Rector Roundtrip, v1.11

Hot Pot

The Harrison Street Rectors are now launched on their paths that lead to Montpellier, France this weekend to begin their ambitious trip around the Pyrennees.

M&C have arrived in Spain, via Stanstead, England, and are enjoying the sights and sounds of Barcelona.

B is camping (?) in Hawaii in between professional meetings.

E&A have been enjoying the borough of Islington, London after flying through Reykjavik, Iceland and enjoying the best jetlag cure ever invented: the “hot pot.”

Several Asian cuisines (Chinese, Korean, British, Thai…) offer something called a “clay pot” or “hot pot” as a stew that’s cooked in a closed pot in slow or hot heat. In Iceland they translate heiter pott to “hot pot” which actually refers to what we in America usually call a Jacuzzi or a Hot Tub. In Iceland they have an abundance of geo-thermal energy and water, and the intersection of these are an abundance of municipal thermal pools.
rrt_ice2.jpgWe landed in rainy pitch-dark Iceland at 6:30am (flying from Boston Friday night), and unlike most of the passengers arriving from all over the Western World who immediately connected to their destination flights, we cleared customs, got a few Icelandic Kroners out of the Iceland National Bank ATM, then hopped on the bus to downtown Reykjavik. That trip was about 45 minutes, and the sky gradually lightened as we rode toward the lights on the horizon, revealing an almost moonscape of lava fields that are barely covered by mosses and grasses. No trees at all to be seen in the open country between the cities.

When we were dropped off at the central city bus station, the sky appeared to be clearing, and the city was silent. We looked over some tourist guides in the bus station, then walked up the hill toward the big cathedral and ‘shopping district.”

Along the walk we saw ONE person, and she looked somewhat disoriented herself. After snapping pictures of the dramatic church, we headed towards the shops and cafes, most of which wouldn’t be open for another two hours. Luckily we had identified our intended destination: the central thermal pool facility which had opened at 9:00am.
rrt_ice3.jpgIt looked much like a municipal gym: big warehouse with a small lobby covered with “want-ad” type flyers on bulliten boards, plus posters with lots of rules printed on it. We paid a total of 700 Icelandic Kroners (about $7 each) and got two keys on rubber bands — red for Alison and blue for me. We were instructed to remove our shoes and then walk into the locker rooms to find the locker with the same number the key had on it, get undressed, shower and was ALL OVER (there were posters with diagrams posted all over the locker rooms in 10 different languages indicating how thoroughly we should wash), then put on a bathing suit before exiting into the pools.

When I walked out of the men’s locker room I saw that half of the large Olympic size swimming pool was being used by a scuba club/class in full wet suits and air tanks. The other half held a few older folks swimming laps. To one side of the swimming pool was a shallower and shorter “childrens pool” and stepping outside onto the deck of the facility you got to the sauna, and two “hot pots” — one bubbly at 39 deg C and one still at 41 deg C. We headed straight for the hot pots.

For the next two hours we soaked, saunaed, and swam amid a small group of people who had gotten up early on a Sunday morning to do the same, their median age hovering around 70. Our waitress at lunch said that the whole city was hung over on a Sunday morning, which is why it was so quiet, but I can’t imagine a better cure to that malady, just like jet lag, than melting in an outdoor hot pot looking over the north waterfront of the city.

rrt_ice1.jpg

This better be REALLY good soup!

We were almost shocked out of our resulting mellow mood by the cost of everything else in Iceland. Coffee started at $5 a cup (based on the exchange rate) and fancy cups went north of $10 a cup. Our nice, but modest, lunch almost set us back $100. Youch! We didn’t even look into the cost of a hotel room since we headed to London that afternoon. But we both really enjoyed the scale of Reykjavik, which seemed about the same size as Portland, Maine, and just as interesting with a working waterfront, funky shops and cafes, and larger buildings for commerce and government. On top of that, the landscape was so different from any other I’ve ever experienced, but perhaps many places in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia at 66 degrees latitude N are equally barren.

Resuming our trip east was simple; back on the bus, and then quickly processed into a beautiful and modern airport. And the air time in London was only about two and a half hours. Although we had slept maybe five hours total over the previous two days, we felt good arriving in London, travelling the Tube to our friend’s Islington flat, and then catching up with them before going to bed. We both woke the next day well rested and ready to begin our vacation.

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