Iceland Thanksgiving Day 3: Golden Circle


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


Temple of The Three Windows


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!

Peru Day 6: Aguascaliente


We woke up to the beautiful view of the mountains that surrounded us. After breakfast at the hotel, we went to meet our train, which was easy since we were right there.

The train was the Vistadome, so lots of windows to watch the Sacred Valley go by. I didn’t take pictures of the train today, will do that tomorrow!

Our seats faced a mom and her daughter. We got to talking and talked non-stop the whole trip. A little unusual for us introverts, but the stories were fascinating. The mother was born in the Ukraine and left when she was 9, moving to southern California. She met and married another Ukranian. The daughter was 19, just finished her first year at UCLA. And the rest of the family was hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu as part of a group of relatives who had made the trip. So much to talk about!

We arrived in Aguascaliente, the town that is closest to Machu Picchu, a little after noon. Our hotel met us at the train station and walked us down the hill to the hotel, transporting our luggage to. We checked in, then headed out for lunch, as there was a 2pm pisco sour/cerviche class and we didn’t want to miss that!


Our hotel, at the end

We got caught in a downpour and stood undercover for about 10 minutes to let the worst of it pass. We went into a French bakery for lunch. A tap on the shoulder and I turned around, it was our train companions. So we lunched together, then hurried back for our class.

The class was only another couple and us. The bartender taught us about the different kind of piscos. Pisco is a kind of brandy, grape based and aged in kettles, not oak. The pisco sour is a fairly simple drink, and we have the recipe to try at home. A hotel chef then came in to teach us ceviche, raw fish, lots of lime juice and several other ingredients. Tasty!

We headed back up the hill to town to explore more. We ran into our train friends again (it’s really a small town!). They guided us to a silver store, and Ellen picked up a few things. DSC_0321

We then walked through the central market. It was like most markets in what in sold, meat, chicken, fruits, vegetables. But the stray dogs roamed through it, it didn’t smell good, and I wouldn’t have eaten anything there for fear of getting sick. DSC_0316

We ate dinner at the hotel, it was included in our package. The meal was excellent. For an appetizer, I had quinoa crusted chicken nuggets. Better than any you get at McDonalds! Seriously, they use quinoa for so many things, we need to try to cook more with it.

The hotel secured our tickets for the bus to Machu Picchu and our entrance. Hoping it doesn’t rain, but ready for the experience tomorrow, no matter what.