SEPTEMBER 25, 2014
Our long journey was coming to an end and it was time to say goodbye to Paris. We were still pretty excited to continue on as our last stop was to explore Iceland! We chose to walk to the train station to soak in as much of the atmosphere as we could. Our backpacks were unbearably full, but we didn’t mind. We walked down the streets and alleys of Paris with big smiles and already talking about what we want to see and do on the ‘next’ trip.
One Last Perfect French Pastry
Along the way I insisted on stopping at a little bakery & chocolate shop for one last french treat before our flight. The woman behind the counter was absolutely lovely. Although she spoke absolutely zero English, she picked out her favorite pastry (with chocolate) for me to take with me. We might have had a little help from another customer who helped me find the right words to ask which was ‘her (the owners) own personal favorite’. The customer was happy to see an ‘american’ so far from the tourist sights trying to use french. She even asked where I had learned and was quite happy when I said they teach us basic french in Canada. She insisted that I keep practicing and both wished us luck on our trip. Such a nice experience to have at the end of our trip.
Charles De Gaulle airport
We hauled our bags through the train station and up to the Charles De Gaulle airport and made our way to terminal 1. We arrived quite early (surprisingly… as I am typically rushing late for everything) and waited patiently in a large queue. While waiting, another Icelandic Air passenger arrived behind us with an unusual piece of luggage. Awkwardly balanced on her baggage trolley was a tightly packaged bicycle. As it turns out, she spent months cycling and camping through France and Italy. Time passed quickly as we exchanged stories about our adventures. She was grateful for an extra set of hands to help her maneuver her cumbersome luggage through the large queues. And we were able to help her secure her packaging with our trusty roll of emergency duct-tape (not something you would normally think of packing, but a small roll can save the day)!
3 short hours later we arrive in Reykjavik, Iceland. We booked a car rental in advance and were greeted at the arrival gate by our shuttle driver. He helped us with our bags and drove us right over to the rental office. We picked us our new Ford Focus and headed out on our way. The roads in Iceland are strangely similar to ours.. and although the appearance of the signs were different, it was not too difficult to figure it all out. We were happy that we also rented a GPS system… the street names were impossible to spell, let alone pronounce! The landscape was shockingly eerie. I would imagine this is what it would be like on the surface of the moon! The landscape outside Reykjavik was so flat and desolate… black volcanic rocks and bright green moss could be seen for miles.Almost zero trees were seen… it became a game to guess whether approaching shapes were trees or stacked rocks. Turns out they were pretty much always stacked rocks!
On a strange side note… the unexpected smell. Iceland smells like rotten eggs. There was no denying the scent the first moment we walked outside.. it hit us like a tone of bricks. Although we got accustomed to the smell quickly… the smell lingered every wheres. The entire country basically runs off of geothermal energy. Water is naturally heated by volcanoes and hot springs beneath the Earth’s surface containing enough sulfur to make your eyes sting.
The 2 hour time difference didn’t affect us right away, we were eager to prepare for the next day’s big road trip around the Golden Circle. We stopped at a local grocery store to pick up roadtrip snacks as we knew we would be headed to some pretty remote areas. The grocery store was a surprisingly interesting stop. It always amazes me to see all the different packaging. Here in Iceland I was also shocked to see the sky high prices on fresh food. Apparently all local produce has to be grown in special greenhouses due to the harsh climate and pretty much everything else is imported.
The long awaited visit to the famous Blue Lagoon, only 20 minute drive from the Keflavik International Airport. The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland, located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Definitely should be on everyone’s ‘Must See’ lists!
The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulphur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis.The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 40 °C (104 °F) and is enjoyable year round, even in freezing conditions. The lagoon is a man-made lagoon which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant and is renewed every two days. 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 for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.
Once we checked into the spa, we were provided towels and a wrist band that worked to open and close our lockers. It could also be used to pay for food, drinks, etc while we were there. The changing rooms were really clean and were almost constantly monitored by an attendant who keeps them tidy. A quick shower was required prior to going into the water. We had a choice of entering though the outside ‘beach’ or we could dip in an inside pool, that lead you into the lagoon through an in-water door. It was a cool and foggy evening so we opted to try the in-water door so we could go outside without getting cold.
The water was heavenly warm, like one big hot tub, minus the bubbles. There were stations set up to apply a ” silica mud mask” around various locations of the lagoon. After 4-5 mins it leaves our skin feeling so soft and healthy. The Lagoon was very large and spacious but yet still felt very private and cozy with lots of coves, caves and bridges to swim through. There even was a waterfall to help massage your shoulders and neck. Lots of Spa options were made available including options to schedule in water massages and other spa treatments. There was a great little swim up bar that offered delicious (and expensive!) alcoholic drinks and fresh smoothies. We spent the entire evening there and left totally relaxed and feeling great. It was an absolutely perfect way to unwind after a long few weeks of hauling heavy backpacks!
Next we headed into the city of Reykjavik to find our room at the Baldursbra Guesthouse for the night. We were a bit of a late check in after our long relaxing evening at the Blue Lagoon. It took a while for someone to answer the front door but we finally made our way to the room and settled in for the night. And yes even the hot water from the taps smelt like sulfur.