Posts Tagged ‘Reykjavik’

 

The Golden Circle – Thingvellir

Linda Lou Burton posting from Center Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland – Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir. Are you up on your Icelandic? These are the names of sights you see on the Golden Circle bus tour. “Golden Circle” is the marketing term for a loop drive of 190 miles departing Reykjavik and circling back; it takes about six hours so is very popular for folks (like us) who only have a short time to stay. And it provides great exposure to the countryside with stops at three of Iceland’s most unique areas – Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir. There was an exhibit about Thingvellir in Perlan we saw yesterday, where its significance began to sink in.

Chieftains from across Iceland gather in Thingvellir to form Althing – the oldest parliament in the world. The rock formations at Thingvellir form a natural amphitheater.

The year was 930! From 930 AD until 1798, Thingvellir was the assembly site for the national parliament of Iceland, the Althing, from which Thingvellir (Assembly Plains) derives its name. The assembly was a forum to recite laws and make amendments, resolve conflicts and feuds, and make trade and marriage arrangements. The acoustics of the canyon walls helped speakers voices carry further. This spot is so important to Iceland’s history it is a protected national shrine. Legislation passed in 1928 created Thingvellir National Park.

The Park has been declared a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE not only for its historical significance but its geological uniqueness as well. The area lies directly on the mid-Atlantic ridge, where those North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly separating. Many enormous rifts and canyons are above water, but some of the fissures, such as Silfra, are now submerged. You can make arrangements (if you have proper diving credentials) to swim between these plates in the clearest water on earth — touch North America, then Europe!

We weren’t planning on that, though I have family members that I’d like to encourage to “swim at Silfra.” Justin? Hal? Come with me when I make a trip back to Iceland. I have to come back because, rats again, I wasn’t able to go on the tour with Rick today. Twenty-one non-stop travel days took their toll, so the photos below are courtesy of Rick, who bundled up in his brown fleece and braved the wind to add yet another world-famous national park to his repertoire. Thanks Rick! See the cliffs of Thingvellir, and note that tiny church in the valley.

The first church was built here in 1015 following a gift of timber and a bell from King Olaf of Norway. The current church was built in 1859 and serves a small congregation today. The three bells in the tower are historic: one from that first church, one dating from 1697, and one added June 17, 1944, when the Icelandic republic was established at Thingvellir. The house beside the church serves as the summerhouse for the Prime Minister of Iceland.

Golden Circle Tours https://www.re.is/golden-circle-tours/

Thingvellir National Park https://www.thingvellir.is/en/things-to-do/

Diving at Silfra https://www.dive.is/dive-sites/silfra

Center Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland https://www.centerhotels.com/en/hotel-plaza-reykjavik

Next Post: The Golden Circle – Geysir

 
 
 

The Flyover

 
 
 

Sky, Water And Life

Linda Lou Burton posting from Perlan, Reykjavik, Iceland – Florida and Iceland have a lot in common. Granted there aren’t any volcanoes in Florida, but when it comes to the Gulf Stream, the two are hand-holding partners. It seems almost illogical, a little bitty island far north in Arctic waters getting warmed by Gulf Stream waters, but it’s true. It all began back in the Cenozoic era, when the open waters between (what is now known as) North and South America closed up, redirecting the currents. Look at Perlan’s map, and explanation.

The Central American Seaway Closes. The closing of the Central American Seaway, after which the Isthmus of Panama links South and North America, stands as one of the most globally significant natural events of the Cenozoic era, driving profound transformations on land and in the sea. The cut-off of the inflow and outflow between the two oceans strengthens the Gulf Stream, rerouting warm, nutrient-rich currents from the Caribbean Sea toward Iceland. The warm, salty water releases more heat into the Arctic and northern European atmosphere. It also brings several new Pacific invertebrates, including molluscs, brachiopods, and echinoderms to Iceland.

Ocean Currents. Iceland sits where three powerful ocean currents meet. The Gulf Stream brings warm, salty water from the south. The fast-moving East Greenland Current transports less salty, cold water to the Icelandic coast. The East Iceland Current brings more cold water south from the polar region.


Perlan tells about Iceland’s fresh water too, with a Glacier Exhibit (more than a tenth of the country is covered in glaciers); a Water In Icelandic Nature exhibit, Underwater World, and even an Ice Cave to wander through. We wandered, looking up and looking down; sitting once in a while. The planetarium was my favorite; lots of sitting and IMAX surround featuring an incredible array of northern lights. I’m convinced now – Iceland isn’t gray at all! Its sky is colorful, its buildings are colorful, and there is a never-ending round of tours and activities waiting to show the country off.

More coming up in other posts about geysers spewing, rivers flowing, and water falling and splashing (you can count 10,000 waterfalls!). One last point about water here: the water flowing from springs is considered among the cleanest in the world – filtered through layers of lava and rocks for decades. And then there’s that rain coming down, that we’ve witnessed today. As to what lives and grows in such an abundantly watered environment – I will tell you two things that don’t. There are no mosquitos or snakes in Iceland! There are sheep and goats and the interesting and unusual Icelandic horse. Seals and whales to tell about later, and the cute arctic fox, which was actually the first land mammal on the island. Stay tuned.

The first two photos are from Perlan’s coverage of the Aurora Borealis which includes myths and stories about the showy skies. The last photo isn’t from Perlan but something I found online showing a favorite pastime for Icelanders – relaxing in a nice warm geothermal pool or hottub under the beautiful nighttime sky. Seriously!  See what I mean about color?

Perlan https://www.perlan.is/

Center Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland https://www.centerhotels.com/en/hotel-plaza-reykjavik

Next Post: The Flyover

 
 
 

Earth, Wind And Fire

Linda Lou Burton posting from Perlan, Reykjavik, Iceland – I am rendered speechless. Bet you thought you’d never hear me say that. But when it comes to volcanoes, the forces of nature can overwhelm. A volcano is the attention-getter in the room, the loud, showy extrovert that demands to be noticed. And Iceland is, pure and simple, a hunk of volcanic aftermath. Which keeps on growing. And going. Remember the Great Rift Valley in Africa, where we’ve been hanging out the last few weeks? Tectonic Plates, continental movement? The same thing is going on in Iceland — it straddles the North American and Eurasian plates, and they are moving apart. And below that rift/underwater crack is a magma hotspot (the Iceland Plume) that results in Iceland being one of the most active volcanic regions in the world. They have a volcanic eruption about every three years – one happened near Keflavik airport in August but calmed down just before we got here. There are about 30 active volcanic systems on this small island today. I won’t get into the details of types or activity (as I’m speechless about the whole thing), but Perlan’s exhibits can set you thinking. Here are the pictures I took and “what’s happening” in their own words and descriptions.

 

Dynamic Beauty

Iceland’s volcanoes, earthquakes, and glaciers keep it geologically young, active, and spectacularly beautiful. Land is created and destroyed here faster than anywhere else in the world. Straddling divergent tectonic plates, Iceland stretches by about two centimeters per year. The sea erodes the shore at about the same rate. Mountains, islands, lakes and gorges come, go, and transform. It’s a land whose story always seems to be starting a new chapter.

Iceland Becomes an Island

Continents drift. The ocean widens. The land bridge can no longer survive. The mantle plume props up the western arm of the land bridge, but it ultimately crumbles and tumbles into the ocean. Only Iceland endures, an island at last, riding the very forces that destroyed the land around it. Furious volcanoes, earthquakes, and glaciers continuously renew and reshape isolated Iceland, replenishing rock and soil as quickly as they are worn away.

 

Now let me switch floors in this beautiful building full of Iceland’s wonders so I can show you the aurora borealis (beautiful sky!), the story of water, and the life that exists in this splendor.

 

Next Post: Sky, Water and Life

Perlan https://www.perlan.is/

Center Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland https://www.centerhotels.com/en/hotel-plaza-reykjavik

 
 
 

Domed If We Do

Linda Lou Burton posting from Perlan, Reykjavik, Iceland – It was raining a goodly amount this morning; breakfast in the cozy basement of our hotel was splendid, tables piled with skyr (thicker than yogurt) and pylsur (sausage) and eggs and fruits and rich dark breads just waiting to be buttered. Steaming hot coffee, tall urn. But the windows upstairs framed rain. So what do you do when it rains a lot? Make your windows bigger, in fact, dome up so the entire sky above your head is visible in every direction. Add a motorized device to rotate you slowly over an hour so you can see every horizon, no matter what the weather. Soak it up! That’s what they’ve done in Reykjavik at Perlan’s domed restaurant, high on a hill above town, high atop a museum of such awesome natural wonders you have to keep going back (get an annual pass!); all of this high atop six tanks filled with water, which is, well, sort of what started the entire enterprise.

The “Pearl” as it is affectionately known, was designed by architect Ingimundi Sveinssson and opened in 1991. The first water tank, however, was built in 1939; high enough on the hill to provide ample pressure to serve the needs of the town. Tanks were added; today each of the six can hold over a million gallons of geothermal water. This hot water provides heating for homes, schools, municipal buildings, and, via a network of pipes under the pavement, keeps Reykjavik’s streets free of ice and snow in the winter. Building something on top of the tanks evolved from a 1930s idea to build a “temple” on that hill covered in mirror panels “so the northern lights could reach the people’s feet.” Function and beauty – ah! Johannes Kjarval, who was going for beauty, also proposed crystals on the roof and spotlights on the tanks so the building would respond both to the light of day and the symbols of night. The Pearl, which came about sixty years later, pretty much does all of that, and so much more.

Perlan was at the top of my list for Reykjavik “must-dos,” so we stepped out the hotel door to a waiting taxi and rode through blowing rain. We bought tickets for “the works” – The Wonders of Iceland, giving us access to the Planetarium, the exhibits, the observation deck, and above it all, the fabulous domed restaurant. There is no possible place better to spend a rainy day. Or a sunny one. I’ll tell you about the exhibits in upcoming posts (there is so much to tell!). As to the restaurant itself, we both had tasty fish and chips, very nice; but it was the dome that held our attention. Some of the following photos are mine; some I found to show how the world looks when you choose to love it rain or shine, day or night, as they seem to have decided to do on a little island called Iceland.

 

Perlan https://www.perlan.is/

Center Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland https://www.centerhotels.com/en/hotel-plaza-reykjavik

Next Post: Earth, Wind and Fire

 
 
 

But Then,

Linda Lou Burton posting from Central Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland – It’s dark and cold. We’re tired and hungry. We need to eat. “There’s no restaurant in the hotel,” we were advised at the front desk. “But they’re all around, just step outside the door.” Someone blew in off the street just then, zipped and wrapped, mittens and parka; he stopped at the sight of us. “You’re going to freeze out there!” he said. “You aren’t dressed for Iceland! How did you get here without a coat?” “We just left the Equator, and turned north,” we answered. He made a face at us, and next thing, we were all laughing, and exchanging travel routes. He was from Texas, as most of our safari gang had been. He pointed to a spot across the street, not thirty feet from the door of the hotel. “Go there,” he said. “It’s warm.” Truer words were never spoken.

Saeta Svinid, aka Sweet Pig, calls itself an Icelandic Gastropub; they not only had a Sweet Pig out front decked in lacy red stockings, they had a sign enticing you in with a 7-course Tasting Menu consisting of the following:

  • Shot of Icelandic Brennivin
  • Smoked Puffin w crowberry liqueur sauce
  • Minke Whale, smoky celeriac puree, malt sauce
  • Icelandic Flatkaka Lightly cured artic char, cream cheese, dill, lemon oil
  • Horse Carpaccio, dates, rucola-mayo, Jerusalem artichokes, Parmesan
  • Ling, mashed potatoes, caper flowers, Dijon-butter sauce
  • Icelandic Lamb Rump Steak, parma ham & herb crumble, mashed potatoes
  • Icelandic Crowberry Cheesecake

While there is controversy about eating Iceland’s treasured puffins, and whales; horse is considered okey-dokey (though we couldn’t bear the thought!). We had no qualms about the fish or lamb however, and the red-stockinged pig staring at us sealed the deal. There was nothing gray in the Saeta Svinid. Everybody was happy houring; eating and drinking and laughing; the liveliest place we’d been in since, well, we couldn’t remember when.

Rick ordered the Ling Cod and mashed potatoes; it came piled with asparagus and carrots. I ordered Gyoza –beef dumplings, hoisin sauce, pomegranate, spring onion, served on a hunk of slate. (It was so pretty I didn’t notice the gray.) The food was great, the ambiance was greater, but the real bonus for the evening came in a glass. It was ice! Due to Africa’s unpotable water, I hadn’t had an icy cold drink in two weeks. Iceland’s fresh clear spring water is delicious straight from the tap.

Bill paying time; our perky server handed me a receipt, the amount listed in Icelandic kronas. “I can’t read this,” I said to her. “And I need to figure your tip.” She laughed and shook her head. “There is no tipping in Iceland!” she said, and scooted off, to keep another customer smiling. The Sweet Pig was a mood lifter, no matter what you chose to eat. Or drink.

Back out in the cold, we took note of the square, directly across from the hotel. People were enjoying the evening. It was pretty. So this is Iceland, huh? If it’s gray turn on the lights. If its rainy, put on a coat. Gather with your friends. Eat scrumptiously. Paint your buildings red.

 

 Center Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland https://www.centerhotels.com/en/hotel-plaza-reykjavik

Saeta Svinid Icelandic Gastropub https://saetasvinid.is/

Next Post: Domed If We Do

 
 
 

Fifty Shades Of Gray

Linda Lou Burton posting from Central Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland – Walter was his  name. Walter welcomed us to Iceland. Actually, a young woman welcomed us first with the wheelchair, whisking us rapidly down to luggage. We’d checked our bags in Zanzibar, and luck was with us, they followed all the way to the Arctic Circle. She whisked us past Joe the cat, and his wise take on life – When nothing goes right…go left. – but no stopping for juice. She whisked us to the front of the terminal and said “Here you are.” Taxis were rowed a distance away, but I didn’t see the Reykjavik shuttle bus I’d read about. So I asked. “Yes, there is a bus,” she explained. “It goes to a terminal downtown, then you get a taxi to your hotel. Or walk. Or you can get a taxi from here.” I looked at Rick, hmmm, taxi now or taxi later? We decided on taxi now. Walter opened the doors to his rather large, luxurious van but didn’t speak. Walter drove us to Reykjavik, 31 miles on Highway 41, alongside gray waters that were part of the Atlantic Ocean. Or was it called the Sea of Greenland right there? Greenland was off in that direction. It was gray. The skies were gray. The pavement was gray.

And Walter seemed rather gray. He didn’t talk, at all. When we arrived at our hotel, he turned to look at us, credit card reader in hand. I handed him my card. He handed me a receipt. “I can take you back to the airport if you want to make an appointment,” he said, handing me his card. “I’ll let you know,” I replied. Walter set our bags on the sidewalk and drove away. It wasn’t just chilly, it was windy cold. It was gray. We jiggered our bags across the wet street; into the hotel, front desk. Our rooms were ready. That way. We jiggered our bags across the lobby, up the elevator. Two rooms. Peace and quiet. Black and white. Gray. The walls were gray. My window was foggy gray. I looked across the rooftops to the gray clouds beyond.

 

How do I know his name was Walter? It was printed on his card. So this is Iceland, huh?

Center Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland https://www.centerhotels.com/en/hotel-plaza-reykjavik

Keflavik Airport, Reykjavik, Iceland https://www.isavia.is/en/keflavik-airport

Next Post: But Then,

 
 
 

Goldfish For Lunch

Linda Lou Burton posting from Flight # LX8300, Edelweiss Airlines, Keflavik Airport, Iceland – Got your calculator? Here’s a math problem for you. If you leave Zanzibar at 10:30 PM Tuesday and land in Zurich at 6:10 AM Wednesday; then leave Zurich at 1 PM and arrive in Iceland at 2:55 PM; and you change time zones by 3 hours overall, what time do you eat lunch? The entire issue becomes irrelevant I suppose, when you fly Edelweiss. Because they give you Goldfish to munch on any time you please! I grabbed a handful of Goldfish bags the minute they were offered and stacked them greedily in my lap.

I was living in high country now; our seat row was just behind the curtain separating us from business class (a step up for sure, at least we’re breathing the same air!); I had adequate foot room, and I had a window seat! The flight time from Zurich to Reykjavik’s International Airport was under four hours, so much less daunting that the “getting into Africa” adventures had been. Rick and I both were excited, not quite sure how the climate change was going to hit us. And, for the first time, we were totally on our own. No Globus guides running interference for us or drivers aiming to honor all our whims and preferences. “Flying solo and eating Goldfish,” I laughed to Rick, looking out my window, hoping to see an Alp or two.

All I saw was green, the brilliant, well-tended green of well-watered farmland; houses neatly rowed in villages. No elephants, no zebras, no giraffes. We flew over the edges of Germany and France; we flew above Belgium, the Netherlands, Scotland. The North Sea. The Atlantic.

Now we’re in Icelandic territory (it’s part of Europe but you can’t get there by car!); the landscape has an unfamiliar look. The ground is a different shade of green; the houses lower; the skies grayer. There’s the airport. The attendant has collected all my empty Goldfish bags so I’m done eating now, and I can give you a surprising factoid about Reykjavik’s International Airport – Keflavik. It was built by the US military during WWII!

Think about that, and Iceland’s role during the war. Meanwhile, Rick and I will be hunting for a way to get to our hotel. Jackets on.

Zurich Airport https://www.flughafen-zuerich.ch/en/passengers

Keflavik Airport, Reykjavik, Iceland https://www.isavia.is/en/keflavik-airport

Next Post: Fifty Shades of Gray

 
 
 

About Iceland

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – I know you’re wondering – why on earth would anyone go almost to the Arctic Circle after journeying to the Equator? There’s a good story behind it, which I’ll save for later. But top reason to go to Iceland is much the same reason for going to Africa: I’ve wanted to for a very, very long time. And since you have to go through Europe to get back to the US from Africa, what’s a few hours more flying time to hop a bit further north? Here are some things you need to know.

How big is Iceland? Where is it? What does it look like?

Iceland is about the size of the US state of Virginia. Technically a part of Europe, it is perched in the North Atlantic between Norway and Greenland, just brushing the Arctic Circle. It is the biggest part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that rises above sea level, and its central volcanic plateau erupts frequently. The interior consists of a plateau of sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers. Many rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Altogether a striking landscape of breathtaking waterfalls, bubbling geothermals, and rugged coastline.

How about Iceland’s weather?

With a name that speaks of ICE, and a location not that far from the North Pole, Iceland has a surprisingly temperate climate. The Gulf Stream gets credit for that, plus the fact that Iceland sits atop a massive magma hot spot called the Iceland Plume. Outdoor swimming goes on year-round thanks to geothermal pools; houses are heated that way as well. Still, expect frequent weather changes in a day’s time; layer up. Last-day-of-August highs and lows: Little Rock 90-73; Reykjavik 53-44.

Who lives in Iceland?

Iceland’s people population last year was estimated at 376,248; 89% of that is of Icelandic heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old West Norse. Rather than using family names, as is the custom in most Western nations, Icelanders carry patronymic or matronymic surnames, and refer to one another by their given name. Patronymic last names are based on the first name of the father; matronymic names on the first name of the mother. These follow the person’s given name, e.g. Elísabet Jónsdóttir (“Elísabet, Jón’s daughter, ” Jón, being the father), or Ólafur Katrínarson (“Ólafur, Katrín’s son,” Katrín being the mother).

As to the animal population, before humans settled in the 9th century, Iceland had only one land mammal, the Arctic fox. The rest of the creatures were either birds or marine animals. A millennium later, a wealth of life has adapted to the harsh climate, one of the most unique being the sturdy Icelandic horse, its bloodline so protected no imported horses are allowed. Sheep roam freely, reindeer too, but it’s the marine life that tops the list – whales, seals, dolphins, and 340 species of fish.

How does Iceland promote itself on its Visit Iceland site?

The coolest thing to see in Iceland today is a hot volcano. The Fagradalsfjall Volcano system awoke again on August 3, 2022, and is calm enough to sit close by and watch it spew and glow. Or you can go whale watching, berry picking, ice-cave exploring or simply sit on a tour bus and be driven from point to glorious point. Downtown Reykjavik is a walker’s paradise, plazas and parks and hop-on/hop-off buses. There are 266 museums in Iceland, 130 volcanoes, and an impressive array of restaurants. Seafood anyone?

https://www.visiticeland.com/

 

 
 
 

Extremely Satisfied

Originally published August 13, 2020 by Linda Lou Burton posting about Reykjavik, Iceland from Little Rock, Arkansas – We did it! We actually did everything on the list that each of us wanted to do. Extremely satisfied. And now we’re on the plane, headed for Washington DC. I’ve got to sum it up, for history’s sake. Yesterday I rented a car; hey, steering wheel on the left, driving on the right, small town. The GPS gave me English, so getting around was a breeze. Drove 3 miles along the waterfront to breakfast, here’s how Wednesday went.

  • Kaffivagninn for breakfast; we called it the Kaff. Friendly place, boats to watch, birds; everybody ate eggs in some form, I loved the coffee. Note: Icelanders drink a lot of coffee, also a lot of Coke, the highest per capita consumption in the world! https://kaffivagninn.is/en/
  • Saga Museum next, it was right at the corner where we turned. It’s the VIKING Saga Museum, legends from the Icelandic sagas in 17 exhibits, wax historical figures like Leifur Eiriksson; an audio device to hang around your neck, select your language and go. At the end you can dress in Viking clothes and take pictures of yourself looking fierce. We did, it was interesting, and fun. https://www.sagamuseum.is/
  • Old Harbor Souvenirs for souvenirs; Whale Watching boats galore; a little walking on the Sculpture and Shore Walk, so pretty, and there we were at the famous Penis Museum. Of course we went in.
  • Icelandic Phallological Museum, the only museum in the world containing phallic specimens from all types of mammal found in a single country; 17 different kinds of whale, 7 different kinds of seal and walrus, and 20 different kinds of land mammal; in all, 209 specimens including Homo Sapiens. There are even 24 folklore specimens! Well organized museum; awards from Trip Advisor and others. https://phallus.is/en/
  • Icelandic Punk Museum was just a few blocks away. Another unique; NOT organized is part of its charm; it was once a public toilet; exhibits are in the former toilets and washbasins; photos, posters, instruments, streaming videos; the story of Icelandic punk. Pull-down headphones for listening to records; jackets to pose in with guitars and drums. Johnny Rotten was here for its opening in 2016. https://m.facebook.com/Bankastraeti0/

From Leif Erikson to Johhny Rotten in four miles! Time for a lunch break. “Well,” we agreed, still sort of dizzy, “we’re not likely to see any of that anywhere else.” That’s the “Guide to Good Sightseeing” rule. Nowhere else in the world. On to the food court.

  • Hlemmur Food Hall was busy, and we scattered to make our choices. One went for pizza at Flatey, two went to Skal for small plates, like vegan, and codcakes. Flatey’s wins Best Pizza awards year after year; everybody that ever eats at Skals agrees the food there is “to die for.” Everybody happy. Next? Harpa Tours happen only at 2 PM. We admired the Concert Hall from the outside earlier, now we want to see how it was built. On to Harpa. http://www.hlemmurmatholl.is/english
  • Harpa Concert Hall is home to the Symphony & Opera, it seats 1,800 and is 300,000 sq ft and 141 feet tall, an architectural masterpiece with an amazing glass façade. Its unique design was inspired by Icelandic forces of nature and the northern lights; tours go to places only performers get to see; learn about how it was built, the acoustics, the technology, and some of the great performances that have taken place here. Great photo ops, awesome. Underground, next. https://en.harpa.is/
  • Settlement Exhibition is an archaeological open excavation-museum; just below ground in downtown Reykjavík. Discovered during building work in 2001, the remains are the earliest evidence of human settlement here, with some dating to before AD 871±2. A 10th century longhouse is the focal point; the museum combines technology and archaeology with interactive multimedia tables explaining the excavations; a space-age panel allows you to steer through different layers of the longhouse construction. Very cool. https://reykjavikcitymuseum.is/the-settlement-exhibition
  • National Museum of Iceland covers Iceland’s history; the Settlement Era – including the rule of the chieftans and the introduction of Christianity –features swords, drinking horns, silver hoards, and a powerful bronze figure of Thor. The priceless 13th-century Valþjófsstaðir church door is carved with the story of a knight, his faithful lion and a passel of dragons. Modern-age displays too, and a smartphone audio guide to explain it all. A perfect fit after the archeology, but we are beat. To the hotel to rest and spruce up a bit before the One and Only Last Night’s Dinner at Grillmarket. https://www.thjodminjasafn.is/english/
  • Grillmarket reservation, 8 PM, they offer a Tasting Menu, chef’s selections served family style; and a Trip to the Countryside, with three of the most popular starters and then beef steak with fries and vegetables for everyone; then a taste of each of the desserts. TEMPTING, but our independent natures decided we’re rather ponder our choices. And we did, each to his own, oh my, delicious. https://www.grillmarkadurinn.is/en/

Thursday. A really good night sleep, the final desserts last night made sure of that. The sun came up at 5:14 this morning but we didn’t see it; we were still snoozing and it was raining. A lazy breakfast at the hotel in our picture-window breakfast lounge; pack the bags, load the car, and head for Perlan, and then the Blue Lagoon. Did we save the Best for Last?

Perlan

Perlan, or The Pearl is Reykjavik’s # 1 attraction as a a Must-Visit Landmark. Now a “Nature Exploratorium” with a revolving glassdomed restaurant and observation deck, it sits in a forest atop Öskjuhlíð hill overlooking the city. We get tickets for everything; Wonders of Iceland & Áróra – Northern Lights Planetarium Show; the Wonders of Iceland exhibit shows Icelandic nature, glaciers, geysers, and volcanoes. There is also a timeline explaining how Iceland was formed and how life in Iceland evolved. We definitely want the Planetarium Show about Icelandic nature and the solar system. Perlan was opened to the public in 1991. The building is a story in itself; composed of an immense glass dome that sits on six hot-water tanks, each carrying 4 million litres of geothermal hot water. All of this is supported by a colossal steel frame, which serves important functions in addition to holding everything together. The framework, hollow on the inside, is actually a gigantic radiator. In the winter when it is cold, hot water runs through the frame, while cold water is used in the summertime. Of course we have lunch in the revolving restaurant, chewing slowly to be sure we make the full turn. And then a 40-minute drive to the Blue Lagoon. https://perlan.is/?lang=en

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa in a lava field. It is a top attraction in Iceland too, nearly a million people a year wade and swim in its milky-blue mineral-rich 102-degrees waters. The lagoon is manmade; the water is a byproduct from the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi where superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon. The water completely renews itself every 48 hours; the average pH is 7.5 and the salt content is 2.5%. Despite not being artificially disinfected, the water contains no bacteria, fungi, or plants. The Comfort Ticket covers our entrance fee, a silica mud mask at the mask bar, a towel, and a free drink. A Premium Ticket includes a bathrobe and lunch, but we are happy just floating in the warm waters enjoying the scenery. It IS otherworldly, as advertised, steam rising on this chilly day. What a relaxing place, after yesterday’s rush, but alas, we had a plane to catch. https://www.bluelagoon.com/

Keflavik International was just 20 minutes away. Our Iceland Air flight to Washington DC departed at 4:50 and lands at Dulles at 7:10 EDT. The sun sets at 8:04, just about the time we get to the Hyatt Place on New York Avenue; it is raining there too, and hot. I’ll be back on US soil for the first time in 26 days. That’s a good thing. But Iceland was truly the icing on the cake of my NDI RTW.

It’s hard to leave a country of such good natured, fun loving, happy people that it leads the world in the “I’m extremely satisfied with my life” factor!