As you may have gathered from the previous posts, while we’ve certainly had our ups here in Iceland, our first week was a bit rocky. Of course we expect some navigational difficulties and transitional hiccups. Of course we knew that there would be confusion, setbacks, and unexpected discoveries (like the fact that face wash pretty much isn’t sold here? Really–they all apparently just have naturally perfect skin. But more on that trifle anon…). But let me be the first one to say that the whole “house thing” (i.e. us not having one) was starting to grate on me. And although I was trying to do my best Scarlett O’Hara (see above), by Sunday, I was quickly approaching the end of my rope.
(I’m going to skip ahead here, but to recap what has happened in the House Hunt Saga since you last joined us: on Saturday, we saw a lovely, but washer-dryer/freezer/oven/stove-less apartment in a ritzy suburb of Reykjavik which was simply too far away to manage and on Sunday, we headed out to Hafnarfjordur to see another place–I had high hopes, as the town looks adorable–only to be stood up by the guy who owned the apartment because he had rented it in the six hours since we made the appointment and didn’t bother to call or email me to let me know. Which was a half hour bus ride there, a twenty minute wait, and a half hour ride back of our lives, lost forever, when we could have been eating grilled cheese sandwiches and playing cribbage instead. A pox on That Guy.)
So, following the apartment-that-wasn’t on Sunday night, I basically didn’t sleep. I napped for a couple of hours, woke up at 4:00 AM and then finally gave up read about 150 pages of Mansfield Park until Mark’s alarm went off at 7:30 so that we could go swimming in the nearby pool. This happens when I get anxious–I revert to Insomniac Larissa, and she’s a bit edgy, let me just tell you.
Quickly approaching the end of our (extended) time in the very nice nightly rental we have in the city center, Mark and I had started looking into intermediate options while we continued to shop around for long-term apartments. We had found an apartment-style hotel by the water in which we could rent a studio by the month, which would have been expensive, but manageable. We had also had an offer from a woman I met through an Icelandörelated Facebook group to take a room in her apartment near the mall. That would have been more affordable, and was not a bad bus ride to school, but it wasn’t a permanent solution, for one because the woman has a cat and Mark is pretty allergic. Nevertheless, we had taken a housing certificate form and had made arrangements with the FB lady to move in sometime this weekend, probably for a few months.
And then (cue angelic choral music), I came home and found an email from one of my Fulbright advisors (a thousand blessings upon her) saying that someone (we’ll call her J for now) called the Fulbright office with a “three room apartment with a private entrance” to rent. It was available immediately, in our price range, and close to school. Another kicker: it was in the exact same neighborhood as the “Cozy Seaside Studio” we had looked at when we first arrived, just behind the Reykjavik Domestic Airport and right on the ocean. I immediately called the landlord and set an appointment to see it that evening.
I’ll not keep you in suspense: we took the apartment. But let me just list off the ways in which this is an absolutely perfect place, and such a lovely, amazing reward for the last week:
- It has its own separate side entrance with a small table and chairs by the door–all very inviting.
- It is gigantic. “Three rooms” actually means a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, and a small “guest room.”
- The kitchen not only has a freezer, it has a real stove and oven! It has a window! That faces a back yard! Which we can use whenever we want! (The yard also has a gate/wall on one side to “guard from the north wind,” which just sounds awesome.
- There is laundry access.
- The apartment is furnished, and not just with your average IKEA trimmings. (Not that I don’t love IKEA–which they all pronounce as “ee-K-ahhh” here, FYI. I still think looking at their ‘storage solutions’ and giggling at the furniture names is a great way to get yourself out of the doldrums, but it’s not the most personal way to outfit a whole home.). Instead, the apartment is furnished with furniture which serve as reminders, she says, of “the good times.” So this place is wonderfully decorated in retro-grama-chic: needlepoint pillows on the couches, olive green upholstery, dark wood, and a TV which I am not entirely convinced will be in color. It’s awesome and will be so cozy and adorable in the winter that I will probably turn into a bunny. An Icelandic bunny.
- It is about a thirty second walk to the ocean and the lovely path that runs all the way around to Seltjarnarnes and the other side of the city. You can see the President’s house across the bay in Alftanes, listen to seabirds, jog (if you’re so inclined) and generally commune with the great wide open.
- J, the landlord, is–I can already tell–what some would call a “kindred spirit.” Upon first meeting, I’d say she’s frank, practical, quietly amused, and has led a very interesting life. She has a very firm handshake. I was already very fond of her when she accepted my greeting “Nice to meet you, I’m Larissa” in Icelandic without laughing, and she completely won me over when she told Mark not to bother taking off his shoes (it had been raining all day) because “it was not dirty, it was only wet.” Upon finding out what Mark was going to study, she remarked, “So you will study literature, and she will study Icelandic. It will be a fun winter.” She also said that we could borrow the two bikes she keeps in the garage, and offered her services to help Mark and I move our suitcases and miscellany to the apartment so we don’t have to rent a car to do so ourselves. In my opinion, she’s the current holder of the Best Person in Iceland title.
- Should things work out this year, J will likely rent to us again next school year, since she likes to have tenants in the winter. So we probably won’t have to go through this whole miserable process again next year.
- The apartment is 30 seconds to the bus stop, or a fifteen minute walk to school. It’s close to the city center, but far enough away for me to feel like we’re getting some quality nature/neighborhood time.
- It is perfect.
Huzzah! We move in on Thursday!
I don’t have pictures of the apartment itself yet, but immediately after leaving it, we walked along the ocean path behind it (which probably has a name that I just don’t know yet). So here are some of the kazillion photos I took on our walk. (It was a rainy day and I was using a camera phone, so these aren’t the highest quality. But this also won’t be the last you see of this place by a long shot.)