Thursday, September 27, 2012 Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland. After the five hour flight from New York, we arrived at 6:30am and transferred into the city. The Arnarhavoll Hotel is located in the harbor area across the street from the new, magnificent Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center.
This afternoon we ventured over to the largest, outside swimming pool in Reykjavik; water set at 85 degrees with the “hot pots” at 98 to 111 degrees. Iceland’s clean nature requires a shower, sans swimming suit, prior to entering. This is the only way to relax, shed jet lag on arrival and meet the locals.
Refreshed we walked over to the Asmundur Sveinsson’s (1893-1932) sculpture garden before continuing into town for dinner for Caruso’s rack of Icelandic lamb. Delicious.
Friday, September 28, 2012 Faroe Islands
Off to the Faroe Islands today. The air arrival is spectacular with a view of the wind-swept, green slopes dotted with free range sheep. In Torshavn’s old town section, we find ourselves admiring the black-tarred houses with green turfed roofs in Torshavn.
The Faorese live close to nature and even closer to their food. The green slopes and blue ocean provide its bounty. Everyone here know or is a fisherman or farmer. Most Faroese can dress a sheep carcass or filet a fish. Needless to say, dining is a delicious affair wherever lamb or fish are served. Everyone knows everyone here. It can be compared to a small, country town, not unlike its beginning as a market town. Still the Faroese Islands could be considered the last pristine bit of nature left unspoiled on our planet.
Saturday, September 29, 2012 Faroe Islands
Breakfast was a North Atlantic feast of salmon, herring, homemade yogurt and freshly baked breads. The tables all offer a wide view of the harbor at Hotel Foroyar. Today we were fitted by highly trained professionals for swimming in the North Atlantic. The thick, dry suits over our clothes covered us from head to feet. We were driven to the harbor where we boarded a very fast, very small boat and cruised over crystal clear and a very cold Atlantic Ocean to Hestor Island.
At Hestor we slowed at a cave entrance and inched our way in between two high cliffs to the grotto entrance. Continuing inside the grotto, we were given safety instructions and dove into the icy water. Following the splash in front of us we swam a bit before seeing the light at the end. Swimming on our backs was easier and the best part was seeing the vaulted, natural rock ceiling of the cave high above our heads. As the waves were high when the water receded, the bright orange and gold seaweed below the waterline was beautiful.
As we swam out of the cave we joined together with feet under the arms of the one in front and continued back to our rescue boat. Thrilling and safe being watched over by the highly trained experts from CoastZone.
If cave swimming isn’t enough for thrill seekers, one could either rapel down the cliff or step off into the sea. The activities continued with body surfing onto the rocks and climbing to a higher plateau before jumping into the water.
The Wow Factor was our last activity: helicopter rescue from the middle of the Atlantic, one at a time everyone was hoisted high into the helicopter via cable. All very safe being watched over by the Faroese athletes. A day long remembered.
Sunday, September 30, 2012 Faroe Islands
Each morning the opened curtains revealed a view of the half moon harbor, fishing boats, and colorful houses, overlooked by green cliffs reaching the clouds. Today we drove to six different islands, each scene more beautiful than the one before. Tranquil sheep free to roam the steeped mountains, passing small villages with turf roof houses, and waterfalls one after the other. A scene so peaceful it is unbelievably storybook.
Hard to leave this tranquility tomorrow but will return in 2015 for the total eclipse when thousands of eclipse chasers will crack this tranquility where crime is almost non-existent and a person’s handshake is his bond.
Monday, October 1, 2012 Reykjavik, Iceland
Back in Iceland and an appetitie for some authentic Icelandic food. Tonight off to Lakabrekka Restaurant in an 1834 timber house. We were greeted by the new winner of Iceland’s top bar tender and Matre d’. He promptly insisted on his winning Rose drink which began an evening of Icelandic merriment. Icelandic tapas for starters before the favored Icelandic lobster for the main course.
The vaulting Church of Hallgrimur is atop the hill of Skolavordustigur. It is the tallest building church and fourth tallest structure in Iceland. From the tower you can see all points of the city. It has a 25-ton pipe organ.
Tuesday/Wednesday, October 2/3, 2012 Reykjavik, Iceland
Meetings and speechs at the Harpa for two days from tourism representatives from Greenland, Faroe Islands and Iceland. Last night we enjoyed an elegant reception at the Reykjavik Art Museum.
Wednesday Night’s Gala was at the upscale Broadway. Ice sculptures and flashing lights throughout with elegant table settings for our delicious Icelandic lamb dinner. Entertainment provided by recent contestants from Iceland Idol. The dance floor rocked well into the morning.
Thursday, October 4, 2012 Reykjavik, Iceland
Early departure south through the moss covered lava fields of Reykanes Peninsula, sparkling under the sunshine. A stop by the iconic Blue Lagoon for a hot soak in the mineral water always sends one homeward healthy, relaxed and looking forward to the next time in February and March 2013.
Melita Wade Thorpe