Reykjavík, Iceland

By adamandheather

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"Um, don't you arrive later?" our car rental agent asked. It was 5am and we were standing in a tiny, plywood-clad hallway just outside of the baggage claim, with 80 lbs of baggage and about an hour of sleep between us. "Huh," he added.

It was a bad sign.

Our trip was relatively efficient, with a direct Southwest flight from Nashville to Boston, then an overnight flight to Reykjavík on WOW Air (yes really). Over the course of the flight, the sun set and rose several times as we trended further and further north. The plane descended rapidly through layer after layer of clouds, and we didn't see land until moments before touchdown.

At 4:30am, there's not a lot of competition for bathroom stalls, baggage claims, and customs agents, so we moved quickly through the airport, and met the rental agent waiting for us. He was unnervingly surprised when we told him our names.

After considering the situation for a moment, he motions for us to follow him, and walks briskly out into the parking lot and into a shuttle. He glances down at his schedule papers, noting the names of the other clients scheduled for pickup.

"Eh, Matthew can wait," he shrugs.

At the rental office, he apologizes for not having our paperwork ready, thinking we were arriving at noon. He begins to fill out the papers, then pauses and picks up the phone. After a minutes-long conversation in rapid Icelandic, he puts down the phone.

"I'm very sorry, but your car will not be ready for two hours. You can wait here, or you can come with me back to the airport, and hang out there."

This post brought to you by Keflavik International Airport's free public WiFi.

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Our first morning on the ground seemed like the best time to get stocked up on supplies for the three-week road trip we had planned. However, most businesses don't open until 10am. With our car rental sorted out, we traveled to Reykjavík and spent the morning walking around to the major sights. A misty rain and light breeze accompanied us, marking a huge contrast with the 90+ degrees and high humidity we left behind in Nashville.

After 10am it dawns on us that most of the stores don't open AT ALL on June 17, which is Iceland's Independence Day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn). Mild panic sets in as our sleep-deprived brains try to figure out how we'll get stocked up in time for our early departure the next morning.

A convenience store clerk helps us by suggesting Hagkaup. "It's like Wal-Mart," he says. "They have everything and it's very cheap."

Hagkaup it is.

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"What time is it?"

"6 o'clock."

"Which one?"

It's clear why most Icelanders use 24-hour time. In the heavy mist around Reykjavík, it's impossible to distinguish the time of day, aside from the deepest hours of the night. From the thin light in our basement-level accommodations, even that wasn't enough.

Jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, we completed our supply mission with generous help from Reykjavík Roasters, which serves its own roasts as espressos and pour-overs, as well as a variety of teas. Over the course of the day, we must have tried them all. The baristas recognized us each time and made new suggestions.

Despite the heavy caffeination, we failed to stay up for the Independence Day celebrations and crashed the instant we got to our AirBNB around 15:00. Roughly 18 hours of heavy sleep followed, broken only by a brief photo-walk around midnight to see Hallgrímskirkja in the misty night.

Does Iceland celebrate their independence with fireworks? We couldn't tell you.