Saturday, December 26, 2015

Time for Another Birthday Trip!

I was lucky enough to get a couple days off in early December for my birthday, so there was no way I was going to turn down the chance to go on another birthday trip! Rather than go back to Vegas and Death Valley again, I decided to call Mark's bluff and try to see the Northern Lights again in Iceland. Who cares if we were just there in October?  :)

Icelandair didn't have any direct flights available for the days we wanted to fly, so we decided to change things up and try WOW air out of Baltimore. The longer drive was a bit of a pain, but check-in was super easy so we had plenty of time to grab dinner at the cafe before boarding the flight. We wound up taking off a bit late, but since it was a direct flight I really didn't care.

I spent most of the flight sleeping (or trying to sleep), but we lucked out and managed to see the Northern Lights from the plane!

They were kind of faint, but at least it was something. And this time I made sure to keep my small camera with me to get proof!   :)

I spent the rest of the flight dozing until we eventually landed at Keflavik. I had checked the weather before we left and it was supposed to snow a LOT. Even with the delay, we landed just before the heavier snow started. Customs was very quick (and the customs guy even said happy birthday to me!), and we got our bags and rental car with no problem. We did get a little turned around trying to get out of the airport, but we eventually figured it out and drove toward the hotel.

Luckily, we were staying fairly close to the airport and didn't have far to drive. The snow was starting to get heavier and while the road was mostly ok, there were a couple times that it dropped down to almost whiteout conditions. We made it to the hotel just fine (thank you, GPS), and even though it was fairly early in the day, they were able to get us a room so we could check in early.

Mmm...Icelandic buffet breakfast! I always love all the random things they have. The snow had really picked up and the wind was flinging big piles of fat flakes at the windows while we ate. There was Christmas music playing and a couple small trees in the was really cozy.

Since it was my birthday, I made sure to end breakfast with a piece of chocolate cake.  :)

We stopped to check out one of the little lounge rooms after breakfast. There was an honesty bar in this room with all sorts of goodies; you could just write down which things you took and they'd charge it to your room. We were a little too tired, though, so we went back to the room and passed out.

We had sent an alarm for 1:30pm, thinking there was no way we'd sleep that long, but the bed was so comfy (especially with the storm raging outside) that I probably could have slept right through to the next day. We dragged ourselves out of bed and peeked outside. The snow had let up, and a group of other guests were outside building snowmen and having a snowball fight.

We hemmed and hawed about what to do with the afternoon. I had initially hoped to spend my birthday afternoon in the Blue Lagoon but we weren't sure if they were even open with the weather. We finally decided to check with the front desk at the hotel and see what they thought...where we found out that yes, they were open, and they had a shuttle leaving in 15 minutes. We ran back to the room, chucked our bathing suits in a bag, and a five-minute shuttle ride later...

...we were at the Blue Lagoon!   :)

We decided to go for a slightly upgraded package that included towel rental, a drink, and some face mask stuff. I wound up teaching yet another random lady how to use the lockers in the locker room (somehow I've become a locker expert?), and after a nice toasty shower met Mark outside.

Despite the snow, it was much nicer weather than the last time we were here! The snow in the background looked really cool, and the sun was just starting to poke out between some clouds. We got our drinks and toasted everything randomly coming together just as it started to snow.  :)

Success!!  :)

We spent the afternoon drinking Icelandic beer and strawberry wine, drifting around to find all the hot spots, and hopping in and out of the sauna. There weren't nearly as many other people as usual because of the earlier snow storm, and it was really nice and peaceful. I really couldn't have asked for a nicer way to spend my birthday.

We hung out in the lagoon for a long time, then eventually got out, showered, and returned our towels and wristbands. The hotel shuttle was right on time and really fast. It was so nice to only have a five minute ride back to the hotel instead of the usual hour-long ride back to Reykjavik!

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was super tasty. The skyr cake was especially good; it was like a super light fluffy cheesecake. Even Mark liked it, and he's not a cheesecake fan. We rounded out the night by hanging out in front of the fire before heading to bed.

We weren't in bed very long, though. We had signed up at the front desk for a wake up call if there were Northern Lights, and somewhere around 11pm the phone rang. Thank goodness I had my camera stuff all ready to go!

It was pretty cool to see everyone else stumbling outside in a random mix of pajamas and heavy coats, lugging their cameras. The lights were low on the horizon and pretty faint at first...

...though they got brighter after a few minutes.

This was a pretty darn cool way to end my birthday.   :)

You could just make out some other areas of light off to the side, stretching up like pillars. I think the nearby power plant might have been putting out all the brighter light.

We stayed outside for a while, enjoying the show, before eventually heading back inside. We spent a few minutes in the hotel's observatory, but the lights had faded quite a bit so we went back to the room and went back to bed. It had been a great first day in Iceland!

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