Iceland Beauty & Beasts
Wednesday, June 29th & Thursday, June 30th
As I mentioned yesterday, the breakfast at our hotel was lovely, personalized and plentiful. Katla took good care of us, and we departed for our tour full to the brim. Oh, I forgot to mention, the floor tiles in the bathroom are heated! Made for a cozy walk to the toilet in the middle of the night!
Our main Iceland tour was a 6-hour tour of the Golden Circle with stops at the Geysir, Gullfoss Waterfall and Pingvellir National Park. First up was the Geysir Geothermal Area – including the Strokkur Geysir – the most active Geysir in Iceland. As we drove to the Geysir, our tour guide informed us of a few Icelandic facts: Iceland is the 2nd largest island in Europe and the entire island has a population of 330,000 people – that’s about 1/3 of the Austin area.
Once we reached the Geysir Geothermal Area, we had a few different options for lunch – we opted for the Kantina and the recommended famous Iceland Meat Soup. Turns out the “meat” is lamb and the soup was quite nice – even for people who are not big on lamb.
We ate a quick bite and then headed to the geysir path to see all of the different geothermal activity the park had to offer.
We saw Strokkur erupt 3 times in the brief period we were there. It was impressive each time, and I found it hard to believe the earth could rebel so much with us so close by. By the time we had eaten, used the toilets, hiked the short distance to the geysirs and witnessed their wonder, it was time to head back to the bus.
Once back on the bus, the tour guide gave us a bit of information about Iceland. Iceland is equipt with 2 ski resorts – both of which have been effected by global warming and as a result have shorter seasons – one is open 2 months and the other only 10 days. She also spoke about the purple flowers growing everywhere that look like Bluebonnets. They are, in fact, the Alaskan Lupin. They look to be very much the same plant, but grow in very different conditions. They look like Texas Bluebonnets on ‘roids!
We arrived at the Gullfoss Waterfall in no time and had about 45min to hike about and see the fall and all of its splendor. Tip and Bryan decided to walk the 120 steps to the falls, while Lincoln and I stayed at the top. It is a stair step waterfall and has been compared to Niagra Falls in its grandeur.
It was beautiful and breathtaking and the best part of our tour. There were these black flies – they call them midges. They are everywhere and quite a nuisance. They do not bite – in fact, Iceland doesn’t have any insects that bite – but they do swarm. They swarm so much that at some point I thought it was raining, only to discover it was raining midges – not raindrops.
Back on the bus and on to Pingvellir National Park. The national park is full of history and geological importance. It is the site of the oldest parliament in the world, first convening in 930 AD . It is also the meeting place of two continental plates and evidence of continental drift. There are many fissures throughout the entire park and the plates drift 1″ each year. It is also a famous spot for scuba diving and fishing with the largest brown trout and char in the world. The fish are drawn to the fresh water that bubbles up from the glacier. The guide said that it takes about 500 years for a snowflake that has fallen on the glacier to reach the water of the lake. The views were impressive and the history of the place was evident .
Back on the bus and home to the hotel.
We headed back out shortly to do our laundry at the Laundromat Cafe. It was a happening place! While we waited on our laundry, we headed to dinner at Lobster & Stuff. A famous eatery where Bjork rehearsed while playing with the Sugarcubes.
The service was terrible, the food was mediocre and egregious in their forgetfulness of our gluten free needs – despite being told a few times and quite expensive. We should have just eaten at the Laundromat. How many times have you been able to say that! Off to bed for much needed rest before our horseback riding tour tomorrow.
Same excellent service and food at breakfast, and then a short shuttle ride to the Ishestar Horse Riding Tours. The name actually means island horse. The horses are beautiful and smaller than the horses I’ve seen before. They are unique to Iceland and no other horse can come to the country. Even an Icelandic horse that leaves for say a competition may never return to Iceland. The horses are famous for their 5 gaits – most horses have 3 – some have 4. The 5th gait is said to be so smooth that you could drink a beer while riding. For this gait, called the tolt, horses are one of the main exports of Iceland. There are 80K horses on the island in about 100 different color variations.
We had a lovely day at the stables and riding the wonderful beasts. Bryan rode Hercules; Tipton rode Amore; Lincoln rode Iris; and I rode February. Lincoln was particularly sad to say goodbye to Iris.
After horseback riding, we headed back to the city center for some shopping before dinner. Our hotel manager, Katia, suggested the Saegreifinn Restaurant (Sea Baron) for lobster soup and fresh fish. The place was tiny, so we got ours to go. We weren’t disappointed and enjoyed all of the skewers of scallops, redfish, cod and rainbow trout in addition to the lobster soup. Tip and I liked the trout best and Lincoln and Bryan liked the scallops best.
Before we move on, I would like to play a quick game of, “What time is it” with you all. Time as we know it doesn’t exist here. It’s bright as day outside right now and it’s nearing midnight. They commonly refer to that as the midnight sun. See if you can guess the time in each pictures!
Off to packing, showers and bed before we depart for Norway tomorrow. I will be sad to leave Iceland. I have loved everything about it. Plus, Bryan has decided to grow a beard here! We’ll see how long it lasts!