You'll Love Iceland, Dear!

Thirty-three years ago, in a fit of apparent insanity, my charming bride did not flee the church, and instead chose to remain and marry me. Since then, I have done all I can to feed her delusion that I am worthy of her devotion. So far, my efforts have been mostly successful, though I have been extremely worried about what she may think of me, should she ever discover the true depth of my affection for my not-so-secret obsession, EVE Online.

She knows that I play "that silly game" from time to time, and that I occasionally blog about it. She grudgingly accepts my need to occasionally slip away for a few hours to groan and shout while bands of red mysteriously flash on my computer monitor. She has even tolerated my yearly solo pilgrimages to Reykjavik to attend Fanfest, the annual convention of EVE Online fanatics to celebrate the joys of Internet spaceships.

And so it was with great trepidation that I approached her this year about Fanfest 2016, to be held April 21-23, once again in the Harpa in Reykjavik. This will be my fifth Fanfest. Every year, I tell myself I'm going to skip it and watch the highlights on YouTube afterwards, but then I chat with my corpmates and old E-UNI friends in game, and change my mind. I've never regretted doing so. Fanfest is just too much fun to miss. If you are an EVE Online devotee, you have to make the trip at least once in your lifetime. You will likely end up like me, and keep coming back.

IcelandMap.png

Traveling to Iceland is not an inexpensive proposition, however. And so, I must clear the trip with the holder of the checkbook in our family, my steadfast spouse. But this year, I had another motive. At the last Fanfest, I had the opportunity to meet EVE Online celebrity Rixx Javix in person, and he introduced me to "Mrs. Javix", his lovely wife. (After Fanfest, she even joined the game.) In fact, I noticed that not just a few hardcore capsuleers had also brought their significant others along with them to Reykjavik. I wondered: would my faithful partner also join me in Iceland, even though she considers committed dedication to EVE Online to be a mild form of mental illness?

To my delight, she said yes. "I'd like to see Iceland," she said. "But I've no interest in EVE stuff. What else is there to do while you're off playing with your space friends?"

Fortunately, there are plenty of diversions in and near Reykjavik during Fanfest which should keep my wife happily engaged, while I listen in rapt attention to CCP Seagull talk about stargates and spaceships.

Fanfest for Non-EVEophiles

First, there are events associated with Fanfest itself that are worthy of the attention of every significant other, even if they aren't interested in EVE Online.

Sisters of EVE Tour

Each year, CCP organizes a "Sisters of EVE" (SoE) excursion for "wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, or just friends". This day-long guided sightseeing tour, occurring on Friday April 22nd, typically includes the "Golden Circle" and other scenic locales. An SoE pass costs $275, and can be purchased here.

Mrs. Javix recommends the Sisters of EVE excursion: "I went on the SoE tour around the Reykjanes peninsula, which was awesome."

Party at the Top of the World

A SoE pass does not grant entry to Fanfest itself (which suits my non-playing partner just fine), but it does include the "Party at the Top of the World" on Saturday night. This is a big celebration, typically featuring local rock and techno musicians, to cap off Fanfest. I've always enjoyed this crowded and somewhat loud party, even though I'm not anything close to a youthful headbanger - and the annual appearance of CCP's own Permaband never disappoints. You don't have to be an EVE Online fanatic to have a good time here, especially if you like to dance. My wife definitely does, so we'll almost certainly be attending.

The Kolabrautin restaurant, site of the Charity Dinner

The Kolabrautin restaurant, site of the Charity Dinner

Charity Dinner

There is also the Charity Dinner, to be held on Thursday night, April 21st - this is an opportunity to have a very nice meal with 180 other Fanfest attendees and CCP developers. The devs typically rotate around to different tables, so you have the chance to pick their brains a bit - though don't expect them to divulge any advance news or secrets! The dinner will be held in a fine restaurant on the top floor of the Harpa convention center, Kolabrautin. All proceeds go to support a good cause, a local children's hospital. Tickets are $175 per person

I've attended the Charity Dinner in the past, and had a nice time, though the quality of the experience is largely dependent on the dev who is initially assigned to your table. At my dinner, we had a very tight-lipped dev who was very reluctant to speak about EVE Online at all, and it was a bit awkward - I got the feeling he really didn't want to be there. But I enjoyed conversing with other EVEophiles, most of whom had brought their non-EVE playing significant others - this makes the event a nice, relaxed change of pace, and good for couples.

Pub Crawl

I have attended this raucous, crazy drink-a-thon through the streets of Reykjavik, and regretted it the next day, though I admit I had a lot of fun. I intend to skip it this year, and spend a quality evening on the town with my bride, where we will undoubtedly encounter some of the roving bands of inebriated space nerds, in happy herds tromping from one bar to the next.

If you are looking for a wild evening in Iceland, I can't recommend the Pub Crawl highly enough. Each group of revelers is led by a CCP dev, and you can really get to know them well as the evening progresses. You will almost certainly feel hung over the next day, though - be forewarned.

The event starts at 9pm in Harpa on Friday night, April 22nd, and you must be at least 20 years of age to join. Tickets cost $65, and includes Brennívín at the beginning of the crawl - and yes, it's as harsh an adult beverage as it sounds.

The Fanfest Pub Crawl is very, very popular - here is the group from last year gathering in the Harpa conference center, prepping to descend upon the bars of Reykjavik like locusts.

The Fanfest Pub Crawl is very, very popular - here is the group from last year gathering in the Harpa conference center, prepping to descend upon the bars of Reykjavik like locusts.

Encountering Iceland

Nothing in nature is quite like the Icelandic landscape. Here are a few suggested options for you and/or your significant other to experience the unique sights.

Blue Lagoon

It's been a tradition at Fanfest to go to the Blue Lagoon the day after the "Party at the Top of the World". It's the perfect antidote for post-party hangovers, or for just relaxing and having a nice soak in the warm geothermal pool before returning home. To book transportation and an admission ticket, use the Reykjavik Excursions' Fanfest partner webpage for reservations.

My wife loves spas. When I showed her the website for the Blue Lagoon, she nearly swooned with delight. I've arranged for a one-day solo excursion for her, so she can get an in-water massage, while I'm off hobnobbing with my fellow capsuleers. Fees for this experience are not inexpensive, however - and you must book reservations for entry and services in advance.

The Blue Lagoon is popular, and can get crowded. There are tiers of service available at higher prices. If all you are looking for is a relaxing dip in the warm azure waters, pick the lowest-priced option - a more exclusive experience is commensurately more expensive. A further word of caution: the Blue Lagoon's facilities are undergoing a major expansion, so there may be sounds of construction in progress during a visit. 

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

The Golden Circle Tour

Generally, the Sisters of EVE excursion includes most, if not all, of the tour stops found on the Golden Circle tour. If your significant other doesn't join the SoE option, consider going to see the Golden Circle together. It's a wonderful day trip and includes the impressive Gullfoss waterfall, multple geysers and scenic drives through Iceland's unique landscape. Reykjavik Excursions' Fanfest partner page provides advance registrations.

CCP Darwin suggests that you can also rent a car and take the Golden Circle tour at your own leisure. Special rental car rates from Sixt for Fanfest attendees can be found here.

Gullfoss waterfalls

Gullfoss waterfalls

Moonwalker Tours

For a little extra personal service, "Mrs. Javix" also recommends Moonwalker Tours for seeing the sights: "We took a private tour on our last two days with Moonwalker. We did the Golden Circle with Bessi, [and got] the owner's personal spin. And the next day, we went on his south coast tour."

Moonwalker Tours Land Rover

Moonwalker Tours Land Rover

"The SoE tour was nice and no complaints, but touring with Bessi was like exploring with an old friend. He knew how badly I wanted to go out on a glacier, and we tried in the highlands the first day, but the weather was bad, so he managed to get me on a glacier the second day. He used to work as a search and rescue professional, so he's very experienced. And his Land Rover is way better than any tour bus."

Northern Lights are unlikely this year

At last year's Fanfest, we not only got to see a partial solar eclipse, but we also were lucky enough to be there during a period of high solar activity, resulting in amazing displays of aurora borealis - or "northern lights".  

Unfortunately, Fanfest happens at the end of April this year, which is beyond the usual season for seeing the northern lights. As a result, night tours to locations well suited for seeing aurora activity will not be running. But one can hope that the sun erupts with another burst of activity, and we might get lucky. While in Iceland, be sure to look up to the heavens each night, just in case.

Enjoying Reykjavik

The people in Reykjavik are wonderful. In each trip I have taken there, I've been impressed at how warm and welcoming they are, even to throngs of die-hard space geeks. While Icelanders speak in their own Nordic tongue, virtually everyone also can speak English very well. 

Reykjavik is not a big city, but it has an abundance of shops and restaurants, and is easy for pedestrians to navigate. On my last trip, I made a point to wander about and get to know the town better, and I never felt wary.

Mrs. Javix agrees: "I spent some time strolling the city by myself and never felt uncomfortable. I've lived in an urban area before so I'm a bit cautious, but I never felt unsafe in Reykjavik."

The weather in Reykjavik can be very fluid, especially in April. "We had a freak snowstorm, and I had to buy a hat because I'd forgotten mine," Mrs. Javix recalled. "I highly recommend comfortable water-proof shoes." I also recommend a substantial jacket. And if the weather turns foul, just wait a while - it can easily go from freezing to temperate in minutes in Iceland.

There are several interesting museums in Reykjavik, the most popular ones summarized here - including one that proves that Icelanders are a bit different: one dedicated to penises of all types. I don't think my charming bride will be up for visiting that one, though the others may be of interest.

Perhaps the most recognizable building in Reykjavik, other than the Harpa, is Hallgrímskirkja, an impressive white Lutheran church that provides some of the best views of the city from atop its massive tower.

Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja

Eating with Fanfesters

There are plenty of crowded bars where Fanfest attendees tend to congregate, and I've tried a lot of them over the years, but when you are with your significant other, you may want to be a bit more selective. I recommend the following establishments, where both you and your non-capsuleer partner will feel comfortable.

The Laundromat

The best place for a decent, casual breakfast in Reykjavik, in my opinion, and you'll see many other Fanfest attendees flocking there each morning. It's a fun environment, and the food is good - and yes, there is a real laundromat downstairs if you need to clean some clothes while in town. 

Nora Magasin

Generally called "Nora's" by Fanfest-goers, I spent quite a bit of time in this place last year. It's relatively quiet and comfortable, and a good place for pub food, drink and relaxed conversation. We will definitely hang out together here in the evenings, I am sure.

The Hot Dog Stand

An Icelandic national treasure, the hot dogs here at this little inconspicuous stand are genuinely excellent. Worth a trip, for sure, especially late at night. For a quick snack, you can't beat it.

The Laundromat - a great place for breakfast during Fanfest

The Laundromat - a great place for breakfast during Fanfest

Fine Dining in Reykjavik

I also intend to take my devoted bride out for at least one fine dining experience, as Reykjavik has more than a few choices here. I hear that Dill is the place to go to sample quality "New Nordic" cuisine. It's pricey and will require a cab ride, but the reviews are very good, so I think we will give that a try.

There are many other good choices for better quality restaurants - check these sources for useful recommendations and reviews.

Looking Forward to Fanfest

We can't wait to visit Reykjavik together, and I'm really looking forward to showing my wife the sights, and why I've enjoyed going there for the last five years. I know she will love the town.

And perhaps - just maybe - she may realize that we EVE Online devotees are not such a bad lot, after all. Perhaps she might even give the game a try - who knows? One can always hope.

If you see me at Fanfest, please be sure to say hello!

If you've found another good place to recommend for Fanfest attendees bringing their significant other along, please mention it in the comments.

Fly safe! o7