It's normal these days that you plan to go somewhere, you list out what you want to see, you consult travel guides and websites, you book a hotel that's convenient to where you want to be, you arrange transportation, you do all the things you can to make a trip go as smoothly as possible whilst having the maximum amount of fun you possibly can.
I don't operate that way. I do all my trips on the fly (literally) and its only when I actually cruise into the hotel, rolly bag in tow that I can get down to the dirty business of figuring out how I'm going to manage my time and how exactly I'm going to get from point A to point B. Trust me when I say that this is not an efficient way of doing things.
There had been no time to buy a travel guide and usually I don't bother unless I'm in a country long enough to actually put it to use. As my stay in Iceland was looking to be a good eight days long I was hoping to pick up a guide in one of the bookshops in JFK, and just my luck, they had every Lonely Planet guide known to man EXCEPT the one to Iceland. They even had the guide to Antarctica: I ask you, how many more people are flying out of JFK to see Antarctica then to see Iceland? Seriously?
I was fortunate enough to bump into a co-worker who had lived in Iceland before, she gave me a few pointers such as: go see the Puffins (didn't do it), eat a fish called Ysa or something like that (didn't do that either) look at the rock formations (I did do that) and go to the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon. Okay, not sure what that was, but I dutifully wrote it down on the back of an envelope. It may not have been Lonely Planet, but it was a start.
Fortunately our hotels are taken care of by our company, we just never know where we're staying until we're there. That can lead to some interesting situations and circumstances. I've found that when all else fails and you don't know what there is to do or even what's going on, the best course of action is to either just start walking or rent a car and drive. Seeing as how we were out on the moon in Keflavik (a tourist booth operator in Reykjavik actually described it that way) we hedged our bets with a rental car and a stack of tourist brochures from the booth in the airport.
Everyone we'd talked to had mentioned the Blue Lagoon as the thing to do. The brochure looked promising enough: laughing, happy people basking in mineral rich waters in an ancient lava field. That worked for us, and hey, it was actually the closest thing to Keflavik besides the airport. Finally, something was going my way.
The five of us that went figured that as long as The Blue Lagoon wasn't some Icelandic version of The Polar Bear Club, all would be well in our world. As the point of us being in Iceland was to work (3 days of work, 5 days of play) and we actually had to do earn a paycheck later in the evening we swung by the Blue Lagoon just as it was opening which proved to be an extremely good idea. Apparently if you show up early you practically get the place to yourself. Show up later and it's all lines and crowds.
The Blue Lagoon, we found out, is a geothermal spa. While the air might be freezing the water is warm enough that it doesn't matter. It really is happy smiling people basking in warm, beautiful water. You get in and you really don't want to come out. The water is inundated with silica, algae and other minerals. I'd heard that it was good for your skin, but I didn't believe the hype until I experienced it for myself. It was amazing, it does wonders for your skin, I left that place thinking "damn!"
Hair on the other hand, is a completely different story. My skin may have felt like a million bucks from all the lounging and relaxing and mud facials, but afterwards it felt like someone had replaced my normally fine hair with cardboard that was ready to go up in flames at any moment. Tinder might have been the best word to describe the state of my hair. Get a match within five feet of me and it would have been POOF!
And of course the photo-ho in me had to have pictures and lots of them. Watching the cockpit crew slather their faces with white silica mud is great and all but it's even better when you can look at the photos afterwards and laugh. So there I was in my itty bitty bikini trucking along with my Canon Rebel desperately praying that I wouldn't slip as dousing the camera would be tantamount to just chucking it in the garbage. Other people have significant others and babies and cats and dogs to dote on. Me - I have a camera and a serious shutterbug complex (the cat lives with my mom in Texas so apparently my affection has been transfered to the camera in her absence). The lifeguards at the Blue Lagoon were wearing thick coats and warm hats and heavy gloves and I was stumbling around the area in a bikini, and to top it all off I already had a cold to begin with. Not my brightest moment, but my quest for pictures really makes me throw all caution to the wind (and my clothes too apparently - but in a bathing suit freezing kind of way)
The most amazing thing about the Blue Lagoon, to my mind, was that compared to everything else in Iceland, it really was decently priced - about 1,400 Kronur for admission and you could stay as long as you wanted.
It was so completely worth it. Even the cardboard hair.
More photos of Blue Lagoon loveliness are here