There’s one thing you do not want to wake up to with a massive hangover that makes you feel as if a sledgehammer is incessantly treating your head like a drum – besides the image to the left, of course – and that’s the sun shining in full force right outside of your window – particularly when you are in Iceland and 364 days of the year, the sun is just some foreign concept, making it extremely hard to justify one day of your seven there indoors sleeping off that hangover. Such was the dilemma I faced Sunday morning. Apparently the vodka, Sweet & Hot, and brennivin (the latter two being Icelandic specialties) do not a happy Sunday make. I rolled over at 1pm and saw a glorious day outside and knew I could not waste it in my hostel, so despite my stomach telling me better, I made my way back to James and Hanna, and James hauled me and the Evas to Reykjavik’s botanical gardens. Now Hanna had told us the gardens were worth the trip. I beg to differ. They were the size of my backyard in Tullahoma, roughly an acre if that, and the only thing that justified the trip was feeding the ducks. After the 20 minutes it took to explore each of the plant species (mostly imported because, duh, Iceland has little, if any, fauna of its own to boast), we headed back into the city center, dropped off the Evas, and James took me to the flea market, which was equally impressive as the gardens, then to the hot dog stand made famous by Bill Clinton’s visit (damn GOOD hot dogs) and the lighthouse, which offered spectacular views of the Reykjavik and the snow-covered peaks beyond.
We then had to rush to pick up Hanna from her nail appointment (she does nails for a living…fun, no?), and the three of us drove out to Blaa Laonið (Icelandic for the little known Blue Lagoon), which is about a half hour outside of the city, only stopping for our second hot dog of the day (hey, a girl’s gotta eat). As we were walking up to the entrance, James suddenly noted that a lot of prices – and times, accordingly – around Iceland had shifted from a summer to winter schedule the day before. “I just hope that doesn’t mean they’re closing earlier,” he hesitated. Sure enough, we got to the door at five till eight, only to find that 8pm is now closing time, as of the previous day. Hence, the picture to the left is sort of misleading, though I was there in body and spirit, and the picture to the right was just to taunt and tease us and let us know what we were missing on the other side. But instead of getting our panties in a wad (and boxers for James, if that’s indeed his undergarment of choice), we decided to hit up one of the thermal pools and hot pots (a series of outdoor hot tubs that remain at a steamy 105 degrees year round) back in Reykjavik. Had I not been to thermal baths in Hungary a few years back, getting completely naked and showering in a room full of women would have totally freaked me out. But I was semi-used to it by now, and it’s required to enter the pool, so I did just that. I still tried to avert my eyes from the other women, Hanna included, while sharing the communal showers.
After soaking in the pools for a couple hours, we drove back out into the country to attempt our first glance at the Northern Lights. James only moved here in May, which is when Iceland is gearing up for 24-hours-a-day sunlight, and hence has never caught a glimpse. Apparently, the end of September is when the Aurora Borealis is at its most spectacular, so we figured there would at least be able to make out the lights a little bit. We did see the curtain effect of the aurora, albeit faint and white, but what was most amazing was the stars and Milky Way. Shooting stars abounded, and the view only rivaled what I witnessed every night living in Arizona and Utah. Sigh, you really can’t help but fall in love with Iceland.