Trip Report! ABD Iceland Saga of the Midnight Sun 9/18 COMPLETE!! - Day 7 River Rafting & Farewell

sayhello

Have Camera, Will Travel
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
ABD Iceland Trip Report – Saga of the Midnight Sun – 9/1/18 – 9/8/18

So here it is! My Trip Report about my Iceland ABD trip! I did the Adults Only departure in September of 2018, which was the last trip of the Inaugural Season for this trip.

I’d been to Iceland, briefly, in 2015. I went to London with friends, and we flew Icelandair. They had a program where you could stopover in Iceland for a while for no additional airfare, so I decided to take advantage of it on my way home from London. I spent a day and a half there, and knew that I’d have to go back. When ABD announced they were doing Iceland, it was a no-brainer, even though there was some overlap with my 1 ½ days.

Overall, this was an excellent trip. However, there were some definite challenges with it. I’m going to get this out of the way so that I can then get to the good and fun parts. As I’ve posted elsewhere, we had 37 people on this trip, and it was just WAY too many people. Except for the Danube River cruise, which had 140 people on it, I have never ended an ABD where there were fellow Adventurers whose names I never did learn. That was really sad for me. I do believe it was a combination of the number of people, and the large amount of time on the bus that caused this. As often happens, by the second day we ended up with set places on the bus, and there seemed to be very little mingling between the front of the bus and the back of the bus. On other trips, you have this same phenomenon, but you don’t spend such a large percentage of you time on the bus, so it doesn’t affect socializing as much. According to one of our Adventure Guides, this trip has the most bus time of any ABD (28 hours!!!)

The other problem caused by the number of people was the bathroom situation. Many of the places we stopped only had one or two bathrooms, and it takes a LONG time for 37 people to use the facilities under those conditions. It also took us a long time to be served at most places we ate. I just don’t feel like Iceland’s infrastructure is up to dealing with such a large group. I really, really think ABD should limit the number of people on this trip going forward. But that’s not going to happen.

Anyways, now that I’ve got that over with, on with the Report!

Days A & B, Pre-days in Reykjavik

So, like most European countries, it’s virtually impossible to fly to Iceland without doing an overnight flight, arriving in the wee hours of the morning. My travel to Iceland was not great. A few months before my trip, Air Canada cancelled the first leg of my trip from Columbus, OH to Toronto, and the only 2 options were to replace my 2 ½ hour layover with either a 45 minute layover or a 7 hour layover. As much as it pained me, there was NO WAY I was doing a 45 minute layover on an international flight through a foreign country, so I took the 7 hour layover. Thank goodness I had a pass for the Lounge in Toronto, but it still made for a LONG, yucky travel day.

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I arrived in Reykjavik, and was met by a sweet woman and by my driver, whose name I’ve forgotten, but it was something like Thorman. LOVED the Icelandic accent already. They asked if I needed anything and I begged “Coffee!!” So we stopped on the way out at a small coffee shop so I could purchase the elixir of life. The driver and I then headed out to his car, where it had already started raining. By the time we got to the Blue Lagoon, I was starting to feel ill, and it was raining pretty steadily. The driver took me into the Blue Lagoon, and it took these folks way too long to figure out my reservation, seeing as folks had been doing this with ABD since the start of the summer! But it all got worked out, and we set a time for me to be out front again so that Thorman could pick me up & take me to the hotel in Reykjavik.

I found an open locker, got changed into my swimsuit, and then made my way to a shower to clean up & apply conditioner before hitting the Lagoon. Once I got out there, it was pretty miserable. The rain was literally blowing sideways. So for most of the time, all you could do was stand in places where you could submerge yourself up to the neck and try and block the rain at least a bit. There really wasn’t much else to do there, and the restaurant wasn’t open yet. I got some sparkling wine, wandered around for a bit, tried the facial masks, and then got out and went back inside. Lots of people would come outside run to the edge, go in for a minute or two, and then run back inside. It was *not* the lovely, relaxing post-flight experience I’d been anticipating. I started to despair. If the whole trip was going to be like this, it was not going to be pleasant.

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I had lunch at Lava, the restaurant there. It was very pretty. I unfortunately wasn’t that hungry, and the fish was too salty for me. But the skyr-based dessert was quite nice.

I finally checked out and headed out to the parking lot (a bit of a walk) to meet the driver. It was still raining. He took me the 45 minutes or so to the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina. Unlike others reported, my driver got me as close to the door as he could, and insisted on helping me schlep my luggage into the lobby. I thanked him profusely, then checked in. I really lucked out, as I was told I could keep my same room for the entire stay. (I’d had to book the first of my two pre-nights myself as ABD had not been able to book a second day for me.) I don’t know if it was because I’d contacted them a couple of days before to make sure it was noted on my reservation, or because they just weren’t quite as busy at the end of the summer. The room was large and bright, but oddly set up. Turns out it was a Handicapped room. The thing I disliked the most was that the shower was defined solely by the shower curtain, which meant it was virtually impossible to keep water from going all over the small bathroom. And there was *very* little closet space, and no drawers. Oh, well, I’d been warned the place was “quirky”. It *did* have a lot of electrical outlets, including on both sides of the headboard. That was nice.

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The Harbor view from my room. Also not encouraging.

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I spent some time unpacking (if I’m in a room for more than 1 night, I like to unpack. I hate living out of a suitcase). After being warned by @kristilew and others about how warm the rooms could be, I made sure the heat was off and opened the windows. The room was a bit warm, and opening the windows definitely helped.

After unpacking, I knew I had to get out & do some walking, or I’d succumb to jetlag. Plus, I needed to get some dinner. I went down to the restaurant in the hotel, Slippbarrinn, but my stomach was still not great, and nothing there sounded appealing. So I asked at reception, and they directed me to a food court in a building walking distance from the hotel. It was still raining and was quite windy, but I figured I might as well get used to it. I *had* brought tons of rainproof gear. It was a little more difficult to find than it sounded, but I finally found it. However, almost everything there turned out to be various types of serious MEAT. Whereas normally this would have been great, I just didn’t feel I could stomach it that day. Finally, I found a Thai place in the corner, and had some summer rolls. That hit the spot.

I wandered around a bit on my way back to the hotel, and saw where the place for the Welcome Dinner was (Bryggjan Brugghus Bistro) and a teeny Aurora museum which I meant to check out later, but never made it to.

I finally made my way back to the hotel, and even though it wasn’t even 9pm yet, I gave in and went to bed, hoping things and I would be better in the morning. Fortunately, I didn’t have to be anywhere the next day until 12:30pm.

I woke up to a much better day, thank goodness. My stomach was fine, and there was sunlight, and I even saw patches of blue sky outside!! Yay! And it wasn’t raining! It’s amazing how much things like that improved my mood!

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I went downstairs to the little coffee shop they had outside of Slippbarinn, and had a light breakfast of coffee, a scone and a skyr parfait. Yumm!! I then went back to my room to get ready for the day. I had a Walking Food tour of Reykjavik set up for this afternoon. It started at 12:30 at Harpa the concert hall, and took 4 hours. I figured I’d get lunch and dinner out of it (I did!!!)

As I walked, the sky cleared quite a bit more. It was still very windy, but getting pretty lovely otherwise.

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Harpa was pretty easy to spot. It’s a beautiful, geometrically fascinating building made of multicolored glass panels. It was really quite gorgeous, especially in the sunlight.

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I found a group of others waiting outside for our tour guide, who was a slight bit late. But after a bit, our guide, Thor, showed up. Ah, yes. The Icelandic accent again!

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sayhello

Have Camera, Will Travel
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
We walked away from the waterfront, past some construction, to a hill where there was a statue of Ingólfur Arnarson, who was the first permanent settler in Iceland.

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As we were walking, I commented to Thor that it was gorgeous out, and I was happy as long as it wasn’t raining (it was still rather windy). Thor let me know that that was *not* how the Icelandic people felt. They’ll take any weather – rain, snow, whatever – as long as it wasn’t windy. And I guess I understood that. The wind could get rather wicked.

The bottom of this hill used to be the waterfront.

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This is Thor at our first stop – the Viking bar, which is known for their Icelandic lamb. We had meat soup with lamb there, a very Icelandic dish. And it was fabulous!! Lamb is my favorite meat, and I don’t get it nearly often enough!

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We also had a really nice, light Icelandic beer.

This Delicatessen was our next stop, where we partook of a variety of cheeses and dried meats.

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I don’t remember what the cheeses all were, but most of them were quite tasty. The meat was lamb, horse and whale. Icelanders don’t waste things, so if a horse has to be put down for any reason, they’ll eat it. They don’t kill the horses just for food.

We walked along one of the main drags, towards the iconic Hallgrímskirkja Church. The weather this day was truly bipolar. It would be lovely and sunny, then you’d feel two raindrops and quickly have to pull up your rain hood, as it would suddenly start raining, then would rain for about 3 minutes. Then it would stop and be lovely again. This happened over & over again, all day. Luckily, we were inside a lot of the time that it was raining.

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Our destination was Café Loki, across the street from Hallgrímskirkja. This was where I’d had my first meal (lamb meat soup!) in Iceland in 2015. At Café Loki, we had some amazing home-made rye bread ice cream. It was so good! Some folks were saying it tasted like chocolate chip, but to me, it tasted like rye bread! And it was delicious!

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We then walked around Reykjavik for a bit, and Thor pointed out some interesting buildings. Many of the buildings had artwork on one side. Apparently they had had a very bad problem with graffiti, so they had a project, where each of the graffitists was given a musical group and challenged to paint the side of one of the buildings in tribute to that band. Apparently folks didn’t seem to want to do graffiti on the buildings that already had paintings on them, and it really cut down on the graffiti.

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Continued in the next post.
 
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sayhello

Have Camera, Will Travel
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
One of the oldest homes in Reykjavik

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I mentioned that this building looked Russian, and it turns out that it did use to be the Russian Embassy!

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The very pretty “Pond” area of Reykjavik

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Metaphorical for the faceless office worker.

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The Mayor of Reykjavik who had pushed for independence from Denmark, I believe. Reykjavik likes their statues!

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Messinn, reportedly the best seafood restaurant in Reykjavik.

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OMG, they might just be right! We had 2 types of fish. Plaice and arctic char. Both were absolutely delicious!!

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A couple on the tour had dinner reservations at this restaurant for only an hour or so later. I honestly could *not* imagine eating dinner at that point. We’d had so much amazing food, and it wasn’t over yet!

We continued to "The most popular food spot in Reykjavik". Home of the infamous lamb hot dog!

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It was also amazingly delicious! You really have to have one if you go to Reykjavik!

Continued in next post.
 
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  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Our last restaurant was in a building that used to be an apothecary (apotek), where we had an incredibly luscious skyr dessert. Worth. Every. Carb!

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    That was the end of the tour. It was really amazing, and a wonderful intro to Reykjavik, as well as a damned good meal!

    I then headed back to Harpa. I ended up buying a ticket to see a comedic performance later that evening called "Icelandic Sagas". I had a couple of hours to kill, so I did some wandering and shopping around Harpa and the harbor area. I ended up buying a new knit beanie hat that I wore a great deal during the next week!

    I eventually made my way back to Harpa for the performance. It was an absolutely adorable 2-person play that sped through the many written Sagas of Icelandic history. (They really are written down!) Some of them are a bit more folkloric than historic, and they added some funny little anachronisms here & there. It was a spectacular overview of the history of Iceland. It was an amazingly intimate venue. I really loved it! The 2 folks who played all the various characters were just hilarious (along with some help from a few audience members.)

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    I was really glad I'd decided to check out this performance!

    I then headed back to the hotel. I felt *SO* much better after my second day in Iceland! It had been *SUCH* an improvement over my first day. I was just hoping and praying that the weather would hold. Tomorrow, the ABD started with the Welcome Dinner in the evening. I still had something to do the next day, but again, it was not until after lunch, so I would be able to sleep in and take my time. Knowing how most ABDs go, I figured I’d enjoy the sleeping in while I could.

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    Day 01 – Velkominn


    The next morning was similar to the previous one. I woke up at a leisurely time, and this time headed down to Slippbarinn for the included buffet breakfast, since the second pre-day had been booked through ABD. The buffet was the same every morning, but they had a good assortment of breads and cereals and various meats and such each day. They had excellent oatmeal that was cooked thick and hearty like I like it. And skyr, of course!

    On my way back to my room to get ready for the day, I stopped by to check in with our two Adventure Guides, Drew and Stefan, better known as Stebbi. Drew was our American Adventure Guide, and Stebbi was Icelandic. They gave us the information for the Welcome Dinner, gave us our duffle bags, answered any questions we had, and took silly Viking pictures.

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    That afternoon, I had made an appointment for something fun that I had seen on facebook. Mink Viking Portraits.

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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    I had a photo shoot done up in Viking garb! It was a lot of fun! She took almost 50 photos, and I get to choose 6 to keep without the watermark. I haven’t decided on the 6 yet, so these have got the watermark on them. These were a couple of favorites from friends on facebook.

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    After the photoshoot, I was going to head up to Perlan, sort of a natural history museum, but I got distracted by some shops, and ended up just shopping until it was time to head back & get ready for the Welcome Dinner. I ended up really glad I did, because one of the shops that caught my eye was selling lopapeysas, the traditional Icelandic wool sweaters with a Nordic pattern around the neck & chest. I really, really wanted one, but I wanted something different than the generic ones you saw in a lot of shops. This shop had a tunic sort of lopapeysa, which looked nice, but ended up not fitting. I started chatting with the woman in the shop, and she made some suggestions, but nothing was right. Then she said “I need to get my jacket”. She went back in the back of the shop and came out with a gorgeous lopapeysa. She offered it to me to try on. She’d just finished knitting it for herself the day before! It was a beautiful green color, knitted of a blend of Icelandic wool and mohair. It was not itchy like a lot of the lopapeysas I had tried on. It fit, and I fell in love. She sold it to me for a very good price. I was *SO* thrilled to have found my lopapeysa, and to have purchased it from the person who had hand knit it!

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    I then got ready for the Welcome Dinner. I, of course, wore my new lopapeysa! I met all my fellow Adventurers (including fellow DISers @SCFamily4 & @abbyjt and their DHs) and got an overview of the trip from Drew and Stebbi.

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    After some appetisers and introductions, we walked to the restaurant for the Welcome Dinner (Bryggjan Brugghus Bistro) which was just a short distance from the hotel. Luckily, the weather had held, and it was nice and not raining.

    Dinner was very nice, although it took *forever* to get served. Fortunately, we got a drink on the Mouse. I had a really excellent rack of lamb for dinner.

    Our first rainbow (this was from the restaurant during dinner).

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    For dinner, I sat opposite a mother and daughter. The daughter was in her late 30’s but looked about 23. The mother reminded me SO MUCH of my cousin! I had a hard time looking at her and not seeing my cousin. It was kind of crazy!

    Drew and Stebbi also gave us wool sleep masks that had been knitted at the woolens factory that we’d be visiting on the last day of the trip. The Midnight Sun was not nearly as bad by this time of year; it actually got dark at a pretty normal hour.

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    After dinner, it was back to the hotel and bedtime. We had to be up and ready for our very busy day tomorrow!

    Up next: Day 2: See you Later Alli-Crater, or the Golden Circle tour on steroids!
     
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    carpenta

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2010
    Love your report Sayhello. So looking forward to the rest. Thank you. Love the pictures. Our guide (a native) said she said the Vikings never wore horns on their helmets...that was from Hollywood. Lol.
     

    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Love your report Sayhello. So looking forward to the rest. Thank you. Love the pictures. Our guide (a native) said she said the Vikings never wore horns on their helmets...that was from Hollywood. Lol.
    I'm so disillusioned!! ;)

    Sayhello
     
  • aggiedog

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 13, 2012
    Love it! It looks like you went on the same food tour I did. The rye bread ice cream was my favorite dish.

    We did Mink portraits for our family. So much fun. We had fantastic Christmas cards that year! My sweetest natured dd turns out to have a hidden Viking streak. She looks positively intimidating in her pictures.

    So glad your second day went better.
     

    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Love your trip reports! The Viking photo shoot is great.
    Thanks! :) I really enjoyed that photo shoot!

    Love it! It looks like you went on the same food tour I did. The rye bread ice cream was my favorite dish.

    We did Mink portraits for our family. So much fun. We had fantastic Christmas cards that year! My sweetest natured dd turns out to have a hidden Viking streak. She looks positively intimidating in her pictures.

    So glad your second day went better.
    I've become a big fan of food walking tours. Such a great way to experience a city and eat some great food!

    The Viking session was so fun. They really know how to bring out your hidden Viking!

    I'm very glad the second day was better, too! The weather seems to really impact this trip.

    I can't wait to read the rest of this trip report. Thanks for posting it.
    My pleasure! :) More soon!

    Sayhello
     
  • tink1970

    DCL Platinum
    Joined
    Dec 29, 2012
    Thanks for taking the time to write this up! I'm a super picky eater so like the idea of a food tour but the reality...meh...

    My mother and I were signed up for this trip when it opened but had to cancel. Now I'm thinking that was definitely for the best with unpredictable weather and the inevitable large group...not sold on this being a family friendly AbD for us.

    I second the appreciation for the Viking photo shoot-that sounds like a great idea if I do make it to Iceland. Your photos were awesome :)
     

    *WDW*Groupie*

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2006
    Thanks! :)

    I've become a big fan of food walking tours. Such a great way to experience a city and eat some great food!

    The Viking session was so fun. They really know how to bring out your hidden Viking!

    I'm very glad the second day was better, too! The weather seems to really impact this trip.

    Sayhello
    Your Viking pictures are amazing!

    I have also become a huge fan of food tours! We now do them is just about every city we visit (we even did one in Toronto for fun -- which was my least favorite incidentally-- but that was more to do with the guide -- who seemed like he didn't want to be there -- than the food!).

    I can't imagine how long your restroom breaks took. That would be incredibly annoying! I think ABD will either have to find stops with more toilets (likely not an easy thing to do) or cut down the numbers on the Iceland ABD. Though I doubt they will do anything as long as people continue to fill up the slots, which is sad. I remember in China the kids / teens all lined up for the western toilet, but most, if not all, of the adults used the Eastern ones. So our stops were usually pretty quick!
     

    carpenta

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2010
    Even with my small group it was very difficult to find large restrooms. I believe that Iceland, like other tourist conveniences, are far behind for the sheer number of people are a little overwhelming. Since ABD uses a large tour bus why can’t they use the rest room on the bus?
     

    Cousin Orville

    Inventor of Air Cooling
    Joined
    Aug 27, 2000
    Great read so far. Sorry the high number of guests put a drag on the trip. I hope it's managed well in Japan. And OMG, that is a LOT of bus travel. I'm a little concerned about that with Japan as well.
     

    carpenta

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2010
    Sayhello, glad your home. I just read volcano Kayla is predicted to blow it’s top in Iceland. It is suppose to dwarf the 2010 eruption which shut down most air travel in Europe.
     

    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Love the report! If we ever go back to Iceland, I’m definitely doing that photo shoot. Those pics are awesome.
    Thanks, CG! I can just picture you guys as Vikings! :)

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up! I'm a super picky eater so like the idea of a food tour but the reality...meh...

    My mother and I were signed up for this trip when it opened but had to cancel. Now I'm thinking that was definitely for the best with unpredictable weather and the inevitable large group...not sold on this being a family friendly AbD for us.

    I second the appreciation for the Viking photo shoot-that sounds like a great idea if I do make it to Iceland. Your photos were awesome :)
    I can understand your feelings about this trip. I question how family friendly it is, too. And thanks, the Viking shoot was a blast. I'm glad the photos ended up good!

    Your Viking pictures are amazing!

    I have also become a huge fan of food tours! We now do them is just about every city we visit (we even did one in Toronto for fun -- which was my least favorite incidentally-- but that was more to do with the guide -- who seemed like he didn't want to be there -- than the food!).

    I can't imagine how long your restroom breaks took. That would be incredibly annoying! I think ABD will either have to find stops with more toilets (likely not an easy thing to do) or cut down the numbers on the Iceland ABD. Though I doubt they will do anything as long as people continue to fill up the slots, which is sad. I remember in China the kids / teens all lined up for the western toilet, but most, if not all, of the adults used the Eastern ones. So our stops were usually pretty quick!
    Thanks! :) I'm glad folks are liking the Viking photos!

    I just did a food walking tour of San Juan in April, and it was just wonderful. We had a fabulous guide and wonderful food. I'm sold!

    My China trip was different. Most of the adult women definitely waited for the Western toilets. I don't recall what the teens did. Isn't that funny?

    Even with my small group it was very difficult to find large restrooms. I believe that Iceland, like other tourist conveniences, are far behind for the sheer number of people are a little overwhelming. Since ABD uses a large tour bus why can’t they use the rest room on the bus?
    OMG, can you even imagine a 3 hour bus ride with 37 people's worth of waste in that tiny rest room on the bus?? They're really only meant for emergencies!! Um, no!!!

    Great read so far. Sorry the high number of guests put a drag on the trip. I hope it's managed well in Japan. And OMG, that is a LOT of bus travel. I'm a little concerned about that with Japan as well.
    I keep praying that Japan is not as bad...

    Sayhello, glad your home. I just read volcano Kayla is predicted to blow it’s top in Iceland. It is suppose to dwarf the 2010 eruption which shut down most air travel in Europe.
    You mean Katla, right? :) Yes, I was reading about that. But honestly, it's been building for a while. Stebbi mentioned that it's like at least 20 years overdue for an eruption (normally erupts every 50 - 80 years, and it's been 100 years). But I *am* glad I found out how imminent it might be *after* I got back!!

    I know! But honestly, they have a really good warning system in Iceland for eruptions. The problem would be with tourists who have gone out to remote areas and aren't keeping in contact with the news. Stebbi said people don't die from the eruptions. However, I do imagine it would put a damper on any sightseeing! And flights there/home.

    Sayhello
     

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