The Iceland Writer’s Retreat is remarkable. It offers a diversity of instructors, workshops and participants plus the opportunity to explore Iceland’s natural terrain and its incredible literary heritage.
In 2018 I made plans to attend. I arrived a couple days early as I wanted time to acclimate. I also wanted to get a massage at Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon. I have experienced a lot of massages over the years, but never an in-water massage at a geothermal spa. I couldn’t resist.
The Blue Lagoon is an enormous geothermal pool — bigger than a football field — where hundreds of people can enjoy the very warm (99 -102º F) water. Its milky blue color comes from a high silica content. The lagoon is surrounded by black volcanic rock — a striking contrast and absolutely gorgeous.
After checking in, I proceeded to the dressing rooms to shower and put on my bathing suit before entering the steamy water. The temperature outside was just above freezing, which made getting into the water imperative. I made a quick dash through the cold air and sank down so only my head stuck out. Walking around the lagoon, I discovered a mud bar where they ladled white silica mud into outstretched hands. Silica is a trace mineral that helps form collagen. It’s considered both anti-aging and deep-cleansing. I’m old enough to want all of that, so I slathered it onto my face and neck and into my hair. Looking like a floating ghost head, I continued to wander the lagoon looking for thermal hot spots.
At the appointed time I made my way to the roped off massage area. I met my massage therapist, Eva. She oiled up my back then asked me to grab the edge of a blue float mat and pull myself onto it face up. That was a challenge, but my oiled back helped me slide up until my head rested on the mat’s built in pillow. Eva placed a big warm wet towel over my body and asked me to pull my suit down to my waist. She advised me that she would immerse me periodically to warm me up by pushing down on my hips. This was very welcome as it did get chilly. Very chilly.
I felt a cold breeze and some frigid raindrops on my face, but my focus was on her strong hands. She started at my feet. This must have taken a lot of practice as she had to keep me balanced on the float as well as massage me. I only nearly slipped off once. That was really my fault, as I tried to shift on the float. She steadied me, and continued kneading my travel-weary muscles. I relaxed.
After an hour, she guided my float off to the side of the massage section where other bodies were floating post-massage. I lay there for a while luxuriating before I decided it was time to pull my suit up and go.
It is difficult, to say the least, to pull a wet bathing suit up over a wet body. It is even more difficult when you’re lying on a float covered in a wet towel, surrounded by strangers. I will spare you the details, but, eventually, I managed without too much exposure.
With a nod of ‘thanks’ to Eva, I scurried through the cold, cold air back to the locker room for another hot shower.
That evening in my hotel room, curled up warm and toasty under an eiderdown duvet, sipping hot tea, I smiled as I watched snow swirling outside the window.