Landed at 6:30 am in the rain and complete darkness. We disembarked on the tarmac and boarded a bus to the terminal. It seems to be the latest to allow one to do last chance duty free shopping as we were first led through the shops and restaurants before exiting through customs and into baggage claim. (Last encountered this phenomena in Puerta Vallarta). We met our tour leader, Ollie, and immediately left for our journey in search of aurora borealis (Northern Lights). Our first stop was at a restaurant in a fishing village for breakfast. Then we did a tour of the sites of Reykjavik before landing at our hotel (check in not before 2:00pm). Ollie describes Iceland's climate as 'variable' anything from rain to snow with lots of wind (arctic wind!). Although the temperatures are usually quite mild due to the ocean currents from the south - it is the wind that is extremely biting!
Doing three laps around City Center we watched the sun come up or I should say the sky become lighter - about 10:30am it started to look and feel like it was morning.
We stopped at the President's home to see how he/she lives - no guards, no fences, could drive right up to the church in front of the residence. We were told "no peeking in windows" and "try to stay on the path" - however as it was raining sideways with gale force winds I opted out of walking beyond the church (Judi B stayed on the bus). Thus no photos of the President's house! The President of Iceland is elected for a 4 year term, although is only a figure head and has no executive powers, that is left to the Prime Minister and Parliament.
Other highlights were parliament, the harbor, the Laugadalur swimming, the Hofoi House (noted for the 1968 summit meeting of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev), and Hallgrimskirkja (the Lutheran Parish Church). We also stopped at the new concert hall for "a comfort stop", of which we will have a tour later in the week.
Iceland has a population of 320,000 with two-thirds living in Reykjavik- approximately 200,000. Iceland is a very active volcanic island and they utilize the geothermic activity for their heating, hot water, etc. Thus their utility expenses are mostly free and they have 12 outdoor pools (all geothermecially heated) in Reykjavik alone - this is apparently the place to go to become engaged in local discussions concerning politics with one being whaling - the blue boats for whale watching and red boats for whaling! Also all students must take swimming lessons starting at the age of 7. One of our other drive-bys was the sports complex - which included an outdoor pool (of course), a soccer stadium that seats 13,000, multiple handball courts and a team handball stadium - handball is their national sport!
Finally it is almost 2, so we are dropped off at the hotel. After checking in, Judi and I went exploring - the Main Street is right out the hotel door. We decided we needed some Icelandic krona so found an ATM and walked by Tjornin (the city pond) to check out the ducks and geese. Then it was back to the hotel to rest a little, then off to see the Northern Lights but one must eat first! At 5:00 pm we were informed all travel companies had cancelled the Northern Lights tours due to the weather - raining and no clear sky's! Being somewhat exhausted after traveling many hours, we opted for an early dinner at the The Fish Company where we had "slowly cooked Arctic Charr & fried Icelandic lobster, scallop and beer glazed sun chokes with apple globes, dill vinaigrette & beer foam" - this was ALL one dish! It was delicious! With wine, of course! Then it was off to bed and hopefully the Northern Lights tomorrow night! - JC