Iceland 2016: Time to Go

12 08 2016

Tuesday, June 7 to Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Our last day on this grand Iceland adventure: a day I’ve been dreading, but now since it’s here, I’m determined to make the most of it.    We get to Geysir early and before the crowds.   Our word “geyser” comes from The Icelandic word “geysir,” which means gusher.  The original Geysir no longer spouts, but just beside it is another one, Strokkur, the Churn, that spouts very conveniently every ten minutes or so.  Take that, Old Faithful!  Base temperature of this geothermal area is a warmish 2500 C, so we decide to forego any hot soak.

6-7-17 Geysir (6)

From there we go up the road just a few kilometers to Gullfoss, one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland due to its location on the Golden Circle so near to Reykjavik.  There are quite a few people here, although “crowd” in Iceland doesn’t mean near the same as in America.  The falls are spectacular and are almost as amazing as the vehicles in the parking lot.

 

6-7-16 Gullfoss (3)

Not our ride

In the well-stocked gift shop, I finally give in and spend big bucks on a beautiful wool blanket.  I tell Brian it can be my birthday present.  Maybe he won’t remember.

Dave has read about a cave nearby, so we turn off the main road onto a bumpy gravel road to try to find it.  As we bounce down the road dodging potholes, I can sense Brian’s tension rising as he remembers all too vividly our earlier adventure of getting stuck on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere.  We finally arrive and find two small caves called Laugarvatnshellar.  The story behind these caves is that in 1910 a young couple moved in and raised a family in one of them, using the other for a sheep shed.  These Icelandic folk are a hardy bunch!   And they didn’t even have midge hats!

On to Þingvellir.  This area is noteworthy both for its geology and its history.  It is the best place for viewing the Rift Zone, that area in the middle of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are diverging at a rate of two centimeters a year.  Numerous fissures crisscross this sites, evidence of the many faults in the Rift Zone.

It is also the site of the oldest known parliament in the world, the Alþingi, in A.D. 930.  Chieftains would meet here every summer from all over Iceland to hear the telling of the law and decide on court cases.

On our previous trip to Iceland, Brian and I snorkeled at Silfra, one of the fissures in this rift valley.  Because of this, we didn’t have much time to explore this National Park.  Today we will remedy that omission.  We eat lunch at a picnic table pull-off just inside the park, then go to the site of the ancient parliament.

6-7-16 Þingvellir (37)

In the foreground is the Law Rock where speeches were held

 

6-7-16 Þingvellir (32)

One of the prettiest fissures, where people throw coins to commemorate the Danish King’s visit

We explore one of the fissures and do our part for Continental Drift.

We walk up one of the main fissures with hundreds of other people, including a large group of rowdy middle-schoolers taking selfies and paying no attention to where they are or what they are seeing.

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And then it happens.  My Teacher Voice rings out, loud and clear.  A group of kids runs ahead of their chaperones, skidding down the gravel path and shooting clouds of dust and the occasional rock onto the other tourists.  I am just ahead and turn around to see what is happening.  Before I can stop myself (and really, I don’t even try), I spear them with my Evil Eye and impale them with a stern jab:  STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.  Startled, they do.

It’s time to go.

We make one more stop at a gas station so that Brian can wash the grime off the car.

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Inside, I find a chocolate-covered marshmallow dolphin for Annalise.  She hates dolphins and takes great pleasure in biting its head off.

6-7-16 Þingvellir  (2)

It’s time to go.

We turn in our car at Dollar Thrifty, where we are delayed for an hour or so while they assess a $200 fee on us for a small ding in the chassis caused by an errant piece of gravel.  We have insurance, but the deductible is $200.  Amazing.

It’s time to go.

We check into the Hotel Frón.  We make arrangements for an early morning pick-up.  We repack our bags.  We settle in for a sleepless night.

It’s time to go.

6-8-16 Reykjavik

Our travel home on Wednesday is uneventful, thankfully.  We make it through Customs without a hitch.  We make all our connections.  We are home and in our own beds before the night is late.

My body is thankful to be in the familiar comfort of my own space, but my mind is still in Iceland.  Like Peter Pan’s shadow trapped in Wendy’s drawer, a piece of me will always remain in Iceland.  I hope it never escapes.

shadows at 9 oclock





Iceland 2016: Here We Go. Again.

2 07 2016

Monday, May 23 to Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My husband Brian, daughter Annalise, and myself are headed for Iceland, the second time for Brian and me.  The trip is a graduation gift for Annalise.  With her college graduation behind her and job teaching high school looming ahead of her, it may be the last major trip we get to take with her.  For us, it is the culmination of three years of yearning to get back to Ísland, the island country we visited and fell in love with in 2013.

I’ve been asked several times, “Why go to the same country again?  There are many other beautiful places in the world to explore.”  I respond with another question: “How many times have you been to the beach, the mountains, or a certain park?”  I have no words to describe the immense beauty, the raw wildness of the high country, the majesty of the jagged peaks, the strength and splendor of the ocean beating against towering bird cliffs.  There just are no words.  But I will try.

5-23-16

Matching wool socks: The HORROR!

Our least favorite part of our trip is getting there and back.  But for once, all goes according to plan. We leave early afternoon taking Delta from Augusta, Georgia for Atlanta and then to JFK Airport in New York.  After a five hour flight across the Atlantic, we arrive in Keflavík International Airport about 6:30 AM Iceland time on Tuesday, May 24, which was 1:30 AM our time.  Yawn.

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Airplane Selfie

At the airport we meet up with my brother David and his wife Nancy, who had flown from Santa Clara, California to Seattle, Washington and then took IcelandAir across North America to Iceland in far less time than it took us from the east coast.  Life just ain’t fair.

We had booked our travel arrangements through IcelandGuest!, the same travel agency we had used before, so we exchange the  travel voucher they had provided us for a bus ride to our hotel in Reykjavik, about an hour away.

Arriving at Hotel Frón in the historic district of Reykjavik, we dump our luggage in the one room that is ready and take off to explore the city on foot.  And when I say “we” I mean everyone except Brian, who stays behind to catch a few winks in the quiet comfort of the room. He’s always been smart like that.

5-24-16 Reykjavik (5)

Reykjavik manages to mix tradition with a more modern vibe

After lunch at a nearby café (veggie wrap for about $12 and $5 coffee, ouch), we explore the harbor, the main tourist shopping street, and the cathedral.

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Harpa Concert Hall

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5-24-16 Reykjavik no diet mt dew (5)

Hallgrímskirkja church with statue of Leifur Eiriksson

Later in the day, Brian and I do some shopping at Bónus, the budget grocery store, and load up on skyr, fruit, bread, and other lunch items. Bringing food along with us in the rental car will not just be a way to cut costs; it will be a necessity as villages are few and far between and rarely do they have any fast food options.   Brian is dismayed that in spite of the many soda options available, his Diet Mountain Dew is nowhere to be found: the first of many sacrifices we must make as we explore again this gorgeous but relatively undeveloped country.

5-24-16 Reykjavik no diet mt dew (1)

Sodas, sodas everywhere, but not a diet Dew to drink!