Wednesday, June 8, 2011

IS - Blue Lagoon

June 8                   Wednesday               Iceland                 Reykjavik                                                           

It was camera time.  It was sunny and not entirely cold out… not quite comfortable, but at the moment wind was rather calm; or at least just a soft breeze.  A perfect opportunity to ride the bus out to Kringlan Mall.  I’d thought of walking until I realized that my room is about a two minute walk away from the bus versus an hour walk to the mall.

The mall was pretty standard… it could be transplanted into America and fit right in.  Actually, I heard a good chunk of English while I was in there.  Then again, throughout Reykjavik I’ve been hearing English.  I hadn’t run into Americans at all in the rest of the country apparently because they’re all in Reykjavik.  And while I’m on the subject of language: if you’re coming to Iceland and apprehensive about language barriers… don’t be.  Everyone speaks English.  Seriously: every single person; exempting only those relatively recently emerged from the womb.  Icelanders also pretty much all speak German and French, too, in addition to smatterings of Nordic languages for hopefully-obvious reasons.

So at the mall I end up in a Sony store where I find my Canon cameras… a bit pricier than if I bought it in the USA, but at least I get to claim the 15% VAT refund when I leave.  That helped bring it back to about the same price… though the conversion fees I’ll be paying to Navy Federal may hike that up a bit.  At least I got myself a new camera: a Canon D60; a step up from my old T1i.  I must say: the leap is a bit like how I felt when going from VHS to DVD… I didn’t see a difference until I actually changed; now I don’t know how I could ever go back.  In just my first couple shots of some high-contrast sunsets: the quality was spectacular.  With my T1i I’d have either washed out the sunset or had a black foreground.      And this is still only a lower-mid level digital SLR.  One point of thanks: the dude at the store hooked me up with a free lens cap for my massive lens, saving me from the ravages of the rental car’s penchant for lens caps. 

I grabbed dinner at Ristorante Ítalía.  My Italian craving still hadn’t diminished, though I was kind of hoping they’d have some aglio e olio and perhaps some gnocchi.  In the absence of that I went with a fusilli dish… meh, it kind of felt like Olive Garden: lousy pasta dish loaded in a thin red sauce without flavor but tasty garlic bread.  Granted, this was real garlic cheese bread; as opposed to Olive Garden’s garlic-seasoned bread.  So I loved the bread; hated the dish.  With a restaurant name that strives so hard to make itself Italian: I’d wager there’s not even an Italian chef or owner behind it all… places with such names – or anything with Bella or Roma – tend to be run by non-Italians.  Hey, when it comes to ethnic food: I’m an ardent racist.  I don’t want white dudes making my Chinese.  But Italian food is especially near and dear to me.  At least the bread was good.  The waitress was kind of cute, too, but I couldn’t tell if she was anxious for me to strike up conversation to lessen her boredom or if she was just anxious from boredom itself and was only waiting to go home.  Note there’s a theme in Reykjavik here… no one in the service industry so far seems to like their jobs.

After eating I walked over to the BSI bus station and hopped onto a Reykjavik Excursions bus I’d booked to take me to the Blue Lagoon.  I figured I had to do it once, given it’s the things to do on a visit to Iceland.  It was quite well-run, though I prefer the Mývatn Nature Baths.  The water here was a milky blue, whereas Mývatn was more a crystal blue with a bit more of a rainbow effect.  The temperature at the Blue Lagoon was a bit varied, with hot and cold spots moving all about… you’d often feel both at the same time; and in general the hot spots were a bit too rare.  At best the water tended to be lukewarm through most of it.  At Mývatn: the water nearest to the inflow was consistently toasty; and you could move away along the thermal gradient to change your temperature without worry of hitting a surprise cold spot.

Also: the demographics were far different.  Mývatn had a pretty good local presence, whereas the Blue Lagoon seemed almost exclusively tourist.  Makes sense: right near the airport & a bit distant from the city for most Reykjavik locals to bother.  Subsequently, the average age upon arrival was perhaps about 60 among its couple dozen swimmers.  I’m not much of a narcissist, but I had to be among the best-looking people there.  I settled in at an inflow spot and squirmed at the varying bursts of scorching water & ice-cold water, watching as employees set up DJing equipment.  I figured they put on some tunes for the sunset… but then all of a sudden a cloud of white emerged on the deck.  The average age of the swimmers suddenly dropped into the 20’s.

A flurry of activity on the deck as young woman after young woman emerged from the clubhouse in a bikini, immediately lunching through the cold wind to grab a bathrobe.  They dined on some hors d'œuvres before disrobing back to their bikinis & hoping in.  The men in the water all congregated on the walls facing the stairs & watched, and yes I have to count myself among those wallflowers… just staring and trying to figure out why busloads of women in their 20’s and 30’s kept pouring out of the building.  Not that we were complaining.

It was later announced that they were the “500 best ladies of Iceland”, though I never did figure out what they were the best at.  They really weren’t the most beautiful… a couple cute ones here and there, but by and large they were really just women in bikinis… and thanks to testosterone that’s pretty much enough to keep men gap-jawed.  I think the “500 best” was just a marketing ploy to sell products to tourists at the pool, which was first theorized by one of the pool employees & seemed to fit the bill pretty well.  Go figure that I had to leave after only about 30 minutes to catch the 9pm bus back to Reykjavik… ahh, if only I still had my own car!

The night again ended pretty nonchalantly, with me writing this and then heading to bed in preparation for an early rise tomorrow: day trip to Greenland!  Moral of this day is the same as the previous day: if you only have a couple days in Iceland, go to Akureyri.   Mývatn is an easy day trip away from there.

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