On the road again

So, I’m alone again, which is a SURE FIRE way for me to write more (as I don’t get to speak as much!!)

Travel alone = selfies!

Today, was a travel day.  I got a 7am train from Heidelberg to Mannheim, then awaited a Mannheim > Strasbourg train (which was terminating in Paris-Est). I have only gushy good things to say about the latter train, a German high speed ICE train, it travelled up to 250kmh and the best bit for me was the free wifi (as mornings here are when Australia is awake).  That journey was only an hour.

This screen would then show the speed we were travelling at

It was like breathing sweeter air arriving in France.  Ok, I’m delusional – I did suddenly understand most of the announcements, but I was slow to prepare my bags and had ever so polite French people barging on board making it hard for me to disembark.  Of course, it was two charmany French gentlemen who eventually stemmed the flow.

Once on the platform – the obligatory French police office with a semi automatic weapon.  This has always been a visible thing in Paris, but I have no doubt they’ve redoubled security efforts in recent times, and I saw two army kitted, semi automatic wielding men in Lyon station too.

This was not the German. The screens are great for travellers to get an ETA, and the number of stops

Oh, not to jump ahead, but the train from Strasbourg terminates in Marseilles, but I took it to Lyon which seems like a local hub to hire a car and drive east toward Oradour-Sur-Glane.  And as may have been foreshadowed previously – there was NO wifi on board.  And two very loudly speaking germans were seat mates – and I still napped (and gave them side eyes when I didn’t.  True to stereotype, they were in socks and sandals too!).

Now, momentous milestone time I hired a car! Ok, so I’ve been in hire cars, but I’ve never driven one, certainly not as the sole responsible party.  I don’t think I even drove hire cars we got in the US last year, or in QLD the year prior.  And if it’s not enough I hired a car, I hired a manual (usually drive automatic) in a country that drives on the other side of the world.

Little twingo

I do wish, for comedic purposes, I’d filmed some of my early moments in the car.  At one stage Kate the GPS lady misguided me, and then says “Make a U turn when safe” and I chuckle and say out loud “I’m not French you know?”. Yes, Kate is speaking English, cause there’s only so much of a challenge I need at any one time!! The car was at the train station – so full on down town, one way streets.  Thank you Kate, you were an extra 16E per day, and it’s not a euro wasted there, let me assure you!

Yes a driving snap – but… Syrians. Heart aches

All in all, there’s a ton of things I’m thankful for

  • thanks Mum for buying the little bro a cheap manual to learn on (and… for me refreshing my 15 year old learners lessons in manual last year)
  • thank you France for the fine weather – can’t imagine adding pelting rain to the adventure
  • thank you GPS Kate, for your faultless directions… well except for roadwork
  • thank you Renault Twingo for both having a cute name, but also a little icon to say ‘hey silly, up a gear’ or ‘down a gear’
  • thank you for my stress/anxiety for somehow allowing me NOT PLANNING THIS PART, and driving til an arbitrary time (6pm) and finding a cheap hotel with a handful of nearby restaurants.  Charming – not so much, what I need – definitely!  Who knew I could do ‘unplanned’?
  • thank you random Aussie friends who are awake late, and chat to me when I need it – it’s nice to share the ‘I’m doing this now’ with someone… even if only virtually!

I should also say – I actually have no idea where I am.  I mean… I just turn when she said turn, and I set her to Limoges my destination. I did a few times think ‘are you sure honey’? As I was inclined to go via Clermont Ferrard.  I did go via Vichy and two Louis Vuitton offices or factories in the lovely countryside.  I any case, it’s ‘only’ a 2 hour drive to my planned destination tomorrow, and another night out and about before I need to return the car, so tomorrow can be less travel and more site seeing.

Hotel room with a view! For 52E a room, I’m happy as a clam

A Heidelberg wedding

Gum and kangaroo’s paw for a nod to Australia

The seed that started my 2017 tour of Europe was an invitation to a wedding in Heidelberg.  J is a friend I’ve had since 1999, when she was a boarding house supervisor and I was a student.  During the intervening years, we’ve both lived in Europe, and in different parts of Australia, but early on we formed a strong friendship via email when she was completing a part of her PhD in Bonn in Germany. When I lived in France in 2006, she was back in Brisbane, Australia, but in 2008 when I returned to France for a three week Women in Engineering conference/summer school, I spent a few days with her in Heidelberg. In late 2010, J visited me in Sydney for a weekend, and quite on a whim, I decided to go to Germany for a white Christmas.  It was a fabulously snowy winter, and I got to meet a number of J’s colleagues and friends.

The married couple

J met her partner T, at work, however returned to work for CSIRO in Melbourne Australia not long after they’d started dating (at least… that’s my recollection!). For a number of years they did a long distance relationship, but J found a job back in Heidelberg and they were reunited. In December last year (2016), T formally proposed, and they set a date of 20 May 2017.

A candid photo…! This was after a long (formal) photography session..

I’ve never attended a German wedding, and J is also quite naturalised as an Australian, so there was some variations on German wedding.  For example, at the reception, games and skit/performances are quite common in German weddings, and this wasn’t largely done.  That only happened to the smallest extent – there was a tub of sand they had to dig through for treasure….  And a projected address from a whole heap of famous Germans (Angela Merkel, a football star, Darth Vader etc) I assume wishing them all the best.

The bridesmaids had to help decide on which shoes; and where to pin the something old & blue
Bridesmaid selfi – me, Karen and Eva-Stina

The wedding ceremony was held in a lovely old church in a monastery.  I was so perplexed being told that the pew decorations were being double sided taped – I’m used to pews having a ‘head’ or something similar, with which one can loop around.  Nope – not these modern, minimalistic pews! And sure enough, at least two arrangements in their glass test tubes did become detached… 🙁 The test tubes were a gentle nod to J’s chemistry background, and I don’t know about T’s studies and work, but perhaps his too.  So much so, at the reception, the lolly table held things in beakers and test tubes in racks.

Lolly table!

It felt like every detail was attended to – in the sense that, it feels like all the lovely things were there, nothing was forgotten or struck off.  Here’s some of the lovely details

  • every pew had a floral decoration (not every second etc)
The quartet is playing 🙂
Pew decorations
Gorgeous sister of the groom’s kids
Final blessing
Page boy awaiting the blessing of the rings
  • plants and little vases to decorate the low stone wall
  • floral napkins to put out with cakes, croissants and quiches for after church
  • a coffee cart, which also poured and distributed champagne (or similar)
  • bikes to cycle between the ceremony and the reception, complete with helmets!
Handy panier for my bouquet and clutch
The bridal couple had left, and the entourage was leaving the monastery
  • lace bows for attaching to car antennas (which I made with my room mate); but the florist who’d decorated the bridal tandem bike, had left wired bows to decorate the bikes
Marriage is like riding through life on the same bike?
  • sushi snacks for cocktail hour at the reception
Cool or what?
  • tablescapes that included
    • placeholders were little glass jars with a chalk label and bowled lollies inside with T heart J and similar
    • coasters with ‘Advice for the bride and groom’
    • love hearts out of novel pages & wooden cursive ‘love’
  • a table set up for children – with colouring books and mini lego
  • bathrooms with make up wipes and sanitary items (and pew flowers (roses) which I’d rescued and mimed to the florist we could reuse)
  • a lolly station (despite there being about 6 dessert options in a pick and choose layout)
Yes three steaks – on from Germany, one from Ireland, one aged
A sorbet better the collection of starters and the mains. You could have sparkling wine or gin added – what a PUNCH!
Dessert – including pavlova

It was such a wonderful night (and day!).  The bike ride between the locations was a lovely part of J & T’s story, and it was SUCH a lovely day to do it.  Everyone waved and clapped and honked their horns.  And I didn’t fall off.  I may have been a little immodest riding in a dress, but it’s not that uncommon either.  The reception was lovely and leisurely, and we were seated with really interesting people, who spoke English and German, so were wonderful at summarising speeches and helping decipher the menu/blackboard, though some things just aren’t translatable: mashinis was mashed potato in a martini glass, and was to be served as a midnight snack 🙂  That being said, I think we left after 1am, and fresh from having desert, so the midnight snack was shelved.

Degustation at Apotek

Swanky interior – kicked myself I didn’t get bathroom photos!
A sneaky selfie of my view – stunning weather
The menu
Bread (not counted as a course or a taster)
This was lamb, and the white powder was ‘vinegar dust’. I have no idea how or why this dish came, perhaps the unlisted amuse bouche, which happens a bit?


Left is the Birch alcohol; right is my cocktail which was Reyka vodka, crowberry liqueur, birch liqueur, lime juice and ginger beer
Smoked puffin with goats cheese, berry gel and rye bread crumble. The day after this dinner, I went somewhere where they bake rye bread in the ground using geothermal heat – takes about a day.
Jackson Pollack dish! The reds are beetroot – both a juice and a puree, for the Ocean Perch, which was ever so lightly steamed, and the first warm dish
Minke whale with parsnip puree and crisps – I was meant to get just one ‘pile’ but they made a mistake and I got two. Maybe this was the dish that took me into ‘too full it hurts’
Sea trout on Himalayan salt slab – the thin apple slices prevent it getting too salty, but I ate an apple slice just to see, yep, salty. Left the other one. Oh, and seaweed again
Plaice – fish – samphire – sea weed, citrus beurre blanc and mashed potatoes
Lamb – this was a substantial size for a degustation, and I seriously struggled to finish it. It was crusted in salt, which is sold in tourist stores for $14 per tiny plastic baggy (or same weight in a glass jar at no extra cost which I liked)
Vanilla espresso martini
Skyr based dessert – the Icelandic dairy dish skyr is everywhere!

The overall experience was wonderful. My usual waitress was Lithuanian (second I’d met in Iceland) and happy to help and generally pretty bubbly.  I was initially worried when the menu said only for tables of two or more, but it wasn’t a problem.  Interesting the first few dishes were quite rapid in coming, but then there became long lapses between the mains (the fish and the lamb particularly).  I had nowhere else to be, but I’d forgotten to bring a novel, due to a small handbag, and in the end, resorted to writing on my map!!  Of course, like absolutely EVERYWHERE in Iceland, there was wifi, so I could also occasionally chat with people in Australia.  Seems a bit vulgar, but I didn’t have company with me.

Golden circle

My final full day in Iceland was doing ‘the’ tour – the Golden circle.    I think the golden comes from one of the waterfalls appearing golden in certain sun conditions – sunshine I didn’t witness!  I have to say, I was at my limit to tours for this last one.  Three full days and one half day had been fantastic, but I was a little over the piling in and out of a minibus!  Say nothing for the weather being particularly unpleasant – a lot of wind, and intermittent rain (or water fall spray). I also didn’t ‘warm’ to my guide or bus mates as much as other days.  Though… I saw my Day 1 guide in the power plant hahaha! Extreme Iceland tour buses were everywhere all the time, so I’m not at all surprised!

The Hellisheidi geothermal plant – notice the rails – this is so they can slide the turbines and machinery out for servicing (once every four years, for three weeks of turbine cleaning… cause yes, I asked!)
The complex graphic of how they bore for hot (super hot, like 300C) ‘fluid’ – it’s still liquid due to the high pressure 2km underground.
One of four turbine bays – they just replicate. Thanks to Mitsubishi. There’s one turbine for water (rather than steam) and that’s Toshiba!
This is a cross section of the pipes used to send water to Reykjavik – super insulated so they only lose 1-2 C on the 27km journey to town. There’s no pump – gravity flow, and it takes 8hrs
Close up of the mineral wool insulation. They have 3000kms of pipeline and at peak, there’s 16,000 tons of water in an hour

I took a TON of notes (on my iPhone) on this short stop – I’m clearly pretty interested in renewables, which figures with my work.

Kerid crater form 6,500 years ago
It’s 7-14m deep
This was a little waterfall (Faxi I think), one of the stops our tour did, but clearly not every bus hauls through here. I loved that on the left is a fish ladder – can’t recall ever seeing one in real life.
Geysir – though not ACTUALLY the Geysir named that! It was super hard to get the burst of steam photographed without leaving my phone on the whole time, and this iPhone 4 battery discharges FAST!
I was intrigued by the colour of these 80-100C hot thermal pools around Geysir
It’s hard to capture in the photo – but some pools were quite clear and showed interesting rock forms
Epic Gulfoss waterfall
Wind swept and just a little cold from the spray!
Ugh – this was NEXT level – so often we were asked to pay for bathrooms, but putting in electronic payment systems!? I was keen to use up my change, but when I left, I watched two people jump the turnstiles… which certainly entered my mind. They weren’t even that clean for the AUD$2.65 I paid!
A poster with the waterfall in the snow – amazing!
Yep, I walked all along that track… It’s hard to capture the falls in one photograph, they were SO expansive
Such clear (and tasty!) water. So this part of the lake didn’t freeze, so in WWII, the British thought it was special water and put it in their radiators. It did in fact freeze
The cold and wind makes for clear air
At this stage, most of the group were cursing our energetic 67 year old tour guide – this isn’t a set spot to visit, but as he said, it’s too pretty to miss. He was right.
It is not amazing? Not as large as others, but pretty blue tinges into a rocky valley shown in the previous photo
This pool was bath water temperature, and the scene of baptisms when Iceland converted to Christianity – there was a time under Danish rule where they were asked to be Lutheran. My fact recollection is hazy here… poor student! Lake Laugarvatn – Vígðalaug pool
There are six rocks – some sort of symbolism
The baptism pool drains to this amazing lake.
This was the site of the parliament, formed in 930AD in the open air!! They only gathered in summer (understandably!)

The place is pretty interesting, so I found a wiki link for you. I cannot fathom how in days gone by, they knew what days to gather… I mean, long nights and days of all sunlight must have made calendar usage a little more challenging, right?

This walking path between the cliffs at Þingvellir called Almannagja canyon
Oh, so this is where they drowned women. Put them in a bag, and held them down. They axed off men’s heads, lest you think men weren’t also killed as punishment.

This is the area where the two tectonic plates meet, and you can snorkel between them – in dry suits.  There are people from previous tours who’d done it, and others who were signed up to do it.  I think it sounds like MADNESS to get in that freezing water, but it looks utterly gorgeous, so I can see why!  Interesting, this is something I didn’t read about prior to my trip, but the work counsellor mentioned it.  He’s a smart fellow!

The trip has been fantastic.  I’ll admit, last year’s Euro trip, whilst a bucket load warmer, wasn’t quite as enjoyable.  I think the reasons this has been more successful is in part due to my home life being different, but also, I was much better planned.  I booked things in, I felt like I used my time well.  I have many clear memories in Russia and Romania of long lazy hours in the hotel rooms.  I know I’m not a 4 full days in a row tour girl for Iceland, but I know a few here and there really contextualise the things I’m seeing.  Of course the quality of the guide makes a HUGE difference, as does those you’re with – and those two factors are luck of the drawer!  Hostels are great as a solo traveller as they are largely social – unless you a German Next Top Model… yeah, two rather anti social pretty girls for two nights in Iceland!  Speaking of, I changed hostels after my overnight tour, as it was more cost effective, but thankfully (and unexpectedly) closer to town:

The models were top buckets in the background, the foreground top bunk became mine
Four more of the bunks – there was a total of 12, but it was a huge room, and light and airy but great curtains for the short dark nights.

I was up at 2.15am to get a bus to the airport for a 5.55am flight to Frankfurt.  At least it was light by about 3.30am, so that made it seem less strange…

If you wanted to do this tour, here’s the link, I highly recommend Extreme Iceland (even though they don’t pay me!)

Volcanic Cave (again!) and pretty Reykjavik buildings

I spent the morning doing (another!) volcanic caving tour (the other was here).  I was immensely pleased it wasn’t the whole day, which gave me time to walk around ‘downtown’ Reykjavik.  I headed for the famed church, and then just meandered around.  I then started being strategic – next meal strategic! So I looked at a few menus and I think I have decided where I’ll have a degustation meal.  I had a museli bar for dinner last night – I’m about contrasts!

The cave’s entrance – there was a bit of squatting and semi crawling
Just inside the cave, looking back
These are called candles – I’m not clear if they are ‘pushed up’ with lava or drip down
Look at the texture of the ceiling of the cave in some places
Volcanic plains, hiding the underground caves
A 3 minutes wind and rain swept walk post caving! The car’s seats were heated though!

It’s pretty tough to get good cave photos, but it was quite unlike the cave I went in with the Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and I’m thankful I did both.

Its’ design replicate some of the basalt rock formations I’ve seen naturally
Wait five minutes in Iceland and the weather will totally change!
Give Iceland five minutes and the weather changes to this! Sunshine! Yes 🙂

What an organ (and it’s not like my church doesn’t have an AMAZING organ)

I hope you’re not over photos yet – now I have countless cute houses and buildings!

The rear of a key building down town. As I self guided, I have no further info!
And the front

Hidden down the garden path
I wanted to get those Icelandic flags in!
Stylish – I think this was in a street with embassies!
Quaint – and 1898 on the nameplate!
Not the only photo with a crane in it. There’s a stack of building.
See the street art between these two? I have a small collection of photos of street art 🙂
Balconies for the Icelandic summer

To follow the Icelandic humour of the above caption, here’s a common ad:

As an Aussie, I agree!
I wonder if there’s a list of colours they are permitted to use?
I was particularly taken by the relief work
Harpa or concert hall.
A earthmover just rolling down a street (there were cars). So unlike many capital cities!!
Cute seahorses
A little garden to – some of which are STILL waiting for tulips to bloom
I’ll make this one mine
Never far from water, or ice capped mounatins
Hunter green
Contrast of yesteryear on the left and modern on the right.
I love the symmetry
Another church
My German room mate was headed here today
Two restaurants and a museum. Very tourist focused
I think this was a gallery or similar.

Any favourites?

Factoids about Iceland

So, after three solid days of tours, I finally have a less solidly booked day, and hopefully I can recall all the cool info I wish to impart of fearless readers!

Definitely proved to be true in my experience

Our two day tour had a geologist, which means we got the factually correct answer to many questions that had otherwise been poorly answered for others, on other tours.  For example:

Why are the mountains flat? In most cases, because they were formed from lava flows, and like water, lava is a liquid, and forms a flat surface

Well I wear an eyemask… so I can sleep!

Was Iceland always treeless? There’s varying answers, but it tends to be that there was trees when Vikings landed, and they called it Iceland to discourage others from visiting (and misdirecting them to the not so green Greenland.  In any case, there’s a now lame jokes about forests… A small copse of trees: a forest!  Also, if you’re lost in a forest in Iceland, what do you do? Stand up.

So wool is kinda a big deal here

Breakfasts: boiled eggs are always cold.  Pickled herring is common.  Cheese and sliced meats are too.  Liquid/pourable yogurt and Skyr is also popular

Our Scottish guide Holly Spice (what a name right?) was awesome. Great sense of humour, calling everything ‘the best in Iceland’ or the ‘best in the world’ with her tongue seriously in cheek!  Her excitement was infectious – we drove through lava fields and she was just so bubbly and using the microphone to explain the changes in different fields!

See, lovely weather (for a moment!)

Hot water: in Reykjavik, they pipe geothermally heated water to homes, so you have hot, then add cold (backward imo).  Sadly, this doesn’t extend to the 120k people who live more remotely, so their electricity is subsidised to cover the costs of electric heating water.  Nevertheless, 98% of electricity is renewable, so… it’s still good.

I’d say they also have cash now too

Geothermal water is OK to drink, but doesn’t taste great.  It also has a smell, and I have noticed it in some showers.  River water is fresh as you’ll get (ie I asked at one water fall’s food truck to refill my bottle – they only had boiling water, and not running cold water, so advised me to refill in the waterfall’s stream!).  The glacial water is NOT for drinking, which you notice when you see it stagnate, and it’s a milky colour.

Mmm yummy glacial water

Glaciers: So glaciers are the formation of solid ice after the weight of compacted snow.  They get so heavy, they push out the oxygen, which results in the blue tinge you see.  The glaciers move – not the ice bergs, but the larger mass.  They move over the earth, and so they crack and heave and move over obstacles.  The glacier guide says week on week you see the differences in where ice forms have moved.  In some cases you end up with moraines (French word, they were some of the initial glacial experts) which I think are mountains or ridges formed by the soil and debris being pushed aside.  They often are at the ‘front’ of the glacier’s advance.

The wind got so intense on our drive back from the South Coast that we saw (but I didn’t photograph) water falls that were blowing UP!  As in, wind was stronger than gravity pulling them down.  It was mind blowing.

Horses – we actually saw them ‘horsing’ around

Farm animals: Iceland is known for their horses, which are small in stature, but mustn’t be called ponies!  They graze outside year round.  Cows and Sheep are brought into stables for the winter, and released for the short summer.  We saw SO many lambs… so maybe that can be a sign it’s Spring, as the weather has been pretty brisk for a spring!

Sheep and their lambs doing a river crossing
Wild Icelandic reindeer

South Coast of Iceland – day 2

After a night in a quaint guest house, we hit the ground running in the Southern side of Iceland.  The grand plan was a glacial hike, but first we returned to the glacial lagoon (some of the group booked a boat tour); then we went to another glacial lagoon where you can also see the glacial ice clearer.  Then we headed to the glacier to hike – I was nervous as heck I wouldn’t be fit enough but it was A OK.  Not too much of a climb (or at least gentle enough!).  Then we raced the wind storm back, and won (I think!?) to Reykjavik.  Of course, it was something like 8.30pm when I checked into my new hostel, but it’s bright so it’s hard to notice the time! I need food.  A shower.  A load of washing.  And… Instead I’m charging devices and uploading photos.

So you have an idea of where we were (ha! So I have an idea too!)
Black sand beach (again – third time did charm) and ice bergs melting
Sunshine for our beachtime
The blue tones are for where oxygen has been squeezed out of the ice
Just amazing right?
Same glacial lagoon from yesterday’s photos, but morning light
A temporary jetty around where one of us found seals and dragged me to see (thankfully!)
Copulating seals and voyeuristic ducks
Seems obvious not to walk onto icebergs, but 25 people did in one tour group and a full scale rescue was needed, as these drift out to sea and move around the lagoon
A cairn at another glacier lagoon, two lagoons south of the main one. It’s better as you can see the glacier better and where ice bergs cleave off
Pre Glacial hike selfie – pure coincidence to have a matching beanie and scarf
Blue in

So water/rain ‘drills’ down into the glacier, and runs under the glacier
I was sort of disappointed there was so much black – I’d not accounted for the ash which is inherent in volcanic areas.
Supposedly a heap of movies have been filmed on these glaciers (third largest in the world, after South Pole and Greenland)

I wasn’t actually cold at all – between wind proof pants with leggings underneath, and a 11 year old Land’s End jacket rated to 35C, I was toasty warm, so much so, I unzipped on my way down when there was no wind or rain 🙂  It was a long drive back to the capital, but we have wifi on all the minibuses (and I have a charging block – looks like a stone… the ones I’ve seen all over Iceland!).  The bus trip home was filled with spotify music, uploading to Facebook and chatting online.  It was quite lovely – given it was blustery and rainy a large portion of the drive home.

South Coast of Iceland – day 1

Despite spending the better part of the day sitting in lovely coaches and mini buses, it takes it outta of you! Say nothing for eating service (gas) station food mostly!  So another photo heavy post.  Some day, I may come back and spell the heck out of Icelandic to help y’all!

This is a water fall you can walk behind… and get drenched!
Pretty day postcard
Coming up alongside it
Through on the other side
Over one shoulder is water the other is the walking path behind the waterfall. It used to be a sea cliff, back in the stone ages or some time a VERY long time ago. Our guide was a geologist, so we learnt a heap!
So remember this – when all the Europe flights were disrupted
Here’s the now dormant volcano, it’s to the top left of the last red roof
Transition of the ass all down the mountain
Another ‘foss’ or water fall… (Skogafoss Waterfall)
Before taking the waterfall photo, I noticed these sheep. Only in the past week have sheep (and cows) come out of stables. And with it, all the lambs. Watching them cross was so cute!
Black sand beach with basalt cliffs – fricking FREEZING as I ate lunch on a rock… Reynisdrangar sea stacks
The rocks are fokeloric – when trolls are hit by sun light, they become stone, so they are trolls – from the town of Vik
Vik church. Vik is the most South most town in Iceland, then it’s lava fields. I spoke to a cashier – sounded SO British, but he was French – so curious
Carins are built as a way to ensure safe travels eastward…
Lava fields – the moss takes 80 years to grow. It has to wait until the lava cools of course. It dies from footfall, and goes brown
I was curious as to how thick the moss was – WAY deeper than common moss in Australia!
Weather is so changeable in Iceland – this is our first glimpse of a glacier. We learnt what a glacier was – it’s compacted ice, losing all the air. 6m of snow ends up compacted to 50cm!
What a glacier – we’ll hike on tomorrow.
Gob smackingly gorgeous glacier lagoon (save for blustering rainy cold weather!) Jokulsarlon
There were both ducks and seals in the water. I took a video as some of these ice pieces were moving int he current.
The guide was so kind to wait til the other people were out of frame… Whilst I bemusingly smirked

We are staying in a guest house, and it was WONDERFUL to get a hot meal.  I’d just subsisted the past nights, with a cold noodle salad.  The price was eye watering, but thankfully a huge serve (even the Americans thought so!).

Dinner at Country Hotel Gerði

West coast of Iceland

Today was the first day of a suite of tours I’m taking in Iceland.  And I’m exhausted – I was picked up at 9am, and returned around 7.30pm I think?  I took a bucket load of photos, which I’ll upload here…

Weird moss that grows on the rocky volcanic rock
Somewhere, out there, we saw seals – they are super hard to photograph
Irrigation channels are dug everywhere, and then streams meader too
Yep – a mini bus had wifif the whole time!
A keyhole. In wild weather where I took this photos gets waves. There’s seagulls resting on the rocks
Sheeps leather, and calf skin for the backside. The skin nor wool of animals that had suffered accidents were not allowed – bad luck. Boots were cow hide, open at heel and toe to let water pass through
Black sand (pebble) beach and a rock pool in the foreground – Djúpalónssandur
Beautiful & lucky for sunshine (we changed our plans and it paid off – the rain was in the morning when we drove, and we got sunshine for the beach!)
Folklore is STRONG in Iceland… And calling someone a troll now has more meaning for me 🙂
OK, if I have to pose (seriously, peer pressure is a thing!)
A fishing village
Sculpture (random dude to left, I was sure he was out of the shot!)
Water is everywhere in Iceland
Our guides village – small (1000 people) and he was a fisherman for many years.

The guide told us anything and everything we might want to know.  He grew up here for 34 years.  He said the ocean is a blessing and a curse – they live so much off the ocean, in terms of food as much as trade.  But it’s a vicious beast as the weather can turn very quickly in Iceland.  He spoke of once, two boats going missing.  Eleven people is a lot to lose from a village of 1000!

Modern church – they are all modern! And everywhere.

The population is 330,000 in all of Iceland and 210,000 in Reykvjaik. The weather is a reason why churches are plentiful – who wants a long travel in the dead of winter?

Sheer rock just seems to come from no where, and plateau too!

The tour was called ‘Centre of the Earth’ due to the chance to enter some lava caves or tubes.  Yes, this was the inspiration of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which I’ve not read, and now feel I probably should!  The metal enclosure is the entry via a spiral stairway.  Other than some stairways and boardwalks, there’s no lighting – it’s all a handheld torch.  At one stage, we turned them all off, and listened to the silence.  It wasn’t actually silent – there’s a constant sounds of dripping.  There’s no wildlife inside the cave – I didn’t notice, but someone thought to ask.

The depiction of the caves – super helpful cause I can’t say I’d have got my bearings in there with only torches (Lava Cave Vatnshellir)
Lava cave or tube – with stalicmites. I like the bottom left where you can see smooth lava, and imagine it flowing
This is called Church Mountain (Kirkjufell), as it looks like their main church in the city, which I’ve not photographed. Note my tricky reflection in a puddle 😮
Quite small waterfall, near the Church Mountain.
Basalt rock cliffs
Yep, me and the cliffs… Brrr
The famed sleeping pods! Pretty good, though upgrade would be sound proof
Caramel yoghurt you can pour!? Had to try it!  It was a $14 b’fast… so I fed up!

I wish I had steam left to post more, but I am exhausted (again) and despite a nap for the 2 hours drive after the seals.

If anyone found this and is thinking of travelling to Iceland, I highly recommend Extreme Iceland, and this the link to the tour details (including maps).

Blue Lagoon


Firstly, the budget airline that flies to Iceland is called Wow, but I meant the Blue Lagoon was just amazing.  I came to the lagoon straight from the airport, as the lagoon is closer to the airport than Reykjavik, so it’s worth doing it at the beginning or the end of the journey.  I’d planned this component of my holiday carefully, setting up a coach transfer from the airport, booking in the Blue Lagoon, as it seems it can get very busy.  Overall, it was rather seamless, save for the ‘where’s my coach’ moments…

As a matter of fact, I am!

Arriving in Reykjavik (which is taking a lot of brain power to spell without using autocorrect) it was rainy and super windy.  Thankfully we had the aerobridge, unlike boarding in Amsterdam, where I got a bit rained on lining up to board.  Wow is a super low cost carrier which means they checked and checked again one’s luggage.  I paid for a checked bag, even though my suitcase would fit in overhead bins.  I carry my swiss army knife, so it has to be this way.  Otherwise, I had a backpack, and sick of carry my winter coat, I also had a light bag with the coat and some snacks in it.  Of course, that did not pass the watchful eye at the gate, so I held the snacks and draped the coat over my arm, and suddenly all was right in the world!?

Like personalised plates of plane

The in flight magazine and the branding on the planes clearly show that the airline has a sense of humour! I wonder if all of Iceland will be like this!

Now that’s suck humour

On arrival at about 14:00hrs  I was an hour and a half early for the bus shuttle I’d booked.  There is a competing company, which was heavily advertised in the in flight magazine, and it seems they to depart at the same time.  I suspect the coaches are aligned better with departures than arrivals, but who knows.  In any case, I found a quiet location to eat some snacks and reorder my possessions, and get those gloves and second coat ready – it was blustery and rainy outside.

Rain, rocky landscape and water

At around 15:00hrs I went looking for the bus I was meant to take – braving the cold.  My oh my did the wind cut through me!  I saw the brand of buses I needed, but not to the right location, so I asked and was advised to proceed to the carpark.  I waited out there, getting increasingly cold (and struggling to turn the pages of my novel in polar fleece gloves) and decided it was 15.15hrs and I didn’t want to miss the bus, I would return to the terminal to confirm the pickup location, as the bus was due to leave at 15.30.  They reconfirmed the location (in the carpark) and advised I could wait til the last minute to head back out there again.  When I did return, I went over to the bus (which had been there for all the time I’d been in the carpark, but without a driver).  I went to the driver, and he loaded my bag.  And then we left.  Yep… I was the SOLE passenger!  Lucky I wasn’t waiting for ‘my people’ or the crowd to congregate with!!

Me and my coach #rockstarstyle

The bus trip showed just how different the landscape is – there’s definitely as sense of lunar.  It is very rocky and then a light moss.  I was interested to see a sign at the Blue Lagoon that advised not to smoke near the moss as it’s flammable!  It was rainy, but I attempted to get some initial photos.

Volcanic rock on the road leading to the Blue Lagoon

Arriving at the Blue Lagoon, I placed my suitcase in the little luggage area out house, and took a ticket which was to reconcile my bill later.  When I entered the change rooms i discovered the lockers were certainly large enough for my suitcase, and I felt cheated!  I quickly peeled off the layers, down to a bikini – which felt so strange given the cold ‘feeling like’ 1C!  I put on my flip flops and took my BYO towel (both items can be packaged for a further sum, but it didn’t seem worth it to me).  Of course, there’s little use for either item for long… as the main aim is GETTING IN THE WATER!  There’s hooks everywhere to hang the robes they provide or your towels.

Baggage drop off and walkway to the Blue Lagoon

Before entering the lagoon, you have to shower, without your swim suit.  There’s a great graphic, as languages vary!  There’s provided conditioner, which you’re advised to put in your hair to protect it from the damaging silica.  There’s also body wash.

This is the pavilion you enter the water from

I wasn’t game enough to take my phone into the lagoon – many were, and undoubtedly got some great photos.  The great advantage of me waiting was that the weather cleared, resulting in blue skies which were just delightful!

In addition to the little coves in the lagoon, there’s some steam rooms, a water fall, and a ‘bar’ where you go to get a silica mask (or if you paid extra, a second algar mask… all this is policed through a coloured wrist band system, which can be used to buy drinks in water too).  Early on, I went to the steam cave, and overhead Australian accents.  I said hello, ad befriended 22 year old Paris and her mother Tanya who are in Iceland for a wedding!  From then on, we circulated to the extremities of the lagoon, they showed me where to get a mask.  The mask is white and feels so soft and smooth going on.  You leave it for 10-15 minutes and then wash it off.

Blue skies at the blue lagoon

After about an hour in the water, our finger and toes were like prune, and Tanya was ready to leave the water, and so was I!  Then you back track – returning to the showers. I felt a bit… over warm water by this stage, so just rinsed briefly. Then I found my towel I’d left rolled in the interior racks, and proceeded to dry off.  This is the Turkish towel I bought last year and have pretty much never used!  I kept eyeing off the provided towels, as the fluffiness seems to equal drying in my mind.  I also used some of the provided moisturiser.

Amenities for hair drying and preening

Returning to the locker area, there’s bays of hair drying facilities, and a sink, and cotton buds and cotton rounds.  It’s all very chic and stylish.  Once I was dressed I wanted to head back to the outdoor cafe/bar area I’d come through to get into the water… however this isn’t allowed.  There some clear segregation of clothed/unclothed! Thankfully there’s another area where you can get photos.

Look at that sky

I foolishly didn’t prepare to coordinate all this ‘dressing’ with the bus timetable, and when I did look, it was 7 minutes past the hour, and the bus was due to leave on the hour, every hour.  Thankfully, like almost everywhere I’ve been this trip, the cafe in the Blue Lagoon has free wifi.  So I drafted this post!  My face feels super smooth, but my hair feels dry – and perhaps the edge of my face and hair are still not 100% clean of the mask…  But I feel much warmer after the windblown airport carpark and bus hunting missions.  And it’s been so nice to see the clouds clear and see blue skies!