Even though there were only three days to Christmas the roads to Heathrow were unexpectedly clear, and the airport quiet. Perhaps lots of people had shied away from traveling because they were worried about non-existent crowds.
During the Iceland Air flight we were served hot chocolate, malt and appelsin (the national festive drink) and Christmas cookies. Every December, the Icelandic Yule Lads come down from the mountains to cause all sorts of havoc, and today was the turn of the ‘Keyhole Sniffer’ – Gattapefur. He has a very large nose and can smell food even 50,000 feet up in the air, so all children on the plane were warned to be on the lookout, should he try and steal their cookies.
Instead of there only being one Father Christmas in Iceland, there are 13 Yule Lads, and in the thirteen nights running up to Christmas children leave a shoe in the window. If they’ve been good, they can expect a small gift from the Yule Lad. If they’ve been naughty, they get a potato. Having so many different looking Yule Lads also makes it easier to explain to children why Father Christmas never looks the same from one shopping centre or grotto to the next. Sadly there isn’t a Yule Lad called the Ear Wax Sniffer.
Despite a 30 minute take off delay the pilot (I’m guessing it was a she) still managed to land us in Reykjavik bang on time. It took all of two seconds to pass through passport control after a cheery hello from the immigration officer, and within 30 minutes we were on the fly bus to the BSI bus terminal. It was 0 degrees C when we landed with snow on the ground, but it wasn’t as cold as when we last visited two years ago – to find that Reykjavik hadn’t had that much snow since the 1980’s! It was definitely cold enough to remind you that you’re no longer in the UK though – that you’re somewhere a bit special.
The fly bus takes you through the lava fields via Hafnafjordur to the main BSI bus terminal, and on to the main hotels, hostels and guesthouses in Reykjavik. The journey takes around 50 minutes and the scenery is stunning, especially when the sun is setting or rising behind the dormant volcanoes. The owner of the apartment we’d rented very kindly arranged for her daughter Anna to collect us from the bus station, saving us quite an expensive taxi ride. Whilst we could have taken a local bus our bags were the heaviest they’ve ever been thanks to the snowshoes, and we didn’t much fancy having to drag them down the street for the last few hundred yards.
We wanted to get to know the eastern part of the city, having stayed near the university in the south west last time, and so had booked this lovely apartment on Langholtsvegur. It looked big in the pictures but they certainly don’t do it justice. It’s spacious and yet cosy warm, thanks to the very cheap geothermal heating, and cute Christmas decorations and fairy lights, inside and out. The queen sized bed in the bedroom has the obligatory two single duvets, preventing many a duvet battle, and the sofa in the living room is comfortable and large enough to double up as a single bed should your partner snore. The kitchen is very well equipped, and by the time we’d unpacked our essential supplies of long life milk sachets, decaf tea bags, dark chocolate, and gluten free Christmas pudding, felt just like home.
Having guessed that we’d be shattered by now we’d also bought some gluten free pasta and stir in sauce with us for a quick supper, to save us having to go shopping until tomorrow. Smelling sulphur as soon as I turned on the hot tap immediately bought back all of the glorious memories of hot pots and natural thermal pools, and I sighed aloud, glad to be back in a place which has become for both of us, our spiritual home. I don’t know why we feel such a connection to Iceland, but it just always feels ‘right’. Maybe it’s because the Icelanders are quirky, outspoken, have a dry sense of humour, are liberal and adventurous. We always feel welcome here, and even though we love to explore new places, there’s something that always draws us back here, and I think always will.