Iceland: in which I do not see whales but I do go swimming

Yesterday, I landed in Iceland. Between jetlag and my total lack of research on the Blue Lagoon — I had planned to go there for Day 1 but turned out they were completely booked and oh they’ll be closing soon for renovation — I crawled into bed as soon as the sun went down (around 4 p.m.).

This morning, I woke up with a nosebleed. Iceland is not really all that dry, but it’s definitely cold. Add that to dry heater air (and hours of recycled plane air from the previous day) and my delicate nose had had enough.

So there I was, trying to stop up my nose  — it’s also kind of runny because well, cold — and I realized I’d overslept. So instead of my planned leisurely breakfast, I was running around properly bundling up and then out the door for my walking tour. Luckily I had the sense to scout the city streets the day before, so I didn’t get lost (for once) and made it to the meeting spot just on time.

The Reykjavík walking tour was very nice — learned a little bit of fun local history, found neighborhood art and was shown some good places to eat and shop by a super friendly local guide — and then it was time for the whale watching tour. By this time I still hadn’t eaten anything, but the cafe on the boat was pretty lacking. I inhaled two tiny bags of chips and then napped a bit while we cruised for whales. We ended up not seeing any whales. Oh well. I got a complimentary coupon for another trip, so I guess I could try again if I were hard up for whale action. (I’m not that hard up.)

By the time the boat returned to harbor, I had decided that swimming was more important than finding dinner. The only city pool still open was across the city, however, which meant I had to take the bus. It was a creepy bus ride, mostly because so much of Reykjavík is still kind of a barren icy wasteland and the stop for the pool seemed in the middle of nowhere.

But whatever, I made it. Noted that the guy at the desk looked weirdly like Harry Styles (it’s probably weirder that I know what Harry Styles looks like considering I don’t follow One Direction, oh cultural osmosis), went in and went swimming.

The city pool wasn’t what I had expected. It was more like a sports complex. There was a gym and I think class/activity rooms, but the focus was definitely on water. There was an indoor lap pool, and outdoor lap pool, I think eight different “hot pots,” a cold pool, and a play pool complete with basketball hoop and three waterslides.

I swam a few laps — the water was warm-ish and smelled vaguely of sulfur — and  when it started raining I swam a few more because I didn’t want to leave the warmth of the pool. Five minutes later the rain stopped, so I jumped out and waded into a hot pot and yeah, I can see why Icelandic people call them hot pots as a bunch of  us just crammed in to stew in hot water. I ended up chatting with some other women who were also on vacation. It was great. Also great was seeing snow and ice all around the edges of the pool.

I tried out the steam room, too, which was fun. Like you’d go in, steam until you couldn’t take it anymore, then wander outside into the freezing air. (Literally freezing — it was 31℉.) Then repeat process.

I would have liked to stay longer, but my stomach was no longer happy about the lack of food intake, so I headed back to city center to get dinner. I can see why people love those hot pools though — the whole way back I didn’t feel cold at all. Hot pots and steam baths are definitely fortifying.

Chances are high I’m going to try another of the city pools before I leave Iceland. Apparently if I buy a Reykjavík city card, I gain access to all the pools as well, and that in itself makes the pass worth buying. (The pass also gives me access to city buses and entrance to all museums!)

However, that’s a plan for another day because tomorrow I am going to go ride Icelandic ponies — the whole reason I came to Iceland in the first place.

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