Last day in Reykjavik

We are staying in a really nice guest house just outside of Reykjavík, in the Viking village of Hafnarfjordur. Edda has a lovely house and all kinds of creatures; rabbits, chickens, cats, and a dog. Breakfast was included and what a spread she layed out. Eggs from her chickens. Banana bread, whole meal bread, both freshly baked, sliced meats, cheeses, veggies, skyr and of course excellent coffee. Today was Aidan’s tattoo day so we headed downtown to poke around a bit. Her artist was a no show for her morning appointment, but would be available later in the day. We shopped a bit then amazingly we felt a little peckish. There has been this restaurant down on the wharf I’ve been eyeing the past three visits we’ve made here. It looks very much like a local fishermen’s type place and so today we drove down to try it. It’s a really cozy place, order at the counter, pay, and they bring the food out. The server was an extremely pleasant young fellow with a twinkle in his eye and who spoke excellent English. I chose the fish and chips and poor Aidan, whose motto is “fish are friends not food” found nothing on the menu to tickle her fancy. Soup and bread came with my meal, a fantastic creme of cauliflower which I forced Aidan to taste. She liked it so she had her meal. My fish was again prepared so well.I really wish it wouldn’t come with fries–I suppose then it wouldn’t be fish and chips, just fish–doesn’t really roll off the tongue as nicely. But it was delish!! The restaurant turns out to be the oldest restaurant in Reykjavik. Who knew? Then we saw some old gents come in for cake and coffee. Chocolate cake to be precise. I promised Aidan a piece after her tattoo.

We were then left with a few hours to kill before her appointment. There was an open air museum with old houses from the surrounding area showing how people lived in earlier days, a pioneer village we would call it, and as the weather was too nice to be indoors we headed out. What a great facility!!

There was the obligatory turf house complex which I just find so fascinating, complete with rhubarb cutter. Look how ingenious this small scoop shovel is, made from a shoulder blade bone, to clean out the cow barn, which still smelled like cow!! I loved it!!The houses were very small, and sometimes two families would live in each house. Space was tight so every inch was used. Check out how steep the stairs are and how well worn the steps are. I certainly wouldn’t be making many trips up those stairs. Many houses had several solid fuel burning stoves, wood, peat or dung, but couldn’t have been as well insulated as the turf house. There were lots of windows so even if cold at least there was lots of light. A super way to spend a few hours. Back at the tattoo place I had planned to go out shopping again but got sucked into the cozy couch. I wrote a few postcards and listened for screaming from the next room. Just kidding, Aidan did really well and was very happy with the result. I’m not allowed to scoop her release so I can only show a progress shot. As promised, I took her back for chocolate cake once it was all over. Quite delicious!!Home tomorrow!!

First day of summer

In the old Norse calendar there were only two seasons (much like Canada), winter and summer. In Canada it’s winter and construction. Traditionally it is the first Thursday after April 18.

We left Hvammstangi after a really good breakfast of bacon, eggs, waffles and all other kinds of goodies. I really had no specific plans to stop anywhere as it was the first day of summer, a national holiday, so it was uncertain what exactly would be open. I thought we might stop in Akureyri to see the lighthouse and perhaps walk the harbour. The lighthouse was easy to find, (not really) but I loved driving thru the residential streets looking at houses. I really want that blue house!!

We made it down to the lighthouse but the visitor center was closed and there was no other information board around so I really learned nothing about the lighthouses. There was a strange little white sand beach there, very unusual in a black sand beach country. I don’t know the story of why there are two different lighthouses. But there was a family of gnomes?We looked for but couldn’t find the harbour. I had hoped to wander thru some fishing boats, maybe sit with a coffee but there was nowhere. So we carried on. Now we could have gone the long way to Reykjavík, following the coast, but a newly constructed tunnel under the seabed shaved an hour off travelling time. Again, three and a half miles long, same as in the east fjords, there was no toll. Perhaps it is all paid for. The ventilation left a lot to be desired. The exhaust from the vehicles was actually obscuring the visibility. And the smell was quite strong. But we made it.

From here it was clear sailing into Reykjavík. Aidan had made an appointment with an Icelandic tattoo artist so she wanted to cruise by the shop just to say she was really in Iceland and would be there for her appointment on Friday. We stopped in but the artist wasn’t there. But at least we knew where to find the place. We walked around a bit. I didn’t want to shop really as I would do that while Aidan was otherwise occupied tomorrow. We stopped for a famous Icelandic hotdog. They are good, just a bit too sheepy for me. Then the waffle wagon was open at the square at Hallgrimskirkja so we had one of those too. The church was quite beautiful!!It was turning out to be a really lovely afternoon and we were puzzling about what to do. Pingvellir National Park or back to the Secret Lagoon. Well, not much of a contest really. The hot springs it was. And it was lovely again, although there were several tour buses there. On the way home we stopped at IKEA for supper. Aidan hadn’t had meat since we got here and I don’t count bacon or hotdogs. So roast chicken it was. I had the salmon. It was so much fun people watching. Everyone was out for a tasty cheap meal. One old couple sat next to us and I could tell this was a special meal for them. The old gent was very solicitous towards his wife, running for drinks and napkins and salt. Unfortunately he tipped his plate into his lap and I felt so bad for him. I suspect he had difficulty seeing. He managed to salvage most of it but it wasn’t the outcome he was hoping for.

Back to our guesthouse in Hafnarfjordur, which is really very nice. It was a great end to our circle trip.

Turf houses

We left Myvatn fairly early. We’ve been playing a game along the way–when we see the rest area sign (the one with a leaning pine tree and a picnic table), we sing out, “picnic spot” and try to see how many picnic tables there are. (I know. It’s a long drive.) Generally there’s only one, sometimes none, but this time there were two. Really close together. So we had to get a picture. Heading west now, we chanced upon the beautiful waterfall Godafoss. The parking lot was empty and coffee shop closed for another 20 minutes so we parked and walked down to the falls. Quite breathtaking!! We stood and admired it a bit and watched in horror as a photographer took his life in his hands at the foot of the falls. What people will do for that perfect shot. Back at the shop I had the bestest coffee while Aidan checked out the shop. Lots of interesting things. Back on the road, over the mountains. The weather was not sunny but it was clear and mild. No slushy snow today. Up along one of the fjords was a turf house museum I wanted to see. These are the buildings people lived in for centuries, like our prairie soddies but much more substantial. The lady at the museum had been to Canada. Manitoba generally and Gimli in particular. There’s a large Icelandic settlement there in Canada complete with a large Viking in the center of town. Anyway, she opened up the building for us and answered questions along the way. I thought it was fascinating, especially how they decoratively piled the turfs up. Once the turfs were piled they were sawn even to give a smooth finish to the wall. Walls were thick to keep out the cold. The furniture was amazing too. Especially the beds. They were so small and two people slept in each bed. The rooms up top were surprisingly bright and roomy, while the lower rooms were mostly store rooms. The big kitchen was downstairs too. The kitchen was also the bathing room as it was the warmest room in the house. People bathed twice a year, Christmas and the first day of summer. There was a small picnic area behind the museum shop so we stopped for lunch. This is me getting the look. But she got me back, snapping in mid swallow. The crocuses were blooming!!Then as we just finishing up, a second car had pulled into the yard with a couple of girls. They had their lunch too and then, unbelievably they were up on the 500 year old turf roofs dancing around like goats. I yelled at them to get off, using my too polite pissed off mom voice. Aidan said, why didn’t you use your “yelling at guineas in the garden” voice?? I wish I had. Can you believe it?? No respect 😳 They beat a hasty retreat and I was still pissed about it miles later.

A while later we pulled into yet another turf house museum. (I love these things). Much the same as the first but with subtle differences in the turf. I could see those patterns being used in a sweater. These beds belonged to the hired men. Approximately 30 people lived in this complex of rooms. Space was limited and so was privacy. Anything you had of value was placed under your pillow and no one touched it. Each man had an individual food bowl that he decorated and this was kept by the bed. This was a rhubarb chopper!!Both these farming/church complexes were started in the 11th century. There was a church at each one with first a priest then during the reformation a pastor. While the main man was out churching, he had to have hired men to run the farm so the complex supported many people. It was very interesting.

Then on we went to our next guest house in Hvammstangi. It was a very nice purpose built house just on the outskirts of town. We decided to treat ourselves to a nice supper and headed out to the town restaurant. I had the fish of the day, baked cod. OMG it was good. But it was served with chilli garlic rice and Mung beans. There wasn’t enough chilli to make it spicy and the Mung beans tasted dusty–the raw beet was just weird (and I love beets). Pickled beets would have been better–in fact they could have kept all that fancy stuff in the kitchen and I would have been happy with an extra piece of fish!!Poor Aidan had no luck with the menu–she had pizza again. It was very good but too much for one person. I also had a really good dark beer. But the highlight of the meal was the view out the window up the fjord. We spotted whales!! I think they were minke from the size of their dorsal fin. I think there were two, and they just slowly cruised up the fjord and then back down again. We were so lucky. The photo really looks like nothing but with our own eyes they were much closer and much more exciting. Perfect end to another great day!!

Hello winter my old friend

I woke up this morning to a snowy blowy frosty day. The first one up in the house, I thought I’d just sit in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and write up a blog entry. The hostess had shown me how to use the coffee maker. Just an aside here–I do not understand the attachment people have to automatic coffee makers. Yes a drip machine, ok fine. It just drips hot water over coffee grounds. Perfectly acceptable. But this machine ground the beans, then poured them into a receptacle, then heated and pumped the water, then by some sort of pressure forced the hot water thru the beans. The noise!! I thought everyone would coming running out to beat me for waking them!! I use a bialetti express at home–quiet, quick, makes a great cup of coffee. But I digress. The winter weather meant a trip east to Seydisfjordur might be off the table. The plows were out but even this short half hour drive might be a white knuckle event over the mountain pass. I just wasn’t up to attempting it. So we headed into town, did some sightseeing and stopped in at the local museum. They had a two room display, one on an old turf house with the assorted implements and accoutrements of life out in the country, and a caribou discovery center. Both were interesting. We got to take a selfie with a caribou!!We stopped in at the grocer and picked up some baked goods for a quick road lunch and decided to head out. Roads were wet but good till we hit the top of the mountain. Then it became unpleasant quite quickly. But thankfully it didn’t last long, just a half hour of driving in freezing slush several inches deep. Not fun. This was the nicest single lane bridge we crossed, and most of them are single lane. And then we were on the other side of the mountains. There was an odd coloured mountain off in the distance, then we noticed it smoking as we approached. We turned off to find it was the Fires of Morrrdorrrr (rrrroll your rrr’s). Really cool and a bit disconcerting to find out how close we are to holes in the earths’ crust. We were in a very active (volcanically speaking) part of the country.

Our guesthouse wasn’t ready for us so we went exploring the area. I had marked out a few spots to investigate once we were here. Dimmuborgir was a place with cool volcanic columns I wanted to see. We spent over an hour wandering along the paths thru these weird formations. It’s really hard to make out the detail. This volcanic rock just sucks up the light and the pictures really don’t look like much but it was so very interesting. We had to go for a hot chocolate afterwards. Then we drove a little farther down the lake to a forested park that had some nice paths to walk but the gates were already closed. That didn’t stop one couple from jumping the gates but we thought better of it.

Father back towards town was an extinct volcanic crater. We’d passed vehicles leaving so we thought we’d go have a look. Once in the parking lot I knew my knee wouldn’t make it. I encouraged my daughter to make the climb. The sign said a twenty five minutes climb to the top. The crater itself was larger than a football field and you could walk around the rim if so inclined. Aidan made it up and back down again in half an hour (or less). She’s a machine!!

By now it was time to check in and we then headed out to the Myvatn Nature Baths, (sorry no pics). The so called Blue Lagoon of the North. We were not immediately impressed as the water temperature left a lot to be desired. Colder than body temperature –my ears were beginning to get frostbite when we found where the hot water entered the pools. We lounged like lizards, soaking up the heat for almost two hours. It was great!! Not much for restaurants in this small town so we stopped for a hot, made to order pizza and scarfed it down in our room. Just what the doctor ordered. I lay down to sleep and opened my eyes a minute later–it was morning!! What a great sleep!! My daughter, who I’m sure loves me lots, only said, well you didn’t rattle the walls. Thanks, dear.

Ptarmigans, caribou, swans oh my!!

So the morning was absolutely perfect. Blue blue skies, no wind. Perfect for driving up the east coast fjords. Before Aidan woke up I walked down to the highway to take some pictures of the surrounding mountains and river. Breakfast was included in this lovely guesthouse so up to the main farmhouse we went. I think most of the people staying here were tourists but I just can’t get over how unfriendly everyone is. Maybe they’re just not sure what language to use but a smile works in any language. In B&B’s everywhere people generally greet each other. Good morning, enjoy your meal, goodbye. Something like that. Here everyone is very introspective. No eye contact, no chit chat. Not that I’m Miss chatty. I prefer my own company but I do like to say good morning, especially on such a fine day.

Breakfast was quite nice. Great bread selection, cold meats, cheese, boiled egg, skyr. Some house made smoked lamb and lamb liver pate. Pickled herring that were to die for. And really good coffee. After breakfast we intended to fuel at Höfn. But once we got there I realized Höfn was off the main road about 20 minutes. The map said there was another small town just ahead so we decided to fuel there. Except there was no gas station. Now I really didn’t want to start on our great adventure low on fuel. We popped into a yard and asked the farmer how far away the next gas was. We had half a tank and our B&B was only 200k away. The dash said we had 380k range (if you trust that sort of thing, which I don’t). The farmer said the next gas was 30-40 minutes ahead. He didn’t seem too confident but we figured, what the hell, he must know where the gas is so away we went.

I had envisioned this stretch to be the most difficult, something along the lines of the highway between Sooke and Port Renfrew. A really technical drive. And I was so grateful that the forecast of sleet and snow hadn’t materialized. As we took off into blinding sunshine and blue skies I just knew it would be a great day. We were seeing signs for caribou but figured our chances of seeing them were pretty slim. Around one corner Aidan said, what are those brown things in the field? Too big for sheep–they turned out to be caribou!! Lots and lots of them, scattered in small groups all along the fjordlands just like deer back home. They were pretty shy and we couldn’t get too close. Aidan had a real camera with her so was able to get much better shots than I could with my phone. Finally we just stopped taking pictures cause everywhere we looked there were caribou.

The highway hugged the coast but it was such an easy drive. No real grades, no twisty curves. Just a real joy to drive. And the scenery was spectacular. Mountains and glaciers and oceans. We flew by a sign that I quickly dismissed as not having the gas symbol on it but Aidan said, I think that’s our stop. So back we went. And sure enough it was just the prettiest little fishing village, with gas. We fueled up, used the wc, and had a walk around the small harbour filled with boats. The houses were so neat and tidy–I could live there. Such a remote and pretty spot. We picked up a yummy lemon cake from the grocer. On the way out there was a swan swimming along side the road. Aidan says they are whooping swans. They are everywhere too!!Then back on the road. We passed some nets out in the fjords–I think they are farming fish here but I don’t know what kind. This map gives you some idea of the ins and outs of the drive. The highway excellent and there was only a few kilometres of gravel where they were building a new bridge. And finally, near the end of the drive, there was a three and a half mile tunnel we had to drive thru.After that first pretty little town we popped into all the communities along the way. They were all nice ( but not as nice as the first one!!)This home had a troll house outside. This community had resident ptarmigans!! They are very shy birds too but how cool to see an active bird in town. We were nearing our destination and decided a hot soak in the community swimming pool would be just the thing. All of Iceland’s pools are outside. A large swim pool with lap area. Play area for the kids. Water slide usually. And two hot tubs-one hot and another one hotter. One glacier cold plunge pool. After our soak we were STARVING!! We asked the pool guy about restaurants and he recommended a few. The one we stopped at was a 50’s diner, a new restaurant in town. I so wanted fish and chips and they had it on the menu!! Aidan ordered an Icelandic hotdog with fried onions on top. My fish was sooo good. I had feared they would’ve been fish fingers or some other horrible thing but these were slivers of fresh cod, lightly battered and fried just enough. They were scrummy so I was quite happy. We had milkshakes also. With paper straws!! A few more stops in town looking for Aidan’s favourite skyr then off to the guesthouse. I must have been tired because I neglected to take pictures. We drove thru one of the most forested areas of Iceland as well and I didn’t get a shot of that either. Bed was very welcome tonight.

Glaciers

Our first B&B was really just a B.

A bed. No breakfast. But neither of us are really morning eaters so we just had skyr (Icelandic yogurt) and orange juice we had purchased the day before. We watched from our room as car after car drove past, heading for the beach. We weren’t really sure what was down there but we were game go find out. Well it was just the most beautiful black sand beach and black basalt columns. We snapped a shot of our guest house on our way by–not much to look at from the outside but quite pleasant on the inside. From here we stopped in Vik for gas, an excellent coffee at the Lava coffee shop and a tour thru the wool/tourist shop. I think Vik is a rest stop for your buses so there is, quite naturally a large woollen goods/tourist shop with absolutely beautiful things.

My daughter found a pony hide that wanted to come home with her.

The drive along the south coast was so very different from the two previous times we drove it. We thought we might be on the wrong road!! Even though there is really only the one major road. I mean, how much could things change in just a few years. There were towns and round-abouts and waterfalls we had never seen before. Like this one!!The moss covered stones were still the same but there were so many picnics spots and points of interest. Halfway to Jokulsarlon there is a new visitor center–at least I’d never seen it before. But I’d read about it before we came. There was a nice walk out back of it to the foot of the glacier. The sun was out and it was just a beautiful day. It was just a short walk, about 3k, but there were tons of birds and some spring flowers just popping up. There were pussy willows too. We came up to the glacier lagoon filled with ice chunks–there were warning signs but people paid absolutely no attention, running on the glacier, taking selfies. Just an accident waiting to happen. But it was sure beautiful.

It doesn’t look like the sun is shining but it was. After our walk out we were starving. We stopped at a picnic spot and had ham and cheese sandwiches. But by then the wind was coming up and it clouded over again. We stopped briefly at the Jökulsárlón glacier bay, but the tide was rushing back into the bay and there was no where to walk on the shore. The iceberg calves there were bright blue and we saw a few seals. The parking lot was jam packed. I’ve never seen it like that, with markers out for parking and so many people. It was cold and windy so we carried on to our next guest house. What a beautiful spot it was. We got a cabin with two bedrooms which made my daughter happy. Apparently my snoring is ruining her life. But after a full day outside we had been hoping for just some mindless tv before bed but there was no tv. But there was a deck of cards so we bonded over rummy. It was quite fun, not that my daughter would ever admit it. And so ended day two!!

Iceland

We started our holiday from Edmonton as always, getting to the airport in plenty of time. I chose poorly for our seats though, choosing the row before the emergency exit. It doesn’t recline!! Not even a bit. So Aidan got the window and I took the center seat. She slept. Me, not so much. The flight into Keflavík was early and we headed over to the rental car place. What a disaster!! Not only did they require a hefty deposit, buried in the fine print, but the tank was half empty, AND an hour into our journey we discovered the car was filled with mold!!We turned around and headed back. We got upgraded to a diesel, but had a really good look inside before leaving. Again, car filled with mold!! Then he pulled out all the stops and upgraded us again to a large Suzuki AUTOMATIC!! He asked, so cute, Barbara, could you drive an automatic?? Does a bear poop in the woods?!? Again another thorough inspection and we couldn’t find anything wrong. It was a very comfortable vehicle with much more clearance, more comfortable seats, better windshield. And bonus, today we discovered that by plugging in my phone the car would display my map feature so no more using the tiny phone screen for directions–we could use the bigger built it screen on the dash. For anyone who drives a modern vehicle this is probably a normal feature but all my vehicles are 15+ years old so not much more advanced than a Flintstone car.

Anyway we got back on the road. We were both so tired. We decided to skip our city activities and just head towards our first B&B via the Secret Lagoon hot springs. When the Blue Lagoon was being renovated a few years back this became the go to hot springs. The building was renovated to handle the hordes and now that the Blue Lagoon is back in business, they have improved facilities with fewer people. It was lovely!! Just a handful of people, a overcast day with showers and a few light hail storms that passed over and natural hot water. The Blue Lagoon is actually run off from a steam plant so not that nice really. A cool shot of vintage bathers…After a long soak we hit the road again. It was a very long 90 minute drive. We stopped in Vik on the south coast for supper, a really tasty pizza. Look how tired my girl is 🙁Once at the B&B our host told us the puffins were back. It was too early to go to bed so we headed out to puffin mountain 15 minutes away and drove to the top. And we saw them!! Not up close but we saw them flying back from ocean feeding. It was sooo windy up on top of the mountain. Quite cold but invigorating. We walked around but saw no nesting puffins, just the flying ones. But we were close enough we could see their little orange beaks. What a view from the top–the ocean was very angry!!Back to the B&B where we read till we fell asleep. About two and a half minutes. We’ll get our groove on yet!!

Out like a lamb

Well here we are, almost the Ides of April. Where do the days go? March slid out on a gentle breeze, with the sun shining.

The “swamps of sadness” never really materialized this spring. In spite of all the snow, the spring melt came and went in just a few days. I love that expression, used by another farmer to describe the soggy and disgusting state of her yard and corrals thru the melt. You are just never sure, when slogging thru the slushy detritus of snow and mud and hay and poop, whether you will successfully carry your five gallons of water (because the hydrant will be frozen till June), or go swimming in the muck, having tripped on a dog bone. I’ve landed on my bottom many times–always grateful not to have landed face down. The “swamps of sadness” actually comes from a children’s movie, The Neverending Story.There’s a flying dog/dragon in it that looks like my little dog. My daughter remembered watching it as a child and being slightly creeped out by it. I googled that particular scene and was actually quite traumatized by it–the boy hero’s horse becomes too sad to continue thru the swamp and sinks below the surface as the boy frantically tries to get him to move. This is a children’s story?!? But it quite accurately describes the usual spring state of my corrals. However, this year we had maybe 4-5 days of ooze and then magical dryness. It doesn’t bode well for the summer unless we get rain.

On a happier note, both my goats gave birth on March 31. I knew the one was ready and I was out every hour checking on her till mid afternoon when it seemed like she had plateaued. So I lay down for a 20 minute power nap on the couch. I woke up an hour and a half later to two missed texts and a missed call from my daughter. The babies were coming. As you can see from the before pictures, she was FULL of babies. Well, she had three on the ground by the time I got out there. My daughter, the goat midwife, was helping. I arrived just in time to pull number four. Then it was momma goats’ turn. She had been in the barn and had torn the place up but as she was showing no other signs of immanent birth I moved her to a smaller shelter while I set up a pen for Sissy goat. I’ve only been birthing goats and sheep since ’87, so I don’t know how I missed the obvious “nesting” activity, but no sooner did I set up the pen for Sissy, my daughter called me over to see momma goats’ new babies. She had three. A 350% increase in my goat flock in one afternoon!!Momma goat got the pen with the heat lamp!!

And on April 1st, it snowed. And snowed into the next day. Big fat lazy Charlie Brown snow flakes, till the next day it was all white. Again. I kept the goat babies inside till it all melted and was quite dry outside. They are all beautiful!!