Iceland Day 3
I tried to book the Blue Lagoon for us a few days before we started our trip. The late booking meant we couldn't quite get the appointment we wanted - I liked the idea of going there directly from the airport, and only then - after a relaxing bathe - heading to the hotel to check in. That didn’t work out, but going early on our 3rd day was a good option.
It can be a bit bleak in parts
The arrival was quite chaotic. It’s not that the place was overly busy - it was certainly busy enough but I’ve been in busier places that handled crowds much better. It just seemed like there was little control over what was happening, who was being served, and who should go where next.
This wasn’t helped by the woman in front of us looking the wrong way waiting to be served…
There are 4 ‘levels’ of entrance you can buy: Standard, Comfort, Premium and Luxury. ‘Luxury’ was ridiculously expensive, so we went for Premium - it was a little dearer than the other options but it looked to be worth it.
It was. It meant we got to use a much quicker queue going in, and we got flip-flops as well as rental of robes and towels.
Places are limited, so you must book rather than just turn up. And apparently they’ve made a big effort recently to reduce the number of customers so that those that are there have a good experience.
I’m not sure it worked. If it did, I’d hate to see what it was like before.
But, and this is the most important bit, it didn’t matter once you got in to the lagoon.
Warm and happy
There was plenty of space in the lagoon. It could have handled many more people than were there even at the busiest we saw. It was just the customer-facing Front Of House that was terrible.
The lagoon was terrific.
I sang the Red Hot Chili Peppers every time we went under a bridge
It’s a natural lagoon, full of geothermally heated sea water. It’s warm enough to bathe and relax in, with a few hot spots that could be uncomfortable after a while.
There’s a bar, and our ‘Premium’ tickets got us a free drink. You get a special (NFC?) wristband that allows you to pay for things in the lagoon without having to carry cash or cards. It’s a nice idea, and it worked well in practice.
The lagoon had ‘stations’ with silica and algae for face masks. We gave both a go. I’ve no idea if they were any good or not. It certainly didn’t transform my appearance.
Us, in algae masks
It was nice being in the lagoon, but my favourite thing was just floating with my head nearly submerged and my feet sticking out of the water. SWMBO would keep an eye on me to make sure I didn’t just float away. Floating like that wasn’t really her thing, but I enjoyed it. Very relaxing, just let all my muscles relax. Aaaaaaaah…
I’d forgotten there was a sauna cave we could go to, but we were reminded by one of the staff at the algae mask kiosk. After a few brief minutes in the sauna, we headed under the waterfall.
I thought the falling water pummelled my shoulders quite hard, so I didn’t like it. SWMBO did. I reckon she could’ve stayed there all day.
I didn’t sing The Stone Roses at this point
The lagoon is pretty extensive. Some of the places we a little crowded at times - it was hard to get to the bar at first, but easier later.
We were told (on Tripadvisor?) that the lagoon had staff walking around the lagoon with iPads, who would take your photo and email it to you. That way you didn’t have to worry about waterproofing your camera or getting it damaged. I’d even thought about getting my email address laminated so that I could show it to the person instead of trying to spell it out every time. (Seriously, I love opinionatedgeek.com but it’s not a nice domain to have to spell.)
I’m glad I didn’t bother. Didn’t see a single one of these photographers the whole time we were there. There were lifeguards there for safety but not a single one of these mythical people with iPads.
Eventually I relented and bought one of the waterproof phone covers and went back to fetch my phone. (That was their plan all along!)
I’m glad I did. I got some nice pictures of us, and captured some nice memories of us in the water.
Another thing TripAdvisor got wrong: there were no problems with our robes or flip flops being nicked. TripAdvisor said it was prevalent - people who didn’t pay for the Premium tickets would just take any robe that was set down. Didn’t see anything like that. We left our robes and flip flops alone on a couple of occasions while we were in the lagoon, and they were always right where we left them when we came back.
The extra for Premium was really worth it. It was nice having a cold drink in the warm lagoon, it was nice taking the shorter queue, and it was nice having the robes - it was a bit cold and windy when you weren’t in the water.
We got the bus back to Reykjavik. Instead of going to the bus hub and getting a minibus from there to the hotel, this big bus just dropped us off a short walk from the hotel. Fine by us but I wouldn't have wanted to do that walk with a couple of suitcases! I still like the idea of flying in to Reykjavik, going straight to the lagoon for some relaxation before finally heading to the hotel. I suppose we’d have been fine with our small trundle cases but it might be tricky for those stopping off in Iceland on their round-the-world trip.
It was well after lunchtime by now, so we popped in to the bar that was first stop of the food tour. In keeping with the spirit of utterly failing to avoid paying the high price for alcohol, we had some alcohol, and for lunch we had reindeer balls. Well, meatballs made from reindeer, but reindeer balls sounds better.
Just don’t ask the price
The reindeer meatballs and sweet potato fries were very tasty.
It was mid-meatballs that we found out the Northern Lights tour was again cancelled. Tonight was our last chance - we fly out tomorrow - so that was disappointing. Still, the company was very good about it all. They could have taken our money and driven us around in the hope of seeing something, but they didn’t - they kept us up to date with their plans, and while they promised to email before 6:30pm they always emailed much earlier.
So, time to update our plans for the evening.
We headed back to our hotel so SWMBO could wash the lagoon out of her hair. After a nice relaxing cuppa we went out for SWMBO to buy some sweets for her workplace. I’d seen a nice pair of gloves and wanted to find out a bit more about them. Turns out they’re a UK brand – Sealskinz - so I didn’t bother buying them. I figured it would be cheaper to buy them in the UK than have them shipped to Iceland and pay the premium only to take them back to the UK the next day. Turns out I was right - instead of the £90 the gloves would have cost there, they were under £30 in the UK.
After that dander and a return to the hotel room, it was time to head out for dinner. This was more difficult than I expected but that’s just down to my not planning. Of course Friday night in a city means it’s going to be difficult getting in to a restaurant. We got the hotel to try to book Sjavargrillid but (of course) they were fully booked. We figured we’d just wander up the main strip and find somewhere appealing.
That wasn’t so successful. Everywhere seemed busy or just not what we were looking for that night. I like the spontaneity of just heading out and finding somewhere but I guess here I should have planned it better.
No comment. Seriously.
We made it to the top of the road at the Big Church without finding anywhere to eat. We did however find an awful lot of photographers taking pictures of the church. I have no idea why - I thought there might be something important on, but there was nothing as far as I could see. For some reason, there were just half a dozen photographers with tripods and expensive cameras taking night shots of the church. I wonder if it’s like that every night.
My uneducated, un-tripodded snap
We were running out of options so we headed in towards the city centre, again checking out a few places on the way. After trying a bunch of other places, SWMBO figured we should check out a quaint restaurant right on the main road which I thought would just be a total tourist trap, bunged with travellers. Turns out it’s bigger inside than I expected, and only mildly tourist-y. OK, quite tourist-y, but very good nonetheless.
We didn’t really have to duck under the slope
And, in a measure of just how we fail to learn from our mistakes, we went for the Icelandic Feast tasting menu. With paired wines.
The starter was interesting. It was four separate morsels:
- Lamb on flatbread
- Salmon gravlax
- Dried haddock
- Fermented shark
The lamb was tasty. The salmon was fantastic. The shark and the fish though…
The shark came in that airtight jar. ‘Cute’, thought I. Our waitress said it could have a strong aroma, and was an acquired taste. ‘You might like it,’ she said as she put down a shot glass of Brennivin. “What’s the Brennivin for?” we asked. She said it’s to quickly take away the taste and smell of the shark.
Our waitress was not great at sales, it has to be said. She seemed to come from the ‘increase foreboding’ camp rather than the usual ‘increase anticipation’ side.
Still, we gave it all a go.
My jar had 3 small cubes of shark. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to accompany it with anything, so I just popped one in to my mouth.
The texture was chewy and fibrous, not very like meat. The aroma was the surprise though. Ammonia! I don’t know about you but I have never in my life smelled ammonia and thought ‘That smells tasty’.
And as I chewed, the smell did indeed become stronger. The aroma was coming from the shark in my mouth, so I took a sip of Brennivin and that did indeed kill the smell.
I had the other two cubes and polished off the Brennivin. Shark isn’t for me, fermented or not, so I’m glad we don’t have to eat it to survive. SWMBO didn’t manage to finish her portion of shark. I didn’t volunteer to eat it though.
Finally, the wind dried haddock. This was pretty much like chewing plastic dipped in fish oil. I didn’t like it at all. I disliked it more than the shark, something that surprised SWMBO. I finished it, but not happily. Plastic. Chewable plastic. Dipped in fish oil. Plastic. Not tasty.
But that gravlax. That was just gorgeous. The cool, juicy salmon with a gentle dill dressing was so good. The lamb was nice too, but the gravlax was a genuine highlight. (And the plastic haddock a genuine lowlight, but I’ll shut up about that now.)
Next up was cream of langoustine soup, with ‘a cloud of cream’. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had ‘the best lobster soup in the world’ and didn’t particularly like it, and, well, I didn’t like this either. It was quite mushroomy and I don’t like mushrooms. SWMBO assured me it was lovely.
The main course of lamb and potatoes was good. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it other than it was tasty (and served with a nice Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja).
Tasty, tasty lamb
Desert was a fruity Skyr that again was absolutely not yoghurt, but if you imagine a thick yoghurt with blueberries you’ll have a good idea of what it was.