Iceland was always one of those countries that I wanted to visit, but from the reports I'd read it seemed rather expensive.
It was whilst planning out my North American trip that I saw the potential for a brief visit to the country, as what I didn't realise at the time is that Iceland has positioned itself in the market (if you'll pardon the pun), as the ideal place for a stopover whilst travelling between Europe and North America.
Looking at where the country is situated, right in the middle of the North Atlantic, it makes perfect sense for travellers to break their journey there and, if their plans allow, take a bit of time to get to know the place.
This is exactly what I did, and what made this route over to the USA even better was the fact that instead of booking a through ticket, it was massively cheaper to buy separate two tickets covering each half of the journey. It's something to do with the Air Tax introduced back when Gordon Brown was Chancellor, and this way of getting round the tax, by only having to pay it for the first leg of one's journey, isn't something the airlines or the travel industry publicise particularly well.
So last Wednesday I took the 13.10 Icelandair flight from Gatwick to Reykjavik - a civilised departure time from a conveniently situated airport (for me), and three hours later my plane was touching down in Iceland.
A quick word about Icelandair, as this was the first time I have flown with them. The flight was on time, the seats were comfortable and with plenty of legroom - unlike British Airways who seem to have gone down the economy route, by aping the likes of Ryanair. There was also in-flight entertainment, with films, various TV shows, music and promotional videos about Iceland to keep passengers occupied during the flight.
I had a window seat, so could sea the Icelandic coast as we approached from the south-east. This gives an insight into just how mountainous the country is, with precious little in the way of flat land in order to site a major airport. This means that whilst there is a small airport on the edge of Reykjavik, this is used solely for domestic flights to other parts of Iceland, and the country's international airport is sited at Keflavik, a distance of roughly 40 kilometres from the capital.
Keflavik is surprisingly large and stylishly modern, but given its role as a midway hub between two continents, this is not particularly surprising. It operates with typical Scandinavian efficiency, and i found it a pleasure to fly in and out of.
Flybus operate a fast and comfortable coach-shuttle to and from the airport on a half hourly basis. The coach drops passengers off at Reykjavik's main bus station, from where they can transfer onto various pre-booked mini-buses which will take them to their respective hotels.
I chose to walk to the small apartment I'd booked, as it was only 20 minutes away on foot. After sitting on a plane for three hours, I was glad of the chance to stretch my legs and take some exercise. I was also glad to be breathing the fresh cool air, blowing in from the North Atlantic, especially after the stiflingly hot temperatures the UK has been experiencing of late. Even so, with the mercury around half what it had been when I departed, it was a bit of a shock to the system.
My accommodation was, shall we say, basic, consisting of a single room with an adjoining toilet and wash-basin. It did at least have its own toilet, as many rooms at the cheaper end of the scale, offer only shared facilities. if you want to go really low-budget, then you can opt for a hostel, which is what many young people do; Iceland being particularly popular with back-packers.
Arni's Place, as my accommodation was called, suited my purpose although Mrs PBT's would not have been amused! Still, any port in a storm and it was only a 10 minute walk into the centre of Reykjavik, from the "apartment." The price of accommodation is something to keep in mind when visiting Iceland's capital, as room rates are not cheap.
So that's a bit of background to Iceland and Reykjavik, and how to use it at a convenient stepping stone on a journey across to North America. It is well worth spending a lot more time in the country though, particularly if you enjoy outdoor activities and want to see some spectacular sights. I certainly intend doing so, but I will use this as a convenient point to break the narrative, before taking a brief look next time at the beer scene in Reykjavik.