So we'll be hitting a lot of the same spots on this tour- the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands. . . but we began the trip with a new country (finally)- ICELAND! The tiny island nation in the North Atlantic has seen a huge surge in tourism lately, thanks to the efforts (and cheap prices) of Icelandair Airlines. Josh and I, like many North Americans, found a super inexpensive flight to London on Icelandair, via Reykjavik. And since we always love to visit new countries, we thought we'd take advantage of their free "stopover" program and spend a night in the capital city. A few interesting facts about Iceland- the population of the entire country is only about 320,000! That's around the size of metro Madison, WI! crazy. And even though 2/3 of the citizens live in the main city of Reykjavik, if you do the math, that makes for a pretty manageable sized city. So, we were able to walk around most of central Reykjavik in a couple of days.
After landing at the airport in Keflavik, we had to take a bus for about 45 minutes to get to central Reykjavik. This was the only bit of countryside that we saw, but it was beautiful! The landscape is rugged and open- no trees, just low shrubs covering volcanic rock. It reminded me of Connemara, Ireland. In the distance (but not so far away) in almost every direction were snow-covered mountains. Actually, they're volcanoes. Many had flat tops, caused by eruptions in the recent past. The entire island is teeming with volcanic activity, including 30 active volcanoes! The plus side of this is that even though the temperatures are very cold, the ground stays quite warm. The most popular past time in Iceland is to bathe in the geothermal pools. There are dozens in Reykjavik and many more "natural" pools outside the city. And the entire country runs on geothermal energy, along with a bit of wind and solar power. My guess is they have the lowest carbon emissions in the world.
|geothermal pool in Reykjavik|
On our second day in Iceland, we woke up to snow. Quite a lot of snow, actually. Numerous people had told us that the weather there is particularly unpredictable, and this confirmed that. The previous day the weather report estimated temps in the upper 30s, but the entire time we were there I don't think it got above 25. Despite the fact that we hadn't really packed warm enough clothes (90% of our suitcases are full of CDs!), we walked about 1.5 miles from our hotel to the local geothermal pool. If you're familiar with Iceland, you've probably seen pics of the Blue Lagoon- a VERY popular tourist destination about an hour from Reykjavik. Some day I would like to visit this famous natural geothermal pool, but for this trip (since our time was limited and we didn't have a car) we opted for the "locals" version. The pool we went to was much like any public swimming pool, complete with dressing rooms, a tiny gym, and a steam room. Besides a full-size olympic pool, there are several "hot tubs" at varying temperatures. I would guess that the hottest tub is about 105 degrees fahrenheit. Surrounded by snow, steam rising all around us. . . it felt great! Even at a place like this, though, out in the "suburbs" of Reykjavik, it's hard to feel like a local because tourists are everywhere! Soaking in one of the larger tubs, Josh and I found ourselves wedged between two other American couples. And walking the streets of the central city, we heard English spoken way more than Icelandic. In fact, when we first arrived early Monday morning, we wandered around before the shops were open and it felt like a deserted city, save the dozens of tourists (mainly American & British) that we passed. Oh well. I still would LOVE to go back to Iceland, preferably when the weather is warmer, and see more of the countryside.vintage posters from pinterest
Now we're in England and the tour is underway. . . more updates soon!