September 16, 2015

Iceland: Day 1 -- Where We Stayed and the Northern Lights


After our week in Paris we had two stopovers, Iceland and Seattle.  We found that the cheapest flights were through Icelandair so we figured since we had a layover, we might as well take the opportunity to stay in Iceland for a few nights.  We ended up staying two nights which gave us one full day and about two half days based on flight times.  

We really wished we would have stayed longer.  But our main priority was Paris and we did not know we were going to fall in love with Iceland.  Despite our short two nights we ended up lucking out with what we were able to fit in during that short time frame.  Plus Brent ended up catching something on the plane to Iceland which forced us to rest more than we had planned.  Note to self, bring your own medicine with you.  Finding similar strength medicine in another country can be tricky.

The day before we got to Iceland I had gotten an email, while in Paris, saying that our hotel was overbooked and that they moved us to another hotel.  After being very intentional about where we would stay, I was pretty stressed and disappointed that our reservation got changed.  Plus trying to deal with one country's reservation while being in another is a little crazy.  The joys of international travel.  I now expect hiccups and just choose to roll with it.

But it ended up being in our favor.  While our hotel may have not been as quaint, the service of the place we ended up staying at was fantastic.  

We took the Flybus from the airport into Reykjavik which took about an hour.  After making it to our new hotel, Ambassade Apartments, we met the owner who was extremely helpful and friendly.  While I had not planned on seeing the Northern Lights during our stay, we inquired for information and he was on it.  He was on his cell phone, standing in front of our room, checking to see how the sky was and booking us a tour when we agreed we wanted to go.  He said that is was a promising night, based on the sky, to see the Northern Lights and he sent us off to a recommended place to grab a quick bite to eat before heading off to our Northern Lights tour.


One of the most fascinating things about our trip was the culture shock.  We went from finally getting used to the high class feel of Paris into Icelandic fishing town living.  Everyone was bundled up in their puffy jackets and we were brought back slightly into a more familiar reality.  Fish and chips?  Burgers and fries?  We were not opposed to comfort food in this cute little pub, The Icelandic Bar.  The food was delicious.


The other crazy thing about Iceland is the difference in numbers.  A $30 dinner cost around 4,000 krona!  When you hear and see the waiter drop down a $4000 bill it makes you look twice!


After dinner we headed back to our room to wait for our tour bus to arrive.  We booked our Northern Lights tour through the same airport transportation, Flybus.  They seemed to be the go to for any type of transportation.  We were very pleased with their service and had some good laughs over the adorable old Icelandic men who gave the tours.


Our hotel room was part of a small apartment type complex.  The decor and space was very clean and modern.  We were very pleased with the amenities.


As we boarded the Northern Lights tour we were told that part of the experience was actually finding them.  We drove outside of the city, into the middle of nowhere, where we would be more likely to see the lights away from city lights.  The tour is pretty intense, lasting hours.  We would drive, get out, wait to see the Northern Lights, and then move on if there wasn't much to see.


On our first stop we could not see the Northern Lights but we got a little run down on the sky and checked out the stars.


We got a little glimpse of them here but not enough to stick around.  So we continued the hunt.


While our day time attire was fine for the Icelandic temperatures, we were not prepared for how cold it would be late at night.  It was really, really cold and all we had was our one Paris appropriate jackets.  I used my scarf to try to keep my face warm.


By now hours had passed.  It was cold and we were tired.  I was starting to question if this was really worth it.  They do offer that you can continue to take the tour on another day if you do not see the Northern Lights but based off of our short stay and full schedule, this was our only chance.  Luckily the Northern Lights decided to show themselves.


This is far from some of the stock photography you may see of the Northern Lights.  But based off of how ecstatic our tour guide was, we figured we lucked out with a pretty impressive display.


The long and cold wait proved to be worth it.  Brent especially enjoyed the experience which I was grateful for as I dragged him all around Paris for the past week!

The tour bus then dropped everyone off near their hotel and we had a short walk back.  We enjoyed seeing some of our first glimpses of the city and then quickly fell asleep.


See all Iceland posts here.

See all Paris posts here.

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