After a rough night of sleeplessness (no idea why), we woke up to a 2 hour adventure on Icelandic horses through a beautiful 6000 year old lava field. We are both horse noobs, so we gladly paid the 10,900 krona (about 79.50 usd) each for the beginners tour. We joined roughly 15 other horseback adventurers just outside of town at ishestar. (www.ishestar.is) It was a beautiful stable with dozens of beautiful Icelandic horses. The tour guides seemed to consist of one very knowledgeable person and 2 brand new people just there to help for the season. The 15 year veteran helped us onto our horses and told us stories of the trolls, elves, history of the land and answered pretty much any question that we had along the way. The Icelandic horses are about half of the size of horses found elsewhere, so we looked like an intrepid bunch of explorers or cute little mini ponies. These animals were beautiful and full of personality. My guy – “Fifi” didn’t like being in the back of the line and kept pressing to be in the front. Matt’s stallion seemed to enjoy heading in the opposite direction of the group. We aren’t sure if its the operator or the horse, but we really enjoyed ourselves even in the brisk arctic morning air. By the end of the tour, I was ready to take my stallion on the road to test its limits and try out the trotting styles I had just learned, but alas, that would have to wait as the next crew of beginners was waiting when we got back. The facility was very well run complete with a lunch and bar area. They served a great salmon lunch (not included but well worth it) and gave us time to shop before transporting us back to our hotels. More pictures when we return, but here is a pic of our horses post-ride.
After we returned it was nap time to try and catch up on our sleepless night. We decided to make it a pretty tame evening and walked the 15 minutes to “Ban Thai” as it is supposed to be the best Thai food in Iceland. After dinner we decided to do as the locals do and head for the local gym and thermal pools called Laugardalur. I’m going to preface the rest of this post with the statement – I am extremely spoiled growing up in Montana with their natural hotsprings all over the place and we are extremely lucky to live in Seattle where excellent Thai food is easily found. Ban Thai – it was in fact good, but nothing compared to our Thailand trip last year and not as good as the good restaurant in Seattle. However, if you want good Thai – definitely go here. Note that we went on a Monday night. It is a small restaurant and was packed. They make everything fresh so definitely don’t go if you are in a hurry. I did notice people picking up lots of to-go orders. My environment was a little skewed by the gentleman behind Matt that felt it necessary to hock up a loogie and pick his nose and eat it for the entire duration of our meal – but I just tried to go to my happy place and focus on the fun.
After dinner we headed for the thermal pools. When you drive up, its a Mecca of health and fitness. The gym looks amazing – but no working out for us – we are on vacation! We ducked around the corner to the pool area where we paid our $6 each to get in. This came with a COOL RFID tag that gave you access to the pool and a locker, plus a cool screen that would tell you what locker you rented in the event that you forgot. The nice ladies in the locker room rented me a towel and, after a quick sulfurous shower, I headed outside into the 38 degree pool. It was me and 50 of my closest friends sitting knee to knee in what looked like a huge bathtub. We didn’t find the other hotter pools before we decided that, unless we were going to swim laps in the perfect looking lap pool (we weren’t), this really wasn’t for us. Again – its because I’m spoiled with places like Fairmont Hotsprings in Montana that I had imagined a bigger soaking area. It was a very welcome warmth to cut the cool air coming off of the ocean. I hopped back into the women locker area to shower off. You know that point when you first climb into a shower, close your eyes and relax as the hot water pours over your head. I was in the middle of that moment when all of a sudden….. ***Boop****. Houston, the Eagle had landed! I felt a butt to butt nudge of a lovely Icelandic woman who had jumped in to share my shower. She was perfectly nice and polite and I am all for doing what the locals do, but “stranger naked touching” was something that I would have to spend some time to get used to. Our American idea of nudity is shamefully timid, but today I am reminded of our cultural ways and found myself giggling at the uncomfortable feeling of sharing a SMALL shower stall with a stranger and trying not to let on that it was in fact different than what I expected. If I were a local or jonesing for a great workout, I would highly recommend this place for a sweat and a dip. Just prepare yourself for the crowded nature of the pools and the showers! On our way back to the hotel we stopped for some Skyr dessert at Horned near our hotel and to pull out all of our brochures to see what we could fit in for tomorrow. If you go there, skip the chocolate cake and get the hot chocolate. YUM!