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English Channel 2017

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The fruition of a random plan hatched on New Years Day to do something fun and different came to pass on the Presidents Day weekend. Being the free spirited empty nesters we have become we opted for a new adventure~Iceland!

Water and pools in all its forms was sure to abound! A short 5.5 hour night flight put us into Keflavik airport at 5:00am in the pitch dark. A winter darkness and black sky that would last until sunrise at 9:18am. After provisioning up with a small supply of Brennivin (Iceland’s national drink) and Burn basically an energy drink we were ready to go.

We began our adventure in our rental car, a manual stick shift, in a snowstorm headed to the southern coast. When the sun rose we found ourselves in a beautiful tundra like terrain.

After a short nap in the car, breakfast and a Burn we were ready to go! The first couple stops were water falling over cliffs aka waterfalls; Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. They looked so magnificent and powerful with water rushing over the cliffs.

A friend had told us to definitely check out a hidden gem called, Seljavallalaug. It is a little geothermal pool tucked into the base of a mountain. We parked our car in an empty parking lot and hiked along a snowy trail for a good 20-25 minutes before our oasis appeared. Wow-what a setting!

We stripped off in the spartan pseudo changing rooms and went for a dip with a few other intrepid bathers. The air was a bit chilly getting in but the water felt great. This stop was a true highlight of the day and one of many on our trip.

We ended our day in Vik on the south coast known for its black sand beaches and rock formations. Our timing was perfect to catch a beautiful sunset. I willed myself a couple of times to jump in the water but…I just couldn’t do it. I would like to say it was because the seas were too rough (they were) but it just looked soooo cold.

The next morning we decided we should check out water in its solid state-ice. Yup, we went ice caving. It was sooo cool. We took a huge SUV with inflatable tires through the tundra which is actually a black sand Arctic desert to an ice cave at the base of Katla, a volcano. The cave had only been discovered and open for a few months.

Geared up with helmets and crampons we made our way to the cave. Inside the cave it was awesome! The ice was different colors and textures.

We went through the cave and crawled for a bit through some pretty tight and very cramped spots that opened to a big high ceilinged cathedral of ice. 

Once on the other side we had to climb back over the hill and make our way down a steepish decline and then back across the snowfield to our SUV.  A great start to the day!!!

With some meandering along the way we finally made our way to Reykjavik.  After a short rest bit in our hotel it was time to hit water in the format I know best-the pool.  Pool #119 Sundhöllin was a 10 minute walk from our hotel. 

It was with some trepidation that I arrived as the rules for the pre-swim shower in Iceland are quite strict.  You must shower naked and soap up thoroughly before you put on your swim suit and head to the pool. Thankfully, there are signs everywhere that illustrate what dirty bits must be cleaned beforehand. 

After the shower process I finally made my way to the pool for some easy laps.  Surrounding the pool are hot pods (hot tubs) of varying temperatures from hot to lukewarm and a cold plunge. Bathing in pools is very much a social activity in Iceland with people of all ages and shapes and sizes just hanging out and chatting.  That wouldn’t happen on a Saturday night in America.  The requisite pool pic was a bit tough as there were signs everywhere say “no phones/cameras”.  I was able to sneak one in the lobby through the window. 

The adventure to our next watering hole started with another somewhat nail biting drive through a snow storm. When we came out on the other end we saw the sunrise over Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO’s landmark and home to Iceland’s Parliament in the 10th century set on two tectonic plates.  

Our afternoon led us to some remarkable water features. Strokkur a gesyer in the town of Geysir. Gullfoss a massive and raging waterfall and lastly the Secret Lagoon. 

The Secret Lagoon in Fludir is a low key geothermal pool.  We relaxed for a bit before our hour plus ride back to Reykjavik. 

Reykjavik seems like a small hipster-ish type European city with a good vibe with shopping, restaurant and bars.  Odd delicacies of fermented shark, minke whale and puffin were new food groups for us. We didn’t spend enough time exploring the city this trip but will in the future.

Our last day was a two-fer in the water feature realm.  Pool #120 was first up with an early morning swim at Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik.  The same pre-swim scrubbing rules applied before hoping into this nice outdoor 50 meter pool. 

It was 6:30am and very dark out. A leisurely 2500 meter swim and then some hopping in and out of the hot pods.  A very civilized way to spend the early morning.  For the first time in my adventures of chronicling pools I wasn’t able to get an “onsite” pic. The signage prohibiting pictures was so onerous and even asking the receptionist left me with bubkes.  You will have to settle for the Google image pic below.

Our last stop in Iceland was the well known Blue Lagoon. It is the geothermal pool to beat all geothermal pools.

Yes, a bit touristy but very well done and certainly worth a visit.  A glass of champagne and a lava scrub face mask was an ideal and relaxing ending to our long weekend in Iceland.

The scenic beauty, the history, the people, the geothermal pools and regular pools…I can’t wait to go back to the Land of Fire and Ice.  Hopefully very soon!

 

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