I’m on the top of the world

Today we said farewell to Finland and as pretty she was, she didn’t offer much in the way of the Northern Lights….. so we jumped into a mini bus with absolutely no suspension and bounced our way across the border to Norway.

It was about a 3 hour drive from Inari and at about the 2 hour mark we stopped in the middle of nowhere where there was not one, but two large supermarkets/petrol stations – side by side.  The reason there are shops here is that the Norwegians who live over the border and some Russians, who live over their border come here to Finland because it’s so much cheaper….. this doesn’t bode well for the next 10 days in Norway!!!

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Once we were over the border, the landscape just changed.  The height and type of trees were different; there were more shrubs and the hills were bare…. then we followed a fjord all the way to the end – which was our destination – Kirkenes.

The clouds opened up a little bit to welcome us and gave us this lovely view.

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We’re only here one night, which is ok, because we saw the town in about 10 minutes including a stop in at the Norwegian branch of the Salvos called “Fretex” where I picked up a coat that should see me through to the end of the trip whereby I can donate it back…. in fact it has led me to thinking that is a good business/community idea/opportunity whereby people who are travelling from one destination to another could hire clothes or reusable travel accessories that they will need for a small price and leave it at the other end where travellers at that end can hire them and bring them back.  I’m not sure whether it would work on the WA coast…. but something to think about.

Tomorrow we board the Hurtigruten ship.  This is one of her fleet sailing out of the fjord today.

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This shipping line has been running since 1893! Here’s a bit more history about the Hurtigruten Line for those of you who are interested.

…and if you were interested in booking the Hurtigruten – I can absolutely recommend Lyn Tyson – Travel Manager Extraordinaire who makes travelling oh so easy.

Cloudy with a 14% chance of Aurora

I’ve been keeping an eye on the aurora activity since before we left home…. I downloaded the app and put a few met websites in the favourites for easy access…. and up until now the activity has been pretty low, coupled with the thick cloud blanketing the sky – it’s made seeing the northern lights impossible – until tonight!!!!

Don’t get too excited though.

We were picked up by our tour guide and the only other guest on the tour – Cowry from Japan.  As I mentioned we were meant to go out on a river cruise tonight to hopefully spot the lights, but because of rough waters (?) he switched the tour over to the car – which we were happy with because by the time he picked us up it was raining!  Not a good start.

Optimal conditions to see the lights need a clear dark sky and a good – high KP (I know ALL the lingo now)  As we’re well above the Arctic Circle, we only need a 2 KP or more to have a chance of seeing anything…. Tonight’s KP is 4.6 – so chances are good if we can find a bit of clear sky.

So, drove north – almost to Norway to find a bit of clear sky.  Our guide had a colleague with another group who called to say that he had found a clear patch and was seeing some amazing auroras, so we screeched to a halt and raced back to near where his partner was… by the time we got there (10kms away) the hole in the clouds had closed over, but we waited it out for a bit and this is what we saw…..

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…. except I want you to imagine more clouds, also the clouds were light grey rather than this dark colour and instead of blue light, picture it white and instead of it being that clear, think about something not so bright…..  and that’s sort of what we saw.

We definitely saw something, but it wasn’t what we were expecting or hoping for.

The clouds parted every now and then but when they did and we could see stars, the aurora weren’t there, and then they’d appear and the clouds would close over – it was like the clouds were playing defence!

Our guide tried his darndest, driving and stopping, getting out to check, then back in again and driving further down the road.  Then it started to rain again and were happy to head home.

Still a few more opporchancities to go.
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Above and Beyond

After a LENGTHY bus ride yesterday from Rovaniemi to Inari where the driver spoke only a little bit more English than I do Finnish… luckily one of the words I needed to say to him was the number 3 and I have that down pat after our last trip here when I learned Michael Jackson’s ABC/123 song in Finnish…. why? I hear you ask.  I thought it would come in handy one day.  Anyway, I digress…. after the lengthy bus ride we were deposited right outside our hotel which is a great service…

We’re staying at a traditional hotel – Kultahovi which is owned and run by a traditional Sami family.  Our room has with a fantastic outlook over the river’s.  There is even a special small side window that you can leave open through out the night letting in fresh air and so you can hear the water.  We also have a sauna in the bathroom and a drying cupboard…. we may not leave this room – very cosy!

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Today we decided to wander around the village of Inari – the person at the hotel reception said that their ‘skyline’ consisted of one hotel, one shop, one supermarket, one ATM, one petrol station…. you get the picture.” A journey around the town wasn’t going to take too long, so we decided to take the scenic route… which Me Jenny is clearly happy about this decision!

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It was a little uneven to start with and there was concern about rolled ankles and the like…

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… but hands were held and we made it to the smooth path unscathed.

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It was pleasantly picturesque and we thought that the birds who lived in this house would be both happy to have such a view and annoyed that they were perched right on the walking track….. although they could choose to live literally anywhere else if they mad their own nest, so perhaps they shouldn’t be so whingey?

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The walking trail is called Juutua – and here’s a little poem about it for you all to enjoy.  Is anyone able to tell what style of poem it is?  Perhaps a style that needed the author to include the word ‘poem’ as many times as possible?

Joik:  A joik is a traditional form of song of the Sami people of the Nordic countries and Kola peninsula of Russia. Originally, joik referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing. As an art form, each joik is meant to reflect or evoke a person, animal, or place.

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Our first stop was to visit the Siida Museum which tells the story and the history of the Sami people who are indigenous to the northern nordic countries – they were living here way before the countries put up boarders and separated themselves from each other.

So this is where we are in Inari – Finland, to me, has always looked like a lady in a long dress waving one arm…. she used to have two arms, but the Russians took that one back after the Winter War in 1939.

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Here is a bit of conundrum….  We were looking at this family tree and whilst I’m of the opinion that you can be or identify with any gender you please, we were a little confused at how back in the 1800s, when gender fluidity was yet to become a known thing, were these couples reproducing because Inga here…. looks like a man.

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I’ve also got my suspicions about Anne and Sara…

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and Joavnna has got a moustache!

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My friend Sarah commented yesterday that she was enjoying my reindeer facts, so just for you Sarah, here are a few more….

Each reindeer is tagged to mark ownership by cutting into these marking into their ears!  It looks quite barbaric, although the reindeer didn’t seem to mind too much in the video I saw – maybe they don’t have any feeling in their ears?

Just like the Iceland sheep herders do, they let the reindeer roam free during the summer where they eat berries and then at the beginning of winter the reindeer are all rounded up, put into a big pen and then sorted out so each herder gets their own reindeer to look after for the winter.

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I would like to know who designed this traditional dress and why…. although I did learn that each family/group/community has its own weave, like the Scots have their own family tartan.

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This is what it looks like to be excluded…. look at what happens above the Arctic Circle…. daylight stops….. and then for the other 6 months – it won’t stop!

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Now, I’m going to admit to you here that I didn’t know that wolverines were a real animal.  I thought it was just Hugh Jackman… but apparently, they do exist and we are sitting right in wolverine country right now!  They don’t look to savage at all, but I’m told they have the claws of Hugh – they don’t retract or anything, but they’re there, so we don’t want to get too close.

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In one section of the museum there was a photo exhibition of local Finlanders who had pursued different career avenues in the area…. there was someone in media, tourism, language, etc…. and then there was Jimi who is a professional breakdancer and studies handicrafts.  Good on him.  Follow your dreams Jimi.

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There is an outside exhibition as well showing traditional houses…

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Me Jenny thought she might like this one for her holiday home…..

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And I thought I could have this one for myself… since the are right next to each other and we all know that I don’t like to be too far away from me mother for any long periods of time.

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On the way out there was the obligatory visit to the shop.  They had lots of lovely things, but they were either way too pricey, too warm for us to use at home or made of wood which is too much of a hassle taking back to Australia.

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We headed into the village to check out the ‘skyline’ and the lady at reception was correct, there is only one of everything…. I mean, how many of everything do you really need?

First stop was the supermarket to check out the different wares…

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The we hit the restaurant for lunch…

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We tried the local beer…

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and sampled a reindeer salami pizza!

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A little walk to work off lunch took us down by the river and the marina.  I’m loving the Autumn colours up here.  Our guide back in Rovaniemi told us that in Autumn the leaves fall off the trees and then they are naked….. these yellow ones are almost fluorescent.

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The lake is crystal clear and we were quite glad there wasn’t a breath of wind because it was absolutely freezing!

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We were supposed to be going out on a lake cruise this evening to hunt for auroras, and we were hoping that it wasn’t it a boat like this, although it does have a fancy motor… but we’ve just been informed that because of the choppy waters, the tour will now be done by car.  Um….. choppy waters?  Well, I’d rather be in a car than one of these boats in 2° temps any day!

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There’s still 100% cloud coverage tonight, so it’s still not looking good for seeing the lights, but they’re giving us a 7% chance – and that’s still a chance.  Fingers crossed.

Aurora Hunters

Tonight was our first of many goes to try to see the Northern Lights – our mission for this trip!

Our tour guide was Martin, from Bulgaria who came to Finland with a plan to stay 3 months to study and ended up staying 8 years.  He loves the quiet and peaceful nature of the Finnish people.  He said “I think when there are too many people, they are not that nice to each other, but when you life in an isolated place, you’re happy to see people.”  True dat.

Martin wasn’t sure that we’d see the Northern Lights tonight as the clouds were pretty thick, but it would be a good experience anyway…..

There were 8 people in our group – us, our Aussie friends, Stacey and Chuck who were lovely and two other couples – one from Indonesia and one from Hong Kong.  The couple from Hong Kong were on their second of three tours to try to catch the lights and it wasn’t looking good for them.  Martin drove us out to a far away cabin in the woods about 30 minutes away and then lead us in the dark to a viewing platform over a lake.  In the day it would have been breathtaking, but as it was pitch black, we just had to imagine….. but, pitch black is ideal for spotting the lights…. when there are no clouds.

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We went into the cabin where Martin talked about Finnish culture, the local animals and his love for photography and berry picking…. he then presented us with this hot juice that he made from the berries he’s picked himself that day.  It was lovely, if a little sweet.

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The cabin is owned by the tour company and as staff they are allowed to go there on the weekends.  They can fish, fang around on the snow mobiles, go ice skating and take sauna and jump in the lake…. even when it’s frozen over, they clear away a section at the end of the jetty so you can still jump in – if you’re bonkers.

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So Martin stoked up a fire and cooked up some toasted cheese and reindeer prosciutto toasted sandwiches and some pork sausages for our picnic dinner whilst we stared out into the darkness waiting to be dazzled by the lights.

All but given up, the group except for Stacey, Chuckie and myself retreated to the fire, and the three of us swear that we all saw the same green flash of light…. and after that there were spot flashes of white light – but whether that was the real deal or just our eyes desperately wanting to see something….. I don’t know – anyway, that’s not what we came to see, so the hunt goes on…..

We felt very irresponsible walking away from the fire pit with the fire still lit… we asked if we needed to do anything to the fire before we left and he said, “No, it will die out.” “You’re not worried about bushfires?” we asked… “There are 200,00 lakes in Finland, there is no chance of fire.”   I hope his cabin is still standing for the next tour.

Santa Claus is coming to town

This morning we were off on a little tour which because of the time of year was going to be a non intentional private tour…. but we were joined by two lovely people from Australia!

Jenny likes to be super early for everything so, we took a walk down to the river before the tour started.  There is another bridge to the left and in Winter the section between the two bridges doesn’t freeze because the water is moving too fast – I’m not sure what happens when it moves quickly into the frozen part though….. ?

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Just near our hotel is the Pohjanhovi Resort…..  Does anybody else see a play on Jon Bonjovi in this name?

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Our tour guide today was Michael, a lovely young man from Russia who is studying tourism in Rovaniemi and speaks perfect English, Russian and enough Finnish to get by.  He took us to a reindeer farm, the husky park and Santa’s Village….. that’s right – we met Santa!

There are 220,000 reindeer in Finnish Lapland, the reindeer herding region and they know this because each reindeer is owned by somebody and each year they count them and any numbers over 220,000 are culled for meat.  If they have more than the magic 220 there is not enough food in the forest for them and they perish and if they have less, then there isn’t enough meat…. highly regulated.  Apparently it’s a very rude question to ask a Laplandish reindeer farmer how many reindeer they have because it would be like asking somebody how much money they have in the bank.

We got down to the reindeer and Marie, whose family has been herding reindeer in this same spot for about 7 generations (that she knows of) told us not to touch their antlers because they were very raw and tender after rubbing the outer skin off them on the fences (something they do each year)….. so Jenny maintained this stance.  Our last encounter with reindeer in Alaska clearly left Jen a little scarred when she was feeding them carrots, one ate her rain poncho – she was taking no chances this time.

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We didn’t realise, but reindeer lose their antlers every year and they grow another set in 12 months – growing about 2cms each day!

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We were thinking that this poor bugger above had drawn the short straw on antler shape because it was completely over his eye, but they grow like that to protect their eyes when they’re fighting.  Another amazing fact – each year when they grow new antlers, they always grow in the same shape…. so it’s not like having a bad hair cut and waiting for it to grow out.

They feed them lichen in the summer and salmon in the winter and they forage in the forest for berries and whatnot.  There was one fussy little reindeer there who didn’t like the lichen – Marie said that he preferred the salmon…. fair enough.

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This poor bugger had an itch that he just couldn’t quite scratch.

They were used to people, but didn’t really like being touched, because they know that when you rub their back, they’re about to have a harness strapped on and they were still on their summer holidays, thank you very much, but we did get a little palm stroke in as this chap passed by and their coat is very soft and thick – obviously necessary in these temps.

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They were lovely and placid – almost making you want to become a reindeer herder…..

On Marie’s property, there are lots of little wooden houses/buildings that are used to store food and tools.

After all the patting, we were taken up to the main building for some delicious, home made forest berry tea which was made from freshly picked forest berries, as the name would predict – but she wouldn’t tell us the ingredients.  Having visitors here is obviously another way to earn income… there was a roaring fire and she chatted and answered all our questions.  Here are her toilet doors…..

Next stop was the husky park.  I don’t like the idea of animals being locked up at all, so this was a little sad, especially when they all started making a noise, that to me sounded like a cry, but guide said that they knew that the handlers were preparing to assemble the running team to pull the summer, wheeled sled, and they all wanted to be picked.  They were crying “pick me! pick me!”  There were some dogs who had run the day before who weren’t that fussed about all the commotion, so they just sat in or on their houses.  They were all very friendly and loved a pat and a sniff.

We didn’t partake, but some visitors went on a 500 metre ride around the park – the dogs can run 60kms in a day, so this was nothing to them.

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There were two people who were clearly trying to visit the park undetected……  the one in the back actually worked there, so that’s sort of fair enough.

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Our new Aussie friends, Stacey and Chuck were kind enough to take our photo….. we maybe needed a bit more direction …?

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Next stop = Santa’s Village!!!

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Rovaniemi is situated right on the Arctic Circle – 66.5039° N, 25.7294° E and there is a line right through Santa’s Village marking where it is, however….. The position of the Arctic Circle is not fixed; as of 26 September 2017, it runs 66°33′46.9″ north of the Equator.[1] Its latitude depends on the Earth’s axial tilt, which fluctuates within a margin of 2° over a 40,000-year period, due to tidal forces resulting from the orbit of the Moon.[2] Consequently, the Arctic Circle is currently drifting northwards at a speed of about 15 metres (49 feet) per year.  Thank you Wikipedia!

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And here we are with the big man himself.  He was really sweet.  An elf meets you at the door and asks where you are from and then repeats it loudly so Santa can hear…. then when you sit down he says, “You’re from Australia!” (like you don’t know) and then narrows it down….. “What part of Australia?”  “The west”, “Yes, which place?” “Perth”  “Ah, yes, I know Perth.  It’s a lovely place.” “Have you been there?” “Yes, every year”

We asked if he could possibly work some magic and clear away the clouds so we could see the elusive northern lights and he said that if it was a Christmas wish then we’d have to wait until the 24th December….. a little selfish – or is that “elfish”?  See what I did there?  Anyway, we were definitely swept back to our childhoods being in the presence of himself.  They also take a video of your interaction with Santa and show it to you afterwards…. we looked like giggly girls totally in awe.

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After seeing Santa you walk through a corridor lined with photos of Santa in leisure pursuits – obviously taken in the off season….. and then the corridor leads to the obligatory souvenir shop.

You can sit in this cosy area to write your letters and postcards from Santa’s official post office and check out the sorting station and then mail your letters right there and then.

last year Santa received about 500,000 letters and he and the elves try hard to reply to each and every one of them.

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There were a number of reviews on Trip Advisor saying that Santa’s Village was commercial and tacky and in the summer, without the snow, lacked any magic…. I disagree with the magic bit.  Yes, it is commercialised – there is a whole row of souvenir shops, and besides the post office and Santa’s main office – not much else, and being out of season, there were only a handful of people there, but I see the as a plus – there were no lines to see Santa.  So, there was definitely magic…. and yes, I purchased a souvenir to remind me of this moment.

Having said that – it be awesome with snow.

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Santa was ‘ere and so was I!

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This is inside the lift at our hotel….. is somebody following us, do you think?

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Hello Finland

See ya later Iceland and hello Finland.  We were passing through Helsinki on our way up to Rovaniemi and stayed one night at the airport.  We booked the Glo Hotel and it’s right in the airport – I mean, It’s closer to the exit than the taxi line.  So we got there, checked in and got our jammies on in about 15 minutes.

We were blessed with a lovely lady at the desk and she proudly let us know that our room had two beds….

Jenny did a rough count of beds when we got into the room….

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And luckily there was room for the second suitcase as well.  I did have to do a bit of balancing, but it held overnight

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Then the next morning, we had a bit of brekky, chilled in our room and then just waltzed down to our departure gate… simples!

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We’re staying at the Arctic Light Hotel which is really cool!  Me Jenny makes friends everywhere she goes.

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Inside the foyer/lounge area has a number of different lounge seating areas.  It’s really cosy and inviting.

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Upstairs in our room, there’s a polar bear in the shower… who doesn’t love that?

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And again with the bed, but this time they’ve jazzed it up with a fur (not real) rug …

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and a plush polar bear soft toy, so win/win.

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and extra Finland novelty furniture.

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Rovaniemi is a university town , so people come here for school, but the town itself is fairly understated and in most Trip Advisor reviews was described as “probably a lot better in the winter when it’s covered in snow”.  We had a  wander around the centre and found a fantastic cafe that serves savoury waffles…. Let’s just say we’re going back there tomorrow.

We also found another little cafe, that was attached to the Santa Hotel – Santa’s Village is about 7kms out of town and is really the centre of the tourism.

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These little guys were for sale in the cafe – Finland folklore perhaps?

All the tables and chairs had been spray painted silver and I think that whoever did the job must have been wearing these bobby dazzlers!

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We walked down this street when we first arrived and I didn’t notice these decorations on the signs – just goes to show that you’ve got to open your eyes and look up.

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Rudolf went a little far with the make up….

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There has been lots of menu talk about crayfish and tonight we thought we’d give it a go.  We had crayfish soup and then I had a salad with cray tails…. that’s right, plural tails….  I thought, goodness, how many do I think I can eat?

But when they’re this size – you can go crazy with a whole bowl!

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Just analysing one of the many tails with my magnifying glass necklace

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Our favourite Icelandic things

On our last day in Iceland, here is our list of our favourite things…..

1. waterfalls
2. Snaefellsnes Peninsula
3. Scenery
4. amazing volcanic landscapes
5. Reykjavik museums
6. the Icelandic horses and big fat sheep
7. the mountains and lakes
8. the lovely Brady design churches
9. the Hallgrimskirkja church
10. the coffee
11. the cold

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We didn’t like:

1. the rain
2. the cloud coverage stopping us from seeing any northern lights
3. the resting bitch face of a lot of Icelandic people
4. the wind
5. the hop on hop off bus saga
6. that every time you went inside you had to strip down to your underwear because the heating was so high.

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So, would we come back to Iceland?  Jenny says: “No, I don’t think so, unless you could predict the perfect weather…. I wonder what it would be like in Summer?”  Me?  I’ve loved it.  I would definitely come back – I agree that some drier weather would have been preferable, but the scenery is simply breathtaking and from here I’d like to take a leaf from Sherman and Eva’s travel journal and head to Greenland and the Faroe Islands….

Until next time Iceland, we say ‘bless bless’

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More Reykjavik

The Laundromat Cafe was a definite winner in Reykjavik.  You can do a load of washing and enjoy some brekky, lunch or dinner while you wait.  The counter is lined with books – all stacked in colour order, or there are magazines if you’d prefer.  You can sit at tables, in booths or up at the counter.  It’s a pretty popular place, but people share the big tables and happily squeeze in where they can.  We went for dinner and then went back the next day to try out their brekky.

Let me just talk you through our weird hotel room again….
pic 1: that’s the door to the shower – not the bathroom – the actual shower.
pic 2: that’s the powder room.
pic 3: that’s the bedroom (with plenty of room to split a bed into two singles
pic 4: the rest of the apartment/suite was fabulous.


It was in an awesome position in the city that overlooked this pretty church and gave us a bird’s eye view of the goings on in the little square.

In a very small break in the weather we headed down to the Harpa Concert Hall – it’s a massive glass structure on the water with quite impressive architecture.


and whilst we were there – we decided to see a show.

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It was in English, so perhaps would be a little bit easier to understand than the play my mate Madds and I saw in Belgium – which was all in Flemish and it promised to be HILARIOUS, so…..

Before the show we stopped into the bar for a glass of vino when we were suddenly joined by Sherman and his partner Eva.  They were from the north of California and were on their way to Greenland…. and we chatted and then he took our picture – for what reason I don’t know.

There were people from all over the world in the audience – including our friends from California, even people from Iceland!  Maybe they’re having an identity crisis and think they’re not Icelandic enough?

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He ran through the vital steps you need to master to be Icelandic and one of them was “be rude” which we have definitely encountered…. In fact we’ve really only come across 2 people happy to speak to us and one of them was from Barcelona!  This show made us realise that resting bitch face is actually a national thing and that’s not something you should take personally – it’s just they way they are.  He explained that when the first Icelanders arrived here, all they were concerned about was surviving.  Their personal happiness was never even considered and that trait seems to have been passed down through the generations.

So, after learning that we need to: be rude, believe that you are always right (there are 13 different political parties here for 340,000 people and nobody can agree), master the national walk (as if you are lumbering through a field of snow in sideways rain), and learn to enjoy eating sheep testicles (ew), we passed the citizen test and are now officially Icelandic.

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At least this man was a jolly fellow.  He was a paid comedian though, so I’m not sure if that counts.

When your day descends into chaos

The day started out like any other normal day…. we headed to the Settlement Museum to get a bit of culture into us early on, then made our way to the volcano museum – this was really interesting as they showed a film of the last two major eruptions – the last being in 2010 when all the flights to and from Europe were disrupted for a couple of weeks ruining holidays for people everywhere.

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Did you know that in September all the farmers in Iceland have to roam around the countryside looking and herding all the sheep that they find into one large holding pen.  The sheep spend their summer vacations roaming the fields and the highlands… we even saw some down on the beaches in the fjord.  Then once they are all in the holding pen, all the farmers, together with their friends and family go through each and every sheep and check their ear tag to see who they belong to so that each farmer leaves the day with his own sheep.  There can be 10s of thousands of them to sort!  Then they all celebrate and have a party – the festival is looked forward to by families and especially kiddies more than Christmas – not surprising considering Christmas here is a story based on trolls giving you a potato if you’ve been bad.

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Next stop on our culture tour was the Maritime Museum…

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Where they’ve managed to keep their sense of humour…

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There is a lot of information about the great Cod War between Iceland and Britain.  Me Jenny noted that they’d probably have nothing to talk about if it wasn’t for the bloody cod war!  You see back in the day Iceland’s legal fishing waters reached out to 4 miles of their coast and they soon realised that perhaps they should have a bit more and went into negotiations with Britain, asking them if they could possible spare a few more miles of ocean?

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They weren’t happy about it but to cut a long story short – eventually after a few protests and bit of ship ramming, the British conceded.

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The museum then went into the life of the fisherman – it didn’t look one bit easy or enjoyable….

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Especially if you go by the looks on these two faces below…

This is Hjònin Gudny Jónsdóttir and Jón Eiriksson – The name system here is a weird one to be sure to be sure… When a boy is born he is given a first name and then a surname made up of his father’s first name and ‘son’.  When a girl is born she is given a first name and a surname made up of her father’s first name and ‘dottir’.  Icelanders don’t commonly use their surnames and only go by their first names – even the phone book is listed alphabetically by their first name.  So one family might have 4 members all with different surnames to each other – good luck doing your family tree here!

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Check out the fish skins – no wonder they needed those extra miles of ocean!

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So after all this nautical talk, we felt like fish and chips for lunch and went on the hunt around the harbour for such fare…..

This restaurant nearly had us hooked until I saw this on their menu….. they ruined it.

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But a lovely place was found….

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drinks were had…

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and fish and chips were eaten….

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Which brings me to where our day took a little turn…..

WARNING – this gets a bit ranty, so feel free to pull out at any stage.

Our afternoon was going to be spent on the hop on hop off bus that does a circle around the city.  We left the fish and chip shop and turned left to where a bus stop, according to the company’s bus map, should have been…. alas there was no bus stop, so we ventured on a little further to where the next stop is marked and there it was.  The buses are advertised as arriving approximately every 30 minutes – people who have been pretty much anywhere will know the operations of the hop on/hop off bus system.  And so we waited.

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After 20 minutes of standing in the absolutely freezing 8 degree temp with occasional rain drops, we started to question how long we’d been standing there.  “We’ll stay for 30 minutes, and then we’ll walk” “but what if we leave and it pulls around the corner?” “Ok, we’ll pretend to leave, and then when it comes around the corner we’ll still be close enough to catch it.”

40 minutes later, we had struck up a conversation with a couple who had been waiting about 10 minutes longer than us and were clearly there for the long haul…. when the bus appeared around the corner.  The bus driver was friendly enough, I purchased our tickets and then he slammed his foot to the pedal before we had any time to find our seats.

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The only spare seats were upstairs over the wheels and this driver seemed to hit and mount ever curb he went around.  We went two stops and then he pulled into the central bus depot and stopped the bus.  All the people started piling off and one young American woman said to anybody else still sitting there (which was us) “We all have to get off and change buses, he said his shift was ending and we’d have to get another bus.”  This seemed odd, but as there was no driver, we hopped off and into the warm bus depot and waited.  The driver had jumped off the bus as soon as he stopped and disappeared so there was no opportunity to ask him what was going on.  Inside the terminal there was much talk amongst the passengers about their experience thus far today with the hop on/hop off bus – none of them good stories.  One woman said she went downstairs to hop off at a stop (one of the two main functions of the bus!) and the driver shut the door.  When she said “I wanted to get off there” he replied, “I come back past here in an hour.”  Some people told stories of seeing one bus and then 10 minutes later another bus would turn up helping us to figure out that the timing was all askew.

We asked for assistance at the tour desks and got a few different replies – “perhaps your driver has just stopped off for a coffee?”  “There’ll be another bus coming shortly”, etc….

Then the original driver was spotted on the bus and because there was much confusion, I   high tailed it out there to ask him what was what…. as he saw me and ALL the other passengers behind me charge towards him, he closed the bus door… but I didn’t let that deter me.  I tapped on the door and said “Do you think you could let us know what is going on please?”  He said “I already told you.  This bus is finished.”  “Um…. no, you didn’t tell me, I got on 2 stops ago and you didn’t say anything to me….” “Yes I did.”  We could’ve gone on and on, but I moved forward, “Can you explain what is happening now?”  He said, “Another bus will be here in 5 minutes.”  which was clearly the end of that conversation.

I turned and reported to the anxious crowd what I’d been told and one lady said, “He was in a hurry because it was the end of his shift.”  It made no sense.  There was only 2 hours left in the bus run as it was.

I approached the tour desk again and asked who I speak to about getting a refund on the tickets and she said “Hold on, let me call them.”  She came back a few minutes later and said, “I’ve just spoken with the chef and he said that there was a problem with the hydraulics on the other bus and another one is nearly here.  It is on the road about to turn into the depot…. We’d been waiting there for about 25 minutes by this stage.

When the bus didn’t turn up for another 15 minutes I returned to the desk and said that I’d like my money back and that it was ‘unasseptible’ (thanks Jo Frost, Super Nanny) and the woman agreed that it was unasseptible and that maybe the driver wasn’t able to translate the hydraulics problem into English… although he managed to tell the other passengers that his shift was over… just then, the bus turned the corner.  The crowd was cross and confused and cold, but we all piled back on and took our seats ready to go when this driver jumped off and headed into the office….. the crowd had bonded now and we were not to be messed with.  There was lots of talk of how ‘unasseptible’ this was and how a stern letter to the company CEO was going to be written.

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THEN…… because the bus was running late, the driver wasn’t going to be able to make it to the last advertised stop in time, so he was just going to stop at whatever stop he landed on at finishing time and we’d all have to get off.  The young American woman was becoming increasingly anxious as she needed to be back at the bus depot to catch her bus to the airport and it had started to rain quite heavily, so having to walk would’ve been annoying…. so the driver stopped at his chosen stop with a good 30 minutes left in the working day and came up the stairs to see all still sitting there – refusing to get off his bus.  He tried to appeal to our sense of compassion by rolling his eyes and saying “What? You want to go to the bus depot?” “Yes, we’d all like to get off at different stops please.” “But, that means I’ll be driving for an extra 30 minutes…..” he mumbled as he descended the stairs shaking his head in disbelief.  “Will you stop at all the stops?” he was asked “I’m doing another loop around.” he replied grumpily….. “Yes, but will you stop at all the stops?” Another woman nervously repeated. “I said I’ll do another loop around.” He restated – making no friends in the process.  So he pulled into the very first stop and I said to Jenny – Let’s get the hell off this bus….

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Not. Happy. Jan!

Besides all the bullshit and time wasting that went on this afternoon, I have to say that this Reykjavik city bus tour was the most uninspired, and dare I say dull tour of any city tour I’ve ever done….. That’s a big call, but I stand by it.

It’s such a shame because the HOHO bus is usually a really great way to see a city (a different city), so my recommendation is that in Reykjavik – everything that is worth seeing is in walking distance so steer clear of this bus.

Otherwise (as Ivanka Trump recently tweeted) we had a really nice day.

Take the long way home

I have to take you back to a day ago (and no, I’m not calling anyone a deigo!) to when we  woke up in our donga….. It was the best night sleep that Jenny had had for a long time – so that was a bonus.  We’d still had no contact (except for the one weird phone call) with the mysterious people in the farm house, so when we heard the sounds of tea cups clinking, we thought we’d get to meet somebody then.  We got up and showered and packed our bags and headed out to the common area where breakfast had been laid out.  The lady cooking the breakfast didn’t speak except when she handed me a plate with a fried egg and 2 strips of bacon and said, “do you want this?”

We awkwardly ate our breakfast whispering to each other and then got out of dodge quick smart.

Today we were headed to Reykjavik.  The big smoke (although it’s not cool to joke about “big smokes” in Iceland what with all the volcanic activity)

We stopped by the town of Borgarnes first and spotted our first boat on water…

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On our way up to the peninsula we inadvertently ended up driving through a 7km tunnel which was dark, frightening and really expensive, so we weren’t too fussed to do it again.  Checking out the map there was a road that went all the way around the inlet that the tunnel went under – that was the route we were going to take.

You can just make out the houses that are hidden a the base of the mountain.  They love to be isolated here.

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The views were simply amazing the whole way around this inlet.  The photos could never do them justice – they just went on forever.

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And we were lucky enough to get a little bit of blue sky to help us along our way.

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The cliffs were sheer and the waterfalls were plenty.

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We even came across what looked like an ancient ruin archeological dig site – but this being Iceland – there were no signs anywhere and therefore you are left to have a guess.

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It’s amazing who you meet on the roads in Iceland…. These three friends were not one bit frightened of the car and in fact insisted we come to a complete stop so they could pass.

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It didn’t take us long to get into Reykjavik and we managed, thanks to GPS to go straight to the car hire drop off office.  They very kindly offered us a lift to our hotel and the man behind the desk said “my colleague will take you in your hire car.”  So back to our car and we reloaded all of our luggage and our came the colleague – we didn’t find out his name, but we did quickly realise that he was a bit of an arrogant wanker who thought he was a formula one driver.  He sped up behind cars, weaved in and out of the traffic and took a couple of corners on two wheels.  We held on for dear life and when we got out Jenny couldn’t praise me enough for the quality of my driving over the previous week!  Nothing like a traffic accident waiting to happen to make you look good!

We had arrived a bit early so our room wasn’t quite ready yet.  We left our bags with a Spanish man from Barcelona (he worked there!) and we set about exploring.

This is downtown Reykjavik….

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Our aimless wandering had a final destination – Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran parish church.  At 74.5 metres high, it is the largest church in Iceland.

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It has pretty amazing architectural structure, and is minimalist in its decor.

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There was a sign stuck on the organ that said “Please don’t interrupt the organist” which leads you to think that the organists must have ben interrupted on a number of times for them to go to the lengths of putting up a sign.  Were people asking for requests?  Were they just letting the organist know that he/she wasn’t playing it correctly?  Were they asking for directions or history/facts about the church?

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We caught the lift up to the top of the tower which gave a great 360 view of Reykjavik.

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That’s the domestic airport right there – you can walk there from the city!

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All through the town there are trolls of different shapes and sizes.  They’re usually hanging around where the tourists might be…

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When we finally made it back to the hotel and looked at the map we realised that we’d almost seen all of the city…. there was nothing left to see for tomorrow!

The old part of Reykajvik is so pretty with its colourful buildings and old style houses… and then you have the big grey church looming at the back there… which is lovely in its own way, but doesn’t really match the rest of the town.

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An open letter to all hotels – worldwide.

Dear hotels around the world,

I am writing to you out of pure frustration.  You see, you seem to think that every one of your guests is going to be a couple that like to sleep in the same bed…. and some of you seem to think that your guests are going to enjoy being able to see straight into the bathroom from all areas of the bedroom via a curtainless glass wall.

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I’m sorry, but this unacceptable!

Well let me tell you that there are many people who enjoy travelling who are not in a coupled partnership and prefer to sleep singularly in a bed and I’m sure there are singles and couples alike who prefer a bit of privacy when it comes to ablutions.  I travel with friends, but mostly I travel with my Mum and whilst we’re close, we like our own space and I tend to feel that as a woman in her 40s, I’m entitled to have my own bed and a bit of privacy in the bathroom for the love of god!

Now, some hotels will provide two beds without question – sometimes they’re singles and sometimes there are even 2 x queen size beds – the jackpot!   Some will split a king size bed apart by about 1.5mm which is better than nothing as it means then that you have your own bedding, but some hotels will advertise that they have twin rooms and simply unfold a sofa bed, or roll in a roll away bed big enough to fit a medium to small sized child – this letter is aimed directly at you.

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When you reserve a twin room – you are assuming that there will be two beds – two actual beds, not some makeshift, thin mattressed, pokey out springs, pole in your back sofa bed.  I find it hard to believe that you have to ask the question “You know the twin bed room I’ve just reserved, could you clarify that it actually has two beds in it please?”  I mean, the main function of a hotel is to provide beds for customers which is why I’m perplexed that this issue keep arising.

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This is NOT a bed

I recently stayed with my lovely cousin in Berlin in a hotel that had no rooms at all with two beds in them – none!  All the rooms had one bed that couldn’t be split – in this day and age where a lot of single people are travelling, are they not halving their market?  This hotel – after specifically requesting two beds in the room waited until we had actually arrived in the reception before letting us know that they couldn’t accommodate our specific request – didn’t think that information could have been handy earlier – giving us a chance to book somewhere else that suited our needs?  No – you are taking our booking under false pretences, knowing full well that you can’t/won’t deliver what you’ve promised.

Well I’m a bit sick of it.  I don’t ask for much – All I ask is that there is a room with two beds, a reading light for each bed, an easily accessible power point, a private bathroom that I can swing a cat in (preferably with a shower with a screen rather than a curtain – curtains give me the creeps, you know when they touch your legs… spine shiver!) and a towel that’s bigger than a face washer.

Oh…. and one more thing – why is there only ever one place to put one suitcase?  You are offering 2 robes, 2 slippers, 2 towels, 2 beds (sometimes), but apparently the two people in the room are sharing a suitcase?  This has never made any sense to me.

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Before I finish my rant, I want you to know that I do realise that this is a great big first world problem and that we could probably get away with sharing a bed – but I don’t want to.

The Elusive Arctic Fox

The arctic fox is the only species of land mammal native to Iceland. Polar bears have also made their way to Iceland over the centuries. (note from me: but famers shoot them on sight if they make it to the mainland) Other mammals found in the wild have been brought by humans, either deliberately (reindeer, mink) or inadvertently (mice and rats). Farm animals and pets may be released or escape into the wild but are not classified as wild animals.  http://en.ni.is/zoology/mammals/

They call the Arctic Fox elusive because as the word describes – they like to keep well hidden from people…… until today!  That’s right – we spotted an Arctic Fox today running across a field.  We had a discussion about what it could possibly be and when Me Jenny reeled off all the animals found in Iceland – whales, seals, long-tailed mice, mink, reindeer, sheep, cows, horses and the occasional polar bear (if it makes it past the farmers)….. the arctic fox was the only possible answer.  How exciting!  It was kind of a shame that we were doing 90kph at the time with nowhere to pull over – but nevertheless, we saw it!

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They are white in the winter and their coat turns brown in the summer months – this probably gives them a much better camouflage.

The baby ones have a bit of the Tasmanian Devils about them.

Check out the blog of the person who took this photo below: http://www.dgwildlife.com/blog/2014/8/arctic-foxes

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Photo by: dgwildlife

I think that’s one for us thanks Iceland!

Rain Rain – Go Away!

So…. no call last night about the sighting of the Aurora Borealis…. we both woke up quite a few times each in the night and had a look out the window, but what was going to be a clear sky clouded over…. *sad face*

To add insult to injury – it has not stopped raining today – at all, so we rugged up and set off on our way around the peninsula stopping at all the little 2 building villages we could find.

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The end of the peninsula is a national park to protect the big volcano and glacier that’s there.  We turned off the main road towards the volcano and our GPS said “Is your car suitable for this road?”  We thought, well, yes, we’ve driven on worse roads than this in the past couple of days…. so we drove about 100 metres when we came across a sign that said “Warning – large chasms appear without warning”, so we pulled her into reverse and headed back onto the main road – crisis averted.

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The first town we came across offered some lovely eating establishments…

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But even better scenery…

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The houses are so simple.  There are not many fences and hardly any outside covered areas which seems a little weird in such a wet/cold place.

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The whole peninsula is a volcano belt and so there are lava fields everywhere you look

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We got to the western most point of the peninsula where there was a lovely little golden sand beach….

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… and a lovely picnic area.

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We are discovering that waterfalls are a dime a dozen here… One town we came across was surrounded by them – I’m sure the kids who play here couldn’t care less about them!

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Another wonderful find in the driveway… I’m not sure I’d like to be here when this is a necessity.

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We have wondered what the hell people do in most of the villages with only 2-3 buildings, but this town definitely had a bit going for it.  There was a harbour and heaps of boats, a school and a public swimming pool!

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It even had a different design of church!  All the churches thus far have been the exact same design and colour (besides the black one from yesterday!)  And we wondered if maybe Mike Brady had something to do with selling his one design.

This one however was something slightly different.

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I’m in love with the horses here – their wind-swept manes blowing in the 40 knot breeze… their short, yet strong stature, the variety of colours….. none have been close enough to the fence near a pull off the road zone for me to stop and chat to…. but not to worry, as we are staying at a farm stay tonight with horses, so I’ll have a little chat there.

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So, you know how I just said that we were staying at a farm stay?  What did you imagine the lodgings would be like?  Did you envisage a farm house?  A cabin perhaps?  A renovated stable?

We’re staying in a donga.

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Were you thinking we’d be welcomed by the farmer?  or somebody hired to welcome the guests?  We arrived to a note on the notice board letting us know which room would be ours for the evening.

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There is a lounge area with some comfy couches and lovely artwork and a breakfast area.

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On our drive today Me Jenny and I were discussing what was going to be on the menu this evening…. what would we feel like…. maybe soup?  There’ll probably be something with lamb due to the amount of sheep they have here….

So when we arrived at our donga and there was nobody there to meet us we rang the main farmhouse where the owners live and let them know we’d arrived…. her reply “Yes….”  (I know she wanted to add …. and?) I asked her if they offered a meal for dinner….. “No, we don’t do that at this time of year.”  And that’s fine if that’s your policy, but a little heads up would have been nice.

As the closest place for dinner was going to be in the nearest main town we decided that we’d crack open the cheese and bickies that we’d purchased in Amsterdam.

I also asked if any of the horses were nearby for a little chat and a pat and she told me that there were a few in the stables that I was welcome to go and visit.

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So we visited 4 of the saddest horses that you’ve ever seen in these tiny stable pens.  One of the horses could have even been a donkey – we’re not quite sure.  Anyway, it was underwhelming and a little bit sad after seeing so many horses roaming free in their fenced paddocks.

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I had wanted to see horses like this with the wind in their hair and not a care in the world, except for maybe being freezing out the in rain having to stand and sleep on marshy sodden ground.

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Anyway – time to move on….. back to our donga we went to prepare the evening cheese and bickies…. then maybe watch a little TV on this brand new, state of the art JVC TV…..

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… or perhaps head to the common area lounge room for a bit of light reading?

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Small mercies – it’s warm, it’s dry and there’s nobody else here – yet….. there were two more welcome letters on the noticeboard, so there’ll probably be two more lots of guests tonight, but at 7pm they probably knew that there would be no dinner here and have gone in to town.

I’m pretty sure we won’t fade away.

This post sounds like one big whinge fest…. I apologise – I’m probably hangry.

Note to Lyn Tyson – Travel Manager extraordinaire – please don’t be concerned – we’re fine.

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Today’s adventure was to head to the Pingvellir National Park – where the first democratic parliament was established back in 1845.  We’re not sure why they choose the absolutely middle of nowhere to have their first meeting, but they did.

The park also sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, with rocky cliffs and valleys…… Here’s one of the rocky rift walls.

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This wall leads down to a lovely waterfall which they’ve made an easy walking boardwalk to.

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And here she is….  You can just make out the aqua blue colour at the top – the water is crystal clear.

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Then she just runs along her merry way…

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It just started to rain as were walking up there, which is unpleasant, especially when you wear glasses, but we’re enjoying every minute.

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Exiting the national park meant that we had completed the Golden Circle and it was now time for us to head west to our new abode for the evening – Budir.

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So our drive took us through some interesting ‘villages’ consisting of 2 – 3 buildings and a lot of changing landscape and scenery – much of it looking just like this…

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One thing we have noticed since being here is the lack of boats on the water.  Iceland is an island – so surrounded by water, but all throughout the interior of the island are lakes and rivers and ponds and more lakes…. but not a single boat.

We pulled into a village today and headed towards the wharf.  There was a lighthouse, so there presumably boats somewhere…

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We found one…

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Then another one…

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Then we found the actual harbour.  For the amount of water  around though – let me tell you Iceland, the lack of boating was noticeable.

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Back on the road and driving past some unbelievable scenery…. I’d have more to show you, but unfortunately Me Jenny’s interest/knowledge of photography is negligible, therefore the few times I’ve seen something that would make a beautiful photo and asked MJ to capture it have turned into a back and forth of “What’s your password?” – “You don’t need the password.” – “I can’t” – “Just swipe left” – “What do you mean?” – “Swipe the screen left… no left… no from the right side of the phone to the left”  Anyway, the moment has generally passed us by.

So, I pulled over to take a shot of what is clearly a volcano.

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And here are the lava rocks to prove it.  The Icelandic people who don’t live in Reykjavik all seem to live a scattered life –  miles away from anybody else, so I imagine that a volcanic eruption here wouldn’t be as catastrophic as it would be in other places.  I’m sure it would cause a bit of a mess but you’d have to be pretty damned unlucky to be caught in the way of it.

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Another volcano?  I’m guessing that the grey sand like substance on the sides could possibly be ash?

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So…. this little farm clearly didn’t get the memo about setting up camp under the volcano, but, they seem pretty settled there and it is a pretty amazing view to have.

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We met some of the locals who were working their way down the peninsula today….

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They were probably headed home to this lovely picturesque .

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It was simply breathtaking.

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Just across the way from the farm-let was the ocean, the beach and a lone building out on a point – our hotel.  The Hotel Budir.

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And this is what our room looks back onto….. *sigh*

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It’s really funky inside and I do love a hotel that has common areas so you can leave your room and enjoy the surrounds…

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A few minutes walk up the path from the hotel is this gorgeous church….

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A bit of history about the church….

In 1703, the first church was demolished and then rebuilt.  The parish was abolished in 1816 – One of the ladies of the parish fought strongly for a new church, but the national church rejected her request.  Eventually the fiesta parishioner received a royal permission to build a new one which was completed in 1848.  A quote the door ring says “this church was built n 1848 without the support of the spiritual fathers.” BOOM – take that national church! Inside the church there is a bell from 1672, an altarpiece from 1750, an old silver chalice from 1767 and the door ring from 1706.  It’s now protected as one of the oldest churches in Iceland.

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Me Jenny checking out the goods inside.

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The beach is amazing – it’s covered in lava rocks.

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I’m not sure that sun bathing would be a comfortable national pastime here.

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My geological guess would be that the lava came from that obvious volcano at the back there….?

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Are you seeing the blue sky?  I reckon there’s enough there to make 10 pairs of trousers – which hopefully means that its going to clear up…. hopefully tonight, giving us an optimal chance to see the lights.  Fingers crossed.  We’ve put our names down to be woken by the night watchman if they flair up at any time during the night…. not sure whether I’m excited or anxious about that.

Are you look at this scenery?  I mean, look at it.

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So, after our long drive, our rubber necking at the scenery and our walk to the church and the beach, its time to take advantage of the hotel’s common areas whist sampling a couple of glasses of the local brew whilst catching up on a bit of local Icelandic news…

Cheers!

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Blue Skies

UPDATE: On receiving a comment by my lovely friend MLD saying that neither she nor her Mamma had heard of this saying before I took to google on Jenny’s insistence that it was a thing….. This is what I found: https://idiomation.wordpress.com/tag/dutchmans-pants/ 

So – I stand corrected – it’s a thing.

Today I said to Me Jenny in desperation – “Look over there, there’s a bit of blue sky.”  Her reply: “You have to have enough blue sky to make a pair of men’s trousers.”  Seeing my utter confusion she added: “and then it will clear up for the day.”

Now, I ask each and every one of you – have you ever heard this saying before?

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The Golden Circle

We left Kellermans Mountain Lake Lodge this morning and turned left towards the Golden Circle – a well trodden path of natural wonder.  We hadn’t gone too far down the road when we noticed a smattering of people up on a hill in the distance.  As we got closer we saw the full car park and pulled in….  In Iceland, they are big on tourism, but they are bigger on letting the tourists find out things for themselves.  There are no signs letting you know that in 100 metres there is something worth stopping to see.  There aren’t even signs at the actual location of the tourist attraction – you just have to know it’s there and instinctively know to stop there.

Yesterday on our road trip to Vik we passed a full car car park just off the main road where people looked to be leaving their cars and walking towards the horizon into the abyss of moonlike landscape – they seemed to be headed towards to ocean.  There were no signs on the road, nor in the carpark.  “What were they going to look at?”,  we wondered as we drove on past.  “If it was icebergs on the beach, it’d look at that”, “it’s probably nesting birds”, “how far are they walking?”, “do we want to walk that far?”  The conversation was picked up again on the way back.  The car park was still full and flocks of people were still disappearing into the distance.

It wasn’t until this morning when I had wifi that I pulled up Google Maps and searched along the coast line for something…. anything and it turns out that there is a plane wreck there – you can take a tour there.  We searched in the Lonely Planet and all the brochures and articles we had on Iceland and not a peep.  Not a single mention of a plane wreck.  How did these people know?  It’s a 4 mile round journey on foot…. you’d have to be pretty keen.

Anyway…. we’re back to today where there were people standing on top of a big hill, so we parked and joined them.  What we  had stumbled upon was the Kerid crater.  (I’ve attached a link for those interested in learning a bit more about it).

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We got our walking sticks out and trekked all the way around the top.

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Apparently the water never empties out of the crater, but rises and falls according to the water table… there are a few other craters in the area whose water level rises and falls in an opposite reaction to this crater – cerazy!

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Because it’s on private property, the owner has taken to charging people an entry fee to have a look… I think that all that money must have gone to the installation and upkeep of the safety fences that have been placed in a few locations around the crater.
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We made it to the top – it’s not Everest, but I reckon it felt the same.

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There was talk of visiting a hot spring for a wee dip.  There are a few along the Golden Circle, so we pulled into one called Fontana in a village called Laugarvartn.  It sits right on a geothermal lake that smells like sulphur – hmmmm, very relaxing.

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That white stuff you can see over near the path is egg shells – somebody has cooked eggs in the steam.  Funny – cooked eggs that small like rotten eggs – oh the humanity!

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Water that woud definitely cook you if you were to hop in.

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Me Jenny is just testing out the waters….. and she can confirm that it was indeed hot.

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We wandered down to Fontana to have a look at the outdoor pools, but they were all 38-40 degrees and the people sitting in them looked red and puffy, possibly with 3rd degree burns, so we gave it a miss.

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Next stop on the Golden Circle – Geysir.  A geothermal field with a surface area of about 3km².  The area became active more than 1000 years ago and comprises more than a dozen hot water blow holes.  This was definitely one of the more popular tourist attractions.

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Please note the last point.

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This one didn’t blow, but it did bubble.

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This is the one that blows and I was taking a photo of all the people standing around waiting for it to happen when……

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It happened!

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This man wasn’t taking any chances – he read that sign at the beginning and he took Rule Number 5 very seriously.

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Just near the major gusher were these two steaming pools – the first was this amazing blue colour – just like the Blue Lagoon hot spring (I guess, we didn’t go there)

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and the other was completely clear  – you could see right down into that deep hole at the back.

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Then we sat and waiting for the geysir to blow again….

Our final major attraction on the Golden Circle tour is Gullfoss – Iceland’s most famous waterfall.  The word Gullfoss means Golden Falls and it’s a double cascade, which is pretty special.  The story behind these falls is that the land was owned by Tomas Tomason and a team of foreign investors wanted to dam the river for a hydro electirc project.  Tom said, “It’s not for sale friend.” so the developers went to the government and got permission anyway to go ahead.  Tom’s daughter, Sigridur walked barefoot to Reykjavik in protest and threatened to throw herself into the falls if the development went ahead.  Sigridur was saved from that watery fate thought because the developers didn’t pay the lease – and so all was saved!  Horrah!

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Info for those interested….  apparently it has the same power as Niagara – that’s nothing to sneeze at!


She was a little wet and blustery here and I’d just washed and blowdried my hair, so off we trotted in our matching outfits.

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We wound our way back home a different way and stopped at a few little villages, but none caught our eye like this one – Fudir – the town had a school, a wine shop, a petrol station and an Ethiopean restaurant!

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Another town helped us to learn how they grown fruit and vegies in Iceland without much sunlight….

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Another massive day of sightseeing and learning, and when it started rainging hard again, we thought we’d head back to Kellermans to cosy up and relax in our robes and slippers……

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Don’t go chasing waterfalls…..

The weather forecast for today was wet and windy with a 100% chance of low lying fog, so we decided to head for the beach.

Along the way we happened upon some amazing waterfalls.  When doing a bit of research before leaving home I envisioned us hiking over lava fields and perhaps up a hill or two to find Iceland’s famous waterfalls, but in actual fact, the waterfalls almost come to you – like, they’re on the main road!

Here’s me looking completely blown away by my first small waterfall….

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Here’s a bit of a snow capped mountain for you and look at that cloud formation!

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As we can’t read nor pronounce the names of places here, we just picked a place on the map and said, let’s head for that place – it turns out that it was the end point for the greatest lava flow on Earth since the end of the last Ice Age!!!  It only stopped because it touched the chilly waters of the Atlantic.

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And here’s what it looks like now – not terribly inviting for a swim though.

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Next stop – Seljalandsfoss

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This man climbed over the sign that said – ‘keep to the path’ and walked across the field and up that hill near the waterfall to take a photo.  I assume he enjoyed the area and I didn’t see him litter, so….

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Here she is up close and yep that’s a bit of rare blue sky you’re seeing there…

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And here’s proof that we were there… looking like the Bobbsi Twins!

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Me Jenny’s first wearing of her new beanie…

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The landscape is quite barren and yet beautiful and the cloud formations are even better.  The wind is so strong that they don’t last too long though…

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A bit of lovely landscape…

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Next stop on today’s road trip was Skogar with a little stop off at the museum…

Did you know that in Iceland there is no Father Christmas – instead they have 13 yule lads – the 13 sons of the troll woman Grÿla and her husband Leppalúôi.  Every night from the 12th December until Christmas, they go from house to house and leave something behind if you’ve been good, or just an old potato if you’ve been bad.

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The museum has an outside section showcasing some old buildings from back in the Icelandic day…

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I’ve never been to Hobbiton, but I guess that this would be similar, except not as cute and not built or lived in by actual hobbits.

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There was a church that has been restored on the outside, but all the inside bits and pieces are the originals.

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A school house – this would have been a nice class to teach… there’s room for 4 students!

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This map would be quite unusual to the people of the land down under as we’re normally on the other side of the flat Earth map, but most countries, when printing a world map, will print themselves in the middle – a little big of world trivia there for you.

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On the other side of Skogar Village (which consists of about 4 buildings) is Skogarfoss… This sucker is 60 metres tall and 25 metres across and I’m sorry to tell all you drone fanatics out there – but drones are forbidden!

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We were heading to the village of Vik in the south and saw a turnoff with a name we recognised from the map, so we took a swift right hand turn and we’re glad we did… check out this black sand beach with random rock – it’s a little bit our Great Ocean Road on a really blustery day – this photo has no filter and hasn’t been altered in any way – the day was just really black and white!

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A bit more landscape…. same same, but totally different!  You can see why films/TV shows like Star Trek and Game of Thrones were filmed here – it’s like another planet!

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And that ends our road trip for today.  When we left this morning we drove away with a mobile phone, a Tom Tom and a built in GPS in the car as well as an old fashioned paper map, but didn’t think about taking the co-ordinates that would get us back to our hotel. The name of the area doesn’t register on the GPS, so we were left to remember.  Bare in mind that when we arrived last night there was so much mist and fog that we were driving blind and couldn’t see beyond the side of the road and therefore relied solely on the GPS to get us there….. so on our way home this afternoon, when I realised that I didn’t have the numbers and we were left to use our wits, we didn’t panic and I’m proud to say that we got home without so much as a single wrong/missed turn.  Well done us!

Iceland – here we come!

How excitement!  Iceland is one of those places that I never thought I’d see and now here we are about to board an Icelandic Airlines plane that is going to take us there.

I’ve landed in a few different countries in the past and as grateful as I am about that, there’s always a tiny bit of disappointment that every airport is exactly the same.  The plane lands and you walk into a terminal that is pretty much the same as the last one, you collect your luggage from the same luggage belt and you drive away on the same roads passing the same landscape of industrial buildings……  I always thought (and hoped) that Iceland would be different.

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So Amsterdam was wet and grey and windy.  Apparently they have 250 rainy days every year and quite frequently have winds up to 130 kph.  Nobody seemed that fussed though, people were still riding their bikes and getting about their business as usual.  We were just hoping that the planes would still take off.

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And take off they did!

Here’s Me Jenny brushing up on a bit of Icelandic knowhow on the flight over.

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I kept a look out so I could see Icelandic land as soon as we were over it.

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But then this blanket set in and all vision was lost…

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Until we were about 10 feet off the ground!

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We’re hiring a car for the first 6 days we’re here, and as we entered the airport – which was the same, but had a bit of an Icelandic feel about it, we headed straight for the car hire desks.

The fog and mild on/off rain had completely set in and you were lucky to be able to see 10 feet in front of you, but we found the car and put the co-ordinates into the GPS – that’s right, you heard me…. the co-ordinates – not the address!  N.64°130.54  W.20°450.21 (not the exact numbers) and the route was set.  We drove out of the airport without being about to see beyond the side of the road.  So factor that in with being on the right (wrong) side of the road in an unfamiliar car, you could possibly say that it was a stress-free drive.  Me Jenny handled it brilliantly!

The fog lifted briefly along the way to reveal flat fields of volcanic rock some covered in moss…..

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Photo credit: Chris Ford

which made me think of the Scottish Highlands – not because I’ve been there, but  because I’m obsessed with the series – “Outlander” which is filmed there.

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So you could say that arriving in Iceland was completely different from anywhere else that I’ve landed before…

The GPS and the co-ordinates that were entered took us right to the front door of our hotel – perfect!

We’re staying at this weirdly wonderful hotel that reminds me of the place they stay at in Dirty Dancing.  The main building is on its own, then there is a ring road behind it  dotted with large houses.  Then in each house is a long corridor with rooms off each side, a lounge area and kitchen at the end and hot tubs outside at the back.

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Photo Credit: Hotel Grimsborgir

This is the view from our bedroom over to the main building.

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Therefore you need to drive to breakfast.

The answer is blowin’ in the wind(mill)

With all the rain around in Amsterdam we decided to join a tour and get on a bus to be shown around – this tour was headed just 20 minutes out of the city to a village called Zaanse Schans where they still have working windmills.  There are lots of quaint little villages out here all surrounded by small canals, large canals and super canals all working together to stop the whole of The Netherlands from being flooded as the whole place sits about 4 metres below sea level.

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There were a few breaks in the rain, which was great…. this tends to happen when you dress for rain and then carry all the rain paraphernalia that you have brought with you.

And there they are.

Back in the day there were 300+ working windmills around the country, but during the war – good ol’ ww2 – the nazis swooped in and demolished all but 7.  Seriously, they ruined everything!

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We thought that Amsterdam was going to be a warm stop and discussed packing a shorter length pant and perhaps a sandal for these 3 days…. but it’s been trè chilly.

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These windmills are still working, with their 17th century mechanics.  They make peanut oil, linseed oil and chocolate, just to name a few things.

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This chap works in the mill that makes peanut and linseed oils.  It’s the same mill where Rembrandt used to come to buy linseed to make his paints…. this chap wasn’t around then, but he has been working in this same mill for 25 years, 6 months and 3 weeks….. but who’s counting?

The mill workers still wear the wooden clogs and please do note the smaller clog that acts as a kerchief adornment…. one of the chaps on our tour purchased one of those and proudly wore it for the day.

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As always there were interesting and intriguing people on our tour…. this chap thought his best course of action was to stand in front of us and do this, cause you never know when you’re going to want to show this footage back home.

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It still amazes me that these feats of engineering were thought of hundreds of years ago…. I don’t know why I think the people weren’t as smart back then as they are today because all of their inventions were born of necessity and are quite ingenious!

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Here’s Me Jenny having a wee sit down during the windmill talk.  I think this is why we don’t like tours….. this was a “Small Group Tour”, but you still couldn’t see or hear anything unless you pushed your way to the front.

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All in a day’s work….. Peanut Oil.

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and Arachide Oil….. ?

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This is what we did while the talk was going on….

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The village was lovely to wonder around….

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This was a missed photo opportunity….. I asked Me Jenny if she’d like to go and sit in this show for a photo and she simply said “no” and kept walking.

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Our next stop was the village of Edam – that’s right, like the cheese!

First we popped into the museum where there were lots of mannequins in traditional dress…  I’ve always loved these bonnets because Me Jen’s grandparents once came to Holland and brought her back one just like this.  I wore it once to a dress up day at school and remember feeling very special.  After that wearing it went straight back into the plastic bag it came from and was put directly back into the linen cupboard where it sits to this day.

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I’m not sure I can give you any information about this photo….

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There is a room in the museum that looks like this.  The walls and ceilings and floor is covered in these mosaics that were all made from the ends of cigars.

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I think they went a little too far though…..

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Then we walked, following our guide Diana who had the most fabulous sing song Spanish accent and said English words with the emphasis on the wrong syllables.

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She lead us to a cheese factory where we thought we were going to see how cheese was made.  Instead we were treated to a cheese maker who spoke without opening his mouth who pointed to a few things around this kitchen and mumbled something about curds and whey…… then we tasted cheese.

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The village is right on the harbour of the great big lake that all the water of the canals eventually flow into.  This was also our stop for lunch.  Diana recommended a restaurant on the waterfront that served cod and chips – a village specialty, so we waited with the rest of the crowd for a table – you’ve never seen a busier restaurant!  We finally got a table – out the back  in a dungeon like room in-between the toilet and the cupboard…..

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so we up’ed and moved on down the street where we got a seat outside on the water where we enjoyed a couple of cold ones and……

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beautiful mussels and fish.

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and we got to watch the world go by…..

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The harbour is filled with these old fashioned boats – it’s like stepping back in time.

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Back in Amsterdam we took the scenic route back through the Red Light District, but managed to avoid the streets with the windows…. I’m not sure much happens there during the day anyway.  We wandered through back streets and then cam across what we thought was going to be a market – but when we got there, it was a giant book sale.  I heard a group of young men walk past me and one said “oh, how disappointing!”

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Our day was finished with a little nap and then a quick search for a nearby restaurant on Google…. an Italian one popped up just across the canal, so we headed there not thinking too much of the day or the time or whether we needed to book.

We arrived and asked for a table for 2 and were told to “wait there madam”  there were plenty of spare tables, and we were summoned to eventually follow as he threw a throw away point towards a table, so we just sat down.  The three men who came in after us were turned away… from then on, we watched group after group of people try their luck as this bustling little place….. although it wasn’t that little – it had an upstairs area which seemed never-ending by the amount of people who were sent  up there on arrival.

We tried to work out what the criteria was for gaining entry…. he let in quite obviously drunk men, one of which staggered to the stairs and then promptly fell down… his mate watched him and then gave a thumbs up and said to anyone listening – “he’s fine”.  We watched the waiter say no to a group of 4, but then let in a group of 10 – all upstairs…. it was crazy!

We enjoyed our beautiful meal, but left with a touch of whiplash.

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Here comes the rain again….

The day started out ok…. chilly, but blue skies.

We turned left out of the hotel and headed for the Canal House Museum.

I love these little smart cars which seem to be even smaller than regular smart cars.  They’re literally just a front seat and an engine.  They fit anywhere!


Then we headed for the flower market


Because of the time of year the stalls were mainly selling bulbs and seeds and fridge magnets.  There was only one shop selling fresh flowers.  The ceiling was covered in Everlasting wildflowers and it smelt gorgeous.

Across the road from the flower shops were a number of cheese shops.  We ducked into one shop to sample the wares…


and make a small purchase.

We were headed for the canal to jump onto a hop on / hop off boat when we turned and saw this storm
a-brewin’….  Note: clouds were darker in real life.


This is quite unexpected even if we had read that the forecast was for thunderstorms and rain today.  You see, usually when Me Jenny and I travel anywhere the weather just automatically clears up and we have sunshine follow us wherever we go…. but for some reason, here in Amsterdam, the word hasn’t properly gotten around, and this afternoon it absolutely pissed down – there were dogs and cats and the occasional goat pouring down on us.  We just had time to duck into a bakery where we rode out the first 20 minutes of heavy rain whilst warming up with a hot choppy and a pastry.  Then when it cleared slightly, we were off down to the boat stop.


The rain only stopped for about a minute and a half, but Me Jenny’s still smiling.


Then we hopped onboard and this was our view.


It was wet…

and cold…

We clearly weren’t the only people utilising the boat to get out of the rain.  Not sure what this lady’s story was, but her 3 companions saw no issue with her dozing off like this.


We passed by the house boat that my lovely pals, Felicity, Tammy and Matt stayed on last time we were here – It’s the green on.


And we also went passed one of the biggest floating Chinese restaurants in the world – right here in Amsterdam.


Then it was home – in the rain, back to our cosy room for a little nap.

Random pic – I do love a good play on words when naming your business…