9. Forget School, Let's Go To Iceland 2000
Living on a budget requires a magazine with such a name. Budget Travel. I had treated myself to a two year subscription to the Budget Travel magazine with my first bonus check from work. The gift that would keep on giving every month into my mailbox at the street corner. It would be a moment each month where my daughter and I would fantasize about the exotic destinations pictured and described within the pages. We would look at our globe, see where some of these unknown places named are located then decide which destination we would pin up on our dream wall for a future trip.
On this particular day, a Tuesday in February of 2000, my day at work was over and my daughter was on the school bus headed home. From the front window, I had seen the postman driving down the road delivering the mail to all the individual mail boxes up the street.
Once the postman was close to our house, I walked out to collect our mail which today included the wonderful February, 2000 edition of Budget Travel magazine.
After tossing out the junk mail and sorting through the few bills, I sat down and started looking through the first pages of Budget Travel magazine. In the first few pages, there is a monthly section called last minute deals. One of the deals was a 3 day getaway to Iceland with air, hotel and transportation for only $299 per person. The excitement of cold winter snowy weather was the best feeling as my daughter and I had just been talking about snow. My daughter had never really experienced deep winter snow. Georgia only gives us a dusting of the white stuff which then proceeds to melt within a couple of hours. Nothing to write home about. So when I saw this deal, I decided it was one we had to experience. I called the 1-800 listed and made the reservations for Thursday. Just 2 days away. My daughter was going to be thrilled.
I contained my excitement when my daughter arrived home. Afternoon snack already made, we sat down to our usual exchange of the days events.
Out of the blue, I said, "Let's go somewhere this weekend. "
"OK," relied my daughter, "how about up to the Blue Ridge Mountains? I want to feel cold this weekend."
What a great reply to segue into the surprise I had in store for her.
"I have a better idea," I replied. "How would you like to spend the weekend in the snow?"
"Snow? Really?" she asked. "It's not cold enough to for it to snow up in mountains. It's Georgia. It never REALLY snows here," she said with a little bit of disappointment in her voice.
"Well then, forget school. Let's go to Iceland," I replied.
The look on her face was priceless. "What? When do we leave?"
This should now tell you the ready a lot about our life. To my daughter this came as no surprise. The response was not "Oh really, your kidding" nor "You're funny". It was exactly as I had predicted.
"We leave in two days. Thursday morning. We'll fly to New York then catch the flight to Iceland. There's lots of snow there and it will be cold. I'll send a note to school with you tomorrow telling them that you will be missing 2 days of school. We'll come back on Sunday afternoon," I said happy to see the great excitement in her eyes about the thought of snow and being cold for the weekend.
After our snack, we went to the store and bought some winter snow boots. We already had gloves, hats and winter jackets so this was an easy trip to prepare for.
Thursday was a long travel day. First flight from Atlanta, Georgia to New York. Second flight was from New York to Keflavik, Iceland; a five and half hour flight arriving early Friday morning. At the airport, with winter skies still dark at 8 AM, we found our tour group and headed to the bus awaiting outside. It was snowing. This was a magical site for my daughter. Not only was it snowing, but there was at least a foot of snow around us and it was not going to melt any time soon. Our bus now full of tourists and luggage, we drove the 45 minute ride to our Hotel Esja (now the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica Hotel). Upon arriving so early in the morning, our check in would not be for another 4 hours. We left our luggage at the front desk and headed over to our complimentary breakfast. Here we found a spread of so many choices of food. Bread, cold cut meats, cheese, fruit, fish, pastries, cereal, cold and hot drinks and so much more. We helped our selves to this fabulous display that in the past, our budget hotels did not offer. We were in heaven. The snow continued to fall during our breakfast so we decided we had to go and experience this winter wonderland.
Being so far north, there are only 4 hours of daylight during the day. From 11 AM to 3 PM. It doesn't really seem to be that dark the rest of the time because of all the light reflecting off the vast amount of snow around us and the lights in the city. We love to visit the local grocery stores when traveling. There was one located right around the corner to the hotel so we enjoyed some time there picking up a few goodies with our new local currency, the Krona. We then proceeded to explore the local surroundings getting information about bus tickets and other unique local places we should visit.
Having killed a few hours, we went back to the hotel where we were issued our room keys and given a schedule of events for our next 2 nights and 3 days in Reykjavik. On the schedule was plenty of free time. Just the kind of schedule I like. We checked into our room, got our bathing items ready in a our day bag and off we went to explore the city.
You may now be asking, why a bathing suit? Reykjavik at the time was being advertised as the Spa City. Not only were there spas throughout the city but there are several Thermal Swimming Pool and Baths that the locals go to every afternoon after work and school.
A local had given us this information earlier that morning and explained to us the one we should go and explore. It was a fifteen minute walk to Laugardalslaug thermal outdoor pools. Reykjavík City runs seven public thermal pools (sundlaugar) which are heated with geothermal water, a natural volcanic underground source. We swam and ran in the snow while enjoying these amazing warm water pools and hot tubs for a few hours. By now, we had worked up our second appetite of the day. Another local we had talked to at the pool recommended a restaurant close by, Askur Brasserie on Suðurlandsbraut, just down the street from our hotel. A small locally run restaurant with a variety of dishes, especially fish, we had the meal of a lifetime.
Having enjoyed a swim, some walking and now a great lunch, we were tired. We took a short nap back at the hotel waking up to the afternoon night sky and the continuous fall of snow.
Just outside the hotel across the street was the bus stop to go into town.
After 6 stops, we arrived at the Town Hall in the center of town overlooking an amazing small lake full of ducks and swans swimming in the cold snowy water. It was a site to see. We explored the city and all it's amazing sites on foot and by bus. Not unusual for us to catch the approaching bus, destination unknown and ride till we found a stop that looked promising. If nothing appeared worth getting off for, we would spend the day riding around getting to see the local everyday life happening. People going to work or shopping, kids going to school, or just getting from point A to B. It is amazing what all one can experience in just a few days. Knowing we cannot see everything there is to see, we take pleasure in what we are able to experience then and there.
Our next day was much of the same. Our departure day was a bit different.
Our tour was going to pick us up and on the way to the airport we were going to enjoy 2 hours at the Blue Lagoon. This is a popular destination point for many. Located in the middle of a volcanic lava field, the warm waters rich in minerals like silica and sulfur. This is a spot not to be missed and what a final experience on this magical island on our weekend getaway.
Back home our memories were relived many a day after our pictures were developed from our 35mm cameras and stories were told and retold about our crazy last minute idea to get away. Such an experience made me want to share my story with the Budget Travel Magazine. It worked. I got published. Never thought I would say those words!