Iceland – Days 5 & 6 (Borgarnes, Reykjavik, and homeward bound)
My last full day in Iceland started out slowly. I knew I didn’t have as much driving to do, so I lazed around in my room and took the longest, best shower ever. Seriously. I told instagram that I was contemplating leaving my boyfriend for my Icelandic shower. It was that good.
After tearing myself from my new lover, I found that I’d missed breakfast and that there are not a lot of things open before noon on a Sunday. Icelandic vending machine to the rescue! Because I am a winner, I had an orange soda and a peanut butter kit kat for breakfast. Breakfast of champions for sure.
After leaving Bifrost, unvisited by divinities of any sort, I headed south for a bit to Borgarnes. Borgarnes is on Borgarfjörður and is one of the earlier settlement sites. The Settlement Center museum at Borgarnes was the best put together museum of the four I visited. Although the Snorrastofa at Reykholt was my favorite, because Snorri, the layout and audio guides at the Settlement Center were very well done.
The Settlement Center is divided into two sections – the first tells the story of the Egil’s Saga – which covers the earliest settlement period starting in about 850 and widely believed to be written by my bff Snorri.
Egil sounds like a super fun person to hang out with, what with the random juvenile murder, lying, crazy dad, etc. Just what everyone dreams of for their kid.
The second part of the museum deals more with the early settlers, how they came to Iceland and what they found when they arrived, particularly focused in the lands around Borgarnes.
After getting through both exhibitions, I picked up MOAR souvenirs, including a delightful beer drinking vessel that was neither hand-carved stone nor covered in magic runes, but was exponentially more affordable and possible blessed by Thor.
I had lunch at the museum (meat soup! warm bread! lava salt! beer!) and then got ready for the drive back to Reykjavik.
At this point, I had a small debate. I’d planned on hitting the Reykjavik Settlement museum, walking around the city a bit, and then heading to my airport-adjacent hotel. BUT BUT BUT – I also discovered that Þingvöllr was an easy drive from Reykjavik. I debated. I agonized. I tried to determine if going to Þingvöllr would mean I wouldn’t have to drive BACK under the 6 km tunnel under the damn fjord.
In the end, I stuck to my original plan. And, dammit, if ég er á röngum hills í lífinu.
So, I drove back under the fjord and to Reykjavik – all without the use of GPS systems, because I am good at this game. I found some free parking near the Settlement Center and discovered that I’d serendipitously parked next to a pretty cemetery. I took a detour stroll through the cemetery, but failed to find any graves older than the late 19th century. Super bummer!
I then wandered down to the lake and took the best photo of my trip. Except for the presumably brilliant pics I took of the fjords and in Reykholt that didn’t freaking turn out. Anyway. Not bitter.
I wandered about, went and saw the ships, got some cash, and then headed to the wickedly expensive, especially for what I got, Settlement Museum. The first part of the museum was an actual excavated longhouse dating back to the late 9th century. Around the longhouse were some excavated artifacts and information about the settlement. It was mildly interesting, but not as much as the other places I’d visited. The second room – and it was a tiny room – had five books of varying age. There were small descriptions of each book on the wall and you could look through glass at the book. It was neither comprehensive nor particularly fascinating. I mean, I love books. I love old books. But this was…meh. And it’s not like I was missing anything just because I don’t speak the language. The Icelandic explanations on the wall didn’t appear to be longer than the English.
Thoroughly disappointed, but out of time to drive to the likely far superior Þingvöllr, I walked back to my car and headed back to Keflavik. My car’s GPS system didn’t recognize Keflavik as an actual destination, so I had to rely on my phone’s google maps and hope we didn’t drop the cell signal.
I’ll admit to being a little dismayed by the hotel location. It was very industrial and very “middle of nowhere.” It was also a two-minute drive to my rental car drop off and a ten (hahahaha) minute drive to the airport.
I slept poorly that night, waking often, and was up before my alarm went off just before five am.
I had a little trouble finding the rental car place, but was there just past my appointed time of 5:30 am. When I got there, it turned into the one and only clusterfuck of my trip.
It took FOREVER for the woman to get her car. Now, in fairness, I’m sure she’s a sophisticated, intelligent woman…but it seemed like she’d maybe never left home before, and maybe a quick primer in how to rent a car before showing up would’ve been in order.
After she was disposed of, the one (ONE!) employee of the agency checked in the three cars. Slowly. It was nigh on 6 am when we were all ready to go and he announced that he could not take us to the airport, because it was shift change, and his replacement, who was running late, would be there soon. The one bonus at this point, was watching my last sunrise over Iceland.
She showed up. With some guy. And there was much negotiation in Icelandic while the five people who were getting beyond antsy (and bless that British woman for being so politely pissed off). Eventually, the two rental car employees got in the shuttle bus, along with extra dude.
The drive to the airport was so weird. SO WEIRD. There was a point when I was convinced this was an elaborate murder scheme. You rent your car, have your last fun, and then on the way back to the airport, you’re murdered just when no one’s expecting to hear from you for hours!
We drove to one of the employee’s houses to drop him off before going to the airport. Because why not?
Eventually, though, we were not all murdered, but delivered safely to Keflavik airport.
I got checked in, hit the duty free store for some beer (because every liquor store I could find was closed on Sunday, and you can only buy beer for home consumption in liquor stores), and then got some caffeine.
We took off on time, and had a decent flight. We flew over a great portion of Greenland again, and my seat mate (and hero of the flight) took some lovely pics for me.
From here on, you’d assume the story is just “going home.” And you’re almost right.
The one thing that happened on our flight to Minneapolis is that I learned, first hand, that when the flight attendants do a call over the loudspeaker for a doctor, you might end up with five staring at you, confused as to why you might need a doctor.
To be fair, I’d asked for a Benadryl, because some idiot had made the bbq beef sandwich with mushrooms (and I am so, so allergic) and I had two bites before I noticed.
Once I recovered from my humiliation (much more likely to be fatal than the allergic reaction), I made it clear that I just needed Benadryl and an endless supply of water.
About ten people volunteered Benadryl (including my seat mate) and I took it soon enough to avoid the worst of the reaction.
And then, we were quickly back in the states, through customs, and waiting for my next flight. The wait seemed interminable, but soon enough I was winging my way back to Portland.
I was so happy to be home. I had a brilliant time, learned a lot about myself and feel comfortable saying that I could (and probably would) do this again. Although I’d rather travel with someone (not just any random, though) because there were a lot of times I wished I’d had someone to share the experiences with, I feel a lot more comfortable with myself, my capabilities, and the whole idea of solo travel.
This was the best experience I’ve ever given myself. The timing maybe could’ve been better – although perhaps this was the exact right time for this. I’m so proud of myself for doing it – and for really DOING it. I didn’t hide. I went out. I did the things. I had all the fun. And this was the feather in the cap of my 40 before 40 year.