An Unusual Holiday In Iceland
We’re taking a break from our usual programming today with a guest post from my awesome traveling friend, Jody E. I have been begging Jody for years to compile her hilarious Facebook posts into longer narratives, and she’s finally complied! Hopefully more posts will appear soon. Jody is a single mum, who’s based in Australia. She is the ultimate travel hacker, and finds the most amazing deals, which lead to some pretty quirky holidays. Two years ago, it was Iceland in December.
Over to you, Jody…
It was a dull and dreary Sydney morning. My five-year-old was watching TV and screaming for more toast, sending me to my “get me out of here” place.
Letting out a deep mum-sigh, I loaded the toaster and noticed the TV was showing images of the Northern Lights, something’s that’s almost at the top of my bucket list. I’d always vaguely thought a visit to Iceland for my 40th would be cool.
But this particular morning, I suddenly thought “bugger it, why wait?”
Less than two months later we were in Reykjavik, driving a hire car delivered by a cute guy in an adorable woollen jumper, looking for our basement apartment.
Iceland is probably one of the most remote places an Aussie can travel to. This single mum, in her endless search for the best deals ever, took an arduous route through Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Paris and Birmingham. (I know, I know, but it was a great deal.)
It was December, and Reykjavik was dark and cold and snowy. The roads were icy, the buildings low. I kept getting the giggles over the name of the city we were in. Flashbacks of Carmen Sandiego. Where in the world was I, indeed?
Our wonderful host had gone above and beyond for us, organising a sled and a snowsuit for my son, and extra layers for me. She also offered to babysit if I needed.
Our apartment was cliched to the hilt, with furs and err … hunting trophies on the walls. I loved it!
We played tourist, my boy running headfirst into waist-high piles of snow, both of us marveling at the light displays downtown.
We visited the Kolaportið, the weekly secondhand market, and tried Icelandic hotdogs from the street, local style. I tried the “one with everything (eina með öllu)” with sauces I couldn’t identify and crisp onion. Yum. And cheap.
Our first few days were punctuated by my repeated exclamations: “Iceland! I’m in fucking ICELAND.”
A snowstorm raged above us one evening as we soaked in a 42-degree “hotpot” at Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, the local swimming pool. Listening to the gossip and chatter around me, I decided it was time to find some adult company.
I jumped on Tinder (no shame!) and immediately got a few matches.. Mmmm… hulking bearded guys in snuggly sweaters. Well, when in Iceland…
With my host babysitting the kiddo, I set off down Laugavegur, Reykjavik’s main shopping street.
Icelandic men don’t talk much, I discovered. Apparently the women have to do most of the work on dates. My big, shaggy Viking date sat there straining to make conversation. Awkward. But he was cute.
The conversation flowed more smoothly after he suggested we try Brennivín, the local liquor. Pretty soon we were making out. (Note to self: make more of an effort to stay classy, Jody.)
But like an Icelandic Cinderella I had to leave, slipping and sliding along the icy footpaths to get home to kiddo.
The next day the Viking invited me to join him at another heated pool. I summoned another babysitter, and headed out.
We chatted and laughed in clouds of steam and I learned about Iceland. Apparently my last name in Icelandic translates to the word nothing. Excellent, my name is Jody Nothing.
Also, there is a frozen drink called Krap, just so you know.
Before long we were no longer talking. Instead we were doing things that put us at risk of being thrown out. (Oh c’mon, don’t raise your eyebrows. Who hasn’t fantasized about running away to the other side of the planet to behave disgracefully!)
With the kiddo still at the babysitters, we retreated back to my apartment and I got to know Iceland a bit more intimately. By the way, condoms are sold right next to the register at the supermarkets.
My adult-time digression didn’t distract me from my main aim in Iceland — the lights!
The kiddo and I took a night tour to see the Northern Lights. Along with a busload of other tourists, we saw some disappointing vague green blurs on the horizon. Pfft.
But by the time we got home, the sky was full of pink and green, dancing and exploding and shifting over half the sky. Exactly like in the movies.
Unfortunately my son missed the main show. He’d fallen asleep, and when I woke him to carry him inside, he started screaming like he was being murdered. He wouldn’t stay inside and sleep, and the tantrum spilled outside to where I watching the lights, drawing the neighbours, still in their pyjamas, outside to check on us.
It was midnight on a school night, and I think we learned the Icelandic for “shut the hell up” that night.
Not exactly the way I envisaged crossing the lights off my bucket list, but magical (in parts) all the same.
With the sun only up for three hours, we only managed one activity a day.
One excursion was to the Penis Museum, officially known as the Icelandic Phallological Museum. As my five-year-old ran around with the information booklet asking where each specimen came from, I couldn’t decide if I was being the best mum in the universe, or the worst.
Apart from one small rude and tacky section, the museum was educational and kid-friendly. And darn funny. (The school mum back home who blocked me on Facebook obviously disagreed.)
The kiddo and I also took a day tour to Geysir, which is not a town full of old blokes, but a geothermal field with spouting hot springs. In homage to the Icelandic region, all spouting hot springs are known in English as geysers. I have no idea how old men got to be named after this phenomenon though.
We discovered the Laundromat Cafe, a brilliant combination of cafe, laundromat and kids play area. Best idea ever. The kiddo played happily while I sipped coffee and messaged my Viking.
My happy vibe must have been obvious because the girl next to me started to chat. She was another single mum. And just like that she offered me her apartment while she went home for Christmas. We also befriended an American expat and her daughter the same day.
After only a week in Iceland I had a lover, an apartment, new friends, a social life and playdates. My Icelandic life was looking better than life at home!
This situation seemed to concern my friends and family in Australia. I started getting emails pointing out that Iceland is a LONG way from home.
“You wouldn’t move there would you? REALLY?”
I was actually considering it. Sure, I came for the lights, Geysir, the glacier hikes in Iceland, the snow and the strangeness of a winter without much sun. But could I stay for the man, the friends, and the hot dogs?
It was a tough call.
In the end I did get on the flight home, but not without some tears.
It’s been two years since our winter holiday in Iceland and I’m still in touch with the Viking. From time to time he sends me a sweet message.
And guess what? Next year I really do turn 40 and that seems the perfect time to see Iceland again. And the Viking.
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6 months ago