Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Iceland, Part Two

So I'll start my Iceland, Part Two entry by laying the scene. Iceland was cold. Yes, I'd just come from Florida and that may have thinned my blood and made me more sensitive to the frigidness, but a weekend of temperatures in the 30s and 40s, with lots and lots of drizzly rain thrown in for good measure was a bit of a shock to my system.

Which is why it amuses me that we spent almost an entire day of our 2-and-a-half day visit to Iceland lounging in outdoor pools.

Fun thing about Iceland---it's got a lot of geothermal pools. I'm not even going to try to speak intelligently about the geology that allows for the formation of these. I mean, I did get an A in Honors Geology in college, but I retained that information for about as long as it took me to get to the bar following the final exam. But wikipedia tells me the Icelandic geothermal pools have something to do with underground lava flows, maybe some techtonic plate locations and/or movements, that sort of stuff. They're a big part of Icelandic culture. I think I read somewhere that there are 170 geothermal pools in the (small) country.

The Blue Lagoon is the most famous and most touristy of the geothermal pools, and was our big stop on Sunday. It was about an hour from our hotel so we hopped on a bus that apparently transported us to another planet...does this scenery not look positively Martian?

Once there, we hopped off the bus into weather that was even colder than Reykjavik, and made it to the entrance just as our fingers were about to freeze off. A half hour later, after successfully navigating the convoluted and very European locker room (let's just say, mandatory communal showers with a strict (un)dress code before one could enter the lagoon) and emerging back into the frigid outside, I threw down my towel and sprinted toward the water. Which was right around 100 degrees.

It's hard to describe how amazing swimming in that lagoon felt. There's something about the contrast in temperature that's just invigorating. My hair was frozen and my nose felt numb at times, but the water was so warm that I hardly noticed. We just floated around, for hours, slowly swimming/ walking from one corner of the lagoon to another, drinking Icelandic beers, putting on silica mud masks, getting calmer and calmer. At one point, it started raining, but we didn't even care.

Swim-up bars make any pool awesome, geothermal or not
After three or four hours in that water, just floating and chatting, we realized that our fingers had turned to prunes and we hadn't eaten anything in approximately forever. So we reluctantly emerged from the warm water, sprinted back through the cold into the locker room, and headed back to town.

When the lifeguard's dressed like that, you know it's cold out
But that wasn't it for the geothermal pools. We'd heard rumors that there was another fancy pool near our hotel, one that had actually been turned into a 50 meter competition pool. Monday marked the official beginning of my 2013 triathlon season, and I had a swim on the schedule. Not wanting to start off the new season by logging a "sorry, couldn't get this one in," on the very first day, I persuaded Blaine to do a swim workout with me. It wasn't a hard sell.... that's the benefit of traveling with another triathlete. (I also bullied him into running 45 minutes with me the night before and we got so hopelessly lost, saved only by the maps on my iPhone, that I felt like sending a donation to Apple just for bailing us out).

Our second pool of the trip was, in some ways, even cooler than the first. The swimmer geek in me gets really excited when I see nice pools, and this one, with its grandstand and all, took the cake. Plus, it seemed like a novelty to be doing a swim workout outside, in October, in Iceland. The air fluctuated between 39 degrees and 43 degrees. The water must have been in the high 80s, but with the air cooling us down, it felt just fine. Don't get me wrong, I struggled through that workout (how quickly fitness disappears).....but I loved it.

We finished off the workout, of course, with a trip down this waterslide.

Which brings the grand total number of waterslides I've gone down this summer/fall to FOUR. Or, four more than the number of waterslides I'd gone down in the previous decade. What a year!

So with that bit of fun behind us, we bid adieu to Iceland. Blaine headed on back to Chicago (also having the opportunity to stay a night in New York thanks to airline issues). I flew on to London, where I'm staying for the next little while. I haven't found any geothermal pools here, but believe me, I'm a-looking.

Oh, and by the way. As I said in my previous post, my reason #2 for coming to Iceland was to see the cute little puffins. No go on that one, they've already headed to warmer places. So....mission NOT accomplished, and perhaps, as a result, I'll be back to Iceland.

I will not rest until I see puffins


  1. WOW. Iceland looks incredible -- and the photo of the life guard is priceless. Hope you're having an awesome trip!

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