Wednesday, 17 July 2013


I'm back blog fans,
It's been a few weeks since I've been standing on English soil.  We are still unpacking, setting up services, figuring out A & B, and settling our affairs and will be doing so for a few more weeks but I'll take a short break to cover our final trip before heading back across the pond.  We decided to squeeze in a trip to Iceland on the way home for a couple of reasons - Lori still had vacation time and we still had money in the bank account.  So off we went to London to drop off our big luggage at my buddy Brandon's flat.  (A quick note - for the sake of cleanliness I will do a repatriation post after this Iceland post but will chronologically skip over a bit to keep this post only about Iceland.)  Thanks to Brandon for meeting us for dinner and also storing our luggage for us.  Not only was it great to meet him once again for dinner at a very good Thai place we encountered a pleasant surprise...

Trappist on tap!  Thinking of my ex-pat mates Doug and Jeff who stopped at a Trappist brewery during their Belgium trip.  Maybe the best beer I had on tap while in England.  I probably could have stayed for about 10 more but an early morning flight was calling us from Gatwick so we walked back to B's flat and piled into the car for the drive to Gatwick.  We put in the Avis rental return post code which brought us to Gatwick and everywhere around Gatwick but not to the return place so we just gave up and drove to the hotel... where we drove past Avis which was total dumb luck.  Even better was our hotel was walking distance from Avis so we were set for the night.      

Sunday Day 1 - On Sunday we awoke early and walked to the WOW Air terminal to find out we could have slept in for another 30 minutes.  Apparently they only open the check in desk 1.5 hours before the flight so we had a little line time before checking in which wasn't bad.  The bad part was sitting on the plane for 45 minutes after boarding because a lady checked in for her flight but the system didn't catch her for some reason.  They didn't explain the whole confusion but it had something to do with her and her daughter having the same first and last names.  But finally we were in the air.  It was an uneventful flight except for one memorable item - as we descended everyone was looking out the windows to see the landscape.  We have done a few flights in the last two years and I flew a bit in previous jobs and I can not remember one other flight where everyone was trying to see out the windows.  I was in the aisle seat so didn't have an opportunity to take any pictures - sorry.    

The view of Keflavik from our Flybus ride into Reykjavik, the world's northernmost country capital city at 64 degrees and change North latitude.  Or just under the Arctic Circle which explains Iceland's resident glaciers.

Icelandic lava fields which was a common sight on our rural drives.

Another common sight, a lone house backdropped with a barren landscape.

I booked the Reykjavik Excursions Flybus to take us from the airport to our hotel.  It cost a bit extra but I have found out that landing in a foreign country and getting frustrated, exasperated, and/or lost trying to find our hotel isn't worth saving a few bucks.  So after our bus ride to the terminal we boarded the minibus to our Radisson Blue Saga Hotel.  And we arrived fresh and ready to roll.

It was late afternoon by the time we checked in and decided to explore Reykjavik.  I didn't have a lot planned but did want to see Hallgrimskirkja since it was out of the way of the other sights.  My plan was to buy the Reykjavik Welcome Card (RWC) and use the public transportation to save our feet but was met with a couple of obstacles.  One - the RWC was not sold at the less than helpful Iceland tourist office at the airport, even worse the worker occupying the booth hadn't even heard of the RWC.  (He may have been overmatched for his job - he couldn't help the person in line before me either.)  Two - public transportation in Reykjavik wasn't very convenient.  The buses did run but didn't run often enough for us to use it.  Even worse was when we bought the RWCs for the adults I bought two bus passes for the kids.  There's 70 bucks I donated to the public bussing authority.  Fortunately the city was small and we were only a half an hour walk away from the center so we made do without the buses although I was a tad unhappy about buying passes I never used.  We did come out ahead on the RWCs though so those were a good deal.   

On our walk to dinner it was pretty easy to spot the church.  Gotta love the easy to see attractions.

It was also easy to find Tjornin (The Pond) on our walks.  The Pond (Wiki link) was the edge of the old town at one point and is now a nice place for a stroll.

We wandered towards the church looking for a place to eat and finally decided on one, Sjavargrillid (Seafood Grill) which ended up being rated #3 on TripAdvisor for Reykjavik.  You can read the website here.  It tasted very good and was pretty expensive but our additions of starters, drinks, and dessert tacked onto the final bill.  Even still, I have to admit it was a little of a shock to see the almost 29,000 Icelandic krona bill.  Iceland was very expensive so this was our only meal with starters so our other meals were only around the $100 USD mark.

Dana Johnson Pic - My starter of Minke Whale, polenta, mushroom, popcorn and hollandaise.  I like to try different foods as we travel but felt bad the next day when I saw a bunch of signs telling you not to eat whales.  Oops.  It tasted okay but nothing special I thought.

Dana Johnson Pic - Link Fish, a local white fish, cauliflower, couscous, portabella mushroom, and sauce which was very good.  Not sure it was worth the price but it is nice to splurge once in a while. 

Dinner is over and Hallgrimskirkja (Wiki link) was open late so we trekked up the street to check it out.  The church is newer, built in the late 1900's, so it didn't have the history I enjoy in some of the churches but it still makes many top churches of the world lists.  The exterior design was interesting, the architect designed it to resemble a lava flow which was neat but the interior was the typical plain Scandinavian décor.  Nice place but not one of my favorites.

Native son Leifr Eriksson (Wiki link) standing in front of the faux lava flow.  We'll be above the clock at the windows soon to overlook Reykjavik.

Looking down the nave.  There was a choir practicing so we didn't get to see the altar area.

The organ was impressive however.

And the requisite stained glass picture.

In the church tower overlooking the picturesque harbor.

Looking inland.  Most rooftop views in larger cities are quite ugly but with Reykjavik's colorful roofs and clean streets I rather enjoyed looking over the city.

Looking towards The Pond and the Atlantic Ocean.  Our hotel is straight out past The Pond.

Looking towards downtown Reykjavik.  The harbor is where our whale watching tour started the next day.

Vinland is by Newfoundland in Canada.

Last view of Leifr and Hallgrimskirkja.

One unique part of Iceland was how you could be in a residential area but still feel like you were out at camp.  This is overlooking The Pond as we wandered around after the church.

A statue depicting Out of The Night (book link).  Related to the oppressiveness of communism and Iceland's independence.

Kevin Coleman Pic - Viking Classic on tap, very nice.

Kevin Coleman Pic - Pilsner is light beer in Iceland.  I enjoyed the Scandinavian beers on our trips and Iceland was not an exception.  More beer!

We also had the pleasure of experiencing summer on the Arctic Circle in the nighttime.  At 10:30 PM it was almost as bright as it was at noontime.  The weather forecast said sunset was 12:04 AM the next day and sunrise was 2:56 AM that same morning but what we didn't realize at first was a setting sun doesn't mean it gets dark.  It actually didn't get dark AT ALL overnight while we were there.  Once the sun set it was a little less bright but light still streamed into our room 24/7.  We ended up staying up later than usual because our bodies felt tricked by the light.  I went to bed around 1 AM the first couple of nights and Lori didn't sleep at all the first night.  Put this on our "Never Done That Before List."

Monday Day 2 - Monday was our whale watching and puffin island day.  (We purchased our Welcome Cards and bus passes this morning then discovered the buses don't run often enough for our schedule so we hoofed it half an hour to the harbor.  Fail.)  Lori in particular was excited for whale watching but it ended up being a learning experience.  When you think of whale watching you think of these pictures with the whale tails coming out of the water close to the boat.  Well, not so much in real life.  In real life you search the water for three hours and only see about five whales.  The website does have a disclaimer about the open ocean and searching for whales in the wild but we were expecting a little more than what we saw. 

Approaching puffin island, the first of our letdowns on this tour.

Some puffins floating in the ocean.

This is as close as we were to the island as the boat distresses the puffins and this is their breeding ground so the boat stayed here about five minutes then we went out to search for whales.

Close up of puffins standing guard.

Puffins flying around the island.

And this is what whale watching looks like.

A whale!

This was a "WOW" from our whale watching guide.  It didn't look like much to me but he sure was excited about how close it was to the boat.  I thought "this is close?" which explained a lot in hindsight.  Unfortunately Lori was down below getting her weather suit on and missed it.   

The same Minke Whale blowing.  I found it to be difficult taking pictures as you can't see the whale through the small camera screen so I had to zoom in the camera a little, point it to about where I thought the whale would surface, and then look for the whale with my naked eye.  Once I spotted the whale I snapped a picture and hoped I captured the whale in the picture because the whales would only surface for air instead of swimming on top the water.  As you can see I captured them but not very well.

Lori and Kalle opted for the weather suits which warmed them up.  I stuck with a blanket while Karl opted for the suit also.  The highs were in the mid 50's F every day which is typical in the summer but it gets colder after being on the ocean for a while.  

Final sighting.  About five whale sightings in three hours.  We were all disappointed in the tour but now we know how to research them better should we decide to try whale watching in the future.  The tour was a bit boring but the boat guide was entertaining which helped the experience. 

A Sea Gannett fishing by dive bombing into the ocean.  We saw quite a few fishing but I didn't see any come up with fish in their beaks. 

After the tour ended we checked out the small whale watching center before stopping for lunch.

Minke Whale baleens.  The guide explained to us there are two types of whales - toothed and baleen whales.  Toothed whales (like Orcas) bite and eat their food.  Baleen whales like Minke Whales open their mouths and take a gulp full of water.  The food (like plankton) stick to the baleen plates, the whale pushes the water out of its mouth, then swallows the food.  On the right is the outer side of the baleen plate where the food sticks and it felt like a horsehair brush.  On the left side is the inner side of the plate and it felt like hard plastic.  
The boat on the right was our tour boat.  The boat on the left was the whale watching center.

For lunch we stopped at a place called the Volcano House which had some rocks/minerals, a small café, and a short video on Iceland volcanoes.  The lunch was okay and we decided not to watch the video but I did like the volcano mineral rock specimens.

Jasper (Wiki link).

Stilbite (Wiki link).

Calcite and Chalsedony.

More Jasper.

Our next stop was Reykjavik 871 +-2 Settlement House, a Viking long house from 871 or 872 AD.  This continued our disappointing day as the house details were sparse at best, mostly foundations.  There were a few info boards which helped make it slightly more interesting but it was a pretty quick stop. 

One of the two books used to document the history of Iceland.

The other book which documents the history of Iceland.

Very different description from today, thanks mostly to the volcanic activity.

Be prepared to be under-whelmed...


I found this interesting since most places we have toured have some sort of religious artifacts but then I considered the Norse pagan gods and funeral pyres of the times and it made more sense.

We'll see evidence of the layer later on.

Final view of the house.  Hard to see but in the middle is a four meter (thirteen feet) long hearth which was uncommonly long per the literature.

Read below.

See above.

Model of the Settlement House.  One interesting fact from the info boards is the house was accessed by the entry door and on the opposite side of the house would have been the garbage and toilet area door.  However, they would only use the back door for going to the bathroom or bringing out the garbage or coming into the house from those areas.  It was not used as a second entry door like houses are today. 

Also in the museum was a small room describing the post volcano development of Reykjavik.

Picture of Reykjavik from 1783.

The New Enterprises built up Reykjavik.

And I thought only America had a short history. 

Model of Reykjavik in 1786 showing the New Enterprises shops.

We'll see a statue of Skuli Magnusson later.

Our next stop was Domkirkja i Reykjavik (Lutheran Cathedral).  It has been a sacred site since 1200 AD but the existing church has been in place since the late 1700's.  You can read more about it here.  Once again it has the typically understated Scandinavian décor with white being the dominant color.  

Looking down the nave towards the altar.

The pulpit.

Altar close up.

Looking back towards the entrance.

And the exterior.

Interesting art display as we walk around town.

Plaque close up from above.

The English Pub, a restaurant we opted not to eat at for obvious reasons.  Reykjavik seemed to have the most varied cuisines per capita in all of our travels.  Icelandic, English, Italian, French, American, etc., we saw a lot of different cuisines in town.

Interesting ship in dry dock picture.

After more walking (and complaining of walking) we made it to Vikin, the Maritime Museum (link).  The main draw here was that it was included in the Welcome Card which meant free entrance.  The museum was semi-interesting.  

A large area was about Seamen's Day, an Icelandic celebration of the lives lost at sea dating to 1938.

I thought this was fascinating.

Seamen's Day info.

Another part of the museum was about Iceland's fishing industry.  Here are some drying fish.

Read below.

For above.  I wonder how long to get the fish oil smell off of the sailors after wearing the pants every day for weeks and months at a time.

A four person rowboat from 1907.  This was a typical fishing vessel for a few hundred years.

Here the museum starts describing the evolution of Icelandic fishing.

Another fish drying picture.  Is it just me or is that an awful lot of fish?

The industrial evolution brought trawlers to Iceland in 1892.

Trawler model complete with net.

In 1947-52 new trawlers twice as big as existing trawlers arrived in Iceland.

Modern day fishing boat models.

The future - stern trawlers.

There was also a small section on pensioners - retired fishermen who couldn't live by themselves anymore but were still somewhat able to care for themselves.

1950's retired fisherman one room housing.  I am standing in the small vestibule which included a small closet and a small dresser.

Dana Johnson Pic - For lunch we stopped at a fish and chips place.  This is my Greek salad and fish.  It was a good tasting meal and under $100.  Bonus!

Dana Johnson Pic - Icelandic fish and chips.

We found Skuli Magnusson!

Our final stop was at the City Hall to see...

the topographical model of Iceland.

The orange area is Reykjavik and the bottom on the picture is where we went whale watching.

The model.  The white caps are the glaciers.  I would be standing in the Norwegian Sea as I took the picture.  Reykjavik is on the opposite side of the model.

Some interesting residential architecture on our walk to the hotel.

Tuesday Day 3 - Tuesday we did a rare thing on our vacations - we went on a tour bus ride.  Tour buses have the ups (you always see the highlights, you get a knowledgeable guide, you don't need to worry about transportation) and the downs (no control over the sightseeing schedule, you see everything in a big group) but for us they are more downs than ups so we typically avoid the large touring groups.  This time we decided to try it since we thought the ups outweighed the downs.   

The Golden Circle Tour itinerary.

Snow filling in the hills.

A common sight on the bus ride - barren landscape, many hills and low hanging clouds.  You can also see a few raindrops on the window which threatened us most of the day until the skies finally opened up.

Hills in the clouds scenery.

Our first stop was Nesjavellir, one of the many geothermal areas we saw on the trip.

The thick steam clouds identify the small geothermal power station locations.

And the pile of tourists pour from the two coaches.  A couple of stops later the coaches split up so the crowds weren't as bad but this is easily my least favorite part of tour buses.

Loved the views though.  Reminded us of Scotland.

One of my many pictures from inside the coach.  This one turned out okay.

Thingvellier National Park (Wiki link) is on the list one of my favorite travel guides - the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List.  More of a "communing with nature feel" here than a "cornerstone of democracy feel".  This is the location of the world's first democratic parliament in 930 AD convened by the Vikings.  Put another entry in my world's first or world's top "whatever" site book.

Beautiful scenery but the place was actually selected since it was a major crossroads back in the day.  Iceland only allows two homes here, one is the Prime Minister's summer house and the other is a top church member's home if I remember correctly.

Tour bus low point - EVERYONE wants the same picture.

Or you can just wait a bit or move down the trail to capture a bunch of strangers in front of the cool rock path.

A little bit of everything Iceland has to offer here - a small stream, grassy and rocky landscape, mountains, snow, hovering clouds and sunshine.  All we need is a spewing volcano and the picture is complete.

We followed the waterfall sound to this small waterfall and pool.  The guide said this is where women who were sentenced to death were drowned.  The men who were sentenced to death were hanged in a different area.  She didn't know why the condemned where killed in different areas or ways.

I just liked this picture of the rocky wall for some reason.

This area is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet so we crossed back and forth between them all day.  Lori and I thought that was a great experience but I don't think the kids grasped the significance, maybe they will in later on some geology class.  The fissured rocks pulling apart is caused by the tectonic plates moving away from each other per our guide.

More scenery.

And back on the bus.  The moss covered lava fields were common on the rural drives.

The clouds are not looking very promising.

I found these houses nestled in the woody foothills picturesque.  Old school subdivisions I guess. 

Dana Johnson Pic - Lamb stew was great, chicken Panini was good, Coke was Coke.

After lunch (not looking for lunch spots is another tour bus advantage) at the only restaurant in 100 square miles we checked out Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall).  You can read the info board or the Wiki link.

I guess we have to go to Niagara Falls now to see how they compare.  We really like Gullfoss. 

The post falls gorge and rising mist was neat.  All we missed here was the sunshine.

It was loud and mesmerizing to stand by the falls.

Looking down the second falls and gorge.  Gorgeous!  (Get it?)

Final shot of the falls from the top.

Glacier in the distance, Icelandic horse by the cars.

Teresa Robinett Pic - These guys and gals needed hair cuts.

Next up on the tour was Geysir (Wiki link), the namesake for all of the other geysers.  Geysir is a Norse word meaning "to gush" per the link.  The original Geysir isn't gushing anymore but we did get to see Strokkur (the churn).

The original geyser is dormant now.

We also had a preview of the Blue Lagoon.  The color of the water is from the silicates concentration per our guide.  If you look at a glass of this water it would be clear but put enough of them together and they turn blue.

Strokkur erupting.  We actually stayed for three eruptions per our guides advice.  Prepare for your picture on the first one, take your picture on the second one, and enjoy the third one.  I lucked out and captured this on the first eruption.

On the second eruption - The water starts to bubble when it gets ready to erupt...

then is pops up before erupting...

you can look at the first picture to see an eruption as I was to close to fully capture this eruption...

and then the water sucks back into the ground.  Very neat experience.

Geysir info board.  A visit to Steamboat at Yellowstone National Park would be great also.  Add that to our US vacation list.

Landscape view around the geysers.  The ground was almost hot around the geysers which is why vegetation doesn't grow there I guess.

And cute Little Geysir doing its best to imitate big brother.

By now it is early afternoon and the clouds just gave up and it pours for a short while.  Thankfully we were done at the geysers so we only got wet running between the tourist shop and the bus.  By the time the bus arrived at our next stop the sun was out so we ended up being pretty lucky.  Our next stop was Domkirkjan i Skalholti (Wiki link).  The existing church was built in the 1900's although the site dates to the 11th C and is important somehow to Iceland's religious and political history.  I didn't get the connection since there weren't any decent info boards explaining the significance but I guess we can say we've been there now. 

Requisite stained glass picture.

Jesus mosaic behind the altar.  Looked much better in person.

View of the church looking towards the entry door.

View looking towards the altar area.

A model of a middle ages church.  Check out the natural insulation.

Inside the bare bones church.

The sun is really starting to break through the clouds now.

I liked the threatening clouds in the background.

And here comes the sunshine as we ride to our final stop.

Easy come, easy go.  Fog surrounds us as we drive to a geothermal power plant.

By now we are getting tired of riding and decided not to go inside the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant museum which included a short video and some other displays.  Instead we had a caffeine snack and checked out some more rocks as did another group from the bus.  I'm kind of glad that we didn't go in since everyone came out in about ten minutes and nobody seemed impressed by what they saw.  This stop kind of felt like an add-on stop, like maybe the power plant was a tour sponsor so it was required to stop here.  Maybe we should have gone into the tiny museum but we just didn't feel like it so we dawdled around until it was time to load up and push off.

How can I not capture the Volcanic Bomb?

And this just looked weird.

The outside of the power plant.

A final moss covered lava field pic on the way back to Reykjavik.

Interesting clouds over the harbor as we were dropped off from the tour.

Walking past the back of Domkirkjan as we decided where to eat dinner.

Kevin Coleman Pic - The Gull was good but I preferred Viking.

Dana Johnson Pic - My pasta, chicken, mushroom, black pepper and sauce dish was very good.  Another good meal which was typical of our choices; good but not great tasting. 

For dessert that night I opted for Icelandic sorta yogurt called Skyr.  I ate it every morning at breakfast because it tasted great and was high in protein.  Protein packed yogurt in vanilla or blueberry flavor, how can I pass it up?  Typically not my dessert choice but I loved this so much I couldn't get enough.  It tasted like a thick yogurt, consistency of a super dense thick milk shake but airier than ice cream.  Strange but great IMO. 

It's after 9 PM now so we are back to the hotel.  It darkened a little bit more than this after midnight but not much.  I should have taken a midnight picture but didn't for some stupid reason.  Gaaaa, such a travel newb sometimes!

Perlan (The Pearl) which was a small complex which included a 360 degree rotating restaurant on top of the city hot water tanks which was out of the way and screamed "touristy" to me so we skipped it.  

Hallgrimskirkja is pretty easy to find.

Wednesday Day 4 - Our last full day in Iceland was planned a relaxed day spent around Reykjavik with a possible half day tour thrown in.  But the weather had other ideas and it rained all night and morning forcing us to go to Plan B.  Plan A was to visit a local thermal pool (our RWC gave us free admission to the seven city thermal pools and one was a few blocks from our house) in the morning then let the afternoon come together but the rain scrapped that plan.  

Dana Johnson Pic - Really good breakfasts at the hotel.  Egg, American bacon, cucumber, red pepper, potato, Skyr, juice and pots of coffee.  And this was about a fifth of the buffet.  I could have eaten about ten plates of American bacon and Skyr. 

Since the weather wasn't cooperating we lazied our way through breakfast and decided to check out the National Museum of Iceland when the forecast showed rain most of the day.  It was a short and wet walk there but it was a perfect place for a Gilligan tour (for those that remember Gilligan's Island theme song).  The museum was three story and chronologically set up which was easy to follow.  Plus it was included in the RWC so the adults were free and under 18's were free.  What a deal!

Iceland's culture is a little behind other places as pagan times date to 1000 AD while European pagan times date to late Roman times, specifically Emperor Constantine who legalized Christianity in the 330's AD.

Thor!  This figure is dated to about 1000 AD.  He is thought to be holding Thor's Hammer.  Or he is about to give some poor kid a swirly.

The footprint of the boats used by the Norse who settled Iceland.  Amazing when you consider that EVERYTHING they brought with them had to fit in the boats.  Families, grain/food, tools, livestock, crew, etc.

Remember back at the Settlement House when they mentioned the earth's layers?  Here a sample of Iceland earth.  The bottom right wording says 870 AD which is the Settlement House era layer.  The dark layers are the volcano eruption layers.

I knew this already but seeing a horse skeleton in a grave is still a bit creepy.

Not sure if Teresa wants to claim this pic or not.  The man is on the left and the horse is on the right. 

I guess women went to the kitchen of Valhalla?  Just kidding, just kidding.

Stick church structure that probably only interests me.  Read more below.

Church terminology for the interested.

Jay Seppanen Pic - Final pic of my buddies, <sniff, sniff> I'll miss you guys <SOB>.  It's a medieval door post for the interested.

A 1200 AD Romanesque cross of Christ carved from birchwood.

1500 AD Flemish altarpiece from Ogur, West Iceland.

Mark Elliott Pic - Here's a 1400 AD drinking horn for ya buddy.  (Big shout to Mark and his pickup for all his help in emptying our storage units.) 

Read #9 below.

For above.  Now you say Peace be with you to the person next you and shake their hand.  Interesting how traditions change.

Read below.

See above.

Read about St. Olav below.

For above.

Aren't the English and Germans always sticking their noses everywhere? JK Brits and Deutsch.

The Black Death hit Iceland as well.

The narcissists kill me.  Read about them below.  We have seen a lot of these on our travels.

For the picture above.

This cracked me up.  I was pulling up the rear in the museum and ahead of me Lori comes out of a side room laughing.  She walked in on Karl trying on the above kit and gave him good natured grief about being a teenager in the kids area trying on the play clothes.  And he replies something like "that's nothing mom, the guy before me was in his sixties".  I guess the child in us never goes away.  So I had both kids try on the Viking kit but KK's picture didn't turn out as well as KJ's.

And it's still raining outside which means we aren't done in the museum yet.  Thankfully they had interactive computer games that occupied the kids (including Lori) while I took my time exploring the top floor.

Read below, pretty interesting I thought.

For above.

A triptych memorial plague.

We also stopped in an Icelandic gilding room which was okay.

For above.

I wish more museums had these wall sized info boards displaying the museum highlights.

Mark Elliott Pic - Now that's a drinking horn!

For above.

View down one of the rooms.

Read below.  The punishment sections of museums are always a little creepy.

For above.

A whalebone carving from 1600 AD, this was about four feet tall.

I'm mad at myself for blurring this picture of the smithy door.  Smith's would brand their door with all of the branding irons made there, effectively advertising their work which I found to be interesting.

A single family and single room home for poorer families, read about it below.

For above.  They lived in these houses until the 1950's - WOW!

Yes it is as small as it looks.

Info board 2.

The Icelandic flag predecessor, read about it below.

For the picture above.

The Icelandic flag that led to their own national flag.  We read a little more about it later.

Our hotel through the raindrops.  Nice place even tho it was a bit away from the action.

Skuli helped develop Reykjavik while Jon led them to independence.

For the curious.

They had this luggage conveyor belt with some items depicting the different eras.  The Nazi bunting (thanks Tara Schetzel) and gas mask are from the WWII era when the Nazis occupied Iceland.

The only "weapon" invented by the Icelanders per the board.

Close up of the board above.

1980's games reminded me of Karl as he endured a month without his Xbox thanks to our move and vacation in Michigan.  He did survive though.

Another room at the museum was a old photographic exhibit with some interesting pieces.

Foreign tourists in Reykjavik, circa 1870.  I guess tourism has a long standing tradition in Iceland.

For above.  Interesting that an enterprising photographer thought to sell the photos as souvenirs.

Geysir from 1874, read more below.

I guess photo editing has been around for a while.

Dana Johnson Pic - Since it was starting to clear up but not quite stopped yet we stopped for coffee and a snack.  This blueberry cheesecake type dessert was great.

For the picture below.

The impetus for Iceland's own flag.

Check this out!  Karl spied this when signing the guest book - I never thought I would see another family with a Karl and a Kalle.  How awesome is that?

Now that we are done at the museum and it has stopped raining we walked to the town center since it would have been quicker to walk to town then wait for the bus to come by.  Good thing we are experienced travel walkers.  For lunch I was looking for a famous hot dog stand named Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (has its own Wiki page) which has been frequented by world leaders like President Clinton.  It has been in business since 1939 so I figured it would be easy to spot (along with the help of a satellite map) but no.  We walked all the way down the street its address was on and found all the surrounding addresses.  No luck so after a bit I gave up and we ate at a decent American place.  We left there, stopped at a bank to exchange some Icelandic money and stopped at a shop.  As soon as we left the shop and walked a block... BAM!  There it is.

No hot dog with everything on it for me.  Bummer.

So we walked along the water towards some hippie sculpture.  Check out the wrinkly water.

The kids next to Solfarid (Sun Craft).  Also called the Sun Voyager (Wiki link), it was commissioned and built to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Reykjavik.

The Hofdi House (Wiki link) where Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev met in 1986 to discus how to end the Cold War.  Which led to a mini discussion on what was the Cold War with the kids.  Curiosity leads to learning - I win again kids! 

While walking around Reykjavik to burn the rest of the day we saw this graffiti.  I have really started noticing street art since Barcelona - nothing compares yet but I am still looking.

A skate park filled with street art.  I read about it while spending time in the hotel room one evening and it is being decided if it is an artistic center that needs to be preserved or just a run down area that needs to be torn down.  There is even a couple of rules on the artwork - you have to finish what you start and you can only put your design over an existing design if you think yours is better.  Kind of cool I thought.

Our final stop of the day was at Vesturbaejatlaug, one of the city outdoor thermal swimming pools.  Instead of going here to start the day we ended it here.  It was set up like a typical city swimming pool - a huge pool with one section for swimming laps, a section for messing around, and a kiddie section.  This also had four hot tubs with temperatures ranging from 36 C (97 F) to 42 C (108 C).  The pool was warmer than most pools I have ever been in but not warm enough when a hot tub is available.  So I spent most of the time in the hot tub while Kalle stayed in the pool.  Lori and Karl moved between the tubs and pool with Karl even checking out the steam room.  A fun stop overall. 

Dana Johnson Pic - We didn't feel like walking half an hour to find a restaurant so decided to eat at the hotel bar.  The meal was average except for the two chicken dishes - one a chicken breast salad and the other shredded chicken nachos.  The chicken that came on both dishes was cold, yes cold, chicken wings which had to be skinned and deboned to eat on the dishes.  Long story short - we mentioned it to the bartender which led to them giving us a free dessert tray because they ran out of the proper chicken.  I enjoyed the strawberry cake and cream but avoided the chocolate bar while Lori ate the fruit.  The kids tried a little of everything.  

Thursday Day 5 -  Our final day included a trip to the Blue Lagoon (link), a geothermal spa by the airport.  Iceland has a lot of geothermal pools and spas but this is the most famous.  We followed the travel forums advice and booked another Flybus ride to the airport and combined it with a stop at the spa.  Weather wasn't great especially when it started raining towards the end of our stay in the pool but I can easily see how this would be an awesome stop on a clear winter day.

Welcome to the Blue Lagoon, a spa in the middle of a rock jungle.

Blue silicate water outside the spa.  Almost like a scene from Lord of the Rings.

Water and rock close up.

Just outside the spa, the clouds are about to start spitting on us.

The outdoor spa.  Not a great weather day but we still enjoyed it.  I didn't want to bring my camera out because of the weather so this is my only pic of the spa.  Basically you pay to enter the spa, change and shower in the locker room, enjoy the pool areas, then shower and change again.  We really enjoyed it in spite of the weather, I think it would have been awesome in the wintertime.  The water was hot tub temperature with some areas being warmer and some areas being cooler. 

After the spa we went to the airport, flew to London, collected our luggage from Brandon (thanks again B), checked into our hotel, and flew back home the next day.  Since this post is long already I will cover a couple of items from that trip on my next post.

Jay: The nature/landscape was different than our other vacations which was great, geothermal spas were good.  Sites were a little disappointing.

Lori: Liked it all but it was wet and expensive.  Whale watching would have been fantastic if we had seen whales up close.  Geothermal spas were good.

Karl: The sights and activities were different than our other vacations which was good but most of it was disappointing.

Kalle: Golden Circle Tour was cool, whale and puffin watching was disappointing.

And my final Facial Hair of the Month, the Chin Guard, ends the run.  I started doing the Facial Hair of the Month as a lark but it turned out being a joke on me.  It was fun and ended up being more work than I expected but it was meant as a light hearted blog feature so I hope everyone enjoyed it more than Lori.  Some nights I went to sleep fully expecting to be woken up in the middle of the night with Lori pinning me down about to clipper off my face.  Her favorite FHofM was when I shaved everything off the month I had a couple of job interviews.   

It's great to be back on USA soil!  (Thanks for adding to my inappropriate tee shirt collection Dan and Christy Stine - you guys rock!)

The skies over Indiana as we fly between Chicago and Indy.  Almost home!

I will write another repatriation post so I will cover our homecoming and the differences between England and America in it.  Right now our house is still a box filled mess, we only have one car, and I'm still "retired" so I need to "get crackin'" on some of those items before I can write that post.  I will do my best to get it out next week.  Thanks for being patient and I'll talk at y'all soon.

Thanks for listening,

1 comment:

  1. Took me a while to get to this but I finally did. Does look interesting and different. Not sure if we will ever get there or not.

    The outdoor tour actually looked best to me. I guess I'm gravitating to a scenery guy and not so much on the museums. That said, I would have liked some of the uniqueness of Iceland's history, etc.

    Interested in the costs -- we can swap notes offline.

    Glad you are enjoying life back in the States. I look forward to the next (final?) post.