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April 24, 2009

First Impressions Of Iceland

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I didn't get as much sleep as I wanted to on the five-hour Icelandair red-eye flight to Keflavik airport. I arrived at around 6:30 a.m. local time, caught a shuttle bus to my hotel, and had to wait a few hours to check in, but the hotel let me get some breakfast at the buffet and snooze a bit in the reception lounge.

The airport terminal, named after Leif Ericsson, looked new and had what I consider to be a Scandanavian design aesthetic: spare, spacious, and clean, with lots of soft wood finishes. It seems like an awfully big place to handle so few flights per day. There was a security line to clear--first time I recall going through that after getting off a plane!--but the locals were wonderfully pleasant (and fluent in English) and I was processed through passport control with hardly a glance.

The ride into Reykjavik from the airport was 30-45 minutes and offered a good sense of the landscape here: bleak and barren, but still beautiful. It's been said that Iceland and Greenland ought to swap names, and I could see green everywhere here, but it's a deep, mossy green, not at all like the lush kelly green on the fields of Ireland, this country's closest neighbor to the east. The volcanic formations do create the effect of a moonscape all around. And despite the gulf stream keeping the Iceland climate milder than its name suggests, it is colder here than back home (about forty degrees so, if the promise of temperatures in the 80s in Connecticut comes to pass). It's very windy, too, and the snow-capped mountains across the harbor create a sense of cold--which is not something I usually welcome in late April!

April 25, 2009

The Golden Circle

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I rented a car in Reykjavik today and drove what is known as The Golden Circle, a popular route for visitors to Iceland, consisting of the waterfalls at Gullfoss, the geothermal wonders of Geysir, and the physical beautiful and historically significant ├×ingvellir, seat of the oldest parliamentary government in the world.

State Of Play, American Style

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Iceland gets a pretty steady dose of American cinema, so tonight I caught one of the latest Hollywood releases, State Of Play, paying only a little more than $4, given the advantageous exchange rate that now exists. This film is a reworked version of a British television mini-series from a few years back, one I own on DVD. It has some pretty impressive star power assembled: Oscar winners Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, and Helen Mirren, along with Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, and Jeff Daniels. Of course, I had forgotten the twists of the BBC version, so this felt pretty fresh. Not an earth-shakingly good movie--I probably shouldn't use such language here on the North Atlantic Ridge, one of the planet's major fault lines!--but a decent night's entertainment.

April 24, 2009

The Search For Intelligent Life

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Picked up an issue of Intelligent Life, published by The Economist, for the second time in two months; I also got an issue in England in March. I don't think we get this magazine back in the States. It's sort of an upscale style and culture publication, something like Monocle, and it's pretty good. Maybe I will subscribe (as if I need to receive any more magazines!).

April 26, 2009

The Mystery Logo

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Today I am wearing one of my favorite shirts, pictured above. I figured it was an appropriate Scandanavian sort of logo for this part of the world. It's amazing to me that most people are puzzled by the symbol. It's actually the logo associated with Bjorn Borg at the height of his career and adorned his Fila clothing line and Bancroft racquets (which he used only in North America before his Donnay contract was extended worldwide around 1980.

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The Blue Lagoon

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No this entry isn't about that cheesy Brooke Shields/Christopher Atkins castaway movie from the early 1980s. On my way to Keflavik Airport I spent a couple of hours at the Blue Lagoon, a spa of sorts with mineral-rich geothermal waters that are a striking shade of milky light blue. In addition to soaking in the lagoon, one is encouraged to cover one's face with white silica mud to cleanse the skin. The mix of heat, minerals, and unique algae species are all supposed to be really good for the skin. I'm not sure about that, but it was definitely a relaxing end to my time in Iceland.

The visuals were striking, too: the mossy volcanic rocks formed a craggy rim around the edge of the lagoon itself. The strange color of the water was capped by a steamy mist blowing across the lagoon. Under a a cloudy sky, all of these features made the place look positively otherworldly. I felt as if I were on the set of a science fiction movie, or perhaps in a Wagnerian opera.

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