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!

A walk outside

Crystal Bridges 21

March 20 is in 17 days. It is the start of spring and my favorite months of the year. I love flowers, the wildlife and burst of activity that happens. I’m already looking for things to do, which includes visiting Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I was going through photos today, and stumbled across these photos from my first visit to Crystal Bridges in July 2017.

Hollywood Plantation

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For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I traveled to Tillar, Ark., with my aunt to visit the Dr. John Martin Taylor House (also known as the Hollywood Plantation). The Arkansas Archeological Survey – University of Arkansas Monticello (UAM) Research Station was hosting a cemetery clean up of the Taylor family cemetery and Valley Farm cemetery, the nearby African American cemetery.

The two-story, dog-trot log house was built in 1846 alongside Bayou Bartholomew (which by the way is the world’s longest bayou). The 11,000-acre plantation was inhabited until the 1940s, and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It has since been donated to UAM and is being restored as an education site for people to visit to learn the history of one of Arkansas’ earliest major cotton plantations.

The Taylors were from Kentucky. According to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP), the Hollywood Plantation got its name from all the native holly trees on the property. The family brought over slaves from its Kentucky plantation — there were 83 slaves according to the 1850 Census and 101 slaves by 1860. After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, those slaves were given the option to stay on as tenant labor or travel back to the Kentucky plantation with the owner’s wife. That trip in fall 1863 was documented, according to AHPP.

We did get to tour the old Taylor house before work began. The house was built with slave labor, and our tour guide showed us a handprint that remains in the wall of a second-floor bedroom. I just want to know the story behind it — the upper story is the most original to the 1840s.

Our work for the day was primarily cleaning up the land in the Valley Farm cemetery. This is also believed to be the site of the plantation’s original slave burying grounds. According to staff, there are about 18 known graves (ranging from 1906 to 1926) there, and not all of the headstones for those graves could be found. See below for more pictures from the day:

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Bald Knob NWR

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American Golden-Plover

I love Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge. It’s halfway between my house and the Jonesboro/Wynne area so it’s an AWESOME place for me to take a break from interstate driving and have some fun. There’s different birds to see year-round, and I’ve gotten pretty lucky in the past several weeks. I’ve visited a lot more these past few months — especially since I finally purchased a 600mm lens.

The refuge is best known for migrating waterfowl, and I can usually find shorebirds there year-round. So far, my best finds have been an out-of-season American Golden-Plover, a White-faced Ibis and a Yellow-headed blackbird.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
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American Golden-Plover
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Yellow-headed Blackbird
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Nutria
Northern Rough-winged Swallow.062418.BKNWR
Northern Rough-winged swallow
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Dickcissel
Yellow-breasted Chat.062418.BKNWR
Yellow-breasted Chat
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Eastern Towhee
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Swamp Sparrow
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White-faced Ibis
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Great Blue Heron

Birding around

 

Sunday’s find: A yellow-billed cuckoo (L) and a barred owl. Sunday marked the first time I’ve ever seen a yellow-billed cuckoo at the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge.

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:

Providence!

I finally made it to Rhode Island! My Aunt Jo will be presenting at a conference this week so a second aunt, Cindy, and I decided to tag along.

  (Above: Sunrise as we take off from Memphis)

It meant today involved an early, but quick flight, shopping at the mall attached to our hotel to avoid the heavy rainfall once we arrived, and lunch at P.F. Chang’s.

 (Above: My new shoes) 

We won’t be here long but Aunt Cindy and I still adecided to take the day easy. The best part was hands down picking up Aunt Jo and heading to dinner. 

  (Above: Sightseeing while heading to dinner)

We ate at Kabob and Curry, Fine Indian Cuisine. I’ll admit I would never have ate there if my aunts hadn’t been with me. I would have missed out.
We had Nimboo Soda, a tradional Indian lemonade with mint and roasted cumin, and I ordered a sampler plate that allowed me to try a variety of dishes including vegetable samosa – a crispy turnover, seasoned potato and pea filling, a mango and mint chicken curry bowl, dal makhni – black lentils, red beans, ginger and tomato, and rice pudding for dessert.

   (Above: starter dish)

  
We all ended up getting a second helping of the rice pudding to take to the hotel for later.