Hello, Iceland!

It has been just one week since we landed in Iceland, and now we’re sitting on an Atlantic Airways flight headed to Vagar Airport in the Faroe Islands.

—Actually we’re now on Day 3 of our time in the Faroes, but it turns out that our days are fairly packed to the point that I have had little time to even jot down what we’ve done in my notebook, let alone write a blog post. Gah, this is going to be hard if I keep moving at this rate!

Getting Off to a Rocky Start

During the past week, we drove much of the Ring Road around the perimeter of Iceland (an overly ambitious goal, one might say), starting things off at the Keflavik Airport at 6:30a.m. on Friday, June 7th. We made it through customs and baggage claim without any real issues before hitting our first snag at the Avis car rental counter where they couldn’t find our reservation. Sam produced the email confirmation on his phone, which led to the discovery that he had accidentally booked a car for us at the Reykjavik Airport—the domestic airport nearly an hour’s drive away from where we currently stood in the international Keflavik Airport. Oops.

The folks at the rental counter produced some impressive Americans are idiots eyerolls, and Sam left to check out options at other rental companies a few feet away. Alas, there were NO MORE CARS available at any of the others, so we headed back to Avis where they were able to find a slightly bigger car for us for what seemed like a much higher price. Given that we were exhausted after all having slept at most two hours on the flight from Boston, and the thought of making our way with kids and bags to another airport to pick up our correct rental seemed beyond our mental and physical abilities, Sam handed over his credit card, we grabbed the keys and started on our way to the parking lot.

When I Realized that I Had No Itinerary for the First Day

The kids started fighting as soon as we got into the car, and when Sam asked me where we were heading, I completely drew a blank (and then had a momentary freakout, thinking that this trip was a huge mistake and that the next year of my life was going to be my children screaming from the backseat and my husband asking what the plans were…). All I had in my phone was where we had a reservation for that night. Thankfully, eventually I found a Post-It note I had stuck onto a page in Rick Steves Iceland many months ago when I first started planning this trip, listing the Grábrók Crater, Bjarnholm Shark Museum, and a volcano museum. At least we had a starting point. We blearily hit the road in search of coffee and breakfast (in retrospect, we should have just grabbed both of those at the airport, but we made do with our pit stop at a gas station about an hour into our drive through western Iceland).

Our first stop was at the Borgarnes Settlement Centre in… you guessed it, Borgarnes, about an hour outside of Reykjavik. We arrived before it opened, so we parked and walked around a bit in the chilly weather, Addie throwing her first tantrum of many about hating the hat I packed for her and ultimately borrowing mine. I wouldn’t make it a point to return to the center on a future visit, but it was something to do as we tried to keep ourselves awake for the rest of the day. If one is especially interested in Icelandic sagas, I’m sure it would hold greater appeal. Or if one had more than a couple of hours of sleep—that would have probably helped too. As it was, it had clean restrooms and a comfy couch where Addie and I sat when she freaked out about the second half of the exhibit being too scary (it actually was the stuff that many nightmares are made of…).

When You Can Eat the Relatives of What Your Kids Were Just Petting

We grabbed lunch at Hraunsnef, a country hotel and restaurant just north of the Grábrók Crater that was basically the only one open for miles, which is how we chose it. They have a small farm on the property as well, and the meat served in the restaurant comes from some of the animals on the farm.

Most of us loved the lunch—save Henry who was disappointed to discover that there was sauce on his cheeseburger. He spent several minutes wiping it off and sulking, covering himself and his shirt sleeves in some kind of creamy orange goo. Sam finally caught our waitress’ eye and requested a sauce-free bun, as Henry’s had been decimated by both the sauce and his removal efforts. Traveling around the world for a year is going to be really tough on this kid if he continues to object to sauces as much as he does now… On the plus side, look at the tiny handmade ceramic pots they used for ketchup—how cute are they?!

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Following lunch, we visited the Grábrók Crater. It was great to get outside in the fresh air for some exercise and fun to start showing the kids some of Iceland’s striking geology and geography. Addie and Ben and I moved mostly together, though Ben stopped frequently to use a macro lens attachment for his phone. Henry and Sam walked together—happily, until disaster struck…

We had just had a discussion about not leaving valuables visible in the car, i.e. taking cameras and phones with us or at the very least, leaving them in the car tucked away out of sight. Henry took this lesson to the next level, bringing with him a very special green mechanical pencil I had given him before our departure, as he didn’t want anyone to steal it from the car. Granted, if someone were to break into the rental car in Iceland—where crime is very low—I highly doubt they would go for Henry’s pencil over, say, Sam’s camera—but it was a sign of how much he loved this particular writing utensil. And of course, it tumbled out of Henry’s pocket in between the grates of a landing near the top of the crater, dropping so far down that none of us could reach it. Henry reacted with a full range of emotions—crying, yelling, and eventually pleading for us to find him a new pencil—but it had to be the same pencil, as no other pencil could ever compare…

FFS. This may be shaping up to be a very long year for some of us.


Hey there! I’m Melanie. Originally from Brooklyn, home is now Charleston, SC--or wherever my three kids and husband are. Our family gap year will take us around the world, touching down on six continents over 12 months.
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