Iceland – The Land of Northern Lights, Magical Trolls, and Mystifying Foods: Part 2

by Amanda Vallone

 

Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Visitors Center

 

Once the travel ban was lifted we went onto one of the most historic sites in most recent travel memory – Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Visitors Center or E15 for short. You may remember a ton of flights in 2010 being cancelled due to the black soot let off by a volcano in Iceland. Well E15 was the culprit. IATA estimates over 107,000 flights in an eight day period were cancelled, affecting nearly 10 million passengers. Working in the travel industry, this was a HUGE deal and a vivid memory.

The visit to Eyjafjallajokull was intriguing because it showcased one family’s struggle of life during and after the dramatic events of the explosion of this infamous volcano that brought European air travel to a halt. The family that ran the visitors center told us about running a farm and living under an active volcano, worrying about it exploding, and life when it was about to errupt. We learned of how they had to move all of their livestock and how they nearly lost their farm…. we also learned of how they overcame such a crazy event. Interestingly enough, tourists from all over the world would come and help them clean up the black dust, volcanic ash, so that they could have a part of E15 to bring home with them too.  Most interesting to me was much unlike Hawaiian Volcanoes (that I had just seen in July of last year), the eruption of E15 occurred under a layer of glacial ice which chilled lava quickly. This is what caused the black ash to plume and turn the black cloud above for so long rather than hot flowing lava.

 

 

Reynisfjara

 

 

 

Reynisfjara is a black sand beach right outside of Vik. The sand is black due to volcanic ash and the beach is surrounded by basalt formations which is volcanic rock or lava exposed at the beaches surface.

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There are also great cliffs and caves to take photos in and of where you will see many birds and of course rushing waves from the ocean.

 

Geysir & Stokkur

 

From boiling mudpits to geothermal fields, the exploding geysers the Geysir Hot Spring Area is a wonderful stop along the Golden Circle that will get your clicker finger going for your chance to catch Geysir or Stokkur Errupt.

 

 

Blue Lagoon

 

The Reykjanes Peninsula is home to a rugged landscape, lava fields, numerous hot springs, and the world famous Blue Lagoon. Did you know the water in the Blue Lagoon is not really blue? It is actually clear to milky white. The blue hue is from the silica in the water.

Did you also know, you must have an appointment to go to Blue Lagoon?! You can even set up a layover appointment at Blue lagoon to save your luggage, get a spa service, then go back to the airport if you like. Well you can!

On that, it is a SPA! The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal heated pool that visitors may get massages, facials, enjoy fine dining, or just some time in the pleasantly warm bath. The mineral-rich waters of the geothermal pool are located in the middle of a lava field so it looks beautiful and natural – just the way any perfect spa should.

A few fine points for us Americans – you MUST shower naked prior to going in. (You do wear a swimsuit while in the lagoon.) I had a few people calling me on a weekly bases (you know who you are) worried that they were going to re-live their high school gym locker room days showering in public. Yes and No! You can if you want, and you will see many people unfazed by the human body, but if you are uneasy about showing off your fleshy parts, don’t worry, at the end of the locker room there are curtained showers.

Conditioner. Conditioner. CONDITIONER! Ladies, this mineral rich water wreaks havoc on your locks! The spa provides you some conditioning cream to use prior and after but be prepared – you will need more. OR you may bring a shower cap and put your hair up.

I would also recommend leaving your towel in your locker. I brought mine outside and because it was snowing my towel got wet sitting on the hook. You only get one towel at check in, so be careful with it!

Finally, bring a waterproof case for your phone or gopro for photos in the water. It is so beautiful; it is worth it.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED Blue Lagoon. It was so much fun and relaxing too. We got a few beers while floating around in the waters, and did a silica mask to help with age defying and make our faces look like a cute baby’s bottom and then we paid for the Algae Mask to cool the slight sting left behind from the Silica.

 

 

Reykjavik

 

We stayed at Hotel Reykjavik Centrum, a perfect location right in the center of the town and great for our evening of shenanigans.

Throughout Iceland you can enjoy some pretty amazing hotdogs, aka the Pylsa. I mean these things are gourmet! I am not much a fan of having hot dogs on a normal basis, but these were made of primarily Icelandic lamb with some pork and beef topped with fried onions, a creamy sweet mustard, bacon bits, and various other toppings.

The bun is steamed and the meat is actually cooked with some malt beer in the water. YUMMMM!

 

Have a Whale of a time!?! They Eat Whales too?

 

Yes, we did try some Whale while here. The concept that Icelanders serve you whale while at any restaurant was quite mind boggling to me. Before going on this trip I read that it was an Icelandic delicacy, but everything I always thought was that whales were endangered or that they were not food for the very least. It got me pretty curious. I would say do some research. I did try it. I didn’t think it tasted bad at all actually. But, I wouldn’t eat it on the regular.

 

They eat that too?

 

 

Nightlife in Reykjavik

 

George, Sherri, and I went out all night downtown Reykjabik. We started in the Drunken Rabbit which was super casual and has great live music. Loved this! You can spin the wheel and win up to 8 free drinks! Wahoo. The Drunken Rabbit was our “go to” every night.

We also went to the American Bar… which we felt was pretty hypocritical of all the things other people think “Americans” are. There were football helmets, jazz music, a picture of Jack Nicholson doing his the “here’s Johnny” face from the shining and it was pretty boring on this evening. We left pretty quickly.

Then onto a British bar- AMAZING!

And finally the “locals” bar- they sang Icelandic music, the menus were in Icelandic, and the vibe was dark & cool and super goth, yet great. Loved this one too!

Sherri and I felt like we could have stayed out all night long without George and we would have felt SAFE as two women bar hopping. We were so happy to have him with us, but we realized how safe we felt in ALL of Iceland.

 

All-in-all I LOVED Iceland. I would recommend going back in May to see the Puffins come in and to enjoy slightly warmer temperatures. But the views were extraordinary!

If the land of Fire and Ice is one you wish to see, feel free to e-mail me and I will be happy to share more with you.

 

 

Check Out Part 1 here.

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Explorers Spotlight Part two: Debbie and Jim’s Adventure

jim in santorini

Today’s post is catching up again With Debbie and Jim as we follow along on their Grecian adventure!

Day 4: Santorini

Another great day exploring Santorini.  The island has similarities and differences to Mykonos.  First, where Mykonos has buildings beginning at sea level, Santorini is mostly inhabited at the top of the mountain.  Santorini was formed, along with some other pieces of land nearby, by a volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago.  The volcano’s top was blown off in the eruption and debris was sent everywhere. The last time the volcano erupted was 1956, so many areas were destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

santorini

In Santorini, we took a tender to the dock and then boarded a bus.  There are three ways to get to the top if you haven’t booked an excursion – walk a long way on cobblestone streets, ride donkeys (which was not recommended), or take the cable car.  We had an excursion booked so we had a bus.   The bus drove around the island as the guide told us things about Santorini.  We went to the highest point of the island, but it was foggy and we couldn’t see much.  We did notice that many wild flowers were in full bloom and it was very pretty.   Then we drove to Oia, an old village on the northern tip of the island on a steep slope.  On the way we saw beaches and views of both sides of the island.  One of the beaches has black sand because of the volcano.  Santorini has lots of land in between towns, and seems more spread out. (Maybe that is because we only saw certain parts of Mykonos.)  After Oia, we were driven to Fira, another town. There are lots of shops here, and the streets are narrow and made of cobblestones. (They were in Oia, too.) Even in the beginning of the tourist season, which is now, it is crowded and hard to get around.  Most of Santorini’s streets are cobblestoned.  Everything is not white and blue like Mykonos; there are other colors on buildings.

jim and debbie

Day 5: At Sea

There is much to do on this ship.  They have activities scheduled all day and night.  Most of the time, we are on excursions and are gone (or just aren’t interested – like games, trivia contests, parties, etc), but today I got to go to two art classes. I took a watercolor pencil class and an acrylic painting class.  The outcome was nothing to write home about, or even keep, but it was fun to get to do some art.  Jim spent some time at the pool talking with people (he met some people from UF), working out and walking again, and laying by the pool.  All in all, we enjoyed the day.

pool at night

Day 6: Malta

Today our port of call was Valetta, Malta.  It looks very different from the Greek islands we have visited.  On Malta, all the buildings are made of blocks of limestone (a little bigger than the size of a large concrete block) and are a honey color.  It looks like a fortress in some areas.  The architecture is a combination of Arab and Baroque design, and looks very majestic.  One interesting thing about Malta is the houses were originally built with balconies.  It is against the law to take them down, and owners are required to maintain them.  They aren’t all the same and are very interesting.

Our tour first took us to the town of Mosta, and we went inside the Mosta Dome church.  This church has the third largest dome in the world.  Everything is beautiful and ornate.  Then we drove through the countryside to a former World War II airfield that has been turned into a crafts village called Ta’Qali.  We went to a store that makes filigree jewelry.  It is such tiny, delicate work.  I think I would go blind if I had to do that all day. Our next stop was Dingli Cliffs – the highest point on Malta.  The views are great.  There is also a small, old church there with no windows, only the door.  The lack of windows was for protection from invaders.

cathedral in Malta

Our last stop was the ancient city of M’Dina, which is a walled city with narrow winding streets to confuse invaders.  Inside M’Dina are churches, aristocratic houses, and a few stores.  They are all connected, except for the streets.  Most of the architecture is Baroque, but in the middle of the city is a square with the Cathedral of St. Paul and St. Peter. The buildings here reflect Spanish design, Baroque style, and Neo-gothic, but all are of limestone.

Wanda’s Grand Voyage

Roseborough’s own Wanda Hamm talks about her Grand Voyage around the globe.

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How many days was your cruise?

111 Days. We left on January 4th this year and returned home on April 26th. It was round-trip from Ft. Lauderdale.

How many different ports of call did you go to?

There were 36 scheduled ports, but we missed two of them due to bad weather.
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Why did you decide to go on a grand voyage?

We decided to do the World Cruise to see as much of the world as we could without having to pack and unpack. The cruise ship was our moving hotel. Also, I don’t like to fly, so this was a perfect alternative.

What makes a Grand Voyage different from the other cruises you have gone on?

They roll out the red carpet on the World Cruise.  Holland has Gala Night with nice gifts such as luggage, Waterford Frames, Chocolates, World Cruise Logo Items, and Dinner with the Captain.  There are lots of parties for various occasions.  And the dining experience is above any other cruise I have been on.

What was your favorite experience from the cruise?

We loved all of the ports, but we especially loved Japan – the cities were extremely clean and the people were very friendly and helpful to us as visitors.  Oman was another favorite, we fell in love with the people. Kindness is very important to them.

Why should someone consider a grand voyage?

It is a trip of a life time and exceeds anything you could imagine.  The memories you create and bring back, you will cherish them forever.