Sunday, July 31, 2011


Our last full day in Iceland. Yes, you may sigh. I will even permit you a pout. Please do it now. You will not be allowed to do it later.

All done? Swell. Let's move on

Collette and I considered booking a day tour from here in Reykjavik, either another whale watching trip or a voyage to the Westman Islands, a place of which we have heard much but have never visited ... well that voyage is not available on a Sunday. We could have gone whale watching but let's be honest ... we're old and damnit, we're tired.

So instead we decided to stay here in Reykjavik and explore. Yes, we spent our first day here but, due to our exhausted state, that wasn't exploration, that was a zombie crawl.

At the end of the day we are very happy with our decision. Reykjavik is a pretty little port town with colourful houses in the Newfoundland tradition and lots of resturaunts, bars and of course tourit shops. And yes, we shopped. What the fuck, we are, after all, tourists

We got to see some of the city's historical landmarks, like the Parlmiment building (recognized early on by the stench wait, that would be Ottawa) and a little area of buildings dated from the 1800's

We actually began the day by visiting a local flea market. This was about as untouristy as you can get. It actually reminded me of the Heights, back home. Those who don't know, will be saying "Oh, how quaint" Those who do know will be saying "Crap, really?"

For lunch we ducked into an English style pub. Yes, I went to an English pub in Iceland. Hell, I go to English pubs in Toronto, they probably are not authentic either. But I did have an Icelandic beer. OK, it was an India Pale Ale. But it tasted different from those I drink back home so perhaps it actually is authentic.

In all it was a very laid back day, just ambling around the town, no particular plans and avoiding steep hills and anything with too many stairs. Ah, perfect.

Tommorrow we visit the Blue Lagoon. This is an Icelandic spa that seems so posh I can't help but think I'll be tossed out ... If it's posh, why the fuck would they accept me?

Don't answer. That was a rhetorical question. Ahem

In all liklihood this will be my last post from Iceland. It's a sad thing to contemplate. It's not sad that I won't be communicating from here to all the people I pretend actually read this thing, but sad that we will be leaving.

We've seen a lot of this remarable country but I know there is so much more to experience. I suppose that a good trip is any that you are relunctant to end.

By that standard, this has been a very very good trip

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I'm writing this at 10 pm from a hotel room in Reykjiavik. Our guided coach tour has ended, but we still have two more days here in the area of the city before we fly home. We are both tired and, as Leonard Cohen said "I ache in the places where I used to play" ... but also very happy

Collette and I are both very sad that our tour was over. It was indeed an incredible, eye opening experience, shared by some very likeable and interesting people from all over the world .. well an awful lot of folks from Belgium but as it turns out, that is not a bad thing at all

The day began with a visit to the Friheimer farm for an event that we both have been antcipating: A demonstration of the Iceland horse

As I stated in a previous post, the Icelandic horse is considered to be one of the purest strains in the world. Importing other breeds of horse is strictly forbidden here and this horse has remained true to itself for countless generations. Is the Icelandic horse a snob? Well if you were that pretty you would be as well, and who could argue with you

It was explained to us that another thing that makes this breed of horse unique is the fact that while most horses have two or three gaits, the Icelandic horse has five. The family that owns the farm demonstrated one of these special gaits by riding the horse around the ring while carring a mug of beer, without spilling very much. How cool is that? Oh, waitress ...

From one of the many animal wonders of Iceland (I was going to use the term "bestial" but as we all know, this isn't that kind of blog) we went on to check out one of the inumerable natural wonders. This time it was a geyser and, in the practical way of the Icelanders, it was called .... Geyser.

Gosh, didn't see that one coming did you.

From the geyser we went to visit the site of the original Icelandic parliment, established around 930 AC, making it one of the oldest parliments on the planet .. making it a Viking parliment, dude, so don't you mess with our democracy or we'll cut off your head and use it as a flag .. um well really, nothing like that. But a boy can dream can't he?

As always, I'm going to keep this short. We have a full day tomorrow in which we plan to visit more of Reykiavik (have I ever spelled that same way twice? If so, please ignore) hopefully to hit a couple of art galleries, do some shopping and visit a site where they've excavated the oldest building in the city... or we may just hang around the hotel room and drink Viking beer in our underwear.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Internet connections have been very spotty as we've moved around the country ... not to mention the fact by 10 pm, after copying over the day's video and photo's I'm just falling into bed with a can of Viking Beer

We're currently in the eastern part of the country and have just finished up the second last day of our guided tour, with another full day in Rejkivavik still to come

We've seen a lot in the last couple of days. We wandered through an incredible volcanic landscape with gigantic rock formations that resembled churches and were just as big. We watched geysers and bubbling pots of lava that had the consistency of my chili but smelled a lot different.... whether better or worse is not for me to say

We came through another volcanic landscape that reminded me of Utah only to come to a gigantic waterfall across which flows more water than any waterfall in Europe

Collette and I wandered around a quaint fishing village where a long deep fjord meets the ocean.

Later we boarded an amphibious craft and cruised across a glacial lagoon to watch ice bergs, made of ice thousands of years old, glisten in the sun

Today we hiked some 300 meters (or so) up steep, rubble strewn hill sides to gaze out at the tongue of Iceland's largest glacier, some 8,000 squared kilometers in size. We stood there and gazed out across a landscape that has been completely determined by this glacier, a vast plain guarded by giant moraines where huge cirques glistened in the morning sun

Later we travelled to see more waterfalls. Iceland, in my experience so far, is a land of sheep and horses and waterfalls. The latter are everwhere, from thin streams of water pouring down steep cliffs to massive deluges flying away from the glaciers

We learned about how this country has been created, and oft times destroyed, by these titantic forces: Earthquakes and floods and eruptions. Today we drove through lava fields some 60 km in length, stretching horizon to horizon that all resulted from a single eruption. More than once the entire population of the island has been on the verge of extinction due to its own nascent nature, and yet the island survives and its people have thrived

Although our last few days have been blessed by absolutely beautiful weather, today the rain returned to Iceland. We walked along a shoreline of black volcanic sand where the surf pounded against the shore and flung up white foam like giant skirts of Irish lace and where puffins nested on the cliff faces

And where Collette and I found a black farm dog with a white muzzle that, if not a border collie, had the heart of one. I gave the border collie whistle and he came right to me and accepted a scratch under the jaw before flying off to herd up some errant ATVs ...

Tomorrow will not be our last day in Iceland but the last day of our tour. We have seen a great deal of this remarkable, death defying little country ... and already, I am missing it

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Any day is a good day when it starts out with you watching whales. Any day is a good day that ends with you lolling about in a thermal heated spring water pool

Ah, another day in Iceland. Life is brutal, eh

Collette and I started out searching for whales. And we found them. Three Minke whales, two of them a pair, something I'm told is unusual. The Minke whale is the only whale hunted in Iceland yet they did not appear to run from our boat. Either these whales are stupid, or Icelanders are really just poor hunters.

Finding whales is far from a guaranteed activity but we had an exceptional day for it, sunny and calm and relatively warm. Spotting Minke whales is a bit of an art form; the surface to breathe of course but they came up in a long curve of dark flesh, a blow of air, then back down again. They will do this three times in a row then go down for a deeper dive to breathe.

Predicting where they will surface was not easy but still, Collette did manage to shoot them .. I mean get a few shots. With her camera that is. We haven't "gone native" enough to start hunting whales.

Being Collette, she was not merely satisfied to caputre pictures of whales. She had to go after what may be the world's most bizarre looking yet cutest bird, the puffin

After the whale watching, we went exploring some of Icleand's incredible volcanic character. From a midge lake with its psuedo craters created by explosions of steam, to an awesome area of gigantic lava formations called the "dark fortress" ...

... to climbing up what surely was a mile or two (or so my lungs tried to tell me) to peer in a giant crater so Lunar like, it was used to train the Apollo astrounauts.

What is the solution to straining your gimply ankle and straining your couch potato lungs? As mentioned, lolling about in some thermally heated water.

Yes, we really are roughing it.

Monday, July 25, 2011


OK, a day without internet access has left me a day behind ... but still travelling through this incredible little country with my Alice (that would be Collette) by my side.

In the past two days we have covered an awful lot of ground. While we're travelling I'm going to keep the posts pretty short; I'm here to enjoy the trip, not to blog. Later, I'll post more detailed logs, including a lot more of Collette's pics and fully edited videos.

See, now you have something to look forward to. Please don't hold your breath waiting. You just look silly that way

Yesterday we went to the west fijords, along the penninsula of Snaefellsnes (yeh, don't try to pronounce any of these words, you'll look sillier than when you do holding your breath) Along the way we saw many of the Icelandic horse. This is a totally unique breed, much protected by the locals, it is absolutely forbidden to import any other horse, including the offspring of Icelandic horses that have gone abroad, so this is about as pure as pure can get. In a country of about 300,000 people, they host horse population of 90,000

Highlights of the day included visit to a shark museum where an old fisherman described his technique for catching, preserving and eating Greenland shark. Yes, we had a taste of it. It was not at all bad, rather tasteless with a chewy consistancy.

Iceland is a crazy country, formed by ocean and glaciers and volcanoes. We nwent on a hike, along a trail, that became a narrow canyon, that widened just a bit, filled with volcanic stones ... very smooth volcanic stones. And metal. Big pieces of twisted rusted metal. These were the remnants of a Russian fishing trawler, smashed and abandoned ... we walked a bit further and we saw why. The canyon became a beach. A beach of stones worn to smoothness by a surf so powerful it had shattered the giant volcanic stones and stranded that fishing boat there forever.

Water and volcanic rock often meet on this island and the union is often, as is the case with passonate lovers, a tad violent. As is this case with water that has smashed right through the stone to form waterfalls.

Today we witnessed another example of the forces that have created this country, that being of the geothermic variety. Iceland is famous for it's hotsprings and we visited the one deemed the hottest. Water coming out of the earth at well over a 100 C, boiling up and creating steam that drifts across the lands and shrouds the visitor in mist.

Gorillas in the mist indeed ...

Tomorrow, whale watching. Aye, Cap'n Ahab.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I'm writing this post rom the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Reykjavik Iceland. It is around 10 pm local time So it's been a long day. A long long long day

We arrived here in Icleand around 2 am our time, around 6 am local time. Each of us managed a couple of hours sleep during the 5 hour flight and trust me, that turned out to less than sufficiant for the rest of the day.

From the airport at Keflavik to this hotel it was about a 30 minute bus ride, during which we got to experience a very Icelandic landscape: On one side, the ocean and on the other side, miles and miles of lava fields that had a ver Lunar feeling
That landscape petered out by the time we arrived in Reykjavik. It was a sunny day, temps in the low 20 C, with a brisk wind coming off the Atlantic. Reykjavik is a pretty little town, narrow sometimes cobbled streets running dow to the harbour. Away from the heart of the town which

has become the tourist haven, you could call the city quaint, with lots of unique architecture.

It is, of course, a harbour town, an ancient haunt of Vikings after all. And although the only Viking long ship we saw was this lovely metal sculpture ...

... it is still a very active working harbour town.

It is a pretty area, hosting 60% of Icleand's 300,000 residents but still small enough for a nice brisk walk. That is, if you haven't already been up for so many hours your brain can no long tabulate said hours

So we returned to the hotel around noon local time and around 7 am our next day ... and quickly fell into a heartfelt coma. Tomorrow we are off with the Great Canadian Tour company for 9 days of adventure all over the country. We will return to Reykjavik ... and hopefully be awake enough to appreciat it even more

Friday, July 22, 2011


How geeky is it?

I'm sitting in the Icelandair departure lounge in Pearson Airport posting a blog ...


Mostly cuz I can. And because I'm a geek. An incredibly virile sexy geek ... ahem

Collette and I are here, waiting for our plane at 8 pm on a Friday that will wing us to Reyjkavik Iceland where we will time warp to 6 in the morning on Saturday.

The girls are safe and sound at home and will be for the 10 days we'll be in Iceland.

Yes, Iceland. It's about 30 C here in Toronto as I write this. It's about 15 C in Icleand .... mmmm

So shut up

Yes, more to come

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Today we received the full itinerary for our Iceland trip and it's helping to put more of it into focus.

We fly out of Pearson at 9:15 pm our time and will arrive in Reykjavik Iceland at 6:25 am ... while actually only eating up about 5 hours time. Thank you very much time zones.

We'll spend that first day in Reykjavik. I considered looking up a local surgeon who could rewire my jaw so I could pronounce these Icelandic words but Collette suggested perhaps checking out the sights and sampling local cuisine. What a spoil sport eh.

Reykjavik sounds like a pretty cool town, with a population of around 200,000. That's less than the number of people in Yorkdale Mall on a saturday afternoon. I know that for a fact. I once counted them all. The magistrate suggested that it may be inappropriate to be touching that many strangers. Duly noted. But who knew?

Speaking of "cool" we knew that summer in Iceland would not be exactly balmy. As I right this post, the average temps for the country (and of course there will be a variety) are in the mid teens. We've been told that the climate should be very similar to New York City in the spring but without the smog .. and the crack ho's ...

Day three we're off to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with glaciers, fishing villages and lava fields. The entire country of Iceland is roughly the size of Kentucky so our travel time will not be too long for most trips but I expect to see some great scenery during the voyages anyway.

I'll be spending my birthday in the north part of the island, visiting Hraunfossar where water comes running from the under the lava into a river, one of the biggest hot springs in Europe and a visit to Gooafoss, the Waterfall of the Gods.

The next day begins with a fairly normal breakfast experience; you know, some coffee, a croissant, some whale watching .. nothing special. In that area we'll also see puffins .. dude, puffins .. which I once associated with a British publishing company. Apparantly Icelandic people eat puffins. Sitting down to a holiday meal of a dozen roasted puffins .. yummy (I made that last part up, duh)

Another feature I'm looking forward to is visiting Vatnajokull .. no, not a villain from a Robert E Howard novel but the largest glacier in Europe. Cool ... like, for real

Iceland is one of the newest places on the planet so there will be volcanoes and geysers and lave fields .. oh my! Not to mention some huge waterfalls mountains and ... unexpectantly .. a sandy desert.

Day 9 we'll get introduced to the Icelandic horse, a unique breed and visit the Viking Parliment of bingveilir .. a Viking Parliment. Hold on, I may need a moment ...

We'll end up back at Reykjavik for a day. We can decide to explore more of the city or choose to take one of many day trips, we'll have to see how tired we are at the time

Our travel agent arranged our last day for us. While our baggage will be sent off to the airport, we'll take our bathing suits to the Blue Lagoon ... um, no not that blue lagoon, stop thinking dirty. It is the most famous geo thermal spa in Iceland, a country that is replete with such features and actually uses geo thermal energy to warm their house etc.

We'll loll around in the waters, get in some serious relaxation, then go to the airport for the flight home.

Yeh. That's living rough for you

Monday, July 4, 2011


In a goofy little post from last year, I paid unlikely tribute to an Icelandic volcano that was giving the world a bit of a fit.

Well I guess irony rules.

On the 22nd of this month, Collette and I will be leaving for an 11 day tour of the country of Iceland. They wanted to give us a three hour tour and I said no way, I remember what happened to Gilligan ..

Anyway, yes we're going to be off to Iceland. We've booked a trip that will take us around the Ring Road where we'll get to see a good chunk of the country. Ice bergs, glaciers, volcaones, hot springs, whale watching, Icelandic ponies, some Viking stuff .. may I have a hoo-rah?

Thank you

If anyone who stumbles across this blog (and I apologize up front) who has been to Iceland, I would love to hear from you, any tips or suggestions warnings etc

So we are well into our preparations, which for Collette and I means, firstly, getting our electronics gear together. This past Christmas Collette bought new lenses and I bought my little Sony HD Handycam. We have also bought a new laptop, a 13 inch screen, flatter and lighter than our 15 incher. We will not be camping or doing vigorous hiking but we will be travelling from lodge to lodge and walking a fair bit so something small will be essential. Something that we can store and edit images and from which, perhaps, I will blog.

My original intent was to bring not only the Sony but my beloved Canon XL1 3-chip mini DV cam. I love this camera. It has a real SLR style film lens and many manual options. The image quality is excellent and the amount of control it gives me quite versatile. But it's a big old beast, cumbersome and not at all indiscreet.

I've been quite pleased with the image quality of the Sony, especially when recording in HD. It does not have the lens of the Canon nor the amount of manual control but the images are quite good and it fits in the palm of my hand. So the X will be left behind for this trip.

The other concern we've had is making sure that the girls are going to be taken care of while we're away. Hayley is not feeling terribly well and I really was kind of dreading boarding her. Luckily, Theresa, Jeff's girlfriend, has agreed to look after the dogs right here at the house. She is very knowledgeable about dogs and particularly border collies. Being able to have the girls here is a definite plus and gives us some peace of mind.

We bought other kinds of gear as well, good walking shoes and a rain shell for me, hiking boots and shoes for Collette. I have good boots now but not a real good pair of shoes and with my wonky ankle, it will be worthwhile. Not to mention, as I've tested them out already, they are kick as ball kicking shoes ...

So, unless my buddy Eyjafjallajokull decides to kick our ass .. Iceland here we come

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