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Trip Report Iceland: May Trip Report: Glorious

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This was the last leg of our trip to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Iceland.
It was the perfect layover before heading home to Boston.
Just a few hours flight from Copenhagen, it made for a nice break and zero jet lag returning home. Posted my trip reports for Stockholm and Copenhagen separately on this forum.

This was a last minute trip to Stockholm b/c of business meetings for my husband in Stockholm, and having always wanted to visit Iceland, the company in Sweden that way bringing him over let me book our flights thru Iceland Air so we could add our own vacation onto it by also visiting Copenhagen and Iceland so I could have the layover in Iceland on the way back. While I booked the Stockholm and Copenhagen leg, I did go with Iceland Air package for the flight and our time in Iceland.

The people at Iceland Air were great to work with and while I’d been able, with the help of fodorites, to plan our Stockholm and Copenhagen lodgings and activities, I’d run out of both time and steam by the time I got to the Iceland leg of it all, and Iceland Air was a great resource in that regard.

Our flight from Copenhagen was delayed an hour, and we had cut it rather close planning to go to the Blue Lagoon just a few hours after our arrival, figuring it would be the perfect way to unwind after a flight, get a good night’s rest and hit the ground running the next day.

Unfortunately, by the time we got to our hotel, we’d missed the bus by about 10 minutes.
They put us on the schedule for the next night and it eventually worked out.

ARRIVAL DAY:
We arrive at the Nordica Hotel/Icelandair Hotels around 6pm
link: http://tinyurl.com/fa7bj

Specific info on the hotel at end of trip report.

Since we missed our Blue Lagoon trip, we get settled in the room and head out to dinner in downtown Reykjavik at Argentina - a fabulous steak dinner in a great atmosphere - the claim that their Iceland beef is drug free and hasn’t been altered genetically in over 1000 years must be true b/c the steak did, as promised, melt in your mouth.

The other thing I liked about the restaurant was the choice sizes for beef, b/c too often by the time I get my steak at ‘steak houses’ it is usually such a large slab that I lose my appetite before I begin eating.
I had a wonderful 6 oz cut, with great accompaniments - and the restaurant has a charming, small bar area.

When we exit the restaurant we are still amazed that we are hit by blinding sunlight at this hour, after Stockholm you’d think we’d be used to it.

We stop in a small internet cafe run by college age kids as a internet/poetry/environmental meeting house where the internet is so cheap and they are trying to beef up recycling in Iceland, world peace, feeding the poor around the world, supporting health programs for all and a million other things we should all do, and having poetry readings in the evenings - and they even offer free tea or coffee, so we pay more than we need to for the internet use as way of a donation. They all remind me of my college age son back home.

We walk the streets a bit to work off dinner, grab a taxi who takes us back so we go by the house where Reagan and Gorbachev met for the Iceland Summit in 86, have an after dinner drink in our hotel and get a good nights sleep.

DAY ONE:
The Golden Circle Tour by day, the Blue Lagoon by night

Delicious buffet breakfast included. Everything hot and cold you could want from eggs, pancakes, sausage meats, bacon to cereals, grains, yogurts, hard and soft boiled eggs, fruit platters, juices, cheeses, hams and meats, rolls and breads. Great assortment of teas and good, hot coffee.

We are booked for the Golden Circle Tour at 9am.
It was great.
Bring a bottled water and perhaps a snack bar, mints or gum and don’t forget your camera.

First, you need to know I hate tours, especially bus tours. We always do our own planning and go it alone via walking, biking or auto, but this seemed the best and least troublesome where we were only in Iceland for a few days.

The tour was excellent. The bus extremely comfortable and our guide was extremely knowledgeable, having done this for over 15 years and lived in Iceland all her life. When she spoke during the tour she was specific and clear, didn’t drone on, didn’t tell lame jokes - the first time she said she was going to sing for us I almost lost it, but truthfully she had a beautiful voice and 3 times during the day she sang us lovely Icelandic folk songs that, as corny as it sounds, did make it quaint and delightful.

The first leg of the trip she spoke of the country in general, history, the language and the landscape and the use of geothermal power.
We pass a ‘flatland’ area that was under water in a time far, far away and learn all about the ice melt and ocean floors.

The first stop was Flower Town, a garden shop/ greenhouse/ souvenir shop - but it was a quick 15 minutes and the flowers were lovely and it was time for a rest room stop and a cup of tea to go anyway.

Next stop the Kerio crater which was beautiful and we had about 30 minutes to enjoy it and walk around which was enough. But the surrounding area was so green, the inside of the mountain so black and the water in the base so blue it was beautiful.

I love that wedged in the sides of some of the mountains you see little red doorways in the mountain side (I mean little) that represent the homes of ‘elves’ and no one can move the stones they are on or the elves would get upset. I imagine these are the same elves I always wished would magically clean my room when I was little.They have a million children’s folk stories about them and even specialized Elf tours and of course, she sings an elf song. I just loved it, it was too adorable and just so corny but great. She tells us about the most famous elf and folklore books and I jot them down to make sure I buy some for my little nephews back home.

Next stop a little church with beautiful stained glass on a hilltop, and on to the Gullfoss waterfall and gorge where we have more than enough time to walk along the edge, enjoy this magnificent area and meet the bus further down the walkway in an adjacent lot. Some of my best photos were taken here.

On the way to the Geyser the guide talks about the local agriculture, growing season, and the lack of and constant planting of trees, and lots of history about the 12th Century Sagas and the most famous ones to read, which are full of ‘sayings’ that the children of Iceland hear all the time from their parents, like friendship is more important than money, and other life lessons. Of course, the language was much more ‘flowery’ than I am remembering, and I wish I’d had time to read more about Iceland history before going.

Passing great farm houses, and how the children from out here attend high school in the city so the parents usually rent a small place for them to live in the city b/c the commute wouldn’t be possible and I am thinking boy, I can’t imagine letting my kids live in an apartment away from home at that age....I can only imagine what the studying to partying ratio would be.

On to the Geysir area, mud bubbles and geysers exploding and we are dropped off here for 90 minutes and there are restaurants, an exhibition hall with interesting videos and info about the topography and geysers and a souvenir shop.

One restaurant is a nicer, buffet side or sit down wait staff side and the other a casual pizza, wraps, soup cafeteria style and we opt to see the geyser area first and then have a nice sit down lunch, but too many were on that schedule and the nicer restaurant is jammed near the end so we end up in the cafeteria. If I had it to do again, I’d do it in reverse.

Off again to find the bus in the parking lot and on to the Pingvellir National Park and as we approach we can see the Atlantic Rift which is quite a site where the tectonic plates are being pulled apart.

The bus lets you off and we had about an hour to enjoy the walk along the rift, and along the way the buildings of the oldest existing parliament in the world and the views all along the way are great - then into the exhibition room for some fabulous clips on interactive computer screens where you can choose various topics on Icelandic history.

Off for the ride back arriving to our hotel around 5pm.
Felt tour was worth it, had we rented a car and done it alone i wouldn't have learned all I did about Iceland, it kept us on schedule, and we saw probably more than we would have in a day on our own.

Quick change, grab our bags we’d already packed for the Blue Lagoon and the bus pulls up to our hotel an hour later for that journey.

The Blue Lagoon:
We heard later there are some smaller more private similar
thermal waters to visit closer to the city, but we thoroughly enjoyed this.

On the advice of a friend here is what I brought: bathing suit, shampoo, conditioner (if you want your own shampoo), soap is shower soap in bins on the wall and is fine, they give you one towel, so pack another from your hotel (or a terry robe if your hotel has them) b/c once you use that one after the first shower it is too wet to do any good after your final shower and wrapping a wet towel around you to walk out to the lagoon only makes you colder. Other personal items like hairbrush (they have blow dryers). your camera ! Flip flops, shower shoes or beach shoes if you don’t want to walk in the locker room and out on the boardwalks barefoot.

(So if you are going to the Blue Lagoon, remember you will need some type of small bag for yourself, and a second if you have a member of the opposite sex going into the other locker room: we each had a collapsable small gym type duffle in our bags which we always pack to bring home the purchases from a trip and we used those: or a back pack or something. )

Into the locker rooms, shower and on the advice of a friend who has been several times, wet my hair and put in my conditioner, and clip my hair up so the water doesn’t make it sticky and grungy in her words. change into bathing suit. Lock my stuff in my assigned locker (cool system with wristbands that activate your personal locker)

Walk very fast in freezing temperatures down the boardwalk into the most magnificent warm water. I put my camera under my towel on a chair, and I jump out after ten minutes to retrieve it, snap some photos of my husband, he some of me, and then back into the water.

The bottom feels like crunchy salt and as you move around you keep hitting these pockets of incredibly warm water and I am in heaven.

Don’t miss the section with the buckets of salt to dish out in spoons and cover your face and neck with for ten minutes before rinsing under the forceful warm ‘waterfall nooks’ - get a massage if you want in the other corner - and wade out to where the steam is pouring out at the far end and get lost in it.

I could walk, float and bob around in here forever. Just keep your mouth closed b/c it tastes terrible.

We spend about 45 minutes enjoying the water. Back to the locker room, shower, change for dinner - they supply plastic bags for your wet bathing suit by the door.

We had made reservations at the Blue lagoon restaurant. If you do the tour, and don’t have reservations, you are limited to a very limited cafeteria style food, so if you aren’t going out after to a late dinner in town, eat here - the food was great. Nice glass of wine, good meal, excellent dessert and we go outside to meet the bus to take us back to our hotel.

I am an absolute noodle and so is my husband after this. Zero energy, so relaxed I think if someone took my blood pressure it would register zero.

I nod off on the bus ride back and we stop in the Panoramic Lounge, grab a drink and bring it to our room. I do take another nice leisurely shower, cream the heck out of the body, close the drapes to block the light to remind me it is night time and we both watch a little tv, read our books and fall into the deepest sleep I’ve had in a long time. Ladies let me tell you, at 52 and after a few babies one of which was 24” and over 10 pounds, for me not to wake to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night is a miracle in itself. :)

So much for the big night out on the town.

DAY TWO:
We wake up early, feeling like a million dollars.
Quick breakfast downstairs and take the shuttle to downtown Reykjavik.

Visit some stores, pick up some gifts for the kids and those folklore books for the little nephew, and a great sweater and icelandic jacket for moi, find a great painting for the house, find the tourist office where you can do your duty free business here instead of at the airport and grab the shuttle back to the hotel.

Pack up our belongings b/c we had the ok for a later check out at 1pm and we are off via shuttle to the airport for our 5pm flight to Boston.

Airport was a zoo. The automatic check in kiosks were on the fritz. For some reason they were taking some confirmation numbers and not others. Took mine and not husbands. So he had to wait in the looong regular check in line which was a drag.

Finally to the gate area and grab a light lunch. Spend what we have left in the duty free shop on some liquor, stuffed animals for the nephew, and lots of chocolate. Unfortunately for us, just as we are getting ready to board he remembers he left the bag of gifts we’d bought downtown earlier where we’d eaten lunch. I bolt for the restaurant and thankfully for his sake they are still sitting there.

Unfortunately for us again, just as we are about to land in Boston there is some wild thunder and lightening storm moving through and we don’t have enough fuel to keep circling since they aren’t letting planes land so we have to head to Bangor, Maine, land, are met on the runway to refuel and then head to Boston and finally land.

Oh well, the 9:30 arrival didn’t work out, but we head home and crash. I am dreaming of the Blue Lagoon to keep my sanity.

Detailed scoop of our hotel:
The agent at Iceland Air helped me choose this hotel, rather than being in the downtown area, where she advised it could sometimes get noisy at night (in fact, some of the hotels on their web site have this disclaimer under them, that on specific nights it can be noisy)

We were extremely pleased with this hotel. We booked on the business floor, feeling the difference between that and a standard room was worth it and gave us a larger bed and more space. It was immaculate, the room was huge, with funky modern sitting chairs, cool lamps, a desk area, great closet, tv, extremely comfortable bed with great reading lights and a good bath with tub/shower.

When on the business floor, you also got access to the Panoramic Lounge with complimentary wine, coffee, tea, cappuccino, snacks and while we don’t always take advantage of that in other hotels, we did use it at the end of every day and for a late night cup of tea or drink either there or to bring back to our room. The view from this lounge, and from our room, was of the water and mountains and delightful.

Also a spa, nice bar downstairs and a very accommodating tour desk aside from the hotel desk.

The hotel itself was surrounded by businesses, but the location worked for us and they have a complimentary shuttle quite frequently to the downtown area about a 10 minute drive away max, and if the shuttle time didn’t work a taxi was easy to grab and affordable.

I wish we’d had more time in Iceland. We will return with our children as they would love it. Parts of it were reminiscent to me of the south island of New Zealand, which we loved: the stark differences between passing green grass, moving towards hills and mountains some dark as can be and capped with ice and glacier and all surrounded by amazingly blue water - and it sure beats that 22 hour journey to New Zealand although that remains my all time favorite trip - but in Iceland with all the outdoor adventure sports to be had here - the boat trips, kayaking, hiking adventures, we would need a week or more.

Need to travel to other parts of the Iceland. Need to bathe in those thermal waters. Will go back.

The people were incredibly friendly and helpful, we enjoyed every moment. Also thought it a great gateway to Stockholm, liking the layover on my way over to meet him there. A nice 5 hr flight from Boston departing at 9:30pm - I enjoyed a lovely Cobb salad and glass of wine in the airport, boarded the plane, read for 30 minutes, put on my sunglasses and slept the whole way - landed in Iceland, had an hour to grab a cup of morning coffee and stretch my legs - and board a plane for the 2 hr.. 45 minute flight to Stockholm. Good for me b/c I hate long plane rides. Also a nice way to return from Denmark as we did.

On the one hand I wish we’d had more time, but if we did, we likely wouldn’t be in such a rush to go back with the kids, so it was a great first taste of Iceland. I highly recommend it as a vacation or a layover stop as we did.

Clothing for us in May:
Mostly jeans, fall type pants, cotton shirt, sweater, Marmot rain jacket, hat, gloves, light scarf, good walking shoes. casual dress everywhere we went.
Evening meals: black pants, sweater, silk scarf
Husband wore jeans or khaki's, shirt/sweater.

Some good web sites for planning from brochures I brought back:
all with the www. in front of them:
whatson.is
icelandtoday.is
coupons.is
rei.is
flybus.is
austurleid.is
thorsmork.is
bsi.is
regallery.is
icelandair.com
randburg.com

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