by Amanda Vallone
Every year we plan a trip for the first quarter to go somewhere “big” as a group. In 2015, we went to China; 2016 it was Germany. For 2017 we decided to visit Iceland. Automatically people ask, “Why in the world did you go to Iceland in February? Wasn’t it cold?” Well the answer is “Yes!”
Iceland in February is very cold. It ranged anywhere from 0 to 32 degrees, depending on where we were located and the day. But the temperature was not really that bad. Being a native of Buffalo, New York, I grew up in cold weather; what got to me was the wind. The wind was freezing, bone-chilling cold. So, I suppose that make you want to stop reading and say, “ehhh Iceland isn’t for me!” Well WAIT ONE MORE MINUTE!!!
To answer your question, we chose February because of the Northern Lights. We were on an Aurora Borealis trekking expedition. If you have read a blog by me in the past you may know my daughter’s name is Aurora, and though she may be a princess in my book, Disney’s Briar Rose was not her namesake! Rather the beautiful greens, purples, and blues of the northern lights were the inspiration for my child’s name – Aurora and our quest for viewing these lights everywhere we can. Many people travel to Iceland on a journey to discover these beautiful lights during the winter because there are few hours of daylight. Actually, sunrise is somewhere around 10am and sunset is somewhere around 6pm, so you have the largest opportunity to see the auroras during the winter months. Also, Auroras go in cycles. Aurora flares go in 10-40 year cycles and this year was the last year in the cycle. Quite honestly, Aurora is a bit of a diva – even on the best of auroral flares you may not see her in all of her beauty because she will hide under cloud cover.
On our recent trip to Iceland we did not truly see the Aurora Borealis the way we thought we would. We did however have a heck of a great time experiencing everything else Iceland had to offer. One evening in Reykjavik, we sailed into the darkness of Faxafloi Bay in search of the northern lights. My hubby George and best friend Sherri both saw a slight streak of green dance through the sky for a moment. But the even better part of that excursion was getting into these crazy outfits. It was one size fits most and for a 6’4 “retired” football player (offensive lineman) squeezing into this tiny red suit was quite the entertaining event for all of us to watch. And it was a great show that George put on.
So besides Northern Lights, why else visit Iceland?
Well honestly, the rest of the trip was the icing on the cake, it was spectacular!
From waterfalls to glaciers, volcanos to fun food this trip was superb. So I will just go stop by stop.
The Golden Circle
This is a route that encompasses many of Iceland’s most renowned national wonders and some of the best stories.
We went to Thingvellir National Park – Iceland’s most historic area where in 930 A.D. Icelanders gathered and formed one of the world’s first parliaments.
It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it is where the North America and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The views were so magnificent here it was unbelievable. We walked along a very icy path to see each of these sights and the sun hitting the water and ice in the background was so worth the cold, wind, and walk. Simply stunning.
There was one section that was quite disturbing. Our guide told us a story that back in the 17th century public execution was part of Icelandic way of life. From beheading to hangings, there were multiple ways of punishment. But at Thingvellir there was one disturbing part in particular – the pool of shame. A stain on Icelandic history, it is now recognized by a plaque at “the drowning pool” where parents would bring their “loose moraled” daughters who got pregnant out of wedlock to this pool and tie them up and drown them L How Sad!
Gulfoss- aka the Golden Falls
Gulfoss is a spectacular double cascading waterfall that is simply stunning. You can view it from above and see the rush of the waters (as seen in the video clip here). OR view from below.
To view from below, be VERY careful! You must go down a very steep set of about 100 wooden steps. In the winter the mist from the waterfall creates ice on the stairs and makes it difficult.
*****Packing tip: This was the second place we noticed you really should have Yak Trax or something similar for traction. You will need them! ****
Gulfoss may be the most popular of all the falls in Iceland, but Seljalandfoss was my favorite. We could actually walk behind the waterfall! This is again a place that you must have the proper footwear and rain jackets/waterproof jackets or you will not be a happy camper. In order to protect my water “resistant” jacket I wore one of those cheapie ponchos and I was happy I did. I still got soaked! Was it worth it? TOTALLY! Seljalandfoss is a MUST for an Iceland trip.
From there we went onto the southwestern-most village in Iceland, Vik. We stayed at Hotel Katla Hofdabrekka, in the “new” side. From the outside pulling up it was slightly worrisome. I was told it was somewhat like a compound by others who had gone before me. When I pulled up, I thought – OH NO, the 22 others I brought with me will hate this. Oh boy was I wrong! This place was spectacular! Truly amazing! The outside of the hotel looked slightly like a “compound” sure. But the rooms inside were very stylish and “ikea” inspired. The breakfast and dinner we had daily at the hotel were wonderful! And if you can get a room at the very end of the hallway it is even bigger than all of the rest. SCORE!
While in VIK we experienced some very bad weather. All buses and drivers were grounded because there were gale-force winds in Southern Iceland and that same day 4 buses had been blown off of the road, as had a few cars. For our safety we actually missed some of our planned tour. So instead, we had a cocktail party. Because that is the way Roseborough Travel likes to make our clients happy. And honestly, the bar was the only thing that was open. The hotel brought in a speaker that told us the history of the area and land that Hotel Katla was built on. We also took a hike up the mountain in the background.
YOU EAT WHAT?!?!?!?!
Have you heard of the local delicacy and culinary tradition – Hakarl – fermented, putrefied, shark meat? It is Greenlandic Shark that is not only extremely ugly, but doesn’t have kidneys so it is toxic to humans to eat. So years ago the Vikings devised a technique to be able to eat this shark – squeeze out the toxins, burry it, dig it up, hang the meat, and let it rot. When it smells nice and ripe – like rotten cheese and turpentine – it’s ready. GROSS! And they eat this stuff! It is on buffets in restaurants and offered to guests as a kindness in tradition.
So did we eat it? Of course we did! I am not one to pass up any crazy food while traveling to a destination. And we washed it down with a shot of Brennivin, an Icelandic liquor with the taste of caraway seeds.
Now the question is: How would you say cheers to that? Skal! In Icelandic!
Look out for Iceland Part 2!
National Parks Celebrate 100 years #NPS100
Happy birthday to you.. happy Birthday to you… Happy birthday NPS… Happy birthday to you.
So my birthday was just on Tuesday. I’ve heard the birthday song almost more times than I can bare. I love celebrating, don’t get me wrong- But hate being serenaded. And believe me, no one in their right mind would have wanted to hear me sing that birthday song.
So today is the national park services 100 year birthday. That’s pretty spectacular. One true milestone I think we all can agree upon. Yellowstone national park was the first of the national parks within the system and possibly the world. Known for its wildlife and many geothermal features, especially for Old Faithful Geyser-one of the most popular features in the park, Yellowstone is a favorite park to many.
Jean recently went on a Mayflower tour to the National Parks and this was her experience “Old Faithful- Our Yellowstone naturalist guide was like a walking guidebook and showed us all sorts of great information about Yellowstone that I didn’t know. Most important, he coordinated with our Mayflower tour manager to be sure we got to see Old Faithful go off after grabbing a bite to eat at the visitor’s center. The smell of Sulphur all around, we saw a little bubbling as we stood at a viewing platform all around. Then, all of a sudden- whoosh! The geyser shot up and it sounded like a heavy rain falling.”
Continental Divide- this was a really cool spot where we had breakfast with a view of the Grand Tetons in the background. We had hot coffee, juice, flapjacks, French Toast, sausage and bacon which were delicious- but it was the view that made it spectacular!
Devil’s Tower- according to Native American legend, the rock rose up to save seven little girls from a larger bear. It’s home to more than 20 Native American tribes and we’ve seen it in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Pretty awesome to be standing right in front of it!
Custer State Park- up close with all sorts of beautiful creatures
Float trip- our view of the Grand Tetons from the raft on the river was totally free of any cars or buildings blocking them. Our raft guide kept us safe on our soft adventure, while giving all sorts of insight about the birds, wildlife, history and stories of the area. And we even got to see a bald eagle! They say smelling the fresh pine is actually a stress relief…and I agree!
Mt Rushmore- so pretty with the sun shining, but we also got to see a ceremony at night- what a patriotic way to experience this monument.Validation that it is great to be seeing such cool things right in the states!
– Picture of the mountains- Pretty much sums up the natural beauty of this trip…this is going up on the wall!
As the great John Muir said “The mountains are calling, and I must go!”
If you are interested in joining a tour like Jean or Amanda took check out this link It is our group going June 2017 to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Mt. Rushmore…
Or give us a call at 386-734-7245 at Roseborough Travel and we will be happy to help you with planning your National Parks tour.
It is Friday night… What does that mean? Movie night! So the Legend of Tarzan it is. Tiffany Clay has been going on about how great the new Tarzan movie is so George and I figured we would have to check it out. On a side note- I was a total True Blood fan, so the main actor in Tarzan, Alexander Skarsgård, totally sold it for me before I ever saw the trailer.
So, what the heck does this blog post have to do about travel? Well, a lot! My normal day is just about as inconsistent as… let’s just say it is very inconsistent. Not because I cannot stay on task (though, I bet you are wondering if I can, after reading these first few sentences), but rather, what I do at Roseborough is wear a great many hats. One moment I will be blogging, the next moment I will be video posting, then there is flyers, facebook, newspapers, presentations, e-newsletters, group trips, website work… the list goes on. So, what was I doing today? Today I just so happened to be working on our 2017 South African Adventure.
I am so excited about this trip to South Africa including Botswana & Zimbabwe. As I was putting final details on the written portion of the flyer, and doing some additional research, my brain started reeling. Next year I will be going to my absolute numeral UNO destination on my live it list in the entire world. Eeeeeeeeeek!!!! Seriously, my heart is doing a little happy dance right now and I am literally giddy. Sure it is 11:30pm and I just had a cup of espresso (don’t ask me why). But the excitement is totally about Africa and not the caffeine!
So what will we be doing on this adventure you ask? Well let me tell you. We begin by flying into Cape Town which is a totally cool port city on the Southwest coast of South Africa. Cape Town is the second most populous urban area in South Africa and home to highlights including:
- Table Mountain
- Robben Island
- V&A Waterfront
- Camps Bay
- Boulders Beach
- Kirstenbosch Gardens
- Wine Regions
I myself, am totally stoked about Table Mountain as well as Robben Island the former penal colony where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Did you know the prison tours are actually now run my former political prisoners like Mr. Mandela whom have firsthand knowledge and experiences of the nearly 500 year system that Robben Island was built on. Our tour is actually going to end at his cell. I am not sure words can describe this. The only thing I can even relate this experience to (not having actually experienced Robben Island yet) is Alcatraz. When I went to San Francisco I was not overly excited about going to Alcatraz, rather it was a portion of a day tour to Muir Woods and Sausalito in which we chose the Alcatraz extension because my hubby George wanted to go. Well the tour was spoken in the words of the prisoners and the prison guards. It was spectacular! So I am only assuming that Robben Island would and should live up to that same odd historical prison experience I am somehow overly “excited” for. And if it for any reason does not live up to my dreams (which I highly doubt), we will be going to the winelands of South Africa for lunch and then a tour and tasting. Uh… SCORE!
(Photo Credit: Poonam Jayarajan)
Yup, total wino and coffee addict am I… I think I may begin taste testing all of the South African Wines I can get my hands on to “prepare” for this trip. Its for educational value, isn’t it? Who wants to join me?
Anyway South Africa has amazing vineyards that are as if you stepped into the south of France- Dreams DO come TRUE!
Ok ok, so where are all the animals? Well get this, I bet I will shock you with what animals we will see first.
Penguins! Yup, you read that right! We are going to see a colony of Penguins in Africa (my favorite)
Next odd one up….
OK, now for the Big Five- as we venture on to Chobe National Park this is where we will partake in not only game drives in those jeeps that you think of when people picture traveling through Africa. But we will also take a River Safari Ride. Remember, the animals come to the water to drink and cool down. So the river ride will give us the opportunity to see many bird species as well as animal drinking. My Salute Africa travel rep Bruce had a pack of Elephants cross in the water right in front of him (about 10 feet away). His wife got some great footage on her iPad. And they saw a bunch of hippopotamus up close and personal on this same river ride.
So what are the Big Five? What does that term mean? The Big Five was a term coined back in the early 1900’s because it meant it was the most difficult and dangerous animals to kill/ hunt on foot. These animals include: the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and the rhinoceros. Today tour operators use this term to talk about the animals that would bring presidents and dignitaries to South Africa in years past. Now the only difference is, on our hunt we will be shooting them with our cameras and iPads.
After spending 2 nights in the Chobe National Park Lodge with game drives, boat rides, and hiking opportunities I am sure we will get our chance to see a ton of wildlife J
And if all of that was not enough… we are going to see the AMAZING Victoria Falls. This magnificent wonder took over 500,000 years for nature to carve out and it is spectacular!
So how does that all relate to Tarzan? Watch the movie… the scenery alone will make you want to go to South Africa. Just about every 20 minutes I said “I cannot wait to go to Africa” from the animals to the beautiful landscape, the culture to the cuisine I literally cannot wait. My heart yearns to travel to South Africa, Zimbabwe, & Botswana on this trip. I am going next September and as soon as I have more details and a flyer posted I will definitely include it. In the meantime, I am going to have an event that will answer some questions about the trip. Join us Thursday, September 8th for our Let’s Talk Travel Series. It is themed Multi-generational Travel- but we are going to talk about this adventure because it is planned as a family friendly departure. That’s Right, Aurora the Explorer is coming along!
Let’s go to Africa!
What is your plan for Valentines day?
It isn’t too late to plan a romantic getaway to spend with your love.
Sure Paris is an amazing romantic getaway… but if you didn’t do the planning behind the trip it might be a bit too much for next week. so how about Las Vegas and stay at the Paris Hotel.
Vegas not your style? Try a Cruise- There are great rates and even some Shipboard Credit being offered right now. And contrary to popular belief, if you are a US resident and going round trip from a US port you can still travel with a certified copy of your birth certificate- though Passports are always the best form of ID.
As always – don’t plan your vacation alone -leave it to the experts of Roseborough Travel Agency. We are a full service travel agency ready and willing to do all of your planning and work for your vacation without any extra fees on cruises or tours.
Give the gift of a romantic getaway this Valentines Day!
And if all of this planning is just too last-minute for r loved one to our friends at DeLa Vegas for a great dinner and Dancing and get a Roseborough Gift Certificate with your Valentines meal.
For one or all of these vacation getaways give Roseborough Travel Agency a call 386-734-7245 or check out our website
*Book your travel package with the professionals at NO extra fee*