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
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.
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.
After touring the bridge we took a rather leisurely stroll down the Thames just to take in the sites.
Later that afternoon we had plans to meet up with some friends for dinner. We set The Shard as our meeting point.
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.
All in all, a very successful first day if our utter exhaustion and blistered feet are any indication.
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.
We’re off to spend the holidays in London, England! So much to see and do. We’ll be updating here frequently !
Cynthia has a low mileage (50,000) 1994 Toyota Hilux Xtra Cab and it has been sitting up in the garage, unused, for 9 years. She bought the truck new, but never really enjoyed it and eventually bought a Mazda Miata for her daily driver.
We finally got around to getting it pulled from our garage towed to a mechanic to get it back up and running. The truck needed a bit of work to get it running again, but now it has been resurrected. Cynthia has a new affection for the truck now and we will be keeping it as a utility vehicle as well as a classic collectible.
There are so many good color photos of Iceland that decided it might be interesting to process a few of my long exposure waterfall images in black and white. These are the results.
Today is our last day in Iceland. We were granted one last day of spectacular sunshine and set off to explore the city.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And let me tell you, it sure feels good!
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.
After leaving the lagoon we drove out to see Perlan (The Pearl), an interesting building on the outskirts of Reykjavik.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From there we made our way to Geysir The Great Geyser to see the original Geyser for which all Geysers are named.
Sadly, Geysir is not very active. However, it’s little brother Strokkur will go off every few minutes.
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.
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 is where the parliament of Iceland was first founded around the year 930 and where it continued to meet until 1798.
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.
Today we did not drive ourselves. We toured the Landmannalaugar area of the interior of Iceland using a service. When researching this part of the trip it came to my attention that it would be necessary to ford some rivers to visit the sites. We have a 4X4 and it could take us, but Cynthia was not convinced so we opted to hire a super jeep tour company called Amazing Tours to take us out for 10 hours. Fine by me, we’ll get to see some cool stuff and I don’t have to drive.
We met up with our guide at a service station near our hotel. We boarded the giant, modified Ford truck and proceeded into the interior.
The weather still wasn’t great, so the photography suffered. But the landscape was incredible.
We came to a pretty deep river crossing. It was easy to see we probably would not have made it in the rental. I had the driver drop me off and recross the river so I could photograph it.
At another river crossing we came across a car that had not made it through the river crossing and was being assisted by mountain rescue.
Our driver told us the car was probably ruined by the water and that this kind of damage was not covered by the rental agreement. I suspect we witnessed the demise of a perfectly good Icelandic holiday.
Our first stop was the Ljótipollur Crater. Ljótipollur translates to ugly puddle. I experimented with some panoramic photography to try and get a photo of the entire crater.
Our next stop was the hot springs. A geothermally heated little river that is a popular place to bath/swim. The location is also a popular campsite for hikers. When we arrived it looked a bit like a refugee camp due to the rain and the wet and bedraggled campers. We did see our first Icelandic food truck here. More of a general store in a bus. Actually, two buses
Coffee, food, mittens, lip balm…all kinds of things one might need when preparing to hike for day or weeks in the Icelandic wilderness.
We decided not to go swimming and moved on.
As we were driving to the next location we encountered a large group of horses being driven to some unknown location. Several dozen horses, all moving up the side of the mountain.
Two horse jams in two days.
Next we visited an area overlooking the hydroelectric dams in the area. It was interesting to see. The area is so desolate.
As we drove off the driver told us he was going to take us to a place he knew about that wasn’t on the itinerary. He told us this was not a well known place and it was one of his favorite places in all of Iceland.
When we drove up, we didn’t see anything all that interesting. But when we got out of the truck and climbed a hill we looked down on the most amazing valley I have ever seen.
It’s called the Gjain Valley and it looks like a tended garden. We walked down the side of the hill and just explored the place for about an hour. There were only a handful of other tourists about. This place is a hidden gem in Iceland, that’s for sure.
After visiting the valley we went to see Hjálparfoss, a small, but very nice waterfall.
That was our last stop and we made our way back to civilization.
The whole tour lasted about 8 hours. We had a great time and when we finished we were dropped off at our car and we drove back to the hotel.
Tomorrow we’re headed back to Reykjavik via the Golden Circle where we will see Geysir and a few other Icelandic attractions.
The Scenic South Shore
Hunkubakkar to Hróarslækur – 128 miles
It was bound to happen. Our weather luck ran out. Rain, rain and more rain. Our first scheduled stop was Reynishverfi. An area on the beach with cliffs full of nesting birds. When we got there, there was a howling wind that that was doing its level best to knock us down. We made our way to the beach and the wind was blowing so hard that the rain was stinging my face.
Even with the foul weather, it was an interesting place. And there were thousands of birds, including puffins. Sadly, the rain was so bad we could not easily take photos.
We moved on to Dyrhólaey, a few miles on down the road and things started to clear a bit and we saw a rainbow over a church.
We thought that might be a good sign. But when we got to Dyrhólaey it was raining again and the wind was still blowing hard. We spotted some puffins that were pretty close to the car park, but the wind nearly blew the camera out of my hands. I managed to get a few photos before calling it quits.
We moved on to see the Skógafoss waterfall. The rain quit for awhile and we had the opportunity to take some photos before having some lunch. I should point out that even though the rain stopped, the spray from this waterfall kept us and our cameras quite wet.
From Skógafoss we moved on to see the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This one has the added coolness of being able to walk behind the falls for a view from the other side. The rain was falling intermittently, but again…this waterfall was spraying mist everywhere so we were still getting quite wet.
After taking our photos we pressed on. The weather remained iffy and we contemplated our options. As we were trying to decide what to do we found ourselves caught up in a most unusual traffic jam.
About three dozen horses being herded down Highway 1, Iceland’s main road! Of course we needed photos so when we could get ahead of the horses we pulled over and took some.
At this point it was getting late so we made our way to the hotel and checked in. Tonight we rest in anticipation of tomorrow’s tour of Landmannalaugar.