Iceland – Day 4 (Wednesday, October 8, 2014)

Interlude

The morning greeted Iceland with a crystal clear, blue sky and bright sun. I awoke in a tangled mass of comforter and pillows, and I’m reasonably sure it was the same position I fell asleep in last night. One oddity in the living arrangements here was not having a top sheet on the bed – just a duvet-wrapped comforter and fitted sheet around the mattress. My reaction, which was shared by a few others, was wondering if housekeeping forgot about the top sheet, but apparently this is normal for Iceland. Of course, as tired as I was last night, I could’ve been dropped on one of the weird sculptures I saw the other day and still had a good night’s rest.

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Note the snow melt on top of the peaks.

Some travelers pack as much as possible into every moment they’re in a new place, but I relish having some down time. Sometimes you need that odd day for catching one’s breath and recovering from earlier exploits (i.e., from too much exercise and/or alcohol…or both…), getting a few routine tasks out of the way (i.e., buying new additions for my shot glass and fridge magnet collections), and preparing for what’s coming up (i.e., taking extra Advil). And in what may be the definition of a First World Problem, I kind of enjoy the odd rainy day when vacationing at the beach – because yes, despite what your average frat boy will tell you about Spring Break, you can get too much sun and fun.

Today was scheduled as a free day, so I took my time getting cleaned up and heading downstairs for breakfast, where others from the group were eating and comparing/debating agendas for the day. Paul arrived a few days before the rest of us, making sure everything was in order, reservations confirmed, etc. (one of his line of work’s best practices, and it does not go unappreciated by people like me). In that time, he apparently made a new friend who joined him at breakfast this morning, a fellow female travel consultant, who was in town on business. After a short but fun conversation, as well as another passing encounter with Yoko Ono (and again, making strange and slightly awkward eye contact with us), Paul’s new friend was heading out to catch her flight home. Unfortunately, this left Paul at the mercy of our good-natured teasing about his new “friend,” and frankly, this was the first time I ever saw him blush.

I’m a Whale Watchin’

A few months back, one of the others posted a link for superjeep tours while here, which sounded like a great idea for our free day. However, talking with the few who were definitely going, it was clear that the excursion meant being outside and on the road (or off of it) all day. I was still a little weary from yesterday’s long adventure, so I opted out of going, and signed up for a whale watching tour with others. Since the cruise didn’t start until Noon, I camped out in the hotel lobby and got caught up on emails and typing up my trip notes.

The whale tour boats and ferries were down by the docks and ours took us out past the harbor, just on the edge of open water in the North Atlantic. For the next two hours, we ran around in hopes of seeing whales passing by, and for two hours, we saw mostly birds and a lot of dolphins swimming around and chasing the boat. Finally, we spotted at least one whale (we’re not sure if it was the same one popping up a few times or several), and then made our way back. One aspect of the cruise that wasn’t lost on us – the snack bar was very well stocked with candy, crackers, soda, water, cans of beer and tiny bottles of alcohol. Though judging by some of the green faces I saw, I’m not sure a mini-bottle of scotch would’ve helped them much. Once back on shore, we made a pit stop at the Seabaron again for a snack of lobster soup for holding us over until dinner, and after a little bit of confusion with the bus schedule, found our way back to the hotel.

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The Accidental Tourists

779336_300A group of us made dinner plans for the bistro Brasserie Askur next door (Paul gave it high marks). A few of us wandering downstairs earlier than planned, so we had a drink or two at the hotel bar, recounting our day and observations of the trip so far. Some of the others who went on the superjeep tour had a much more interesting day where one jeep got stuck on a glacier and another broke its axle. The main issue was their getting a refund, which they eventually did get a partial one.

All during the conversation, I noticed a woman at the next table listening in on our conversation. Her name was Julie and she was an Australian “on holiday” who arrived today…sans her luggage. She was on a tour with friends and while they were staying in mainland Europe, she wanted to see Iceland instead, however, being stuck with literally just the clothes on her back and not much else wasn’t really part of her plan. We talked for a bit and then made our way out to the restaurant. Sadly, we never saw Julie again.

The bistro was a little overpriced, but worth it, where we ate lamb chops and tenderloin, and one of our crowd even ordered roast foal, though a few others balked at the idea of eating horse (I know, as opposed to the minke whale I tried yesterday…), despite his insistence that it was good. Honestly, I can’t blame him for trying horse. In fact, I’m a little jealous that I didn’t see it on the menu. On the other hand, my sense of gastronomical curiosity has resulted in my trying a few things I wish I hadn’t – most notably poi, now fermented shark and a dessert in East Berlin that is still best described as a “mystery” (and not in a good way). The waitresses were clearly less than happy about serving us (again, obnoxious Americans), but no one came down with food poisoning, so I consider that a win in my book.

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