I’m in Reykjavik, Iceland, spending quality time with my friend ST. It’s cold here, but otherworldly beautiful. More on that in a second though.
I flew IcelandAir overnight on a direct flight – it’s a pretty short flight (~5 hours), so I did not get much sleep.
But I learned lots of interesting facts about Iceland, among which: 97% of the population has Internet, and major decisions are made in the hot tub. All of the annoucements were made in Icelandic before English. If reading the language is complicated, hearing it is on a whole other level. So many syllables!! I was informed today that it would take an English speaker at least 9 years to even start to get it, but the accent would still be so poor that I would be impossible to understand. Interestingly, not a challenge I feel the need to conquer. Today.
I arrived in the IKEA-decorated-a-storage-unit Keflavik airport and waited for ST to arrive from New York. I also stopped at the ATM – so the Icelandic Krona is about 136 to $1. I am not a math whiz on my most rested days, so jetlag and a sleepless night did not prepare me for the ATM choices: 5.000, 10.000, etc. up to 80.000. Those are thousands, friends. I forgot the European predilection for changing monetary punctuation. 10k, best I can tell , is about $75, and that’s what I finally convinced the ATM to dispense to me.
After ST and I retrieved our roller-skate-esque Hyundai from the nice lady at Avis, we headed on a quick tour of the southern part of the island. It turns out it’s not a very big island, so it does not take long to get places.
We drove through Hafnir and Grindavik, both coastal towns, and on to the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spring with mineral, algae and silica deposits that are supposed to be good for your skin. People visit year-round, which is a little mind-boggling to me given the weather today. It was 50 degrees, rainy and windy, and I swear I felt hail more than once. The water is 100 degrees, so once you’re in, it’s fine, as long as you keep as much of your body under water as possible.
We got there, jogged inside and an Alexander Skarsgard look-alike named Omar checked us in and explained all of the details. There is a distinct etiquette to spa days in Iceland – full shower first, bathing suits on in the spa, etc. He also gave us our wristbands, bathrobes, flip-flops, and towels after a beat about European sizing – “you wouldn’t know what I brought you anyway.” Too true, Omar.
Now suited up, hair coated in conditioner (to prevent silica buildup), we ventured into the lagoon. You can enter from inside or outside, but given the weather, we opted to ease into things and took the indoor route. The lagoon itself is sandy or rocky on the bottom, and we did not encounter any bits over 4.5 feet deep. So you sort of shuffle along, careful to stay below the surface of the water, as I mentioned. The springs heat the water, but in waves, so you’ll be going along and find a really hot spot or a cooler spot, depending on how close the spring is. There are also saunas, steam baths & waterfalls meant to simulate a shoulder rub, so there’s no lack of stuff to check out.
On the whole, it was a pretty cool experience. I would do it again on a warmer day.
Title quote: When Harry Met Sally