Iceland Travelogue – Day 2

Saturday, 11th August 2012

Reykjavik – Blue Lagoon – Alafoss (wool shop and Sigur Ros) –
Gljufrasteinn (Haldor Laxness museum)

Not that you will need or want to know, but I am writing this in a distracted state with the most bubbly, gurgly, upset tummy imaginable. I have had to rush to the toilet a few times already this evening as I bought and have been drinking what looked like nice plum juice. I drank about half a litre of it, only mildly registering how odd it was that the juice was brown, before turning the carton round to read that it was prune juice. That stuff is an amazing laxative.

Yesterday I was in a veritable panic about not having my mobile phone. Admittedly I do have the comfort (or should that be “company”?) of an Icelandic mobile and my emergency UK phone, neither of which were on all day. Today, maybe aided by the presence of phones, all be they off, I have not felt at all panicky or lonely without my mobile. I did of course want to check myself in and make comments about the Blue Lagoon and other places I went today, but it was kind of a relief not to have my nose to my phone on and off all day. In other words, I have enjoyed concentrating on the scenery around me and just having me for company.

I had a quick lunch of smoked lamb on flatbread with an ice cold, thoroughly refreshing Pepsi. While waiting for my lunch to arrive, I realised that I would normally have got out my phone as my lunch companion and texted/emailed/Facebooked. I was, after all, sitting in a log cabin café by a fast moving, clear stream running through a valley near where Sigur Ros recorded some of their albums. I was properly chilled out by that time.

I love it here and, as ever, I am exceptionally relaxed.

I woke up really early, I think it was 5am, and thought that if I left at 8am I could be at the Blue Lagoon for its 9am opening, before it gets busy. By 7am, I had worked out where I could park and go for breakfast in Reykjavik before the Blue Lagoon. I set off at about 7.30am, having parked by the Hlemmur bus station. I walked along the unusually quiet main shopping street, Laugavegur. To my distress, the café I had earmarked for breakfast, Litli Bóndabærinn, was closed, but diagonally opposite, the bakery Sandholt, was open. I ordered a still-warm pain au chocolate and a croissant with a cappuccino for my breakfast. I also bought a savoury pizza wrap type thing as a post-Blue Lagoon snack. Why do you (does one) get hungry after swimming? And not just a mild hunger, a full-blown painful, empty hunger. Maybe that’s just me but I’m sure it’s not.

I watched the bakers putting things into the massive ovens out the back while I waited for my order. I then took my warm food bag down to the sea front, stood on some large rocks looking for a seal (I had seen one when I stood near that area back in September, but no sighting today) then sat on a bench looking out to sea, convincing myself every movement was a seal, and across to a large island, over which I once had one of the most amazing experiences of my life, seeing the Northern Lights dancing over that mountain. I could easily digress there. Did I mention I love this country?!

I stayed in the Blue Lagoon water for just over two hours and totally pruned (yikes, too much prunage today) my hands. There was only one other person I spotted who wore a swimming hat. I feel a right prat wearing a swimming hat but the salt in that water absolutely destroys my hair. The hat gave me a bit of a headache, unfortunately, so I felt both a prat and a bit headachy. But oh so smug afterwards with my serum-coated glossy mane of hair.

How can I describe the Blue Lagoon to do its healing properties justice? While floating on my back in the warm-to-hot cloudy blue water with a silica mud mask drying unsuccessfully on my face due to the delightfully chilly rain, it occurred to me that the Blue Lagoon should be on a list of things everyone should experience at least once in their lives. It acts like a relaxation serum. I swam quite a lot, doing the odd sightseeing swim around the pool and basking in the bonus of it raining. My skin is now soft and I feel like I’ve had the best, deepest massage imaginable. That is from the c15 minutes I managed to hog the waterfall there.

I was seeing an osteopath for my shoulder problem before and after a visit to THE waterfall. Afterwards, he asked what on earth I’d done as he said nothing he could do could ever produce results like that. It is so unbelievably heavy and powerful, you can feel it beating down on your tight muscles. At some point, I feel a kind of “ahhhhh” as it feels like it’s done its job. It made me feel really floppy. Do you remember the Soft Mints, “Mr Soft” advert? Well, if you do, I felt like Mr Soft and it was amazing.

As well as the waterfall, sightseeing swims, mud mask and floating, I also went into a steam cabin and a sauna and almost snoozed with my face to the light wind and rain in a hot pool annex. I left as the water bar was opening and the lunchtime crowds started swarming in.

My next stop was a little further out of Reykjavik, well and truly into Icelandic horse country – PONIES!!!! – and leaving all sense of city behind after one particular right turn. I had wanted to go to Haldor Laxness’ house, now a museum, Gljufrasteinn. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955 and was a fascinating man. I was the only visitor at that time, so felt lucky on my already memorable day. There were only maybe seven rooms to see but there was an audio guide which was really interesting. His house was amazing and was left as it was when he and his wife were still alive and living there. The house has a lot of room-length windows, all overlooking at least some of the following: mountains; greenery; rocks; a stream; a beautiful small white swimming pool just above a stream; birch trees; horses and, something that always strikes me about Iceland; a vast sky. His study, where he did much of his writing, was a room almost entirely lined with books. He usually wrote standing up at a kind of lectern. There were some gorgeous and inspiring pictures and paintings on the wall too. Oh, it was just the kind of place that makes you want to write.

Particularly in the living room, designed for the sociable lifestyle he and his wife led, there were some amazing chairs and furniture, a lot of which were Danish classics. His favourite chair, which appears in lots of photos of him, was a beautiful tan leather egg chair designed by Arne Jacobsen, a famous Danish furniture designer. It looked so comfortable and beautifully beat up.