Northern Lights in Iceland - Day 3: Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls

November 16th, 2013

The world always seems better after a great sleep.  And passing out into a heap after being awake for 36 hours or so will make for a great sleep.  The bed at the hotel was fine enough, but the truth is I could have slept on the floor and woken up completely refreshed.  It was a new day and we were going to see everything.

I've gone on the record many times about my two expectations for staying in hotels.  Free WiFi.  Free Breakfast.  Because of this package deal, we didn't have much of a choice on hotels.  So I was delighted to see we had free WiFi.  Free breakfast...not so much.  Unfortunately, our hotel was just far enough outside of the city center that we couldn't run for a quick bite and return before our tour took off, which meant we were paying for breakfast.  

The breakfast cost 2500 ISK ($20 USD) for a really great spread.  Meats and cheeses, oatmeal with toppings, fruit, breads (the bread here...Jesus), eggs and sausage and potatoes and cereal.  The possibilities were endless.  And for $20, it should be.  But we carbo-loaded for our day, since we didn't quite know what the lunch situation was going to be.

Hello sunrise!!
The bus arrived on schedule and we loaded up for the day.  Today's adventure: the Golden Circle.  The Golden Circle is a tourist route in Southern Iceland which starts and ends in Reykjavik.  We cozied into the bus and watched the landscape pass us by while the sun began to rise.  The crazy Americans were not used to sunrises like this (especially at 10 am), so we were all taking pictures through the window of the bus.  Some, doing better than others.  The people behind me were a young, obnoxious couple.  Not overtly obnoxious, just full of inane conversations and actions.  Like this classic:

Girl: *snap* *FLASH* *snap* *FLASH*
Girl: "*SIGH*" "This stupid glare on the picture"
Me: *heavy eye-roll*

Our first stop is Þingvellir, a national park in the country.  It is an area of geographic importance as the Þingvellir area is part of a fissure zone running through Iceland, being situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (description totally taken from the Þingvellir site, because I don't know these things myself.  I'm sure our guide told us this fact, but you know...).  We wandered along the trail for a while, taking pictures along the way and marveling at the fact that "We are in Iceland!!"

We are in Iceland!!

Just a leisurely walk...

Ahhh...nature...
Stop number two was the Gullfoss waterfall.  The snow started falling as we got off of the bus and our guide warned us not to cross over the rope that separated us from the trail that went very close to the waterfalls.  If we crossed the rope, our guide would be very cross.  We didn't want to cross Siggy.

DO NOT CROSS!!
Quick side note on Siggy, our guide.  Super nice guy.  Good guide.  Until all of a sudden he turned super sexist on a comment about women and how the ladies should be learning how to cook and clean like they did in the past.  The three of us kind of looked at each other and wondered...really??  Is this happening??  I don't think he was joking.

As we exited the bus at Gullfoss, we were greeted by snow.  The joke was that if you didn't like the weather, wait five minutes.  Sure, it's the same joke that exists in every city.  But man, if it wasn't fitting in Iceland.  Especially today.  We walked towards the waterfalls in the snow.  Which...doesn't make for the best pictures.  So, kind of disappointing.

Now that's a waterfall.
The best story from Gullfoss is the story of Sigríður Tómasdóttir.  In the past, a group wanted to use the falls for electrical purposes (again, this story could be not remembered entirely correctly), but Sigríður was not having any part of it.  She saved the falls from falling under the hands of the evil empire and now has a memorial devoted to her.

Love the lady energy here...
The final stop on the Golden Circle was a stop a at Geysir.  Geysir...well...the name really says it all.  The geyser, Geysir hasn't erupted for a while, but there was another one that erupted once every five to ten minutes, Sigríður. It started to snow...hard...again as we pulled up.  We watched the water bubble up through the earth, and...Hello, Sulfur!!  Siggy, our guide, explained that one million years ago, the volcano erupted.  The lava poured out and to this day, it's the heat from this lava that still heats the water and makes it bubble out of a geyser.

This is about the extent of what I could photograph here at Geysir.
Think about that for a bit.  A million years ago.  It makes my head hurt.  Seriously.  And my first thought involved a TARDIS.  Then again, it's usually pretty easy to make a Doctor Who reference in life.  Same with a Simpsons' reference.  We had plenty of those on this trip too.

T-shirt at the gift shop.

When the snow really, really started to fall, we walked across the street for lunch.  Along with everyone that arrived on a bus in the last 30 minutes.  Richelle scored a table.  Danielle and I got into the line that never ended.  I cut in front of others to try some Icelandic Meat Soup.  Danielle attempted to get a chicken burger and something else without meat.  The soup was pretty tasty and I mentally made a note of how I could make this at home.

But I waaaaaant it!!!!!
Our second portion of the day involved the Fontana Steam Baths.  This is a geo-thermal spa, similar to the Blue Lagoon (which...stay tuned for Day 6).  We first watched as the workers of Fontana baked bread inside of the earth.  They dug a hole, put bread inside the hole, waited for the bread to bake, dug up the bread and then fed it to us.  Pretty cool.  I have no pictures because everyone crowded around the bread hole and I was too busy taking pictures of the scenery.  I did eat the bread.  It was good.  All of the bread here has been so good.

The Laugarvatn Lake...Basin...whatever...it's a form of water...
We made our way to the locker rooms and tried to understand what was what going on here.  And here's the deal...locker room.  Naked ladies.  Naked showering.  Sigh.

Yes, there was tons of nudity.  Ladies walking all up and down the locker room in full, nude, glory.  All except the Americans.  The American ladies were not having any part of this nude fest.  We changed into a swimming suit as soon as humanly possible (I had the unfortunate location of changing in front of the mirror.  Thanks, universe!!).  Suits-on, we walked to the exit.  But we were supposed to soap down first.  Naked.  Nope.  The American ladies basically looked at the showers and said. "F%#€ that S$!t!!" (Normally I would drop the f-bomb full-on, but I'm trying to maintain the illusion that I'm a classy lady.)

We left our towels in the towel hole and walked quickly through the shower (sorry, Fontana!!).  Cold outside.  Warm in the water.  We quickly found the first water we could get to and went in up to our necks.  Well, Richelle and I did.  Danielle found us a few minutes later.  We were giggling at the entire situation.  Which did not endear ourselves to the two ladies already in the water.  The first pool was very shallow.  So we found another.  A very deep (4 ft or so) pool and we quickly moved to that one.

Water, water everywhere...
Unfortunately, that pool was cooler than the first.  Cooler was not better.  Though Danielle decided she needed to jump in the lake.  Seriously.  Though it was more like a wander into the lake.  Jumping was not advisable.  Our final stop in the pool was a warmer pool.  One where most of the people were sitting.  Cause, warmer.  But this is the part of the pool where people were drinking.  Yes, please.  A glass of red wine in a geo-thermal spa.  This. Is. Living.

Time was not on our side, though.  About the time we finished our wine, it was time to get out of the springs.  Again, we proved to be a typical American as we showered in our swimming suits with the naked women all around us.  Good times.  Let's go home.

We weren't going to spend a long time at the hotel.  It was more of a drop off/reapply lipstick sort of stop.  But I did notice there was no difference in my TV situation.  I went downstairs to the front desk to ask what's what.  They kept offering to move me to another room, but I am just too lazy.  I didn't want to repack and unpack again.  But I said I'd be happy if they could comp my breakfast.  They didn't really say much, but the front desk guy said he'd go back up to see about the TV.  Ok.  By this time, Brett met up with us at the hotel and we boarded the bus to the city center.  We had a plan for the eventing.  A plan for hot dogs.

Hello, lover...
Baejarins betztu pylsur is translated into English as "the best hot dog in town."  This stop was always in the plan for one of our days.  Today, it was going to be a pre-dinner snack.  Cause, why not have a hot dog before dinner??  People do that.  Right.  Right??  It was actually the best decision we made.  Brett started first and got a hot dog with everything.  "Everything" included ketchup, mustard, raw onions, fried onions and a remoulade (a mayonnaise/sweet pickle combo).  Richelle and I looked at each other, cause ketchup is a dirty word on hot dogs at home.  But, when in Iceland.  And the hot dog...amazing.  Simply perfect.  Get it with everything.  EVERYTHING!!

We love the hot dogs.  Danielle loves a good photobomb.
On the ride back to the hotel this afternoon, Richelle and I conspired to find a restaurant for dinner.  We could have just eaten multiple hot dogs to satisfy our hunger, but Danielle wasn't going to be happy about it.  So we looked for an option that wasn't going to break our budget.  Richelle and I were angling for a Thai place, but we found a place around the corner from the hot dog joint.  The Laundromat Cafe.

We all kind of loved the Laundromat Cafe.  Mostly cause it was cozy.  There were books and (apparently...we didn't see them) actual laundry services.  The food was a bit less pricey than the day before (which was quite appreciated), but just as tasty.  Richelle, Danielle and I ended up with the same food.  A fish stew (two meals eaten with a spoon today for those keeping track...THREE if you count Oatmeal for breakfast, which I do).  Brett had a lamb, I believe.  We shoveled in the food hard, cause it was a hard day of sightseeing.

I love this.
The original idea was to look for a bar that had some live jazz music.  We...didn't find any.  Granted, it's something we probably should have researched before heading out for the night.  But whatever.  We wandered up and down the streets and found nothing.  I don't know if Saturday night is just not a hopping time for Reykjavik or if we were too early.  Either way...nothing was going on.  We thought we had a line on a band somewhere, but it turned into a dead end.  Eventually, we found a bar that looked good enough.  And hey, I found a new cider.  Something I need to find at home too...

I could drink this all night.  Or day.
We knew going into the bar that we would miss out on the last bus ride to the hotel.  And we'd also read plenty that cabs were...tricky to find out and about.  So we had to figure out how to get back to the hotel area.  As we paid the tab, I asked the bartender if it would be easy enough to catch a cab.

Bartender: "Sure.  It's not a problem."
Me: "Should we go to a different area to pick one up??"
Bartender: "You can.  But you can get one on the street."
Someone: "But it's not that far to the hotel, right??  We're at the Natura."
Bartender: "Sure you could walk it."
Me: "Is it safe to walk at this time of night??"
Bartender: "Oh yeah.  I mean, in the Summer sometimes bears come over on an iceberg from Greenland."
Me: *pause* (cause this statement needed to be pondered) "I was thinking more like thieves...rapists...hooligans...youths..."
Bartender: *chuckling* "Oh no, this is Iceland."
Me: "Yeah, we're from Chicago..." *pause* (cause now I really want to know) "So...what are the dangerous animals here in Iceland??"
Bartender: "You know we get these little...*holds his fingers an inch apart* wasps..."

At this point, I think I just chuckled and shook my head.  We walked back to the hotel and did not get pick pocketed, mauled by a bear, or stung by a wasp.  So it was a good night.  I also had a surprise as my TV was ON when I walked in the room.  Sadly, my first thought was that I wouldn't get a chance to negotiate for a free breakfast in the morning, but...whatever.  I turned to BBC World News and slowly faded for the night.

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