Spring Break, With a Twist

The theme of the week seems to be vacation. Vast numbers of people told me they needed a break, or spoke wistfully of going skiing or rock climbing or just finding a place where they could stare at the waves. Others have called me up and asked me to meet them in Paris or on top of Everest or at a pyramid in the jungles of South America or even at the Waffle House. When an idea becomes this widespread, there is only one thing to do, give in and go on spring break. But not just any spring break, you deserve a trip you'll remember fondly for the rest of your life.

This is the time of year when a lot of people head off to the beach, bask in the sun, ogle the hotties and drink a lot. This year why not do the unexpected? Instead of going to the land of drunken frat boys and overpopulated beaches, how about going to the land of fire, ice, geysers and lava flows? How would you like to visit a place where Mother Nature warms the swimming pools and you can swim in 84-degree water while watching the snow fall? Do you like horses? Vikings? How about horses descended from horses owned by Vikings? Would you like to climb a glacier? Admire the Aurora Borealis? Dance until your feet give up in a fabulous nightclub then spend the next day in a natural hot spring followed up by a glorious massage? Then take off to the country with the misleading name, Iceland.

I know, Europe sounds like it's much too far away to visit for something as short as spring break, but actually it's only about five hours by air from New York City. Despite its name it's not bone chillingly cold, with an average April temperature of 42 Fahrenheit. You can dress as you would for a visit to the Northeastern United States and you'll be perfectly comfortable. That's all thanks to the trusty Gulf Stream doing it's bit to keep the place pretty warm, despite its proximity to the Arctic Circle.

Still, it is winter and off-season so what exactly is there to do? Gullfoss, the largest waterfall in Europe, freezes in the winter and you can take a tour bus to admire it. In the months of March and April there is hiking, skiing, bird watching, outdoor swimming, and exploring the hot springs and geysers. Or for those who prefer to let something else carry them about, Jeep safaris, snowmobiles, glacier safaris, horseback riding, or dog sledding. In March there is the symphony, ballet and opera, jazz, theater, and in April, trout and salmon fishing and of course kayaking. If you happen to postpone your getaway for a few months you'll be able to golf on one of the fifty courses and take advantage of the never setting sun to play at midnight or really, any time of day or night.

The nightclubs are renowned, staying open until five or six a.m. on the weekends. There are 170 restaurants in metropolitan Reykjavik serving up fabulous dishes based on world famous Icelandic lamb, stunningly fresh seafood, and organic fruits and vegetables grown in greenhouses. (There are 100 different types of cheese available!) If that doesn't appeal you can get just about everything (even pizza or hot dogs) because you can find cuisines from all over the world. How are you going to order, you’re wondering. Don't worry about having to talk like a Viking; the majority of Icelanders speak English better than Americans do. You're going to want some money so plan to exchange some dollars for kronur. Figuring out prices on menus is super simple because taxes and gratuities have already been figured in. You pay the actual price you see; a refreshing concept if you ask me.

You know what else makes this country wonderful? Much of Iceland's energy comes from geothermal and hydro power, exploiting the volcanoes and the rivers so to speak. As if this weren't enough, they're going to go even further and start running their cars, buses, etc. on hydrogen. By the middle of this century gasoline will be a thing of the past and the entire country will be using cheap, clean fuel. If that's not a great reason to gift them with your tourist dollars I don't know what is.