Simon's trip to Europe 2005 travel blog

Me on the Moon!

The Blue Lagoon, geothermal spa


Wow, I can't believe I'm using my laptop right now... The landscape is féérique: I am at the Blue Lagoon, the famous geothermal spa station 20 minutes from the Keflavik International Airport, at the Southwestern point of Iceland. I am surrounded by strange black rocks which give a Lunar feel to the landscape... It is 23h00, but it is still day as if it was 19h00 in Montreal during summer... This doesn't help much the jet lag; it's 15h00 my time right now and all this day light doesn't make me feel asleep. I just rented a car today, and so I'd much rather go explore these surrealistic landscapes or have fun in the nightlife of Reykjavik than go to sleep. But I'll try to follow the jet lag expert advice (sleep!): I'll finish this entry, and just do a little tour on the coast (maybe also visit the bridge which crosses the European and American tectonic plates), then go to sleep to try to readjust to the European time zone. I have to be in good shape for my dancing camp starting Saturday!

I'm currently spoofing the wireless connection of the Blue Lagoon conference center. I read in their brochure that they had a conference center and a little light made click in my head: conference center = probably unsecure wireless access point. So here I am, at the entrance of the center (now closed), giving a small overview of the beginning of my trip...

Departure from San Francisco: July 20th - 23h35 GMT -8:00

Of course, I was last minute. But what I didn't know, is that this time was the most last minute that I had ever been for a plane! I am often on a tight schedule, testing what is the minimum amount of minutes before my plane departure at which I really need to be at the airport. I have actually never missed a plane (not yet, at least ;o). I guess that was luck. Today, it was pretty close. I ran outside of my house at 21h33 to get the Berkeley downtown BART at 21h47. I was carrying my backpack, a suitcase (which has the 22 inches limit size to be carried on the airplane as carry on luggage) and my laptop. I tried to jog at a good pace not to miss the BART. This was pretty intense, actually (a good work-out!). Fortunately, I was going down the hill! I arrived 20 seconds before the BART (good timing!). Note that BART is always pretty much on time all the time. I arrived at the SFO Airport at 22h44 (BART was on time). For a 23h35 flight. 50 minutes, I thought this is not too bad (but I guess I took too many inbound flights recently, because this is way not enough for International flights!). At 22h55, I find the Icelandair counter: it is marked closed! Fortunately, there is still an attendant there: I ask, what can I do if the counter is closed? She screams: you're taking the flight at 23h35??? I say yes! Then she rushes to the computer, ask for my passport and ticket, and ask for an attendant there to accompany me through security. I'll have to bring the suitcase with me because it won't reach the plane soon enough otherwise. She was pretty stressed out. It's funny because I was pretty relax, but I should be the one stressing out about missing my flight (well what can I do now anyway, it's too late to stress! Now I need to be efficient and get to the gate...). Anyway, she was pretty nice, given the situation, and I had a bodyguard with me who even helped carry my laptop. We then zipped through security, passing in front everyone!

Unfortunately, since I was planning to put the suitcase as a checked in baggage rather than a carry on, I had my Swiss knife (always useful to have in it. So the security didn't appreciate and ordered a search of my luggage (after they saw there was a knife in it). Oops. But sir, my flight is leaving in a few minutes! Not my problem sir. I'm doing my job, where is the knife? ... So they confiscated my dear knife, dating from a Career fair at McGill as free goodie... I'll miss it dearly. But oh well, next time I should be more on time!

Anyhow, this took maybe 8 minutes (this could have been a lot worse; I already got chosen on the random search and this had taken something like 30-45 minutes!). It was now 23h05. I thought, well, I still have 15 minutes, no worry! But soon enough we heard the last call for my flight! Fortunately, my nice bodyguard was communicating with them on his cell phone to tell them that I was currently on my way. So 5 minutes later, I arrived, they took my suitcase, and then closed the door just behind me! When I got in the plane, they already had started to tell the mombo jumbo about the security stuff on the plane, in preparation to departure... So that was tight! I guess 45 minutes for an international flight is pretty much the limit! It's good also that my suitcase was legal size for a carry on baggage. I had bought it a few hours ago in Berkeley, and was hesitating with a bigger one... I thought that it would be more convenient to have a suitcase which could be hand luggage on the plane, and also it will force me to bring less crap in Europe (it didn't realy, but still). I still brought too much stuff...

--- As an aside, while I was typing this story, a group of motorcyclists came riding on the sidewalk towards the Blue Lagoon (which is in the middle of nowhere). I suddenly got quite scared, having images of Hells Angels and realizing that I am alone in the middle of nowhere with a 2000$ laptop (and I left my cell phone in the car)... Fortunately, they seemed pretty friendly and just said hi to me and then happily went smoking in a group. ---

The Flight

I love the airlines of the North! Well, more accurately, I like better anything which is not an airline from the US. Air Canada is better, Finnair is a lot better, and Icelandair is not bad at all (even if the ticket was the cheapest I found!). I always have the impression that everything is on the cheap for the American airlines, and you get the bad service in consequence (not necessarily only American Airlines, but also United or Delta, though I had a decent service on the Delta flight (the pilot was funny, and the attendants were happy, but that was about it; food was minimal and also service)). Whereas on Finnair or Icelandair, you get a lot more space, food is much better than the American one (how surprising!), you don't need to pay to get those pesky headphones, and of course, you get Nordic hostesses who are so hot (and have nice smiles)! ;o) For some reasons, j'ai vraiment un petit faible pour les demoiselles scandinaves (ou plus précisement, celles du Nord, parce que la Finlande ne fait pas partie de la Scandinavie il paraît).

I was seated beside a Swedish couple in their 40s I'd say. The husband was very taciturn (not surprisingly), but the wife was happily trying to speak in English (with her cute accent). She reminded me of a Finnish dancer that I had met last year, they have a similar English accent to my (French) ear...

Then I slept, of course (it was an overnight flight), and there's nothing exciting to mention apart that.

Arrival to Iceland

I went to Motel Alex. It's 2 minutes from the airport (this is convenient for the early Saturday morning flight of 7h40 - I'm not planning to arrive 50 minutes before time T this time!), and they have cheap sleeping bag accommodations. The guy there was very friendly, and they were happy to refer me to a local guy for car location, which is half the price than the usual Alvis, Budget and cie.

The car is pretty useful to discover the barren lands of Iceland and its parks. I then went for a quick relaxing trip to the Blue Lagoon. I tried their steam house, their silicate mask, their shampoo and conditioner (my skin and hair feel so refreshed now! ;o), I feel like a real metrosexual!)... And now it is midnight (and still not dark!!). So on theses words, I'll go finish my car trip of the day and go to sleep!

Plan for tomorrow: visit of the national park and then a quick tour of Reykjavik. Then go to sleep early, catch the plane and be ready for Herräng!

P.S. Apart from the black rock and the weird Icelandic language, I already notice another difference which tells me that I am in Europe: people smoke a lot more than in California!

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