Tag Archives: Iceland

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 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!

 


Denmark/Iceland Day 10: Home and Wrap-Up

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You can wake up in Reykjavik and 6 hours later be back in DC. We had a smooth trip home, not much really to report. Filed for our VAT refund, spent some remaining Icelandic currency in the duty-free shot (saving some for Ben and Courtney’s New Year’s Trip), grabbed a quick bite in the Icelandic Air lounge and flew home. Global Entry helped smooth the process although the longest wait was for the luggage to come (but it did!). We had parked at a nearby hotel using Spot Hero, just $30 for 10 days.

Observations

We liked Denmark. It didn’t have the natural beauty of Norway or the people warmth of Sweden, but the people were nice and accessible, it was easy to get around, both with public transport and driving.

Ellen, as always, gets huge praise for her trip planning skills. We worked well together, changing our itinerary for the first time I remember, to drive further and see more.  Aarhus was the highlight of Denmark for me, and that was the city we added.

Technology wise, US chip credit cards worked well. We got a BarclayCard with a pin specifically so we could use a card in automated machines (gas pumps, parking meters, etc), and it helped out in several cases. We had good experiences with SIM cards in both Denmark and Iceland. Spoiled so much that our 1/2 day in Sweden felt jarring that we didn’t have data. Impressed that Waze continued to direct us in Malmo even when we lost data coverage.

Found a great use case for the Apple Watch. When trying to find a store or restaurant, instead of carrying the phone around for directions, I used Apple Maps and then put my phone in my pocket. The watch then displayed the directions and tapped appropriately when it was time to turn. It worked well and felt much safer not to have the phone out.

We did notice that many establishments have added surcharges on credit cards in general or foreign cards specifically. Still better than carrying a lot of cash, but there always seems to be some gotcha to get travelers to cough up more.

We used Tripadvisor and Yelp to help select restaurants, and that produced some great meals. That and we repeated meals at The Little Apothecary in Copenhagen and Icelandic Fish & Chips in Reykjavik.

Iceland was as wonderful as always. It was nice to have a car and do the traveling on our own. That allowed us to pick our sites and visit towns and restaurants too small for even a 16 person tour group to visit.

We had some of our best conversations with locals in stores, especially Skagen in Aaarhus, Thomas Sabo in Malmo and 66° North in Reykjavik. We ask questions of the retailers and find they are more than willing to share some of their background and viewpoints to interested travelers.

The biggest advantage of travel in my opinion is how it opens your eyes. Not just to how others live, but taking you out of what your normal is. Things like air conditioning. Copenhagen doesn’t have it because it is rarely hot, but when it is (like when we visit), they deal with it. The stores, the restaurants, the subway cars were hot. But when a rail car is unairconditioned in DC, all of a sudden #hotcar is trending. We are spoiled in the US, with comfort, big cars, and huge portion sizes. At many restaurants, a soda or sparkling water was 250ml, a little over 8 ounces. And that was it. No free refills. And you made it last because it was already $4.

I hope to keep that perspective with me of seeing the world differently and challenging the normalcy we get used to.

Thanks for reading along, I’ve enjoyed the questions and comments. If you enjoyed it (and got this far), do me a favor and like on Facebook or WordPress, or favorite on Twitter, just so I know you were reading.

Until our next big trip, which is….CUBA!


Denmark/Iceland Day 9: Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik

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Reykjavik has 21 hours of sunlight this time of year, and even after the sun set last night, it was still a little light. Flipside in winter must be tough.

This morning we drove back to the airport to return the car. Next, was our 3rd visit to Blue Lagoon. It’s fed by geothermal waters, so even with a 55°F outside temperature, it is warm and relaxing. We walked around the pool for about an hour, then had 1/2 hour in-water massages. Takes all the stress away to float on air mattress in the water and get a massage. They have this natural silica that results in the obligatory selfie.

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A bus ride back to the city, we then set out to walk and explore. This is the harbor right across from our hotel.

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The Harpa Concert Hall is also right on the water. We went in, it’s full of mirrors and glass and reflects the water and the city.

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A walk up the hill took us to the church, Hallgrímskirkja

. This time we went in. Plain on the inside.

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Last thing was a nice dinner, and we certainly had that at 3 Frakkar. Ellen had smoked cod, I had (and I took a picture of the menu so I could describe it for Rebecca) panfried salted fillet of Cod with cashew nuts, raisins, tomato and apple. We both thought our dishes were excellent, the sauces made them especially flavorful. We shared an ice cream sundae for dessert.

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We got the idea tonight that I should look for an Iceland football jersey. We tried a few stores before dinner with no luck. Ellen made it a mission, looking at all the stores on the way home, and lo and behold, we found one. So my collection now includes jerseys from Barcelona, Argentina, Poland, Denmark & Iceland, with a rugby shirt from Ireland.

Tomorrow, we have to come home. Glad to see Colby, but wishing this great vacation didn’t have to end.


Denmark/Iceland Day 8: Now with Iceland!

We changed countries fairly easily. And our car rental for the day was a Hyundai i30, so not much changed!

Before we get too far, the poll yesterday. Of 21 votes, 14 of you guessed $45-55. And you were right, the toll was around USD $55 EACH WAY between Copenhagen and Malmo. We found out there is also a train right from the airport to Malmo. Maybe next time!

Today was the first time in our 3 visits to Iceland that we rented a car and did our touring by ourselves. In the past we had used a tour company, but they were sold out for the western coast this time, so we decided to do it ourselves. Pixels will not do it justice, but here is a taste of what we saw today. DSC_0488 DSC_0473 DSC_0477 DSC_0483 DSC_0469 DSC_0470

The temperature varied from 8-14°C, overcast, windy, and it was still just breathtaking sites.

We drove back to Reykjavik and checked into our Planet Aparment place. New for us, quieter part of town, looks really nice.

We have a few favorites from our past visits, and we took quick advantage of them. First was Icelandic Fish & Chips for dinner. They have moved to a larger, brighter space. Food still as good.

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Next was my favorite outerwear store, 66° North. We both got jackets there.

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Finally we walked up to the church, because it is just such a great visual site. A good full day!

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Vacation Day 10: Blue Lagoon and Home

Today was an easy day to write about. We got up, packed up and took a van to the Blue Lagoon.

Located just 20 minutes from the airport (and 40 minutes from Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon is a spa, fed by geothermal water. They are set-up to make it easy to stop there either on the way to or from the airport. We had made it the last stop of our vacation two years ago, and decided to repeat the visit.

Even though it was 55 degrees, overcast and with another vicious wind, you could stay in the water and it felt great. Image

And this year as a special treat, Ellen put some tutoring money to cover in-water massages. They put you on a float, put a towel on top of you to keep you warm, and gave the massage while you lay on your back. It was 30 minutes of heaven!

Blue Lagoon is known for all sorts of minerals. They have silica available, that you let dry on your skin. Here is the obligatory picture.Image

We then shuttled to the airport. We took care of getting our VAT refund, buying a couple of things in the duty free store, hanging in the lounge, then waiting for our flight. It was about 1/2 an hour late because of a computer problem with the boarding computers, but otherwise a fine flight.

Feels good to be home. Back to work tomorrow! In fact, going through Immigration, I was asked my occupation. Then my industry. Then my company. When I said FrontPoint Security, the agent said he was a customer and loved his system! That was a nice welcome back.


Vacation Day 9: Volcanoes and Waterfalls and Puffins, Oh My!

I started out the day with a run. Conditions were something less than ideal.

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We did Iceland Horizon’s South Shore tour today. Left the hotel at 9, got back at 7:30. Did so many fun things, just going to let the pictures tell the story. Upon return, we visited one of our favorites from last trip, Icelandic Fish & Chips. They didn’t have room to seat us, so we got our food to go and ate back at the hotel.

We saw the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, the one that caused all the trouble in 2010.Image

We saw puffins!ImageImage

We saw waterfalls.

Most fun was one you could walk behind. Or see rainbows. Or a waterfall that fell into a cave.

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ImageImageWe saw black sand beaches that were gorgeous.

ImageAnd we will have lots of happy memories of this trip.Image