Iceland – Day 3 – Part 2

The Edge of Oblivion aboard Ferry Baldur

After our day in Stykkishólmur it was time to board the ferry and make our way to the Westfjords. The ferry takes about 3 1/2 hours to make its way to Brjanslækur where we would depart and then head to our guesthouse near the Látrabjarg cliffs, home to millions of nesting puffins in the summer.

For this ferry ride only the driver of the car is allowed in the car when it goes on board. That meant Cynthia had to walk on and wait for me to get parked. It would not have been an issue except it took me a little extra time to get parked. When I drove on to the ferry there was an exiting car that was stuck because the owner had locked his keys in the car. The attendant had me maneuver around him and at one point had to lift the protective gate that keeps cars from plunging into the sea so I could move into position. It was exhilarating and terrifying. See the photo above.

Once we made the crossing I drove the car off of the ferry and collected Cynhtia and we drove on to our guest house off to the west of the Westfjords

The Long And Winding Road

We came across the statue of Kleifebui, a rock statue made by road construction workers in 1947. He stands on the road between Flókalundi and Patreksfjörð. It was cool to see.

Kleifebui

We also came across the wreck of the Garðar BA 64.

Gardar

According to Atlas Obscura

Originally known as the Globe IV, the large ship was completed in Norway in 1912 as a state-of-the-art-at-the-time whaling vessel. The hull was specially reinforced to break through the icy Southern seas in which it operated and the powerful engine kept the boat sailing even in calm waters. During its active lifetime it was sold around to a number of different countries before finding an Icelandic owner after World War II. Once whaling restrictions became more widespread, Garðar BA 64 (a name it finally received in 1963) was used or fishing herring in the waters off of Iceland.

After decades in faithful service to its bevy of owners, Garðar BA 64 was finally deemed unsafe for service in 1981 and as opposed to being scuttled, the old ship was run aground in Skápadalur Valley where it remains to this day, falling apart bit by bit. It is now a popular site for photographers and anyone looking for a lovely mix of Icelandic scenery and industrial ruin.

This drive took us to our first gravel roads. I had read that the road was a bit harrowing but was not fully prepared for what we encountered.

Road Conditions

Thank the gods for the good weather, otherwise this journey may have ended up being too much for us.

We made our way to the guest house which was quite basic. The owner welcomed us and was very kind and offered us a great dinner that consisted of vegetables, bread and a fantastic pan fried fish.

To say this area was remote would be an understatement. We had no cell service and the Internet at the guesthouse was all but unusable.

After dinner he suggested we head on to the Látrabjarg cliffs to see the puffins. It was around 9:00 pm with the sun shining that we headed off. We were in awe and somewhat terrified of the road that lead from the guest house to the cliffs.

I don’t have the photos to truly convey what we went through. But suffice to say it was some of the bumpiest, scariest driving I have ever done. We found ourselves high on mountain passes that twisted through the landscape with no guardrails and numerous warning signs. Fortunately there were very few cars on these roads.

When we got to where I thought should be the end of the road, we were merely on a beach. A car drove up and a French man that we had encountered earlier in the day excitedly told us about the puffins and cliffs ahead. He showed us some photos on his camera and this encouraged us to keep going.

When we got to the cliffs, we were not disappointed. Hundreds of puffins lined the top of the cliff and were happy to have their photos taken.

puffin19

puffin14

puffin13

puffin6

I have many more puffin photos here in my Flickr gallery

It was cold and it was windy, but it was the perfect conditions for puffin viewing. After about an hour Cynthia and I decided to retrace our treacherous steps back to the guesthouse. This was around 10:45 pm. Fortunately the sun stays up well past this time.

10:45 PM In The Westfjords

So far, this has been an awesome trip, despite the terrifying bits.

Iceland – Day 3 – Part 1

drivingday2

The sun was up an bright well past 11:30 pm last night. We woke up around 4:30 and it was back up again. Our hotel does not have blackout shutters so that’s unfortunate. We manage to sleep until around 6:00 am before giving up on sleeping in any later.

Stykkishólmur Light House

Breakfast is not until 7:30 so we went for a short walk. Stykkishólmur is a beautiful little town and the abundant sunshine is encouraging for the day’s activities.

Stykkishólmur Harbor

Our ferry across Breidafjördur Bay isn’t scheduled to leave until 3:45 this afternoon so we decide to book what is called the Viking sushi Tour which is a boat tour that takes you out and around the numerous small islands of Breidafjördur Bay. Cynthia was not keen on the idea and offered to stay back while I went. We talked about it for a bit and I was finally able to convince her to come along.

We bought tickets and went back to the hotel for breakfast and then packed up and checked out. Stykkishólmur seems very safe and we were not worried about leaving the bulk of our luggage in the car.

We goofed off for a bit more before boarding the boat to take the 2 hour tour. The weather was fantastic and this did a lot to bolster Cynthia’s spirits.

Cynthia On A Boat

During the tour we saw many birds, including the bird we came to see, the Puffin!

Puffin

It was difficult shooting them from the distance we were at and being on a moving boat didn’t help much, but the excitement of seeing all these birds took Cynthia’s mind away from her concerns and she ended up having a really good time.

In the middle of the tour was the event that makes this tour a Viking Sushi tour. They scrape the sea bottom and pull up all manner of sea life.

Viking Sushi

Viking Sushi

And serve them to you raw with wasabi and soy sauce. Yum!

Viiking Sushi

Viking Sushi

Once we were back on shore we got some lunch and prepared to board the ferry for out 3 1/2 hour ride to Brjanslaekur, our entry point to the Westfjords. That part of the adventure will be chronicled in my next post.

Iceland – Day 2

drivingday1

From Reykjavik to Stykkishólmur. A grand total of 214 miles. For scale, it’s 239 miles from Houston to Dallas.

We picked up the car, but were delayed by about an hour as they didn’t have our car ready. On the plus side, they discounted the rental due to the delay. We set off for Stykkishólmur at around 9:30 am via the scenic route and didn’t look back.

Kia Sportage

Today it was raining for most of the drive. Still, Iceland is fantastically beautiful. We saw mountains with misty clouds rolling over the top and countless waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. We stopped several times for photos but were slightly discouraged by the weather. We did the best we could and rolled into Stykkishólmur around 4:30 pm and checked into our hotel.

Snæfellsnes

Snæfellsnes

We drove way out to the western tip of the peninsula to see Snæfellsjökull, the mountain that served as the entrance to the subterranean journey in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Unfortunately the clouds cut off most of the mountain.

Snæfellsjökull

The weather in Stykkishólmur is a dramatic improvement over what we experienced on the drive and we set off to explore and find some dinner.

We found a restaurant called Narfeyrarstofa which came highly recommended. We were informed that that the catch of the day was a pan fried blue ling fish which is a type of cod. They suggested a pairing with a pinot grigio and we decided to go for it. BEST MEAL EVER!

Stykkishólmurcatch

On the way into Stykkishólmur we got our first up close look at some Icelandic horses.

Icelandic Horse

Icelandic Horse

We’re winding down now. Tomorrow’s a big day as we have a boat tour scheduled in the morning and a ferry ride to the Westfjords in the afternoon.

The Modern Church of Stykkisholmur

Ship Docked At Stykkishólmur

Trip to High Island

Seagull Shrimp Buffet

I finally made it out to High Island to visit the Audubon bird sanctuaries. I drove to Galveston and took the Bolivar Ferry over to the peninsula. Had fun watching the seagulls get fed by the willing tourists and the shrimpers.

Cheeto Party!

Once on the peninsula I found my way to High Island and the world famous Rookery. Hundreds of Roseate Spoonbills and Snowy Egrets building nests. Used the Sony A99 and my Minolta 300mm lens combined with a 1.4 teleconverter.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Snowy Egret

Little Planet Panoramas Of The Bishop’s Palace

The Bishop’s Palace, also known as Gresham’s Castle, an ornate Victorian-style house in the East End Historic District of Galveston, Texas.

he house was built between 1887 and 1893 by Galveston architect Nicholas J. Clayton

Reportedly listed by The American Institute of Architects as one of the 100 most significant buildings in the United States, and the Library of Congress has classified it as one of the fourteen most representative Victorian structures in the nation.

Bishop's Palace - Galveston, TX

Bishop's Palace - Galveston, TX

Ireland – Giant’s Causeway Long Exposures

Shooting Giant's Causeway

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was experiment with long, daytime exposures using ND filters. These photos of The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland were taken during the day and each exposure is approximately 30 seconds. The NDX 400 filter allows for this without overexposing the shot. The long exposure causes the crashing waves to appear as fog or smoke while the rock formations remain clear and detailed. I would have preferred a more sunny day, but the overcast skies actually aided in the final look and feel of these images.

Giant's Causeway - 1

Giant's Causeway - 2

Giant's Causeway - 3

Giant's Causeway - 4

Giant's Causeway - 5

Ireland – Day 11

First full day in Dublin and it has been raining all day. This has dampened our spirits a wee bit. It doesn’t help that we are also getting very tired. The whole trip has been so fantastic, but also very exhausting at times. We busied ourselves visiting the National Museum, the National Library and National Gallery. Admission was free to all of them, so that was a bonus.

I did get some interesting photos inside some of the spaces so I am happy for that. I was particularly mesmerised by the elevator/staircase in the back of the National Gallery

National Gallery - Dublin

National Gallery - Dublin

Cynthia enjoyed the reading room in the National Library

National Library - Dublin

National Library - Dublin

Tomorrow’s weather forecast is looking very good with sunshine predicted for the day. That means we get to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, ChristChurch and many other sites in the glorious sun (fingers crossed)

The

Ireland – Day 8

Today we set off to drive the Dingle Loop around Slea Head. We knew it was going to be a good day when we spotted a double rainbow over the Dingle Whiskey Distillery.

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

This drive was, hands down, the most beautiful and scenic drive of the entire visit to Ireland. The sun was shining brightly and the skies we blue with few clouds. The sea surrounding the peninsula was sparkling with waves crashing on the rocks. The road was quite narrow most of the drive and became exceedingly so at various points along the way.

road2

road

We drove for hours and hours, stopping frequently at many scenic overlooks just to take in the view. Cynthia was a little worried about some of the more adventurous photo opportunities I was taking.

risk

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

Every turn, around every narrow corner brought us to another fantastic site. Fortunately, there were plenty of places to pull over and park so that we could enjoy the view and take some pictures.

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

We wrapped up around 5:30 back at the B&B and took a short nap before heading out in the evening for some food and to listen to some live music. We ended up having dinner at Murphy’s Pub and got to see a local Irish band called Tintean.

Tintean - Kerry based Irish band

They were quite good. They played many of the songs you would expect, but also several we had never heard before.

Tomorrow looks a bit cloudy and rainy, but we hope to make the best of our last day in Dingle before making the trek back to Dublin

jayandcynthia

Ireland – Day 2

Today was a good day. The morning started off with thick fog. But as the sun came up, it burned off and we were treated to some very nice sunny skies.

Shooting Ginat's Causeway

Our first stop of the day was the World Heritage Site known as The Giant’s Causeway. There was still some fog around so it was a moody visit in terms of weather. We were quite happy that we remembered to bring our hiking boots. The terrain is quite rocky and treacherous. Though I suspect it would have been far worse had it been raining.

It is a fantastic site to see and we had some fun climbing around the site.

Meself On The Giant's Causeway

Cynthia On The Giant's Causeway

After hiking around The Giant’s Causeway we headed over to the Carrick-a-Rede, a rocky island connected to the cliffs by a rope bridge.

Getting to the bridge is a hilly climb, up and down the hillside. But the reward is a frightening opportunity to cross a bridge made of rope that spans 20 metres (66 ft) and is 30 metres (98 ft) above the rocks below.

Cynthia on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Cynthia was petrified and said that she waited 55 years to cross this bridge and once was enough. When pressed, she said if she lives to be 110 she would repeat the experience. Must remember to set a calendar reminder :)

A Terrified Cynthia on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Meself on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Seriously, though. This WAS her idea. And it was actually a lot of fun.

From here we made our way over to Dunluce Castle to see the ruined structure before it completely collapses into the sea.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

All in all, it was a fantastic day. When the sun was shining, short sleeves were just fine. But when the clouds began to return in the evening we were once again glad we had our heavy coats.

Tomorrow we check out of our lovely hotel and make our way to Derry and on to dear old Donegal Town.

Ireland – First Full Day

cynthiabandb

We got up bright and early and had ourselves the full Irish breakfast. Mmmmmm, blood pudding! Cynthia’s feeling much better after the whole incident with breaking my glasses.

irishbreakfast

We only chose to stay in Dundalk because it wasn’t far from the airport and made for a good jumping off point to head north.

After breakfast we packed up our gear, loaded the car and headed off to drive to Belfast and then link up with the Causeway Coastal Route.

The first place we wanted to see was Carrickfergus. We stopped to see the castle and take in the view of the sea. It was a pleasant stop.

jayshipwreck

The coastal route takes you along the upper north coast of Northern Ireland and is something to see. Beautiful landscapes along a winding, twisty road that sometimes gets down to a single lane for two way traffic. This can be quite intense as you drive along, having to yield to oncoming traffic with practically nowhere to go. To make matters even worse, there was a bike rally of some kind going on and we had to carefully and frequently pass cyclists along the way.

We made our way to Ballygally Castle around lunchtime and stopped to get some food.

cynbally

We also paused to take a few photos.

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Head of Ballygally Bay

Coastal Road Rest Stop

From there we continued to wind our way to Portballintrae where we had a hotel reservation for a few nights. We got checked in and cleaned some of the road from our weary bodies and went for dinner at the Porthole Restaurant. The food was fantastic. Be both had locally caught salmon and shared a bottle of wine to toast our success.

cynthiawine

For now we say goodnight to Portballintrae

Ballintrae Bay

Tomorrow we visit Giant’s Causeway, The Rope Bridge, Dunlace Castle and The Bushmill’s Distillery.

La Crema Las Fallas 2013

This is the event that the whole Las Fallas festival leads up to. All those fantastic Falla sculptures are burned to the ground. There’s no way to see them all. You pick one you want to watch and stake out a spot. We chose the one named “Que se mueran los feos” which translates to “May the ugly ones die”. It cost over 100,000 Euro to build. It is located just north of the dry river bed and is easy to get to from our hotel and has the added benefit of not being in a cramped little street corner or the one in the city center, all of which are very difficult to get to and very, very crowded.

This is what our Falla looks like in all of its pre-Crema glory

Before it was Burned

We arrived just before midnight to stake out our spot. The burning was only about 20-30 minutes late as we waited for the fire men to get in to position. There was a sudden detonation of some aerial fireworks and then the lights went out and this happened.

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

c8

And POOF!

Las Fallas - Crema

All gone!

We walked back to our hotel exhausted, but satisfied. Tomorrow we head off to Madrid to spend the night and the fly back to Houston for some much needed rest and relaxation.