Day 3: South Coast

Skógafoss Waterfall

Today was the day of waterfalls.

Leaving at our usual time of 8 a.m., our first stop of the day was the 200-foot Seljalandsfoss waterfall. We were actually able to walk around and behind the waterfall – which was pretty neat and satisfying. I might have gotten pretty wet during the walk behind it but it was worth it.

Next, we traveled to the 197-foot Skógafoss waterfall, which is 82-feet wide. According to the nearby Skógar Folk Museum, legend claims that when the sun shines, a store of gold hidden by original settler Prasi may be glimpsed glittering behind the water. The waterfall is south of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano, and flows through the Skógárgil gorge  which has more than 20 additional waterfalls. Someone brought a traveling piano to the waterfall so we had music to go with the view.

We first learned of the museum through our taxi driver on Tuesday night. The taxi driver’s grandparents lived in one of the last old turf farmhouses (the typical one of the southeast has the household living above the cowshed) that was lived in. He stayed with them until he was 8-years-old, and his grandparents moved out of the home in the 1960s/1970s. The home was then donated to the museum, which moved and reconstructed the home on the museum’s site along with some other buildings.

The museum itself preserves the cultural history of the Rangárvallasýsla and Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla regions. It’s collections include old books, paintings, needlework, tools and equipment, boats, and outfits including three dresses around 100 years old. One was a black wedding dress with a veil.

Later, we drove along the natural reserve Dyrhólaey, which translates to door-hole island. The name comes from an arch created by the sea. During the drive, we also passed the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. The picture below is of the volcano that erupted in 2010.

We ate lunch in Vik at Halldórskaffi, a cafe located in a historic house called Bryde’s Store (Brydebúð). The Settler’s Cheese Pizza was delicious! It has a varieties of icelandic cheese and is served with a red currant jam.

Afterwards, we stopped by Icewear/Vik Wool to look around and to step onto the nearby black sand beach. We shopped a little before hopping back into our van to go to the nearby Reynisfjara Beach, which has black sand, a small cave and the Reynisdrangar basalt columns. The winds were as strong as the waves crashing to shore. Our driver warned us before we got there of two things: Don’t turn your back to the sea because the waves are too strong and don’t go into the water even to dip our toes in.

Tonight was our final chance to see the Northern Lights; however, our tour was cancelled once again due to cloudy weather. Getting back to Reykjavik at 7 p.m., we decided to instead go to Perlan, a modern interactive museum that had a Northern Lights planetarium show called Áróra. I did enjoy learning how the Northern Lights are created, and the roles it played in various cultures. We originally planned on going to the 8 p.m. show; however, we were 4 minutes late getting there so we had to wait until the 9 p.m. show. We spent our hour-long wait eating at the Ut I Blainn, which overlooks Reykjavik. I had the steamed cod with kale, onion, preserved lemons and beurre blanc. It was good, but I left still hungry – the same as one of my aunts who also had the steamed cod.

 

Iceland Day 2: The Golden Circle and a Secret Lagoon

Today involved the Golden Circle and a Secret Lagoon  – kind of sounds like a book or movie title!!

We started off at Þingvellir National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are separating. One trail actually walked us down the middle of them. Þingvellir is also the site where the Vikings first assembled, and an important gathering place for various historical events for Iceland’s people.

My best purchase ended up being from here as well: an orange wool headband made in Iceland. The wind was so strong it was a godsend to have not only to keep my ears warm but to keep my short hair in place. You’ll see me wearing it in later photos!

It also had a pretty cool waterfall, although it was discomforting to learn that drownings were a common way to execute people in the past.

Afterwards, we went to the Geyser Sprouting Spring. First, we ate lunch at the Geyser Center Restaurant and Coffeehouse. I simply had the ham and cheese panini and an apple pie, but one aunt had a fish stew that was delicious. Their fish soup was good but that’s not really something I’ve ever enjoyed so I’m happy it wasn’t my dish.

The Geyser itself has been inactive for years, but a smaller Stokkur sprouted frequently with one small burst and then a larger one.

Our last stop on the Golden Circle was the Gullfoss waterfall which is 32 meters two with two drops and an average flow rate of 140 cubic meters per second. It was extremely windy but beautiful! It was definitely one of my favorite stops so far!

We ended our day at the Secret Lagoon, which is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. The geothermal area near Fluðir was made in 1891 and, according to the company, it was the site of the legislative body of the community until 1894. One thing: it’s an site to see people swimming while the lifeguards and people walking near it are bundled in heavy coats and clothing.

It was refreshing to swim in its hot waters. While I enjoyed the hot springs and the proximity to a small geyser that erupted about every 15 minutes (see above photo).

We were supposed to go on a tour to see the Northern Lights but it ended up being cancelled due to all of the clouds and slight rain we had. So, instead we tried the newly opened Flyover Iceland in Reykjavik’s Grandi Harbour District. It took us on a virtual flight of the island. I was skeptical of it at first; however, I ended up having a great time. The only thing I was disappointed in was that it showed no viewings of whales or puffins which I figured would have been obvious to include. It did picture Elephant Rock – a cool rock that is in the shape of an elephant off the south coast – that I won’t get to see this trip although I would have loved to.

We closed our night with a delivery from Domino’s. We typically try local places – but we were tired and hungry, and decided to just call it a night.

Cancellation and a Meal

Last night’s tour to see the Northern Lights was cancelled and rescheduled for tonight (also cancelled due to weather). It was disappointing but, last night, we did find a great place to eat: the Hlemmur Food Hall. It is a reformed local bus terminal that hosts 10 vendors that offer a variety of food. It was pretty busy.

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Of the vendors, we tried Kröst where I got a glass of Riesling and a plate of Grilled Fresh North Atlantic Cod with caramelized cauliflower, creamy lemon sauce, potato slices and thyme breadcrumbs. It was delicious!  The grilled cauliflower and fried risotto balls were also a hit.

 

We also tried a coffee shop where my aunts (who are coffee addicts) got the fix of Americano coffee. They weren’t impressed with it.

 

Iceland: Day 1

I finally made it to Iceland!! We traveled overnight so I woke up on the plane this morning to a beautiful sunrise.

We arrived around 9 a.m. and, upon leaving the airport, was greeted by a rainbow. We immediately went to the Blue Lagoon where we tried silica face masks while relaxing in the geothermal seawater. We couldn’t check in to our apartment until 3 p.m. so it was a refreshing break!

Close up

This red-tailed hawk hung out at my parents’ house Christmas Day. At one point, it was sitting directly above the road on a power line. My dad had the bright idea of opening his truck’s sunroof so I could get a picture as we drove underneath the hawk. The hawk kind of seemed scandalized by the ordeal but it still remained nearby for the rest of the day.

A kinglet for Grandpa

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I recently visited my grandma at the farm in Wynne. And anytime I visit, I have to walk to the pond to see what I can find. This trip’s golden find was a golden-crowned kinglet, which always reminds me of my late grandpa.

Fall tradition

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It has become a fall tradition to travel about 30 minute south of Jonesboro to White Hall (a tiny town six miles south of Harrisburg) to visit Parker Homestead with my niece and Mom. This year, my sister, Dad and the latest addition to the family, my fourth-month-old niece, joined us.

Parker Homestead is a recreated 19th century town with buildings and artifacts from White Hall’s past. The neat part is my Dad’s mother grew up in White Hall (her sister still lives there in their family home) and Parker Homestead actually displays homework of their older brother in a school house on the property. My family searches for my uncle’s work each time we visit.

I may be drawn to the school house but my 3-year-old niece is drawn to the church where an old piano is located. If given the chance, I think she would remain on that piano bench all day.

Here’s some pictures from Parker Homestead:

Vulture circling

Turkey Vulture

A lone turkey vulture circled Branson as we conducted some major shopping at Tanger Outlets. The weather was perfect and we stopped at Garfields Restaurant and Pub along the river for lunch/dinner.

Yum and what a view. I watched a heron fly by along with five or six geese. House sparrows perched above the stores lining Garfields.

We ended up stopping by Cakes and Creams Desserts for the Ozark Mountain Sundae or the funnel cake with fresh strawberries with ice cream. It was the perfect ending to the day (well, along with a stop by the hotel’s pool and hot tub)! The only downfall was that the sundae and funnel cake was too good – we were completely full by the time we left. We’re planning a second visit before we leave!

Our sole other stop was to the Festival of Lights. Slightly disappointed by it, but still interesting. My aunt and grandmother loved it.

Here’s some pictures:

House Sparrow
House Sparrow

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Branson arrival

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We arrived in Branson, Mo., late last night for a four-day getaway with my aunt and grandmother.

The decor at the Stone Castle Inn tickles me. The hotel is jammed packed. Christmas lights are already going up and, while traffic is busy, it’s not too bad.

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For once, we have no plans. It’s off to shop and visit a nearby state park.

Marshes and autoliners

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It has rained every day.

The rain comes typically in the afternoon giving us plenty of time to do all we want to. So far, we’ve mainly wanted to look around, reacquainting ourselves with the island. We last visited more than 10 years ago.

Jekyll Island was originally an exclusive winter retreat, The Jekyll Island Club, for U.S. elite. It was purchased in 1886 and hosted families such as the Rockefellers, Morgans and Pulitzers.

It became a Georgia state park in 1950 – unique to me since it is a “barrier island” off Georgia’s southeastern coast. It has tons of marshes, hotels and tourist-minded businesses.

We spent part of Saturday and some Sunday just looking around. The views are great, and Dad was fascinated with the huge ships carrying cars (Hoegh Autoliners). My only complaint? As the sole birder, I am unable to get pictures of some of the birds we pass in the marshes bordering the road. One such bird – a Roseate Spoonbill.

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