Goodbye Iceland

Well, this post will be the last one of my trip! Iceland has been amazing. I wouldn’t trade these experiences and memories for anything. I am glad I decided to travel alone. I think it is something everyone should do at least once. It allows you to certainly get out of your comfort zone and there is nothing quite like going to a foreign place where NO ONE knows you! 🙂

The other night I decided to take a walk by the ocean. The wind was blowing and the sun was shining brightly over the water and mountains. I was wishing I had brought my postcards so I could have written them at the ocean!

Yesterday I went on a day trip to the Blue Lagoon! This is one place I am certain every tourist goes to on their trip to Iceland. With its milky blue water and warm temperature, the lagoon was a perfect place to unwind and float in. Along the sides of lagoon were boxes filled with silica mud where visitors could treat their faces to a lagoon specialty! I put on about 3 masks while I was there…it smelled so good. I also met my first Canadian traveller while in the sauna. It was nice to meet someone that was as equally friendly as myself. One thing I have found here is that people are COLD. I always smile at people on the streets or store owners, but rarely is it reciprocated. The Blue Lagoon was a great place to spend an afternoon however, my hair now feels like straw because of the salt water! Hopefully it will be restored back to its normal self!

As you read in my previous post, I was seriously debating buying an Icelandic wool sweater. Well, I found one that I LOVE. I am hoping it was worth the money, but it fits very well and the wool isn’t scratchy like most of the other wool sweaters.

While I was shopping yesterday, I came across these bandaids. They were so strange so I had to buy them! Apparently they are good conversation starters…

After spending over a week in Iceland, I have now perfected my “I don’t speak Icelandic” face.

I use this face when people start speaking to me in Icelandic. I have found it to be quite useful and effective.

Tomorrow evening I fly back home to Canada! Hopefully I will actually make a plane friend this time around! This was a trip to remember for sure. Despite some loneliness I am so glad that I embarked on this adventure. The next places I am travelling to ALONE are Austria, German and the Czech Republic in August! Thanks for reading and I hope you learned a little something about Iceland 😀

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Reykjavik and CHURCH!

Yesterday I went shopping in downtown Reykjavik. In my guide book, it said there are 2 good streets for shopping. My hotel is right at the end of one of them, so I followed it into town. The streets were busy with people everywhere! You wouldn’t know Reykjavik only has a population of 120,000 people! Instead, it resembled a much larger city.

I decided to check out many of the stores along the street. I was on a mission to find a hand knit wool sweater because EVERYONE here has one…even the children. They come at a hefty price however…$200. I told myself this would be my one souvenir that I would take back to remember Iceland forever and ever. I looked in every store I saw to find the perfect sweater. I had no luck though! Every time I would try on a sweater, I couldn’t help but think I resembled an old woman. While the sweaters may be fashionable here, I think back in Canada they are the sweaters you find on the rack of a thrift shop. I say that now, but maybe I will find the perfect sweater! I will only buy it if I absolutely LOVE it though, because $200 is a lot to spend.

Instead of buying my sweater, I bought a beautiful handmade heart-shaped necklace. I went into the small store not expecting to find anything but as I perused the display cases, the necklace caught my eye. The man working there said he made 90% of the jewellery  and we got chatting about Iceland and Canada. He told me he has family in Winnipeg and he also told me some good places to see in Iceland. I like supporting local artists, so I think my purchase of the necklace was a good one and I LOVE it.

I spent 4 hours walking around Reykjavik. I saw a beautiful church that has a tower where people can go up and view the whole city. I didn’t do it, but I really should have.

I also saw the Reykjavik harbour front. I think on Tuesday I will walk to the ocean to get a good look at it!

Today I woke up and went to church. As I was walking into town, I saw a church near my hotel and decided to Google it. I translated the page and found that there is an English speaking service called International Church. The service was great and pretty similar to church back home. It was really neat to meet and fellowship with other believers 🙂

Tomorrow I am going to the Blue Lagoon! I can’t wait to lay in the blue water and put on a silica mud mask!

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The Spa

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday that I learned on the tour is the Icelandic naming system. When parents are choosing a name for their child, they must only choose an Icelandic name that is on a list of approved Icelandic names. To get the last name for the child, the father’s first name is used and son is added to the end. For example, David has a son named Gabriel and his last name then became Davidson because he is the son of David. For girls it is the same thing with using the father’s first name but dottir (daughter) is added on at the end. Pretty cool!

Today I went to the spa! Seriously, this place was heaven on earth! I got a full body hot stone massage and a facial. In addition to the treatments I was able to use “the spa room,” a number of steam baths, pools and relaxation rooms. Words cannot describe how relaxing it was. From the moment I walked into the change rooms to the time I left, this place was HEAVEN!

To get into the spa, I had to scan my eye. It was so strange and hi-tech. I had to look into this mirror and then the machine approved my eye scan and the door opened up! The spa area was dimly lit with blue and red lights and the floor, ceiling and walls were all black rock. I had three favourite places in the spa: the relaxation room, the steam bath and the infinity hot tub.

In the relaxation room, the area is very warm and a number of chairs are placed around in a circle all facing a fire place in the middle. The room is dark except for a dim red light and the light being emitted from the fireplace.

I LOVED the steam bath. It was also dimly lit by blue lights and had “star lights” on the ceiling which were really neat. The infinity hot tub had water almost parallel to the floor and it was very warm and super relaxing.

Here is the link in case you’re interested 🙂

The woman who gave me my facial was extremely friendly. I commented on how most Icelanders speak English very well. She told me not only do they learn English, they also learn Danish and in addition to this, must learn either German, French or Spanish. They are a very smart population!

One thing I love about Reykjavik is that the city is not touristy. When I go to the thermal pools or walk around downtown, it is just like I am a local. I do not see tons of tourist buses and I get to experience the city just like an Icelander!

Overall, it was a very relaxing day and I feel well rested and refreshed. Tomorrow I am planning to do some shopping and explore the beautiful city of Reykjavik.

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The Golden Circle

Today I went on a bus tour of the Golden Circle. I went with the tour company, Iceland Horizons, and they were excellent. The bus was small and there were about 15 of us as opposed to 60 people on the other tour buses. Our guide was named David and he also owned the company. Originally from the UK, David came to Iceland to visit in the 1980s and has now lived here permanently for 11 years. He gave us excellent insight into Icelandic culture.

First, David told us that Iceland is the same size as England. Iceland has a population of 314,000 people, while England has 60 million people I believe. That just tells you how much open space Iceland has! Often, we would be driving down the country roads and would not see anyone at all for quite some time.

Our first stop was at the geo thermal plant. One interesting fact is that Reykjavik uses the leftover water from the sinks, showers etc to heat the main street in the winter so it does not freeze over! So neat! Iceland has very inexpensive geo thermal power so that is why they can do that. Icelanders also will keep their houses really warm in the winter and will open their windows instead of keeping their houses cooler in the winter because it makes no difference whatsoever to the price of their electric bills!

David also told us the water we are drinking from our hotel room taps is the exact same water that Iceland bottles and sells to other parts of the world. He said he often laughs when he is washing his van with water at the end of the day and thinks to himself that they same water he is using to wash the van is the same water that is bottled!

One of our first stops was at a volcanic crater!

I was so excited to be able to see the volcano called Eyjafjallajokull which erupted last year causing planes to and from Europe to be cancelled. For some reason, the eruption of this volcano sparked my interest in visiting Iceland!

We then went on to see the Gullfoss waterfall. It was breathtaking! There were no guard rails either which was a little nerve-wracking, but I made sure to stay a far distance back!

After that we visited the Geysirs. These are essentially hot springs, some which erupt, which are between 80- 100 degrees Celsius!

Before the geysir erupted!

During the eruption!

The geysir erupts ever 4.3 minutes or so, so it was all about making sure I had my camera ready to get a good picture!

We then went to the national park where we were surrounded by mountains and rocks. It was also the place where the vikings held their meetings way back when.

Tomorrow I am going to the spa! I CANNOT wait! It should be wonderful! 😀

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The mall, children and steam baths!

I slept for 12 hours last night! I was soooooo tired, but I am MUCH more rested now and feel like I am almost over the jet lag 🙂

I decided this morning to plan out my next few days. I looked in the guide books as well as on the internet and came across a small tour company that will take me to the Golden Circle tomorrow. After reading many reviews, people suggested using a smaller company rather than the usual, big company which has tons of people on a large coach bus. I am looking forward to it! It will be a long but great day. Hopefully I will meet some native English speakers because all I am hearing is Icelandic…obviously!

Instead of opting for style, I dressed for comfort. I wore my running shoes, my windbreaker, my backpack and my camera was carefully placed around my neck. If this didn’t scream “I’M A TOURIST!” I didn’t know what would! I surely thought this apparel would ward off any Icelanders trying to speak to me in Icelandic, but lo and behold as I was locking my hotel room door, a woman started speaking in Icelandic. I just looked at her with a blank face and she finally said “do you understand me?” UM. NO! She then asked me where I was from and I told her and her face lit up. She told me her daughter-inlaw is from Canada and has been living in Iceland for 3 years now. We said goodbye and I headed out.

The weather was rainy and chilly so I thought today would be perfect to do a bit of shopping. I consulted my map and set out! It was only about a 12 minute walk away from the hotel which was great and I am certainly planning on going back!

Below: the mall

I browsed through many different and unique stores. Icelanders sure know how to dress! All the stores were extremely expensive and fashionable. Jerome and I even got gelato for an afternoon snack!

I also went into the grocery store to get some food for tomorrow’s breakfast. This was a very big store and reminded me a lot of the stores back home. As a little update to yesterday; Icelander’s LOVE their Coca Cola!

On my way back to the hotel, I was walking with my camera around my neck and three girls, about aged 12 came up to me and asked if I spoke Icelandic. When I said I didn’t, they giggled with each other and then started speaking in English to me. I asked them some questions and they were very nice and got to practice their English skills 🙂

I have found the children to be very friendly here, but the adults not so much. I had heard that Icelanders were really friendly but I have not found that to be the case. It seems if you don’t speak Icelandic they aren’t very warm towards you. They all switch to English if need be, but I was expecting friendlier people.

This evening, I went back to the geo thermal pools to relax and to get some exercise. Exercise is certainly one thing I am not lacking while being here…I walk everywhere! This time, I decided to explore some more of the pools other than the pool for doing lengths and the other pool for lounging in. What I came across was a circular pool with a slight incline towards the centre. It reminded me so much of the kiddie pools, but there were people of all ages lying with their feet all pointed into the centre. Icelanders sure aren’t afraid of personal space because two people laid RIGHT next to me. There was even a little baby in the pool. Even though the water was that of a hot tub, the baby was laughing and splashing around!

I then went on to find a steam bath. It was AMAZING! I opened the door to it and was greeted with steam and a dark atmosphere. I could hardly see anything in front of me because of the lack of light and steam. I sat down for a bit but had to leave shortly after because it was so hot!

I will update you more on my adventures tomorrow! I can’t wait to show you pictures of the Icelandic waterfalls!

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Hello Iceland!

Hello everyone!

I have safely arrived in Iceland and am super tired! I will do my best to recap these last 24 hours!

I flew out of Toronto last night at around 9. I was really looking forward to making a plane friend but I got put beside a 10-year-old girl who whined and cried the whole 5 hours. The plane was very nice, however. Much nicer than I expected. I really enjoyed listening to the Icelandic music and found a few new artists I really like.

I thought I was on another planet as we were flying over Iceland. The terrain was an orange-yellow colour and I could see so many volcanic rocks.

Once we landed at Keflavik Airport we were herded into shuttle buses to go get our luggage. Customs was sooo simple. Nothing like the US customs!

After I picked up my luggage I bought my Flybus ticket which was for the bus that would take me to Reykjavik, a 40 minute drive from the airport. The Flybus even dropped me off at my hotel. Once I got to the front of my hotel I was feeling a bit nervous. As I stared up at the building, it resembled an office building…not a hotel! I went inside and found the smallest looking elevator and got in it. It took me to the fourth floor which is apparently where all the hotel rooms are. The key to my room was lying on the front desk so I grabbed it and went to my room. For $65 a night, the hotel is WONDERFUL! I have a kitchenette with a fridge so I can save money and not eat out all the time. Even better than that though is that I have a view of Mount Esja. It reminds me of the mountains in Jasper, Alberta.

I then collapsed on the bed and fell asleep! After 3 hours, I forced myself to wake up. Below is a picture of me whining at how tired I was…I am slowly turning into the girl on the plane!

I got ready and proceeded into downtown Reykjavik. My hotel is in a great location…only a 15 minute walk into the city centre. Right down the street there is a 24 hour grocery store as well. At the grocery store a nice Icelandic old man started talking to me in Icelandic. I didn’t understand a thing he said so I just nodded and smiled. He then said “you from England?” I said no, Canada. He smiled and then pointed to the bananas in front of him and we had a good chuckle.

I continued to explore downtown Reykjavik, particularly the main street called Laugavegur. Three things I learned while on my exploration: Icelanders love to dress well, Icelanders love Coca Cola and Icelanders love to gamble.

There were so many high end clothing stores with shirts ranging from $200-$300. I have noticed the young women wear these really nice wool sweaters that I think I want to buy. Everywhere I go, I see an advertisement for Coke and even in the stores they have walls of Coke in fridges. I have heard that Iceland has the best Coke in the world because of their pristine water. So far, I haven’t been too impressed with the water…it tastes like I am drinking rotten eggs! I also noticed 2 Casino Bars within 5 minutes of each other! I guess that is where the Icelanders like to go?

This evening I decided to go and soak in a geo thermal pool. I looked at the map and figured it was only about a 15 minute walk to one of the really popular pools so I set out! I took one wrong turn but luckily a small Icelandic girl gave me directions. Icelanders sure love to swim. It is mandatory for children to learn how to swim so I saw people of all ages swimming! The water was a perfect temperature and the steam was rising as the air was pretty cool. The process just to get in the pool is an experience in itself. They require everyone shower and soap up before entering the pool or else they will get really mad. They had an attendant in the change room hosing down the floor and semi watching to make sure everyone was following the rules. I am certainly planning on going back to the pool since it was so relaxing and only $4.00!

Tomorrow I think I will explore the city some more and maybe go to a museum or two!

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