20 July 2006

who needs the beach?

Yesterday was the most lovely of days, as Iceland goes. It was blindingly, achingly sunny, with barely a cloud in the sky, and unlike the usual pattern, the weather stayed straight until the evening that way. I skipped out of work early to go to Seltjarnarnes with a friend for the newly re-opened saltwater pool there. Of course, on a day like yesterday, it was crawling with people, kids hiking up their bathing suit leg-holes to ride bare-bottomed down the newly installed waterslide, and plenty of adults lying on deck chairs and enjoying the comfortably large soaking pool on the edge of the laplanes. I went to do my obligatory laps, enjoying the smooth, buttery feeling of the salt water, the extra buoyancy that made me remember being a kid in the lagoon side of State Beach on Martha's Vineyard. The sun streamed through the water, making electric ray-ripples on the blue tile bottom, echoing the disturbance I made on the water's surface and magnifying it outwards. In spite of the crowds elsewhere in the pool, I had the lane to myself, so I soon abandoned the disciplined crawl laps and played, skimming along the very bottom of the pool, hovering just below the surface and watching the ripple-patterns my hands made on the walls, and performing the laziest of backstrokes, just to watch the blue blue sky.

After abandoning my laps, we tried out the new steam-room, that had been closed last time I was at the pool. It's a chic-looking tiled deal, with a huge plate-glass window that has cracked already, in spite of being in use for only a few months. The door doesn't close automatically, so I spent a lot of time closing it for maximum steam-enjoyment. Still, the benches are nice and the steam is properly powerful. Has potential, but is not my favorite. Finally, we ended with a lie-down in the new shallow kiddie pool, the best part of the remodeling job, since it has a glass wall that looks out over the mountains to the south. With my eyes closed, lying on the sloping edge as the movements of the kids on the other side made waves, it really felt like the beach. Being on Seltjarnarnes even means having a touch of the seabreeze, so the smell was right too. We soaked for several hours so by the time we got out, I was fully brined. Even later in the evening, hours after I'd rinsed in the shower, the salty feeling of having been at the beach clung to my fingertips.

The day was too splendid to end at home, so I took to the streets of Vesturbær, camera in hand, to appreciate the lush volupuousness of a full summer day here, and I was not disappointed. The low light blanketed the lawns and gardens, making the poppies and peonies almost vibrate in their brightness. People strolled lazily, unburdened by coats and scarves and the usual tearing wind, and the lawns downtown were full of families. The warmth has made everyone relaxed and wonderfully irresponsible- I was not the only person to have left work early, and the wonderful thing about this is that nobody was surprised that people were heading out to enjoy the day. Everyone who lives here knows sunny hours must be enjoyed properly, and proper enjoyment does not involve sitting in an office.

Ship sighting: The world's largest traditional tall-ship, the Sedov, arrived yesterday and all the Russian sailors she brought along were loafing around near 10-11 in their full sailor-man regaila last night. I went down to see it at about 1:30 am, and it was as spectacular as it should be with the sunset light and mountains behind the looming masts. This 117-meter ship is based in Murmansk, and has had a rich life since being built in 1921. Read more about the history and specifications here. Apparently if you love it a lot, it's possible to go on board as a paying passenger. Now THAT would be a cruise!


Anonymous said...

It sounds really magical over there. Hard to imagine a place not locked in to a rat race. I doubt you would miss the 100 degree heat, traffic jams, and toxic air we had back in the US today.

- Bill

gk said...

There is a beach of sorts in Reykjavik, nauthólmsvík, what they do is pump hot water into the see, warming it a bit. And yellow sand too, I think they imported it. It is public

ECS said...

Bill- We are every bit as much in the rat race here, and consumerism is increasingly present, but a fine summer day seems to make everyone forget all that and want to go lie on a lawn or in a pool. May it always be so.

GK- I have been to the beach you speak of but it's not quite my kind of place, there on the edge of the airfield, all artifical, concrete, and crowded. Certainly an interesting idea but I prefer my beaches wide, windswept and empty, something I get plenty of here in Iceland.

dtw said...

E, maybe we also agree on beaches. I'm an aviation kind of guy, yet there are few things I love more than the sea.

When I go see the sea, I like to find calmness and serenity. Such tend to stray away from popular spots. I stray along and leave the sunbathing people be. Not like there's anything wrong with worshipping the sun whenever possible up north, it's just not what I'm looking for.

SB said...

I love the beaches, yet don't like the crowd. I recently discovered Swampscott beaches as one of my fav's but only when there's nobody there.
Buzzard's Bay also has some really nice wading.
There's nothing like walking alongside the tide picking up the shells of crabs and she shells in odd forms and shapes.

In Iceland though, one has to know what the 'volcanic sand' beaches are all about! They're magical.
Also, I prefer just lying in the grass on a warm summer day, watching the few odd clouds miander by.