sunnudagur, febrúar 26, 2006

new york week at iceland report

One new feature of writing about life in the Land seems to be people emailing me saying that they're gonna come visit and asking what they should see. This past week has been all about meeting up with New Yorkers, who seem to want to write me even though I dissed them. Then we meet up and have a great time. It turns out that if someone really wants to slog through your blog, you'll probably get along in person, too. Kind of a self-selecting deal.

A little over a week ago, E and I went to lunch with New Yorkers Cahmen and Scott, and it turned out that Cahmen was really from NJ and Scott really from historic Chelmsford, Mass., just inches from where I grew up in neighboring (and ahch-rivalrous) Billerica. So here we found ourselves in a Danish sandwich place in downtown Reykjavík, talking about the old Lums restaurant chain, the Towne Plaza on Route 3A (formerly home of Stuart's), and how in his childhood, Scott liked the Billerica Mall for its classy fountains and Fun Time arcade. This guy could also do a wicked good Massachusetts accent by imitating his "fathah" ("That's an un-cahmen name, Cahmen.") and culminating with "I sawr a gawkahblockah on my way in'a Peabuddy Cennah."

Then there was an email from a lady in Brooklyn, asking me for Reykjavík secrets that were off the tourist maps, although she hasn't yet contacted us Landside. I told her to avoid the Blue Lagoon and hit the city swimming pools instead.

Then on Friday night, I met up with a whole crazy posse of New Yorkers, including one who signed his first email to me "Johnny Damon", apparently so I would like him. It seemed to work anyway. He and his old Fiji buddies from college were meeting here in Reykjavík for a Classic Reykjavík Weekend: bars, booze, and bátar. I took them to Thorvaldsen, figuring it was a good match, and one of the buddies immediately started macking on a pair of Icelandic lawyer ladies. Meanwhile "Johnny Damon" grilled me about life in Iceland (what? the Iceland Report isn't enough?) as he plied me with free beers (in a land where nothing is free, free beers take on an almost mythical status). Then another blogger showed up (he had been two-timing me, this "Johnny Damon", but what do you expect from a Yankee fan?) and the night really got rolling. After a short, thoroughly uninteresting stop-in at Rex (where the lawyers had lured the other guys), the three of us headed up Bankastræti to Kaffibarinn and then Ölstofan. Finally, fed up with the poison cloud of smoke at Ölstofan, I headed homewards through the street chatter, occasional broken bottles, wobbly girls in heels, cars rolling by on pin-tires, and occasional misdirected catcalls that is the Reykjavík weekend night. I made the requisite stop-in at Hlölla-bátar, the world's finest sandwich shop, where a fried lamb and cabbage sub capped the evening, and then I was walking uphill into the quiet streets of Vesturbær and down towards the sea and home.


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Forget...avoid...the Blue Lagoon!? Sorry but that has to be the worst advice I've ever heard! Sure, the swimming pools in our city are great but the Blue Lagoon is like nothing else! That's one of my favorite places of our country! Who cares if it's packed with tourists, it's amazing.

Blogger JB said...

Ah, nothing like a little controversy to sell copies of Iceland Report!

OK, anonymous Icelander, I'll take the bait. As I said in an email to a French reader who was complaining about my harsh treatment of the BL this morning:

"The Blue Lagoon is cool, yeah, especially for its otherworldly location but I never go there because 1) it's damn expensive for what you get (1200 or maybe more these days) and 2) all the hair on the bottom of the lagoon grosses me out. If you reach down to scoop up some mud, you come up with a fistful of hair and all I can think is that the opaque water is hiding all kinds of dissolved hair that I can't see. Not to mention that many tourists with their overmodest ways don't really shower well first and nobody seems to tell them otherwise.

So, yuck... I do think the local pools (at 220 or so) are a much better value for the money ... I guess the BL is kind of like the Eiffel Tower: all tourists feel compelled to go there but it is far from the best way you could spend your time or money."

I guess it's worth a visit or two, but it's not so be-all-end-all as most seem to make it out.

What do you say, other Iceland Report readers? Have you been to the Blue Lagoon, and what do you think of it?

Blogger Professor Batty said...

...there is a bit of an "ick" factor at the BL- the swimming pools are sublime, as you indicate, and with a tourist pass one of the few bargains you can find in Iceland (but bring your own suit and towel!)

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...


We met a young lady at Vegamot on Saturday night who told us that Icelandic couples frequently "couple" in the Blue Lagoon and that the secret ingredient in the azure water was most likely sperm.

This came up after she informed us that all Icelandic women hate American men. Funnily enough, she said that in a most pleasant manner. It also didn't prevent her from talking to us for over an hour.

Frank from DC is an avid swimmer and dragged me with him to one of the public pools on Saturday afternoon (the one nearest our hotel, I think on the corner of Baronstigur). I'm glad he did as I was able to soak away part of my hangover in the hotter of the two outdoor hot pools.

Frank went to the Blue Lagoon on Monday despite our newly-gained knowledge about it and it's special properties (which was corroborated by Audi). I begged off, but not because of spermophobia. I had my two business meetings and preparations for the flight home to deal with.

Thanks again for helping to make our trip turn out as memorable as it did. Feel free to contact me next time you're in New York. Maybe I can take you to the bleachers at Yankee Stadium where you're sure to have a good view of centerfield.


George AKA Johnny Damon

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Our Danish smorresbrod lunch was fab as was the conversation, takk fyrir J+E, "despite" the fact that you peevishly threw some pebbles at the mighty NYC (um, ny'ers are immune to the petty jealousy of the provincials). ;-)

Hair on the bottom of the pool? I am so grossed out by this image I may never be able to eat again.

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Ha ha--It's a small world, or at least a small country.
I'm the gal from Brooklyn. I was on last night's multiple-crying-baby flight back to NYC too. I was also at Thorvaldson's for a short time on Friday night, in the second room by the windows with a group of people I met earlier.

Never got to the Blue Lagoon or a pool, but I met some great people and had a wonderful time.

Blogger JB said...

Peggy, sorry we missed you, we were clustered around the Austurstræti (Rex) end of the bar.

Blogger Elín said...

This is seriously funny to me about the blue lagoon since growing up as a child in Iceland (before 1996) it wasn't at all like it is today. It wasn't the same silly touristy expensive "resort" place it is today. My class at school actually went there a couple of times to have swimming lessons so it was more like any other swimming pool in Reykjavik.


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