Sunday, January 19: Reykjavik
This was our “real” Reykjavik day. I had set my alarm for 7am, and when it went off I got up and took a shower. But after I had showered and shaved, I came out of the bathroom to hear both Amy and Mike sawing logs like no tomorrow. They didn’t seem to be in any rush to get up, so I reset the alarm for 8 and lay in bed until it went off again.
At that point, Amy got up without too much difficulty, but we really had to pry Michael out of bed.
We went downstairs, had a fairly good breakfast (despite it being “continental”), went upstairs, packed up our stuff, and checked out.
Despite it being between 9 and 10, it was still really dark out. It felt like we were leaving around 5am or something back home. So even though we were getting out fairly late, it felt like we were leaving really, really early. It just wasn’t right. The sun setting at 4:30 didn’t seem too odd, but the sun rise was just wrong.
We went about 10 minutes away (near where we saw the swans and ducks the previous night) to near where our next hotel was. We found that our room was ready, but if they checked us in now, there would be a small fee. Since we didn’t need to get in our room, we saw no point in paying anything extra.
We checked out the information place next door, then walked to the Volcano House. It featured a coffee house, a small collection of volcanic rocks, and a theater that showed a 53 minute pair of films about volcanos in Iceland. We waited about 20 minutes to see the next showing. Even though I had presumably gotten enough sleep the night before, I found that I was dozing off during parts of the movies.
Afterwards, we checked in to our hotel room and brought our stuff in. It was by that time about noon or a bit past, so Michael voted for lunch. We ended up eating at an American-style place that was not great. The food was a bit pricey (actually pricier than normal), we had a long wait for the food, and it wasn’t that great when it eventually arrived.
After we finally left lunch (an hour later), we went to the Settlement Museum. This is an interactive museum about an ancient long house ruin that was discovered at that site. They removed the house over it, excavated the ruin, built a basement level museum, and then put the building back over it.
Along the sides, there was a large mural. Periodically, they had monitors embedded in it, which were showing what would have been on the mural if there were no monitors. Then periodically, there would appear some animations showing something of interest.
At one point, they had an interesting interactive display. There was a large drawing of the ruin the size of two large tables put together. Projectors projected down text pointing to various features. You could “touch” the projected text to “click on it” and get more information about it. Of course, the table top you were touching was totally inert.
We left around 4pm for the main event of the day--a visit to the blue lagoon. This is a large outdoor “lagoon” that was carved out of the lava rock next to a geothermal power station. The outflow from the power station is fed into the pool and eventually makes its way out and back to the ocean. The water is colored blue, and hence the name.
It is actually a rather resorty place, with a “clinic”, spa, hotel, and over-priced restaurant. The water temperature varied, but it went from warm to hot--sort of like a big outdoor hot-tub.
Michael was resistant to going, and on the way there, he wanted us to stay no more than an hour, but once he got in and found what it was like, we couldn’t get him out.
We actually missed the place on the drive there, as the name was listed in Icelandic. Amy saw a lot of steam off in the distance at one point, although I thought it might have been a snow field on the mountain behind it. When we got close to the airport, we realized that we missed the place and turned around. We found the road that goes to the resort, which not surprisingly led to the steam plume. It didn’t come from the lagoon, however. It was coming from the power station itself.
They had a neat system. You got a wrist band with some sort of RFID tag in it. That got you in through the turn-style. It also allowed you to use a locker. There was one reader for maybe a dozen lockers. When you closed the door of one, the reader would count down about 5 seconds. If you scanned your band during that time, the locker would lock and be assigned to your band. Scanning your band again would unlock that particular locker.
The band could also be used to buy drinks at the lagoon-side bar, etc.
The bottom of the lagoon was covered in a thick muddy goop of silica in various places. It was claimed that putting this stuff on your face was wonderful for it. Amy and I did, although for me it was more of a “When in Rome” thing.
Nearer the water inlets it was warmer, and away from them it was cooler. The air temp was just above freezing.
Eventually Amy decided that she had had enough and went in. I stayed out with Michael a bit longer before I told him that we had to go in as well.
Before leaving, we did a quick tour of the place, where we checked out the restaurant. It was on the order of $50-60 for a fancy sounding entree. Definitely over-priced.
Instead, we drove back to Reykjavik, through the really dark darkness, parked about where we had in the morning, dropped our wet stuff off in our hotel, and then around 8pm went out for dinner.
We settled on Ali Baba, a kabob place that did mostly take out although you could eat in. The food there was surprisingly good, and a little cheaper than at fancier places (although it was about $20-22 for a small pizza for Mike).
After we ate, we walked a few blocks to the bird pond thing. The geese were making a really loud racket honking at each other. I tried getting some of it as a movie to record the sound, but by the time I got ready they had quieted down a lot.
On the way back, we visited a bookstore. Amazingly, probably more than 3/4 of the books and almost all of the magazines were in English. As a result, we didn’t get back to the hotel until around 10.
The bookstore had a coffee shop, and I was tempted to get a hot chocolate, but it was getting late. Michael is paranoid about being able to sleep, so he probably wouldn’t want chocolate so close to bedtime. In that case, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to get some, drink it in front of him, and further delay his bedtime.
As it was, we probably didn’t get to bed until almost 11.