Monday, February 12, 2018

HELL DAY

It was snowing and blowing when we got up. Not a good omen for our little 3 day excursion to the Westman Islands, off the Southern coast of Iceland. We were planning on flying in a small little plane across a small body of water...hunker down and see the sights, mainly the aftermath of a huge volcanic eruption. We also heard there were some great innovative chefs on the small piece of land, and we were planning on some interesting meals.
All good plans went bye bye in the storm. It took us over an hour to go 5 miles to the airport, where we were leaving our small/tiny bags for a few hours. We got to airport and they had canceled the afternoon flight (ours) and told us to come back later. What is a tourist to do in a blizzard and no plans? We went to the mall. The only mall in Iceland, but it was a nice mall. Beautiful stores, nice places to sit and restaurants on the top level. And it was warm, and had WiFi. Actually, Iceland is quite wired...with free wifi everywhere, and they have also almost entirely  eliminated checks. ...we never used cash once...everything was very easy with a CC. But ...I digress.
We caught a van back to the airport...which is a tiny commuter airport with prop planes...yep, that what we were waiting for in a howling blizzard....tiny prop plane to cross the tiny ocean of water. I was getting more and more apprehensive and concerned. Hour after hour went by and still the planes could not fly. ...The weather was being watched VERY carefully, for a break, as all we needed was 1/2 hour of clearing and less wind.  There were sliding doors to enter the waiting room, and they became frozen OPEN with the snow blowing inside the waiting room. Miserable.


There was ONE beacon of light. A nice looking gentleman waiting with us was Heimir Hallgrimsson...the coach of the Iceland National football team. He found out I had grandkids playing football and he came over and sat by me and let someone take our picture. Now, I am a new fan and rooting for Iceland in the World Cup.


Alas, about 10:30 pm, they airport officially canceled all flight. Since we had checked out of our hotel...we didn't have a room...but we went back to the Marina Hotel and they not only found a room....they upgraded us. Worries gone, I slept like a baby.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

LANGJOKULL GLACIER

The weather was getting colder, but we were going to a huge glacier to explore it and enter a big manmade ice cave inside the Langjokull Glacier. After stopping to see some more frozen waterfalls, we went to a staging place and boarded a huge glacier truck that carried us up, up, and up the side of the glacier until we reached the entrance of the cave. It was a total "white out" and we could not see anything. I saw some tall sticks close by the truck so they could navigate. After an hour, we reached the entrance....and put on our crampons, and entered into the entrance for a guided glacier tour. It was cold, but no wind inside, so that helped with the wind chill....we even saw real crevasses...from the bottom up.  After we were really chilled, we turned around and went bag to the snow truck for chocolate milk and pastries.

Crampons: Someone suggested we bring crampons on this adventure and they have been most used! Mine are easy to pull on and off and make walking in the snow, AND Ice so much easier and safer. It was the best thing I brought...except for long undies!


Sunday, February 4, 2018

DINNER

Food is good in Iceland, but not inexpensive. Most Icelanders eat all meals at home and leave the restaurants to the tourists, especially in the rural areas. Fish...of course, but MUCH lamb is eaten. And always potatoes, vegetables and good bread. And they love their candy. Alcohol is expensive, and drugs are illegal...but they love their alcohol!
One night we got to eat dinner with a "regular/normal" Icelandic family in a small neighborhood a couple miles away from the hotel.  We had chicken friend lamb chops.....breaded and pan fried...very very common...veggies, pickles, and for drink..."Fanta" type Orange soda, mixed with ginger beer! That wasn't my favorite. Also, after talking a couple of hours with the hostess, she brought out "festival food" she had prepared for the weekend festival of a celebration of the old ways on winter. Sheep testicles, sheep head, and regular sheep meat. 


The hostess was a single mom of 5 kids( not all at home), a school math teacher, And a sweater knitter. Everyone in Iceland knits the fabulous Icelandic wool sweaters. No lie. Even men.  There were 5 of is invited for dinner, and she cooked up a storm, after working a day at the school.  It was a fun evening of really getting to know the normal Icelandic life style.


GREEN HOUSES

KWho would have thought green house explorations would be so interesting! Iceland grows MOST of all their veggies all year round in wonderful modern greenhouses. The little town we were staying in, Fludir, is primarily a town built around this production. Everyone in Iceland seems to be employed! We met a very energetic woman whose family owns many many greenhouses in the area and she ushered us into her world.  Peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots...and mushrooms. All organic and grown with the use of their wonderful heating and lighting, which is practically free in this land. We learned so much it would take pages and pages of description. But is WAS FUN, and we ended up in their newly opened restaurant for the most wonderful mushroom soup ever! And breads, and carrot cake...all from their own products.


We went back to our very modern hotel, grabbed our swimming suit and went about 3 min to the Secret Lagoon....probably one of the oldest hot thermal pools in Iceland.
Icelanders use these pools all the time...no matter the weather. One leaves shoes and boots in a common room, then goes into men or women's showers, disrobes, showers and walks outdoor a few steps and slips into the most wonderful hot pool with volcanic sand on the bottom. We stayed until we were toasted...or boiled..ha..then , feeling very mellow and refreshed...got back to the hotel for a happy hour in our own room.


Friday, February 2, 2018

SEA CAVES


We got to sleep in until it was light out! Whoop whoop!  We decided to take a BIG Snow Jeep excursion into the glacier area and even explore sea caves if we could reach them. There had been a lot of snowfall, so it was deep..and the big jeep was  bouncing to and fro in its efforts to reach the caves. About 5 people were pretty queasy, and we had to make one puke stop, but after some rough going we managed to get to one of the biggest caves. It was weird, because the Atlantic Ocean is right off the snow and we could see it the whole time. We were also looking for the elusive Arctic Fox.
We had a fun driver/guide/singer/lunch maker...named Ingo. We was funny and kidding with us all along. We donned helmets to climb into the cave, and low and behold....out came the orange juice and vodka for some morning screwdrivers!
We got to the icy highway faster on the return ride, and not as bumpy. But Ingo wasnt through with us yet! After we packed up, we drove to a big B&B and had a delicious homemade lunch with broiled Char and chocolate cake. We were also serenaded with a guitar playing Ingo...jack of all trades.

 
As we continues our journey back we stopped at 2 of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, both of which Steve and I had climbed to the top, but they wouldn't let us with all the snow and ice. Also, the water put out was so much less than in summer. Still, impressive.
And since the Icelandic Horse is such a special animal, we stopped by a mini horse ranch to walk in the barn and see the horses and let the owners answer questions we had.
We finally reached Fludir, a town of only 400 permanent residents, but a very beautiful hotel owned by Atlantic Air. After a delicious dinner of....ta da...cod and vegetables....we relaxed early. Some people went in the hot tub surrounded by huge volcanic boulders. A big storm was a brewing and the wind rattled the windows all night. We found out the next day that over 200 cars slid out of control on the Hwy going to Reykjavik and the road was closed in many spots. The weather continues to be rough and unpredictable and changing from 1 hour to the next. 


ICY ICELAND

Another long day started with early breakfast and leaving in the dark of the am. We have the best driver named Oly, and he maneuvered us across some VERY icy and windy stretches of the HWY #I.....the ONLY highway on Iceland. We traveled East with clear skies to see huge glaciers and the land these monsters have carved throughout centuries. 
We learned about the most major volcanic eruptions and heard stories of Icelanders who survive these harsh conditions. Yes, it was cold, but we could see everything! We got out and walked carefully near the glacier tongues with our trusty crampons.
After a lunch of fish we drove to the beach and river of Glacial Lagoon. The ice was sparkling in the sun on the black sand. It made for very beautiful scene. 
This was one of the BEST days so far, as far as weather and scenery. I swear I could have taken a picture every 30 seconds and still could not capture all the beauty.



I was wondering of we were going to make the long drive back in time for.....you know...1/2 price happy hour, when walking back to the big van we spied our trusty leader with a "happy hour" spread out on a large ice chunk. Except, this wasn't wine...this was Black Death....Icelander version of a most potent vodka like swig. We needed this swig because we were tasting the most vile piece of Greenland shark and needed the Black Death to get the shark taste out of our mouth. It was pretty funny......
Finally we set out to drive back to VIk. There were warning signs on the hwy to alert motorists how high the wind guts were..so they don't take that stuff lightly! Yes, we got slammed a bit and the roads had black ice on them......made for an exciting ride back. 
Steve and I hoofed it over to a small diner across the street from our expensive hotel restaurant, and had a salad and NON 1/2 price wine. $$$. Long day...fell into a deep sleep. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

GULLFOSS

Here we are in Iceland and about to explore the Southern coast, which is different from our last time here when we explored the West and Northern areas. We left at 8 am in darkness and the light did not appear until 10:00 AM, so it is weird and throws off the bio clock!
We toured a very famous Viking stronghold in the area and it was snowing big fat flakes. It was also windy, and maybe I didn't have enough layers, as I was getting chilled. We donned our crampons which helped navigate the slippery areas and iced. Those crampons became my best friend for many days!

The waterfall at GullFoss was incredible with icy splendor and roaring water. Iceland is water water everywhere! We had seen it last on the middle of summer, so the contrast was stunning. Steve and I hunkered down and made it to the end of the trail, but the warm van was so nice to crawl back into.
Around lunch time we made it to Geysir....which we call Geyser in English. This geyser blows about every 7-8 min and there were many tourists hanging around waiting. It was brutal cold and windy and I opted to walk to a restaurant and enjoy a piping hot bowl of tomato/basil soup with good bread. All the bread in Iceland is wonderful. Always fresh and served with soups. 
It was a long day of travel as we drove into Vik. The happy hour at the bar had just ended, but I ran to the bartender in desperation and he poured me a 1/2 price glass of wine. Believe me, even at 1/2 he price.....in Iceland...that is expensive!
We still had dinner to go to...so it was a long but, cold day on icy roads, icy trails, icy wind......oh Iceland!