Thursday, October 01, 2015

On to Iceland!

Of all the places on this earth, Iceland was never on my list of ones I wanted to visit. I'm not talking about the Short List; I mean the Big List. There are places I know I do not want to go to: Russia, for example. But Iceland? It never occurred to me that I would go there.

When he heard about our plans to travel to Scandinavia, Mr. Bodine, Joe's friend, insisted that we spend at least a night in Iceland. And Joe was persuaded.

From the minute the bus left the airport and I saw the terrain, I knew I was someplace unique (and Honna can tell you how picky I am about the use of that word) and amazing (and that word, too). I'd never seen anything like it. The ground looked like I would imagine the ground on the moon would look. Lava fields everywhere. This is hardened molten rock with anemic-looking moss trying to grow on it.

Our hotel was located not far from Reykjavik's city center, and directly across the street from the opera house next to the sea. By now you know how we are about opera houses. A perfect location. A nice hotel, too. By the time we'd settled in, we were hungry and ready to walk after having been cooped up in a smallish plane and then on the crowded bus for 45 minutes. Most of the shops had closed for the day, but there were all kinds of restaurants open and we found a cute, cosy French cafe that produced a delicious dinner.

We got up early on Wednesday because we'd booked the Golden Circle Tour; it would start by 9:00 and last all day. This turned out to be one of the best experiences of our entire trip! Who knew? The bus took us to the three locations on the schedule plus one more. Turns out that due to laws of science and physics that are beyond my comprehension, tomatoes can be grown year-round in Iceland! We visited a tomato farm that also grew cucumbers. They were offering tomato soup, crusty bread, and, if one desired, a Bloody Mary.

Back on the bus, we were off to see geysers. And see them, we did. There was one that erupted every seven minutes, and I was fascinated to watch the pattern the water made and was able to predict when the next eruption was about to happen. 

Next we visited the Golden Falls Waterfall, which was gorgeous.

The final stop was at Thingvellir National Park; here we could actually see the American and European tectonic plates, and we learned that they are pulling apart at the rate of 2 centimeters per year. The landscape was like something prehistoric. We walked and walked and walked.

This might look like mud, but again it is hardened molten lava-into-rock.

Back at the hotel, we had a nap and around nine o'clock we were picked up for our evening adventure. We boarded a whale-watching vessel and were taken out into the water beyond Reykjavik where it was dark, and even though it was early in the season, we could see Northern Lights. We'd love to return in the winter -- brrrrr! -- to see them in their full glory.

On Thursday, we had just a couple of hours before the bus would take us to in the direction of the airport. We'd seen a picture of Hallgr√≠mskirkja Church when doing our research, and knew we had to visit it. It was simply stunning in its grandeur. Inside was very plain, with an immense pipe organ. We were both annoyed that a travel group was wandering around noisily and, in our opinions, disrespectfully, but we stayed as long as we could and then walked back to the hotel to prepare for our departure.

We'd been told by our cousin/travel agent that we needed to visit the Blue Lagoon, I told her we didn't need to do that. It sounded very touristy, and very strange. But she insisted, and -- well, you already have figured it out -- I'm so glad she did. Again, a place unlike anything else I've ever experienced: We rented "bathing costumes" and entered the geothermal spa uncertain what to expect. The bathing costumes came in two sizes: too small and too large. I opted for the latter and wondered if I might have a wardrobe malfunction. I don't think I did.

It was relaxing, it was fun, it was other-worldly. There is a place you walk up to in the water where sea algae is available. You smear it on your face and wait ten minutes until it forms a masque, then you remove it, all of this while standing in the geothermal spa water or relaxing spa-side. There is a waterfall of hot, salty, water that you stand under as it beats down on your back and shoulders, chasing away any tension or discomfort. (This is where the possible wardrobe malfunction might occur.) You wander over to the bar and receive a complimentary beverage. You grin in astonishment that you actually love this place. 

And then it's time to go home.


rappy said...

"The ground looked like I would imagine the ground on the moon would look." Nearly the exact words I used as we were landing there last year. We only had a stopover so never left the airport, but it's definitely on *my* list now that I've read your post.

Karla said...

Oh my gosh, what a delightful post! I think I would love Iceland. It is now on my bucket list. What a treat you had!

Janet O. said...

After my two sons and their friends spent a week in Iceland just over a year ago, I have been awed by the place. Their photos left me breathless. During their visit my youngest son texted me that he has never before felt so strong a need to thank God for the beauty of a place. They were there in the Spring, so the snow prevented doing the entire loop, but it also added to the adventure in many places.
I loved your descriptions and experiences here. Could almost feel the waterfall on my back at the Blue Lagoon.
And I am extremely jealous of anyone who gets to see the Northern Lights. What an experience to view them from a boat in Iceland. I have seen them a couple of times, but I want more!!! : )

Barbara Anne said...

Wow! I am thunderstruck and, as the folks in the UK say, gobsmacked! Those pictures are - dare I say it? - AWESOME. No other word will do.

Cheers for friends who've been there and make good suggestions and pushy, insistent cousin/travel agents who know whereof they speak!

What a great trip!


starsthatblaze said...

Your descriptions of your trip made me feel like I was there with you seeing the sights, eating the food. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

chlost said...

We also merely passed through Iceland via a stopover at the airport. But is was fascinating. We discovered that the meat being served on Icelandair was reindeer. Their staple. I couldn't do it. Sounds like a great trip. Very very jealous.