Saturday, August 01, 2009

The pictures say "Iceland" but the words say "Disaster."

The view across the "Smoky Harbour"

Reykjavik: the showers reek of sulphur, the town is tiny, the people friendly and the temperatures low. I’ve nothing much to say about beyond that as we were too tired today to manage anything other than wander from café to café, but tomorrow we’re heading out into the countryside. However, I’m breaking up this post with photos from here anyway.

Our final day in Strasbourg was as memorable as these things can be. We had been up until the wee hours of the night before packing, repacking, unpacking, and reorganizing everything we owned. Some of our belongings (186 kg worth) are being shipped to California. Everything else was coming with us, unless it could be sold, given away, or thrown out.

We woke up on our final morning exhausted – a solid week of goodbye dinners and parties mixed in with packing and paperwork had completely knocked us out. We walked over to Christian for our final breakfast, lugging an enormous box of books with us. There, our friends Yann and Félicie joined us, relieving us of the books in the process. Breakfast was fine, though our goodbyes with them were more than a little soggy.

Wiping our eyes, we rushed back to the apartment and threw out an enormous pile of boxes, used-up tape rolls and bubble-paper scraps (not to mention rodent poison). Amynah’s friend Any then dropped us off at the airport.

Thus is where things became dramatic. Just as we were about to get into line to check-in, we were surprised to see our Argentinian friends Carolina and Danilo show up – they had driven in from town just to say goodbye. We were in a rush, so we asked for them to wait while we dealt with our ticket.

Once we got to the head of the line, the ticket agent told us we were only allowed 20 kg.

“Per bag?” asked Amynah.

“Total – and you're only allowed one bag per passenger,” she replied.

This, needless to say, was a disaster. We each had two bags, and our larger suitcases were almost 30 kg each. To get them from Strasbourg to Paris, Paris to Reykjavik, Reykjavik to Halifax would cost us 100 Euros per bag, per leg, for a total of 600 Euros.

Then I had a flash of inspiration. The Air France Cargo service – the means by which we were shipping the rest of our belongings – was only a kilometer away. With Carolina and Danilo’s car, and one hour before we had to board our flight, we could ship our suitcases directly to Halifax, and still make the flight to Paris.

We hurriedly checked in our smaller bags, and then rushed back to our friends. We ran out into the parking lot, threw our bags in their car and drove like madmen to the freight terminal. Weaving Danilo’s hatchback through the 18-wheelers lining the cargo warehouse, we burst into the office: “We need to ship these to Halifax, and have to catch a flight in 45 minutes. Can we do it?”

The woman behind the counter shrugged: We could try. We quickly trimmed some of the heavier items from our carry-on, and scrawled “household items, clothes, personal” on the customs form. We then made a mad-dash back to the airport, praised Carolina and Danilo to the skies and we bid them farewell, sweated our way through the security check and managed to make it to the gate as the last few people boarded.

Honesty is the best policy (it's a holiday weekend in Iceland).

Things didn’t get much easier in Paris: Charles de Gaulle is not a terribly welcoming airport, and Icelandair’s service is only slightly better than a discount airline. The lineup for check in was utter chaos – everyone was trying to elbow their way in front of everyone else, thus making enemies out of people with whom they were about to locked into a tin can with for the next three hours. An older couple used their maple-leaf festooned luggage cart to muscle us out of our place in line but Amynah used her superior “scootching” ability to cut back in front of them. Annoyed at having been beaten at their own game, they then started a pointedly loud conversation with the woman next to them about how rude the French were and how much more civil people were in Canada.

It was a weird feeling to be simultaneously amused by the irony, outraged at their unmerited sanctimoniousness, and slightly guilty that we had (justifiably!) counter-butted them in the first place.


Greg Hatchette said...

leave it to those damn asshole canadians...

Mark Reynolds said...

Well, they were from Toronto.

Bob Patterson said...

There must be a bumper sticker or fridge magnet we can devise to celebrate spouses with superior skootching skills.

Tasha said...

While I am super glad that your wife (and you of course), will be back in the same timezone as myself, I am desperately going to miss these vicarious tours.

See you soon.