We were talking about going to Stockholm for Valentine's Day. But, when we looked in the newspaper for flight prices, we saw an add for a one-night stand in Iceland! Seeing the ad was all that we needed. We decided to celebrate Valentine's Day one week late in Reykjavik.
We also hoped to go to The Blue Lagoon, but weren't sure we could since the bus times were not convenient for our one night stand and we didn't really want to rent a car. We could have gone on a six hour bus tour including The Blue Lagoon, but we have our one hour max bus tour rule! However this trip to Iceland was breaking one of our fundamental rules anyway: no geothermal activity. We have this rule because both in New Zealand and Hawaii, we had experienced geothermal activities and were left soaked both times!
So, Saturday, we left with only two goals in mind and were still unsure about The Blue Lagoon. When we landed in Iceland, we were greeted with snow. Duty free in Iceland is double the fun since you can shop both when you're arriving and departing. This trip we were going to start collecting bills as well as coins. We quickly found what we wanted in the duty free shop!
The bus ride to the hotel was about 40 minutes and gave us a chance to see the landscape and some houses. The land was definitely volcanic. There were small pools of waster which should have been frozen but weren't due to the heat of the earth. There were also "exploded rocks" everywhere you looked. These were large rocks that had huge cracks in them where they had been rent apart with extreme force. Most of the rocks were black covered with white snow showing the cracks in the contrast. The spray coming up from the ocean was also crashing against the rocks and made the ocean look COLD. As we approached the city, houses and apartment blocks became more frequent. The houses all had very big windows and often skylights. Plus, they were painted bright colors, especially the roofs. The most unusual house overlooked a bay and was shaped like a pyramid. As we neared the hotel Tara saw The Pearl Restaurant she had read about in the guidebook. A rotating restaurant in a glass dome atop the city's water tanks! We would have gone if we were dressed better.
After arriving at the hotel, we headed to the bus stop for town. It was cold! We were both glad we had worn winter coats with hoods. The bus ride to town was short and showed us more brightly painted buildings with large windows. The bus driver was friendly and spoke with some of the passengers when they were getting off. As we got off & asked which way to go towards the town center, he asked where we were from. When he heard Chicago, he asked if we knew Niles. It was very funny to be talking to a person in Iceland about a city only 10 minutes from where we had lived in Evanston. The bus driver recommended a restaurant and said "I'll take you there!". We agreed and he did drop us off right in front. There we enjoyed a good dinner while watching people walk by and pop into the convenient store across the way. After dinner we walked down the main shopping street. It was the only time we'd be downtown since the stores weren't open on Sunday. The street was very cute, but very cold. Seeing our bus arriving at the stop was a very welcome sight. This bus driver let us on the bus and then told us that we'd be standing here for 10 minutes and that he'd be back. So, we were left alone on the bus by ourselves! Back at the hotel, Tara was very excited to watch the German channel.
In the morning, we planned our last day. A morning soak in the pool, a quick trip to town and then out to the shopping mall. After breakfast, though, we stopped in the hotel gift shop and took care of goal number one. Tara now had more sweaters! Soaking in the pool was very enjoyable. The water was natural water from underground. And you could tell, it smelled like sulfur. But it was hotter than bath water and had fish, shells and mermaids painted on the bottom. The hot water in the pool proved how the whole city could use natural hot water from underground for indoor heating. The whirlpool was even hotter!
After checking out, we went downtown. After the obligatory visit to McDonalds, we walked to the lake. The ducks and swans were very happy to see us and made lots of noise. However, we couldn't visit long since it was so cold. The view from the shore convinced us that we'd have to come back in Summer. The houses lining the lake all had brightly colored roofs and there was a church steeple in the skyline. Very pretty.
Next there was the mall. We still had one goal, an Icelandic hot dog. The mall was as the hotel had said, open, but only some stores. I also wanted to get a present for Brownie since he'd been left at home. A little Icelandic sweater for a bear would have been good. But, we didn't find a present and only after walking through the whole mall did we find a hot dog. Then it was time to go to the hotel and get the bus to the airport.
But, the bus we had planned on taking was full. We wrote postcards while we waited for the next one. At the airport, we learned that the plane was also full! This meant an extra night for us, another passport stamp and The Blue Lagoon.
It was de ja vu taking the bus from the airport back to the same hotel and then even the same hotel room! We were very quickly on another bus headed to the Blue Lagoon. This bus had six other Americans on it and it was fun listening their conversation. All six were around 50 and were talking about how the one man's family didn't understand why he wanted to go to Scotland that it was better him going than them. He was the only one in the family who had ever traveled. Good entertainment for yet another bus ride.
The Blue Lagoon looked as it did in the guidebook. A hot, steamy lake with a power plant on its shores. The dash from the locker room into the lake was short. If it hadn't been so cold outside, we would have taken longer to immerse ourselves in the very, very, very hot water. It was so hot that the water was steaming. If you moved, it was hotter in some place and cooler in others. Tara tried to find the hot places while Seth sought the cooler places. The steam from the power plant added to the effect and created a very unique experience. The water was so hot that Tara started feeling woosy after only 20 minutes. We stuck it out for just a bit longer, took some pictures and then went to get dressed. During the ride back, Tara couldn't believe how relaxed she felt - "like a wet noodle".
At the hotel, we ate our free dinner and then retired. It was more German TV for Tara. And since it was the Carnival in Rio De Janero with women dancing topless, Seth even paid a bit of attention!
In the morning, we send more postcards. Brownie got his own postcards since he didn't get a little present. At the airport, we again exited the country and did some duty free shopping. Traveling home business class was going to be nice. As we boarded, the Iceland air man taking our ticket, said "ah, you're the two who stayed over. Have a nice flight."
We did have a good flight and a good weekend. But it ended when we arrived at work 6 hours late on Monday.
We found the bus drivers to be extremely friendly. The restaurant the bus driver recommended made for a nice, relaxing evening was perfect - since he dropped us right in front. And, after walking around town for the evening (freezing), the bus driver let us steam up the windows of his bus while he took a break because we were freezing standing outside waiting for the bus.
It was cold outside, so we saw bits of the city quickly. Our longest time outside at any one time was when we walked along the edge of this pretty lake for a while. However, it was COLD, so we didn't linger outside for long.
At the mall, we lucked out and found Icelandic Hot Dogs. Icelandic Hot Dogs were some of our favorite foods at the yearly Scandinavia Day Festival in Elgin, Illinois that we helped out with for a few years. Now, we got to try the real thing.
We did go to a local mall. Here we are near our bus stops. Waiting (praying) for the bus to come!
With the extra night, we were able to soak in the Blue Lagoon. It was very, very, very relaxing.
Tara excited to be going into the Blue Lagoon
Seth shocked at how HOT the water was!! And how COLD the air was after soaking.
When: Saturday, February 21 - Sunday, February 23, 1998
Tourist Office: http://www.goiceland.org/
Web Sites: http://www.icelandair.net/, http://www.iceland.org/tour.html
Travel Times London - Iceland
Hotel: Hotel Loftleider