Iceland – Part III

^ Look again, you can see me sitting in the right corner of this picture 🙂
The last time I checked in, we had just done a site visit to Djúpalónssandur beach, and then checked into our B&B in Grundarfjörður, a little fishing village on the north side of the peninsula. It was pretty late when we arrived, but Azim wanted to take advantage of the last hours of light for some photos of Kirkjufellsfoss. At 11pm we set up the tripod and managed to take some incredible photos without any tourists around. Azim did a lot of research on how to take cool waterfall shots, and he managed to make the water look super smooth. He even waded into the water to capture the perfect angle!
The next day was the whole reason we embarked on this crazy trip – to see our two beautiful friends get married! Marilee and Ben’s wedding was probably the most unique and intimate ceremony I’ll ever have the pleasure of attending. They chose a little nook in a lava field with a view of the peninsula’s glacier in the background. Truly magical. There were 25 chairs set in a semi-circle, and as we walked towards our seats in total silence (it’s so quiet in Iceland outside the cities) we heard the sound of an acoustic guitar – one of Ben’s brothers provided the music for the ceremony and he also acted as the officiant. It was so beautiful, personal, heartwarming and perfect. Marilee walked down the aisle of rose petals, and looked like a vision out of a fairytale. Gorgeous golden hair pulled back with eucalyptus, rosy cheeks and lips, perfect dress billowing in the breeze, I MEAN, HELLO! A VISION! Ben also looked very dapper with a bordeaux-coloured suit and floral tie. So good. They also had reading of a passage from one of their favourite books (one of my favourites too!) – The Amber Spyglass – and I cried. It was TOO BEAUTIFUL!!
 
After the ceremony there was a small table with champagne and sweets set up, and we all mingled and got to know one another. Both Marilee and Ben’s families are so kind and we had a really nice time meeting them, and hearing stories about Marilee and Ben growing up 🙂 
 
We moved the party down to Djúpalónssandur beach (Black Lava Pearl Beach) to take some photos. Ben and Marilee’s wedding album is going to be STUNNING! We really lucked out with the weather – it was sunny and somewhat warm! The whole summer had been rainy and cold in Iceland, so we counted ourselves fortunate for the nice weather we had on our trip. Nevertheless, my wedding outfit was still very funny. I was wearing an evening gown and nice jewellery…with a huge turtleneck sweater on top and hiking boots underneath! There was no way I was going to wear my Sophia Webster stilettos on a lava field, and then down a treacherous footpath to the rocky beach. I was very glad to have my hiking boots by the end of the ceremony 🙂 Azim looked way cuter than me, in a navy-blue velvet corduroy suit and a fair isle fisherman sweater underneath. He also had some hiking boots on, so we made a fine pair.
 
After the ceremony we drove 45 minutes around the peninsula back to Grundarfjörður, where the reception was held in a beautiful restaurant called Bargerstein Mathus. It was decorated with photos from Marilee and Ben’s engagement, as well as both their parents’ wedding photos. There was a guestbook and a polaroid camera to fill it out, and lots and lots of incredible food. During dinner Marilee and Ben’s family shared funny stories about the couple, and their parents’ speeches made me cry. It was so lovely.
 
After dinner we danced on the deck outside with a view of Kirkujfell mountain in the background. At the end of the night, Ben and two of his brothers surprised Marilee with a song 🙂 It was such a wonderful day, and one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. 
 
Day 6 – Rauðfeldsgjá (Red Mountain Rift) and The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon
 
Azim and I had a pretty late start to the day after wedding festivities, so we only had time to make one stop in the peninsula before heading back down towards Reykjavík. After a breakfast of waffles and coffee in a nearby café that also functioned as a library AND tourist information centre AND mini museum, we headed to Rauðfeldsgjá (Red Mountain Rift). This incredible sight is a gorge in the mountainside – almost invisible to anyone passing by. It just looks like a crack between jagged rocks, but after the short hike up to the rift, and through the narrow passage, there is a secret waterfall. It felt like we were walking into a norse myth.
 
The legend or “saga” behind Rauðfeldsgjá is actually quite tragic:
 
Two boys, Rauðfeldur and Sölvi, came with their father Þorkell, the half-brother of Bárður Snæfellsás who was half-man half-troll, to Iceland as children and lived at Arnarstapi, a small fishing village on the western peninsula. Rauðfeldur and Sölvi often played with Bárðurs’ many beautiful daughters, their cousins.  One day they lured one of the girls, Helga, out to an iceberg in an innocent game and pushed her on the iceberg out to the open ocean.
 
Unfortunately, high winds blew the iceberg quickly from shore and out across the water, and she disappeared. The news of her fate never reached her father.  In everyone’s mind, she was lost and deceased. However, she actually blew all the way to Greenland, and lived a decent life with the family of Erik the Red, father of Leif the Lucky, for many years. 
 
When Bárður Snæfellsás learned of the disappearance of his daughter he was very angry.  He grabbed Rauðfeldur and Sölvi, one aged eleven and the other twelve, and climbed to the cliff above the gorge.  In his uncontrollable anger, he threw Rauðfeldur into the ravine and Sölvi off the cliff. Needless to say, both boys lost their lives, but their names have lived as the gorge, and the cliff bears their names; Rauðfeldsgjá and Sölvahamar. After this incident, Bárður lost his mind and eventually walked up to the glacier, where he built an ice cave which he has lived in for many centuries, and according to popular belief, still does to this very day. He is now known as the protector of the peninsula.
 
Azim and I hiked into the gorge and made our way up the secret waterfall, but there were two giant blocks of icy snow preventing us from going any further. Below is a picture of me climbing the ice, trying to go further into the gorge. What an incredible experience!
 
After Rauðfeldsgjá we started the two-hour drive back to Reykjavik to check into our last hotel. We listened to music and podcasts along the way, but Azim was starting to get tired – he drove a lot this week. As a treat for him (and for me, let’s be honest), I booked us a super luxurious four-hour ritual at The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon.
 
This was one of the best experiences of the trip. The Retreat at The Blue Lagoon is super swanky. We had a private changing room with heated floors, rain-fall showerheads, and special spa products. After putting on our robes we went to our private section of the Blue Lagoon’s geothermal pools. It was such a treat! Even though it was 9 degrees outside, the water was so warm that we actually felt quite relaxed. The colour of the water is this cool aqua blue and quite opaque, so we couldn’t see our limbs under the water. We stayed in the pool, wandering over to the walk-up bar and looking out over the lava fields for an hour before heading back in. I think Azim and I were both wondering how we were going to spend the next three hours…but then we discovered the relaxation rooms.
 
We started with the hanging nest/pods that were lined with fluffy pillows and blankets, and looked out over the Blue Lagoon. Then we went back outside and jumped into the outdoor steam room.
 
From the steam room we went back inside to the “Lava” room. This was a dim room, with a glass ceiling and one wall of jagged, exposed rock. The glass ceiling had a thin layer of water upon it, and above it was some sort of suspended bridge with water dripping from it onto the glass ceiling to create ripples. We lay on circular day beds and meditatively watched the ripples spread. It was like being underwater and watching rain come down. Every detail was thought out – the water was also dripping down the rocks on the exposed wall to provide a soothing soundtrack, and the temperature was cozy but not too warm. It was perfect.
 
From there we moved to the “Fireplace” room. This room had another exposed rock wall and a super posh fireplace right in the middle of the room. Comfortable Scandinavian-designed lounge chairs and couches surrounded the fireplace. It was my favourite room and favourite part of the whole experience. Azim and I both dozed off in front of the fireplace and woke up nice and dry.
 
We changed into new robes and went for dinner in the spa. The restaurant was gorgeous, and of course had a view of the private Blue Lagoon. Azim had beef tataki and I had arctic char and avocado mousse. It was delicious – all the food we had in Iceland was excellent!
 
Afterwards we dipped back into the water, and then headed off to the treatment room for a three-step ritual. First, we exfoliated our faces and bodies with lava salt and then rinsed off under a rainfall shower. Next, we plastered ourselves with silica (the substance found in geothermal pools that gives it that milky, opaque look) and sat for ten minutes until it dried, and then rinsed off again. The last step was to slather ourselves with collagen-rich algae, rinse off, and finish with algae oil. We had a personal attendant help us each step of the way, and handed us iced tea while we waited for the various masks to dry.
 
We were slippery smooth and new after the treatment, and ended the evening there. Four hours flew by in a flash. We opted not to take pictures at The Blue Lagoon spa to respect the privacy of the other guests. Although, it was one of the most beautifully designed spaces we’ve ever visited!
When we got back to our hotel Azim made some pasta (spa food portions are not sufficient for him 🙂 )  at our little kitchenette and we fell asleep. What an incredible day witnessing all the elements Iceland has to offer.
 
Day 7 – Reykjavík
 
We started our last day of the trip with a free walking tour, where we learned more about the interesting culture and people who inhabit incredible Iceland .
 
A few cool facts:
 
  • The Icelandic language is, in fact, Old Norse. The language hasn’t changed in a thousand years! The language has evolved in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, but not in IcelandIcelanders can be relied upon to translate old texts, and even small children can read ancient manuscripts and understand them perfectly. 
  • Iceland is run on 93% clean energy!! They use the geothermal heated water to heat their houses – it’s piped around the entire country. No such thing as outrageous hydro bills here, because it’s all free. Our tour guide said he has his heat turned up all the way, ALL THE TIME, and hasn’t turned it off in three years. He just opens a window in the (rare) instance that it becomes too warm. 
  • Education and healthcare are free, but of course taxes are high. Most Icelanders prefer this though. There is no military, so the money is distributed in a way that really benefits the citizens, and they can see the effects of where their tax money goes. 
  • Iceland has been named the safest country in the world for the past 9 years.
 
After our tour, we went to the Reykjavik flea market, and then got the city’s famous hot dogs. While chowing down, we were lucky enough to catch the Reykjavik PRIDE parade!! We picked an awesome weekend to spend in the city! Although much smaller than Toronto’s PRIDE celebrations, it was still a fun, loud, sparkly, colourful event. There were many families out to support the LGBTQ community, and the Prime Minister and President joined in.
 
After a brief rest in the hotel, we went to the Old Harbour for dinner and then spent the rest of the evening walking around the city for the last time. It was without a doubt one of the best trips Azim and I have ever taken. I would recommend it to anyone who is even thinking about going, and if you’d like some travel tips (what to wear, where to eat, what to budget) feel free to reach out!
Thank you so much for reading! xox

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