As always, we had been looking for a travel adventure to take us to some far part of the globe where we had never been. Sometime in 2013, our efforts led to an eclipse travel site. We found that there was going to be a total solar eclipse (there’s always one to go to somewhere each year) on March 20, 2015. The path of totality would cross only a very small part of dry land, namely, the Faroe Islands and Svalbard. We are lucky we reserved when we did, as rooms filled up years ahead of time. If the eclipse were to be observed from a land based viewing site it would have to be in either of those locations. Never having been to the Faroes we decided to book a vacation trip around the 2015 eclipse event. We like to go somewhere that is interesting on its own, just in case it rains on eclipse day. We booked with a company called TravelQuest (TQ), a company we had used for other eclipse observations and travel adventures. The Svalbard trip was marred by the fact that some people were unable to secure rooms and resorted to camping outside of town, a big no-no. One tent full of people has already been attacked, and, tragically, the offending polar bear was killed.
The winter months of 2015 were not especially brutal for Northern Virginia, where we live, us but they did bring us a few snow storms at some of the most unexpected times. One storm of concern occurred about a week just before we left on our trip. Our area got a nice dump of several inches of snow and caused us some degree of worry that our trip would not be as easy as we had hoped it would be. As luck would have it though, shortly after the snow had fallen, spring began to arrive and began to clear the landscape for us. Boston was another concern for us since they had not been as fortunate as us in the weather department. They had gotten hit by some significant snow storms and had had something in the neighborhood of a hundred inches of snow over the winter. Our concern was that our flight plans might have to be altered by any accumulations still on the ground at Logan Airport.
Well, March 16, 2015, finally came up on the calendar. We were packed and ready to go. We got a cab to the airport and joined the melee of the inspection line. Hubby had been TSA pre-approved and went through that line while I went through the regular line. I made it through to the other side first and had to wait on pre-approved hubby to get through. Seems like hubby didn’t completely empty his pockets and eventually had to be body scanned. The scanner showed several suspicious areas on hubby’s body. Turns out he had that morning’s Sudoku puzzle in one pocket and some clean tissues in another pocket. He was finally declared OK and he was allowed to claim his possessions and join me for the wait in the airport lounge. Right on time our plane from DC to Boston arrived and we were able to board and settle in. We got to Boston and had about two and a half hours to make it to the international terminal (Terminal E) and check in with Icelandair. That done, we had to go through another TSA line to get to our waiting area. This time we both went through the same line. Shoes off, coats and vests off, computers out, everything else in the plastic trays and shoved into the electronic scanner. We both made it through but it took another few minutes to gather our belongings and reassemble ourselves before proceeding to the gate area. The plane to Keflavik was a full flight. From Boston to Keflavik is 2,409 miles and it takes five hours aloft. We reached Keflavik at 6:48am Icelandic time (2:48am east coast time). While still in the terminal at Boston, I made a Starbucks run and bought designer coffee and sandwiches, since no meals were supplied on the plane. On the plane, hubby bought a glass of wine for the flight across the ocean. Neither of us really slept in our airline seats but we were both unconscious for most of the flight. Now to find out if our luggage really did make it all the way through with us.
We wander through the Keflavik terminal and amazingly we find our bags lounging on the luggage carousel with the rest of the bags from our plane. Oh joy. We grab our bags and load up a luggage trolley and head out to the main area of the terminal. We spot someone holding up a TravelQuest sign and we head over to them. We are now officially met by someone from our travel group and we feel relief that our adventure is really beginning. A lady from TQ and she escorts us over to a little airport bistro where we can have an eye opener and get acquainted with some of our incoming group while she returns to her post to wait for other folks coming in on other flights. Hubby goes off to the counter for a cup of eye opening coffee for himself and a fruit smoothie for me. We pass the next increment of time chatting with some acquaintances from previous eclipse trips and making a few new friends as well. Many of the same people keep showing up at eclipses. It is like a little underground community. Soon the TQ lady returns and tells us we can now proceed over to another Icelandair counter and check in for our charter flight to the Faroes. TQ has 138 passengers to get to the Faroes so they chartered a plane for just this group. The check in goes rather smoothly until it is our turn at the head of the line. We present our passports to the check in agent, and she scans our documents and consults her computer screen. The agent tries several more time to find us in the system with the same result. Our names do not appear on her manifest for this flight or for any other flight. Oh my. Hubby frantically waves his arm and TQ lady comes over to offer help. She vouches for us since she has been involved with the planning and preparation of this trip for a number of months. Our names are on the TQ list but somehow just not in the computer. With the aid of five more agents and the passage of about 45 minutes, the Icelandair agent finally gets us in “the system” and she is able to issue us our boarding passes. It is now OK to breathe again and we can move forward.
We leave the admin side of Icelandair and head toward to gate area of the airport. As we reach the escalator to go up to the Iceland security check we notice a gentleman and his very young daughter get separated on the mechanical stairs. He is part of the way up before he realizes that his daughter is frightened to step on the escalator. She begins to cry as her dad gets farther and farther away from her and she just is unable to figure out how to get on the escalator to join him. I go to the rescue and helps the little girl on the moving staircase and ride with her to the top to rejoin her waiting dad.
We go through one more security check and join our fellow travelers as we all wait for our charter fight out to the Faroes. Iceland is living up to its name and is snowy and windy. We had worried about Boston, which really wasn’t that bad, but here the planes are being deiced and the runways are being cleared.
The flight out to the Faroes takes about an hour and a half. On the way we got a chicken wrap for lunch and something to drink. As we land, we notice the stark and raw look to the land. It is very beautiful, sparsely populated, windswept, rugged and many other descriptors. Not a place I want to live but definitely a place I want to visit. Although the Faroes belong to Denmark, they remind us of Scotland in a way. The airport runway is adequate for our aircraft and relatively short in length. At the end of the runway, the pilot makes a U-turn on the runway and taxis back to the terminal. We all climb down the ladder, cross the tarmac, and enter the duty free shop of the small terminal building. As we go through the shop to the baggage area, we notice eclipse postcards for sale and score our first souvenirs of the trip. Our baggage has made it along with us and we collect it and head out to the front waiting area. The large group of 138 now splits up into smaller groups and boards our respective busses for transport to our respective hotels. We are just too large a group for all of us to stay in one hotel. On eclipse day however, we will converge back into one group again at our observation site. The experts are all carefully watching the weather and cloud patterns to try to assure us of as cloud free experience as we can possibly get. Our local guide, Mrs. Olson gives us a running tour of the Faroes as we take a 45 minute bus ride to our first hotel, the Foroyar in Torshavn.
Check in goes surprisingly well and we eventually find our room. There is no elevator in the hotel and our room is on the lower level down a flight of stairs. Hubby has to drag the suitcases and all of our belongings down as I cling to the rail. I have been moving rather slowly since hurting my foot last year. The room is right across the hall from the hotel wine cellar. Hubby looks through the glass door of the wine cellar and declares it a very well stocked facility. It is an adequately sized room and very “Euro” in its appointments. The electrical switches are a little tricky to figure out (which switch controls what light and how). The desk lamp has a switch that requires a bit of searching to locate and so on. The bathroom has a heated ceramic floor, very nice! The shower / tub combo requires a high step to get over the tub wall and no complete shower door. It is a deep and narrow tub design with a modern shower head control that requires a bit of jiggering to figure out how to work it. All electrical outlets are 240 VAC. While we have an adapter plug with us and most of our chargers will operate on 250 VAC, one or two will not and we don’t have a voltage converter with us. Hubby has to go back to the hotel desk and ask about borrowing a converter.
I get my first shower of the trip and boy was it a good and well deserved one. There’s nothing like about 8 or 9 flight hours spread over three flights in numerous airports, cab rides and bus transfers to convince you that a hot shower would be a good idea. My poor body aches in places I was not sure I actually had. Getting the kinks out was a good idea. Now for a well-deserved nap before meeting the group for dinner at 7:00pm.
Our first dinner of the trip is very nice and very traditional. We meet in the dining room and find some folks we met a couple of years ago on another eclipse trip and join them. The hostess takes our drink order (we opt for a glass of wine) and we chat until dinner is served. It is a large bowl with a serving of baked cod, chick peas and rice. It is very good. Dessert follows and is a small chocolate soufflé with vanilla ice cream with rhubarb and strawberry sauce. Two of the trip guides joined us for dinner. They were in touch by cell phone with a guide at another hotel who relayed that the northern lights were visible. Almost immediately, our group ran for their coats to go outside for the display. Ohhhhhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhhh! It was soon time to go to bed to rest our bodies for the morning tour.