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Friday, September 19, 2014

reykjavik golden circle tour

Here comes a huge post on one of my favorite Iceland adventures: the Golden Circle tour.  The Golden Circle is the name for the 185 mile route connecting three of the biggest natural sites outside of Reykjavik: the national park Thingveliir, the waterfall Gulfoss ("golden falls"), and the geyser valley Haukadalur, including Geysir and Strokkur.  The tour lasted about six hours and allowed us about 20-60 minutes at each site.  I saw landscapes and sites that I hope I never forget.  
It turned out to be a better financial deal for us to do the Golden Circle as a bus tour rather than renting a car and doing it on our own.  Commercial bus tours are extremely popular in Iceland, probably because they are affordable and make seeing the bigger natural sites really easy.  We went with Gray Line Iceland tours and were happy with the price and the tour.  I loved our tour guide's Canadian/Icelandic accent, I just didn't love it when he accused me of rubbing bacon on my tour bus seat.  Yeah...that actually happened.  Him accusing me, not the bacon part. 


Thingvellir (Þingvellir in Icelandic) is a large national park in the southwestern part of Iceland and is a historical, cultural and geological landmark.  The historical/cultural part: it's the site of the world's first parliament, established in 930 AD.  My public policy friend was completely geeking out over this site.  The geological/natural part: the largest natural lake in Iceland is nearby, but the real attraction at Thingvellir is the meeting of the American and European continents - literally.  The coolest part is seeing evidence of the two continents slowly shifting away from each other, at a rate of about a few centimeters per year.  In one of the pictures below you can see the path that you can walk through the space that has developed in the land.  I'm not a geologist, so I'm not going to try to explain how this is possible, but it was certainly cool to see. 



Gullfoss is a gorgeous waterfall and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.  The waterfall is made by the Hvítá river as it curves around the land and then drops into about a 100 foot deep crevice.  I enjoyed walking along the path that leads you right to the biggest part of the falls - and loved that I had my rain jacket to protect me from the mist coming off the falls.  I also loved the Bugles that I ate while I walked around Gulfoss. 

The aforementioned Bugles.  And our friends taking pictures of Paul taking pictures of us. 

We were on that rock where all the people are standing when Paul took the Bugle picture of us.  There was a small railing that kept you from jumping/falling in the water. 

The crevice!

The tour bus picked us up by the visitors center on the hill overlooking the falls.  There were some pretty fantastic landscape views from up there.  We took full advantage of them.

HAUKADALUR (Geyser valley)

Did you know that the word geyser comes from the geyser called Geysir in Iceland?  (Did you follow that?)  Some of the geysers are dormant now, but the Haukadalur valley that we visited has an active geyser called Strokkur that we saw go off several times while we there.  The geothermal area is activated especially by earthquakes, and the time the area was first mentioned in written sources was in 1294 - after an earthquake.  The water that "geyses" (a word I just made up) is warm, though we only felt the hot water coming out of a dormant geyser.  The water on the very edge felt as hot as a warm bath. 

The bubble that appears just before the geyser goes off.


After checking out the geysers we thought the tour was over, but then we looked out our window and saw hundreds of sheep being herded home for the night.  Amazing tour bonus! Don't think your eyes are tricking you - there were white, black, and brown sheep in the herd.  Just another day in Iceland....


The tour guide may have told us the name of this waterfall, but we were at the end of the tour and my attention was waning.  Plus I had to look in the guidebooks about half a dozen times just to get the names of three places that I did remember.  So forever in my mind this will always just be the "bonus waterfall."  

Thanks for reading!  Hope you enjoyed your cyber Golden Circle Tour! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

reykjavik art museum

I apologize for the delay in the Iceland posts; I came down with a severe case of delayed jet lag.  I had this post all prepped to finish yesterday, and then tiredness hit me like a train.  I slept longer last night and had more caffeine this morning, so I'm functioning a bit more like my pre-Iceland self again.  And now, back to your almost-regularly scheduled post.
One of my favorite ways to experience another culture is through their art.  When making our Iceland itinerary, we added a visit to the Reykjavik Art Museum along with our visits to the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle, and various restaurants.  I visited the museum on our last day in Rekjavik and decided to visit the location that houses the modern art exhibits - not because I'm a huge modern art fan, but because I didn't feel like walking extra miles to the location that houses their landscape paintings.  This turned out to be a pretty great idea.  
The museum fit the Icelandic/Scandinavian style aesthetic perfectly.  Many of the buildings and houses we saw in Reykjavik were box-like and many were built from concrete.  The sides of the buildings were flat, the angles right, the windows small and square.  This museum was basically an elevated version of the rest of the architecture seen in the city - with a bit more metal and flair.  

An Erro exhibit was up in the main gallery, and while my initial reaction was a mix of the regular aversion/suspicion I have of modern art, the pieces quickly grew on me.  The pieces were mainly collages and large scale paintings. 

These ginormous paintings were my favorite.  I loved the painting above ("Gauguin") because it featured some of my favorite paintings in a cool new way and gave me a different perspective on them.  Same with "Matisse" below. 
An adorable family with small children was walking around this exhibit while we there, and while I couldn't understand what they were saying, it sounded a lot like the mom kept asking the kids what they thought of the pieces -- and the kids kept responding!  Icelanders value art, literature, and music very highly, and it was awesome seeing a real family teaching their kids about this appreciation in person!  The museum was also very kid friendly and made it easy for children to experience and learn about art.

Another part of the museum held an art library that included this Tin Tin comic book in Icelandic.  Isn't it an awesome looking language?  After three days in Iceland I can understand...none of it. 

I really enjoyed our quick visit to the Reykjavik Art Museum and hope to visit the other locations if (when?) we make it back to Iceland.  Until then, I'll satisfy myself to enjoy my own local art -- and the Icelandic art postcards I brought back with me. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

and we're back!

We arrived back home from our brief trip to Iceland last night, and we're pretty quickly reacclimatizing to our own time zone.  Our apartment feels huge after our trip, the trees seem ginormously tall, and there's a whole lot of English being spoken around us.  Above is a picture from our second trip to Blue Lagoon - this photo being a little different than the one we took last year because 1) the weather was way better and 2) there were five extra (super cool) people with us!  We had such a great time, and I can't wait to share more photos with you.  Get ready for an explosion of Iceland awesomeness!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

off to iceland!

I've been quiet on here yet again, and this time it's for a very fun reason!  Paul and I are preparing to visit Iceland again and leave soon for our trip!  I'll be taking another break from posting but will be back next week with an exciting art related announcement and pictures of our trip.  Hope you have a great rest of your week.  (This is a photo of our trip to the Blue Lagoon last year which we'll be recreating in just a few short days!!)

Is fall in the air in your area?  I know I just posted about how I need more summer, but fall related weather and activities are so lovely....

Friday, September 5, 2014

porch garden

Here are a few photos of my porch garden for this Friday afternoon.  You may notice there's not a lot of difference between these and the photos I shared a couple of weeks ago.  The combination of our mild summer and the slightly lessened sunlight on the porch has led to slow growth in this year's plants.  I'm not complaining though.  I love my first porch garden, and I appreciate that it hasn't required a ton of work to keep up.  Here's some close ups of my porch plants.  

Here's evidence of something else that has stunted the growth of my plants: mischievous beagles.  Pedro and Diego have a taste for garden dirt, and they've knocked over a few plants and eaten around a few others to get to my potting soil.  They mostly killed this yellow flowering plant - even with putting a potted nasturtium close by to block them.  Beagles: the biggest hazard to a porch garden. 

This tomato plant also got the beagle treatment.  The beagles somehow discovered what tomatoes were, and then climbed on and around my other potted plants to get to them.  I can't figure out if they like the taste of them or not.  They knocked most of the green tomatoes off, and then kind of chewed and batted them around on the porch.  Can't say that I would do the same thing to green tomatoes but to each their own I guess. 

My other tomato plant hasn't faired too well either, but not because of the beagles.  This is the only tomato that's grown on the whole plant, and I'm not actually sure why.  I think the flowers haven't been pollinated since I haven't seen many bees up on our porch.  Maybe we'll just need to get our own hive??  Eh...probably not.  I think I'll opt for bee attracting flowers next season.  

This squash plant got the same treatment as the cherry tomato plant.  I think Pedro must think it's a mini tennis ball.  This is the last baby squash on the plant, and I'm crossing my fingers it survives long enough for me to harvest it. 

I was pleasantly surprised that the small plant I've been growing from seed turned out to be a ground cherry plant.  None of the "cherries" are ripe yet, but the early ones I've sampled have some potential.  

And the other surprise plant grown from seed - a violet plant.  It grew in the pot I had planted an annual in, one that subsequently died.  I saw that some green leaves were popping up, so kept watering it, and the leaves turned into a violet plant.  These are the kinds of surprises that make gardening so much fun.