Finally the day had arrived when we were due to fly to Reykjavik Our flight was at the rather civilised time of 13.05, which meant that for once we didn't have to get up before dawn and eat breakfast in the airport at a horrifically early hour when all reasonable people are still in bed. It was quite novel to drive to Heathrow in the daylight, although there was definitely more traffic when we hit the M25 around 10am then there had been last Saturday at 04.30
We had more luck with Icelandair today than we had had with Finnair last week and our flight was perfectly on time. I was quite excited about the plane because I knew it was a large one with two separate aisles, having two blocks of two seats by the windows and a block of three seats in the middle. We had seats in F and G, which were two seats by the window and it seemed like a really comfortable plane, with plenty of leg room and even enough space for us to get our backpacks into the overhead lockers. The comfort was marred slightly by the people in front of us who insisted on reclining their seats after take-off, but even so I think I had more space than I've ever had on Ryanair!
I was also quite excited that we had a little screen on the seat in front of us, which showed the safety demonstration and was then available to watch various things on during the flight. Tim was able to plug in headphones and watch a film, while I set mine to display the map of our flight route, which I found very exciting. It was quite a clear day in the UK when we took off, and I was initially a bit confused after we'd been in the air for 15 minutes or so and I still hadn't seen the Channel; normally it comes up quite quickly when you're flying from a London airport. It took the flight route to remind me that for once, we weren't flying in that direction and we were actually passing over Stoke
It was cloudy for most of the flight over the Atlantic, but every so often there would be a break in the clouds and I could see a huge expanse of what looked like extremely choppy water. The clouds also cleared slightly as we got closer to Iceland, so we were able to get a glimpse of the coastline and some mountains behind, as well as brief glimpse of Reykjavik itself before we landed. It looked like it was quite a sunny day in places, but as soon as we landed and the aircraft door was opened, I could feel a chill starting to seep in. What I wasn't quite prepared for was the strength of the wind; Tim was lucky not to fall over as he stepped off the plane, because the steps were shaken by a particularly strong gust at the moment he went through the door.
The airport is located near a town called Keflavik, which is about 30 miles outside Reykjavik itself. It's quite a large airport, and as we made our way through it from the gate to the baggage reclaim area, the majority of the other flights we could see boarding were to North American destinations. One of the reasons why Iceland has become such a popular tourist destination in recent years is that airlines have offered transatlantic travellers the opportunity to break their flight here for a few days. It was quite surreal at passport control to find that there was zero queue for the EU passport gates, because so many other passengers had US passports and were queuing in the non-EU lanes.
I was quite excited about getting to the baggage reclaim area because this is where the Duty-Free shop is located, and the Duty-Free shop is the place where you can buy what is officially the cheapest alcohol in Iceland The guidebook recommended stocking up here, because alcohol is otherwise only available from the government-run shops and is heavily taxed. There is a limit to how much you are allowed to buy in Duty-Free - and there was a limit to how much we could squeeze into our hand luggage anyway - but it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. We ultimately ended up buying five bottles from a selection of the cheapest wines we could find on the shelves, which set us back approximately £38. I had assumed the Duty-Free shop would be a bit like Supermarket Sweep, with hordes of crazed tourists trying to pile cheap alcohol into trolleys, but it was actually pretty much deserted. Either everyone else on our flight was teetotal, or they had no idea what they were missing out on.
By the time we'd made our purchases, baggage was starting to appear on the carousel, and I was relieved to see that our bags had made it. Losing a bag in Iceland wouldn't be quite so dramatic as losing one in Lapland, but I can imagine it would be hideously expensive to try and replace any items of clothing here. Soon we were out in the arrivals area, looking for the Flybus counter to buy our tickets into Reykjavik. I had already researched this a few weeks ago and been shocked to find that two return tickets into the capital were going to set us back £79 If you break it down and say it cost £20 each per direction, I guess that doesn't sound too bad, but it's still very expensive compared to the other airport buses we've taken this year (Malta - €1.50, Kaunas - €1, Bratislava - €0.90, Ponta Delgada - free, because we could walk from the airport to the town!).
It did, at least, turn out to be a nice bus and the journey was more scenic than I expected.
It took around 45 minutes to get to the centre of Reykjavik.
The bus stops at the main bus station and we had a walk of around 3.5km to get to the apartment I had booked. I had deliberately chosen an apartment in the capital rather than a hotel, because Reykjavik is definitely the most expensive place in what is a very expensive country, and having heard a horror story about someone who spent £80 in KFC here, I wanted to make sure we had somewhere with a kitchenette where we could cook our own meals. Everywhere in the city centre itself was way out of my price range, so we ended up with a place in the suburbs, for £102/night.
The walk was actually quite easy, following a main road in a straight line, and the weather was mostly sunny, though still quite cold and windy. There was just one brief period of 10 minutes or so when a storm seemed to come out of nowhere and we got soaked by gusts of icy rain. At least this vindicated the decision to wear waterproof trousers!
Eventually we made it to the apartment and let ourselves in with the key code. This is what £102/night gets you in Reykjavik:
The apartment does have everything that was promised: a bed, a small kitchen area, a private bathroom and free Wi-Fi But it is certainly rather compact!
There wasn't really much space to unpack anything, so our next aim was to find a supermarket and stock up on some supplies. I googled and located some supermarkets close to the apartment... only to be informed by Google that they closed at 18.00... and it was currently 18.01. Oh dear!
This could have been a bit of a disaster - especially as tomorrow is Sunday - but we were prepared! You're allowed to bring 3kg of food into Iceland, and Tim had stocked up on some provisions for the trip last week