Thursday, 21 April 2011

Lava and Icicles: The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Rejkjavik, by the Viking ship, looking across the bay to where the sky meets the sea. Ice blue, everywhere. Saturday afternoon, halfway through a unique and surprising break.

Back to Friday morning, Charles de Gaulle airport. I don't know where I am going, so I have a case carefully packed for town and country, high heels and Converse, sun cream and snowboots. The snowboots were a suggestion late the night before, I think I may be going to Scandinavia... we check in at the Islandair desk, on a flight to Rejkjavik Keflavik airport.

I am delighted, thrilled and excited. Looking up Rejkjavik on my iPhone, reading about its history, what we will eat and drink, what we can look at, the fire and ice extremes for which it is famous.

The smiling taxi driver eventually gives the game away, with 'Will you be staying at the Blue Lagoon for your whole holiday?'. We roll on through the snow-covered lava rock in the sunshine, towards the natural thermal pools and the Blue Lagoon Clinic, a tiny hotel and treatment centre a five-minute walk through the snow to the lagoon itself. There is a volcano in the distance.

The Lagoon was formed in the early seventies, by operations for the geothermal heating company that still has a plant nearby. Public bathing opened in 1987, after people with psoriasis noticed an improvement in their condition after bathing in the water and using the natural silica mud at the bottom of the lagoon. The Clinic has been open since 2005, with just 15 rooms and a private pool, for true peace and quiet.

Four days of bathing and soaking, dozing and reading to unwind from urban life. After a morning in-water massage - like being in the bath, and massaged all at once and undoubtedly the best treatment I have had to date - we took the bus into Reykjavik for an afternoon and evening in the capital. Icicle removal by the fire service was a highlight.

The city lake had iced over, people were skating, sledging and playing on the ice, feeding the ducks at the edge and enjoying the winter sunshine. Life in Europe's tiniest capital felt cosy and laid-back, bustling but not too busy. We had Icelandic beer and warming spirits in a little yellow shabby chich vintage corner house, then moved onto an organic dinner at Icelandic Fish and Chips near the harbour, before jumping in an extortionately priced taxi to retreat back to the Lagoon.

Arriving back just in time for a bedtime bath in the Clinic's private Lagoon, we looked up to find the North Lights dancing across the sky for us, green and red and purple.

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