Right after Paris, we were off on our next trip. One of the great things about Iceland is that Air Iceland does cheap flights to the states via the UK, with a free stopover in Iceland. It's essentially a 2-for-1 holiday! So, when we had a wedding in Boston, Zee booked us in a week in Iceland. High five him!
We spent the first two days exploring Reykjavik. We were hoping to see the Northern Lights, but alas, the sky has to be clear for that so no dice. Instead we did walking tours, enjoyed the little dinky stores and acclimatized to Iceland (read: cold, though mild by their standards).
It was nice, though. Took me some time to understand the currency exchange (1k Krona is about £5) - I found I was anchoring on weird numbers which threw me off. I mistakenly bought a super cute watercolour print for £50 (in my head it was closer to £20!). After that I let Zee handle the money side of things.
Still, there was lots going on. There's a strong artist community in Reykjavik which I LOVED. We stopped by a little ceramic studio where the lady made and sold her own works. So great.
The walking tour of Reykjavik today was especially enlightening. It was blistering cold and gale force winds, but still good. I was impressed with the history (Vikings!) and the laidback vibe of the place (no security, not even in front of the presidents house which we stood in front of. Only at the American Embassy, apparently!)
I was in awe of their social focused policies (education, including tertiary is free. Healthcare is free. They have the lowest unemployment in Europe, the lowest crime rate, and the highest literacy rate. There's a high tax rate (gst is at 25.5%), but the socioeconomic payoff is huge).
I was impressed with their feminist attitudes (29/63 ministers in parliament are women!) and for such a sparsely place, I feel like they're doing so much right. They use mostly hydro/geothermic activity to power and heat everything, so there's a very low level of pollution (the water smells a bit like Rotorua though - a bit like bad eggs). It's such a lovely lovely place.
We hired a big four wheel drive and went exploring around the golden circle - it's essentially the geothermic area around Reykjavik that has a lot of beautiful beautiful things to see (geysers, waterfalls, frozen waterfalls, amazing stark vistas). It was ridiculous. Stark, but amazing.
We were surprised at the tourist trade there... you could drive four hours and see no body on the roads, and then second you pull up to a waterfall or geyser there was a packed carpark and a hundred other people. How did they get around? It was the most bizarre thing.
The last stop of the trip was the Blue Lagoon. It's impossible to describe - it's massive for a start. And ridiculous colour, and the smell is something else. In saying that, once you're in it's delightful, with the poolside bars, payment by wristband, and in pool facials.... it's just the most ridiculous, delightful place. I'm glad we went.