Sunday, September 17, 2017

Reykjavik - last day

Hard to believe it's our last day! I decided to get up early & walk into town. It's a blustery day, mainly cloudy though the sun peeks through occasionally. The walk into town from our hotel is about half an hour. I really enjoyed walking through the park by the small lake; lots of swans and ducks, pretty gardens with lots of benches, areas with picnic tables, and quite a few sculptures. It's Sunday, not too many people around. The downtown area was quiet as well, the stores aren't open yet.
Something has happened to my phone, it's frozen, won't turn off. At least it waited till the last day!
One last buffet breakfast, I had my usual; skyr with muesli and fruit, toast with cheese & hard boiled egg, pickled herring, salmon salad, tomato & cucumber. And, a shot of cod liver oil! (and coffee of course)
Now we have checked out, and are sitting in the very comfortable lobby waiting for the bus to take us to the airport.
All in all, a fabulous trip!


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Reykjavik museums and beaches

Today was fairly lazy. I had a late night last night, and today started off cloudy then turned to rain. A good morning for a late breakfast.
The rain stopped a little after 11:00am, so I decided to go to the thermal beach, Nautholsvik. This is about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. At this time of year it is only open at certain times, but midday on a Saturday it's busy! There is a long outdoor hot-tub, and an imported sand beach with a lagoon. Believe it or not, many people swim in the ocean here! I was content to soak in the hot-tub, then go and quickly duck under in the lagoon. (12 degrees apparently) I felt very energized afterwards!
Mom was feeling much better today, so this afternoon we took the bus over to the National Museum. They had an interesting display on the history of Iceland through the ages. We had coffee & shared a slice of vinarterta. Mom's Icelandic friends used to make this cake.
We came back to our hotel for happy hour, then headed over to Perlan for dinner.
It's a lovely setting, a dome on the top of the hill near our hotel, with a great view. We shared fish soup, and lamb chops, a great last dinner in Iceland.

Reykjavik- Walk,cycle and boat

As we had nothing booked until evening, a lazy morning was planned. I still woke up fairly early (7ish) as it's very light by that time, though a cloudy day. Mom & I went down to breakfast about 8:30. She is feeling a little better this morning, but wants to spend the day resting.
I took the bus into town, and met Dorian & Jessie at their hotel about 11:00. They are staying at the Center Hotel Midgardur, a great location across from the downtown bus loop and at the start of the main shopping street,Laugavegur. We walked along this street to the old Harbour area with lovely restored buildings and lots of restaurants and pubs. By this time the sun had come out, and since there was no wind today, it's warm enough to sit outside without a coat. On the way back we stopped for an Icelandic hot-dog at the famous hot-dog stand (excellent , and very reasonable!) and walked back along the waterfront promenade.
Later in the afternoon I rented a bike from the hotel and biked for 2 hours along the waterfront past the domestic airport, a lovely residential area, out to Seltjarnes where there is a nature preserve and a lighthouse. Then along through the entrance to the harbour, the old harbour, through town past the lake Tjornin and back to the hotel. And except for a couple of block, the whole way was on bike path. A beautiful sunny afternoon, lots of people out.
For dinner, Icelandic fish & chips at a restaurant of the same name. It serves healthy fish & chips with a light spelt batter, roasted potatoes, and dips made of skyr. Delicious! From there it was a short walk down to our boat tour to see Northern Lights (hopefully). The boat heads out at 10pm for 2 hours. They give everyone "cruiser suits" to wear, which are nice & warm and have flotation in them. Not stylish though!
We were very lucky, the night was clear with lots of stars, and the moon not up yet. Just after leaving the dock, the Northern lights showed faintly. As we got further out, they became stronger, and started to dance across the sky. They formed a "crown" above us, and shimmered down. A wonderful show for about an hour. Then it started to cloud over, and we headed back to dock. A great experience! I didn't bother taking my camera, as you need a tripod & to be a better photographer than me to get pictures. I just relaxed and enjoyed the show. The tour company will send us some pictures in a few days.

Friday, September 15, 2017

North to the Golden Circle

The last day of our tour dawned clear and sunny.(again!) I had a quick walk over to the beach before breakfast.Mom had a cold coming on, so didn't feel much like moving, but just after 8:00am we were on our way back north. This morning we had a chance to see the scenery we had missed with the low clouds and rain on Tuesday. Lots of cliffs, glaciers and rivers, beautiful. As we got further north, the farms had more crops; grains and what looked like cabbage. We were held up for about 20 minutes by a sheep roundup. Quite an amazing sight! Thousands of sheep, with lots of people on horseback, adults and children, herding them.
We reached Gullfoss about 11:00am and had great views of the falls from the many vantage points. The wind was sure cold though! Although we've seen many waterfalls since coming to Iceland, this was certainly the most impressive.
As a side note, this was the first time I have seen pay toilets that accept credit card!
From there to Geyser, the hot springs area. There are many small pools that bubble up and steam, and one geyser that shoots up approximately every 10 min. It's quite comical to see everyone circling the geyser with cameras at the ready, waiting for the water to shoot up!
Then it was on to Thingvellir National Park. It's the largest fresh water lake in Iceland, also where Iceland's parliament was established, and where the North America & European tectonic plates meet. I wasn't sure what to expect here, but it's really an intriguing place. You can clearly see where the plates have been moving apart, and it's rather an eerie landscape. (also beautiful)
It was only about an hour from here back to our hotel, even though we hit rush hour traffic. We said goodbye to Thorey, our guide, and Ragnar our driver. Both were wonderful! And we had such a good group, lots of friendly and interesting people. Most are heading back home tomorrow.
I went for a short walk over to the beach with a friend met on the trip, then had a white ale from Einstok in the lobby bar.(my new favorite) A little later we walked over to the restaurant at BSI bus terminal. Good food at a reasonable price, and huge portions. I had lamb chops which came with soup, roasted potatoes and salad. Mom was just having dinner at the hotel when I got back, and she seems to be feeling a little better. I think she is ready for a few days of relaxation!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

South Iceland Glaciers

Today we had another 180 degree turn in the weather! It dawned clear & calm, and I had a short walk on the Vik beach before breakfast.
Today we were driving along the south coast of Iceland, from Vik to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & back. We drove along the beautiful cliffs, that became more rugged as we drove further east. We passed many glacier rivers, and crossed huge lava flows. We learned that these were from the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history! The south coast has a very large flat plain that has been built up from all the run-off from the volcanoes and glaciers. We arrived at the Glacier Lagoon about noon, and went out for a cruise in a "duck boat". It's an incredible sight, so many icebergs of all sizes with the huge glacier (Europe's largest) and the ring of mountains as back drop. Afterwards we walked along the short river that leads from the lagoon into the ocean. The river is rushing along, the icebergs all get jammed up, then suddenly break free or break apart, the seals and the birds are circling... On the beach on the ocean side, small pieces of icebergs get washed up, and sparkle in the sun.
After lunch we stopped at Skaftafell National Park, and did a nice level 1 1/2 hour hike to the foot of the glacier. Another beautiful area, the highest mountain in Iceland, Hvannadalshnukur is overlooking this valley.
It's hard to describe how beautiful this whole area is, and my pictures don't do it justice. And of course we were so lucky with the weather today, at times it was quite warm! (other times, in the wind, near the glacier, or on the glacier lagoon it was quite cool!)
We arrived back at our hotel in Vik about 6:30, just time to change for dinner at 7:00pm. Tonight we had mushroom soup, arctic char, and skyr panacotta, all very good.
The front desk has said that they will call us if there is Northern Light activity, so we may have a disturbed night tonight.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Westman Islands to Vik

What a difference a day makes! We woke this morning to pouring rain. After a buffet breakfast at our hotel we headed out by bus for the other end of the island. It is known as the windiest place in Iceland, but not too windy today. We walked a short distance to a bird watching shelter overlooking the cliffs to see if we could spot any puffins. There were a few, but most have already migrated.

By the time we headed back the rain had stopped so we did another shorter hike on the volcano, mostly on a loose scree slope. Afterwards, back down to the ferry for the trip back to the main island.
Because of the overcast skies we can't see the mountains or glaciers today. However the cliffs that run slightly inland of the south coast are very pretty, with lots of sheep. Many years ago they were actually at the shoreline before the volcanoes and rivers changed the countryside. There are lots of farms at the foot of the cliffs, sheltered from the north winds. One of the farm familys with a farm at the foot of Eyjafjallajokull have a visitor's center that we visited,  with a fascinating film about the 2010 eruption, and how it effected their farm and family. Our next stop was at the Skogar folk museum, with many artifacts from the daily life of Icelanders in the past. There are also some sod homes and other old houses preserved. All I can say is that the early Icelanders must have been very tough people!
Nearby there was another spectacular waterfall, Skogafoss. I climbed the 370 steps to the top for a great view. Our last stop of the day was the black sand beach Reynishverfi with it's basalt columns and high cliffs. The rain had started again, so I didn't spend too much time there.
We arrived at our hotel, another Icelandair Hotel in the small town of Vik about 5pm. After a short time for relaxation we had an included dinner at the hotel. Cream of wild celery soup, roast lamb with vegetables and potatoes, and cake & icecream for dessert. Excellent! Tonight I tried a Nordic Saison beer from Borg. Last night it was a Viking classic lager, my favorite so far was a wheat beer called Solveig.
I think we are all tired after our long day, time for an earlier night.


Iceland has lots of Puffins, and the Westman Islands has the biggest colony. The babys are born in the summer, and by the end of August the parents start to migrate, leaving the young puffins or "pufflings" to fend for themselves. Many get confused by the lights shining on pavement thinking it's the ocean, and fly into town instead of out to sea. The children (and some of the adults) have puffling hunts at night at this time of year to rescue them. Some nights as many as 50 are found! They keep them overnight, then the next day take them down to the sea to release them. Two of the people on our tour went out with some local people and found several pufflings. We had a chance to see them this mornings, and then they were allowed to release them from the back of the ferry today.

Reykjavik - last day

Hard to believe it's our last day! I decided to get up early & walk into town. It's a blustery day, mainly cloudy though the ...