(Note: This post picks up immediately after “Flying… With Children (International Edition) left off.)
Our flight landed at the airport in Keflavik, Iceland before dawn. And I mean “dawn” for a normal day in a part of the world further from the pole, not just that mid-morning dawn that you get in Iceland in late autumn. We landed at the airport, but for some reason there was a change of plans and we were going to have to disembark from the plane on the runway and be shuttled to the actual airport building.
It’s 6am. We’ve been awake for hours. There’s a howling rainstorm outside and the temperature is near freezing. All our winter clothing and coats are packed in a suitcase we don’t have access to. And we have to move a baby and two kids in pajamas, a baby-elephant-sized diaper bag, two backpacks, and three carseats through the airplane and down rain-slick steps. Remind me again why we are doing this to ourselves?
Oh, yeah, and we were sitting in the last two rows. It was a load of fun hauling those carseats down the entire length of the plane the first time; I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to doing it again. Unfortunately, the crew thought we looked so pitiful that they needed to let down the rear stairs so we could exit that way. So I didn’t get to struggle down the aisle with those seats and bags after all. Dang!
In all seriousness, getting our stuff and our kids and ourselves off the plane and onto the bus (and then off the bus and into the airport) in that freezing rain and blasting wind was one of the two or three really bad experiences we had on our trip. It was brief, but it was not a fun way to start our vacation.
After an interval in the airport wherein we got our luggage and struggled to remain conscious and civilized, we picked the awfulness right back up with an unhelpful shuttle van driver, more driving wind, and freezing rain. He literally just walked around an abandoned cart blocking the airport exit and waited patiently while we struggled with bags and carseats until the last thing was left and a “can I help” feebly emanated from his offensive face. Luckily, the ride was literally across the parking lot and into the next building. So close, in fact, the Wife asked if the kids could just stay in the van. She would soon discover that one of our two vehicles had been canceled. Which did not really matter because they did not have a second van even if they had kept the reservation. No one seemed to be responsible for it. The teenagers who appeared to make up the entire staff of the organization would point to their monitor and tell us that they had received a cancellation. The Wife certainly hadn’t cancelled anything, so who had? They didn’t know. Who can say? Sometimes car rentals get cancelled. But that is no problem because they don’t have another van anyway.
We were tired, hungry, uncaffeinated adults with tired, hungry, bored kids who could only keep themselves awake by whining and hurting each other. This kind of SNAFU was not what we needed. At this point, I had to get the kids and all our stuff out of the shuttle van, so I missed the details of how things went down after that. However, after about forty-five minutes of the Wife being pissed at them and clearly unwilling (and, considering the amount of stuff and people I brought in from the shuttle, perhaps unable) to depart without both the vehicles she had rented, the high schoolers running the show managed to find that, yes, they did actually have a second van.
It is critical, Dear Reader, that you understand one thing about this two plus hour horror fest: we met our goals. NO ADULT CRIED. NO ADULT SWORE. We are 2 for 2 with international travel involving copious jet lag, car seats, and car rental with NO TEARS and NO F BOMBS.
Finally, we loaded up our two vans (really, they were only slightly larger than a Honda hatchback but had sliding rear doors! Oooh!) and headed out, just as some light was beginning to creep into the sky.
Which was when we discovered, as we suspected would be the case, that the GPS in our cell phones wasn’t working. Nor could we call or text each other — at least, not without it being a big, expensive, international communication. We had a fold-out map that had the whole of Iceland on one side and Reykjavík on the other, and we had the maps in our guidebook. However, none of that told us how to get out of the airport and headed in the right direction. The Wife and I were in one van with the kids, while Granma Cake and Granpa Shim were following us under the mistaken belief that we knew where we were going.
The Wife had a plan though (she typed that)! Breakfast!
After driving around in the dark, squinting at the long, Nordic names on roadsigns, the Wife spotted a bakery that seemed to be open. By the time we had coffee with some ham, cheese, and the most amazing orange cardamon donut holes, the sun was rising and the world seemed a much better place.
Our first day of adventure had gotten off to a rocky start but caffeine and fried baked goods helped us shake that off and begin anew. Our first day of adventure awaited!