Pandemic Journal, Day 498

Our pre-tour officially began this morning when we got into a mini-bus with a dozen other travelers for our excursion to the Blue Lagoon.

The trip included a buffet breakfast (in Iceland, such things still exist!), a swim in the lagoon, a drink, and their silica mud mask – we took advantage of all four.

After the lagoon, we got onto a bigger bus for the trip into town and a visit to the Hallgrímskirkja Church – since we’d been there already, we left the group and had lunch at 101 Reykjavik Street Food. I had the plokkfiskur (traditional Icelandic fish stew) and Diane had the lamb soup. I’d go back – even if they didn’t also give us free Prince Polo bars for dessert.

The rest of the day was “at leisure”, so we wandered around town, including paying a visit to the Sun Voyager sculpture on the waterfront.

The weather was beautiful – sunny and 66 degrees – and outside restaurant seating was packed!

Tomorrow, we take a city tour in the morning – it’ll hit places we haven’t been yet, so we expect to stay with the group all day.

Pandemic Journal, Day 497

I follow a jet-lag reduction routine that I found a long time ago in Jane Brody’s column in the New York Times (if you’re a subscriber, you can read the article here; if not, most of the info is here). It seems to work well. Last night, I took my melatonin at 10pm, as directed, and was out soon thereafter, waking around 7am today and staying awake and feeling good all day – well, until I took melatonin this evening and started to feel tired again!

We visited two of the Reykjavik city museums today. This morning, we went to the Settlement Exhibition, which tells the story of the earliest days of the city, based on a 10th Century longhouse they discovered while building a hotel nearby. It was dark inside, so we didn’t take photos inside, but the outside was somewhat interesting.

We lunched at Cafe Rosenberg, where we both had lox and bagels with honeyed cream cheese.

Somehow, we had room for dessert and went to Gaeta Gelato. Fortunately, they offered “little” cones (only $6!) that were just about the right size.

This afternoon, we went back to the Old Harbor to visit the Maritime Museum.

We saw both exhibits at the Maritime Museum – one on the recovery and exploration of the Melckmeyt, a 17th Century Dutch ship that sank while trading with Iceland, and the permanent exhibit about “Fish and Folk”, how fishing shaped Iceland and Icelanders. Both were worth seeing – we spent more time with the permanent exhibit, though.

After the Maritime Museum, we wanted fish; our friends had done some research and found Messinn, less than a five-minute walk from our hotel. It was a great catch – their specialty is “fish pans”. Diane had the Atlantic Wolffish and I had the cod with curry and chili – both were excellent. And somehow, we had room for dessert and split a piece of chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream!

Tomorrow will start early; we leave the hotel at 8am to join the rest of our group for breakfast and a swim at the Blue Lagoon, followed by a tour of the Hallgrímskirkja Church (I’m hoping they include a trip to the tower, since we’ve already seen the rest of the church). The rest of the day will be “at leisure” (which means we get to figure out our own meals – I don’t think that will be much of a hardship).

Pandemic Journal, Day 496

I had hoped to post yesterday’s blog yesterday, but there was no connectivity on the plane, nor on the bus into Reykjavik, and by the time I got to the Hotel Borg, it was already today.

Other than that, the trip was pretty uneventful – Diane and I slept a little bit, but not enough! I’m not sure if the gin

and the chocolate

made it easier or harder to sleep during the flight, but they were very interesting introductions to Icelandic cuisine.

I made a strategic error when packing – instead of one heavy suitcase, we checked two light ones. And we brought a roll-aboard for those things that we didn’t want to check. All very good, until we had to get everything onto the FlyBus and from the drop point to the hotel – then I realized that it’s hard to pull two suitcases at once, no matter how light they are.

Once we got to our hotel and unpacked a little, we headed out for a walk through Reykjavik. Our first stop was the Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat, not far from Reykjavik City Hall.

From there, we walked through the Old Harbor area to Aurora Reykjavik (Northern Lights Museum), passing ships being worked on and art along the way.

The museum itself was quite interesting – lots of information about the aurora (all of it in English), with good visuals. They had a long HD loop of aurora videos taken all over Iceland; it was beautiful and fascinating, but not the best choice for sleep-deprived travelers!

Lunch was nearby at Lamb Street Food – I found it through TripAdvisor, and the guy at the Aurora said it was good. They were right – it was delicious and apparently reasonably priced for Iceland.

We split up after lunch; our friends wanted to go to Fly Over Iceland (like Soaring Over California at Disney, but in Iceland); we wanted to see more of the city, so we did Rick Steves’ introductory Reykjavik walk. We retraced some of our steps from the morning, but soon found outselves in new territory, ending up at Hallgrímskirkja Church, maybe half a mile from our hotel.

Dinner this evening was at Restaurant Caruso, a five-minute walk from our hotel; it was quite good (Diane really liked her salmon risotto, and I thought the pasta bolognese was delicious (and so was the garlic bread that came with it).

Pandemic Journal, Day 495

It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten on an airplane – a very long time. But today, we flew twice – the first flight was from SJC to PDX, and as I write this, we’re on Iceland Air flight 664 from PDX to KEF, en route to our first cruise in 16 months.

So far, everything has gone smoothly – I was debating between Lyft and a taxi for our trip to the airport and finally went with Lyft; it was a good choice, possibly the best Lyft ride I’ve taken. We took advantage of the Priority Pass membership that com aes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card to go to the Club at SJC – it was their new location, occupying the space that was the Admiral’s Club back when American had a significant presence in San Jose.

The flight to Portland was smooth, and we were on the side with nice views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens.

We took advantage of Priority Pass again to have lunch for free at Capers on the C Concourse – the food was good, and the Pretty Good Brownie was better, Portland Airport is under construction, so we had to go through security again to get to the International Terminal; we were able to use the Express Line and avoid most of the wait time, but couldn’t take advantage of TSA Pre-Check. Life is rough sometimes, and yes, I know I’m complaining about a trivial inconvenience.

As I type this, we’re on Iceland Air to Reykjavik, There were more volcano views to enjoy as we left Portland.

This is a short flight, just over 7 hours, which makes it difficult to really sleep, but we’re going to try – Diane already has her eyes closed, and I’m about to join her.

Next stop, Reykjavik!

Pandemic Journal, Day 494

We’re out of practice – it took us a lot longer to pack than it did when we were going places every month or two. I even had to make an emergency trip to REI for sunglasses (my old ones wouldn’t fit over my new glasses). But we’re finally packed and ready to fly!

The volcano put on quite a show earlier today – it’s calmer right now, but who knows what it’ll do when we’re in Iceland?

I look forward to finding out.

Pandemic Journal, Day 493

I spent much of today working on code – first for the Shir Hadash High Holy Day Honors process, and then much of this evening helping with code I’d written for Toastmasters.

The High Holy Day Honors process work was actually pretty easy – and in the end, I feel pretty good that the person picking up the load while I’m away will be ok – he talked me out of making any code changes before I left, which was a very good idea, even if those changes would have made the code much cleaner.

The Toastmasters fixes were in some of the ugliest code I’ve written. The code has to parse an HTML page because Toastmasters HQ doesn’t provide any way to download data about what officers have attended training – and they changed the HTML page this year, after leaving it alone for three years. They simplified it substantially, but it still broke my code.

I got my successor on a Zoom call and we set to work – which meant I figured out what was going on and fixed the code while he listened to me think out loud. I made some improvements to my code (I created a class with meaningful names instead of using a list, for example), but it’s still ugly and fragile code, and I’m not sure it’s significantly more understandable than it was before. But it produces the report they need, and that’s something.

Oh, well; everything is working for now on both fronts, and I can go on vacation with a clean conscience.

Pandemic Journal, Day 492

Today’s Toastmasters meeting went off surprisingly smoothly considering we lost one speaker in the middle of the meeting due to a family emergency. Our Table Topics Master had plenty of questions ready, and she used them all!

After the meeting, a few of us met in person at a nearby Panera Bread – we sat outside, and a good (and, I hope, Covid-free) time was had by all.

I visited my allergist today; both he and I were happy about my progress. He’s afraid that my polyps will return now that I’m off the prednisone, so he’s working on backup plans.

And I girded my loins to do battle with British Airways to get a refund for our flights to and from South Africa. I knew they’d try to steer me towards a voucher, and they did – with one button on the first screen of the refund menu. I clicked the button that said “refund my money” and I was done 20 seconds later – no hard sell, and really no problem at all. Of course, I don’t have my money back yet. They said it would take up to a week to be credited to the card, but I can wait.

Pandemic Journal, Day 491

A little over two weeks ago, I fractured a crown – I don’t know what caused it (I wasn’t eating anything particularly tough at the time), but my mouth felt funny and I kept feeling little pieces of something where they shouldn’t have been.

Today, I got the crown replaced – it took a bit longer than expected because it was hard for the dentist to get my mouth numb enough, but she finally succeeded. She discovered a little bit of a cavity under the old crown, so she had to drill that out, too – but the new crown made it unnecessary for her to fill the cavity. I guess that’s a good thing.

I also spent a lot of time doing things for our synagogue – I finally finished the High Holy Day Honors invitations program and sent out the initial batch of invitations. There will be further invitations to send when someone declines an honor, but that process should be easier this year than last year. Last year, I had to specify which invitations should be sent to a new person every time we had changes; this year, I made a simple database with the invitations that have been sent out, and the program knows not to send an invitation to a person if nothing has changed for that slot. Databases are wonderful things sometimes – using sqlite3 for this was easier than creating a flat file and searching it myself.

I finished the invitations just in time to go to the monthly synagogue Board meeting – which ran long. At least there were goodies!

Pandemic Journal, Day 490

When I awoke this morning, I found an email from British Airways telling me that our flight from London to Cape Town on September 12th had been cancelled. They didn’t offer any alternative flights, either.

I checked with other people on our tour, and everyone who was flying BA got the same message, even if they were flying on a different day.

So I reached out to our travel agent to see what was up – he said he was checking with Ama and the other suppliers, but that the trip was still officially on.

A few hours later, we got a note from him saying that Ama was still planning to operate their normal cruises in September, but that they were willing to move our charter to 2022 and what did we think of that? Our answer was “hell, yes, move it!”

And soon thereafter, we got the official notice that the charter will move to August, 2022 – we hope that Covid will be under control there and that the riots in Johannesburg will have ended, too!

I am relieved. I still have to cancel the BA itinerary and get a refund, but that should be straightforward.

We also found out that Iceland is putting their requirement for pre-travel Covid testing, even for vaccinated travelers, back into effect on July 27; our flight arrives in Reykjavik on the 26th, so we shouldn’t need to be tested – but we’re going to get a test anyway to be safe. The test has to happen within 72 hours of arrival, so we can’t do it before Friday; I’ve made an appointment for PCR tests.

And our friend Desi headed home today; her flight to Denver was delayed by 45 minutes, which was a problem, since she only had a 43 minute layover. But her flight from was also delayed, so she made her connection anyway – and so did her luggage.

Travel. It’s always an adventure!

Pandemic Journal, Day 489

Once more, I had a busy day, but not much of what happened is worth writing about. I spent most of the day working on the Shir Hadash High Holy Day Honors – the program will be much better when I finish breaking it! There were also things to fix up in the assignment of honors – but it’ll be done soon. Or else.

Our friend Desi went to the Verizon store to get a new phone, and she’s spent the rest of the day beating it into submission. I’ve been called in for tech support a couple of times (which is why she wanted to get the new phone on this trip), but it’s been fun – and now I know a lot more about Android than I did two days ago. I’m sticking with Apple.

And two of our friends lost their mothers overnight. No matter when it happens, it’s too soon. May their memories be a blessing.