View from Hallgrímskirkja - Our House is right next to that bright blue house on the right
I woke up early and realized that the wind WASN'T BLOWING ANYMORE! No wind and no snow, I started calling the smaller tour companies, starting with GTI. No one was going on Southern Coast or Western Iceland tours, so that meant...I was going swimming! Many Icelanders swim at these outdoor pools every single day!
I spent some time debating between the two nearest swimming pools. The Sundhöllin swimming pool was just a few blocks away, but the swimming pool was inside and the hot tubs were outside. The Vesturbæjarlaug swimming pool was about two and a half kilometers away, but the swimming pool and the hot tubs were all outside. Apparently, swimming outside in the middle of winter was the TRUE experience. I decided I needed to go to Vesturbæjarlaug!
First I FINALLY went to the Hallgrímskirkja to look out from the top of the tower.
It was definitely a beautiful view, and fun to see the places I had been and where I would be going later in the day. Next, I crossed the street to the Einar Jónsson Sculpture Museum, which has a small sculpture garden free to the public in the back. I enjoyed the sculptures, but the snow was so deep that it was difficult to walk around without getting snow in my boots. I mentioned earlier that I made three great decisions about this trip...the GTI tour, booking Our house, and...MY SNOW BOOTS! They were PERFECT. So here, I am shouting out to my Columbia Sierra Summette boots...thanks for being awesome and keeping my feet warm and dry.
I then headed to the pool. On my way, I suddenly was walking right next to the Holavallagardur cemetery! I went in and explored for about twenty minutes.
According to the sign inside, the cemetery was empty for awhile because no one wanted to be the first buried in the cemetery. At the time, Icelanders believed that the first person buried in a cemetery wouldn't cross over, but would instead become the caretaker of the dead buried there. Eventually, a man buried his wife and they could then fill the cemetery!
I moved on and FINALLY arrived at the swimming pool! I had many "first" experiences in Iceland (blizzard, eating scallops, wearing thermal pants), but the one that stands out the most is....naked communal shower. This just does not happen in America...that I know of. But before swimming, it is absolutely required to shower without your swimsuit on in a big shower room.
Beetroot salad at Happ
..so I did it. I then found my way outside to the pool (which was difficult because there were no signs). It was hovering around freezing, so I quickly jumped right in to the heated pool! I swam a few laps, but most lanes were full of children so I moved to the hot tubs to relax first. The swim team session ended, and the kids ran screaming for the hot tubs, urging me to return to the swimming pool. I swam laps for about 30 minutes, then returned to the hot tubs. It was a great experience!!
I was famished after swimming, so I walked back to the city centre and ate lunch at Happ, a health food restaurant. I ordered a fantastic beetroot salad that had mixed greens, sweet potatoes and various nuts and seeds. Yum.
I then walked across the street to the Iceland Excursions office.
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS! I swear, they're there...even though this looks exactly like an earlier photo of NO Northern Lights...
The weather had been very calm so I thought I'd ask if they were doing a Northern Lights tour. They were! Because I hadn't seen the lights the first time I went, this time it was free. I rested for a few hours back at the guest house, then walked back to catch the bus for the Northern Lights.
Apparently the lights were supposed to be visible along the southern coast, so we first headed to that same crater I had seen on the Golden Circle tour. This evening was MUCH more pleasant than my first trip out for the Northern Lights - no wind! Unfortunately...no lights at the crater. After about an hour, we then moved on to Þingvellir, also on the Golden Circle tour. We were there for another hour or so...still no lights.
We then drove and stopped somewhere else for about thirty minutes, but the temperature was dropping and still no lights. Finally, the tour guide admitted that we would not be seeing the lights that night, and it was time to head back. About ten minutes later, the bus driver pointed to the right and shouted, "Northern Lights!" He stopped the bus right in the road, we all got out, and watched the lights in the sky. It was not quite what I had expected...I thought it would look like the photographs with the bright streaks across the sky. It was more like faint lights gradually fading in and out in the sky. Sometimes it was a line of light across the sky, sometimes it was more like a blotch in one place. The lights were white, perhaps a very faint green. Even though it wasn't what I was expecting, it was very beautiful and quite satisfying. The lights lasted about twenty minutes, then we got back into the bus and headed back to Reykjavik
Overall, I could not have asked for a better last (full) day in Iceland. This and the Golden Circle tour were my two favorite days of the trip!