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Not Your Average Spa Day

Or, A Rough Night with Wolverine

not actually the Blue Lagoon. Sadly, I took no photos

Massages. Those elusive treatments that everyone dreams of getting once in awhile to treat themselves, but often fall in a grey area of whether or not one is covered on their medical to make them more affordable. It’s ridiculous, the amount one will pay to be touched by another human for an hour and yet still totally worth it. I myself am a huge fan of massages, coming from a background of unfortunate accidents and fitness pursuits that often leave me sore for days. Come to think of it, I can’t remember a day in my recent past where I would have honestly turned down a massage offer. Needless to say it was this simple fact combined with a desire to spend my birthday in extravagance that had me booking the Signature In-Water Massage at the Blue Lagoon for my upcoming trip to Iceland.

I was excited yet feeling a bit vulnerable what with my being alone, without my glasses, wearing a small bikini, and left to navigate the warm lagoon waters over to the silica and algae station by myself to lather my face in one of each mineral mask before settling in to a nice day at the spa. The only issue was the weather, which was windy and threatening to rain. By the time my spa appointment came around the rain was pelting onto the lagoon waters with enough force to splash hot pellets of salt water up into guests’ eyes and feel like hail upon my shoulders. Due to this, my masseur, Oskar, noted that we would not be able to do the full treatment as the risk of exposure and illness was high, but would still carry on with the massage whilst I laid underneath a blanket he would constantly dunk under the water (with me still underneath) to ensure I stayed warm and toasty. Bit by bit he’d massage first my foot, then calf, then leg before covering me back up, dipping me under the water, and starting on the other side.

“You work out?” he asked, kneading his knuckles painfully into my calf.

“Yes, I’m a Personal Trainer,” I replied from underneath the towel over my eyes (presumably to keep the salty water pellets and rain from blinding me).

“You do Cross Fit?” he continued, swiping his hand between the little float bed and my bum and causing me to stiffen. Relax; it’s totally normal in European countries to massage someone’s ass—evidently.

“Nah. We’re sort of taught that it’s more of a cult than a workout where I trained,” I answered, trying to regain my composure despite having my bikini bottoms wedged between my bum cheeks.

The massage continued, and I kept right on relaxing, letting Oskar comment on the various (and many) parts of me that were super tight or cracked under his fingers. Yes, I am injured, yes, I work out and don’t stretch nearly enough. This was such a well-needed massage. We get to the part where I’m taken on my floating bed into a covered area of the lagoon and Oskar removes my headband to massage my face. I should note at this point that it’s highly recommended by the Lagoon staff to slather your hair in conditioner and keep it up if you don’t want to have a nightmare of a time removing silica from your hair after, so mine was nice and covered, with a headband to complete my less than desirable ‘single girl at the spa’ look.

“May I untie this?” Oskar gently pulled at the tie for my bikini top around my neck.

My brain hesitated but decided to roll with it. “Sure.” He untied the knot that took me forever to get just right and gently rested it across my chest to begin massaging my neck and shoulders. No funny business. I’m slowly learning that while Icelanders seem to have no bum touching boundaries, the chest is still a no-go zone. Fine by me, though my pecs probably could have used a massage.

It was over far too soon for my liking, despite taking at least an hour. Oskar floated me back out into the middle of the massage area, removed my blankets, and gently pressed down on the bed to allow me to gracefully slide off. He said his pleasant goodbyes and I thanked him for the wonderful massage before heading back into the waters to enjoy some more time in the lagoon before heading back into Reykjavik for the evening.

The following year I thought I would try again for the full spa package, having dreamed about Oskar and his magic massaging hands for the past twelve months and realizing that I’d have enough money to cover the expense. Not wanting to take any chances, I contacted the Blue Lagoon directly and requested an available time in the dates I would be there to have Oskar for my massage. I was in luck; he still worked there and had one available opening. I took it and proceeded to dream of a sophisticated spa experience and pre-planned the suit I would wear for optimal cuteness and hopefully no wardrobe malfunctions. I embarked on my journey to the Blue Lagoon ready and hopeful. I changed into my suit (now with more bum coverage) and entered the waters like the Queen of the Lagoon, now familiar with where I needed to go to get the silica and algae masks while I waited for my spa time.

When the time finally arrived and Oskar appeared around the side from the private massage area, my heart skipped a beat and I could have proposed on the spot had I not a partner waiting for me back home. Let the massage magic begin. I kept the stalkery “I have dreamed about your massages for a year” praise to a minimum—in fact, I don’t even think I mentioned it—and hopped on the floating bed without incident (it is harder than it looks). I was face down this time, with my head on a little pillow, parked into an area near a bridge where I noticed quite a few tourists standing, taking in the view. So much for private. I could hear their cameras clicking away while Oskar prepped the salt glow, and cringed as he purposefully moved my bathing suit bottoms to cover the least amount of skin possible (so yes, my bum is forever immortalized in the digital cameras of many tourists).

For those unfamiliar with a salt scrub (glow), let me tell you it is exactly as it sounds and not at all glamorous. You are literally scrubbed with large crystals of salt so if you—like me—have sensitive skin that is prone to scratches and bruises; this will be a painful process. The Blue Lagoon website states that a salt glow will “leave your skin fresh, glowing, and revitalized” which for me meant red, raw, and looking like I was fresh from a rough night with Wolverine. I was then carefully rolled over onto my back to be swathed in my choice of silica or algae. I had chosen algae on the recommendation of Oskar for my skin type and needs.

“You have some scratches on your legs,” he noted, slathering on the algae. No kidding, I thought, desperate to see if I was bleeding at all (turns out I was). Oskar continued to cover me in algae, tucking each finished bit into a plastic bag that eventually came up to my chin and was secured to keep the water out. With a pool noodle under my knees and around my neck to keep from drowning I was set out into the middle of the spa area with a towel over my eyes to float about like what I imagine a dumpling feels like. A smelly dumpling, as the less than pleasant aroma of the algae was ever present while it escaped the confines of the plastic bag. Left with my eyes covered and nothing to do, I bit my lip to keep from giggling about my dumpling predicament and started to fall asleep, only to be occasionally jostled awake by Oskar as he readjusted my knee pool noodle or moved me into warmer areas.

Eventually my feelings of being a dumpling in a pot of soup came to an end with the opening of the incredibly smelly bag and a quick scrub down at the magical hands of Oskar. He massaged me to perfection as before (with longer focus on my bum this time, go figure) and chatted pleasantly about whatever he thought could connect this stranger from Canada to him: poutine. Only, he didn’t quite know the word, and when I went to tell him it came out sounding more like “you are perfect, please marry me and let me make you poutine” than just “poutine.” Also, for the record, I can’t make poutine, but I do know some excellent places to buy some. I am fairly confident I kept the marriage proposal in my head so that when I was released once more, we were able to exchange pleasantries for having spent a rather lovely two-ish hours together whilst simultaneously realizing that we’d both forgotten to tie my top back up. I tried to make it look casual and paused in a private spot to secure it before heading back the into the public lagoon waters with the non-massaged plebs.

The sun having now completely set (having sadly missed it due to having my head under a towel) there were fewer people in the lagoon to navigate my blind self past on my new quest for that free drink that came as a perk with my entry fee. I found the secluded water bar and ordered a strawberry wine. It turned out to be too sweet for my liking as I sipped it down while searching for warm spots in in the thermal waters and trying to make eye contact with anyone who might be up for conversation (massages and wine make me social, evidently). Finding neither that were to my liking, I took one final tour around the lagoon before heading back inside to shower, change, and catch the bus back to Reykjavik.

All in all, if I were giving this experience a review, everything would be positive and glowing, despite the “salt glow” treatment that was more like torture and left me with raised, angry, red scratches down my legs for weeks and burned when in chlorinated water. What can I say; I have delicate skin—made softer by the algae wrap. Almost a full year post-massage I can definitely say that I still dream of Oskar and his magic massaging hands and—in an ideal world—would employ him full-time to massage me weekly. As I prepare to head back to Reykjavik for a short layover before flying on to Germany in a few weeks I am remorseful that I have been unable to fit in time (or justify the cost) for another round with Oskar and the Blue Lagoon.

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