Iceland

The Volcanic Wonder

Hello, Readers. I’ve missed you! I started writing this when we returned from our two  week journey to England by way of Iceland (in May!). It was never on my bucket list to visit Iceland, but since it was a stop over on an a-la-carte airline, Allan (my sweetie) and I said, “Why not?” Of course, we Googled the heck out of it before we went but it was still full of surprises.

Peering through the cab windows en route from the airport to Reykjavik City, to our surprise at the time (now we get it-it’s a volcano), it looked like we were on the moon. No trees, mostly cloudy skies, black and brown flatlands and rocks everywhere. In the distance were snow-capped glaciers. We looked at each other as if to say, “Why did we decide to do this?”

On the road to Reykjavik

On the road to Reykjavik

Reykjavik City

Once we got closer to Reykjavik City, the scenery was more colorful and inviting. Their capital city looks just the way you would expect. A fishing town with brightly colored homes and businesses, some old architecture, and flowers and trees planted to add some greenery. All the houses and buildings are smashed together as if there is no space when in fact, only a tiny percentage of their landmass is built upon. We also noticed there weren’t any structures from the Viking days — most things “old” date back to the 1700-1800s.

2016-04-30 16.52.57 2016-05-01 16.24.28
Lutheran Church started in 1945, finished in 1986. The view from the windows at the top and from the behind the clock.2016-05-01 16.24.382016-05-01 16.30.06

Many of their cafés and restaurants have outdoor seating….um, really? It is COLD there. Even on a warm day (45 degrees Fahrenheit), that wind off the north Atlantic is biting, and by midday, it usually precipitates. As we sat inside at Café Paris, with our hands wrapped around warm mugs of tea and coffee, we watched Icelanders sit outside with their wool sweaters and coats, thick boots, scarves, and hats eating, drinking and acting like we do when it’s seventy degrees. When we asked if it get’s warmer, they said, “Oh, this is a warm day!”

Cafe Paris with the red benches

Cafe Paris with the red benches

Those are some rugged, tough people. Albeit, most of them don’t look tough. As a whole, they are tall and thin; Scandinavian-looking, with blonde hair and blue eyes, with legs to the sky. Must be all the walking and bike riding they do, uphill…in every direction. (Reykjavik City is on a peak). And I don’t want to neglect to mention how friendly and helpful Icelanders are. We felt welcome and comfortable.

Since this is a health blog…

I want to address two things that Iceland has that I long for here in America. #1: good drinking water and #2: fresh, preservative-free food.

No Bottled Water Needed

We went to the market first thing to buy bottled water and the clerk filled us in on why we didn’t need it. Iceland is a volcanic rock. The ground water is from natural springs and glacial streams. It is naturally filtered through that volcanic rock and comes out of the tap fresh. No chemicals. The clerk’s only advice was to let the cold water run for a few seconds first to flush out the warm spring water (it has a bit of sulfuric smell since it’s from hot springs). The tap water is mineral rich; in fact, there are tiny bubbles when you look through your glass. I was delighted! Allan was a bit more skeptical so we asked someone else later that day and got the same answer. It was delicious and energizing. Not much we can do about not having glacial water in America except import it and well, it just wouldn’t be as healthy. Darn it!

Fresh, Real Food!

Icelandic food is mostly fresh fish and lamb, a few pork and chicken items, and very few beef items. They are known for their yogurt and dairy, and they grow amazing tomatoes, cucumbers and a few other greens in greenhouse farms; again with no chemicals. There were bottles of fresh fish oil with shot glasses on the breakfast bar at our hotel! Does it get any better?

One afternoon, we were craving a salty snack and stopped into a small market. I looked at the back of a Pringles can, knowing how bad they are normally, and was surprised to see “Made in Belgium.” The first ingredient was actually potatoes with very few ingredients in total. I could pronounce the ingredients and didn’t feel terrible about eating them. In fact, being the weirdo that I am about reading labels (food sensitivities), we read most of the items we were interested in and found they had hardly any additives and the few that were listed were identifiable. I would also like to note that I didn’t have one food reaction even when we ate in restaurants. (I have them all the time in America–I never know what’s in most restaurant meals).

So Why Not in America?

Why is it so hard? Real food. Real ingredients. We have more diverse farming area than any other country, yet we depend on chemical additives for flavor, color, and shelf-life. It baffles me. When we were in England, we watched a news program about black market American food. The UK has banned processed food from America. Well, at least most of it. They are fining stores for “black market American snacks.” Can you believe it? There are roughly 3000 banned chemicals in Europe that we use in our food They are known to be toxic. So why?

Sadly, I don’t have an answer for this question. It is rhetorical. My only suggestion is to eat clean, organic, non-GMO farm-fresh food at home and try to make smart choices when eating out. Frequent restaurants that go the extra mile to provide farm-to-table meals. As for non-bottled healthy drinking water, check out ionized water (or alkalized water).

Sigh. I’m just old enough remember and long for pure milk in glass bottles and eggs straight from the farm, veggies that provide real energy and chemical-free nutrients that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and fresh bread and hormone-free butter like we used to have when I was a kid.

Skál! (Cheers & Good Health!)

I hope you enjoyed your little tour of Iceland. If you get the chance to go, it’s a bucket-list worthy trip and very easy to get there from America via Wow! Air (yep, that’s the name of the airline).

“The world is a book and those who don’t get to travel read only one page.”  St. Augustine

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

Geyser Park

Geyser Park

Glacial Pool

Glacial Pool

Glacial Waterfall

Glacial Waterfall

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Calves at the dairy farm where we had fresh ice cream.

Calves at the dairy farm where we had fresh ice cream.

One of the only inland lakes

One of the only inland lakes

Perspective on the size of the rocky terrain

Perspective on the size of the rocky terrain

Our hotel-Apotek. Lovely place.

Our hotel-Apotek. Lovely place.

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