Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Adventure Begins...

I set off on the European leg of my bike trip. The cheapest ticket to London was with Icelandair. I made sure to get one with a long enough layover to check out Reykjavik.

While checking in, I noticed someone else was traveling with a bike. Wish I’d thought of this…

Apparently the bike meets the strictly enforced “no exposed skewers” rule set by the suits at Lufthansa.

I hang out at the terminal in one of Logan Airport’s famous rocking chairs. They have them lined up along the window and for whatever reason, the rocking really helps pass the time. They’re the best thing since flight.

I meet a Swiss and an Italian. I tell them I’m going to Belgium for a month to ride around. Instead of the typical American “You’re what??” look, they just say “Cool!” and the conversation moves on. Like Greg says, “Whenever I tell people you’re going to Belgium to ride your bike the reaction is usually similar to if I told them you were going to be a drug dealer…”

Through a friend of a friend I’ve got in touch with an American living and racing in Belgium. He helped me get set up at a bike house where a bunch of racers live. While I’m there I want to ride the Paris-Roubaix route as well as go to Assen for the start of the Vuelta.

I digest.

The flight goes well. I fall asleep almost immediately only to be woken by a seriously beautiful Icelandic (ish?) stewardess taking my drink order. I have a tomato juice that burns my throat because it’s a bloody mary mix. The next time I wake up the sun is shining through the windows.

Despite the lack of a Cinnabon, the Reykjavik airport has really amazing design.

My layover is 10 hours so I have time to do some sightseeing. The Swedish woman from the plane told me I should go see the Blue Lagoon. I check bus tickets and they want 5000 Icelandic which is about 50 bones. Sticker shock. I’m used to Lebanese bus prices, $1 from Beirut to Tyre and $10 to Damascus. Instead I catch a bus to Reykjavik and pass out.

I arrive at a bus station with tons of backpackers and no real city in sight. I play some Carla Bruni on my mp3 play to settle my nerves and start walking. The land is grassy and I’m tempted to lie down and take a nap.

I find a gas station and buy an orange juice for the road. It’s pretty chilly out so I changed into jeans at the airport. I ask directions and the clerk points me towards downtown.

The whole area has really great architecture. Since I lack any real knowledge of the field all I can describe it as is “modern”.

I stopped at the first café I found and had a coffee. The girl at the coffee shop said there was a really good market close by so I left.

On my way to the market I came across a modern art museum. It was an old industrial building of some sort that had been converted.

Then, I went to the market. It was a decent market but I didn’t stay long. I left and went to mail some postcards I bought at the museum. I bought some stamps and then went to the grocery store for sandwich fixings.

While eating salmon and brie on a croissant, an old man approached me. He said something that seemed like Icelandic.
“I want to see your pen.”
“Okay.” I handed him the pen. He looked at it and then handed it back.
“Thank you.”

I should mention that when he came up I wasn’t actually holding a pen. I suppose it was just an assumption.

I wrote the post cards and started talking to a Canadian nearby. He worked for a bike touring company. While we were talking the old man came back. This time I gave him a pencil and he kept it.

It was about 1230 and I needed to get back to the airport. I bid the Canadian farewell and started walking toward the bus station.

At the bus station I noticed pictures of the Icelandic Emeril Lagasse.

The bus doesn’t leave for another 45 minutes so I do what I’ve been tempted to do all day; I take a nap in the grass.

Twenty minutes later I wake up to someone lightly slapping my face. I look up.

“Sorry, I thought you were asleep!”

The guy walks away briskly.

“What was that about?” I wonder. I fall back asleep for another 10 minutes.

The bus finally delivered me to the airport and I grudgingly left the beautiful country. Coming there I knew that the country had recently gone bankrupt and there was rioting. I saw signs of neither. I can't wait to go back.

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