Wednesday, April 4, 2018

ICELAND FAREWELL

We went to Iceland in June and loved it. We were wondering if we still would love it in Winter. We did, but I can say it would not be a great idea to go for the first time in Winter. So much is compromised by the weather. Still, Icelanders are a hearty people and make the best of what they have. And in natural beauty and kind fun loving people, they have it in spades! They enjoy their lives and love to show people their country. They are hard working, industrious, intelligent people who enjoy the fruits of a socialist democratic society that takes care of many aspects of life. Health care is free. Education , and college is free. Infrastructure  is well done and easy to use. Crime is almost non existent and food is local and fresh. Even in winter, because of their greenhouses, they supply their whole country with fresh vegetables. They are a healthy, active people, who tolerate the dark days of winter, but LOVE their long summer nights. The snow and cold does not stop them from enjoying their country. They always have many questions for Americans, usually pertaining to our gun use and crime...and have a hard time thinking we actually put up with it. Drugs are still illegal in Iceland. Liquor is expensive, eating out is expensive, and no one uses a gun, except hunters.  
I would go again in a heartbeat....and yes, even with the hoards of new visitors.....I would go in summer or fall. It is easier to get around, longer days, and more trails to hike on. 
One added note, the first part of our adventure we had the honor of being toted around by "Ole", a most humorous, kind man that hugged us a lot, drove on some really  scary icy, windy roads, and never lost his cool.  He was the quintessential Icelandic man....and what a cool guy.  

A FINAL DAY

With just the two of us we took off with our Icelandic friend and guide, Linda, to see some special places in the Capital city. We traveled to another waterfront area to see the beautiful opera house and read the line up of this years entertainment. Wow! They get some big name acts in this small country. The opera house was mostly all glass and a site to behold. This part of downtown Reykjavik was just bursting with new buildings and enterprises. The new influx of tourists was bringing on much needed capitol to a sleepy little country that had exploded with visitors. 3 years ago, when we visited in June, there were barely one million visitors for the whole year. This year.  3 million and counting!
In the afternoon we climbed up a hill to the Perlan Glacier and Ice Cave Museum. The "Pearl" . What a gorgeous place, where we were treated to a fabulous lunch and enjoyed a 360 degree view of the city. After lunch we donned warm ice jackets and entered the artificial ice caves, and listened to a young guide explain the ins and outs of glaciers and ice caves in Iceland. It was great fun, but since we had already seen the real deal.....it seemed a little artificial to us, but still worth seeing if one could not venture to the real glacier area. There was quite a big educational area about climate change, and after our "tour".  We were given a disc to write our impressions and share with the world!  
A wonderful "private tour" day with a fun lady who we felt was already a friend. We ended up at a Viking restaurant quite near our hotel and had a viking feast dinner with cod and wine and desert. 




Tuesday, April 3, 2018

LAST ONES STANDING

We woke up the next am not know what we were doing or where we may be going, but one thing was for sure, Steve and I were going to stay in Iceland and finish our trip. Not so the rest of the group with which we had been traveling. They all wanted to go home! They were done with ice and snow and unpredictable winter weather. A representative of the company metbwith everyone and apologized for all the delays and the fact that we were probably NOT going to make it to the Westman Islands this time around. So the representative set about changing people's flight and working on getting them back to the states. They also offered everyone a complete refund for that part of the trip, and it was a substantial amount. We got it also, but since we decided to stay, we also got all the accommodations and meals...so we felt good and in the mood to see more of Reykjavik.  While all the others were packing up and leaving, we started hoofing around this great city. We bought Icelandic wool from a knitting co-op, we found a REAL hamburger place and indulged in beef after all the fish and lamb we had been eating. We went to see the big frozen ice pond, and Steve, being Steve tried to walk on it, and fell thru the ice. He got wet, but no worse for wear.  We even had a "proper" happy hour and enjoyed the leisurely pace of not having any agenda or schedule. That night, a new blizzard blew in and cover d the town and Marina area with a soft blanket of snow. Steve got up around midnight and walked around in the snow. Iceland is probabaly one of the safest places in the world. We never did see a police, and they don't carry guns. People really are very polite and friendly and wonder all the time what is wrong in our country with all our shootings and murders.....we felt at a loss to explain anything, even the terrible man who was unfairly elected to be president.




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.