At breakfast downstairs in the Aurora Guesthouse, we noticed signs all around the walls, ‘Do not take any breakfast food with you!’ We mustn’t be the only ones taking lunch to save money. There were cereals and toast, freshly baked bread and jams, boiled eggs, juice, tea and coffee, as well as meats, cheese, cucumber and tomato. It’s as if they want you to make a sandwich for lunch!
I still managed to pocket a few chocolate biscuits without being detected, but by the time I climbed the narrow steep staircase, they were mostly melted in my hand! The breakfast fare has been pretty much the same all over Iceland, with the exception of the Hotel Katla at Vik where there were also scrambled eggs, waffles, porridge and baked beans.
Up to the Hallgrimskirkja bus stop with just our daypacks to await the arrival of our bus. Our driver introduced himself but told us to call him Thor. His name is actually Þormòður. The Þ pronounced as th. Oh, what a lovely guy! I thought I would be falling asleep but he was so interesting I stayed awake all day. He took us to a lot of the tourist spots on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which is actually his home, and told us some of his family history as well.
Thor showed us his great-grandparents’ farm and told us the story of how one of their neighbour’s only cow had died so, with no milk for the children, some of them would have perished through the long harsh winter. His great-grandmother talked her husband into giving the neighbouring family one of their cows as they had two. The really interesting part is the granddaughter of one of those children who survived because of his great-grandparent’s generosity over a century ago is now Thor’s fiancée.
We heard stories of elves and trolls when there was no scenery to point out, and he tied the stories in with the scenery whenever possible. Thor knew the restaurant that served fresh fish for lunch and if we could get 10 takers, the price would be reduced from 4,000 to 2,500 Icelandic krona. Using my sales skills, we managed 12!
The Sker Restaurant at Ólafsbraut, Ólafsvík has a reputation for the best fish in Iceland so we had to try it. It actually was the best fish I’d in a very long time. Not a single bone and it just fell apart when my fork touched it. Delicious!
At a spot along the coast, Thor dropped us off a couple of kilometres away and told us to meet him at the Bárður Snæfellsás statue. Half a troll and half a man, Bárður Snæfellsás was the protector of this peninsula and his story dates back to medieval times and is part of the Icelandic Sagas. His mother was one of the tallest and most beautiful women in her days, but his father Dumbur was a half-giant or a half-troll. Bárður was also considered extremely handsome.
His story is a fascinating one. Bárður settled in Iceland after fleeing the tyranny of Harald king in Norway. He was driven to madness after a dangerous prank was played on one of his daughters and he was provoked into an uncontrollable anger. This led to him giving away all his possessions and vanishing into the Snæfellsnes Glacier,where he went on to become known as the Guardian Spirit of Snæfell.
The walk to the statue was not difficult for normal people with hiking boots, but quite challenging for me with only joggers. I had to try to avoid the mud and puddles along the cliff path. Even so, I was first back at the bus as I didn’t stop to take photos. My phone was flat from lots of photo-taking earlier in the day!
There was only one person who had not made it back to the bus by the required time. We’d met the young man by the name of Satchel a day earlier. He had set his map alight with a candle in a restaurant (a feat I’d managed in similar circumstances on a previous European trip) and the dramas seemed to follow him. I could relate.
After waiting until almost dark, Thor managed to contact him. He had misunderstood instructions and had just kept walking past the troll statue. He said it was a beautiful path and he was talking to people along the way. He came running back to the bus apologising profusely.
Our final destination was a seal colony, but because of Satchel’s 18-kilometre adventure walk, it was almost dark and bitterly cold. Thor spotted one seal but I missed it and was too cold to keep watch for it. When Thor said they come up for air about every 10-20 minutes, I decided I’d head back to the bus. Everyone followed me. It seemed everyone else was feeling the cold too ,even though they had fur parkas to keep them warm.
It was late when we finally reached our stop; first on, last off, so we headed straight to the pizzeria next door and ordered. A perfect end to the day.
Our last day in Iceland was spent soaking in the therapeutic waters of the Blue Lagoon, a bucket list item of mine since 2014. We stripped off, lathered up, and put our togs on (mine went on inside out, but I was so keen to get into that hot water I didn’t care) while everyone was waiting in line for a private shower. They were all wrapped in their bathrobes and afraid to show any skin.
The lagoon was so large the end was invisible through the thick layers of steam rising from the surface. Surrounded by a lava field, the edges are just huge outcrops of lava. We managed to find our way to the shed where the face masks are distributed. We chose the free silica mask and left it on until it dried. My daughter Stacey took photos. My resemblance to the Joker was uncanny!
The waterfall was beckoning so we waited our turn both to wash off the mask and let the falling water massage our shoulders and back. Ah, heaven! I could have stayed for much longer, but people were milling about waiting for their turn at the waterfall massage, so we went to sweat it out in the steam room.
Back in the lagoon, we tried to find the bar to redeem the first of the drinks Stacey had purchased in the premium package. Through the mist and steam, we eventually found it and ordered prosecco. I was almost tempted by the fruit smoothies. They looked so good! Drinks in hand, we walked around looking for the hottest water. Unlike other thermal spas we’ve visited, where the pools are kept at a constant temperature, the Blue Lagoon wasn’t. Some places felt warm, while others were almost unbearably hot.
We searched for the almost unbearably hot, which just happened to be right beside a good looking lifeguard. Stacey stayed chatting to him, while she finished her drink. When I couldn’t tolerate the heat any longer, I headed off to refill our water bottles. You must keep drinking water to stay hydrated in the pool. Most of the rescues are from people fainting from dehydration.
For the second facial mask, we chose the algae one for dry, decaying skin. Oh, my skin really needed it! Seven weeks with very little skin care routine had taken its toll. We checked the time. Oh no! We had to get out of the pool to make it to our 2pm reservation at the upmarket Lava Restaurant.
Lunch here was Stacey’s very special birthday present to me. We ordered our second prosecco and chose the three-course set menu: Stacey the Icelandic and me the seafood. For entrée, I was served langoustine soup. I cannot even describe the glory of the flavour. The yummiest soup I’ve ever tasted! I was hesitant to even offer Stacey a mouthful, but I wanted her to experience it too, so gave her the last little bit. It was like parting with my first-born.
My main was fish, which was nice, but my taste buds had been ruined by the superb soup. Stacey got the better choice for mains. Her lamb really was the loveliest lamb I’ve ever tasted. They say Icelandic lamb is the best in the world and I tend to agree. It’s because the lambs roam freely over the mountains all summer so it has more of a wild game taste to it. I don’t know about that, but it definitely just melted in my mouth — so tender and tasty.
We were starting to clock watch. It was almost 3pm and had to catch the 3:15pm bus to the airport or otherwise miss our flight home. Just as I suggested we skip dessert, it was served with a special birthday message written on mine in chocolate. Of course, in Icelandic!
I barely tasted my crème brulée as I shovelled it in as fast as I could. I gave Stacey my mango sorbet as eating it would be far too time-consuming.
Stacey paused to pay, while I kept moving towards the building where our suitcases had been stored. Stacey ran ahead just in time to catch the bus pulling out. She signalled the driver to get our cases while I came panting up from the rear. He waited for us. Whew! That was close! It was 3:18pm as we pulled out of the carpark.
On the bus to the airport, Stacey told me they hadn’t charged her for the suitcase storage (1,650 Icelandic krona) as they realised the delay would mean we would miss the bus. How lovely was that! And also, she hadn’t been charged for my dessert. Still, I know it had cost more than she could really afford, but we had saved money eating breakfast sandwiches for lunch every day!
What a perfect end to our wonderful Iceland adventure together. We had only one day of sunny skies and there was no chance we’d see an aurora, but Iceland didn’t disappoint us. We would come again in a heartbeat. Maybe in summer …