Moon Landing

At Logan, leaving for the big trip

At Logan, leaving for the big trip

Today was the first day of the trip that will most definitely change the course of my life forever.  It’s weird to know that with absolute certainty, but I do.

I landed in Iceland after a five hour sleepless flight and hopped on a bus to take me to downtown Reykjavik.  The moment we began driving, through my haze of exhaustion and excitement, I realized that I have basically just flown myself to the surface of the moon.  The land looked like it had never been walked on, craters, lava, and black dirt going on for miles in the distance.  Then there were huge mountains everywhere.  Cold air howling through barren planes of nothingness.  Eventually there were mountains, houses, and beautiful dark blue water.  Where the hell am I?
Street art in downtown Reykjavik on my little street

Street art in downtown Reykjavik on my little street

I got dropped off on a quaint little street at the Loft Hostel, where I’d spend the next two nights.  The moment I walked in I felt welcomed, comforted, and excited.  I couldn’t check into the hostel until 2:00pm (14:00) and it was merely 8:30am.  I had lots of time to kill and needed a commitment long enough to keep me occupied until then.  The front desk woman was incredibly helpful and knowledgable.  She set me up with a Blue Lagoon trip, which was pricey at $84 (US), but I knew it was one of the things I had to do while I was here.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and dropped my bag at the hostel before running down to the street corner where I’d be retrieved for the tour.  On the 40 minute bus ride, I was loving the views for a few minutes before my eyes sealed shut and I woke myself up with a large snort… I guess I was kind of tired.  I held my eyes open for the remaining few minutes before entering the Blue Lagoon.  When I got in line to enter I noticed the menu they offer –  they have different priced packages you can select, some with bathrobes and slippers, mud masks, a meal at the indoor restaurant, and even one with in-water massages.  I can’t even tell you how tempting that was, but I knew I would definitely fall asleep and miss the whole thing, so I passed it up for the cheap option.
First look at the Blue Lagoon

First look at the Blue Lagoon and this random guy in a face mask

After trying to awkwardly put on a bikini in a crowded locker room, I made my way to the lagoon and saw a stunning soft aqua glow in the water, steam from the hot spring spewing above the surface, and mountains surrounding the large pool.   It was surprisingly cold and windy, probably about 45 or 50 degrees. As I eased myself into the water, I felt the thick layer of salt and smooth rock at the bottom of the lagoon and made my way around the perimeter.  I noticed a lot of people with white masks on and later read that it was natural silica, which is said to smooth skin and bring out its natural glow.  So I made my way to a trough with a shovel in it and scooped out a clay-like substance, generously smoothing it in my face and neck.

In a daze of absolute relaxation mixed with total exhaustion, I stood in the warmest, windiest spot and let the mask solidify on my face.  After the prescribed ten minutes, I began washing it off and closed my eyes.  As I scooped handfuls of water onto my skin and kept my eyes tightly shut, I listened to the people around me and took in the various languages.  German, Japanese, French, Icelandic, English.  I realized that this was my new normal- the normal I chose for myself, and it felt odd and scary (but in a good way).
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Some British ladies at the Blue Lagoon

When I came back around later with my camera, I stood on tiptoes to avoid getting it wet and approached people with a smile.  I’m working on being friendly without seeming too over-the-top (that stereotypical American girl ditsy bubbly thing).  People here are more reserved and that will be true for many of my upcoming destinations.  However, anyone appreciates a smile and I don’t need to speak their language to get a feeling across.  In this case, the smile translated the feeling of relaxation and an appreciation of the beauty of this magical lagoon.

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At the heart of the steamiest, windiest spot at the Blue Lagoon

Overall, I was happy I visited the lagoon.  It proved to be a great touristy thing I could do in such a state.  However, I found out later that there are 19 other hot springs in the Reykjavik area which are frequented by the locals and are a lot cheaper, so in hindsight, maybe I would’ve done one of those.  I didn’t do a ton of research before leaving for Iceland, so I didn’t expect to get the best deals.

My bus ride back into town was similar to the previous, except this time, instead of the snort, I left my mouth hanging wide open for all to see.  Lovely.  Just lovely.  I was finally able to check into my hostel room, which was surprisingly spacious and well-organized.  My six-bed female room had an attached bath and shower as well as a lock box for each guest.  I settled in a bit, changed into real clothes and went up to the fourth floor, which is a rooftop bar.  The locals even come to it for happy hour, which, to me, meant it was a solid choice for my stay.  They even have concerts held on a little stage inside.  It is a great scene and a great location right at the center of town.
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The Harpa Performing Arts Center, a spectacular modern building surrounded by Iceland’s natural beauty

I walked up to the bar to get a beer and asked for the waitress’ favorite local brewery, which was Gull.  A young guy standing next to me asked for the same and I recognized his non-European accent and asked if he was from the States.  He said yes – his name was Jason and he was from Ohio, on a semester break from grad school.  I went out to a table on the deck and shortly afterwards, Jason joined me.  We talked about our various trip plans for an hour or so before deciding to walk down to a hot dog stand he had seen earlier.  We walked for awhile and eventually got the dogs, ate them in under two minutes, and by this time it was about 6.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open for any longer so I said goodnight and that was that.
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Detail of Harpa

 This whole backpacker/hostel social life thing is completely new to me.  I’ve done a lot of business travel alone, but that is completely different.  The mentality is relaxed and friendly.  People seem to enter into a conversation with absolutely no expectations, they might continue on with an activity with someone else, and that might be it.  There may be no exchange of last names, no information, no nothing.  This little two hour window gave me a lot of hope.  This 23 year old guy was able to be engaged, pleasant, real, and then leave me without awkwardly hitting on me or either one of us needing anything from each other.  It’s about companionship, which is pretty cool.
 Iceland was so fantastic that I needed to break it up into two posts.  Stay tuned!

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