PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Iceland And Norway: Rental Cars, Planes And Ferries

One of the things about travel is that you really have to learn to “go with the flow,” and for me, some of those parts are easier than others.

For example, a snafu with weather, a travel delay or an unexpected glitch in my plans usually doesn’t get under my skin. Being late for flights, however, not so much.

Unfortunately, this morning, I had just one of those experiences. We were up and out of our lovely Icelandic bed and breakfast in what should have been plenty of time, except when I entered what I thought was “Keflavik Airport” into my Google maps, I inadvertently hit “Keflavik Airport Inn,” which it turns out is a good five miles from the actual airport.

Once we figured this out, which took sadly longer than it should have due to morning brain, we whipped over to the actual airport as fast as we could, arriving at the rental place 54 minutes before our scheduled departure to Norway.

The car rental return went smoothly enough, but the shuttle wasn’t there when we finished, so we hoofed it over to the airport as fast as we could in the rain and got into the checkin and luggage line at 7:17 a.m. for our 8 a.m. flight.

At first, I was optimistic. Even though we had to clear customs and security, I thought we could still do it, even though the line was very long. That is until I saw that only one person was working economy checkout, and the line snaked back three rows.

This is when my panic mode went in gear. I was mentally figuring out how much I was going to lose in prepaid ferry fees and hostels and how I was going to rebook them during the height of tourist season in Norway.

Duncan, who is more familiar with being late for flights than I am, kept me calm and assured me it would work out fine. It is a skill with which I was impressed, but one that I never want to be so practiced at as to acquire.

Just when I thought all hope was lost, they called out for anyone going to Europe to go to the head of the line, and we processed our bags at 7:34 a.m. While doing that, I discovered something that held true for the remainder of my time with Icelandair. The employees were kind, positive and helpful. Never once were we scolded or shamed, and my anxiety was calmed. United could take a few lessons from these fine folks.

I had planned to get a refund on my tax on my sweater, but there was a line, and I had no time. I felt fine about my donation to the economy of Iceland. Iceland has an equitable health care system and free universities for residents, so my money went to support something I support.

After whipping through security and customs (honestly, Iceland is the simplest border I have ever crossed going both ways), I ended up running the length of the airport to get to our gate, arriving five minutes before our scheduled departure. And believe it or not, they were waiting for us. And were pleasant and polite, once again.

I did not feel as bad as I would have making them wait, as others were waiting for the shuttle to take us to the plane, which arrived a few minutes later. Guilt is engrained in me when I make others wait for me, and the fact that our late arrival didn’t slow the plane assuaged my concerns. But I am quite sure my heart can’t take being late for flights very often — in terms of nerves and running in airports!

The flight to Bergen, Norway was lovely, but when we arrived, it was raining. After discovering once again that my cash car did not work, I continued in an unintentional experiment to find out if it is possible to travel Europe on a purely credit card economy, eschewing cash altogether. So far so good.

I had hoped to explore Bergen a bit, but a downpour hit, so Duncan and I found a cafe where we warmed ourselves with soup. I had chicken with saffron — I recommend it as a great spice for soup. Duncan had reindeer — and we discovered the Norwegian word for reindeer is Rudolf. He felt no guilt at all. I could not have done it.

We headed for our ferry, which provided a lovely five-hour ride to the Sogndal, in the fjords, where we will stay for the next three days. It has been overcast and rainy all day, but I am still amazed at the greenery on the hills, the blueness of the water and the freshness of the air.

Tomorrow, we rise early to head up to the glaciers for a five-hour glacier hike. I’m hoping that we get to the bus in plenty of time, because one story about the travails of the travel process is quite enough for one trip.

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