26-27 May, 2015
England, at last! It's hard for us to believe, somehow, this time, perhaps because there was no time for anticipation.
It was a trying trip. We flew Iceland Air, which is a wonderful airline (other than selling you food instead of just handing it out, but that's normal, now, for most airlines). The flight attendants wear smart uniforms with caps and high heels; and they're all youngish and pretty, not like the slobs elsewhere.Their make-up is good and they wear their hair in fat buns at the nape of the neck.
No, Iceland Air was not the problem. The problem was that to get cheap tickets, you sometimes have to settle for a crummy schedule. No problem, we thought. We shall ENJOY a night in Reykjavik; it'll give us a chance to see a bit of Iceland, however briefly. The hotel was only a few minutes from the airport, pricey, but I had bought it as a present to Demetrios, so he didn't mind. Plus, it's a tiny airport, just two gates as we remembered, very easy to get in and out of.
We landed at Keflavik. That's the name of the Reykjavik airport, right? Like Charles de Gaulle is the name of the airport in Paris, or Heathrow, in London; or Dulles, in Washington? No problem, we thought.
The good thing, we thought, was that either our memory was bad or the airport had expanded amazingly in one year, because there were many gates and we even found eateries still open at midnight. Grabbed a bit of airport food as we were hungry and didn't know if anything else would still be open, then easily found a waiting cab.
Very nice cabbie. We'd driven about 10 miles when Demetrios asked, "How far away is the hotel?" Forty-five minutes.
Forty-five minutes? Yes, said the cabbie, and added, "That's Reykjavik, across the bay." Across a BIG bay. Keflavick turns out to be a whole separate town with a different airport, which is why it wasn't anything like the one we remembered in Reykjavik.
Longish silence. Then Demetrios, in a rather intimidated sounding voice, asked, "About how much does it cost to drive there?"
Several thousands of Icelandic kronurs.
"And how much is that in dollars?" The cabbie didn't know the exact exchange rate today, but around $180.
"And another $180 to come back again?"
It took us only a couple of moments, I hesitating longer than he, to decide we had to turn right around and spend the night at the airport.
We found a couple of metal chairs and settled in, but they were near an entrance, which now and again was opened and let in 40-degree air, and near huge windows, which also leaked in the cold. We had no jackets or sweaters in our hand luggage, and after an hour or so, were both shivering. I was quite sure we literally couldn't survive that way. So off we went, with heavy luggage, in search of another spot to spend the night.
We were shut into a small part of the airport by then, and all the chairs we could find were already taken. However, we found half a dozen wheelchairs, which were more comfortable anyway, and nowhere near a window or door. So we grabbed one each and dozed in them until the airport re-opened and passengers arrived to check in.
"I think we'd better go now," said Demetrios at last. "It's odd nobody has asked us to, yet."
"We're old," I replied. "Who's going to try to chase an elderly person out of his wheelchair?"
So, off to find some more "food".
We met a good-looking, fortyish man in the food court who turned out to be a German who had emigrated to Iceland ten years ago. He said he was very happy here, and was planning never to leave. He had found here his dream. When asked what he loved best about Iceland, he said it was the warm-hearted people, unlike any he had ever found in Germany. He showed us pictures on his phone of his little village in the eastern part of the island, with 700 inhabitants, all like one big family.
"You have to be very open," he said, "because everybody is going to know all about you anyway. And you have to be willing to say,'I'm sorry' a lot, too." He's a single dad, and he described how everybody helps raise each other's children. When he goes to work each morning, the villagers automatically take care of his children, along with the other children whose parents work outside the home. "Sometimes, when I come home, I don't even know who has them" he said, "and I have to call around to find out where they are."
Our hearts were very much warmed by listening to this former sea-captain turned civil engineer, and we rejoice he has found his paradise. All he best3ede to you, Hans-Fritz!
It makes us all the more determined to spend a few days here sometime soon.
Eight o'clock finally dragged itself around, and we took off for England. It's only a two-hour flight from Iceland, and we spend it trying to sleep.
David and Julia had sent their favorite cabbie to meet us, and sure enough, he was waiting, with a placard that said, "THEO, ORMSKIRK". He showed us the ATM, where we provided ourselves with some pounds sterling, and it was a pleasant ride home, memories flashing past us. The houses didn't look the way they do in Virginia. Oh, yes, and here are the fields with drainage ditches dug all the way around them, because the land is otherwise too boggy to cultivate. And here is an actual, real, roundabout. And there is the university, and here, the church, the yarn shop, etc., etc. Things I hadn't even had time to think of lately.
I did some unpacking while Demetrios re-connected the battery of our car, which started right up, no problem. He managed to renew its registration by telephone; yes, the phone worked this time. Then he drove to the supermarket to supplement the things David and Julia had so kindly left in our fridge for us. We found fresh flowers in the kitchen, too!
Eight o'clock again dragged itself around, and we went to bed. Demetrios is still asleep. Today we'll unpack and see what's with the TV and the TV license, and generally settle in. Then tonight, we'll meet David and Julia and James and Kim and little Charlotte for dinner nearby. Can't wait!