Alright, here we go. This one's going to be brief because jetlag is crushing my eyelids. Apologies if I speak like a rambling robot.
We arrived at the airport a little before 6AM after a series of flights from LAX, Minnesota and JFK. My first thought upon emerging from the plane: "This is Ikea...embodied in an airport." The design of the building was incredibly functional, clean cut, and simple. The bathroom had T-shaped sinks with auto-dryers built into the faucets. This blew my mind. I left not only relieved, but also wanting these glorious contraptions installed in every bathroom in the US.
We collected our luggage and passed through customs. Waiting for us at arrivals was our tour manager, Gugga ("goog-ka"). She shepherded us into a bus and we headed to our hotel.
After some 40 minutes, we arrived in Reykjavik city proper and checked in. We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I drank 3 cups of coffee hoping it would jump start and reset my circadian rhythms.
It did not.
We set out for the city tour, which I'll admit I experienced with varying spurts of alertness. We passed by the Höfdi House, site of the 1986 Iceland Summit where Reagan and Gorbachev met. One of the first remarkable things I saw was the Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland. Its design was inspired by the basalt lava flows that cover Iceland. I couldn't shake the the thought that it looked like a Windows Media Player visualizer with a church slapped in the middle. Nevertheless, its simplicity was a refreshing change from the opulence that characterizes most cathedrals in Europe (or the world). The only grand part of the church was the gorgeous organ lining the back wall.
For a capital city, Reykjavik felt incredibly small-town. But when you consider that its population is only around 120K, it makes sense. As comparison, my suburban hometown of Chino Hills has a population around 70K, already 60% of that figure.
We also got a beautiful view of the city from Perlan, situated on the hill Öskjuhlíð. Icelanders are some of the happiest in the world, probably because they're surrounded by such natural beauty. Gugga, our guide, said, "Iceland has no amusement parks, all of the nature is our playground."
To finish off the day we headed off to the famous Blue Lagoon, a giant pool of mineral rich geothermal water. Industrial accidental byproduct, turned into honeypot for tourists all over the world. Twas a quite bizarre feeling swimming in 90-100 degree water, while the freezing cold surrounded us.
We had a welcome orientation drink thing later that night. I am once again the only person not retired or close to it. Thoughts on that later. Farewell friends. Also the sun sets so late here. In the summer, it never sets, hence the "Land of the Midnight Sun."
About to KNOCK OUT.