I like to choose a soundtrack to each blog to accompany the writing. I try to choose music that I feel captures the essence of or is linked to the theme I am writing about. If like me, you are moved by music and would like to listen as you read please scroll to the end and press play. Enjoy 🙂
It’s a Friday night at Boston Logan airport, my head rests against the oval window which feels cool against my cheek. It’s already dark outside and as the plane takes off I feel the familiar tweak of both excitement and nerves in my stomach. As we are catapulted into the night’s sky I’m treated to a spectacular show of lights from the ground below. It’s only April but it feels like Christmas, the red lights signaling from the periphery of the city roof tops, neon blues twinkling from the waterfront and orange lights shining from the freeways, collectively dazzling, colorful and lively. I resist the urge to get out my phone to try to capture the moment, I know my phone won’t do it justice so instead I simply enjoy the vivid display in front of me. It’s such a clear night, the colors seem to pop against dark night sky like someone has placed a chrome filter over my eyes. A few seconds later and we reach the clouds, my eyelids suddenly feel heavy and I start to feel myself drift off to sleep.
I’m taking the red eye with Iceland air from Boston to London via an 8 hour stopover in Reykjavik. There is an unusually jovial atmosphere on board the plane prior to departing. People are actually talking to one another, the flight is only half full so the lucky majority of us have some extra room to stretch out and the melodic sounds of Icelandic bands such as Mammut reverberate from the speakers. I keep catching sounds of what I think is English but I’m not sure if it is, all I know is everything sounds cheery and happy. It’s a wonderful prelude to what is arguably the most monotonous part of any journey.
Fast forward 4 ½ hours and I’m sleepily rubbing my eyes open to the sounds of the captain announcing our imminent arrival. My momentary weariness and confused body clock are soon overtaken by sheer excitement to soon be arriving in Iceland, the most uninhabited country in Europe.
As it so happens our arrival is even more spectacular than our departure. As we start our gradual decent the morning clouds appear dark, dramatic, seeming to have a somewhat mysterious quality about them. Suddenly the sunlight burst through the clouds and I’m treated to another light display, this time the morning sunlight diffused through the low hanging clouds. For a mere moment everything is shrouded in incredible golden light. Seconds later we are though and glimpses of the Icelandic sea and coast below await, welcoming us to their shores.
While proceeding through the inevitable rigmarole of waiting to offload from the plane I learn a few fun facts about Iceland courtesy of the Iceland Air infomercials playing in the back of the seats:
• Despite the fact that Iceland is a country founded by Vikings, they have no army, navy or Air Force
• Icelanders will queue for ice cream even when there are blizzards raging outside
• Each New Years Eve locals set off more than 600 tons of fireworks for the festivities, pretty impressive when you consider the population is roughly 330,000 people!
Yet for me the most fascinating fact of all was learning that more than half the nation legitimately believes in elves! I make a mental note to self to read more about this.
My destination today is Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, a natural geothermal spa located approximately 20km from Reykjavik’s international airport. It has been hailed by some as Europe’s best stopover and other’s as Iceland’s biggest tourist trap. Whilst I am not usually one to follow the masses, natural hot springs are my absolute weakness and so I am determined to check it out for myself.
Everything is pre-booked ahead of time, a bus is waiting ready to collect me at the airport and whisk me off to heaven for the day. First observations of Iceland? Clean, sanitary, crisp, white. I mean check out these toilets! I’m pretty impressed, especially by this lovely little piece of toilet wisdom I happened upon.
After exiting the airport the landscape quickly turns rugged, as I learn from the pamphlet I picked up earlier, the Blue Lagoon is located on a 800 year old lava field, the entire contents (6 million litres of geothermal water) of the lagoon is renewed every 40 hours and the water is rich in minerals such as silica and sulphur.
Soon I’m soaking my cramped muscles in the cloudy turquoise waters. The water is so comfortably hot I can almost instantly feel my tightened muscles relax soothing them into a buttery-like consistency. Lying on my back and doing starfish pose, momentarily all noises are blocked out and there is nothing else but me, the water and the clear blue sky. Seeing a bird flying effortlessly overhead I begin to reflect on the endless amounts of gratitude I have for this life, that I have the privilege of experiencing this as a mere stopover on my quick jaunt across the Atlantic.
Slowly edging my way around the lagoon, I watch the plumes of steam rise from across the water, white billows contrasting against the bright blue sky. It’s a fortuitously clear day today, brisk (-5 degrees ⁰C), bright and sunny. As I start to swim I feel contrasting pockets of water, piping hot flowing to comfortably warm. I can hear that not everyone there is enamoured by this effect but for me the warmth of the water, juxtaposed against the bite of the cool air, feels as if it is giving me a hug, encasing me in liquid heat.
Much like the plane journey, the atmosphere at the lagoon is light and genial. There are many groups, couples and strangers talking to one another. The crowds soon start to gather but the introvert in me seeks solitude, I hunt for the quiet corners of the lagoon where I can, for a moment forget anyone else is here. The space is large, much larger than I imagined and with the steam that rises off the surface it is easy to get lost amongst the pockets of mist.
I spot many people with selfie sticks and iphones and marvel at their determination to get that perfectly steamy selfie (aka 60% brave and 40% stupid). I thank myself for my aversion to selfie culture and instead enjoy an algae face mask whilst indulging in a green smoothie from the in-water bar. I leave feeling soothed and refreshed from the inside out.
It is just 8 hours since I arrived into Reykjavik and already I am on the next leg of the journey headed to London, muscles so scrumptiously soothed, mind effortlessly eased and the worries of the week/month/year have been fleetingly forgotten.
I vow to myself that I have to return, I need to see more of this wonderful country.
My eyes blink shut almost the second I fasten my seatbelt. Yet more famous Icelandic bands play from the speakers and I am suddenly in a dreamlike state somewhere between exhaustion and jetlag not sure if I am awake or asleep. I am suddenly transported back to the lagoon, those blue skies, fluffy white clouds and delicate mist rising from the surface. I feel the warm waters enveloping me again and I am comforted by the respite the lagoon provides, a short hiatus in the otherwise constantly moving treadmill that is life. I won’t awaken again until the plane has landed on the runway at London Heathrow but for now I rest. The kind of deep, restorative slumber that one can only get from dreamy days spent swimming in a lagoon, deeply relaxed muscles and a soothed soul.
• Iceland air lets you do up to a 7 day stopover for free. They are no Virgin Atlantic but equally they are perfectly comfortable. My Friday night flight in low-season (end-April) was not only very reasonably priced but only half full.
• At the Blue Lagoon I choose the premium package which lets you skip the queue, use a bathrobe, keep your flip flops, get a free drink at the in-water bar, a free glass of sparkling wine at LAVA restaurant and a free algae mask. It is €30 more expensive than the cheapest option which I thought was great value but do as your budget allows – there is something available for everyone.
• Go early and beat the crowds, it only opens at 10 but by midday it’s very busy.
What music would be more perfect to accompany a blog about Iceland than my favorite Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men? This is my favourite song – Enjoy 🙂