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!

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.

 

Night prowl

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I’m finally back from vacation. I’m exhausted, but I had a great time. We basically took it semi-easy — slept in and then got going until we would arrive home just in time to pass out again.

One thing that kept us out late early in the week was a walk on the beach to find crabs. Yep, I said crabs. My brother-in-law decided he wanted to crab for part of the week and we spent one night walking the beach to see what we could find. Below’s our find, plus deer we saw on the way home. Enjoy!

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We were trying to let this crab go, but he didn’t seem to want to let go of our bag. Eventually, we won.

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My sister and her husband were able to save this jellyfish. Unfortunately, two days later I was slightly stung by one on the opposite side of the island.

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We weren’t in time to save this little shark.

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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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Our home away from home

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We’ve finally arrived at our Jekyll Island rental. After 15 hours in a car (we stopped and napped along the way), my first priority was a shower.

We’re now about to unpack and head out to reacquaint ourselves with the place until it’s time to pick my sister and her husband up at the Jacksonville airport.

Here’s some pictures so far:

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Georgia bound

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I’m on the road, just five hours late. My sister, her husband and I loaded up my car with our gear, two boogie boards and tons of food and drinks.

Next? The task of fitting my carload into my parents already half-full impala.

It was a close fit but we did it. We’ve also managed to kill most of the mosquitoes that were in the car.

Now, we’re finally on our way to Jekyll Island. Only 11 hours and 13 minutes to go.

Canadians and Mallards

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Canadian Geese and Mallards were the main birds we saw Sunday and this morning. They basically had the run of our hotel and restaurant parking lots (which surrounded a small pond).

Most of our time was spent with family. My great-aunt lived a full life, and I was surprised to learn that she moved to France with her husband and small son in the late 1940s.

Her husband was stationed near a small village, and her son said the French did not like Americans even at the end of WW2. When his father worked nights, people would come bang on their windows throughout the night to scare them.

My great-aunt would also keep a pistol under her pillow just in case. Still, they weren’t too afraid. Her son said he could remember fetching fresh bread for his mother.

This is the same lady who happened to be in town when I was born. She was my “grandmother” so she could visit my mother and hold me.

We ended up having three hours of free time after the visitation so we visited Fort Harrison State Park.

It was a nice break and the park was fantastic. I could definitely see me using it as often as possible if I lived here.

It also had family history since my great aunt and her family were stationed at Fort Harrison before it became a state park.

On Sunday, the birds and a super fat squirrel greeted us at the cemetery. It was funny to see the geese surround us. I mean literally surround our car while we were leaving. There were even three geese on the roofs watching us.

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We’re now heading back to Arkansas. Just counting the hours until I can pick up my dog and be home out of the rain.