Alpine Adventure 2018

Iceland Day 1: How Much of This Water is Spilled Alcohol and Spit?

Alternate Title: “This is a surprisingly decent meal for a vape shop.”

After booking this trip over a year in advance (long enough to learn how to successfully learn to spell Reykjavik in one try), I’m off on yet another adventure.


My companion this year is the incomparable Jen, which, for those of you who don’t know is basically my work best friend, spirit guide, and soul sister wrapped into one. The only reason I’ve successfully remained a teacher for three years without losing my sanity: thanks, Jen.


I started my adventure by hopping up to her house, picking her up, dumping the both of us off at the Londonderry bus terminal, and hitching a ride on the Logan Express to the airport. We left like an hour early, which worked out, considering we hit major traffic on the way down.


After a late dinner at Stephanie’s, and a chat with a nurse in the lobby while waiting for our flight (she was on her way to Prague! Ah, Prague…) we were off to Europe!


Now, my saga on the airplane. Jen and I weren’t sitting together. Originally I was assigned a middle seat. And I mean, middle section of the airplane, middle seat in the row. No. Not for a five-hour journey. Just no. So I asked to be moved. Luckily, I was able to do that. I was reassigned an aisle seat. It was still in that middle section, but at least I had the freedom to get up without having someone move, and I could lean to the side without hitting anyone with my face.


So I sat down in my seat. The middle seat in the row was vacant, and the woman on the other aisle seat was a very nice older lady. We chatted a little bit and crossed our fingers that no one would occupy the seat. Eventually a man came by to take the seat, kissing his wife and baby goodbye as he squeezed between us. But no sooner than five minutes later, a flight attendant comes by and says they found an empty seat closer to his family. So he got up and took that seat. Woo! Empty seat!


…So we thought.


So we take off, we reach cruising altitude, we’re both sitting in peace. I’m playing games on my phone, the other lady is watching movies on her tv screen, and all of a sudden, this other older lady comes by. She asks me, “Is anyone sitting there?” “No,” I answer, but kind of annoyedly, thinking “clearly you had a seat unless you’ve been sitting in the cargo hold up until a half hour into the flight.” But I just smiled and moved so she could take the seat. She sat there and started watching “The Bridges of Madison County,” which I to this moment think is a weird choice for in-flight entertainment. And then in no particular order, she took her shoes off, rested her feet on the little metal seat brackets in front of her, flossed her teeth in-flight, and wouldn’t stop jiggling her leg. We went from an empty seat to this, folks.


Luckily it was a short flight. Unluckily, I didn’t sleep more than a blink.


But it was okay, for we had made it to Iceland!


Conveniently, it was very easy to find transportation downtown. Inconveniently, it cost a pretty penny. For a round trip 45 minute transfer, it cost us about $60. But, jet lagged and sleep deprived, we forked over the cash and shepherded our way onto the bus, with all the other American tourists following suit.


Our bus stop is the famous Hallgrimskirkje, which is really the only famous architectural landmark in Iceland, the big pointy white church. Our AirBnB was quick stone’s throw from the church, so we lugged our bags across the stone sidewalks in about five minutes and waited to be let in by our two-day landlord. She arrived (a bit late, but eh, we were too tired to be mad) with her two-year-old grandson, who was blonde-haired, blue-eyed and adorable. They let us in and showed us around our quaint little home for two days, which is basically Ikea: The Apartment.


We did a little unpacking, and I took a quick shower, during which I realized that the water here smells like sulfur. If I come home smelling like eggs, we can all know that it’s Iceland’s fault.


Before heading out for our Blue Lagoon reservations, we took a walk downtown in search of sustenance. Icelandic food is weird and expensive, so it takes us a while to pick something worthy. But eventually we found a funky little café that smelled heavenly and got two savory crepes filled with ham and cheese. It was the perfect little stop.

Now, onto the saga of “Christina wants a sweater.” I came to Iceland really only wanting one souvenir: an Icelandic sweater. They are famous for their sheeps (yes, I’m calling them sheeps) and their wool, and I love a good cozy sweater. So I’d heard about a place where you could get a quality handknit one that was actually handknit by Icelandic Grammys and not by a factory in China. So I popped in to see what they had and how ridiculously overpriced they were. I’m talking like $300. Nope. Nope nope nope. I wanted one but not that bad. So I ran away.


We hopped into a handful of other stores. Jen found a cute place that sold prints of photography and a watercolor print that she liked to fill the walls of her new house. I settled for a handknit earmuff thing rather than spending my life savings for a sweater. And after a little meandering, and more photos in front of the Hallgrimskirkje (say that ten times fast) we made it down to the bus terminal and shelled out another $50 for our trip to Blue Lagoon. It was on this expensive 45 minute bus transfer, despite the eerie landscape and unique views along the way, that we both collapsed into a coma nap. I mean, yeah. We’de both been up for like 30 hours at that point.


But y’know what’s even more relaxing that resting your face on bus glass in an attempt to make-up sleep hours? Soaking in the weird opaque mineral water at Blue Lagoon. Ohhhh man. So you get there, you wait in line with all the other tourists, you show your reservation. You essentially get handed a Disney magic band for your locker and purchases. Our spa fairy godmother told us to make sure to put lots of conditioner in our hair and then put it up into a bun, because “If not, you’ll get your hair in the water, the minerals will make it all dry and frizzy and then you’ll spend the next two weeks looking like an Icelandic troll.” She was great.


So we go with our magic bands to our lockers, get into our bathing suits, then to the shower room. In each little shower cubby was body wash and conditioner. I probably put a gallon of that conditioner into my hair to avoid troll status. And from there, we headed out to the water. It had gotten COLD outside. I don’t know that the temperature actually dropped, or that we were in bathing suits and noticed it more, but either way, we were essentially power-walking to the water at that point. “Please be warm, please be warm please be warm,” I said, as I grabbed the handrail and started to inch my way into the water. And then as soon as we were in, we fell into blissful silence.

Iceland knows what they’re doing marketing this. This was the peak of relaxation. It was hot and full of weird minerals that made your skin feel all smooth. Those minerals also made the water cloudy to the point that I couldn’t see past the top of my swimsuit. It was super weird.


With admission, we each got a free drink, so Jen got a smoothie and I got a weird sparkling strawberry wine. At one point I spilled a little just trying to balance it and my GoPro and swim at the same time, and at that point I started wondering how much of the water was tainted with alcohol.

Also with admission was a free silica mud mask, which felt tingly and kind of weird, but also, I wasn’t going to pass it up. While taking it off, I accidentally got some in my mouth and it tasted like extra tart salt. And it wasn’t like I could rinse my tongue in the water or with my hand, cuz it was all tainted with silica!


We also stumbled across a really adorable bachelor party that commissioned us to take their group photo. I’m talking like 13 guys (and one girl, power to you) all up to Iceland from New York to celebrate their friend’s upcoming wedding. It was super cute. They tried to take a “jump picture” in the lagoon that was completely unsuccessful.


After we pried ourselves from the water and paraded for a minute and a half through the overpriced gift shop (I mean $50 for like an ounce of the same silica mask that made my face itchy? No thanks), we were back on the bus for another coma nap.


I will say, for the handful of minutes we were awake on the bus, we saw some cool stuff. They had these volcanic rocks that were covered in moss. If you’ve seen Frozen, it’s basically the rocks that turned into trolls. There were also these really pretty purple flowers everywhere. At first we thought it was lavender, but a google search revealed that it was actually Alaskan lupine, which is an invasive species that’s threatening the health of the moss. Which is unfortunate. I mean…they’re pretty though.

Once we were back downtown, we made it our goal to find sustenance. We got off the bus and were distracted by two things: the first was a consignment store featuring a rainbow of used (and likely reduced-priced) Icelandic sweaters, and the second was the “Icelandic Phallus Museum.” Yep, it is what it sounds like. Well, as far as the former goes, I walked in, saw a bunch of Icelandic sweaters priced at around $95, found a cardigan I liked that was similar to all the others, but it didn’t have a pricetag on it. So I just brought it to the register to make sure it was the same and not more. Fun fact, it was actually only $45, but it was ALSO on sale for 10% off. I got me an Icelandic sweater for $40, you guys. After seeing similar ones priced at almost $350! I was so excited.


Okay, then we popped in to the Icelandic phallus museum gift shop and giggled for ten minutes at some comically shaped dolls, magnets, and pasta. Yes, pasta. After that, we spent some time wandering the streets of Reykjavik. It’s a really cute downtown. Lots of charming little details like painted sidewalks and tulip lamps give it quite a bit of character. From above, it definitely looks kind of stark with clean lines and angles and gray skies, but trust me, it’s got plenty of color.

We continued along the colorful, charming streets of Reykjavik in search of food. Now, Iceland is expensive. Like, RIDICULOUSLY expensive. For instance, we saw on more than one restaurant menu cheeseburgers and fries priced around $30. For like…a basic sandwich and side! So we were holding out. We wandered for like a half an hour (mind you, stopping in a few shops along the way, but STILL), either wincing at menus featuring dishes like “fishstew” or $40 pizza. And then, we saw a convenience store plastered with ads for vape accessories on one side, and fast-food style burgers on the other. A value meal cost about $12. We shrugged and opened the door.


We were greeted by the welcoming smell of French fries and burger grease, despite the appearance of a (very clean) 7/11. We went up to the counter, each ordered a bacon burger and fries, and it was delivered to us 10 minutes later. Okay, I don’t know if it was because we were absolutely STARVING, but they tasted SO GOOD. Especially the fries. These were quality pub style French fries. And between both items, I was absolutely stuffed, there was so much food. So yeah. Iceland: the only place in the world I’d feel comfortable eating in a Vape Shop.


We stumbled back to our hotel, considering we’d been awake at that point for about 32 hours straight. After stopping for a portable breakfast at a convenience store, and each of us soaking for a while in the weird egg-smelling shower, we each hopped into the amazingly comfortable memory foam bed, and slept for literally twelve hours.


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