When I decided to embark on this journey of mine, I had little idea of where I would go, what I would do or what I hoped to achieve – all I knew for sure was that I had to go and that I wanted to spend my birthday alone in Iceland. To that end, today I boarded a plane bound for Reykjavik.
Before boarding though, I switched off my own airport-routine auto-pilot for a moment to register the thrill of the fact that I was about to go to Iceland – how exciting! It’s not my first time, in fact this might be me fifth time but like Vancouver, Reykjavik has a certain hold on me that I can’t quite articulate, an inexplicable sense of belonging and being in the right place.
Despite my excitement, I slept for most of the flight, waking in time to see the landscape (actually more of a moonscape with the treeless lava fields) unfold beneath me. I revelled in the familiarity of the airport at the other end, knowing exactly where I had to go and in what order.
The bus ride from Keflavik to Reykjavik was a warm welcome that had me grinning from ear to ear. I made my way to my home for the week, an apartment not far the centre of town which I would be sharing with its full-time occupants and real-life Icelanders, Halla and Berglind. I was met there by Aður, Halla’s sister. The apartment is very cool and my room very comfortable.
I dumped my bag and headed straight into the heart of the city. I say ‘city’ but I should stress that Reykjavik is very small. The entire country has a population of 330,000 but what constantly surprises me is how vibrant, energetic and downright cool Reykjavik is for a place of its size.
I walked down the main street and popped into the supermarket for the customary look at funny groceries and gathering of favourite sweet treats before continuing on to see what has changed. For the most part, it is as I left it but I did come across a cool new cafe, “C is for Cookie”, where I enjoyed a latte and free wifi.
At the top of the street, I reached the city’s most iconic building – Hallgrimskirkja – a Lutheran church which somehow reminds me of the Play School Rocket Clock – I keep expecting it to turn around to see what today’s story will be about. From here I wandered down into the older part of Reykjavik, stopping only to achieve one of my missions for the trip, to get a toy puffin for Madiba. I spent a long time making sure I chose the very best one and I’m certain that I did.
Puffin in tow, I headed to the harbour and along the water until I reached the newest addition to the Reykjavik ‘skyline’, Harpa, a new purpose built concert hall and conference centre that was still under construction when we last visited. More like a cathedral of the arts, it is clear to see the hand of one of my favourite artists, Olafur Eliasson in the design of the facade with its multifaceted glass allowing for the interaction and play with light – a hallmark of much of his body of work.
I continued along the waters edge, feeling a palpable tug on my heartstrings as I looked out towards the mountains. I was suddenly struck by the similarity, albeit fleeting and tenuous, to Vancouver’s seawall and wondered if there was something to it. I sat for a while just starring out before noticing that it was already 9pm, yet brighter than it had been at 3pm!
Back at the apartment, I met Halla for the first time and was instantly at ease. She made me feel welcome as we chatted away before turning in for the night… in broad daylight. At midnight, the sun was still high in the sky and although I have seen the midnight sun before, it never ceases to amaze me. Luckily exhaustion and black out curtains were able to convince my body that it was time to sleep.