Saturday, 7 February 2015

Golden Circle tour

Wow it is dark! We are out at 0800 which in Icelandic terms is well before dawn!

We had awoken at 07:00 and dressed in our warmest layers then breakfasted on a Skyr yogurt and Danish pastries picked up the day before.

Yesterday evening had been a six-Pinter  but my head was surprisingly clear. We had walked into downtown Reykjavik and visited the Hressinarskalann where we shared a veggie burger with chips and had a Viking Beer the previous evenings dinner debacle we thought it best to share dinner.

On the way back to the hotel we dropped into Kaffibarinn which apparently used to be owned by Damon Albarn. I had a beer while Victoria had a coffee with a shot of Icelandic spirits.

Now seated comfortably on the Iceland Guided Tours minibus we picked up fellow travellers around Reykjavik and headed out of town.

Out of town the pre-dawn light showed a beautiful snowy tundra and lava fields but in the mountain passes the road was an icy black ribbon in the White-out.

Seventy five minutes out of Reykjavik the road becomes two tyre tracks in the snow and we stop at a village for a comfort break for those who feel the need.

On our first stop we pulled up and met some Icelandic ponies. These were originally introduced by the vikings  and there are now about one hundred thousand on Iceland one per three humans.

Our driver suggested they like a biscuit, we had no biscuits but did feed them a Kit-Kat which went down really well with the ponies. Victoria was concerned that we may have a Neil and the dolphin incident though from giving them chocolate.

We drove on and stopped at the waterfall at Faxi where we had ten minutes enjoying the view and taking some photographs. We then drove up to the Gullfoss waterfall

We were dropped off at the middle viewing platform and after using a couple of the view points there we moved up to the upper levels. We could not use the lower platform as it was closed due to ice.

The falls are spectacular in the winter all green ice and crashing water. The top drop is 12m while the bottom drop adds another 20m.

There was a lot of snow and a light drizzle, we are soaking wet and having to constantly clear the camera lens but  hopefully some of the images have come out ok.

At the top is a large gift shop and cafe where the minibus picked us up again and we drove about 10km back to Geysir the reason all geysers are so called. Geysir itself is dormant now but about 50m away Strokkur is more active erupting every 10 to 15 minutes

Litli Geysir bubbles away close by.

We stopped for lunch at the Geysir Hotel. Sharing a cheese sandwich and French fries.

Back on my the bus we had a 40 minute drive to Pingvellur National Park site of the oldest democratic parliament in the world. We went over an icy mountain pass, our coach driver with her mobile phone clamped to her ear!

Having earlier passed the other way the road crossed back onto the North American plate from the Eurasian plate.

At Pingvellur a fissure between the tectonic plates runs for several hundred meters and across the parliament place.. After a steep climb to the view point you are afforded some beautiful views. The weather has cleared up somewhat and it is just cold now rather than cold and drizzle.

We bought a lovely hot chocolate in the gift shop at the summit.

It was then back into the minibus for the hour long journey to Reykjavik.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Reykjavik day 3

I awoke state early at about 06:00 but spent time editing photos and updating the blog while Victoria slept on beside me.

Victoria woke at 08:00 and we breakfasted on a scrummy Skyr yogurt each purchased the day before.

We left the hotel at around 10:45 and it was snowing and blowing a gale. Having seen a promising breakfast menu the day before we went to Tui Dropar but were uninspired by the veggie options and instead went for a tea and coffee..

We had heard of a great view point so walked up to the Solfarid (Sun Voyager) sculpture and the weather really cleared and we had some great photo opportunities of both the stainless steel sculpture and over the bay

At the Solfarid the weather had cleared but the wind got up and it was extremely cold in the gusts wing.

We walked back past Harpa and into town for a cheese roll and coffee at the Kornid Bakery where the snow started again.

We continued on to the harbour and visited Aurora Reykjavik, the weather conditions on this trip mean this exhibit is likely our only chance to see the Northern Lights. The weather and atmospherics were perfect last week for viewing, not so this week. They do have a 'box' to test if your camera is suitable and it seems that if I had the chance I could likely get a good shot.

We enjoyed a complimentary tea and coffee and chatted to some visitors from Chicago then picked up some post cards of the Aurora Borealis as we are not likely to get any good images on this trip.

We walked through town to Svarta Kaffid (the place where we had soup on Wednesday evening), we had a pint each and shared a lovely plate of Nachos with cheese and salsa. I found out that today that the local 'Gull' beer is not named after sea birds but instead Gull is Icelandic for gold.

We sat enjoying our drinks and food in the warm while the snow flurries and winds whistled down Laugavegur.

In a break in the snow storm we headed back to the hotel, stopping to pick up more Skyr for breakfast. It's now nearly happy hour so time to sign off for the day as I post this from the Hlemmur Square bar.

View from the balcony this evening! Brrrrr! honest, there should be a mountain in the background.

We are now sat in the Hlemmur Square bar enjoying a pint. Tomorrow we have a Golden Circle tour booked, hope to have loads of pictures to upload after that.

Day out in Reykjavik

We had an excellent nighs sleep in the Hlemmur Square hotel waking about 08:00 it really is dark outside at that time.

We loafed around for a while and eventually got dressed and showered,  leaving the hotel around 09:15 it was still dark but lightening.

Walking along Laugavegur we stopped at the Sandholt Artizan Bakery & Coffee House for a breakfast of toasted sourdough with cheese, Danish pastry, a Skyr yogurt , coffee and orange juice. Really tasty.

The sun was now pretty much up now with a little gloom, looking north over the coast the views are fantastic.

We continued into the old part of town and after a mooch around went to the RReykjavik 871+-2 exhibit. A turf Viking era hall excavation that can be accurately dated due to a layer of ash from a volcanic eruption. The exhibition is great, you can get right up to the turf walls and there are loads of artefacts with ddetails in both Icelandic and English, plus some great interactive displays.

We then walked up to the Harpa a beautiful modern building serving as concert venue and conference centre, all glass and steel, but looking great in the landscape. It is spectacular at night so more shots of that later.

Ready for some refreshment we found a coffe shop, I had a tea while Victoria a coffee, we shared a Kleina, an Icelandic twisted donut that looks a bit like a yum-yum and we found heavy and rather greasy.

Looking at the map we decide to walk to Keinglan Mall to pick up a mains adaptor, as we seem to have lost ours somewhere along the way!

We pass the Hallgrims-Kirkjaradlestin cathedral on the way, an impressive concrete structure.

Although there is a lot of snow and ice about, the pavements are quite easy going as they are gritted with volcanic ash and have hot water pipes running underneath. I decide that Reykjavik is the home of the lost glove. The streets are littered with forlorn soggy articles.

We eventually reach the Keinglan Mall and I pay quite a lot for a european adaptor.

It's getting on so we have lunch at Hradlestin an Indian street food resturant I have a veggie thali and Victoria a veggie naan wrap.

We walk back to the Hlemmur Square and my pedometer says 18,000 paces so I think I deserve the couple of pints I had in the bar.

We go back up to the room and I updated the blog with yesterdays post then we get ready and head to downtown Reykjavik.

There is a snowboard event going off in town so we watch the boarders doing their jumps and tricks for a bit.

Now back to the Harpa, as I said it looks stunning at night.

Next stop is the Laundromat Cafe where we both have a Latin Avocado Sandwich

It's eyes bigger than our bellies time though and we are both defeated

A slow walk back to the Hlemmur Square and crash out in bed.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Derby to Luton to Reykjavik

It's time for another adventure. On Tuesday.evening I met Victoria in Derby after work and we were in the car for the drive to Luton Airport. As can be expected on these occasions fate chose to shit on us and the M1 was closed between Jcns 13 and 12!

We took a short diversion into Milton Keynes and had a Pizza Hut in the Intu although the M1 was still closed so we drove out to Bedford and picked up the A6 finally arriving at the Premier Inn far to late.

Up bright and early we dropped the car off in mid term and were soon at Luton Airport for a breakfast of Starbucks coffee and Belgium buns. Before going through security we had to buy a couple of zip locks for our toiletries.

We got through security quite easily, unlike the chap in the next aisle who had filled his hand baggage with Ted Baker toiletries......

Our Easyjet flight was quite late setting off but once in the air the three hour flight went smoothly and we had an easy landing at Keflavik. As we were late setting off we just missed our connecting bus so killed 50 minutes with a drink and a bag of crisps,  we can live it up.

We boarded the bus and after 20 minutes or so were  at the Blue Lagoon a great outdoor natural spa with geothermal sea water at 37C.

After dropping our luggage of at the bag drop we split to our respective changing rooms and met up on the other side and entered the lovely bath - hot water.

There is a bar in the middle of the pool and we had two drinks. I had a pint of the local Gull lager both times, Victoria had a Blueberry smoothie  the first time. The second round she had a Krap! That is the local brand name for slushie ,  but having a Krap in the pool is a must here.

We eventually spent three hours in the pool, including quite some time with our silica mud packs on.

We took another camera into the pool and the photos from that may make another blog post.

Quite revived, but wrinkly we changed back into our clothes and went to the bar for another pint, Victoria had a coffee. We took some photos from the viewing platform then picked up our luggage and boarded the coach to Reykjavik.

The Hlemmur Square is a lovely hotel, our room is modern and cosy with a extremely comfortable bed. After dropping the luggage (and finding some idiot had lost the travel adaptor) we went to the hotel bar for happy hour where beers and wine are at 600ISK. Victoria had a wine I had a beer and we staved off the hunger with some peanuts.

Rather hungry we decided to walk into town passing many eateries on the way we decided on the Svarta Kaffid a great bar that serves soup in a hollowed granary cob loaf. I washed mine down with a another pint of Gull.

We walked around a little more then it was back to the Hlemmur Square and crashed out in bed. A three hour flight, a three hour swim, a long walk and five pints, I was ready  for bed.