Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Iceland, Day 10- In which we go soak for a while..

(This is part twelve of a series of posts about our trip to Iceland. Here are the first, secondthirdfourthfifth sixthseventh , eighth,  ninth,  tenth, and eleventh posts.)

Mineral water, Blue
Mineral pool at the Blue Lagoon

Even in the somewhat sheltered bowl of cliffs and between two massive volcanic boulders, the wind still thundered over/past/through our tent all night long[i]. The nonstop sounds of nesting seabirds in the morning didn’t help much either[ii].  As fantastic as our short time on Heimaey had been the previous day, I was not looking forward to the early morning rush to the ferry. While Kate got ready I took a quick walk past the golf course down to the rocky coastal cliffs.

Oystercatchers Break in the
Eurasian Oystercatchers, Break in the rock, Leaving Heimaey harbor.

We reluctantly left the Islands[iii] behind and bordered the ferry. The return journey was equally fascinating, as we stood in the bracing wind up top[iv]. The Ferry stirred up a flock of Northern Gannets, large soaring sea birds, who paced the ship for some time, hovering directly over me. It was quite a sight.

Golden water Heimay harbor
Northern Gannet in
Golden water, Heimaey harbor morning, Northern Gannet in flight.

We had been a bit remiss in planning this day, but we knew we had to end up in Reykjavik. After a quick breakfast on the road, we stopped to look through possible options. We were being really indecisive[v], and were pretty worn out from the trip, so we decided to give in to the ultimate tourist trap, and hit the spa at The Blue Lagoon[vi]. The Blue Lagoon is an odd fusion of the traditional geothermal baths[vii] found throughout Iceland, European spa culture, and modern power generation.  The “Lagoon” is a massive, manmade set of interconnected pools located in the middle of a bare lava field. It’s fed by the effluent from an ultra-modern geothermal plant of shining steel located nearby.  Having just been to a volcano island with secret harbor, it was starting to feel like we had signed up for a tour of Bond villain lairs. The pools are a milky blue from minerals and biological activity[viii] and the facility is very modern with luxury everything. I usually detest that sort of luxury spa experience, but after the long week and windy night, soaking in hot water[ix] for several hours was worth putting up with the pretentiousness.

Geothermal plant, Blue
Lagoon (B&W)
Blue Lagoon
Geothermal Plant/Potential Global Domination Machine, Mineral water pool, Blue Lagoon main pool.

When our skin turned the proper degree of prune, we finally hauled ourselves out of the water and headed back to Reykjavik.  We had only seen bits and pieces of it on the way in, and didn’t have time to properly explore it, but downtown seemed very nice. It reminded me a bit of the style and design of Amsterdam or other similar cities. We went out for a nice walk around town[x] after checking into our hotel on the waterfront, and had a fantastic dinner at a little asian-icelandic fusion restaurant[xi]. We wandered around a bit afterwards, and happened upon a café that was still open. It ended up being a fantastic place, cozy and warm, a Parisian sort of style and ambiance, packed with people, and serving amazing deserts[xii]. It was a nice way to end the trip, as we would be flying out early the next day.  
streetscape Cafe
Paris Cafe
Reykjavik streetscape, Café Paris, Dessert!


[i] Miraculously enough, we did not wake up out to sea, though there were times I’m pretty sure we were physically moved about by the force of the winds on the tent.
[ii] Though it was quite a surprise to open my tent and get quizzical looks from a trio of Eurasian Oystercatchers (new bird species) a couple feet away.
[iii] As small a place as it was, there were other hikes, including up an active volcano cinder cone that we wanted to take. The early ferry ride really threw a monkey wrench in our plans in general.
[iv] While the Icelanders watched endless loops of Friends episodes in the video room below.
[v] While I
[vi] The idea was to relax after a long week of camping and hiking. Getting an unfortunately expensive speeding ticket on the way only served to accent what a good choice some relaxation would be.
[vii] Iceland is known for its geothermal power, and almost every small town has geothermal baths/pools (though we had yet to actually go to one).
[viii] I think they said there was some sort of symbiotic bacteria or something?
[ix] Part of the experience was hunting around for the warm spots…it was a bit chilly out, so finding a good hotspot was key. It must be quite an awesome thing come winter, with snow and ice all around, to be immersed in hot water outdoors.
[x] No one threw pipes at us. It was very refreshing.
[xi] It was a nice find, it hadn’t been our first choice, but we found a listing for it in the guide, and it looked pretty decent on the street. I had an amazing red snapper with various other seafood accouterments.  The place felt like a jungle, lots of bamboo and green and wood. A bit out of place in the austere modernistic Icelandic architecture.
[xii] I had this warm, soft flourless chocolate cake served with large shards of shaved chocolate and fruit, and an amazing cup of coffee. 

No comments: