Take the Long Way Home

21 06 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It is not as easy to wake up this morning as it has been. Guesthouse 1X6 has actual “black-out” shades. What a difference to sleep in darkness. We are up and out by 7:00am for our 10:00am flight to London. I used to scoff at the “be at the airport 2 hours early” B.S., but I am now a believer and we even try to be there with more time than that. It seems lately that lines are longer and proceures take forever at the airport. It is always better to have extra time and be able to relax in the lounge than to be stressed thinking you may miss your flight. (We found out that there is no lounge at this airport – bummer).

It is not so difficult to end our Iceland vacation on a day like today. Once again it is very windy, rainy and cold. I would not want to be starting our trip on a day like today.

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We return our rental car with ease. Have to give a shout out to Blue Car Rental The entire car rental experience here was super easy. These guys know how to do it. They have enough agents working and are very efficient. Thanks!

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Furiously blogging before our flight (no lounge in KEF – we have to be with the riff-raff)

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Upon our arrival in London we are met with a long, long line at Border Control. Since we flew Business Clas we are given Fast Track passes, but the agent correctly tells us that she things the regular line might be faster. We snake through the mouse maze for about 45-60 minutes. Good thing we don’t have to connect to another flight.

Transportation to our hotel is easy once we figure out how to purchase tickets for the Underground. There is only one line – Picadilly – and 12 stops before Earl’s Court in Kensington where our hotel is. When we step out of the Underground we are hit with the record HEAT than London is having today. It is over 90 degrees F – quite a shock to us after swimming in 2 degree water yesterday! Oh well – should be a good introduction to what we will face when we return home. We hear Phoenix is having an intense heat wave…

After a couple blocks of walking we arrive at the Premier Inn Earl’s Court. This hotel is nothing to write home about – just a clean place to stay convenient to the airport. We are met with a less than warm reception at RECEPTION (what part of “reception” don’t they understand?)

(On a good note, I am happy to see that this hotel is housing residents from the recent tragic Grenell fire which is only several blocks from here.)

All we want is a nice pub where we can sit and have a beer before our dinner reservation at the Blackbird Pub. Rich chooses the Courtfield – about a 2 minute walk away. The Courtfield is a typical British pub and we enjoy the atmosphere. Rich orders a couple of beers – a draft IPA for me. The IPA is horrible. Seriously nasty. I must leave it. I go up to the bar and order a Speckled Hen. Much better.

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We sit and rehash some of our escapades.

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Our reservation is at 7:30 and we are hungry. The Blackbird is heavily reviews and supposed to be really good. I am eager to check it out. After walking for about a minute we are there. The hostess greets us and informs us that they are not serving ANY food tonight! Seems there is a problem(?) in the kitchen. Damn. We really don’t want to speculate too much on what that problem might be… She directs us to their sister pub – The King’s Head.

King’s Head is down a quiet side street and Rich easily finds it. We get a table in the dining area beside an Aussie couple. As soon as I order a special Gin and Tonic, the Aussie woman starts chatting us up. They have been traveling for 9 weeks and have been loving their time in the UK. We have a great time swapping stories. They tell us all about where we should visit in Australia. We put it on the list.

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My huge Williams Chase G&T was great!

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Dinner is fine – not great, but fine. Pub food. Comforting.

I am glad we had to make this stop in London. It has provided a nice buffer before we take off for home tomorrow. Back at the Premier Inn with the alarm set for 6:00am Rich blogs, I sleep.

 





Another Fantastic Day in Iceland!

18 06 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Today we awaken to see what appears to be an actual sunny day here in Iceland!  Backtracking a bit on the Ring Road to see some things we missed before moving Northward is on our agenda and we are happy to think we might even stay kind of dry.

The breakfast buffet at Hotel Laki is outstanding:

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. Enjoying the Icelandic yogurt – Skyrr. It is super yummy!

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Beautiful morning at Hotel Laki

Our route today will include a bit of backtracking on the Ring Road – Hwy 1.  There really is no other option unless you go off-roading.  On our first pass we left a couple of sites that we plan to cover today before we make a right turn and head North into new territory.

Hotel Laki, Efri-Vik, Meðallandsvegur to Mengi Kjarnholt - Google Maps

With the sunny, clear skies the scenery looks different than it did a couple of days ago.  We can actually see many things that were covered in fog previously.

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Still trying to get a horse picture…

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Wait!  Stop the car!  There are horses right by the road and I am so excited.  Rich obliges.

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(Got my horse pic!)

The town of Vik comes up and we need to get gas.  Driving into town I am stunned to see what appears to be a golf course built into the mountains.  Rich turns in to investigate.

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Sure enough, there is a 9-hole course and a little “pro shop.”  There are two golfers out on the course and absolutely no one around the shop.  We go in the unlocked door to find 2 sets of clubs and a notice to put your green fee ($25!) in the yellow box. Oh man – I didn’t really think I was missing the golf, but this looks too good to be true.  I try to convince Rich that the sets of clubs are for anyone to use and we should just go ahead.  He agrees, but there is one really huge problem.  No BALLS!!  A feeble attempt is made to scour an area of the rough for balls, but we come up empty.

Damn.  Let’s get gas and just see if the station might have some golf balls.  They don’t.  But there is an Icewear store next door (they sell Icelandic clothing and gifts).  Sure enough the do have “commemorative golf balls! However they are $8 EACH (!) and even I can’t do that one.  Oh well, good try.  We move on.

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Church in Vik

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One of our actual planned stops for the day is Reynisfara Black Sand Beach.  It is just outside of Vik. This place is highly touristed and for good reason.

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The basalt sea stacks that rise out of the sea are called Reynisdrangar. “Legend says that the stacks originated when two trolls dragged a three-masted ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight broke they became needles of rock.”

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The waves are super strong here and at times have proven to be deadly.  As recent as January a tourist was swept out to sea here.  NEVER turn your back on these waves!

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What an incredible spot.  This is definitely one not to be missed (well, that is true of pretty much everywhere here…).

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Happy that we are not traveling like this…

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All this photo snapping has made us hungry and I know just the spot.  I had read about a little Fish and Chips Food truck nearby.  I read it was the “best fish and chips in the world.” The truck is actually supposed to be parked near Hotel Skogar (our first hotel) and I think I saw it then, but it was closed up.  We will give it a try.

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YES!

There was only one other group of diners when we arrived.  We have figured out that if you try to eat outside of “normal” hours you will have no problem.  It is almost 2:00 – perfect lunch time.  Order up.  The choice here is “fish and chips” or “fish and chips.”  Two, please.

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Yep. Super delicious. Fresh, hot and crispy. We devour.

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Different kinds of Sea Salt for seasoning (the Thyme is my favorite). Also served with a sweet/hot chili sauce that is killer.

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Two thumbs up!

Are you concerned about the prices here?  We were at first, but now we are not.  After the initial sticker shock we have decided NOT to do the currency conversion or even look at prices.  It is best if you just don’t know. Vacation $ is different, right? Good thing we are only here for a few days.

Now that we are refreshed and fed it is time for a little adventure hike.  I have a special place scoped out and am curious to see what it is all about. We head to find Seljavallalaug – a hidden pool deep in the mountains.

“Seljavallalaug is a protected 25-metre outdoor pool in southern Iceland. The pool is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland and was built in 1923.[1]

Seljavallalaug is located not far from Seljavellir. The construction was headed by Bjorn Andrésson Berjaneskoti, who received the Ungmennafélagið Eyfelling for the work. Courses in the pool were initiated as part of compulsory education in 1927. The pool is 25 metres long and 10 metres wide and was the largest pool in Iceland until 1936.[1]

In 1990, a new pool about 2 km closer to the valley was built, but people can still go swimming in the old pool free of charge, but at their own risk. The pool is cleaned once every summer. Prior to that, it is often covered with thick ice, requiring care.”

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In my Iceland research I came across Seljavallalaug and knew that we would want to try and find it.  It is a “hidden” swimming pool – one of the oldest built in Iceland (1925).  It is no longer maintained by the country, but by the folks who visit it.  Could be worth a hike in. Neither the road nor the path in are marked, but we followed our noses and the few other lucky souls who are seeking out this magic.

We have to cross a river a couple of times and it gets a little “hairy.” Wonder if it will be worth it or if this is a boondoggle?

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Sure enough we finally see a small building (changing rooms) attached to a concrete pool. There are a few folks enjoying the warm, thermal water and a few folks changing back into clothes (they look cold). I had packed in our swimsuits, but really didn’t know if we would actually get in the water. What the heck? We made it all the way here – might as well go for it.

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The water feels amazing (the bottom does not – it is algae-covered and kind of slimy). We are giddy just thinking about where we are and what we are doing. At one end there is a pipe where the water streams in – it is very HOT.

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Look at the guys bundled up in the background!

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We are maneuvering carefully with our cell phone camera trying to keep it safe and dry.  Wonder how many cell phones have been dropped too the bottom here?

There is also a tiny stream of a waterfall coming down the mountain that is especially nice and warm.

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tiny warm waterfall

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Now comes the hard part – getting out. Being the MP that I am, I have packed in beach towels all the way from home just for this moment. I questioned that move several times along this trip, but now I am so happy that I lugged them all the way here. I consider it an “Advanced” Master Planner move… Rich says we could have sold those towels for at least $50 each right here!

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Time to head for our digs for the night. We will be staying further up north at Mengi Kjarnholt – a small guesthouse that I found online. It got fantastic reviews and I am eager to check it out. The guesthouse way off the main drag down a gravel road and feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. We haven’t made dinner plans, but had figured we would find something “in town.” Hmmm – what town? We will have to play this one by ear.

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Mengi Kjarnholt – our home for the next 2 nights

We pull up to find that our place has horses!

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Jon (the owner from Sweden) comes out to greet us with a huge smile. He is very welcoming and invites us to remove our shoes and come on in. The entire place has a Swedish feel of beautiful minimalism – super clean and nice.

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Our room is on the top floor and looks out towards the Geysir Hot Spring area where we can see the eruption of Strokkur every 10 minutes through our window. There are shared bathrooms (yes, I was a bit concerned about that when I booked) that are squeaky clean (no more worries and I get used to it very quickly).

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Jon meets us again downstairs and shows us that there is a “bar/lounge” in the stables! Just take what you want and write it down. He also asks us if we want to have dinner at the guesthouse. He will be serving Lamb Stew from his grandfather’s recipe. YES!

We settle in at the bar with a couple of local beers and wonder exactly where we are.

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Just so you know, you absolutely can NOT worry about your hair when you are in Iceland.

The sound of the horses running around outside encourages us to go take a look. They are very high-spirited and are chasing and teasing each other. Jon tells us later that 3 new horses have been introduced just yesterday and they are all scrambling to establish dominance.

When I go to the fence, I am so excited to see that they come to greet me.

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Time for dinner and we are starving. There are already 3 guests from Denmark and Norway at the table. Their English is great and we enjoy mixing it up with them.

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The Lamb Stew is amazing – off the charts. So happy we did not go into town for dinner. A Swedish family with 2 boys joins the group. The boys are so well-traveled and delightful. We compliment them on their English ask the if they speak English or Swedish at home. Neither. They speak Serbo-Croatian at home! That is where Dad is from. They also both speak Spanish. It was truly a pleasure chatting with the boys (and the parents). What a fantastic family!

We will be staying here for two nights.  Feels good to actually have a home base for a couple of days.  We can “explode” our belongings and stretch out.

Time to call it a night. We have big plans for tomorrow that I have only just told Rich tonight. You, dear readers, will have to wait to find out!

 

 

 

 

 





Touring Southern Iceland

17 06 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

We arise early this morning in order to take a hike to “our” waterfall without any crowds.  The sun is out (of course it has been out all night…) and so far we are dry.

20170617_073034Hooks in the rooms where you hang all your wet gear – I fear this will be a trend.We strike out from Hotel Skogar for the 10 minute walk to the falls.

There is a really nice campsite at the base and quite a few tents are set up.  Janel and Isam are considering an Iceland camping trip so we are taking notes.  Looks like it could be fun, but I will take a warm, dry bed and a clean bathroom thank you very much.

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Skogafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters.  There is a set of 527 steps straight up to reach the top.

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We check it out from down below and the start to make the ascent.

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Long way up – look how small the people on the ground look!

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Made it!

This is quite the morning workout and we are richly rewarded for our efforts especially to be up here alone.

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The hike continues farther beyond, but we don’t carry on too much farther (breakfast and the road are waiting). Oh – and it begins to pelt us with rain…

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This hike continues along the river – I don’t know how far you can go, but it looks amazing.

Breakfast back at Hotel Skogar is nice enough.  I even try the pickled Herring.  It is pretty good, but too sweet. We stock up for the day ahead.

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Packing up is quickly accomplished (even I have become good at not “exploding” my articles in a one-night hotel room) and we hit up my trusty iPhone for Google Maps.

BIG road trip today.  We don’t really have that many miles in total (225km or 140miles), but there is so much to see along our route.

Our end point for sightseeing is supposed to be Jokularson Glacier Lagoon, but there are several stops between here and there that are not to be missed.  The plan is to make all those “extra” stops on the way back so as not to deter us from our end game.  However, we quickly learn to go with the weather.  When the sun is shining you should take full advantage.

 

Hotel Skogar, Skógarfoss to Hótel Laki Efri, Kirkjubæjarklaustur - Google Maps-edited

 

The sun is definitely out this morning and things are looking pretty clear.  We make the wise decision to stop at Dyrholaey Lighthouse first. At Dyrholaey we might have an opportunity to see Puffins!  Evidently in the spring and summer Iceland is home to 60% of the world’s population of Atlantic Puffins.  (The following photo is not ours – I wish it were):

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Just the drive to the tip of the peninsula is stunning.

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We smartly grab our binocs and start Puffin hunting.  There are literally hundreds and hundreds of birds nesting all over.  The Arctic Terns are especially bold and swoop to “attack” when trying to protect their nests.  It is an awesome scene.

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Just when I am figuring that the Puffins aren’t out to play I spot one on a huge rock outcropping out in the sea.  No attempt is made to get a photo – they are too far away.  We can see 2 Puffins clearly through the binocs.  Yay!

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This is as close as I will get to a Puffin:

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I do some clowning around for Levi (my trainer in AZ).  YES – it is cold!

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We take more selfies than normal for us, but seriously – you can’t help it!

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Back on the road. At one point we see a pull-off and a little sign with some very strange rock formations.  Of couse, a stop is made.

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What the …?

Fortunately, there is a sign that explains the cool rock piles.

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Two more rocks added to the piles:

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As we motor on, the scenery becomes even more strange and beautiful.  We stop at an area with miles of moss-covered rocks.

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As the road continues there are huge cliffs rising from one side of the road and then we begin to see waterfall after waterfall.  Seriously.  Who knew?  I finally realize that we are on one side of the Vatnajokull Glacier – “Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe covering 8% of the island of Iceland. Vatnajökull National Park – which encompasses the earlier national parks of Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur – is the largest protected area in Europe and believed by many to be the most beautiful place on earth.”

Here you can see it from space:

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I have been trying and trying to get a good photo of the beautiful Icelandic horses, but so far I have come up empty.  Hopefully there will be another opportunity. But the waterfalls are cool…

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When hunger strikes we are seriously in the middle of nowhere.  Finally a place that appears like it is a last resort crops up.  We have no choice. I can’t even describe how unassuming this little building/restaurant/store is.  I also can’t describe how delicious their Icelandic specialty  of Lamb Stew is!

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This is especially true when accompanied by two Vatnajokull (remember the name of the glacier?) beers! This brew is made with glacier ice and local thyme!!

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Little gem of a spot – off the tourist beat!

As we drive onward  we can definitely see snow-capped peaks and can also glimpse the huge glacier between the cliffs.  I am anticipating what we might see at the Jokularson Glacier Lagoon.  I have seen a few photos online and know that there may be some ice pieces strewn along the black sand beach.  There is a little concern that since it is technically summer, we won’t have much to see.  I hope we haven’t driven all the way out here for a dud.

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As we round one corner close to the lagoon, my heart literally stops. I can’t believe what we are seeing.

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 “Jökulsárlón literally “glacial river lagoon”) is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the glaciers. It is now 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) away from the ocean’s edge and covers an area of about 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi). It recently became the deepest lake in Iceland, at over 248 metres (814 ft), as glacial retreat extended its boundaries.] It is considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland.”

This place takes your breath away. It is a photographer’s dream.  (There have been several movies filmed here –  A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins, as well as the “reality TV” series Amazing Race.

We can’t stop clicking the camera and smiling.

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Look at the berg in the shape of a whale behind Rich!

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The berg in front center looks like a Puffin!

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We are really lucky to have hit up this spot when it is sunny and gorgeous!

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Enough pics?  Believe me, we shot tons and tons.  Finally it begins to rain again and the car sounds like a good shelter. This is what you look like when you try to dodge the weather:

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We are so happy to have dragged our rain gear to Iceland!

To get to our hotel for the night will require a bit of backtracking.  No problem, the scenery is just as fantastic in either direction.  On our way to Jokularson we had passed this strange sculpture and didn’t stop.  Now we are curious to see what it is.

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Turns out to be theremnants of the Skeiðará Bridge:

“In 1996, the volcano Vatnajökull, which sat beneath Skeiðarárjökull, erupted, melting portions of glacier and creating massive floods. While the girder bridge was built to withstand a hefty amount of flood waters, there was no preparing for the house-sized icebergs that the floods washed down the plain. A number of these glacial shards crashed into the bridge, wiping it out and creating a gap in the main ring road around Iceland.

All that remains of the original bridge today are two twisted girders by the side of the new road. They form a unique monument to the lovely but powerful beauty of Iceland’s natural landscape. “

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Another lame attempt to photo my horses:

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We also stopped by a place we passed earlier that was a particularly “gurgling”area of water that we had affectionately named the “Bubbling Crude.”

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“Bubbling Crude”

Our hotel for the night will be Hotel Laki in the little hamlet of  Kirkjubæjarklaustur (try saying that one!) We were supposed to be staying in a guesthouse, but the proprietor texted me a few days ago and told me he switched us to the hotel due to some construction at his place.  We are disappointed, but hoping for the best.

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Hotel Laki

As we get closer we notice what we think might be a tour bus and people gathered around.  This garners the infamous comment from Rich: “If this place is filled with those hard-drinkin’ Hüsker Düs, then I am outta there!” (some may remember the Danish board game – Hüsker Dü – from childhood).

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Hotel Laki turns out to be a great choice. We hit up the lounge for a beer and then dinner in the restaurant.  We weren’t expecting much, but our huge home made burgers were fabulous!

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This has been an absolutely magical day in Southern Iceland.  We can’t even begin to believe all we have seen today.  The hotel is thankfully quiet as we reflect on today and dream of what we might see and do tomorrow.

 





An Icy Reality

16 06 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

A painfully early morning in Barcelona – we rise at 4:15 to catch a taxi to the airport.  I had been a bit concerned about dragging our luggage through the morning streets trying in desperation to hail a cabbie.  However, all we had to do was step out, turn onto one of the main streets by the apartment and a taxi came flying by.  It is worth noting that this driver drove like he was in Grand Theft Auto video game.  Kinda scary but at least there was no traffic on the road.

Easy check in and quick 2 hour flight to Heathrow.  We had a long enough connection to visit the lounge, get a bite and relax before our 3 hour journey to Iceland.  The Icelandair flight was surprisingly full.  Icelandair has been smartly running a promotion where you can fly from the US to many spots in Europe and take a 7-day or less stopover in Iceland for no more $.  A ton of folks have been taking advantage of this great perk.

Kudos also to Icelandair for noting upon check-in that Rich was tall.  The agent immediately offered us Exit Row seating.  Thank you!  The flight attendants are throw-backs to the 60’s with their suited uniforms and pillbox hats.  Very cute.  Nice service, too.

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Brrr. We are not in Kansas anymore!

Our car is picked up from Blue Car rentals (super friendly and easy).  For the first time ever we agree to the extra insurance.  They already supply most insurance, but offer a special “Sand and Ash” insurance if you are traveling South (we are).  I read a lot online about how huge winds can blow around the sand and basically sandblast your rental car.  Many tourists have been surprised with a $$$$ damage bill at the end of their trip.  Seems prudent. (We learned on the flight that Iceland is the 3rd windiest place on earth – who knows where are the other 2?)

Today we will be heading for the Southern Coast of Iceland on the “Ring Road” – hwy 1.  Very easy – you can’t get lost. The scenery leaving the airport is not really very pretty and I am already wondering why we thought it would be beautiful here. Hope it gets better. It is rainy and foggy and you can’t see anything anyway.

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Great. Six days of this?

In my reasearch of Iceland I did hear that if you don’t like the weather, just wait 20 minutes.  It is true.  We go from rain to fog to sunshine.  The farther we get away from Reykjavik the more the scenery improves.  Click HERE for our route.

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Gorgeous purple Lupines EVERYWHERE

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The first actual destination on our journey is Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.  It is raining when we arrive but we are not deterred.

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At this waterfall you can actually walk behind the falls – cool!

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It really isn’t as cold as it looks – probably about 40-50F, but the wet conditions make it feel colder.

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We can’t really believe where we are – it is stunningly beautiful.

Our destination for the evening is Hotel Skogar in Skogafoss (“foss” means waterfall).  It is located right by another fabulous waterfall (Skogafoss) and was chosen for that reason.  We plan to hike to the falls tomorrow morning.

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As soon as I step out of the car I realize I need to “suit up.” Thank Heaven for rain gear!

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As with most hotels in Iceland, the rooms are small and simple.  Hotels/guesthouses are not extremely plentiful here.  Tourism is just starting to boom.  I am so happy that I made our arrangements months ago.  Most places are completely filled up.  Also the rooms can be very expensive.  However, it is nice and clean and the bed is comfy.

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It is already getting late – around 8:00pm.  Even though the sun sets around midnight (and rises at 3:00am!) restaurants close relatively early.  We decide to view the falls the neighbor hotel Bistro Bar at dinner.

 

After a quick dry change we walk back over to the Bistro Bar at Hotel Skogafoss. (I am starting to wonder if we will be constantly changing in and out of wet/dry clothes and shoes here?)

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A table looking at the waterfall and couple of $15 beers later along with lamb shanks makes us happy, happy. You can see Skogafoss in the background.

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We have come a long way today and we are both wondering what is in store for us in this beautiful and strange place.

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Update

15 06 2017

Saturday – June 17, 2017

This is a post just thrown in here to let you know that we did, indeed make it all the way to Iceland.  We have been slammed into the cold, rainy weather and it is quite a shock after warm, sunny Croatia and Barcelona. Please scroll back to finish our days in Barcelona.  I promise we will post more from Iceland soon!

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Lazy Last Day in Spain

15 06 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ahhh – a blissful day to sleep in and take it easy. We need to re-charge in order to be ready to travel to Iceland tomorrow. Since Janel and Isam are working we will just hang around the house and relax.

We have coffee in the apartment (thankfully), but I do manage to make my way out and walk a couple of blocks to a Forn de Pan (bakery) to pick up a couple of pieces of Tortilla (Spanish Tortilla is kind of like a baked omelet with eggs, onions and potatoes) and some croissants.

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This is where Rich spent most of the day (writing his blog post):

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Comfy in the warm living room

This is where I spent most of the day (because the A/C unit is in here!):

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Comfier in the icy A/C bedroom

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My savior

We were both very happy.

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Re-organizing for Iceland – putting away the tank tops and putting in the long johns!

I did go out one more time to pick up the dress that I purchased last week. The alterations were done and it is perfect. So happy that I found it! Obviously, no photos.

Around 4:30 we finally both head out to meet Janel at her workplace – The Book of Everyone. (look it up on thebookofeveryone.com). We manage to successfully navigate the metro and streets of the Poble Nou neighborhood to find it.

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Her workplace is a great British start-up company that employees bright, creative persons. She fits in beautifully. We are very impressed with the vibe in the office. Looks like a fun and productive place to work. Very high energy.

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We were lucky to meet up with a few of her co-workers (including a couple of the founders) for beers at a British-type pub close by. Over a beer or two I think the group managed to solve at least of few world’s problems.

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Back to Janel’s Gracia neighboorhood to have a “simple” dinner at Janel’s place. Rich and Janel stopped at the Mercado for a few items and Isam had made a stop at a specialty place to pick up even more awesomeness.

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I brought over our new bottle of Sparkling wine from Croatia.  (It turned out to be just “okay” but we are glad to have tried it.

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Janel and Isam truly pulled out all the stops for this tapas dinner. Isam can set a mean table and this one was laden with wonderful Spanish treats and French cheeses. We had outstanding Jamon, Lomo and Fuet (all Spanish cured meats) along with several fantastic cheeses and Pan con Tomate (the ubiquitous Catalan favorite of bread rubbed with olive oil, garlic and tomato). There were huge Italian olives (Janel’s favorites), fresh figs (which I had never tried before), Caviar from Norway, Foie with Truffle (omg), outrageously delicious anchovies and super great chorizo with honey. Yes, it was too much. And Yes we enjoyed it ALL!

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Wedding plans were cussed and discussed – so many great ideas! Rich and I are delighted to see happy Janel and Isam are and how great they work together. We have no doubt they will build a wonderful life together.

Our flight leaves early tomorrow morning – 7:10am. We must leave our apartment by 4:45. This part of the trip is always the most difficult. Leaving our girl. But it must be done. As I have relayed many times before, my mom always says “You have to leave so that you can come back.”

 

 





Back to Barcelona

14 06 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Travel Day. We are flying back to Barcelona today and must arise at the unbearable hour of 5:00. We are all packed up and ready to go. After and easy drive to the airport we hit a bit of a snafu when trying to return our car at Sixt Car Rental. (Readers may recall that we had a bit of an “issue” with one of the back bumpers. Rich smoothed it out the best he could and turned it into more of a scratch.)

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looks much better

There is no one present in the parking lot where we are supposed to return the car. Hmmm. We trapse inside and find a couple of young agents who ask us where the car is. When we tell them we parked it out back in the “return car here” lot, they seemed a bit puzzled. Oh well – “just give us the keys; there is no damage and you are free to go.” Okay. We will see how this pans out later. We have no proof of the minimal damage nor any proof that we returned the wi-fi hotspot. Livin’ on the edge.

There is just enough time to hit up the VIP lounge for coffee and a hint of blogging before we are loaded into the Veuling Airlines bus to take us to our steed.

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The flight is rather short (2hours) and I manage to sleep through most of it. Of course, when we arrive to gather our baggage we are once again faced with Baggage Purgatory. Janel gets antsy because she knows Isam is just on the other side of the door waiting to pick us up. We let her go ahead while we wait for bags.

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Purgatory

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It was great not to have to take a taxi, metro or bus from the airport. Thank you, Isam for generously driving to get us! It is lunch time and we are starving. Janel and Isam have one of their favorite places in mind to take us to. We end up at Teta de Monja (Tit of the Nun- seriously).

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Isam and Janel choose a selection of “picking” type items for the table. We have Pimientos de Padron, a Tuna Salad, Parmesan with Balsamic, Stuffed Jalepenos. The star of the lunch  (a platter of coated and fried olives that we stuffed with ground meat – yummy!

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After lunch all we are interested in is a long nap (we do that quite often – don’t judge…). Our same apartment is waiting for us. We dump our stuff and blissfully nap for an hour or so. The remainder of the late afternoon/early evening is spent doing laundry, checking internet stuff and generally chillin’. We feel like we have been in Barcelona enough times that we have “done it.” Not really. There is a lot more to do, but we need to take these couple of days to rest up for the remainder of our journey when we leave for Iceland.
A 10:00pm reservation is made for dinner. Janel rings us up around 8:00 and asks if we want to meet for wine and olives pre-dinner. Yep. Nobody really wants to go very far so we scout the neighboorhood. Barcelona is having a heat wave (really) and we want a place that is kind of indoor/outdoor like we had last week.

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Loads of people out and about on this warm evening

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a disturbing thought…

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Entre Hores fits the bill. Conversation, Vermut, Beer and Olives are the order of the evening.

When it is time for our dinner reservation we walk down to La Pubilla, another favorite of Janel/Isam. We wisely let them order up. This place is right next to the Mercat and specializes in using super fresh ingredients in creative ways. The staff is awesome and help us decide on the timing of our dishes.

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The food is absolutely fabulous especially when paired with a nice bottle of cava. We feast on some of the best Jamon we have had, a decadent potato and mushroom dish with a soft poached egg on top:

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Isam prepares to dive in:

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We moved on to stunning croquettas – the BEST. I am no croquetta expert. In fact, I have only had them a few times because Janel never liked them. Last time in Barcelona we had some wonderful ones the Isam ordered in a restaurant. Then these showed up. Isam even says that are the best he has had – beautiful crunchy coating (Panko?) wrapped around a beautifully creamy Bechamel studded with meat. Oh baby. (sorry no pics – they were devoured too fast).

Our final course was a rice dish with veggies topped with 2 beautiful special red shrimp.

Another perfect evening in Barcelona. I am telling you the Spaniards realy know how to eat.

Both Janel and Isam will be working tomorrow. The plan for Rich and me is no plan. We may not even leave the house…