London – Day 9

Temperature is dropping on London. Down in the low 30’s and the room has a slight draft. Last night we found the space heater. It made the room very comfortable but Cynthia was worried about it being a fire hazard so she had me switch it off when we went to sleep. The about 1 in the morning she woke me up to turn it back on.

Our commuting has been slightly disrupted due to the closure of the Central and District subway lines. These are the primary east/west lines and hit many of the spots we like to visit. Navigating around these closures has been challenging but not insurmountable.

Imperial War Museum

Today we went to the Imperial War Museum. This is a fantastic space and we spend most or our day there exploring. We particularly enjoyed the First World War Galleries exhibit. Very powerful and informative.

Imperial War Museum

We spent the rest of our day wandering around the parks and visiting with the birds

Pelicans

Pelicans

Tomorrow’s forecast is for sun so we plan on going to St. Pauls so Cynthia can climb to the top and also to ride the London Eye.

London – Day 8

FullSizeRender (1)

It’s Boxing Day. Most all the museums and other sites are closed. The Tube is running a reduced schedule and it’s cold and overcast. We made the trek out to see the replica blue police box because we are somewhat nerdy about Dr. Who and on our way back we took a peek at the Harrods window displays. After a nice Indian meal for lunch we decided to take it pack it on and take it easy for the rest of the day so we could catch up on some photo editing and post card writing.

If we get inspired we may go out tonight, but I am not counting on it.

London – Day 7 – MERRY CHRISTMAS!

cracker

Today was Christmas day and we had a very low key agenda planned. The hotel is minimally staffed so the breakfast was continental rather than full English. The tables in the breakfast room had Christmas crackers placed at each of the seats so we got to experience that English Christmas tradition. You pull the cracker like like a wishbone and it pops and inside is a small toy, a Christmas crown and a bad joke.

quacker

After breakfast we decided to go for a walk. It was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and blue skies so we wandered around Hyde Park.

Swan

From there we found our way to The Grazing Goat where we had reservations for a traditional Christmas dinner. It was a very festive and delicious experience. I had Venison Wellington and Cynthia has a more traditional turkey dish. Again we had crackers and we decided to wear our Christmas hats for the entire meal.

Christmas Hats

We met a lovely couple from Edinburgh who were in London for the holidays and we had a very nice time sharing travel stories and generally carrying on. At the end of the dinner we had a traditional Christmas pudding for dessert and then found our way back to the hotel. Unfortunately the subways don’t run on Christmas so we had to walk. Fortunately the weather was still fantastic so it was fine.

We wrapped up the day by watching the Queen’s speech on BBC 1 and the Dr. Who Christmas Special. All in all, a very merry Christmas.

Cynthia and The Queen

London – Day 6

Horseguards

We’re feeling the effects of our extensive hiking about London. This morning we walked to Buckingham Palace and then on to the Royal Horseguards to watch the changing of the Horseguard.

Horseguards

I think this one horse knew I has dined on his cousin in Iceland

Horseguards

Horseguards

We did have some more sunshine so we walked about in the early part of the day taking in the sites.

Big Ben - 12 Noon

Westminster Cathedral

Being tired and it being Christmas Eve we went back to the hotel. And though it was not our intention, we ended up taking a nice nap before heading out to The Grazing Goat where we had dinner reservations. From there we made our way back to the hotel and are wrapping it up for the day.

London – Day 5

Double Decker Bus

Museums, museums, museums. We hit the British Museum and the National Gallery. A full day exercise. Both museums are fantastic.

British Museum

National Gallery

I even had the opportunity to add another shot to my “Camera On The Floor” series. This is the National Gallery Dome.

National Gallery Dome

We also strolled about Trafalgar Square. Great to finally see it. They do need to flush out some, if not all, of the buskers. So tacky.

Trafalgar Square

We also made the trek out to see the Christmas lights at Oxford Street this evening. Not worth the effort if you ask me. Too crowded and the lights are not all that great.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Things should be calming down for us for the next few days.

London – Day 4

Christmas Carols In Victoria Station

Christmas is in the air in London, that’s for sure. Carolers in various places as we move about the city. It’s quite festive and fun.

Today we made our way to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It’s cheesy, as you might expect, but you can’t go to London and NOT visit 221B Baker Street.

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Even William The Sheepie got in on the fun.

Sherlock Holmes Museum

We walked around the neighborhood and found our way to The Windsor Castle Pub which is the meeting place of the London Handlebar Club.

Handlebar Club - The Windsor Castle Pub

From there we found our way to the Victoria Albert Museum to make up for missing it yesterday.

It is a fantastic place but as usual, not my cup of tea for photography. But I did enjoy seeing it. And I made my best effort to get an interesting photo of the ‘Rotunda Chandelier’ sculpture using my circular fisheye.

Rotunda Chandelier in Victoria and Albert Museum

After running around town during the day we made our way back to the neighborhood near our hotel for a late lunch/early dinner. From there it was back to the hotel to freshen up and then we made our way back to the Tower Bridge and had a nice photo walk down the Thames to the Millennium Bridge.

Tower Bridge

The Shard

Millennium Bridge

A great, but tiring day.

London – Day 3

A BEAR!

Today was the end of our glorious sunshine. Clouds have rolled in, but fortunately no rain to speak of. We took The Tube to South Kensington to visit the Natural History Museum with the intention of also visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Natural History Museum, London

The Natural History Museum is a fantastic building with an amazing collection of animal specimens ranging from insects to dinosaurs. I think the dinosaur exhibit is the most popular, especially with the kids.

Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

I was struck by the beauty of the building itself. No tripods allowed, but I found a railing where I could perch my camera and shoot some longer exposure shots which yielded some good results.

Natural History Museum, London

When we left the Natural History Museum it was out intention to go to the Victoria Albert Museum, but we noticed that the Science Museum was right next door so we popped in there for a visit. I was curious to see the newly opened information age exhibit.

There were some very cool displays featuring technology that I was happy to see.

1959 Pegasus Computer

IBM System 360

I will say it is odd going to a museum and seeing technology like the Tandy TRS-80 that I used when it was new as a museum exhibit behind protective glass.

After we were done with the Science Museum we determined that we were a little too beat to try and tackle the Victoria Albert Museum so we headed back to the hotel to rest after having a late lunch. After we rested up a bit we caught The Tube out to Westminster to get some long exposure night shots.

Big Ben and Parliament

London Eye Up close

We walked around and took in the sites and then made our way back to the hotel for some snacks and now for some sleep.

London – Day 2

After yesterday’s adventures we slept good. Woke up, had breakfast and with another sunny day stretching out in front of us we decided to make our way to Greenwich to see the sites. This starts with a quick Tube ride to Westminster

Big Ben and Parliment

Then a walk past the London Eye to get to the ferry

London Eye

And then it’s a 45 minutes ferry ride down the Thames to get to Greenwich.

Cynthia Reviews The Safety Instructions

Headed to Greenwich

Along the way we spotted a dazzle ship. Apparently these are part of an art installation where the ship is painted in specially-commissioned ‘dazzle’ designs to pay homage to artists’ wartime contribution.

Dazzle Ship London - Tobias Rehberger - HMS President

We visited the Painted Hall in the Old Royal Naval College which was really interesting to see.

Painted Hall | Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

This gave me the opportunity to take some wide angle shots using the technique of setting a timer on the camera and placing it on the floor facing up. It’s the best way I have found to get some of the amazing details present in ceiling paintings.

Painted Hall | Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Painted Hall | Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

From there we made our way up to the observatory so we could stand on the Prime Meridian

Prime Meridian in Greenwich

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Then we went down to the Maritime Museum which was interesting, but no photography allowed. But there was a large ship in a bottle on display in front of the museum

Ship In A Bottle - National Maritime Museum

We grabbed a late lunch and then headed back to our hotel. We’re taking it easy tonight as we have run ourselves just a little ragged. Tomorrow should be a good day for hitting some of the museums.

London – Day 1

We were so tired after arriving in London and that, combined with the sun going down by 4:00 pm we could not manage to stay awake after about 5:30 pm. We knew going to sleep that early might result in some problems, but interestingly enough we managed to pretty much sleep through to 7:30 the next morning. It was still dark outside so we both thought it must be like 2 am or so. We were very relieved that was not the case.

We got dressed and had breakfast and were greeted by a sunny day with big blue skies.

We found our way to the Tower Of London

Tower Of London

Tower Of London

Tower Of London

We didn’t take the tour as we wanted to fully exploit the sunny day. We moved on from the Tower Of London to the Tower Bridge.

Cynthia and Me @ The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

Here we decided to take the tour. We were especially keen to see the new glass floor in the upper walkways of the bridge that had just recently opened.

Tower Bridge Glass Floor

Glass Floor @ Tower Bridge

Glass Floor @ Tower Bridge

Glass Floor @ Tower Bridge

After touring the bridge we took a rather leisurely stroll down the Thames just to take in the sites.

The Navigators sculpture by David Kemp

The Millennium Bridge

Turnips

The Shard

Later that afternoon we had plans to meet up with some friends for dinner. We set The Shard as our meeting point.

The Shard

When we met up we took a stroll through Borough Market and sampled some of the foods and then headed to The George Inn, a pub that was founded in 1677.

From there we all moved on to have dinner at Rabot 1745, an amazing restaurant where everything on the menu is cocoa-centric. Basically using either sweet chocolate or cacao in the making of the dish. Even my martini had cacao flavored vodka.

After a fantastic dinner we walked with our friends and explored the riverside after dark. It was then we noticed that The Shard was treating the city of London to a light show.

The Shard Light Show

The Shard Light Show

All in all, a very successful first day if our utter exhaustion and blistered feet are any indication.

Arrival in London

Just a quick update to document the first day of our trip to London.

It has been a rather odd, disjointed journey just getting here. No real major breakdowns, but some bizarre missteps.

First was getting dropped at the wrong terminal by the Parking Spot shuttle. We quickly sorted it out and proceeded to take the tram to the correct terminal, but not before getting off one time at the wrong stop.

Once we got to the correct terminal I discovered that my suitcase was 8 pounds over the limit which would have resulted in a $200 baggage fee. We quickly shifted some of our belongings and got both bags under the limit by increasing the weight on Cynthia’s suitcase.

We got checked in and proceeded to go through security. In the mad dash to shuffle belongings I got my shaving cream into my carry on where it was immediately confiscated because terrorism.

After clearing security we found our gate. We still had plenty of time so we went and got some dinner.

After dinner we went back to the gate and waited to board our plane. Unfortunately there was a delay because the plane at the gate which was destined for Frankfurt was having some problems and had not cleared the gate. This delayed our boarding by about 45 minutes.

Once airborne things smoothed out and we arrived in London on time, cleared customs and claimed our luggage.

We made our way to the hotel and checked in. It’s a nice hotel and we are going to be quite happy using it as our base of operations for the next two weeks.

Once we were settled into the hotel we made our way to a Vodafone store to purchase a SIM card for my phone and then to the grocery store to pick up some supplies like water, snacks and so forth.

With that out of the way we went to a nearby gastro pub and had dinner which was actually kind of lunch because it was only about 3:00 PM.

The sun went down at 4:30 and even though right now it is only 5:30 it seems like it is much later in the evening.

We’re tired and we’re going to bed, even though that means we will likely be up at the crack of dawn.

Iceland – Day 16

Fairy Light

Today is our last day in Iceland. We were granted one last day of spectacular sunshine and set off to explore the city.

Hallgrímskirkja

Since it was early (we have been waking up VERY early each day) we walked over to Hallgrímskirkja (church of Hallgrímur) to get some photos before the crowds descended.

Tjo?rnin

We then walked down to Tjörnin, a small lake in central Reykjavík. Cynthia was keen to feed the ducks. When we arrived there was a sign that asked visitors not to feed the birds as it attracted seagulls which would eat the baby ducks that were hatching during this part of the year.

Tjo?rnin

This was disappointing, but Cynthia decided to abide by the request in the interest of baby duck safety. Still, walking around Tjörnin wasn’t without its charm.

Reykjavík Old Harbour

We walked on down to the Reykjavík Old Harbour to have a look around. Here we found several companies offering various whale and puffin watching tours in the harbor. We struck up a conversation with one of the tour guides and he was really entertaining, repeatedly telling us we could trust him because he was the captain.

The Captain

The sun was so nice, the captain so friendly and since we really didn’t have anything hardcoded into our schedule so we decided to go on the tour.

Cynthia On A Tour Of The Reykjavík Old Harbour

We pulled out of the harbor to go around some islands where the puffins were nesting. We did see some birds, but we didn’t get very close so photography was difficult, even with my 70-400mm lens.

Puffin Nest

Puffins

Puffin

After visiting the puffins the captain took us on a tour of Reykjavik as seen from the harbor. This provided a unique view of the city. You can really see that Reykjavik is a city in transition. There’s a lot of construction and you can tell that Reykjavik is growing at a rapid pace.

Harbor Workmen

Reykjavik - City In Transition

Lighthouse And Harpa Concert Hall

The tour lasted about an hour and a half. I have to give Cynthia a lot of credit. She’s not big on boats, but she has been a real trooper on this trip logging three boat rides during our visit.

Cynthia On A Tour Of The Reykjavík Old Harbour

After the tour we decided to treat ourselves to a sushi lunch. We’ve had Sushi twice in Iceland and it is fantastic! So fresh and so tasty.

Reykjavik Maritime Museum

After lunch we walked over to the Reykjavik Maritime Museum. Sadly, it didn’t have much about Vikings. It was dedicated to the history of Icelandic fishing. Still, very interesting and a nice way to wind down the afternoon.

Reykjavik Maritime Museum

The rest of the day was just spent exploring the city. During our explorations we came across what looks to be some street art by Banksy. I suspect these are not actual Banksy pieces, but they were cool none the less.

Banksy or Banksyesque In Reykjavik

The Gay Pride Festival was going on in Reykjavik the whole week before we got here and you can still see signs of the celebration as the whole city is decked out in rainbow flags and signage for the event.

Gay Pride In Reykjavik

Mini Pride Parade

We’re pretty tired now. Tomorrow we fly back to Houston and soon this will all be a distant memory. Iceland is a special place and we are very fortunate to have had the chance to see it and I am hopeful we will return some day.

Flowers

Iceland – Day 15

Blue Lagoon

Today we took the rental car for our last drive in Iceland. We drove out to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa to swim in the warm, mineral rich waters. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 98–102 °F.

Blue Lagoon

And let me tell you, it sure feels good!

Look Ma, No Torso

The Blue Lagoon pretty much just another overpriced tourist trap and a lot of people will say that you should not waste your time or money with it, but I wouldn’t listen to them. Cynthia and I had a very good time soaking in the lagoon and would not have missed it for the world. It’s a very good way to unwind after our epic journey around Iceland.

Cynthia and Me @ Blue Lagoon

After leaving the lagoon we drove out to see Perlan (The Pearl), an interesting building on the outskirts of Reykjavik.

Perlan 1

I was glad to see it. There’s a restaurant at the top which is expensive and supposed to be very good, but we decided not to eat there.

Perlan 2

After this we headed back to town to return the rental car. We tallied up the mileage and the grand total was just under 2,000 miles driven during our epic journey. Cynthia commented that many of those miles should count double due to the road conditions in some parts of the country. I would have to agree.

procar

It was kind of sad walking away from Thor (Cynthia named the car “Thor”). That car served us well and was our home away from home as we traversed those those winding, up and down and sometimes wretchedly bumpy roads of Iceland.

We’re winding down now. We have one more day in Reykjavik before we fly home. It’s bittersweet. We have had a great time, but we are tired and ready to come home.

It’s also worth noting that Reykjavik is a bit of a disappointment after all that we have seen and done in Iceland. We hope to wring a little more joy out of the trip tomorrow, but it might just be a day of rest and getting our luggage sorted and ready for the flight home.

Iceland – Day 14

drivingday14

The Golden Circle

After the somewhat disappointing rain and gloominess of yesterday we were quite happy to see blue skies punctuated with fluffy white clouds. We’ve had more sun than rain on this trip and today was just tipping the weather scales that much more in our favor.

Today we made our way back to Reykjavik as we wind down our Icelandic adventure. On the way we drove what is referred to as the “Golden Circle” to see the sites.

Included on the Golden Circle is Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. I would have shot this from the top of the back, but it was a bit too windy for me. I opted for this lower angle.

Kerið

From there we made our way to Geysir The Great Geyser to see the original Geyser for which all Geysers are named.

Geysir - The Great Geyser

Sadly, Geysir is not very active. However, it’s little brother Strokkur will go off every few minutes.

Srokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

Strokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

From there we drive to Gullfoss which is one of the most striking and beautiful waterfalls in all of Iceland. And if the sun is shining you get treated to a rainbow along with the majestic waterfall. Fortunately for us, it was a beautiful sunny day.

Gullfoss With Rainbow

After visiting Gullfoss we made our way to Þingvellir National Park. The dramatic Þingvellir landscape was formed as a result of sitting along the border between the North American and European tectonic plates. It’s really something to see.

Þingvellir

Þingvellir is where the parliament of Iceland was first founded around the year 930 and where it continued to meet until 1798.

Þingvellir

A flag marks the spot where the speaker of parliament stood. The speaker of parliament would stand atop the Logberg, or Law Rock, to read the law to the members of parliament in the valley below. It really is a magical place.

By the time we finished exploring the park it was getting pretty late so we set our GPS for our hotel in Reykjavik. We drove in to town just as the Icelandic gay pride festivities were breaking up. The streets were a bit crowded with rainbow wearing/waiving revellers so it was slow going to get to the hotel.

Now we are checked in and resting up for a day at the Blue Lagoon tomorrow. I think it will be very relaxing and just what we need before we wrap this Iceland trip up.

Steam Vent