Reykjavik: A January day

I like Reykjavík, even in January when it doesn’t get light until 10.00, and is dark by 4.30.

I have to say, that wandering around the streets, and driving around town, there is no obvious sign of economic doom; that, is all hidden, reflected in the massive number of crushing loans that so many Icelanders have. It is also apparant inflation rate; self-sufficiency and Iceland are words rarely heard in the same sentence, and one of the major issues facing everyone is the hike in retail prices of everything that has to be imported; which in the case of Iceland is pretty well everything other than fish, lamb, energy and a curious local delicacy, chocolate-covered liquorice..

It is a great place; alive, stylish, oddly confident given the past year, full of delicious food and now, not too expensive. Certainly not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but the days of the $15 beer are a distant memory now. I am esconced in the Hotel Fron, a cosy little property on the main shopping drag of Lagavegur, a lovely place and perfectly located for wandering around Reykjavik’s charming centre.

I am here for a day to meet with Iceland Experess who are offering a twice-weekly flight from Iceland to Winnipeg next summer, and are looking for partners to sell seats on the service. I am always hesitant to work too closely with charter flights and ad-hoc scheduled service so thought it prudent to come to Iceland for a day and meet the folks behind the operation. And I am delighted that I did so. I am feeling very confident about the flight, and really enjoyed meeting with both the airline folks and another two from their travel agency division. I am looking forward to fitting our packages to suit their summer flight schedule from Winnipeg, and for Canadians to travel to Iceland and for Icelanders to visit Manitoba, which they seem to want to do.

It was a bit of a tortuous journey to get here. In the winter Icelandair do not offer direct flights from Canada, and are only offering their Boston and New York gateways. So from Chicago I flew to JFK and to Iceland from there.

JFK is a great airport! Straight from the glory-days of flying in the 1950s, it is Jetson Stylish, and I love it. It really reflects the glory days of flying, and for a moment takes one’s mind of the contemporary hasseles of airports.

Airport security really is getting to be ridiculous; the Christmas Day Incident did not highlight any laxity in security systems, only a complete breakdown in their application. The resulting clamp down, particularly by the Canadian government, is a knee-jerk reaction to the issue. Better trained staff and not more onerous and diabolically silly procedures is the key. I am all for secure flying, but do resent the childlike tests and processes that the various security origanisations dream up.

However, off I went; fortunate to be travelling in Icelandair’s Saga Business Class, I could use the lounge that they offer in New York. I like airport lounges, and this facility, the British Airways business class lounge is utterly superb. Large, roomy and very well stocked, it made the waiting time whizz by.

The flight was short, only five and a half hours, and very comfortable, putting me into the airport by 7.00am, in my car by 7.45 adn at my first meeting at 9.00 on the dot!

Tonight I head off to my friend Sigfus’ house for dinner, and I am sure a clearer insight into the curious juxtaposition of Iceland’s economic meltdown and life as I see it on the street, In any case, I am sure of some wonderful fish.

And tomorrow morning, off to London for a day or so.