Icelandair is a newish airline that’s doing everything right. Its crews look like a 1950s throwback. The women wear navy suits with navy caps, like something out of the movie, Catch Me If You Can. They contrast the navy with a slash of fuschia lipstick and dots of fuschia nail polish. They look amazing and they’re friendly. They also hand you a free bottle of water when you board. It’s a wordless way of saying, we don’t just want you for your credit cards. 

They’re marketing themselves as your European stopover airline. A Swedish woman who sat in our row on the way home said using Iceland as a hub to change planes has taken hours off the trip. (She flies to Pearson regularly, and finds direct flights are too expensive.) The company suggests flying to Iceland, spending a couple of days in Reykjavik and then continuing on to the rest of Europe. In fact, they have a buddy system where you can sign up and an airline employee – possibly even the CEO – will be your personal tour guide. It’s a great idea.

tall concrete church you can see from anywhere in ReykjavikThis church isn’t particularly old. But it’s particularly tall and serves as a beacon when you’re driving and confused by all of the similar-looking and unfamiliar streets of the city. Some examples? Kollunarklettsvegur. Kringlumyrarbraut. Kirkjussandur. And those are only three of the K streets! The city isn’t designed in a grid pattern. It’s all wonky and unpredictable. That’s part of the fun.

This is the church’s massive, beautiful door.

tall black iron doors with beautiful red inlay

Although we did go on one group bus tour, we prefer renting a vehicle and exploring on our own. We both have to stifle the urge to flee a herd tour! One couple on the bus excursion tried to beg and bribe their way back to the city because they were impatient with waiting for the others to finish dinner. Well, that’s part of the deal, and you just have to go along with it. But we get it, we really do! One bus had to turn back because they somehow left a woman behind! They hoped she had boarded the wrong bus but she hadn’t. Car rentals on Iceland are very expensive. If you thought of a number, triple it, for a bigger, safer, better-in-the-snow vehicle. Driving is louder on the island, too, because everyone has studded tires. Driving on ice is just a fact of life.
typical corner with ice on the sidewalk and a view of the harbour and mountains in the background

Like any harbour city, the view is spectacular. But unlike every harbour city, you not only have a gorgeous body of water to overlook, there are also mountains in sight. The terrain is mainly lava rock, so any crops grown on the islands are bedded in greenhouses. Produce is very expensive. $5 for a bell pepper. Gas is twice what we’re paying now. But you know that going in.

In the summer, temperatures reach about 15C. One bar boasted that its patio would open when the temp hit a “balmy 5C!”

Their humour is evident in various and subtle ways. From the name of a music store – Bad Taste Records – to this sign in front of the hip eatery, Laundromat.
Sign reads: Go ahead and breastfeed. We like both babies and boobs!And their method of reuniting lost gloves with their owners. The full sign reads Single Gloves Speed Dating.

iron railing with dozens of mismatched gloves attached and a sign that reads Single Gloves Speed Dating

If you lose a glove in Reykjavik, just look for this fence on the main street.

Iceland is a beautiful, unusual place and we certainly didn’t see it all. But we saw enough to know we loved it.

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