Thursday, December 24, 2015

Iceland, bathing

The Blue Lagoon is one of those things you have to do in Iceland, they say*. So I did.

It's not exactly natural, or only at one or two removes. It's actually developed from the outflow of a power station, which isn't quite as bad as it sounds, as it's a geothermal power station.

It's only of quite recent times that the Icelanders have been able to make much use of the plentiful hot springs they have, there were very few places where they were at a comfortable temperature to bathe in or otherwise use, like the ones in Laxdaela saga where Gudrun, her hair so long and thick she could tuck her plaits into her belt, met and began the eternal triangle with Kjartan and his foster brother Bolli. Now, however, using advances made in the oil industry, they have the pipelines and other technology to harness this bounty, so heating for home and hot water is one of the few things there that are incredibly cheap and abundant, and sustainably so.

The Lagoon is surrounded by a black laval rocks, like most things there,

 and there are many open pools and walkways around the main resort:

And it really is very blue, because of the white silica mud that it contains, which in the shallows forms into some quite strange crystalline flakes and patterns:

So, following its cooling via the power station, the water in the Lagoon is a delicious 37 to 39 degrees, just right for bathing,  and the resort development is growing apace:

Tom took these last three pictures from the café which looked directly over the pool, since by that time I was in the water, though it surprised me how many people were using their cameras and phones while bathing (though there weren't too many selfie sticks there or anywhere that we saw, and people were more inclined to photograph each other, asking or offering to strangers to do so, which was heartening; perhaps they are on the wane, or else the people who come to Iceland aren't the type to use them).

Tom opted out of taking a dip, fearing triggering bronchitis going in and out of cold air, and not being a great one for prolonged watery submersion, though he regretted it perhaps a little. However, he settled down with a drink, and after a time I procured myself a glass of wine from the floating bar shack in the last photo, and came and joined him on the other side of the glass:

The gloopy silica mud, which is also available in bins around the pool, is supposed to be good for the skin. I'm not entirely convinced about this, it seemed rather drying to me. They give you a little pack of skincare products with the entry package and I used the moisturiser quite a bit in the days afterwards, but perhaps that was the result of the cold air. It's certainly not great for your hair, in spite of applying colossal amounts of the free conditioner before and after; you can spot the people who have been in the Lagoon everywhere by the way their hair is standing out in stalky clumps the texture of sisal. 

But no matter, it was all worth it; it really is a most pleasurable, somewhat surreal and altogether memorable experience. Whether or not it's therapeutic to the skin, there is something very soothing and benign about just being immersed in the water and the atmosphere,  it seems to have a very calming, dreamy effect on people of whom I wouldn't perhaps have expected it; a kind of steamy, slowed down, sense of community prevails. Not for the last time in Iceland I felt a little like I'd landed on another planet, it reminded me of something out of Star Trek, except the rocks aren't polystyrene, so you need to watch out not to stub your toe on them underwater. Highly recommended.

* I know much more serious and intrepid people than I have spent time in Iceland and not done so, but then they are travellers, I am a tourist.


So here we are and Christmas day is nearly upon us, and I've not come up with anything very festive or appropriate. Having had quite a bit of coming and going of late it all feels rather quiet now and not especially Christmassy, which is just fine with me. But however or whether you yourselves are celebrating, I wish you all good things and many happy moments. Merry Christmas.


Dale said...

Merry Christmas!

marja-leena said...

Fantastic photos, I love the crystalline flakes and patterns most! Belated happy birthday, a most memorable celabration that you have had. Wish I were closer to go there for mine!

And a lovely quiet and warm Christmas!

Zhoen said...

Gorgeous. You describe how I feel about Lava Hot Springs in Idaho.

Rouchswalwe said...

Ahh, hot springs. You describe the effect perfectly. I might have a photo of me in a Japanese hot spring with Saké in hand instead of wine and a more green background somewhere. A wonderful way to warm up in December.

Looking forward to an evening walk under the full moon and to the Dr. Who Special together with the Water Rat and the Iron Boar later. We'll break out the Wein then ... Happy Christmas to you and Tom, sweet Lucy!

The Crow said...

These photos are a treasure, Lucy. As others have suggested, they present - suggest - an alien world. The colors of the landscape are unexpectedly beautiful together.

Hope you and Tom have a lovely Christmas, Lucy.

tristan said...

great pictures XXX

Catalyst said...

Love the picture of you with the glass of wine, Lucy.

Roderick Robinson said...

You were right to take advantage of the swimming pool; it's one of your several natural evironments. The head and shoulders shot captures an expression I can't ever remember seeing before; a kind of mild defiance which - am I too fanciful? - seems to match the way you write. I am trying to fit in the under-used adjective pawky as well but the definition includes sardonic and that's a word I've never been entirely sure of.

The eye for detail never at rest: "hair standing out in stalky clumps the texture of sisal."

How good you are mediating between us and sources of info; salting and peppering things as you go. Time you spent time in The Empty Quarter.

Les said...

Fabulous! Love the shot of you in the pool. I bathed in hot springs in Mexico and it was wonderful - once in the hot river itself and once late at night in the spa pool under the stars. Unforgettable. And fortunately not icy once stepping out. But not I imagine as otherworldly as in Iceland.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas and are enjoying the holidays back at home. Looking forward to more of your Iceland photos and stories.

the polish chick said...

great photos, as always. love traveling vicariously through you! and a merry christmas season to you both!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

I wish there were hot springs in London, maybe on top of Primrose Hill or deep in Hampstead Heath. It would be a great way to spend Christmas, glass of bubbly in hand. But nothing can beat your description and the photo, your face bravely smeared in Icelandic unguent. A toast to you and to Tom, dear Lucy.

Nimble said...

Happy sigh. So glad to hear it was a good soak!

Soize said...

Wow...tes photos sont magnifiques !