Portland -> Boston -> Base Hotel -> Vogur Country Lodge -> Guesthouse Hofsstaðir
So yeah, I hate flying. Not the kind where I freak out and have to be restrained but more like the kind where I always wish I wasn’t there. Where I deliberately have to take moderate amounts of Xanax to knock myself out (not really that much, seriously) so I can stand the flights. Luckily I had several months to prepare. I bought the ticket to Keflavik International (one stop in Logan Airport to transfer to Iceland Air – and Oh, yeah!…. Non-Stop back from Iceland to Portland, Heck Yeah!) at the suggested interval – like 22 weeks ahead of time, maybe that wasn’t the exact time, but if you’re meticulous like I am you’ll look online (because the internet never lies, right??) and there is a formula that shows the exact date depending on when you want to go to a specific destination about when you should purchase the ticket. Which I did. Let’s be honest, at that point there really wasn’t any turning back. In fact, I’m pretty sure I bought the ticket then called my doctor and explained the situation which must have sounded a bit like “I HATE FLYING!!” or words to that effect. Surprisingly he completely got it. Wow. I’m impressed – apparently my maladies aren’t that uncommon.
I spent weeks researching hotels, car rental (4wd actually) places, different routes, different activities, basically as much as I could plan and get arranged prior to leaving I tried to do. I found out the top ten or fifteen things everyone should do when visiting Iceland, and scheduled those things. I also researched some cultural lessons (most Icelanders insist visitors remove their shoes for instance). Soon enough though the planning was over, the rentals for cars and rooms were booked and the days were counting down. I’d had so many plans to learn Icelandic (spent about 2 hours learning “Yes” (Yaow) and “No” (Nei) and “Thank You” (Takk), but being a very mono-lingual American I was too embarrassed to try any of my new found language skills on anyone besides the mirror – yeah, not even that duded was impressed.
The flight day arrived and despite needing to be super early I still couldn’t sleep – luckily I had B scheduled to pick me up before the crack of dawn so my dad and I could get our way to the airport without worrying about parking fees, taxis, or any of that stuff. Our bags were packed, weighed and carefully prepared. We both had our trusty laptops and had carefully arranged our carryons and checkin luggage so as to be able to quickly go through the security lines (that was the thought at any rate) and make our way to the terminal with plenty of time. That’s always the plan, right?
I’ve been to the Portland airport several times so there wasn’t too much to be surprised about, but this was an international trip, so I tried to take as many pictures as I could and to notice anything interesting. After making my way through the checkin counter (within one pound – thanks cheap digital scale!!) and the security line (remember to take shoes off, empty pockets, remove laptop and put it by itself into a bin, put everything into separate bins then spend next fifteen minutes putting it all back on) – in this case it wasn’t too bad. I was pretty ready and it really wasn’t a big deal. The TSA folks were pretty cool and there wasn’t any drama or any ill feelings. I did find some of the legendary carpet at PDX and (per request) got a picture of my boots on the carpet. The contrast is…. interesting.
The other interesting sight was the nice lady pushing a stroller (I had never heard of this) with her dog in it – but now I know of at least two folks, one a good friend and this person as well who push their dogs in the stroller. I get sometimes that a dog can’t walk or is too fragile to be able to walk very well. This person at the airport though said that her dog was only four months old and that she had pushed the same stroller along trails in Alaska – because of my friend’s interest in a doggie stroller I had to get a picture and send it to her.
As my doc suggested I made sure to take enough meds to not mind the flight too much and it was surprisingly easy. The airline was nice, the seats comfortable and the staff was very friendly. I had a windows seat – which I normally am reluctant to take, normally it seems like my legs are just a little too long to be comfortable in the airline seats, but in this case the seats were pretty comfy – or at least I didn’t seem to mind the setup too much – thank you modern pharmaceuticals. This first flight was to Boston on Alaskan Airlines and I was able to get a pretty good picture out the window over South Dakota.
Soon enough we arrived in Boston and I was happy to disembark and stretch my legs a little bit. The itinerary called for a fairly long layover in Boston – about 5 hours so I wasn’t too worried about how long it would take to get to the next terminal – which was the international terminal (my first International terminal – so exciting!!). It turns out that the layover wasn’t nearly as long as I’d anticipated, maybe the time change wasn’t accounted for when the itinerary was created? No idea, however we needed to rush quite a bit to get to the next terminal – though we got there with about an hour or so to wait – which isn’t that much time in my opinion. On the way to the international terminal we passed a beautiful brass inlayed Massachusetts Port Authority rose compass in the ground. Finally we arrived at the international terminal and the first thing I noticed was all of the flags suspended from the ceiling. From my research I knew the Icelandic flag has a blue background with a wide white line up and across and a thinner red line through the white one. I spotted the Icelandic flag in the international hall as the fifth back on the right. I also noticed while walking through the international terminal a very well designed world map and took a picture of the distance between Boston and Iceland.
In no time the flight was boarding and I’ll admit I was super excited to be leaving the United States and flying to an international destination. I’m not sure about the exoticness of Iceland, but it seemed pretty adventurous to me so back off, ok! The airline was Iceland Air and had super good reviews so I was thrilled to be flying with them. I knew there was another airline called WOW that was offering super cheap (like $100) flights to Iceland but I was looking forward to flying Iceland Air – they had very good reviews and seemed like a well known airline (read that no crashes!!!). The seats all had fancy screens that showed relevant flight information while in the air (which impressed me) and also had tons of movies, TV shows, music and other entertainment. There was quite a bit of Icelandic produced movies and shows which I was pleased to see. I started to watch a movie then the lull of the engines and relaxation set in and I ended up sleeping for at least a couple of hours – the entire flight turned out to be about four hours total from Boston to Keflavik – which seems odd – it takes longer than that to get to Florida. I don’t know, in my mind, Iceland seems like another world (well, so does Florida, but you know….) while Iceland seems like worlds away. It seems like Iceland should be much further away, however, I was pleased we arrived so quickly. While still in the air I did get a helping of the Iceland yogurt called Skyr – which I can report is just fantastic. It’sa low sugar, high protein yogurt that has been made pretty much the same way for about a thousand years. It’s delicious!! Highly recommended.
We finally arrived in Iceland and though I do remember watching Rogue One on the way over – fantastic beginning believe me, I have absolutely no recollection of most of the movie, I’ll need to make a note to watch the rest of it someday soon. The weather wasn’t too different as I gathered all of my belongings and made my way off the plane. Cooler, and the air smelled absolutely wonderful. Chilly and clean – like the cleanest air I’ve ever smelled. I was over excited to get my first “real” foreign stamp in my passport (yeah, I got a Canadian stamp, but since I’m in Oregon and Canada is like spitting distance that shouldn’t count too much should it?) and say that I’m a real international traveller!
The airport was odd – there was so much construction going on!!! Plywood and lots of other building materials were stacked everywhere and there was no paint anywhere – it was just like a movie set that wasn’t finished – I found myself wondering if it was because this was technically “between” seasons, sort of not really winter (when the northern lights are at their “most spectacular”) and not really summer when the temperature soars to the mid sixties. We arrived into the Keflavik International Airport – it wasn’t actually in Reykjavik proper – rather it was a US military base located in Iceland until 2008 then given to the government.
We had flown all night and arrived at 7:30am Iceland time then made our way through the airport and marveled at the duty-free shops and other places where tourists could purchase any number of Icelandic goods like wool products, crafts, and foodstuffs. I made mental notes to find some cool gifties for friends when I was here again in a couple of weeks to fly out. We made our way to the entrance and found out that we’d just missed the shuttle to our car rental company. That was fine – It gave us a chance to look around and appreciate the environment. There wasn’t much of the normal hustle and bustle of an airport – this seemed much more like the airport in Eugene, pretty quiet and efficiently run. The more interesting part for me as well was the advertising – Icelandic! Adverts for The Blue Lagoon – our appointment was for 3:30 today!!! Also lots of other places I’d intended to visit on our trip like Geysir and reminders that Iceland was the most energy conscious country on the planet.
Luckily the shuttle arrived pretty quickly and we were able to get loaded without incident and met our driver. He wasn’t a native Icelander but was (imported) hired to do exactly what he was doing, just driving the shuttle to and from the airport – our first experience which would be repeated over many times where workers were imported to Iceland. He said we were lucky – the week before there was a terrible snow storm where snow levels at the airport were higher than hip level – sheesh!!!
We got dropped off at the Green Motion Car rental shop and picked up our Jeep. Not a regular jeep – a 2012 Cherokee, or whatever is equivalent to a Cherokee in Europe. I wanted to make sure we got a 4wd as I anticipated there would be dirt and mud (boy am I glad I did!!!). We spoke with the car rental assistant who was originally from South Africa and said that she had arrived twenty years ago and had never left and was worried about how many tourists were coming to Iceland – more and more each year. That seemed like an over-exaggeration to us so we politely nodded but made mental notes to look for massive crowds of tourists.
We had to wait a few hours until we could check into our first destination – the Base Hotel, it looked like the first time the room would be available was after 11am. So we drove around for a few hours. Not knowing anything about where we were or what to do we made our way about half way to Reykjavik and ended up stopping just near a Dominos (yeah, they have those here too!!!) and went to a Bonus Supermarket. Now – I know what you’re thinking – Supermarket. That sound familiar. But in fact it means something completely different in Iceland, in terms of size, quantity, selection, basically in every way possible. A typical supermarket in Iceland would be pretty similar to a particularly well stocked gas station in the States. Not that we couldn’t find anything to get, just that there wasn’t the selection we were used to – the first real cultural shock was here – imagine a normal supermarket, except instead of having forty or fifty of every type of product there are two or three at the most of everything you’re used to. Two types of dog food, blue and green, two types of mustard, two different types of yogurt, two different types of cola (Cola Cola was huge in Iceland – no sign at all of Pepsi – maybe an untapped market). Anyhow it was pretty weird. We got some minor groceries – and were surprised though because of our research not as much as we might have been – food was at least two or three times as expensive in Iceland as it was in the States.
We made our way to where we would be spending our first couple of nights – the Base Hotel – which was actually another part of the old military base and formerly some kind of officer quarters or something like that. The Base Hotel was garishly painted and very visible in the morning light. We checked in at eleven AM and found the original recreation hall for the crew that must have been stationed near the quarters that ultimately became the Base Hotel. The recreation hall served the same purpose with many comfortable chairs and a small dining area and a giant chess set actually mounted on the wall that was about 4 foot per side. On the way to the checkin area we found the first of what would be many paintings on the concrete walls in Iceland. It was a medieval style picture with a horned owl, crystals, and fairy. After we checked in we moved what items we needed to move to our room and relaxed for a while knowing that we had to head out for our first arranged appointment which was at three thirty pm at the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon was the place that was most frequently recommended for people to visit while they were in Iceland. We made sure that we had our swimming gear and left in plenty of time to get to the Blue Lagoon which was about forty-five minutes away from the Base Hotel and headed out on that adventure. What I didn’t realize about the Blue Lagoon is that it is wastewater from a geothermal power plant which is very clever for the Icelandic Power company to have done. Basically it is water that has emerged from the Earth which is superheated and first turns turbines and then is released into the Blue Lagoon which people then use to bathe in so in fact the Icelanders are getting double usage out of this water that is emerging freely from the earth at super high temperatures – pretty smart!. I found a close parking spot and maneuvered our Jeep in and gathered up all of our stuff. The wind was blowing and I was really surprised at how cool and windy the day was even though the sun was shining brightly. It was a short walk to the entrance of the actual spa facility but on the way there was some beautiful lava rocks and some gorgeous water features that we marveled that.
Once we got inside I realized that it was good that I had made so many reservations in advance. There was a line forming and many people seemed eager get in to relax in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon. This was my first experience with the high technology that I believe many of the Icelanders may take for granted but that I thought was pretty impressive. When we checked in we were given bracelets that must’ve had RFID type wireless tags on them and also told that if we lost them there would be a fee (not sure how much, but most things seem pricey here). The instructions were to simply go up to the men’s dressing room, find an available locker, take a clothes free shower, change into our swimming apparel, then make our way to the Blue Lagoon swimming area after locking the lockers and coding them with our personal bracelets. Perhaps I had something different in mind, maybe my American ego said that every other country must be primitive but this really impressed me and Iceland so far was an amazingly futuristic country.
HWV’s tips for visiting the Blue Lagoon:
- Schedule far in advance – there’s no way you’ll get in while you’re on your trip.
- Bring extra clothes.
- You will have to shower without clothes – everyone does – there are private showers. Not a big deal there.
- You may want to bring and extra towel or two.
- Wear waterproof sunscreen.
- Do not lose your wristband, they will charge you a lot to recreate your code for you.
- Eat and drink in advance if you can – food and drink can be expansive here.
- Enjoy yourself, you can stay as long as you want. Just relax and enjoy your time.
We ended up spending quite a while at the Blue Lagoon and made our way from one end to the other. It never got more than three or four feet deep, which I was slightly disappointed in, however our reservation entitled us to a free drink – I ordered myself a local beer and was very pleased at the taste of it. As we left we stopped by the cafeteria and got a regular coffee which ended up costing almost five dollars or four hundred ninety-five Icelandic kroner – we both were reminded again of the warnings we had received regarding the high cost of food and basic staples in Iceland. We made our way back to the Base Hotel and tucked in for the night happy to be in Iceland and happy to have had a great deal of success on our first day here. We were looking forward to our next days adventure which would feature the I heart Iceland walking tour which would take place in the capital Reykjavik. I was not surprised to have some difficulty falling to sleep right away as we were seven hours ahead in Iceland of our normal Pacific Time and as I tried to go to sleep at nine pm or so in Iceland it was only two pm in Oregon where I had just been a day or two ago.
One of the more interesting problems I experienced in Iceland was the fact that I always seemed to get super tired right around noon. I’m not sure why this happened except to say that it might be somehow related to it being five am or so back in Oregon. So maybe that was my body’s way of telling me that I need to wake up but despite that I always kept soldiering on during the day. Not really a super important detail regarding the trip but it was something interesting and I haven’t traveled all that much (yet) so it seemed relevant to me.
The next morning we woke up and were encouraged to find that breakfast was being served in the former recreation area in the Base Hotel. That was the good part – the fact that breakfast was available, the bad part however was that the breakfast wasn’t all that impressive. There was a small selection of toast and cereals and there were one or two types of sliced meats and a couple different types pastries. Not what I would call a fantastic selection. I managed to find something even though not everyone was satisfied. We had an appointment for our I Heart Reykjavík tour at ten am and didn’t want to be late for that. I haven’t driven in Iceland all that much and particularly not in the “big” city before so wanted to make sure I had an early start in case the traffic was awful. We arrived with plenty of time and even managed to find a free parking space which I didn’t realize until much later was a very rare thing in Reykjavík. We ended up parking near the highest place in Reykjavik which is a large modern cathedral called Hallgrimskirkja. The tour was scheduled to start in the area just in front of Hallgrimskirkja so it was a fantastic opportunity to visit it before the tour started. Hallgrimskirkja is a fantastically large and ornate church that we took a few minutes to check out since we had several minutes to wander through prior to our tour appointment.
The church is an enormous structure and looks to be partially under construction (turns out that it’s almost perpetually being repaired – once one section get’s fixed they move back to the a section that was started with). I got some good pictures of the inscriptions above the doors which is a verse from the Hymns of the Passion, hymn 24: “Dare not bring before thy God; Hypocrisy’s oblation; Stand in His holy place unshod; With humble adoration; Bow before; Him both heart and knee; Confess His grace thine only plea; And shun all ostentation.” – of course it’s in Icelandic, but I was able to find a good translation. On the door itself are the words “KOMIÐ TIL MÍN” which means “Come to Me” in Icelandic. I wasn’t able to get a picture of the entire door as the other side was open to welcome visitors, but the one side was just beautiful.
As we went inside I looked toward the far end where the pulpit area was located the ceiling arched far overhead and looked weightless. The pews there the congregation sat on looked comfortable and there were lots of folks milling about similarly looking overhead necks cranked back, gazing upward slack jawed. I walked forward about forty or fifty feet and looked back and my jaw fell even more. There was the largest set of pipes for an organ I’ve ever seen – it must have been forty or fifty feet tall. They started just above the door that led to the end of the church and ended just below the top the ceiling. There seemed to be hundreds of pipes, all different sizes. The enormity of the pipes and the sounds they must make boggled my mind and I just couldn’t imagine the sounds it must have made (nobody was playing the organ at the time). As soon as I shook myself out of my stupor and broke my gaze away from the pipes I noticed there was a magnificent statue of Jesus that was nearly as tall as me.
Pretty soon it was time to start the I Heart Reykjavík tour and we made our way our of the church and meant to the statue of Leifr Eiricsson (Leif Erikson) – who is widely considered to be the original discoverer of Iceland. In the courtyard of Hallgrimskirkja is a beautiful statue of Leifr Eiricsson which was erected on the one-thousandth anniversary of the Althing (the governing body of Iceland) in nineteen thirty and donated by the United States of America to the people of Iceland.
We didn’t have very long to wait and met our tour guide who was named Olaf. She was, we were explained, named that because in Iceland Olaf is a girl’s name. She was from a small town of about two hundred and had left for several years then moved back to Iceland where she was raising her family and doing these tours. As we were waiting I mentally did a tally – there were about twenty folks on the tour and I had paid about fifty dollars each for two of us so that made about a thousand dollars in two hours the tour was earning – not a bad per hour return. We started walking across the street and were told about a sculpture someone had made (we probably got told the sculptor but I’m terrible and didn’t get who made it -sorry) that was an outline of Hallgrimskirkja. So when viewed from a specific angle the sculpture framed the church perfectly. I was able to get a pretty good shot of it. It was a pretty nice view and an introduction to the art we would see a lot of in Reykjavik. Art that was put there for the enjoyment of everyone, not just for a few people.
As we were walking to the next place – Einar Jónsson’s sculpture garden where most of the works were made during the first half of the twentieth century, the tour guide mentioned that there were many many cats who lived in Reykjavik and that all of them belonged to local residents. I can verify that – all of the cats had collars and were extremely friendly. They loved getting petted and loved the attention all of the people on the tour gave them.
We arrived shortly at the Einar Jónsson sculpture garden. It was just amazing. There were dozens of sculptures in the garden. I separated myself from the group and wandered away a little bit – just gawping at the different bronze statues and sculptures here. They were gorgeous and had names like The Birth of Psyche, Earth, Sparks, Grief, Sleep, and Spirit and Matter – the subject matter really spoke to me. I wasn’t sure why I enjoyed them, but all of the works were amazing and really impressed me. There was one in particular – which I took several pictures of called “Monument to Hallgrimur Petursson“ that I really liked. It was fairly large and had a one main figure at the top and a procession behind him. It’s tough to describe why I liked it, but I suppose that’s why art is the way it is, isn’t it? We just like what we like.
I eventually made my way back to the group where Olaf was giving some more history and talking about the sculpture garden. It’s an important place for Icelanders and I really appreciated it being on the tour. I also noticed the cat I saw earlier was sitting on top of the largest sculpture. This sculpture had to be at least two or three feet taller than Olaf and there was a cat now sitting on the top of it, just looking around. It was a pretty funny sight and I just had to get a picture of it. After finishing at the sculpture garden we walked along the same route we took there and I saw a beautiful view of Hallgrimskirkja – had to get a picture of it with the sun behind it. We proceeded along Eiríksgata street and passed the Cafe Loki. It’s renowned for being authentic Icelandic cuisine. It says so on the front of the restaurant, so yeah. True.
As Olaf led us around pointing out interesting sights she mentioned that despite there being quite a bit (and there was) of graffiti and street art none of it was a result of gangs or juvenile delinquents. In fact they were simply bored teenagers or street artists. It seems like almost every large empty wall in Reykjavik has some gorgeous street art on it. Sometimes it’s pained by famous artists. The first one she pointed out was a huge octopus maybe twelve feet high and twenty-five feet wide. Olaf also mentioned that most of the bored teenagers also had respect for the street artists so rarely defaced the large pieces of art done for the public.
While on the tour I also saw the first example of what I would become very familiar with and came to know as the typical Icelandic truck one that has enormous wide tires and a large capacity for hauling people. This particular one was parked in the street and so quite a ways from being in it’s native environment – off road conditions that I later saw them in (I learned later that they are used for driving on the glaciers!!). One of the amazing things about Reykjavík and Iceland are that the people love art and even in a small side yard it is readily apparent. Olaf pointed out a wall that had many different rock elements that were actually examples of early Icelandic housing and village styles. It was interesting because even though the side yard was largely overgrown the wall itself was beautiful and very artistic and I found myself grateful that Olaf had pointed it out.
As we proceed onward we were told to look behind us which was an enormous wall on the side for building with a very busy piece of artwork that was done by Sara Riel in 2012. She is a famous Icelandic artist and this was done in a style that is very different from her regular method. This piece fascinated me so much that I actually did some additional research on it and it turns out that the name of this work is Animali and was done in collaboration with another artist named Thomas Korn. Sarah Riel also has another piece called that I think is called Laugarvegur that we walked by very shortly afterward that was emerging from a window and morphed into an interesting winged animal.
We passed several more shops one of which was the Handknitting Association of Iceland – a very well respected past time and business in Iceland and also rumored to have the best prices for handmade wool products in Reykjavík. Then we stopped for about 15 minutes at a very nice bookstore and got to sit down for a few minutes during the tour. While we were sitting down Olaf pointed out a strange phenomenon which I didn’t notice to begin with. I’m not sure if it’s something that is only found in Icelandic society or if it is something that is more widespread in European countries but as she pointed out there were several baby prams outside the bookstore completely unattended. Olaf assured us that the parents were inside and pay close attention to the babies. It’s a common belief in Iceland that fresh air is very healthy for babies. During the trip I was to see many examples of this over and over again. It would become a familiar sight over the next two weeks.
We left the bookstore after that and made our way to some statues that represented some of the founders of Iceland and also to a spot that was near the Parliament. Olaf relayed an interesting story that occurred during two thousand and eight when the recession affected Iceland particularly bad. Protesters were so upset due to the recession that they threw food at the parliament building. Eventually Parliament officials had to ask them not to – not because they disagreed with the protesters interests or concerns, rather the cleaning bills were so high for the daily cleaning of the building. Olaf left us there at the Square in front of the parliament building and I found myself being very impressed with the quality and value of the I heart Reykjavík tour. I cannot overstate how much I recommend this tour for your next Iceland vacation.
We made our way back to Hallgrimskirkja, and upon entering were greeted with wonderful organ music which I was lucky enough to be able to record a brief bit of. I was so happy to be able to hear that wonderful pipe organ playing after seeing how large and massive it was at the end of the church. That the next time we were in Reykjavík – at the end of the trip we would need to find some time to get to the top of the bell tower which was the highest point in Reykjavík.
We decided that since we were downtown and it was still early in the day we should check out the place where we’d be spending our last two days in Reykjavík called the Kex hostel. We arrived and I’d have to admit it was a little rough – not exactly what I was expecting but seemed alright and I hope that at the end of the trip our last couple of nights will be satisfactory. Towards the back of the first floor past the check-in desk is a small room that was having a closing sale at the time. As I wandered through I noticed there was a large wall that was covered in Mexican Lucha posters on the wall – they were absolutely fantastic!! All in all it was a great first day in Reykjavík and when I looked at my walking mileage for the day it was over nine thousand steps and three and a half miles of walking so not such a bad amount for the first day.
That night we ate at a place called Langbest which was pretty close to the Base Hotel in Keflavik. It was highly recommended by the staff at the Base Hotel and seemed like a nice idea after eating “supermarket” Bonus food for the last day and a half. The Bonus food truly wasn’t too bad, but I could see it getting old pretty quick, rather like camping – I was going to, however, get a very quick education in the differences and the shock of what everyone had warned me about concerning Icelandic food pricing.
We ordered a modest dinner – one burger and fries and a salad and it came out to nearly thirty seven dollars. We didn’t get any drinks, only water, but the price was still shocking. The food was very good and we also got an interesting experience with some of the different tastes Icelanders have with their food – for example, the burgers and fries don’t come with ketchup, they come with cocktail sauce. I suppose it’s also American egoism but it was also rather interesting mentally converting everything from Icelandic kronur to American dollars. The exchange rate while we were there was thankfully modest at one hundred thirteen kronur to the dollar, so not horrible, still, things did tend to run on the expensive side.
Our last night at the Base Hotel and we were glad to have the rest. The time difference of seven hours ahead was still playing havoc with us and was hard to adjust to. There were also subtle differences as well with Iceland. For one, the beds there were very narrow but pretty long, much longer than twin but a little narrower than a normal twin in the States. Also, the main blanket on the bed was a super thick down filled comforter just a little bigger than the size of the top of the bed itself. A little strange.
The next morning we returned to the breakfast for what would be our last meal at the Base Hotel. We were quickly becoming used to the modest fare that was the twenty dollar breakfast at the Base Hotel. It wasn’t bad or anything, but seemed a little modest for the price in my opinion, still it was filling and if I was still hungry I could go get more if I wanted something else (one trip was usually enough). After checking out we were finally headed out for our first official long drive – I’d made a reservation our the first night driving the golden ring to spend in a place called the Vogur Country Lodge. The route I’d picked (and wanting to see everything) was supposed to be around seven hours long. I’d also secured tickets to a cave tour in the Vatnshellir Cave at the Snaefellsjokull National Park several hours down the road from Keflavik. Of course the morning dawned cold and windy and I finally realized why at the rental agency they warned us about holding onto the door handles when opening the doors. The wind in Iceland is STRONG. Like really strong. Strong enough that every time you open the door you need to make a conscious effort to hold onto the door handle, window opening, or something to make sure the door doesn’t fold forward because as the agent put it – “that ain’t covered by insurance…”