{21/08/2012}   Iceland Travel Diary: Day Two

Saturday, 11th August 2012

Not that you will need or want to know, but I am writing this in a distracted state with the most bubbly, gurgly, upset tummy imaginable.  I have had to rush to the toilet a few times already this evening as I bought and have been drinking what looked like nice plum juice.  I drank about half a litre of it, only mildly registering how odd it was that the juice was brown, before turning the carton round to read that it was prune juice.  That stuff is an amazing laxative!

Yesterday I was in a veritable panic about not having my mobile phone.  Admittedly I do have the comfort (or should that be “company”?) of an Icelandic mobile and my emergency UK phone, neither of which were on all day.  Today, maybe aided by the presence of phones, all be they off, I have not felt at all panicky or lonely without my mobile.  I did of course want to check myself in and make comments about the Blue Lagoon and other places I went today, but it was kind of a relief not to have my nose to my phone on and off all day.  In other words, I have enjoyed concentrating on the scenery around me and just having me for company.

I had a quick lunch of smoked lamb on flatbread with an ice cold, thoroughly refreshing Pepsi.  While waiting for my lunch to arrive, I realised that I would normally have got out my phone as my lunch companion and texted/emailed/Facebooked.  I was, after all, sitting in a log cabin café by a fast moving, clear stream running through a valley near where Sigur Ros recorded some of their albums.  I was properly chilled out by that time.

I love it here and, as ever, I am exceptionally relaxed.

I woke up really early, I think it was 5am, and thought that if I left at 8am I could be at the Blue Lagoon for its 9am opening, before it gets busy.  By 7am, I had worked out where I could park and go for breakfast in Reykjavik before the Blue Lagoon.  I set off at about 7.30am, having parked by the Hlemmur bus station.  I walked along the unusually quiet main shopping street, Laugavegur.  To my distress, the café I had earmarked for breakfast, Litli Bóndabærinn, was closed, but diagonally opposite the bakery, Sandholt, was open.  I ordered a still warm pain au chocolate and a croissant with a cappuccino for my breakfast.  I also bought a savoury pizza wrap type thing as a post-Blue Lagoon snack.  Why do you (does one) get hungry after swimming?  And not just a mild hunger, a full blown painful, empty hunger.  Maybe that’s just me but I’m sure it’s not.

I watched the bakers putting things into the massive ovens out the back while I waited for my order.  I then took my warm food bag down to the sea front, stood on some large rocks looking for a seal (I had seen one when I stood near that area back in September, but no sighting today) then sat on a bench looking out to sea, convincing myself every movement was a seal, and across to a large island, over which I once had one of the most amazing experiences of my life, seeing the Northern Lights dancing over that mountain.  I could easily digress there.  Did I say I love this country?!

My breakfast was perfect, despite the merely ok coffee, and it was a wonderful start to a truly relaxing and lovely day.  It started raining shortly after I got back to the car (which started fine but which causes me battery concern every time I need to start the engine!) and got heavier as I drove toward the Blue Lagoon.  I got there at about 9.10am and as there were only about four cars in the car park, I convinced myself the website opening hours were wrong.  But sure enough, it was open and there were more people than the car park suggested, probably the contents of a tour bus I had seen leaving as I pulled up.  But still hardly any people.

I stayed in the water just over two hours and totally pruned (yikes, too much prunage today!) my hands.  There was only one other person I spotted who wore a swimming hat.  I feel a right prat wearing a swimming hat but the salt in that water absolutely destroys my hair.  The hat gave me a bit of a headache, unfortunately, so I felt both a prat and a bit headachy.  But oh so smug afterwards with my serum-coated glossy mane of hair.

How can I describe the Blue Lagoon to do its healing properties justice?  While floating on my back in the warm to hot cloudy blue water with a silica mud mask drying unsuccessfully on my face due to the delightfully chilly rain, it occurred to me that the Blue Lagoon should be on a list of things everyone should experience at least once in their lives.  It acts like a relaxation serum.  I swam quite a lot, doing the odd sightseeing swim around the pool and basking in the bonus of it raining.  My skin is now soft and I feel like I’ve had the best, deepest massage imaginable.  That is from the c15 minutes I managed to hog the waterfall there.  I was seeing an osteopath for my shoulder problem before and after a visit to THE waterfall.  Afterwards, he asked what on earth I’d done as he said nothing he could do could ever produce results like that.  It is so unbelievably heavy and powerful, you can feel it beating down on your tight muscles.  At some point, I feel a kind of “ahhhhh” as it feels like it’s done its job.  It made me feel really floppy.  Do you remember the Soft Mints, “Mr Soft” advert?  Well, if you do, I felt like Mr Soft and it was amazing.

As well as the waterfall, sightseeing swims, mud mask and floating, I also went into a steam cabin and a sauna and almost snoozed with my face to the light wind and rain in a hot pool annex.  I left as the water bar was opening and the lunchtime crowds started swarming in.

I devoured my pizza twist thing and a bottle of water, decided against driving to the nearby coast due to the mist and rain and headed straight across Reykjavik to Alafoss, a wool outlet store.  There I bought a rug for me and one as requested by a friend.  That was where I was before going up the hill to the log café I talked about before.

My next stop was a little further out of Reykjavik, well and truly into Icelandic horse country – PONIES!!!! – and leaving all sense of city behind after one particular right turn.  I had wanted to go to Haldor Laxness’ house, now a museum, Gljufrasteinn.  He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955 and was a fascinating man.  I was the only visitor at that time, so lucky.  There were only maybe seven rooms to see but there was an audio guide which was really interesting.   His house was amazing and was left as it was when he and his wife were still alive and living there.  The house has a lot of room-length windows, all overlooking at least some of the following: mountains, greenery, rocks, a stream, a beautiful small white swimming pool just above a stream, birch trees, horses and, something that always strikes me about Iceland, a vast sky.  His study, where he did much of his writing, was a room almost lined with books.  He usually wrote standing up at a kind of lectern.  There were some gorgeous and inspiring pictures and paintings on the wall too.  Oh, it was just the kind of place that makes you want to write.

Particularly in the living room, designed for the sociable lifestyle he and his wife led, there were some amazing chairs and furniture, a lot of which were Danish classics.  His favourite chair, which appears in lots of photos of him, was a beautiful tan leather “egg” chair designed by a famous Danish furniture designer even I’d heard of but who I can’t remember the name of now.  It looked so comfortable and beautifully beat up!

I love visiting the homes of writers I like because it gives you such an insight into their influences, personality and writing process.  I would love to live in that house.  Well, I probably wouldn’t because it is as it was left when they died so there is a sense of bygone presence.  The house smells of books.  It’s wonderful.  I didn’t know whether to gaze out the windows or concentrate on the room, it was all so delightful and inspiring.

Still raining, I decided to head for shops, mainly food and 66° North for winter clothing.  I stopped at three places, including the massive Kringlan shopping mall.  None of my shopping experiences were worthy of note.  I did, however, fail to get to the fishmonger on time so didn’t have my daily fish today either.

Actually, I had a pretty rubbish dinner which sounded better than the reality: hot dogs and sauerkraut.  But for afters I had a delicious piece of blackcurrant skyr cake (skyr (“skeer”) is all the rage here and is more yogurt than cream cheese and has not fat, so a skyr cake is like a softer, lighter, slightly wobbly cheesecake which tastes lovely and melts in your mouth a little too easily!).  My host had left me some beers in the fridge, I had one of them before dinner.  I then had a herbal tea after dessert, watched a bit of UK news and an episode of Twenty Twelve.  I then felt really tired so decided to write this to keep me alert.  It is now 9.31pm and I can barely stay awake.

In short, I had a lovely relaxing and inspiring day.  As for the Lexus, I prefer my older, more gutsy, BMW and it doesn’t feel as luxury as I’d been led to believe.  It is nice though.



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