Iceland Thanksgiving Day 4: Last Day

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Entrance to Art Museum

Here’s finishing off the trip, so this recaps Sunday. Was too tired to write when we got home last night.

Sunday morning we got up in the dark, which of course you have to do it it’s before 10:30. Ellen had selected a place for breakfast in the centre city, Bergsoon Mathus. We arrived around 8:45, to get a very nicely delivered explanation that while they opened at 8, their chef had not made it into work yet. I guess it was Sunday morning! So they said they could put a plate of bread and meat/cheese/tomatoes together for us. We weren’t looking for a big breakfast, so took what was available. Just wondering how much longer that chef will be employed.

Our destination for the morning was the Reykjavik Art Museum. The museum has 3 locations, we went to the modern museum, Hafnarhus, which is right on the harbor. There was an awesome exhibit on the ground floor Erró. The cartoon style belied the heavy theme of war in his art. erro

Yoko Ono had a participatory display, where you could put a wish on a tree, write about your mother, paint and pound a nail. Never will get her art. yoko

It was definitely a museum worth visiting.

We hustled back to our AirBnB to gather our stuff, caught the FlyBus to the airport, and then had plenty of time to file for our VAT tax refund, get through security, and do some duty free shopping. We picked up some more Havana Club rum, now that it’s legal to bring it into the country from countries other than Cuba. I bought a few 66° North hats. We had lunch with Robyn and then said our goodbyes.

I did like the Dyson combination sink and hand dryer in the bathroom, have not seen this in the US yet. img_1825

The 6 hour flight allowed me to watch 3 movies. There was a 2016 movie called Reykjavik, so I thought I should watch it. It was really good, I recommend it. Here’s the trailer.  I then wanted something light, so watched Caddyshack. Pretty much as I remembered it. Lastly, had never seen Bonny & Clyde.

Global Entry again breezed us through Immigration. Almost too fast as we needed to wait for our luggage, which came out in the latter half. But then we could get through Customs quickly too. Had to wait for shuttle to our car, but were home just after 8:30pm EST.

Iceland once again was inviting, pleasant, friendly and fantastic. We didn’t have any difficulties, everyone we came in contact to was nice, and we enjoyed everything we did. Seeing the Northern lights was a real bonus, as we heard they had been elusive lately with cloudy weather and we snuck in just when the skies cleared.

I think we’ll continue to go back, maybe throwing in a day trip to Greenland and a trip all the way around the island.

 


Iceland Thanksgiving Day 3: Golden Circle

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Today, we took the Golden Circle tour, which hits the “must see” natural attractions in western Iceland. For the 3rd time, we used the small tour operator, Iceland Horizons, which we continue to recommend.

The tour includes 2 waterfalls, the spot where the North American and Euroasian continental plates meet and the geyser Geyser, which gave all geysers their name. I’m just going to share all the pretty pictures.

I’ll start with a video of the Strokkur geyser eruption, followed by a waterfall video, then highlight pics.

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We arrived back in Reykjavik  around 4:30 and stopped for coffee/tea/beer. Dinner was a 15 minute walk to Kitchen & Wine, where Ellen and I both had trout and Robyn had lobster.

We have time tomorrow for one more museum, before returning home. We’d definitely enjoy a few more days and are pretty sure that our 4th visit to Iceland will not be our last.

 

 


Iceland Thanksgiving Day 2: Harpa and Northern Lights

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We had never spent a full day in Reykjavik before on our short visits, so that was the focus today. We headed out in the dark, with sunrise at 10:30am today. We first hit Reykjavik Roasters for coffee for Ellen and Robyn and tea for me. I’m told the coffee was very good.

You can’t spend a moment in Reykjavik without noticing Hallgrímskirkja Church. Set high on a hill, it soars over the city. Distinctive on the outside, plain on the inside, we wanted to make sure Robyn saw it.

Heading to our next stop, we passed by Braud & Co. The smell outside DEMANDED that we go in. There were cinnamon buns coming out of the oven that had to be eaten. The bread looked amazing too. dsc_0217

For reasons we are not sure of, our next stop was The Icelandic Phallological Museum.

We now have finally done a museum in Iceland, and we really enjoyed the National Museum of Iceland. It did an excellent job of telling the story of Iceland, from settlement to the present time.

We then walked into the center of town. We needed lunch and just happened to stumble upon one of our mandatory stops every visit, Icelandic Fish & Chips. How can you not enjoy organic, fresh fish?img_1746

Our next sightseeing destination was Harpa, the concert hall on the water. img_1789

We took a tour of the facility, which took us into several halls and other interesting spaces.

Robyn and I made a quick walk in the wind before the tour to the Sun Voyager sculpture by the water. img_1749

We walked through town to pick up a few things for dinner. The city is so pretty right now, with Christmas approaching. dsc_0251

We received an email during the day that our Northern Lights tour was on. We got picked up around 8:30pm in a van and headed north of town. We stopped below a mountain and were told to watch. We saw occasional pillars of light but they didn’t turn into anything. Then, after about 20 minutes, the pillars grew larger and lights appeared that shined above the mountains and continued all the way to the middle of the sky. I did not bring a tripod and was unable to get a picture. After about 15 minutes, the lights faded, clouds came up and we had to move.

We then moved to another spot, where the lights were already clearly visible. There was a tourist sign there that I could rest the camera on, and got a few 20 second exposure shots that showed light. So I’m declaring victory there!dsc_0252

We didn’t do everything we wanted to, but the National Museum, Harpa tour and northern lights were all wonderful experiences. We’ll squeeze more in in the next day and a half!


Iceland Thanksgiving: Day 1

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When visiting a country you have been to 3 times previously, it’s pretty easy to hit the ground running. We got on the plane and slept. We landed and knew just where to get our SIM cards (Arrivals Duty Free store, ask the cashier, Nova cards). We knew where to catch the FlyBus to the Blue Lagoon.

What was different this time was it was dark. We landed at 6:30am, were on a 7:30 bus to the lagoon, arrived there at 8, and got out of the water just around 10:30am…when it was just starting to get light. It was cold and windy and rainy, but with 100ºF water, it was still really comfortable and relaxing. But you miss seeing the moonscape-like lava fields on the way in from the airport.

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We then bussed into the city, found our AirBnB (our first time using it), met up with our friend Robyn who had arrived one day early, and headed into town. It’s never a mystery what my first desired stop is. img_1737

Got to visit the new flagship store. But since I own 3 jackets, a shell, a hat and a t-shirt, there really wasn’t anything compelling to buy. So I bought a pair of socks.

We walked more through town, which just feels like home at this point. Like seeing City Hall. img_1733

The Christmas decorations are up, and since there are only 5.5 hours of light now, they get to be lit up a great deal. img_1738

Ellen had picked a tapas place that Ben had recommended to us, Tapas Barinn. Fairly traditional tapas, a good amount of fish offered.

We were supposed to do a Northern lights tour tonight, but it was canceled due to the weather. Although the lights were a big part of coming in November instead of our traditional summer visits, we had read that the weather can be uncooperative, so you shouldn’t have your heart set on seeing them. So we don’t. We have two more shots the next two nights, but we’ll see what happens.

We have museums scheduled for tomorrow and the Golden Circle tour for Saturday. On the way home from dinner, we had to walk by the hot dog stand made famous by Bill Clinton. img_1739

Hope everyone back home is having a happy Thanksgiving!

 


Peru Day 9: Finishing Lima

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We made the most of our last day in Peru. Today was the day to do Lima and we did it!

We Uber’d (for $5) from Miraflores to the historic area. Plaza de Armas, above, was a picturesque square, with the Catedral, Presidential Palace and other great buildings.

We started at the Catedral. Unlike the other churches, we could take pictures inside. They had an brochure in somewhat awkward English that gave us a good idea of what each section was about. DSC_0426

We then walked the streets, happening upon a parade, we know not the reason for. Here’s some video and pictures of the parade.

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Even the young ones enjoyed. DSC_0459

We couldn’t help but notice that there were riot police at every corner of the square. Not sure if that is normal for near the Presidential Palace but we sure didn’t start any trouble.DSC_0429

We happened by the Presidential Palace right at noon, so got to witness the changing of the guard. I have videos that I’ll try to add later.DSC_0434DSC_0466

Our next stop was the San Francisco Monastery and Catacombs. We couldn’t take pictures inside, but we saw a lot of skulls and bones!DSC_0479DSC_0480

Being Capitol Hill residents, we couldn’t help but take a picture of the Congress. DSC_0484

Lunch was in Chinatown. We were the only English speakers here, but it was so worth wandering into Salon CaponDSC_0491

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My only souvenir on these trips is usually a soccer jersey from the national team. In this case, we had to find an Umbro store which meant going to the Jockey Plaza mall. We found the helado store that had been recommended to Ellen. And the soccer jersey. And enjoyed walking around.

Our last dinner was a place recommended by our neighbor, Elvis, when I was out walking Colby just before we left. It was a short walk from our hotel, and just an amazing Amazon-themed menu. ámaZ was delicious. We were sitting just next to a young couple, who happened to be huge foodies who live in Crystal City. We chatted just about the whole meal, sharing stories and food. Hope to see China & Nathan sometime back home!

We fly home tomorrow, via AeroMexico with a layover in Mexico City. Not long enough to explore anything more than the airport, but we’ll make the most of that.

Thanks for reading along. As usual, I’m asking, as a marketer, for you to like or comment this post, especially if you’ve been lurking so I know who has been following along.

There will be one more post to sort through our experiences and impressions. Buenos noches!


Peru Day 8: Cusco to Lima

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Ellen was especially glad that we were trading in 11,000+ feet of altitude for sea level. It just took a little longer than expected.

First though, we can’t say enough good things about Casa Cartegena. They greeted us by name when we came downstairs this morning, grabbing our suitcases so I didn’t have to carry them both. They had already run our credit card, so they handed us the receipt. We had arranged with OUR cab driver from the Cusco/Oly runs to take us to the airport, he was there to greet us. While he went to get the car, they ran to breakfast to bring us some juice and orange breakfast bread. Seriously, just the best experience there.

We got to the airport plenty early, checked our bags and waited. Then we heard the flight before us was canceled. Just as our flight should have been boarding, we got the news ours was canceled too, as the whole airport was closed for fog. Back downstairs to the check-in desk. Unlike in the States, they brought the luggage back and we had to recheck it. I had missed that, but luckily Ellen noticed and retrieved our bags, just as I got to the front of the line. We’ve noticed that the Peru airports are very efficient and well managed. They brought extra employees to the desks and had a supervisor available. So our 8:15am flight was replaced with an 11:50am flight. That was better than we expected. So we found a coffee shop and chilled for awhile. All travel will have some bumps, this wasn’t so bad.

Arriving in Lima, we got our luggage and met the driver our hotel had arranged to meet us. We are staying in the Miraflores district of Lima, rather upscale and nice! We took off immediately to explore the neighborhood, finding the nicest outdoor mall on the water. DSC_0396

We then walked along the Malecon and were happy to find Paddington! DSC_0401

A little while later, we found Parque del Amor that reminds us of Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona. It  really was nice at sunset.

We kept walking along the water to our restaurant, El Señorio de Sulco. We got there early, 6:30 for a 7:00 reservation, and had the place to ourselves for at least an hour. We enjoyed the attention, I told Ellen it was like a The Bachelor date when the couple has no one around them. We enjoyed a tuna/tomato/alvacado appetizer and meat dishes for dinner. Everything tastes so good here. And so reasonable.

We did an American thing to get home, we requested an Uber. Uber is big in Lima, touted as one of the safest ways to get around. We were surprised when a taxi pulled up, but the driver was great and it cost all of 7 soles ($2.10) for a 9 minute, 2.1 kilometer ride.

Tomorrow we have a full day to explore the city. We’ll start with walking tours and see what else we want to do on our last full day in Peru.


Peru Day 7: Machu Picchu

Up at 4:45, quick breakfast, met our guide at 6am. He told us there is already a one hour line for the busses up. It looked like this. DSC_0323

The line moved and it only took us about 40 minutes to get on a bus. What a ride it is, though. Takes about 1/2 an hour, switchbacks up the mountain, only one lane, shared by busses in both directions and hikers. From the top, it looks like this. DSC_0373

You get your ticket scanned, you walk in, and you get the money shot right away. DSC_0339

I’ve seen plenty of pictures of Machu Picchu. What they don’t convey is the enormity of the site. It covers such a large area and has so many different facets to it.

Having read “Turn Right at Machu Picchu,” I was especially looking for the Temple of Three Windows. It did not disappoint.

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Temple of The Three Windows

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The Incas used existing rocks as part of their construction.DSC_0350

As you probably know by now, I can’t resist pictures through windows.DSC_0380

I was especially taken by this rock, shaped to match the mountains it faced. DSC_0364

The number of terraces was perhaps the most awesome sight.DSC_0384

By the end of our visit, the low hanging clouds really swooped in.DSC_0389

It really is a magical place, and truly deserving of the overused “bucket list” phrase. Come to Peru!

The rest of the day seemed anti-climactic. By the time we got back into town, it was POURING. We ate at the same French bakery as yesterday. We walked around the market. The hotel so nicely brought our bags to the train station. Our train was on time. Oh, I promised a picture. DSC_0391

Our taxi driver who took us from Cusco to Ollantaytambo met us as promised to take us back. Our Cusco hotel upgraded us to a luxurious suite and had our luggage waiting there. We ate dinner at Marcelo Batata, just down the street from our hotel.  A fabulous Peruvian meal with an appetizer, 2 main courses, 2 drinks and dessert cost $54 including tip. The first floor of the hotel is an art gallery that we wandered into because of colorful tapestries. We have no wall room at home, so instead we ended up with a hand painted ceramic bull, which you’ll see on top of houses in Peru as a symbol of good luck.

We return to Lima and sea level tomorrow, Ellen is looking forward to easier breathing!