Week 137 November 12, 2016

We finished our visit to Iceland this week with three big activities. The first was a day tour of the “Golden Circle” including a visit to the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal baths. Loren commented while on our tour how beautiful the middle of Iceland would be if only it were a sunny day. The forecast at the beginning of the week was for full sun, but, like they say here the weather can change in 5 minutes’ time. And it did so midweek. The report changed to calling for clouds with possible rain as every other day. Lucky for us though, the clouds dissipated partway into the afternoon! We saw the rift in the earth at the point where the enormous tectonic plates of North America meet those of Eurasia. Our guide Sven joked that since we were in the Schengen area we would not need our passports to cross the continents as we moved from one side to the other.
We soaked in a geothermal bath similar to hot springs we have visited in the US, saw geisers – geysers, erupt and, saw an incredible waterfall.
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We did not witness volcanic activity, but we drove near enough to take a photo of Eyjafjallajökull – do you see how it was nearly impossible to learn any Islenska, well, except for “Skol.” It was hard enough trying to remember how to pronounce Reykjavik, the capitol city of Iceland, much less spell it with any resemblance of the actual name. Eyjafjallajökull is the volcano which erupted in 2010, and disrupted all of Europe for a period of time in the aftermath. Oh, and by the way, Reykjavik is said, rake-ya-vick.

A second big activity was the evening tour – our final chance while here – to see Northern Lights. First we watched an engaging movie at the horse stables bar where our Northern Lights Tour had brought us the first time. This ranch is far enough from the interference of city lights, while also offering amenities. The movie showed fabulous scenes of Aurora Borealis. While we watched what at times looked like pale-green-breeze-blown-ribbons, I reflected on what I had learned: Aurora is Latin for Dawn and Borealis is Greek for Northern Wind. Our guide called us out to see a faint hint of the phenomenon, then we boarded the bus to leave. But someone immediately demanded, “Stop the bus!” We all got off again to see a true lights display for an hour! Loren’s camera captured it. Mine – just a slightly older model – caught only inky sky and other backlit devices trying to capture it.

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Loren likes to say “The third time is the charm,” and so it was with this magnificent experience. What we saw brought to mind these images among others as the lights moved and morphed: large traces of greenish white chalk left after an eraser has smudged out handwriting on a huge blackboard, a giant eerie Frankenstein-green bird soaring towards us, and, streaking neon green locomotives making their way across the sky in the chill, clear starry night. At one point Loren picked out a faint pink color, reminding me of wildflowers swaying in a summer breeze over a green meadow. As well I spotted two shooting stars during the natural performance!

Just as dramatic as the rest of our day had been, when we were dropped off at 1:30am to our AirBnB, Loren stepped off the van transport in exactly the same place and at nearly exactly the same time as earlier in the week, only to slip and fall as there was now a thin sheet of ice on the pavement. In just 3 days, the weather had turned cold enough to create ice on the very pavement where we had stepped off the bus to dry pavement previously. Fortunately Loren was uninjured. Iceland really is “The Land of Fire and Ice!”

Our last day was spent in part at the Blue Lagoon, an expansive geothermal pool where we relaxed for a couple of hours. Our third and final big Icelandic activity was to splurge on a 30 minute massage for each of us sandwiched between soaks here. I have never had a massage while floating on water before. Both Loren’s and my masseuses were expert at their craft. From here we picked up our bus to the Reykjavik airport.

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As much as we enjoyed our time in Iceland, I rather doubt that we will return, only because it is quite expensive. Food, transportation, attractions, excursions, for the most part raised our eyebrows at the price, but, we indulged in what we felt was most important for these once in a lifetime experiences. I agree with Loren – if everywhere we went were this costly, we would not have traveled as far nor as wide.
Here is my latest poem inspired from this unique place:
Aurora Borealis in Reykjavik
by Claire Adalyn Wright
Northern Lights
Plentiful greens yellows and white
Sometimes pinks purples or reds
But seldom blues, that can
Look like:
Angels’ wings
Dancing strobe lights
Lightning flashes obscured by clouds
Swirling snow
The Milky Way
Theater drapes closing
Theatrical lighting
Tinted wispy smoke
Water color paintings
Windblown sheer curtains
And, are
Perhaps best viewed
Beside bodies of water
For additional reflective brilliance.
In all, they are displays
Of the always imperfectly
Perfect nature.
Can this teach me to let go
Of perfectionistic tendencies?
We had an uneventful flight to JFK, going to bed in New York at midnight – which was for us 4am Iceland-time. On our first full day back, it was an incredible sunny fall day where the season is reported to be two weeks late, allowing us to see spectacular fall colors. With the sun shining through, the vibrancy of the leaves of crimson, rose or fuchsia reds, pumpkin and peach oranges, golds, browns, and yellows, were simply breathtaking.
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That first evening in New York was the big special event that brought us here earlier than for Thanksgiving: our younger niece’s 16th Birthday family party!
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We have had a few very precious visits with family and friends here, taken Bikram yoga everyday, sorted our many belongings that were faithfully awaiting us in the van, compared to what we carried in our packs, and, made plans for this coming week to visit with family and friends who live further north.
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But wait! Our big news this week is that we have been saving our accumulated airline miles for years, but on this journey so far have rarely been able to use them for various reasons – until now! We will have an excursion to Antarctica in December, and were able to cash in miles for airline tickets. We fly from New York to the southernmost city in the world: Ushuaia, Argentina, where we will board our ship to travel for over a week to Antarctica. Loren has wanted to see the 7th continent – not that this is our 7th – yet! And we took advantage of a discounted offer that we could not pass up. 
This week we also received an email about the video taken when we had a cooking lesson in Kefalonia, Greece.
You can see Chef Lorenzo and Sous Chef Chiara in action by visiting Anna’s website: 


Week 136 November 5, 2016

I am posting a day early, as I foresee having little time to log into this site in the next few days…
We were still in Berlin at the beginning of this week. For several weeks the Sammlung-Boros “Art in a Bunker” tour had been sold out, and the only cancellations were for groups being led in German. However fortune favored us as two spots in an English led tour opened up just in time for us to visit. Here we learned a bit more about the bunkers built during WWII, saw several memorable art displays – no photos were allowed, and first heard of Saint Théophane Vénard’s final letter through the piece ‘Desire of the Other‘ by artist Dahn Võ.
The same evening we met up again with our Dutch and Russian friends, who we had met in Macedonia – at her art exhibition titled ‘Morphologien Des Wandels’ – Morphologies of Change.
We also had the pleasure to meet his parents who were visiting Berlin from the Netherlands. Then we bade So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye to Berlin. I think you can choose whichever one you like if you trust Google translate – we had to Abfahrt – depart, Abgang – leave, and take our Ausgang – exit… only for now I hope! After days of gray skies and misty rain the sun shone brightly over Berlin – just in time for our flight to Reykjavik, Iceland. C’est la vie!
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We arrived mid-afternoon in Iceland to totally gray skies too, not unlike our experience two years ago at exactly this time of year, except at that time we were in Churchill on the Hudson Bay in Canada. But here I noticed white roofs! I had to do a double-, even triple-, take. The only time I have ever seen white roofs is when snow has covered the houses, trees, lawns, everything. Here, only some of the roofs were white, and I had to get used to it meaning just that, and that no snow was to be found anywhere right now! In Reykjavik we had a day on a Hop On, Hop Off bus as we had done in Heraklion on Crete. It is one way to have an introduction to, and travel a bit around, a city that is new to us. We stopped to see the large church here – Hallgrimskirkja – and rode the elevator to the top of its impressive tower for the view.
We walked a bit around the harbor to see the Viking ship – an appealing piece of modern art, then had our first Sushi in a long while. We also took an evening Northern Lights tour on a quest to see the elusive Aurora Borealis. We “failed” this time as the tour guide summed it up. I hope this hunt will not be as long a wait as Loren’s goal was to see a moose in the wild earlier on our journey! Not only were art sculptures plentiful, there was also an abundance of street art found on the sides of buildings all around town. 
Another day, during a self-led exploration of the city, we stopped for a hot dog at the famed Baejarins Beztu, but came away with the conclusion that a hot dog is a hot dog is a hot dog – maybe our opinion was affected too from having had curry bratwurst in Hamburg and other wursts Berlin recently. Speaking of food, Loren was also keen to try a traditional Kleina – donut, made the Icelandic way – cut in the shape of a diamond and not glazed, as compared to the more familiar Kleinhuringa which are round and glazed.
We visited the free Museum of Photography, then hiked past the lake…
to Perlan where we enjoyed a bowl of soup in the slowly rotating rooftop cafe, though to us it seemed not to be rotating at all, for another birds’ eye view of the city. We topped off our evening with a visit to a different Sushi barinn – restaurant. Yum!
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We also took a day tour called “Glaciers, Waterfalls and Beaches of Southern Iceland.” I have only had one other experience of seeing a glacier in person – when we were in the Canadian Rocky Mountains on this journey. This time we were able to hike much closer to the edge and actually saw the turquoise in the ice.
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The beaches, like one we visited once in Hawaii, are made of black pebbles, from the volcanic nature of the terrain. Our informative guide Iris but pronounced like Ear-is, described the massive flooding that occurs in the farmlands after a volcano that is buried beneath a glacier erupts. They have to have a specially trained rescue corps and evacuation drills for that reason. Here too we found the familiar basalt columnar formations that we have seen at Devil’s Postpone in California, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
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One more day here found us visiting Aurora Reykjavik – a museum devoted to the Northern Lights showing photos, videos and information gleaned from NASA. So there to the elusive phenomenon! Well, except that we still hope to see “The Lights” in real life. We also stopped in at the Phallological Museum. Yes, there is actually a museum devoted to displaying specimens from an assortment of animals. We decided to skip on browsing it other than to have a look in the gift shop, which was full of phallic items for sale. I passed on taking any photos but will forever remember the floppy aprons.
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We had one more fulfilling dinner of Sushi before attending Sinfoniuhljomsveit Islands – Iceland’s Symphony Orchestra at Harpa concert hall. This particular program, being performed during the popular music festival named Iceland Airwaves, featured “new music” pieces by talented artists, explaining why I was surprised to find ushers offering packages of ear plugs for sale at the door… A memorable performance was presented by several musicians on a two-tier stage. It was in honor of 10 years of affiliation to the “Bedroom Community” record label, with Crash Ensemble of Ireland. I just realized – there is only one letter difference between Ireland and Iceland! The event was all in collaboration with the orchestra and a choir. It was touching to see some of the performers share happy anniversary hugs between pieces.
Before we leave Iceland, which is mostly not covered by ice, or volcanoes – The Land of Fire and Ice is it’s nickname, we have two more full days planned here. Then we fly to New York for a very special someone’s Sweet Sixteenth birthday celebration!

REPOSTING in Progress: Weeks 2 to 109

This place holder is for the entries from our original blog to be added, eventually. Please check back – this re-creation is a labor of Love and will take a bit of  t-i-m-e- which, while still traveling, we do not always have a lot available to devote to this.