Thursday, August 02, 2007

fish in two pots

The jet lag is finally starting to abate, and so I find myself clawing my way back to real life after our trip to Iceland. The trip was good. We saw lots of waterfalls, lots of glacier, lots of rugged rural green green beauty, lots and lots of sheep, and one humpback whale. We had a lot of fun, took a ton of pictures, and despite some bumps in the traveling road, we made it there and back with (most of) our sanity intact.

A few words about Icelanders. They all blessedly (or almost all) speak English, because their language is difficult to understand, ready and speak. They are, as the driver who took us from the airport to Reykjavik disclosed to us, not a very organized people. We apparently were expected the day before we arrived, and the driver showed up at the airport and waited for us until the confusion was sorted, and then returned for us the next day. After we got to Reykjavik, the driver drove up to a hotel and asked who was getting out. No one indicated it was their hotel, so he studied his papers and insisted this was our hotel, until my mother-in-law presented him with the voucher with the name of our hotel on it. Ok, we're on to our hotel at about 8:00 a.m. (after touching down at the airport around 6:00 a.m.). I had read something on trip advisor about how they accomodated someone when the arrived at the hotel at 8:00 a.m. No such luck for us, and check in was at 2:00 p.m. So they shuttled us over to their sister hotel, which might have rooms clean sooner than they did. They, of course, being of the same organized Icelandic descent, didn't have any rooms but promised us they would give us the first three rooms that became available. At 2:00 pm, after a nap in a chair in the lobby and a trip to the local mall on the bus to pick up HP7, the last of our rooms were ready.

Reykjavik is beautiful, but the real beauty of Iceland is out away from the city, in the country's multitude of waterfalls (or Foss, as they call them), glaciers, and rugged, untamed landscapes. From the original "Geysir," for which all other geysir's are named, to the glacial lagoon of Jokulsarlon, the geothermally heated pool in Egilstaddir and the whale watching off Husavik, it was just indescribably beautiful. I've looked at my pictures and none of them seem as beautiful as everything was at the time.

The weather was in the 50s, rainy in that on-and-off, misty kind of way. We wore raincoats, gloves, hats and fleeces nearly every day. Hard to imagine the 102 degree weather we heard was happening at home. There was no darkness, only 4 hours of twilight between midnight and 4:00 am. One night I couldn't sleep and instead of keeping Mr. Bump up with a light on, I tucked myself on the other side of the curtain and read (Harry Potter, of course) by the light outside until well after midnight.

It still feels like a surreal dream, or this real life feels like a dream. Everything was quiet. We stayed in bed-and-breakfast like farm stays, where the plumbing was often creative and we ate dinner at the hotel because there was nowhere else to eat for miles. We drew the line at one dinner that consisted of fish soup for starters, and fish for main course. We drove 40 km to a small fishing village named Hofn (pronounced much like a hiccup) for dinner. Somehow we drove through a rotting fish carcass stench that was so powerful it burst out of the vents the next morning when we got back on the road. There was lamb, and cod, and some beef. Everyone else tried the smoked pony, but I passed on that. We didn't get any of the local delicacies, like smoked puffin or putrid shark meat, but I don't think anyone minded that too much. Every meal was ridiculously expensive, to the point where you just threw up your hands and stopped converting kroner to dollars. Breakfast was meats and cheeses, cereal and bread. I discovered a wonderful new treat that I ate every day including one last hurried container at the airport before going through security. It is called Skyr, and it is sort of a cheese with the consistency of a strained or greek yogurt. I came in flavors like yogurt: strawberry, vanilla, blueberry, melon, apricot. I loved it. I ate it everyday and I would eat it every day here if I could find it. I guess there are places on the east coast you can get it.

Everyone behaved themselves except for me on the trip, and I'm ashamed to say I was cranky, pouty and difficult. It was like I was standing outside myself shaking my head--I could see what I was doing and I didn't seem able to stop it, despite several stern conversations with myself in the middle of the night. I was every ugly thing I hate about myself, and I hope that I didn't ruin the trip for everyone.

We all got to know Ms. N much better--she is so much smarter than I ever gave her credit for. (See what I bitch I am?) She suffered through some pretty rough nights and didn't peep about it until Mr. Bump's brother told us.

So I'm tired, disappointed in myself and sad that our trip is over. We're talking about Northern Italy in a couple of years. I should start learning Italian now. That is, if they let crankypants join them.

More pictures are on their way to here as my bleary eyes clear.

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