Friday, January 24: Reykjavik
Our Last Full Day
Because we had gotten to bed so late the previous day, we slept in as late as we could, given that parking would start costing us at 10 the next morning. After I got up and showered (in the sulpherous hot water), I started uploading my camera flash to the hyper-drive, as that can be slow. I was shocked to find it taking an hour and ten minutes, given that it was already 9:00:
We went down to breakfast, and once again Mike did not eat much. Then we came back up and quickly packed our things. My problem was that the upload to the hyper-drive wasn’t going to finish until just after 10:00.
Amy went off with her luggage just after 10. Michael and I waited until the upload finished, and then I threw it into my suitcase, checked out, and then hurried to the car.
As soon as we stepped out of the hotel, we were floored. It was cold, and there was a fierce and gusty wind blowing. It was brutal! We had to walk several blocks to get to the car. When we entered the last street, along the water front, the wind got even worse! Then it started raining/sleeting, with the rain being blown sideways at us at high speed. Yuck!
At the car, we struggled to load up our stuff into the car, without having the wind blow everything in the car out the other side. Apparently Amy had almost lost a mitten by having it blow out of the car.
It was probably about 10:30, when a meter maid came up and told us that we needed to start paying at 10:00. I thought that she was going to give us a ticket or something, but the Icelandic friendliness prevailed. She explained how the system worked, and said that we could pay the previous night for the next morning. I ended up going to the machine and putting a buck in, but it was probably an empty gesture.
Given the miserable weather, we didn’t know what we were going to do. We had been planning to visit the zoo and botanical garden, and Michael really wanted to go to the Blue Lagoon again, but all of those were outside. As a stop-gap measure, we drove to the Pearl, which being on a hill was even windier. We went in and watched people being blown around the observation deck while we tried making other plans.
Eventually we settled on doing a drive-by of the Catholic Cathedral and then going to the National Museum. By now it was easier to navigate with a map rather than with the GPS.
We parked at a parking lot (that was on the map) a block or two away from the museum, but when we walked to the museum, we found that there was a parking lot there. It was still windy, but the rain had stopped.
We bought three entrance passes and three audio programs. Those were interesting things. There was a cylinder with a button on it, into which you plugged a set of headphones. They were programmed for English before they gave them to us. At various points in the museum, you could point them at a do-dad and push the button. There would be a small exchange of info (the red light would blink), and then you would hear a blurb about what was nearby in the museum.
Apparently they did some DNA testing on some early remains and they found that most of the early men were from Norway, but most of the early women were from the UK. It seems that the men sailed from Norway to the UK, got brides (willing or unwilling), and then sailed with them to Iceland to settle down.
The museum was pretty interesting, although as is typical in such circumstances, Michael was ready to leave in a short time, I had gone through things in a medium time, and at the end we were both waiting for Amy to finish.
Michael was hungry and thirsty, so we stopped at the museum cafe, where I got a latte, Amy got a hot chocolate, and Mike got his (Icelandic favorite) orange soda. Michael also got something small to eat (he doesn’t seem to “do” breakfast).
By this time (early to midafternoon), the wind had died down and the rain had stopped. We made a quick bathroom break, where we found interesting sink features. The faucet came out of the mirror!
On the walk back to the car, it sprinkled a bit, but not too much.
Mike was getting psyched for the Blue Lagoon again, but Amy and I didn’t want to spend the money (it would be over $140 for the three of us) and drive that distance. So we drove down to the pool in Reykjavik, where there was a “famous” hot dog place. Amy ordered an Icelandic hotdog, so I ordered the same thing. Mike got a normal one. The Icelandic one had something under the dog, which I think might have been crispy onions, and then ketchup and a brown mayo on top. I found it very strange to be eating a hot dog and finding crunchy stuff.
Then “since we were there” we went into the pool to check it out. We had to put some plastic booties over our shoes/boots to walk around and see the place. It is geothermally heated, relatively shallow (wading depth), and has six hot tubs. We convinced Michael to go with this. We went back out to the car, got our swim suits, came back in, and paid for admission.
Similar to the Blue Lagoon, we got wrist bands that let us in, and which operated the lockers. Also in a similar way, we needed to shower and wash before going into the pool.
I found the main pool to be much warmer than a normal hotel pool in the US, but still a bit cool for my taste (particularly when the air was about freezing). They had a big water slide that Amy and I checked out. I found walking up the spiral stair to be freezing, but the water going down the tube was nicely warm.
The first trip down was the best, as we didn’t know what to expect. We passed through a lighted area, then a dark area with some twists/drops, then there were some lights in the top, another dark section, etc. Then it got bright and colder, and we went whoosh into the pool.
Michael was in the next pool over, so I decided to duck under the divider and go over to him. I found out the hard way that it wasn’t marked by a float on the surface. The two pools were separated by a concrete wall! I also found that taking a breath, ducking under the water, and smashing your head into a concrete wall really hurt.
I climbed out and back in to the next pool. I was feeling a bit chilled, so we went over to the hot tubs. I found it nicely warm, but it was too hot for Amy.
Michael was in a strange state. Apparently he had had a panic attack earlier, when I was up on the water slide. He was still very out of sorts. He didn’t know how he felt. He just wanted to sit in the hot tub area and do nothing. He looked very stressed.
Amy had to go out to the other pool to cool off, so I stayed with Mike. Periodically I would get out, do a run through the water slide, and then go back to the hot tubs.
After a while, I joined Amy in the main pool (on my way back from the water slide) and I found that playing catch (there were some balls and other floats in the pool) was fun and kept me warm. Amy talked Mike into joining us, but he was clinging to Amy and not having a fun time. After a short while, we gave up and headed out.
It wasn’t nearly as much fun as the Blue Lagoon, but it was much closer and cheaper, and I would have hated it if Michael had freaked out at the Blue Lagoon shortly after we had gotten there. I wonder if perhaps he was hungry and that low blood sugar was causing him to be out of sorts.
Outside of the locker room there was a wall display talking about the water system there. It said that on average each person in Reykjavik uses 10 tons of hot water a day, and 220 liters of cold. That is a heck of a lot. It must include using hot water to heat buildings and perhaps the streets. It also said that there were a lot of warm wells and a few hot wells. I forget now what temperatures the two wells produced. It said that many of the wells went up to 1km in depth.
We went to the hotel (for our last night, the same hotel as our first night) which was only a few blocks from the pool and checked in. Michael curled up in bed, and Amy stayed with him while I ferried stuff up. Since this would be our last night, I had to pretty much bring everything up, so it could be packed away the next morning.
In this hotel, like several of the others, you have to stick the keycard into a slot on the wall as you enter the room in order to turn on the lights. Unique to this hotel (for us on this trip) you also needed the key card to run the elevator. When we checked in, they had only given us one key card. So when I went down for the rest of the luggage, I had left the key card in the slot so that Amy and Mike would have lights. We were on the third floor, so I took the stairs down. I got some stuff, including Michael’s suitcase, which was the heaviest of the lot. It wasn’t until I re-entered the hotel that I realized that I couldn’t use the elevator. I ended up stashing his suitcase in the corner, hurrying up the stairs, dumping the rest of the stuff in the room (after Amy let me in), then grabbing the key card and hurrying back to the suitcase, so that I could take it up the elevator.
Afterwards, I folded up a piece of cardboard to use in the slot on the wall, so that I could take the key card without turning off the lights.
As part of the “Icelandic Tour” we had gotten a cell phone, which we had never used. We were supposed to leave it with the last hotel, but in the rush to get out before getting a parking ticket, we had forgotten. So we made plans to drive over to our favorite parking spot, drop off the phone, and go to a vegetarian restaurant for dinner. We had some difficulty finding the cell phone charger, but eventually we did find it in the bottom of a bag.
We drove over and started hiking to the hotel (the one we had checked out of that morning). It started raining lightly, so I ran back to the car and got my rain hat. By the time I got to the hotel, Amy had turned in the phone and had figured out where the restaurant was. It was in the same direction as Loki, but one street over and not quite so far. When we started walking over, we found that the rain had stopped.
As we passed the street up to the church, there was a large crowd filling the street. I thought it was a street fair, but it turns out that it was essentially an up-hill bicycle drag race. That is, it was a bike race up a slight hill, for about 1 or 2 blocks only.
We continued up the street, looking for our restaurant. The hard part was that most of the stores did not have their street number displayed. Eventually we found a few numbers and realized that we had passed it. On the way back, we stopped in a store, and after buying a few things, Amy asked the clerk about the restaurant. She said that it was no longer there, but now there was a different restaurant there. That is why we missed it the first time.
As an aside, I was rather surprised by how many of the signs and displays were in English rather than Icelandic. I guess most people there know English, and the stores are really trying to cater to tourists, among whom English is the dominant and/or common language. Iceland is not that far from the United Kingdom, so I think a lot of tourists come from there.
We went to the restaurant that was now at that location, and while the menu looked strange, it turned out to be our second favorite restaurant (after Loki). It was a natural food restaurant, but it wasn’t completely vegetarian. Amy got some stuffed pasta, which came with three choices of side salads. Mike and I both got the BBQed chicken (also with three salads). It was probably the most healthful dinner I had there.
The wall there was made by covering it was inch-thick slices of trees.
Amy and I both got desserts (with me getting a hot chocolate because I didn’t dare have coffee that late), but Mike opted out (although he did snitch some of Amy’s). The building was interesting. It was on the second floor, and one wall (that wasn’t covered with tree sections) was a concrete wall. They had cut a large hole through the wall, and on the other side (presumably in the next building over) were the bathrooms.
We hiked back down the hill and drove back to the hotel. It had started raining again, and we were rather wet by the time we got to the car. At the hotel, Mike took a shower (there was no tub) and went to bed. I didn’t want to disturb him, so I went down to the lobby/lounge to write this up (today’s and yesterday’s).
Goodness! It is now 11:40. I really need to get to bed!