, so to Israel we went.

We were met at baggage by a caricature Israeli—he really reminded me of the tour guide from the Simpsons episode—fast-talking and impatient. We made it to the hotel to find it perfectly adequate despite the tour company’s attempts to upsell me—I’m glad we didn’t pay more to upgrade. Our hotel was two blocks from the beach, which is amazing. It’s really nicely integrated into the city with a boardwalk and cafes and anything else you could want.

We had dinner at a place on the beach. Great ambiance, okay food, lousy service. Don’t be in a hurry!

By the time we got in and sat for a minute it was Shabbat, and our options were somewhat limited. We walked just a tiny bit, marveling at all the stray cats in the city. They meow with no discernible accent.

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Dinner at the beach.

Saturday morning the Husband woke up feeling unwell and didn’t join us for the day. The museums Mom wanted to see were closed on account of Shabbat, and the buses weren’t running, so we walked all the way to Old Jaffa (Yafo)—about two miles—along the beach. It was really lovely. The old city is amazing and well restored. Unlike a lot of ancient sites, it’s been in constant use, which is nice to see. We attempted to visit the market on the way back, but (duh) it was closed. So we just walked back.

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A typical scene from Yafo.

It is beautiful here. Oddly more "mediterranean" than I'd expected.

It is beautiful here. Oddly more “mediterranean” than I’d expected.

We rested a long while then sought dinner around sunset—only to find that it was some kind of fast day, and NOW, even the things that had been open for Shabbat in relatively easygoing Tel Aviv were closing. Oh, you haven’t eaten since breakfast? Well too bad. We finally resorted to eating at the same restaurant from the night before. Ugh. Why weren’t we warned about the holiday? Seems like something the folks we bought the tour from might have told us.

Fire & ice: winter tours in Iceland

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun Bárðarbunga from the air

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
Bárðarbunga from the air.

I recently took a week off to visit Iceland. Iceland in winter. We’d been to the country before, right around the summer solstice, and loved it. So part of the impetus for this trip was to see how we felt about the place when it wasn’t summer—when it was covered in ice, and when the sun barely made an appearance.

The eruption of the Bárðarbunga volcano, with spreading lava field in nearby Holuhraun, began after we booked our trip, but immediately made the top of our list of things to see while there.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun The long view shows just a portion of the vast lava field laid down by the volcano. For scale, the mound that’s been built up is around 70 meters high. The lava field is bigger than Manhattan. I also found it interesting how utterly flat the landscape is that it’s rising out of.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
The long view shows just a portion of the vast lava field laid down by the volcano. For scale, the mound that’s been built up is around 70 meters high. The lava field is bigger than Manhattan. I also found it interesting how utterly flat the landscape is that it’s rising out of.

Fortunately, this is easy to do, as long as you’re willing to pay for it. The lava field is roughly in the middle of the country, so there are small plane and helicopter tours available from both Reykjavik and Akureyri (in the north).

Costs vary quite a lot, with helicopter tours typically much more expensive than planes. Flights out of Reykjavik also tended to cost more, and since we were going to Akureyri anyway we booked ours from there. The company we went with was called Mýflug (www.myflug.is), and they were great. Before we flew, they checked and double-checked the weather to make sure we’d see something. It was touch and go for a while, but as you can see from the pictures, the day turned out gorgeous. We flew out to Holuhraun, then back and forth near the caldera several times before heading back to Akureyri, and only then did they run our credit cards. I respect that.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun Iceland’s newest volcano sends clouds of smoke to blot out the sun, as seen from the tail window of a Cessna.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun Iceland’s newest volcano sends clouds of smoke to blot out the sun, as seen from the tail window of a Cessna.

Other major companies are Saga Travel, Extreme Iceland, Iceland Travel, Nordic Visitors, and Iceland Unlimited, all of which cost more than ours. Though the cheapest, it was still over $300 per person. We justified the expense as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Of course, the other fire we wanted to see while wintering in Iceland was in the sky: the Northern Lights. Don’t miss your opportunity to go on a tour to hunt this phenomenon. You may think you’ll be able to simply look up and see them, but going with a guide gives you better odds. Most of these tours also come with a guarantee, whereby they’ll take you back out the next night if you don’t see anything.

Be forewarned: this will be the coldest part of your trip. Winter temperatures in Iceland are surprisingly mild, hovering around freezing most of the time. But at night, in some windswept place far from light, when you are just standing around looking up, it’s much colder. Wear thick socks.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun Iceland isn’t all fire; in winter it also has a lot of ice. This is Goðafoss, the waterfall of the Gods, into which all the old Norse Gods were ritually tossed upon Iceland’s conversion to Christianity.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
Iceland isn’t all fire; in winter it also has a lot of ice. This is Goðafoss, the waterfall of the Gods, into which all the old Norse Gods were ritually tossed upon Iceland’s conversion to Christianity.

We did manage to see some Aurora on our first night out, though it wasn’t anything you’d put on a postcard. We had a better view, oddly enough, during our flight to Iceland. If you fly Iceland Air, be sure to reserve your seat selection as soon as you can to get a window seat. That too is another article.

Finally, you may wish to see some of the other wonders of Iceland: the Golden Circle, stunning waterfalls, geothermal sites, or even movie sets. Movie sets? A number of things have been filmed in Iceland, most recently and notably, the “beyond the Wall” segments in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones. We chose a tour purporting to take us to places featured on the show, and while the GOT-related content was disappointing, the tour itself was marvelous.

I recommend taking a tour whether in the north or the south, because having a guide along helps enhance the experience in a number of ways. One, they know what they’re looking at, and usually quite a lot of history and interesting tidbits about the location. Two, the tours are planned to take you places at times of day that make sense. We self-guided along the Golden Circle, and ran out of light (which is easy to do in the winter). This won’t happen on a tour. Three, the tour guides have support and backup. We did manage to get our tour van stuck at one point, but she was easily able to summon help (perhaps the Hidden People). Meanwhile, when we tried to drive to a farm we wanted to visit, we were turned back by an impassable road.

However you do it, end your tour in one of the many geothermal baths that make Iceland in the winter much, much cozier than we would have guessed!

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 6, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Iceland in winter, part 4: What goes up must come down

On day six we got back into the car for the “golden circle.” The first stop was Þingvellir, which is apparently the continental divide between North America and Europe. A big crack in the earth. Many trolls watching from the rocks. Very cold and slippery.

You can't tell me these aren't trolls.

You can’t tell me these aren’t trolls.

We stopped next at Gullfoss, where it was blizzarding. We ate and shopped in the store at the top–sharing bottomless soup and coffee–and then walked down partway. It was late enough that we were already losing the light and so we made it a quick trip. Big waterfall! Largely frozen!

Gullfoss. Most-photographed waterfall in the world?

Gullfoss. Most-photographed waterfall in the world?

The last stop was at Geysir, which ended up being hilarious. We walked around and saw the hot, bubbling water, and Mer made fun of Chris because when they’d been there before he’d been attacked by one of the geysers. This time we were all attacked by Strokkur. It blasted up into the air, and I judged that the water was going to come back down on top of us, so I ran out of the way. Well, not ran, because it was icy. I shuffled like a cautious velociraptor out of the way. The others didn’t. The hunkered down and got pretty soaked, and we laughed and laughed about it. None of them were sure they weren’t going to be horribly burned (the water erupts from the earth at a high temperature!), but still they just waited for it. Meanwhile, I was sure the water would cool fast in the frigid air; I was only afraid of being drenched–and I ran like a ninny.

We decided not to do Big Dinner that night; some of us went to a supermarket (sort of like an Icelandic Wal-Mart) and I bought a lot of cocolate to give out as gifts. Then we went downtown to the Hlöllabátar sandwich place that Bunny and Crow had loved so much on their last Iceland visit–we had been hearing about them all week–and took them back to the hotel room to eat. Good sandwiches, though maybe not as incredible as the hype.

Day seven was about wandering Reykjavík. We started by driving to Perlan, which really does have the best view in town. Would like to eat there sometime when it’s light late. Surely it will be next time we’re in Reykjavík.

We dropped the rental car off in a full-on blizzard, and got them to drop us in town, where it was only mildly snowy. We wandered the main street of Reykjavík, which I will always love. Tourist shops, coffee shops, book shops. Iceland loves books. I love that about it.

It was almost time to decide about Elfschool. Elfschool is the “famous” (in my circles it is, okay? don’t judge me) brainchild of Magnús Skarphéðinsson. I’ve known people who’ve gone to it, or have it on their bucket lists. It’s right at the intersection of being a fantasy writer and also being the editor of the Norwegian American Weekly and traveling with our little mascot, a “nisse” called Nils Anders Wik. I wanted very much to go. The others were on the fence about it, and I was on the fence about whether it would be fun to do it without them.

But first I made everyone tromp all the way back down to “Moby Dick on a Stick” (Sægreifinn / The Sea Baron), which as it happens is much bigger than I ever knew. We sat upstairs (there’s an upstairs!). Whale continues to be delicious (I’m sorry people, but it is), though I was less impressed with the lobster soup this time than last. Maybe it’s just the season.

Okay, but then it was really time to decide, and I decided I wanted to go to Elfschool. Everyone else bailed on me, so I went alone. I hailed a cab, and almost started crying because it felt so weirdly sad to break off from the herd.

Magnús is a character. I took a lot of notes, but it was really just tales and anecdotes that he’d collected. He is very sincere, and blames the decline in Hidden People relations on the Enlightenment. Our group had the second-ever Icelandic person to go to Elfschool, which was a really nice addition. They chatted amongst themselves, mostly in English. The pancakes were fantastic. Magnús had a tendency to pause in his ramblings for a long time and then sort of start over. We had to remind him of his place several times. His husband was also a character. They’d talk in Icelandic and Magnús would run off for long periods. I wish I knew what they were saying. I may have to learn Icelandic once I get a grip on Norwegian. But did I learn about Elves? Not really. I’m sorry, Magnús.

Magnús and Nils Anders.

Magnús and Nils Anders.

There were so many new friends at Elfschool that Nils Anders didn't even get to meet them all.

There were so many new friends at Elfschool that Nils Anders didn’t even get to meet them all.

Afterward I split a cab with the Irish couple and met the rest of my folks at Kex, which turned out to be a very interesting bar in a hostel. Very loud. But everyone was in a good mood and there was a Scottish band who played one terrible, cliché set of mopey songs–“love is the key that unlocks every door”–and then their second set, as we were leaving, was much better. It was the kind of place I would have loved to stay in my younger traveling days. Or live in. Whatever.

And then the trip was over. This morning we had our last smörgåsbord breakfast, packed our over-stuffed bags, and hit the hotel’s spa. It’s no Blue Lagoon or Mývatn, or even Akureyri pool, but it was a fine way to wrap up our stay in Iceland.

We drank a lot of booze on the way back to the airport, and then bought a lot more booze in the airport, and basically had a really nice time until we had to say goodbye to Chris and Mer and get on our flight. Ugh, flying. My TV doesn’t work so Jeremy and I split the sound to watch Man of Steel on his screen. My neck hurts from it. Also that movie makes no sense. Also also, Jeremy took the window seat. Oh yeah, and we’ve already eaten our meals and are still quite hungry. There are still four hours left of this flight. I have never looked forward to ordering a pizza and watching some TV more.

Oh, travel. It’s amazing to go and amazing to return.

Iceland in winter, part 3: Of thrones and goats

Day four was our all-day Lake Mývatn “Game of Thrones” tour. Our guide, Sandra, was terrific. We didn’t see any of the GOT sites advertised on the tour’s site–not the wall (which is of course not a real thing, though we’d imagined sections of it used for filming), not the “love cave”–and that was a little disappointing, but the day could not have been any better. We had fabulous weather, and the light was unbelievable pretty much all day. I took many shots with the borrowed fancy camera I had, boring shots of fabulous clouds, none of which capture the reality of it.

The first stop was back to Goðafoss, the waterfall of the gods. Much prettier in the daylight, and with the sun rising behind it…

Goðafoss at dawn.

Goðafoss at dawn.

We did a lot of driving and took many small stops to see something off the side of the road. We also made stops at Lake Mývatn and the false craters there, formed when eruptions hit ice and bounce back. We went to the home of the Yule Lads and hiked around in the deep snow there. Our van got very thoroughly stuck in the same deep snow, and we tried to get it out but failed and Sandra (our wonderful tour guide) had to call for help. We all felt bad for her because she was so obviously embarrassed. It was fun romping through the deep snow there, even if the rocks didn’t look much like trolls to me.

False craters at Lake Mývatn.

False craters at Lake Mývatn.

These outcroppings are supposed to be the Yule Lads, turned to stone. The goons in front are myself and Husband.

These outcroppings are supposed to be the Yule Lads, turned to stone. The goons in front are myself and Husband.

Then we had a very nice lunch at the Cow Shed. You could actually see the cows through a window from where we ate. I had a burger even though that felt a little wrong with them sitting there watching me. Om nom nom.

I honestly can’t remember what we saw after lunch. There was the “stinky mud pits,” as Sandra called them. Very sulphuric and gorgeous, with the now-sunset behind the rising steam. Finally we ended up at the Mývatn baths, which in my opinion was far better than the Blue Lagoon. There was a fabulous view of the snow-covered landscape, with the sun setting the entire time we were there. Almost no one else was there, and even the other couple with us on the tour didn’t get in the water. I can’t imagine why not.

The stinky mud pits. That's all our guide would call them, though I don't remember them smelling particularly bad.

The stinky mud pits. That’s all our guide would call them, though I don’t remember them smelling particularly bad.

Sunset from the baths at Lake Mývatn. Sunset began before we got there and wasn't done when we left.

Sunset from the baths at Lake Mývatn. Sunset began before we got there and wasn’t done when we left.

Day five was our flight back to Reykjavik. We checked back into the hotel there and waited for Bunny to pick up the rental car, and then I began my life as a backseat troll. We had the biggest vehicle we could really rent, which technically seats seven, but the backseat (the wayback) was really only meant for kids. Jeremy and I sat in it as we headed out of town toward the goat farm that Bunny wanted to see. Long story short, we didn’t make it. We ended up on this road labeled “impassable,” and decided to turn around. As it turns out, I’m pretty sure we were on the wrong road and wouldn’t have made it anyway.

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Crow laments the impassable road… and makes fart jokes. Photo by Bunny, probably.

We backtracked as far as Borgarnes and got some coffee and then tried the eternal Plan B: Find Some Booze. In this case, we tried to find the Reyka distillery. We also failed at that. We bought some booze (at a store) and headed back into town.

Dinner was at Tapas Barinn in Reykjavík, and was hands-down the most fabulous meal of the trip. Little bites of delicious Nordic delicacies. It seemed expensive, but we got a lot of food of high quality, and ate most of the animals on our to-eat list (puffin and whale and sheep, oh my!). Yum!

Iceland in winter, part 2: Akureyri and the hole in the earth

On day two we got up early for the hotel’s fairly epic breakfast, then fought a crowd of other people who had purchased the same cheap deal as us for cabs to the Reykjavík airport (a view of which I had from my window). I really feel this transportation should have been included, since it was a bit of a logistical issue getting so many people there. The airport is tiny, with zero security. It took about a minute to get us checked in, and Darin’s lack of a passport was no issue.

The flight was pretty great. The sky was red with sunrise literally the whole flight, though the sun didn’t officially rise until well after we’d landed. There was about two hours of sunrise. That is the thing I didn’t realize about these near-arctic winter days–though there are only four hours or so of “daylight,” add another hour or more on either end for truly epic sunrises and sunsets, during which time it’s light enough to see: bright twilight. The light, therefore, is totally magical for most of the day. I remember my Norwegian grandfather saying that the thing he missed most when he first moved to the U.S. and lived in California was long sunsets, and I had no idea what he meant. Odda is not as far north as we are now, but I think now I understand.

The day was clear, which was a boon because this was the day of our volcano tour!!! I really don’t have the words. We flew in a Cessna, and it would have been beautiful without the volcano, but holy shit, there was a volcano there. Orange magma bubbling and shooting up out of the earth’s vagina. Not hugely, like in the early days of the eruption, but still visibly, trailing out into a long lava field bigger than Manhattan. Steaming and smoking. Clashing brutally with the vast expanse of snow all around it. Blotting the sun to a red ghost. The eruption is on a very flat landscape, save the cone it’s building, which has risen to about 70 meters. It shows no signs of stopping.

The volcano from a distance.

The volcano from a distance.

The only time I'd seen a sun like that before was due to forest fires. This is a much better cause.

The only time I’d seen a sun like that before was due to forest fires. This is a much better cause.

The earth's vagina.

The earth’s vagina.

After that we checked into the hotel in Akureyri and met Chris and Mer for lunch. We ate at this adorable, campy burger place called Hamborgerafabrikkan. Decent lunch, but the aesthetic is what really sold it. I kept their fantastic menus. It is also interesting to note that I’ve been very impressed with how much knowing a little Norwegian helps with reading and hearing Icelandic. Sure, the languages are quite different, but since Icelandic is basically Old Norse, many of the basics are the same. Though spelling or pronunciation may be a bit different I’ve been making very good guesses.

"Hyggelig" cow in Hamborgarafabrikkan.

“Hyggelig” cow in Hamborgarafabrikkan.

The last item on Day Two’s agenda was our Northern Lights tour, and the night was fairly clear–hazy, I’d call it. We drove and drove while our tour guide ranted about the people from the south–it seems like a friendly, possibly one-way rivalry–and periodically checked to see if he could see anything. We ended up at Goðafoss, but it was pitch black so we couldn’t even tell we were on the edge of a waterfall. It was also freezing, and after a while it seemed we weren’t going to see anything, but finally we did. It wasn’t the spectacular lights I was hoping for. It wasn’t even as strong as what we saw from the plane. A faintish green band that moved sluggishly. But it was the Northern Lights. We had hot chocolate (mine with a splash of rum), and then chatted with the tour guide for quite a long time, then drank more and finally went to bed around three in the morning.

Nils Anders Wik makes a friend in Akureyri.

Nils Anders Wik makes a friend in Akureyri.

Day three was a free day, so we got up early for breakfast then went back to bed for a while. Then most of us walked around Akureyri and looked in the little shops. Later we spent some time in the Akureyri pool, which was very relaxing, then walked up to the grocery store and bought a picnic dinner. It wasn’t Fud brand food (when you’re in the Yucatan, choose Fud brand food), but it was very nice. The thing about the cold weather is that after wearing all that clothing I really want to get out of it. Pools are good for this. Note to self about traveling in Iceland in the future: bring a towel.

Iceland in winter, part 1: Day one

Oddly, it was my idea to visit this northern country in the dead of winter. A special popped up somewhere: airfare, hotel, etc. for a reasonable rate. I sent it to Bunny and Crow, who are as crazy as we are. “Who’s up for Iceland in January?” They were. So were their friends, Chris and Mer, and since we’d all traveled before, if only as far as Las Vegas, it seemed a perfect plan: three couples, all of whom had been to Iceland before. Never in the winter.

But hey, we are tough. And Northern Lights are pretty, or so we had been told. And a cheap trip is a cheap trip. I wasn’t entirely sure that my work could do without me for a week, but I booked it anyhow. In the four weeks leading up to the trip I managed to do almost five weeks’ worth of work, and away we went.

But whoever said getting there is half the fun never traveled economy class. And long flights are made infinitely longer by having the wrong seats. Memo to Icelandair: two aisle seats (which the Husbot and I had) do not count as “sitting together.” Nevermind being anywhere near Bunny and Crow.

However, about two-thirds of the way into the flight, Northern Lights were spotted off the right side of the plane (my side), and my seatmates generously tore themselves away from the window for a while to let me look. I got a few minutes of the shifting green lights and I am very grateful. Nice people, as it turns out, even if they did wake me in the one minute I was drifting to sleep to go to the bathroom.

We arrived in Keflavík early in the morning. We met up with Chris and Mer, who’d had an even longer travel day from Mississippi, and we still had a couple of hours left until our tour bus to the Blue Lagoon. Those were long hours. Airport hours.

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Nils Anders Wik at the Blue Lagoon.

The pre-dawn snow was coming down sideways in blizzard-like conditions when we boarded the bus. At the Blue Lagoon there was more confusion about the storage of our belongings, but eventually we made it into that weird weird water. The water wasn’t quite warm enough in most places—the currents of hot and cold that were fine when we’d been there in the summer led to a lot of cold times, and a lot of hot ones too.

When we first swam outside (or scuttled, keeping as much under the relatively warm water as possible), it was still snowing like crazy and the sun was just finally empinkening the clouds between hills. The snow made our faces and ears and necks cold, and we had to wipe snow off our eyelashes. A very intense experience. By the end it was sunny—or at least it would have been if the sun had risen above the low surrounding hills. If the Lagoon is more pleasant in summer (and it is), it is more intense in winter; the contrast really adds to the experience. We spent a long relaxing time in that lagoon.

After bussing and checking in to our hotel rooms, we had about an hour before the Taste the Saga tour that Bunny and Crow had gone on when they visited Iceland before. For us it was just enough time for the Husbot to shower while I called the front desk to get our room’s electricity working and watch the epic sunset over the hotel’s industrial backyard. But the Husbot’s light-free shower was by far not the greatest of our worries.

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The view from our hotel room in Reykjavík at sunset.

Getting off the bus from the hotel Crow had a sickening realization—that he didn’t know where his passport was. An hour later, having torn through all his bags and clothing, he knew for sure that he didn’t have it. Yikes! Maybe he lives here now.

So Crow wasn’t feeling up to the tour of Egill Brewery, which was a real shame because it was fabulous. Our hostess was Olof, and she was adorable. She taught us about “lateral explosions,” the angry duck sound two l’s make at the end of a word that none of us can mimic to save our lives. But she also taught us about the quirky alcohol history of Iceland. In a nutshell: a 1909 temperance movement started prohibition. Voters (landed males only, at the time) approved it, but nothing happened for years. Then the country decided to act on prohibition in 1913, agreeing to drink up all the alcohol by 1915. All alcohol was banned except for what doctors prescribed (liberally) and what was available for communion. At some point hard alcohol was reintroduced, but not beer. Then during WWII, foreign soldiers (British) demanded beer, so there was a shady economy of “exported” beer that was made by Egill and distributed on bases in Iceland. And then beer was finally legalized in 1989. Iceland beer and the Berlin wall. Same year.

Or something like that—my memory of the history is fuzzy because we were given a very generous amount of beer. Whole beers in most cases, not tiny tastes like you get on so many US brewery tours. We hadn’t really eaten (not since the plane in our case and not even then for Bunny and Crow. The Husbot got sick as soon as we got back to the hotel, vomiting in the hallway (sorry, hotel people!). He was too sick to eat that night, sadly.

I have to go on record as saying that I was against the ambitious first day plan from the start. As wonderful as the Blue Lagoon was, if we’d saved it for a different day we could have gone straight to the hotel from the airport, not waited for 90 minutes with nothing to do. We could have eaten and rested, which I think would have eased some of our other problems. Crow might not have lost his passport (in hindsight, yes he would have—it turned out to be at the airport). Husbot would surely not have puked.

Still, I had a great day.

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