HALLIE EPHRON: A few weeks ago you may have noticed that I was conspicuously absent from Jungle Red. I was in Iceland for 8 fantastic days of bird watching and waterfalls and glaciers and basalt cliffs and volcanic sand beaches and delicious hearty soups and breads, fantastic icey water, and the cleanest air you'll ever breathe.
It was also soccer madness -- the Icelandic team had just, against all odds, beaten the Brits in the quarterfinals of Euro 2016.
First, you need to know: Iceland has a population of at 320,000. That's half the population of Boston. A million foreign tourists went there in 2014, and that number doubled in 2015 and is expected to double this year again. People like it. They go. They tell their friends. It takes about 4 hours from almost anywhere in the northern part of the northern hemisphere (e.g. New England) to get there. I'd go back in a minute.
The only way to tell about this trip is through pictures...
No, it does not get dark in July. Here's me sleeping in our hotel room in Reykjavik. It's 2 in the morning. That's sun, trying to come through the blinds. It simply did not set. And any time you got up and walked around, there were people out and about on the streets.
Waterfalls. Spectacular waterfalls around every bend in the road.
Basalt cliffs and volcanic sand beaches. The rock formations are spectacular, but the beach has fierce waves that hold back and lull you into a sense of false security and then roar in and sweep away everything and everyone in their path.
Birds! It took 7 hours to drive from Reykjavik (tunneling under one fiord and going across another by ferry) to the Latrabjarg bird cliffs, Iceland's westernmost point and home to millions of birds: northern gannets, guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes, and yes, PUFFINS by the thousands. A birdwatcher's paradise.
Thermal activity. Iceland is located on the rift where the North American and Eurasian plates grind against each other. It's riven with volcanos and geysers, the landscape more often lava flow than meadow. All of Iceland's power is comes from natural steam. Icelanders are philosophic. Yes, that nearby volcano could blow any minute. (The original geyser that is named "Geysir" is in Iceland.) They're getting ready to EXPORT electricity.
(How cheap is it? It's cost effective for Australia to ship bauxite to Iceland (this is one long boat ride) and smelt it there using geothermal and hydro power, and ship the aluminum to customers around the world.)
You could happily live on bread and water. It's that good. And the soup. Crab soup here, but the lobster soup and cauliflower soup and the carrot/coconut soups were delicious, too. Um, great cookies, too. And the bread is fabulous. Everywhere.
Reykjavik's nose. This spectacular church is on the highest point in the city and visible from everywhere. Echoes of waterfalls and basalt columns in its design.
Vistas. Fiords to cross.
Dollhouse towns. Tiny towns with homes and churches that look like dollhouses. I kept expecting to see little wooden trains chugging around.
Glaciers. They're blue. It's cold, but not cold enough to keep them from shrinking. Still beautiful but for how long?
Horses with a sense of humor. Icelandic horses are smaller and friendlier and they have rock-star hair.
Soccer! This jumbotron was right outside our hotel window, and those red and white flag wavers are Poles rooting for their team (they lost.) And that's my husband outside our hotel which was going all out for its soccer star players.
Vikings. They really define the place. Marauders, they picked up beautiful Celtic women on their way to taking over Iceland.
Unpronounceable street names. Yes, it was a challenge reading street signs and then matching them to our maps. And it was not cheap.
Has anyone else been there? Please, share your expeiences.