When we asked Gracie, John’s oldest daughter -- she’s twelve -- where she might like to spend our weeklong vacation she said, “Someplace warm with a beach!” As a joke I said, “How about Iceland? Ha ha.” We had a laugh, but the thought stuck with me. A friend had just returned from a motorcycle trip around Iceland, and other people I’d mentioned it to had either been there as well or knew someone who had. Everyone said it was a photographer’s paradise and a travel magazine I subscribe to showed up in my mailbox complete with a featured article about driving Iceland’s Ring Road. We decided to go. This was going to be the kids' first trip out of the country. I kept my own travel wishes simple, hoping to accomplish three things: see daylight at midnight, hike up a mountain, and relax in some hot springs.
Travel snafus abounded from the get-go. Silly me, thinking that four of us could make it to Iceland flying stand-by on the only flight out a day. Ha! Or that we could arrive a day late and just “wing it” without having to fork over some serious change to get back on track.
We arrived in Keflavik at midnight, which seemed more like a predawn twilight. It was windy, cold, and raining sort of sideways as we walked down the airplane steps onto the tarmac. We had no hotel but managed to find one. I was sooo happy to crawl into bed! Even at 3am the sky was light.
At breakfast in the morning we came up with our plan: drive to Reykjavik to the visitor center, figure out where we wanted to go, and then head out. We walked around town a bit, found a great bakery, had a picnic lunch on a hill overlooking the harbor, and took a peek inside the Harpa Performing Arts Center before finally hitting the road.
I don’t know what made us think we’d get all the way to Hofn that day. Note to self: next time, believe the travel magazine when it says you’ll want to stop everywhere to take in the landscape... Is that a waterfall?!
From the road, Seljalandsfoss (-foss at the end of a word means waterfall) seemed almost small. Nope. It was immense. (Those little dots are people!) The cliffs were a fairy-tale green and the air shimmered with mist. We got soaked hiking the path behind the falls but it was sooo worth it.
That night, we made it as far as Vik, Iceland’s southernmost village, and I’m glad we chose to stop. It was beautiful: black sand beach, terns flying along the cliffs, and more lupines than I'd ever seen.
We had a delicious dinner at Halldorskaffi and fell asleep in cozy beds right next door at the Puffin Hotel. Goodnight, Iceland! More soon…