WHAT’S UP FOLKS IT’S ME NOÉMI TRAVELLING ONCE AGAIN WHICH MEANS IT IS BLOG TIME. BLOG O’CLOCK. L’HEURE DE BLOGGAGE. Oh and Adam’s here too, because we got married last week. GASP.
It has been a bit less than 4 years since I did this whole travel blogging thing. You can witness my previous foray and marvel at the fact that Livejournal was once a cultural force in the world by visiting my old blog which was last updated when my old man brought me to Japan out of fear that this cute new boy who I met would steal me away and we wouldn’t have another chance like that. Welp. He wasn’t entirely wrong. Although listen if somebody wants to bring me on another all-expenses paid trip I would struggle not to accept that offer.
Anyway, this is the new blog! Fancy digs. Adam built it with some help from WordPress templates and coding magic, or something. Maybe I am somehow insulting him through my ignorance by saying that but my knowledge in this area is limited. I assume he will jump in here and correct me if I’m wrong. We’re writing this blog together so it may be a jumbly mess of back-and-forth much like me and Joël did back in ’08 when we went to Comic Con. Which you can find on my old blog, btw.
Adam: I mean I just got a nice new theme and installed a new instance on a new host. Our old internet host is pretty garbage, and I’ve been looking for a new one – going to try out WHC for now and see how it works out!
Noémi: ANYWAY, I am rambling like a garbage pile so let’s get to the subject at hand and kick this blog off, because we are honeymooning and our tales need telling.
DAY 1 AND ALSO DAY 2 (BECAUSE TRAVEL DAYS ARE EXISTENTIAL NIGHTMARES THAT REMIND US ALL THAT WE ARE ALL SUBJECT TO THE CRUEL YOKE OF THE SUN) – WELCOME TO REYKJAVÍK!
We had a respectable 7pm flight out of Vancouver to Reykjavik, which is pretty nice timing, tbh. Although it suggests we should have been sleeping on the flight and THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. Instead we watched Deadpool 2, The Lobster (Noémi), Crimes of Grindelwald (Adam), and our traditional airplane movie, Mad Max: Fury Road. Will we ever fly on a plane where MMFR is not offered as a movie option? Perhaps, but that will be a sad day. Frankly I’m surprised I’m still consistently seeing it on every flight I go on. You’d think after so many years it would have fallen out of favour. LUCKY FOR US!
On the topic of Deadpool 2, the only version they had available was the censored version? Which is really, really strange for several reasons: 1) None of the violence was censored, only the language. 2) You wear headphones on planes, why would anybody care if they dub over the swears. 3) Why is anybody who is sensitive to bad language watching DEADPOOL 2, that seems like a bad choice. 4) It actually makes the movie funnier to have Ryan Reynolds shouting “OH CHEESE ON RICE” and tbh that just shows how lazy using swearing as a punchline can be.
Adam: What made censored Deadpool 2 even more ridiculous was the fact that several of the songs (one in particular) were filled with swearing. Presumably this was too difficult (or expensive) to edit, so they didn’t bother, so the movie is as a result still filled with a fair bit of cursing.
Noémi: Other notable factors about this flight include the fact that 1) They offered us seats with more legroom for free (we did not use them, because they had immovable arm rests and tbh Icelandair’s normal seats are perfectly comfortable), 2) we had a spare seat to our left so we could stretch out and relax and stick our legs every which way, 3) Icelandair has an equivalent of sky mall and they’re super proud of it and they REALLY WANT YOU TO BUY FROM IT PLEASE OH GOD PLEASE.
Adam: I think we’ll talk about the tourism culture in Iceland a bit more later in this article but it is super prevalent, including everywhere on their airline. Everywhere you looked, there were ads for the hotels, the tours, the coaches. Pre-purchase your tickets for an Iceland stopover! Buy your tours now. Book them! We’ve got the tickets right here, in our hands. Do you want them? Of course you do. Do you need the machine? Here’s the machine. Just slide your card in there! DO IT.
Noémi: Our flight complete, we got off the plane and went through the bizarrely chill passport control (lady looked at us, stamped our passports, waved us on, never said a word) and weirdly optional customs (you can just walk past it!? Honour system!?) and then we got on a bus. Which is when it became pretty clear that Wi-Fi is available everywhere, which is good for Adam because he is obsessively playing that Wizards Unite game which is Harry Potter’s equivalent to Pokémon Go, except it’s terrible. I’ll let him talk about that for a while.
Seriously, you should get a cup of tea or something, because he has opinions.
Adam: Right as we arrived at the airport to leave on this excellent honeymoon excursion, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite came out for iOS in Canada. For the uninitiated, Wizards Unite is Pokémon Go, but with a Harry Potter theme/skin on it. Niantic has been working on this follow up ever since Go took the world by a surprising amount of storm, and they are here again this summer trying desperately, in vain, to recreate that perfect lightning in a bottle.
I got a frantic 45 minutes of playtime (largely made up of profile creation) before our plane took off and we flew here to Iceland. We have no roaming setup or plans to have any data beyond wifi, which makes the playing of the game somewhat more challenging. However, I connect to it in the hotel, any restaurant that offers wifi, and most importantly, in the busses/coaches that supply wifi, which (thanks to the prevalent tourism culture in Iceland) are incredibly plentiful here. This coach wifi allows me to play the game while moving & securing those precious steps, and has let me lock down the first 9 levels of progress through the beginning of the game.
I should be clear here that I play a lot of Pokémon Go, to this very day, long after it fell out of public favour. I play with a group of friends and colleagues at work pretty much every day. So, almost all the mechanics in Unite are very familiar to me: rounding up foundables and confoundables are just catching Pokémon, and adding them to your records (Pokédex), research tasks are assigned that have lists of chores to complete, pokestops are restaurants that give you food and fill up your magic power … storage (poke balls), and hatching eggs have become Portkeys that require unlocking, via… walking??
The re-skin is incredibly forced – what felt pretty natural and smart in the theming of Go really doesn’t translate here. Walking eggs until they hatched, travelling the world to catch different Pokémon were all staples of the original games, and were a genuine delight to be able to do in the real world, while filling out your own personal, as-close-to-real-life-as-we’re-ever-going-to-get Pokédex. This theming in Unite doesn’t make any sense, largely because it looks like they’ve tried to come up with an inoffensive story reason for you to have to travel the world gathering famous Harry Potter items, which doesn’t work.
There are a few new mechanics in Unite that do fit and are genuinely delightful, like gathering ingredients off the world map and brewing potions with them that help you in the game (which take time to brew – a totally logical and pretty cute application of your wait-to-play mechanic). I also have yet to do much with the duelling (there aren’t many gym equivalents here in Reykjavík, or “wizarding challenges” as I think they’re called here??) but it looks fun, snapping spells back and forth. I think in practice it’ll end up being repetitive in the way gyms are, but just more work?
I won’t be able to do a proper full summary until I’m back home I think, and get to play the game on actual data for a while, and I’ll probably write a lot more about this then. But, in short, the game is bad. We spent a whole dinner evening talking about all the ways in which they could have made a really good Harry Potter skinned GPS game, and that made me a bit sad. Imagine an Ingress clone where you’re co-operatively fighting a war and using crazy spells to blast back death eaters, dementors, and more of Voldemort’s dark armies. Or Grindlewald’s? Honestly take your pick of whatever Wizard Hitler you want, any of those themes would have been true to the books. They ended up writing a lot more of a safe (read: cowardly) story for this game and it’s much more nonsensical, boring, and makes it so much more clear what a cash grab they’re trying to pull off. It definitely doesn’t feel like they’re trying to do anything for fans.
Noémi: Much of this trip has been taken up by talking about Wizard Hitlers of various varieties, to be sure. Also boy I miss the days where Nazis didn’t feel like something I should discuss in a hushed tone because that part of history didn’t feel so current and threatening.
Where was I? Oh right we got on the bus and drove into town. There are many rocks and weird birds and it is very obvious this place is filled with volcanoes. There are also a lot of blue flowers I’m still trying to find out the name of. I like them. They’re pretty.
Reykjavík has this thing where you need to transfer to smaller busses at a central depot away from the City, and only smaller shuttle busses are allowed within the City limits. I imagine that otherwise the entire place would be clogged with tour busses, because boy this entire place is built for tourists. It’s so strange. The actual population is so small so it’s just set up for all the visitors. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live here.
Adam: I have legitimately never seen a city as touristy as Reykjavik anywhere else in the world, and I’ve seen some very touristy cities. Everything presented to you feels super-engineered and polished. Everything in the city proper feels like it’s there for foreigners. Tons of restaurants, with American or Italian or etc food, nothing really local. Gift shops every six paces. Hotels. Travel agencies. Every storefront, every building engineered for tourists. More English than Icelandic almost everywhere you look. Monuments, museums and galleries. I haven’t seen a single grocery store anywhere during all our walks/bus travels around the city. I’ve only seen one semi-regular store during our whole stay and it was a hardware store a few blocks from here. There is totally a lot of housing for the locals within the city – it just must be such a bizarre life to be surrounded by so many tourists all the time.
I think I understand the bus thing a bit better now – if they allowed tour busses and such in the streets, it would just choke the life out of the city completely.
Noémi: The guy who checked us into the hotel (early, without a check-in fee! God bless you sir T_T) was very excited to talk to Canadians because he wanted to talk about how he was mad about the refereeing in the NHL finals and we were like “Oh no this guy definitely knows more about hockey than us” but we just nodded along as he talked about refs being crooked. Was he right? IDEK.
Our hotel room is pretty cute. It is small, but #Europe, and the shower is one of those ones which is just part of the bathroom and separated by a curtain so the water gets all over the floor, but #Europe. It’s pretty cute and definitely comfortable enough for our needs. I only wish it had thicker curtains, because it never, ever gets dark here. Which is a really disturbing phenomenon. I can’t imagine this being my summer. I’d want to be awake all day!
Except when we got here we actually slept for like 6 hours. Whoops. Next thing I knew it was 5pm.
We went out, took a walk around town and marvelled at how touristy it was, found a puffin-themed ornament to add to the Christmas collection (there are two Christmas-themed stores here so we did not lack for choices), and then went to a Big Lebowski themed restaurant for dinner. Their burgers were tasty, and they were playing Ace Ventura: Pet Detective 2 on the big screen. I forgot how racist that movie was. I mean, I knew it was racist, but I forgot HOW racist.
Then we went for another brief walk, took some photos, and walked back to our hotel in a shocking amount of daylight for 11pm, and then we slept.
DAY 3 – PUFFINS
Because Europe is better than North America in so many ways, they served us a free breakfast. Scandinavia was in full force, as there were many pickles and sliced meats to choose from. Anti-Adam foods. But they had toast, so Adam was happy anyway.
Then we went to meet some Puffins! We walked down to the docks and bought ourselves some tickets on the 11am Puffin tour. It was like 9:50, so we walked over to a nearby coffee shop to wait and sipped some hot chocolates. Hot chocolates are prevalent here, and delicious. I should have another one before we go.
Then it was time for puffins! We got on a boat for what turned out to be quite a crowded (not unpleasantly so) tour, and drove out to a nearby island. (Our tour guide was Iris – you can find her on Instagram at puffin.iris for many puffin photos) There were SO MANY PUFFINS, who we were sadly informed are now endangered. This made me sad because I totally wanted to eat a puffin, but I do not mess around with endangered species. Save the puffin, those stupid, flappy belly-flopping losers of a bird. They’re super cute but seriously they look very stupid a lot of the time. When they land in the water they just stop flapping their wings, and because they’re so heavy they just crash into the water like they gave up on life. Adam, do you have anything to say about puffins?
Adam: I’m not sure how those birds stay alive. They’re very doofy.
Noémi: Then we went for conveyor belt sushi, which is a decision I was very conflicted on, because – like – sushi is definitely better and cheaper at home? But also we don’t have a conveyor place and I LOVE GIMMICKS. And GOD I just remembered I haven’t talked about how expensive everything here is and BOY IT IS EXPENSIVE. Like just imagine what you think anything should cost and add 30 to 40% on top of that, because that’s Iceland. A comfortable but not extravagant sushi meal cost us 80 dollars, and that was borderline cheap for this goddamn country. I will be glad to go to the UK and feel like it’s cheap there, for once.
Speaking of money, we went to pay for our sushi and it went like so:
Lady: (CHEERFUL ICELANDIC)
Lady: “OH YOU AREN’T ICELANDIC”
This lady is not the only one who assumed we were locals. It has happened several times. Is this because Adam has his hair coloured to match his beard so he looks like a mega-redhead and looks 60% more Viking than normal?
We got on a bus tour after this! My favourite, a garbage hop-on-hop-off red bus. It was just okay, as those tours go, which means it was kind of boring. They played hypnotic hold music between stops, and the geo-locator was way too sensitive, so she kept interrupting herself to move on to the next voice line, or even restart the existing one. But that’s really the most exciting thing to say. It’s pretty here! I want to come visit again.
After the tour we were pretty wiped out, so we came back to the room, watched some of Aggretsuko Season 2, and then took a short nap. Then we went out for a fancy meal at a restaurant called Snaps, which was one of the recommended places on the internet. It was also one of the most affordable places I could find for non-burgers. Lol, it was like $150. It was extremely tasty, though.
Then we rolled back to our room and got to bed, because the next day we had important plans!
Day 4 – BLUE LAGOON
100% of our plans for the day involved going to the Blue Lagoon and hanging out. 1st stop was breakfast, where I made a ham, cheese, egg, and pickle sandwich, inspired by a breakfast sandwich that James made me in Australia (5 years ago, wtf). Adam had more toast.
We had pre-booked a shuttle to the Blue Lagoon, so we headed down to good ol’ Bus Stop #14 (we’ve seen a lot of that stop this trip) and waited. And waited. And waited. Until we were quite certain we’d been forgotten. The shuttle was supposed to pick us up at 11:30, but it took until 11:55 to arrive. Luckily the dispatch knew he was crazy late and held the Blue Lagoon bus at the depot for us. We cruised along the 45 minute journey and arrived, and then stood in a long line as people shouted rules and facts about the lagoon at us.
If you don’t know what Blue Lagoon is, it’s the touristy-est of the hot springs here in Iceland. It was the easiest to get to, which is why we picked it (also oh God do not ask about the price) but it was a very cool experience and I would definitely recommend it to folks who can afford it and don’t mind doing the touristy-est thing alive. There is a swim-up bar, and mud mask treatments, and a big ol hot spring to lounge in. It’s also set up in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible, so the amount of people taking shots for Instagram was hilarious. They will sell you (for THIRTY-TWO GODDAMN DOLLARS) a plastic bag to put your phone in to keep it safe, but we witnessed so many lunatics carrying their phones totally uncovered into the lagoon. Bros if you dropped that your phone would be ruined FOREVER, the water is so hot and salty and filled with minerals they even warn you to keep glasses out of it because of how likely it is to scratch them. But some people live their life on the edge, and who am I to stop them.
Gosh, what’s there to say about the Blue Lagoon. We had a blast there, we were there for almost 5 hours.
They had Somersby Cider on tap, and normally I find that cider super gross but either they have it on a different formula here or having it on tap is totally clutch, because it was delicious.
Adam found the spot in the pool where cold water runs in, and just wanted to sit there the whole time, because I don’t think he understands why hot springs are good. People would walk over and be like “It’s cold over here!” And he would be like “YEAH”. One lady was like “…Are you…over here…on…purpose…?” Because he is a strange boy. He’s also been wearing shorts this whole time and keeps getting side-eye from passers by. I love myself a yeti.
Adam: This place will almost certainly be the biggest highlight of our trip for me, or at least top three. The whole experience was profoundly relaxing, from the super secure lockers to the waterproof wristbands that let you buy what you wanted, the swim-up bar, the fresh water taps under the bridge that keep you hydrated, the nice benches smoothed out by layers of hardened mineral that you could lounge on. It was all a bit of a tourist trap but it was an incredibly indulgent and relaxing day. They manage to make you feel pretty taken care of and special despite the fact that you’re one of thousands visiting the joint at any given time. I was very impressed.
Noémi: There was also a baby that wanted to hurtle itself into the pool despite being fully clothed. It kept trying to step off into the pool and then doing that full body collapse of despair as someone held it back. We observed this while eating a pair of small pre-prepared snack paninis that ended up costing TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS EACH get the hell out of here Iceland what the heck.
I tried a mud mask on, it was like wearing mud on my face alright. It dried and then started flaking off and my skin did feel nice afterwards but I could not imagine wearing it outside of the context of being in an enormous body of water, because those little flakes of silica would have been everywhere. Also Adam didn’t try it, because he was a COWARD.
Oh, another drink we tried was a blue raspberry slushy, and the slushes carry the brand name KRAP here. Which made me laugh, because I’m immature trash.
Then it came time to leave, which was a cavalcade of embarrassment. As we went to leave, we both bashed our feet on rocks, and then I slipped and splashed everywhere, and then both my legs went into spasm so I couldn’t even stand up to do a dignified recovery. To top it off, I went back into the change rooms and couldn’t find the private change rooms I’d been promised existed, so I stole one of the washroom stalls for that purpose, and every minute somebody knocked and asked if I was okay. Is taking like 8 minutes in a bathroom stall so weird!? Geez, people, leave me alone.
Of course after that I promptly stumbled upon the actual change rooms and felt like an idiot.
We took ourselves back to the city, ate some Thai food (pretty tasty! And you can tell it’s genuine Thai because only actual Thai folks made pad thai spicy. Hahaha), found an excellent ice cream place, and then rolled back to our hotel room and went to bed early.
DAY 5 – LISTEN, WE’RE ON VACATION, SOMETIMES YOU JUST DON’T FEEL LIKE GOING TO MUSEUMS.
Today, so far, we have eaten breakfast, watched the entirety of Aggretsuko Season 2, and written this blog. (I assume we’ll go out and do something slightly more exciting before we publish this, rather than break this up into a half-day entry.)
Not very exciting, but hey, it felt right. Sometimes you just have to have a chill hotel room day, even if you’re halfway across the world. Better than burning out! Especially because we have a flight at 7am tomorrow (gross), so we don’t want to go into that tired out. It’ll tire us enough already!
Gonna see if Adam wants to add anything to this blog (you’ll have already read it above – TIME IS A LIE) and then roll out for food, I think. Talk to you soon, folks!
OKAY WE’RE BACK IT IS SEVERAL HOURS LATER NOW.
We went to the famous Iceland Phallological Museum. Yes that’s right – it’s just a room full of preserved dicks. It is… a bizarre experience. There’s a free audio guide recorded by the founder of the museum. It basically opens with “and my wife said ‘enough is enough!’ so I had to get the penises out of the house.” There were just so many whale penises. So many.
Things we learned:
1) Whale penises are as tall as we are, or taller, and that’s really uncomfortable.
2) Male rats have multiple orgasms (is that why there’s so many of them!?)
3) Human penises start shrinking when you hit approximately age 75 and continue doing so until you die. (Neither of us knew this. This does not seem like a fact that should come as a surprise when you turn 75.)
It is a very small museum, so it only took about an hour to tour. Then we walked to find a restaurant, and we ended up at this Italian place which was staffed by truly scary looking Italian dudes (which is how you know it’ll be good). Adam ordered a mushroom ravioli and I had a ham, mushroom, and fior di latte pizza. Delicious! I also ordered a salad, which was… hmm… not delicious. I ended up not eating also most the whole thing. They were very concerned and apologetic about it but honestly the greens were just too stiff and bitter and I didn’t like it. I don’t know that there was anything wrong with it, per se. Maybe not super fresh? But we are in Iceland so that wouldn’t be surprising to me. I felt bad for making them so distraught.
There was a very rich family next to us talking loudly about all the places they’d like to travel next and being very, very American about it. The most American moment was the moment where the man (who was from New York) told the waiter that New York has the best pizza in the entire world and nobody in their right mind would question that. “Well, I am Italian” countered the waiter. “Oh, he’s Italian too!” said the lady. The waiter audibly scoffed, and I love it, because listen, North American folks, we can talk about how we are Italian/French/Polish amongst ourselves, but when you say that to an actual person from those countries you SOUND LIKE A LUNATIC.
Then we went to a candy place across the road and the licorice and chocolate was SO DAMN GOOD and I brought the licorice back to the hotel room before I tried it and now I have tried it and I am seriously considering going back for more licorice because oh my God it was good. …I should probably go back for more licorice.
I am going back for more licorice now.
We get on a flight to Dublin at 7am tomorrow (gross) so we’ll be going to bed early and will update you again from Ireland!
I will miss Iceland! I want to come back already. Heartily recommended.
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