So begins the great Iceland adventure! The evening starts out by flying from Cleveland, to Toronto, then over to Iceland. The best surprise was that I was in 1st class for the long 6-hour flight to Iceland AND no one sat by me so I was able to sleep in style all the way to Reykjavik.
Upon arrival, we met our tour guides and split the 80 people group into two – OSU alumni and Texas Alumni. We then boarded our charter bus for a quick 15min drive over to the Blue Lagoon.
The landscape here is just incredible. Every twist in the road, every time you look out the window, the scenery changes. We drive by breathtaking lava fields with moss growing all around, rock sculptures and rigid mountains.
As we arrive at the Blue Lagoon, the weather is crisp and we see steam rolling up over the lagoon as we swiftly make our way off the bus and up towards the facility. The building itself is a masterpiece with all modern, sleek glass, rocky terrain and darling interior decor. There is a short path that you walk from the parking lot up to the building and its like walking between two rocky walls.
Whwn checking in at the Blue Lagoon, you receive a blue waterproof wristband that allows you access into a locker and allows you to purchase drinks inside at the Lagoon’s swim up bar. We quick shower off and get changed into our bathing suits and make our way into the beautiful Blue Lagoon.
The water doesn’t smell and is a eerie murky ice blue color. The temperature ranges from cool spots to warm spots and people are lazily tiptoeing through the therapeutic waters. There are swim up bars, waterfalls, bridges and ‘clay mask’ stations. I personally didn’t partake in the clay mask experience but the entire 3-hours there, I covered every inch of the Blue Lagoon.
Meeting up with Stephanie and Lauren, we snapped some quick photos, tested out the hot steam and sauna rooms, before returning back to the locker rooms to rinse off, get dressed and hop back onto the bus.
Our Icelandic tour guide then narrated a quick bus tour as we drove into the main city of Reykjavik. We passed beautiful industrious houses, new and familiar businesses, and drove alongside the coast.
We took a quick pit stop at The Perlan or ‘The Pearl’ for short, which not only serves as a coctail bar, museum and outlook point, but a massive hot water storage tank for the city. We had a quick 30-minutes to snap some photos before getting back onto the bus and on our way.
Our next stop was the famous Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. It is not only the tallest building in Reykjavik, but also a gothic masterpiece. Designed to look like Iceland’s famous basalt columns, it towers over the city at 74.5 meters tall. We enter the West end of the church through massive bronze doors and enter the facade of the church to beautiful, clean, white walls with gothic flying buttresses high above. There is a man playing the 5,275-pipe organ. We walk down the side isles into the apse to get a better glimpse at the magnificent organ echoing the entire building. I’m in complete love with this cathedral and throughly enjoy its clean and bright interior.
After the Cathedral, we walk the 6 blocks to our Hotel that is just West of the beautiful church. We pass beautiful little storefronts, each decorated uniquely, and with bright colors, textures and styles. I love the art and the beautiful people that walk these cozy streets.
We arrive at our bustling hotel, the Center Plaza Hotel and I quickly get checked into our fabulous room. Side note: my roommate, Katie, had yet to arrive, as her flight was delayed in Montreal and won’t arrive until almost midnight.
The room was a maze to find, but after four flights of stairs, five hallways and a couple of loops around this confusing hotel, I finally find our room and it is such a sight! We are on the top floor in an a-frame / attic-like room. Two wood beams pass through the ceiling, along with two twin beds and some mis-matched furniture. The bathroom is standard and I love our darling little window overlooking the street.
I quick unpack some items, re-organize, get dressed and curl my hair for the evening.
We meet in the lobby for a quick 45-minute walking tour of downtown. It included entering City Hall, where an incredible 3-D replica of Iceland is on display. We also pass the Parliament Building, along with the city’s small Tjorn lake.
Following the city walk, we meet the two groups in the hotel’s meeting room for quick cocktails (ie-champagne) and introductions of all the tour guides.
Afterwards, Lauren, Stephanie and I along with a group of 6 others make our way out of the hotel and around the corner to Geysier Bistro for some much needed dinner. The restaurant was cozy, casual, but modern and quiet, and we quick order dishes varying from seafood pasta to whale burgers. I personally ordered an Icelandic cheese, deep fried Camenbert, with parma ham, grilled bread, fresh salad, and red currant jelly. It was a delight filled with tons of flavors and texture and I highly recommend!
Following dinner, we meet the group at an Irish pub, The Dubliner, as our first stop on the evenings pub crawl. I start with a local cider, Somesrby, for around ~$8.00 and it is a 10/10. The bar is similar to a college bar, full of our group laughing, playing foosball, darts and of course, drinking.
The next stop is a gay bar (yes, you read that right) two blocks back into town called Kiki Bar. It is all black inside, with paintings of life-size flamingos and a disco ball. We laugh and order our 2nd round of drinks, this time trying the local ‘Gull‘ beer for ~$6.00. It similar to a bud light, only 5X better. Everyone is dancing and laughing and it was just a hoot. The staff, with Iceland having long daylight hours had to start covering up the windows as the 20-hour daylight streams into the now 10:00p bar. We finish our drinks and the group heads on to the next bar. Now late at night, I head back to the room to lay our clothes for the next evening, and prepare for our next day in Reykjavik on the Golden Circle Tour.