Iceland: Part 1
After a day of getting WAY too emotional about leaving my babies, Mark and I stepped on a plane and headed to Iceland. We left around 6 pm our time from RDU, flew to Boston, then took the late flight to Reykjavik and landed sometime around 7 am their time. Did I sleep? Do I ever? Surely not.
It felt like I was back in the early, slumber depraved days after the twins were born. We were hopped up on Dramamine that didn't work, Gingerale (because that's my favorite beverage in flight), and a media overload from the screen that was inches from our faces. Neither of us have watched a full length movie in what seems like years, so we had some catching up to do. Man, have we missed out! I fell IN LOVE with The Greatest Showman (possible review to come later).
With our drug induced state and only two full days to appreciate Iceland, we knew a nap was not an option. Some sort of relaxation sounded nice though so we looked up tickets to the popular geothermal spa called the Blue Lagoon, which is near the airport and advertised heavily.
Supreme sadness hit us both when it was all sold out the entire time we were there. We were later told that it's almost always sold out. If you want tickets, you need to book way in advance, which is definitely not my style. So, we headed to a local coffee shop (pictured below) for caffeine and some very expensive burnt toast while we planned out our day. This was our first indicator of how expensive Iceland is - definite sticker shock on the menu items. A latte, toast (burnt), and yogurt with granola cost us around 35 US dollars. Yikes.
But this little coffee spot threw us into a local vibe immediately and I found myself attempting to appear more Icelandic, which worked for Mark, not so much me. Put me in the Eastern Bloc, those are my people.
While eating our lavishly charred toast, Mark called up his old friend and coach, Magnus, and told him we were in town. He asked us to come to his office straight away for a visit.
At one point Magnus was the coach for the professional team Mark played on, IBV Vestmannaeyjar. Now he is part of the Chairman of the Board for the Icelandic Football League. On the day we visited, he was about to go to a press conference to announce the final team selections for the World Cup. Iceland, a country of roughly 335,000 people has qualified for the games, while the U.S. with 326 million people, has not.
I heard about this astonishing fact quite often during our trip.
It made me an instant Icelandic Football fan. Their excitement for the games is palpable, and the belief in their abilities is unmatched. Magnus listed a few possible reasons for their success, including new soccer domes for kids to play year-round and high level training for youth coaches. But since the U.S. has access to both of those and millions more people, I think it's the glacial water they drink.
I'm convinced the Icelandic people have an unrivaled belief in themselves, which offers a sort of "anything is possible" mentality. Qualify for the World Cup? "Yes, we will do it!" I can hear Iceland collectively answer while jutting out their sharp jawlines and smiling ear to ear.
Magnus is a great example of that attitude. He is, like many Icelanders it seems, a renaissance man. He owns a prize winning Icelandic horse, plays Bridge competitively, owns a successful fish company, serves as Chairman of the Icelandic Football Board, golfs regularly, and just acquired a vacation home in Orlando, Florida.
Step aside Dos Equis man.
As you can probably imagine with that sort of resume, he was entertaining to visit with, and extremely friendly. He was the first Icelandic face from Mark's seasons there that I had the opportunity to meet.
After our visit, Magnus suggested that we go to the athletic club pictured below (I don't dare try to spell that out, even while referring to the picture). They didn't allow cameras inside the pool area, so this image below is all we have, but it was perfect. From what I hear of the Blue Lagoon, this was much more our scene.
It had five different hot tubs, each at different temperatures. A lap pool, a sauna, a salt water hot tub, and a pool basketball hoop. It wasn't crowded and the price was a fraction of what Blue Lagoon would have cost us. We were still reeling from the pricey toast episode so we were happy for the spending reprieve.
I beat Mark twice in pool P.I.G. during our time in the tubs. (For the record). And then after a few hours pruning up, we showered and went into the downtown area of Reykjavik. Magnus told us how Iceland's economy is booming, so prices are high and development is everywhere. Construction views like the one below were common all over the city. The cranes didn't take away from the unique city's beauty though.
We explored the town and searched for a restaurant. After swimming for so long, and not sleeping, I felt like I could eat a shark (which they do in Iceland!). As we looked around I took some pictures of the quirky city and my hot hubs (below). I was so excited to have time with JUST HIM. It was like we were dating again.
From Reykjavik, we hopped in our rental car and headed South for the ferry ride to Vestmannaeyjar. The drive took us past a couple of beautiful water falls. We even got to walk behind one!
This massive waterfall looked like a tiny trickle for miles as we drove up to it. The landscape in Iceland is so expansive. For such a small country, it sure feels larger than life and completely other-worldly.
On our way to the ferry we received an email warning us that the boat might not depart that night due to large waves. Mark rode this ferry several times during his seasons playing soccer on the island and he never remembers the ferry being delayed. I was like "no big deal, we'll just get a hotel room near the ferry station."
Mark - "There are no hotels near the ferry station. There's nothing near the ferry station."
Me - "So what would we do?"
Mark - "We'd sleep in our car."
Okkkaaaaay. I was torn. A night in our car sounded awful but "large waves" sounded equally ominous. We drove up to the station and saw this view of the skies, the waves and the island.
The captains decided the waves were manageable for the boat. But for me and Mark, we weren't so sure. Here we are pictured below as the ferry started to take off.
You can see a short video clip of the water from the ferry as we left the harbor and you might notice a stack of barf buckets in Mark's hand. Both of us are extremely prone to sea sickness so despite the rain and the massive waves, we held on tight to the railings on deck.
A nice Icelandic woman asked me "have you ever been on this ferry before?" With wide eyes and a green face, I started reaching for the bucket when she calmly said, "Just stare right at the island. You won't get sick. I promise."
I locked eyes, held firm, and hoped for the best.
Stay tuned for part 2...