Farewell Ísland (aka “Iceland”)

SO, Family and Friends….. Our trip is nearing an end.  We head home tomorrow – sigh…

It has been a GREAT journey.  We have discovered three countries – Portugal, Faroe Islands & of course Íceland.  We have had a wonderful time along the way & met some great people in each place we visited.   We have had some amazing food and seen some terrific scenes.  Once again, I may run out of superlatives.

The past 10 days were spent with the photography workshop group.    A few of our fellow attendees were not strangers.  I had been on several workshops with Bill, and one each with Sue, Barb & Tom.  The others were Mark & John. Bill’s wife, Mary-Mignon was also an attendee.   As always, our leader was Jim Altengarten of Exposure36 Photography.

The first three days were in the Faroe Islands.  We flew from the Reykjavik domestic airport to Vágar on an easy 1.25 hour flight.  We started shooting right away on our drive to our hotel in Gjógv on the island of Eysturoy.

DSC_5411 The local farmers don’t mind people walking into their paddocks to photograph but they don’t want the sheep to get out so they have these ladders. Hope the cute wooly critters don’t figure out how to climb.  We stayed in the village all 3 nights and drove around several of the various islands;  most are connected by undersea tunnels.  Some of the tunnels even have the FM radio station signals boosted so you don’t miss any of the latest top 23 songs (small country – can’t afford a top 40).

DSC_3974The waterfront in Gjogv.

DSC_4398Gasadalur falls

Back to Iceland on Monday to start the next part of the workshop.  In both places we had some weather challenges but since Nancy & I are hearty Northwesterners, we persevered and enjoyed all nature could show us & throw at us. Check out some of the other shots.  These are the ones I submitted to the critique session.

DSC_6492This was from a boat ride in the Faroes.  We were supposed to see lots of the shore birds but they had left already.  Amazing cliffs & grottoes though.  Worth the trip.

DSC_5744 - Version 2The original Geysir in the south of Iceland.  Just about ready to pop.

DSC_5538We had a good night at the Aurora outside Selfoss, island.

DSC_5478Looking down at some rapids by a HUGE waterfall – Hraunfossar.

DSC_5390 DSC_5369 These are Kirkjufellfoss in Grundarfjordur, Iceland.  Those of you paying attention will remember Nancy & I were here a couple weeks ago.DSC_5245On the road to Grundarfjordur.  Shining sun, calm water, reflections – ahhh…

DSC_5143Cod, the national dish.  I found some fishermen offloading the day’s catch.

DSC_5116Nope, not upside down.  A nice reflection in a lagoon.

DSC_4987I do not know which loss this is but I like shooting soft water.  (I called it a blurry water shot but Jim did not think that sounded professional enough.)

DSC_4855This is the ceiling/roof of Harpa, Reykjavik’s fairly new performing arts & conference center.  Right on the waterfront.

DSC_4722A church in Iceland with an honest to goodness tree in front.

DSC_3902A street scene in Gjogv.

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A couple more Fosses.

(L to R) Mark, John, Nancy, Sue, Chris at the Blue Lagoon this morning before their flights back to the States. IMG_7339

Well, that is all I have for now.  I will send out another note in a few weeks when I have had a chance to edit the approx 3,000 pictures down to a more manageable number.  I’ll post the to my photo website.  If you want to look at it now for prior trips, feel free.  Please be aware though that there are several folders there with plain, good old family snaps, not the works of art you have come to expect of us now!

Lots of love,

Chris & Nancy

Iceland – Part 2

Kæru fjölskylda go vinir  (that is ‘dear family and friends’ in the local lingo),

As we write this, it is thursday afternoon and we are in Hveragerdi, about an hour east of Reykjavik.  It is our last day before meeting the photography workshop gang for our flight to the Faroe Islands tomorrow.   We are sitting on the deck outside our room at the Guesthouse Frost go Funi (Frost & Fire), listening to the stream, watching a couple guys fly fish & also watching the earth let off steam in the hills across the stream.  It is not quite sundowner time but what the heck – we had a VERY energetic day & it is time to pause, reflect & refresh….something very easy to do here in Iceland.

What did we do today to deserve such a treat?  I am glad you asked.  We arrived here early today after spending the night in Fludir, then on to check out the  black sand beach of Eyrarbakki (pop 590).  Quite a lovely spot. This hotel not only has its own geothermal well supplying it with water & heat, but it is strategically located among steam vents & bubbling mud holes like these –

DSC_3541IMG_7049This bakery in town cooks with geothermal heat!  Don’t order the “Ham Cake” as it is terrible! (pictures available upon request!)

We hiked around this area for a while then drove (luckily) the 3km to Reyjadalur parking area for the 3.2km hike to the ‘warm river’.  We picked up a hitchhiker from Paris who just may be staying with us when she travels thru Seattle in November.   I am glad we drove as the 3km was more like 4 but straight up!  We got in a LOT of hills today.  Our Fitbits are very happy with us.  And we are happy with the weather.  After several cold, blustery days, I was able to spend today in shorts, t-shirt & sandals and Nancy did not have to wear her puffy coat!

I just realized I am getting ahead of the story.  I will return now to the end of our last post when we were in Ìsafjördur. We drove the next day to a half way point on the road to Akureyri to a town called Hvammstangi (pronounced Camstangy).  Another tiny village on the water.  Another little hotel & another amazing restaurant – also on a beautiful fiord.

IMG_6837 IMG_6838 IMG_6820 I did not have the dry Cod but the fresh Arctic Char. Nancy was still on the mend but as of now, doing better.

The fine folks in Hvammstangi were happy to see us:

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So now we are on the road to Akureyri (pronounced “Akeeairee”).  Nancy loves to say this city’s name!  I call it a city as it is considered Iceland’s second city.  About 17,000 people live here. It is in the far north central part of the island on another one of those darn gorgeous fjords. Speaking of the fjords, I was finally able to find an accessible spot to get my feet wet.  It was near this cool church with an unusual glass grave marker.

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We chose to come here as it is a jumping off point for the biggest lake and also has the best scuba diving in the country.  Yup, I said diving.  I was lucky to dive in the fjord with Erlundur Bogason, reputed to be Iceland’s top research diver.  He has chartered most of the dive sites & locations like underwater hot springs – we dove on one, wrecks and other noteworthy spots.  After a BLOODY COLD dive in a dry suit, we did some whale watching from his zodiac boat.  I would post some pictures here but I can’t as my GoPro camera slipped off my wrist as I was boarding the boat and is now being enjoyed by Arctic char, jelly fish and wolf fish some 76 feet under their fjord….Dang!  The only ray of hope I have is that Erlundur promised that he would have his advanced class search for it this weekend & send it to me…..Keepa you fingers crossed, please!

Akureyri also has an amazing restaurant called Rub23.  We ate there 2 nights.   We mainly ate sushi….Nancy was able to score their recipe for “Sushi Pizza!”    Here are some shots.  Note that for you  “Frozen” fans, we had Elsa as our waitress.  (wow – bad hair day for Nancy due to wearing a hat all day!)

IMG_7029 IMG_7034 IMG_7030 IMG_7028 IMG_6943 IMG_6937We enjoyed  sightseeing  the area as well.  I mentioned the lake – Myvatn (pronounced mee-vawt).  It was formed  during a volcanic eruption some 10,000 years ago.  There are lots of lava fields, domes & columns in the area as well as a very tall crater that is so perfectly formed it looks like it was man made – it is called Hverfell.  After a rigorous climb up & leisurely stroll down, we hit the hot springs – Jardbödin – the north’s answer to the famous Blue Lagoon & only 1/3 the price.  Enjoy some pictures of the area….ahhhhhhhhhh…..water temp 103F….outside temp 40F (uggghhh)

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After the lake area we headed to Dettifoss ( we pronounce this one “dental floss”), Europe’s largest waterfall by volume.  The weather did not cooperate at this point…soooo much cold rain showers PLUS foss spray that it made it hard to take photos and/or enjoy the beauty surrounding us.  We had a similar situation when we hiked into  Godáfoss  (“Waterfall of the Gods”) earlier in the day as you can see here –

DSC_3589 DSC_3400 DSC_3404We hope you enjoy these pictures as we were absolutely drenched when we returned to our car…..

The weather was not always shocking.  While driving along the national highway #1 (the ring road), we were able to pull over frequently to admire the scenery:

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As mentioned at the beginning of this missive,  today is the final Chris & Nancy day for a while.  I do not know how frequently we will be able to post as our photo workshop leader, Jim, keeps us pretty darn busy during the workshops.  And in case you were wondering, Nancy’s phone (“accidentally” left in London airport restaurant – there is a story there, trust me) is presently  at the central Reykjavik post office waiting for us to pick it up tomorrow…..keepa you fingas crossed for that one too!)  Forgot to mention that we enjoyed a traditional Icelandic “mud bath” here in Hveragerdi yesterday….so sorry but photos were not allowed to be taken.

As we say here in Iceland – þar til næst  (until next time)

Chris & Nancy

We Made it to Ìsland (that is the real name of Iceland)

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Hello Family & Friends……We know you have probably been jonesing for more news & insights from us.  Well, your wait is over.  Finally we have some time to devote to updating you on our adventures.  Let’s start with just how AMAZING Iceland is.  I will most likely run out of superlatives/adjectives and repeat myself. Just know that there is no reason to NOT come here (after going to Portugal of course).

When last we wrote, we were in Reykjavik getting ready to head north.  Taking the slow road, we ended up in Stykkishólmur (pronounced like it is spelled).  This is a fjord-side fishing village (a common theme for us).  It is on the Snæfellness (pronounced like it is spelled!) Peninsula.  The weather was shocking.  A bit of rain but an incredible WIND….so powerful that when we opened the door to our Dacia Duster, it was a battle to get it closed!   We found out later it was 45-50mph all day.  I had to do the math as they calculate it in meters per second.  Weird.  Not kilometers per hour.  The temp was the low 50s.

In “Stykk”  we found a restaurant called Narfeyrarstofa, run by a renowned Danish chef.  It opened for dinner at 6 and by 6.01, every table was full.  Blue Mussels (caught 100 meters away) cooked in & served with good beer for Chris & Nancy had lamb shank + lamb tenderloin.  We had to try the rhubarb cake with their own rhubarb ice cream.

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Since I am mentioning food (for a change), I have to confess that our night in Reykjavik, I ate Minke Whale.  I feel very guilty but I have to tell you not only was it amazingly beefy & not seafoodish at all, but Greenpeace & Rainbow Warriors will get a nice donation when we get home.IMG_6642

The next morning we drove off to circumnavigate the peninsula.  It is so beautiful here…..lots of sheep & waterfalls, mountains,  farms, and MORE waterfalls!

IMG_6695 IMG_6667 DSC_3132The sheep even eat seaweed here!

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The wind kept it up all day long.  We were quite worried about the rest of our stay.

On Thursday, we left for Patreksfjodur.  Wednesday night we went back to the same restaurant as the night before & I had an amazing piece of Blue Ling – a local only fishy.  Nancy had her favorite – soup & salad. They REALLY know how to cook here.  Tiny little towns with incredible food.

Patreksfjodur was on the road to the Látrabjarg bird cliffs.  We were headed there to see the puffins.  From P-burg is was 50k on a horrible road.  We stopped for lunch at a small hotel –  Flokalundur.  It was near the ferry dock for the boat from Stykk.  Due to the heavy wind, we chose to drive instead of taking the boat but stopped at that hotel for a meal.  While sitting there, I received a text from Tripit that it was time to check into our hotel for that night.  At 1st, I barely glanced at my phone as I knew we were staying in P-burg.  Something looked odd though.  It turns out we were staying at that very hotel!  Fortuitous that I re-read the text.  Nancy laughed for HOURS about that one!

We checked in, tried the road to the cliffs but we found out the birds had all left weeks ago.  Turned around, went back to Flok & used the nearby geothermal pool built by a road crew in the 70s. It was lovely.

IMG_6728 (1)Arctic Ocean in the background.

Again, an exceptional meal – Smoked Guillemot & trout with a peanut salsa that was to faint for, in a tiny place – not even a town here.

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Friday we carried on to Ísafjördur.  On the dirt road we came across a spectacular foss (falls) called Dynjandi.  It is one of the top ten fosses in Iceland. There were a lot of tourists there. They were from a cruise ship – guess where it was docked for the day – yup, where we were headed.  Oy!  More yanks.  In Portugal, we did not run into any Americans – they are all here in Iceland it seems.  Maybe everyone is interviewing countries to move to if Trump wins.  Right now it is a toss up between Port & Ice.

These falls were amazing as I said:

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The road was so bad, we are happy for the 4WD.  DSC_3127We earned a stop for hot chocolate & cookies at Pingeyri – a very small cute place with a small cute coffee shop.

IMG_6759We went through a 6km tunnel that was 1 lane – opposing traffic had to move into pull outs.  The tunnel even had a Y intersection going off to another town. Amazing.

Arriving in Isafjordur, we filled the car & I broke the prime directive – I washed a rental car!  It was so bad, I could not touch one surface or see out the windows from the dirt & mud.

IMG_6768This is the 2nd pass at cleaning it.  The gas stations have free washes!

The town was chock a block with cruisers.  When they left, it was much easier to get around.  The permanent population is smaller that the # of passengers but there were still views to be had.DSC_3170DSC_3149

Nancy finally got her manicure & was told about a great locals restaurant – Tjöruhúsid.  We booked a table for 7pm when they opened.  The place filled up right then.  It was a low ceilinged, picnic table & bench filled little place.  Very close quarters & full.  Everything was served buffet style – fish soup to start.  I asked what kind of fish – the answer was ‘all of them’.  Main course had a few salads & 6 different fish cooked 6 different ways in huge cast iron skillets.  Again – an amazing restaurant in a podunk town.

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While the language is a tough one (check out theses crazy names),DSC_6312Everybody here speaks English fluently.

Well gang, that brings you up to the end of Friday.  We will try to write more frequently.

As we say in Iceland for “GoodBye,”

BLESS,

Chris and Nancy

Chapter IV – The Last of Portugal & on to Iceland

As I sit in the funky & cool lobby of the Icelandair Reykjavik Marina hotel, looking out at a cool, blustery day, I am remembering just a few days ago looking forward to a drop in temperature.  We arrived here yesterday (monday) afternoon after about 12 hours since our 4am wake up.

I should fill you in first though on our last days in Portugal.  Can we just say:DSC_6286

This in one terrific country!  The people, the scenery, the food (other than the beer of course).  Every town & city we visited had their own signature pastry.  How civilized is THAT?  These concoctions were usually developed centuries ago by nuns.  The recipes are trademarked and usually only made by licensed bakeries in those towns.  By the way, there are a LOT of bakeries (pasteleria) in every town, small & large.

Of course, they all have espresso machines.  Even non coffee drinking me had cappuccino & espresso several times – when in Rome (or Lisbon, Sisimbra, Evora, Tomar…)

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After Tomar, we drove to Luso – famous for its brand of bottled water available everywhere – to stay at the Palace Hotel Bussaço.  This place is a kick.  It sits in their own park (non guests have to pay to enter the grounds and cannot enter the hotel building.)  It looks like a 17th century structure but was really built between 1890-1905. The last king of Portugal (for whom the place was built) was assassinated in 1910 so no more monarchs have resided there.  The park grounds were established by a tribe of monks in the 15C.   cool, wild & different.  I surprised Nancy by booking a room here and she felt like a queen for the night!

IMG_4889The restaurant has a deservedly great reputation.

After one night there, we moved onto Coimbra.  This city hosts Portugal’s oldest university and seems like a college town.  We toured a few buildings of the school as well as another noteworthy  Cathedral. The library still has 600 year old books and is beautiful.  No photos allowed – sorry.  They have a colony of bats living in the building that fly through the stacks every night to eat the bugs that would otherwise have destroyed the volumes by now!

DSC_1765 A typical Coimbra scene.

Again on the road the next day with lots of kilometers to cover.  Guimarães was our next stop.  We have had a LOT of fun learning & practicing the pronunciation of this town!  As best I can write it, it is ‘gweemanaish’.  Go figure.  If this place was on the coast, we would have already moved there.  It is hard to define & describe why…… the vibe, the look, the friendly ladies sitting in the praças, atmosphere, history, all those and MORE earned our appreciation.DSC_6263DSC_1772The poster is for ‘spaghetti’ gelato – made with ice cream run through a potato ricer & covered with nuts, fudge etc.  We did NOT have one but watched it made.

IMG_4967How could I not love a place with their own delicious version of the Sfogiatele?

In addition to the palace, castle, cathedral, convent, cloister, gondola to the top of a hill & museums, we had terrific food & saw an exhibit of siege machines including battering rams, trebuchets, catapults & HUGE crossbows.  Only @ 8200 people live there but it seems like a small city.

DSC_1871 Imaging a town in the states of that size having this church!

We felt like Willie Nelson the next day – yup, On the Road Again.  This time a short drive — an hour’s drive or so but of course we discovered charming little towns to explore along the way.   This stop was Portugal’s second city – Porto.  (Guimarães was the birthplace of modern Portugal – around 100 years ago).  This is a big city.  Lots of traffic & noise.  The big attractions (besides the usual historical monuments) are the Riberira area (along the Douro River) and the port caves & wineries.  We had a lovely lunch watching the world go by, sampled some port & climbed a big (no Space Needle though) tower.  Dinner was at the restaurant next to our lunch place – the owner was a kick & the food was great.

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DSC_1929 I think this is my favorite picture of the trip!

Since Porto is such a big city, we planned 2 nights there but after hearing about a seaside town down the coast, we decided to cut a day out of Porto & headed south for Aviero, known as “the Venice of Portugal.”

Since it was Saturday & this is on the coast, the town was full of touristas and famous for its salt & fish industries.  They too have their own pastry.  Nancy read about a cooking class & we were able to get into a hands on session.

IMG_4979This pastry is a shell of communion host dough (some are shell shaped), filled with a ‘cream’ of egg yolks, sugar & water.  Not as bad as it may sound.  Very rich & filling. It is called the Ovos Molés but pronounced as Ovosh Molesh.

The salt pans were pretty cool.  We were able to walk around a facility.DSC_2144

Sunday was our last full day in Portugal.  On the way to Lisbon, we stopped in a beach town called Praia du Vagueira.

A mile long boardwalk, beautiful beach, gentle surf.  Ahhhhh.  IMG_6619 IMG_6622

Right across the street from the beach was a derelict small inn or restaurant for sale.  Anyone know a good realtor?  We hit the road (again).

Apparently, it is almost a felony to not visit Sintra, another cool, hill top town built as a retreat by the royals & nobility.  Again, a place that went into decline after the king’s assassination.  Very impressive though & restored.  The two favorite “must sees” is a 1200 year old Moorish Castle that we hiked and climbed on, and The Pena Palace. This was truly the most crowded town we visited but definitely worth it.

Well, loyal readers, you are all caught up on our Portugal Adventures.  We left early Monday morning and flew to Iceland and changed from our toasty summer wardrobe to our puffy coats and wool hats.

We have only been here a day + but we like it.

If you are heading to Portugal, I have a few thoughts; Get a GPS if you are renting a car!!!!  Most of the streets in towns do not have signs on them;  the roads are in great shape though.  If you are used to a lack of toilets & then having to pay to use them in places like Italy, forget about it.  PT has lots, they are clean, well stocked & free.  I do not know why hotel showers only have half doors on them, allowing for lots of water all over the room.  Even 5 star places.  The beer stinks but the wine, mojitos & caipirinha are great.  The people are justifiably proud of their beautiful country.  But, they smoke too much.

Thanks to our Fitbits, we WALKED 134.85 miles EACH for the 2 weeks we spent climbing crenulated towers, wandering  little hill towns, walking on beautiful beaches and stumbling over cobblestones.  Total number of stair flights were 691 total.

Our little Fiat Punto used only 2 tanks of diesel while moving us a touch over 1,000 kilometers.

Go, enjoy & Obrigado for following us.