Steam heat, shark meat and schnapps

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was clear, sunny and cold, but no wind. It was an absoutely stunning day, and clear enough at night to see a long beam of light in the sky- the Imagine Peace Tower installed on a nearby island by Yoko Ono. She lights it  every year starting on Oct. 9, John Lennon's birth date, until Dec. 8, the date he died.

Icelanders are experts in staying warm. Steaming, outdoor geothermal pools are all over Reykjavik. I regret we won't have time to get to the one that's about a 20-minute walk from our guesthouse, but we went instead to the Blue Lagoon, above, a big spa in the middle of the lava fields, about a 40 minute drive from town. The waters come from the runoff of a huge geothermal plant, and are heated to an average temp of 99 degrees. We stayed in for about

two hours, swimming around and finding spots where the water felt like a very hot bath, and others where it was cooler. All the water, even what comes out of the tap and showers in people's homes, has a slight sulfer smell, a bit like rotten eggs, but it's something they apparently get used to. Above are the lava fields - miles and miles of them- and a volcano. There are at least 10 major volcanos in Iceland, and many smaller ones. The one that erupted in April has settled down, so no more dangers of flight disruptions.

Runar, the owner of our guesthouse, introduced us to the proper way to sample fermented shark meat, a local delicacy that has a bad smell, but a good taste. To get the full effect, it's essential to wash it down with Black Death or Brennivin, a clear alcoholic drink similar to schnapps. Runar gave us each a piece of shark about the size of a sugar cube, then told us to close our mouth, chew it, and not open our mouth until it was gone. It worked. No bad taste. The next step is to chug a glass of the schnapps, brush your teeth, and go to bed.
Locals love to spend Sundays relaxing and enjoying the city. A lake, called the "pond,'' next to city hall is frozen over this time of the year. Walking across it looks risky to us, but they apparently know what they're doing. We spotted a few people pushing strollers from one end to the other.
Everyone's favorite way to stay warm is to duck into a cafe for waffles and coffee. This mother and her daughter were splitting one slathered with whipped cream and strawberry jam.

"It's our favorite thing when we want something to do that's warm and cozy,'' she told us. "We walk around town and come here.'' 

We spent our last evening warm and cozy at the Iceland Opera. Edda, the owner of our guesthouse, works in the marketing department. The opera was Rigoletto in Italian with Icelandic subtitles, not a big help to us needless to say, but fun to hear and watch. It was all set in modern day, with a Russian mafia type playing the Duke.

The forecast for today is 25 degrees, with a chance of  snow. I think we'll try to squeeze in one more hot chocolate before we leave!

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