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{26/08/2012}   Iceland Travel Diary: Day Seven

 Thursday, 16th August 2012

Today was the hottest day of the year here, around 23 degrees!  It was positively scorcio, largely blue sky and everyone seemed even happier than normal, though some sheep I saw were huffing and puffing like they’d been left in a sauna with triple layers of wooly jumpers on, poor blighters.  I had two sheep bonding moments today.  I petted one rather pretty little ewe (I think – she didn’t have horns and was quite girlie pretty), then had a long stroke with a four-horned ram, such a softie.  I was somewhat in awe of his headgear though, it must be ever so heavy and cumbersome.

This morning it was really, really foggy/misty so the mountains and some of the islands off where I was staying were well hidden.  But the sun was lurking, breaking its way through the fog.  It was also quite warm.  After sitting on the boardwalk drinking my mug of tea, I decided to write a card sitting on the rocks above the beach area.  It was such a lovely spot.  As it was low tide, loads of birds were out and about, chirruping, squawking and twittering, I watched containers being loaded onto a cargo ship, the sun slowly burnt away most of the fog and there was some low level grey stuff, which I convinced myself (based on something that was once pointed out to me here) was volcanic ash.  Far more exciting and interesting to think it was that than merely fog.

I sat out there for an hour or so, by which time it was apparent it was going to be a lovely day.  I got my stuff sorted – camera, swimming stuff, change of clothes, just-in-case layers – and headed off to a nearby ethnographic museum, Árbæjarsafn.  Good choice of museum as most of the visit was spent outside petting sheep, looking in wonder at the cute foal and calf and walking between houses.  I’ve been to that museum before and I love it.  I really like snooping around houses and, like the house I visited yesterday in Stykkishólmur, it gave me all kinds of housey ideas.  I even took a very specific photograph of old mechanics’ tools neatly hung up that I’d like to make into a card for a particular friend.

I walked around most houses on my own, which I really appreciated, but every now and then I caught the tail end of one of two groups.  For a small group of Icelandic children, I walked in one of the staff roleplaying a strict housewife (a guess), complete with ye olde outfit, shooeing the children out of the house.  She then pelted back into the house and started undressing.  She didn’t seem too bothered about my presence, though I was sniggering.  She peeled off those clothes to reveal another period costume, then ran out to the next house!  I wonder how many outfits she had on, she looked well padded!

By the time I left the museum it was maybe 12.30 so I got my lunch from the car (tuna sandwiches and a herbal tea I’d put in my mug flask thing) and walked to a salmon fishing river and sat with some ducks to eat my lunch.  I gave one a bit of my sandwich but he totally dismissed it.  I then did the dreadful thing I always do when I see ducks, I think about crispy duck pancakes.  I hate that I do that because I like ducks, they have such pretty faces and feathers and their bums are so sweet when they bob their heads below the water (Kaori, if you are reading this, I thought of you as they did that!).

It was all very idyllic as the weather was glorious and I felt relieved to be outdoors and not driving all day.  I then decided to postpone my swim and head to a place just off the main road to the airport as I’ve often gone past it and thought how pretty it looked, Halakot.  I had a bit of a photo frenzy out there and couldn’t stop eating crowberries, which were growing rampantly!  I saw no other cars or people while I was there.  It’s an area of lava fields with a few houses right by the sea, the beach of which is lava stones, grey rocks, black sand and lots of different colours of seaweed.  I stayed there an hour or so and lay on a massive bit of lava and almost fell asleep.  The tide was very slowly coming in and the sea was calm so it was a very gentle, soothing sea sound.  As usual, lots of birds, each type making its distinctive sound.  I also saw a few empty urchin shells, some enormous mussel shells and, unexpectedly, a dark gingery red stoat type animal running across the seaweed.  I guess it was after eggs, but I wasn’t expecting a creature like that to run in front of me! 

I photographed a house I have coveted for a while.  In my mind it is picture perfect: a tall muted red house, kind of square and simple, with grass and lava fields around it, Icelandic horses standing by the house, the sea behind and, across the sea, quite a long way away, the glacial mountain I was near to yesterday.

After my sunbathing, photographing and wandering in amazement stop there, I headed for a new swimming pool.  I was quite impressed that I found it, but on closer inspection, new and lovely though it looked, all the pools were indoors and the outdoor hot tubs were far too crowded.  So I drove to the big pool in Reykjavik, Laugardalslaug, which I didn’t have to pay for thanks to my new friend from another swimming pool who gave me what I now know is a 20-swim pass valid until 2014.  It was a bit disappointing as it was absolutely packed.  However, it was still lovely.  It’s been improved since last September.  Where there was concrete outside to walk on around the pools, now there is this really cool kind of almost bouncy sand-coloured foot massagey, erm, stuff.  It looks and feels really good.  There are also a few new small pools, one with floating pads under a rope hanging bridge so you can try to hang on while landing on a pad.  It appears that that pool is for children but it looked a lot of fun!  There are also more slides and a pool of naturally heated Atlantic Ocean water.  I tasted the water in that pool to check it was salty and it was.  Yet it was Caribbean in terms of clarity and heat (actually, it was 40 degrees, which I suspect is somewhat warmer than even the Caribbean – pah, who needs a Caribbean island when you have Iceland?!).

I did another few lengths in the longer-than-I’m-used-to outdoor pool.  I was exhausted.  I think I overheated in the hot tubs (I even ventured into the 44 degrees hot tub, at which point I was, and stayed for some time, far hotter than my body could endure) so it was good to swim in the cooler pool, but I have no endurance when it comes to swimming and I could feel my leaden arms doing very little to progress me down the length of the pool.

I then drove home.  Though can I say that I was somewhat proud of myself for navigating my way around then across Reykjavik with only a few frantic map-clutched-to-the-steering-wheel moments.  I know Reykjavik is a small capital city, roughly the size of Ipswich, but it’s potentially hard to navigate because I can’t pronounce or spell places and I don’t know districts, which is kind of how a lot of roads are signposted.  Plus I have a crappy tourist map, having failed to ever find a proper A to Z type of map.  Pat on the back to me.

Once at the flat, I had just under an hour to finish cleaning and packing.  All that was done and I had time for tea and biscuits on the boardwalk again before Steinar arrived and drove me to the bus station where Hordur picked me up!  Very smooth.

I am now at Hordur’s flat.  Both flats are very “bachelor” in style.  This one has a handsome kitchen.  The last one had an extraordinarily fancy TV.  This flat is located about 15 minutes on foot to the centre of town and about two minutes from the sea.

As soon as I got here and had a look around, Hordur left.  I then realised I had no idea where I was, no address, nothing.  Fortunately, I knew very vaguely what area the flat was in and I knew where the sea was.  So I had a sunny evening walk along the sea front to the harbour where I got takeaway spelt battered cod, rosemary salted potatoes and spinach, mango and coconut salad from “Icelandic Fish and Chips”.  I took it home, having downed a small beer while waiting for the food to be prepared (it took ages) and drank it with a Coca Cola.

Now, I do not often drink cola, especially not near my bed time, but I read the other day that Coca Cola here tastes better than anywhere else as they use Icelandic water instead of corn syrup.  I am not a cola connoisseur but chilled and with a truly exceptional meal, it tasted fan-bloody-tastic!  If I remember and if I feel like being a taste geek, I might buy a small bottle at the airport and do a blind tasting of colas to see if I can notice a difference.  It’s unlikely I’d notice.  But this one really did taste good, not so artificial.

(On returning to the UK with a bottle of Icelandic Coca-Cola, Chris and I did a blind taste test – identical plastic bottles of drink drunk from identical glasses and from the same fridge – of Icelandic and British Coca-Cola and Pepsi cola.  We both agreed the taste hierarchy.  Pepsi and UK cola were similar but the UK Coka-Cola was a little less watery and artificial tasting, putting Pepsi into third place.  The Icelandic cola had a shockingly different, superior taste!  It was actually nice and had a more natural, subtle sweetness!)

Looking out the window at 10.33 pm, it’s still not fully dark.  I think I could like the almost 24-hour daylight in May to July, though even with it being this late I have developed a complete inability to judge what time it is based on the light (there have not been many sun sightings prior to today, hence “light” rather than “sun”!).

As for tomorrow, I will be walking the streets of Reykjavik and going for day seven’s swim.  I have found two pools relatively near where I’m staying and I’ve never been to either.  I’m also looking forward to a proper coffee in town.  Oh, it’s just lovely to be in Reykjavik.  Well, I was in Reykjavik before but it wasn’t at all walking distance into town.  I am glad I stayed there though as it was a nice area and much easier to drive out of town.

Now to see if I can sleep well here (not too impressed by the blinds as I have serious issues with slatted blinds, ie they’re rubbish at keeping light out).  I’m wildly optimistic there won’t be neighbours above who have a daily headboard banging session at 6am though!

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