Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting Home

We sure didn't get to see much of Paris--the catacombs and a hospital, but that didn't change the fact that we had plane tickets leaving France early on Tuesday morning (Aug. 9).

We were up, showered, packed and waiting at the gate for the Metro to open at 5:30am. Teresa, pumped full of French pain killers and antibiotics, waved away my suggestion of an expensive cab ride to the airport and we braved the urine-smelling subway again.

The flight to Iceland was manageable and we easily bought bus tickets to the Blue Lagoon, the main reason I wanted to stop overnight in Reykjavik. This geothermal spa is just 20 minutes from the airport and 40 minutes from Reykjavik, making it one of Iceland's main tourist destinations.

Through the lava to the spa.

We ate the traditional Icelandic buffet for lunch. Looking back at this menu, I see that what I had taken for beef, had to have been Minke whale. I went back for seconds, so it must have been delicious.

(Un)dressed for the spa. 
She's putting on a brave face--still in a lot of pain.

The spa itself was amazing. The water is so heavy with minerals that you cannot see your hand six inches under the surface. And hot! You can move around to find the perfect temperature, but the places where the water is pumped in are nearly scalding.

Teresa found the water and the sunshine to be too much and relaxed just inside the building where she could still people watch. Unlike many people, I did not take my camera into the spa area, so you'll have to trust me that the people were very funny. One of the things this spa is known for is the mineral mud mask, which you can just scoop out of buckets at the side of the water, so many people were coated with a fine, silty white mud. We saw a lot of older people and a bunch of backpacking types. We also noticed many families with small children, which makes sense because children under 13 have free admission. The main age group missing: teenagers.

Another surprise, particularly after the racial diversity of London and (even more so) Paris, was the overwhelming lack of people of color.

Photo of a stranger taking a picture of her friend.

We stayed at a small guest house rather than a hotel. It had the most comfortable beds ever and blackout shades--a necessity in the far north in August. We took very refreshing naps and then ventured out to find something to eat. Reykjavik was clean and quaint. I really wish we had had more time to explore the downtown shops and wander around. We did find an upper-floor coffee house that served a decent veggie chili at 9:30pm.

Hallgrim's Church, just steps from our guesthouse

Sunna, our host, served a simple breakfast the next morning and then we were off to the airport for our loooong trip home. Here's how it broke down: seven hours to New York,  five scheduled hours at JFK airport, a 90 minute delay, six hours to Seattle, another hour (or more) wait for our luggage. We were supposed to arrive at Sea-Tac around 9:30; we didn't make it to our hotel in downtown Seattle until 1am. Longest day ever.

My son Nik drove up from Vancouver the next morning and we had lunch and made a quick visit to Pike Place Market before driving home.

The jet lag that I totally avoided on the east-bound trip, hit me hard when I got home. Still I was able to rally enough for this:

Portland State University Commencement, August 13