The   “feels   like”   temperature   was   102   in   the   car   on   the   way   to   the   airport   but   temps   are   forecasted   to   be   at   least   half   that   when   we   arrive   Keflavik   airport   in   the morning.      We   booked   Icelandair   to   Rekjavik,   Iceland   as   a   fluke   when   we   saw   a   nonstop   airfare   for   $347.      We   were   just   searching   for   someplace   with   cooler temperatures   after   90   days   over   90   degrees.      The   actual   fare   ended   up   being   $437   with   seat   assignments   and   a   bag   included   but   Icelandair   does   not   serve   a   meal onboard   just   snacks   for   purchase.      Tampa   can   be   tough   to   fly   out   of   in   the   afternoon   so   we   started   with   a   ramp   hold   for   1   hour   and   a   seat   snafu   so   we   departed Tampa   about   8:30P   for   a   scheduled   7P   departure.      Good   thing   we   did   not   book   the   8AM   at   Blue   Lagoon   as   it   was   the   only   appointment   available.   We   did   not   arrive until 8A but we were due at 6:10A.  Blue Lagoon was about $90 per person, so we already had a hesitancy about the price. Tonight,   we   are   flying   around   Hurricane   Florence   so   we   headed   for   Atlanta   and   eventually   over   Montreal   before   heading across   Newfoundland   and   Greenland   on   our   way   to   Reykjavik.      As   a   result,   it   was   a   bumpy   flight   most   of   the   way.      That’s ok   as   Iclandair   does   no   real   in-flight   service   except   for   soft   drinks   and   cocktails.      Food   is   for   purchase   so   we   ate   dinner   at Café   Columbia   which   has   a   location   at   TIA.      We   arrived   at   KEF   and   got   the   rental   car   pretty   quickly.      The   last   stop   after passport   control   is   the   duty   free   store   so   grab   whatever   you   drink   as   alcohol   has   huge   tax   in   Iceland.      We   hit   the   ATM   for 35,000   isk   and   stopped   at   Dunkin   Donuts   at   the   airport   for   two   $5   cups   of   coffee.      No   morning   service   on   Icelandair   as   we bounced   our   way   across   Greenland.         I   brought   the   coffee   back   to   Gina   and   remarked   1000   kronas   for   2   coffee.      We   were off   into   the   cool   clear   blue   morning   towards   Reykjavik.      We   actually   stayed   at   Hotel   Smari   which   was   just   outside   the   city in   Hlíðasmári,   Kópavogur   a   suburb   of   Reykjavik,   Iceland.      Hotel   Smari    was   your   basic   3   star   Nordic   hotel.      Located   in   a office   park   near   Highway   41   it   was   easy   to   find   and   acceptable   for   the   price.      They   were   able   to   check   us   in   early   which was a blessing so we were able to get a quick shower and drive into the city. We   were   thinking   we   would   hit   the   pool   if   we   were   unable   to   get   into   the   hotel   as   they   all   require   a   shower   and   have   facilities   for   the   low   price   of   950isk.      With   our early   check-in   we   are   postponing   our   pool   visit   for   a   later   time.      From   Hotel   Smari,   we   could   get   right   back   onto   Highway   41   which   took   us   into   the   Marina   district of   Reykjavik   which   had   public   parking   lots.      We   stopped   at   Baejarins    Beztu   Pylsur   which   literally   translates   into   the   Best   hot   dog.      Hot   dogs   are   one   of   the   classic Icelandic   foods   for   some   reason   and   the   long   line   of   tourists   was   testimony   to   the   fact   that   this   was   the   “best”.      All   the   way   is   served   on   a   bed   of   fresh   onion,   toasted onions   and   ketchup   sauce.      Then   goes   the   dog   and   on   top   is   brown   mustard   and   remoulade   sauce.      It   was   a   little   sweet   for   this   New   Yorker,   but   a   bargain   as   Iceland food goes at about $4.50 per dog. After   a   stand   up   lunch,   we   met   up   with   Evhi   for   the   “free”   walking   tour.      Free   walking   tours   are   never   free   as   you   should   tip   at   least   $10   per   person   for   a   90   minute tour.      Evhi   is   a   tour   guide,   musician,   comedian   and   all-around   nice   guy.      He   joked   when   we   went   by   the   gift   store   that   Puffins   are   an   iconic   Icelandic   thing.      They are   migratory   birds   you   know.      He   stopped   for   a   minute   and   then   explained   they   come   in   boxes   from   China   and   go   home   in   tourist   suit   cases.      His   tour   is   part showing   local   attractions   like   the   Harpa   Center   which   is   fashioned   after   an   Iceberg.      He   joked   and   suggested   they   make   the   hotel   being   built   next   door   to   be   shaped like   the   Titanic.      We   stopped   in   front   of   the   Icelandic   Supreme   Court   where   he   explained   the   country   had   multiple   Prime   Ministers   this   year   alone   but   it   was   a   very safe   country   and   he   also   explained   most   Icelandic   police   do   not   carry   guns.      They   keep   one   under   lock   and   key   and   can   request   access   if   a   tourist   hits   a   sheep   and they   have   to   put   it   out   its   misery.      He   explained   Norway   sent   200   sub   machine   guns   to   the   Icelandic   police   a   few   years   ago   and   the   public   outcry   meant   they   needed to send them back.   “What would you need those for in a safe country like this, unless a tourist hit a whole flock of sheep?” 
Last Minute Iceland Adventure Reykjavik, Iceland’s South Coast, Vestmannaeyjar and The Golden Circle September 13-19, 2018
By John Rice Vacation Tour & Cruise
He   showed   us   street   art,   explained   the   statues   and   told   us   at   one   point   that   Icelanders   have   a   phrase   Petta   Reddast   which   means   everything   will   be   ok.     We   all   had   to practice   that   with   Evhi.      He   is   also   a   craft   beer   officianado   so   he   pointed   out   the   best   craft   beer   places   in   town   and   the   tour   ended   at   one.      Evhi   also   hosts   a   craft   beer tour and explained that beer was only legal since March 1989 which is now dubbed “beer day”.  Check out Evhi’s web page at…  http://followme.is/ After   the   tour,   we   walked   the   seafront   to   the   Harpa   up   close   and   then   down   to   the   Solfar   Son   Voyager   which   is   an   ode   to   the   Vikings   who   landed   first.      We   walked the   Marina   district   where   we   stopped   for   some   Icelandic   cheese   at   Burid.      The   Marina   District   is   an   ecclectic   collection   of   restaurants   and   pubs.      We   did   some window   shopping   and   headed   back   to   the   Skuli   Magnusson   Fogeti   square   to   see   Steven   at   Fish   &   Co.      This   is   a   food   truck   (trailer)   that   serves   fresh   codfish   sautéed with   cherry   tomatoes   and   served   on   a   bed   of   spinach.      It   is   located   at   the   end   of   the   free   walking   tour.      Steven   is   Irish   so   there   is   plenty   of   butter   to   sautee   the   fish!     The   Skuli   Craft   Beer   Bar   was   right   next   door   and   you   can   eat   on   the   picnic   tables   at   the   bar.      Happy   Hour   was   $9   on   chosen   beers.      Regular   price   was   $12   to   $14   for a   pint.      Given   that   lunch   is   about   $60   or   $70   and   dinner   is   usually   $100+,   we   had   a   cheap   eats   day   at   a   total   of   $71   including   the   beers   and   a   bottle   of   duty   free   wine.     That   included   the   mini   cheese   platter   we   took   back   to   the   room.      After   the   bumpy   ride   around   the   hurricane   and   24   hours   awake,   we   headed   back   early   to   Hotel Smari.  For   a   three   star,   Smari   had   a   good   breakfast   with   eggs,   bacon   and   an   assortment   of   fruit.      Rooms   with   breakfast   are   a   life   saver   in   Iceland   as   all   the   food   is expensive.      The   car   was   supposed   to   be   gassed   up,   but   Budget   sent   us   out   with   half   a   tank.      We   always   check   cars   carefully   for   scratches   but   missed   the   gas   tank   on the   self-serve   car   pick   up.     We   will   have Auto   Europe   file   a   claim   against   the   company   and   shoot   a   picture   of   the   gas   gauge   with   the   mileage.      Nevertheless,   we   have to   figure   out   an   Icelandic   service   station   earlier   than   we   thought.      Our   credit   card   needed   a   pin   which   we   did   not   have   so   I   headed   inside   for   a   5000   isk   prepaid   gas card.      By   the   time   we   figured   out   the   automated   gas   pumps   (and   parking   stations)   required   one,   it   was   too   late   to   order   one   from   Capital   One.      The Yaris   sucked   up the   whole   5000   isk   which   was   the   point   where   we   remarked   gas   is   expensive   here   at   about   $7   per   gallon.     We   did   not   realize   how   expensive   until   we   had   to   plunk   in another 5000 isk two days later as the gas tank was very small.  I think we almost spent almost as much for gas as we did for the car rental. The   misty   rain   started   right   after   we   left   Reykjavik.         We   are   passing   geothermal   everything   and   hot   gasses   seem   to   be   coming   out   of   the   earth   in   many   places.      We stop   at   the   first   overlook   and   out   come   the   coats   as   its   about   45f   with   a   30   knot   wind.     We   do   get   some   sun   along   the   way   and   we   are   at   Hotel   Selja    about   noon.     We drop   our   luggage   and   head   out   to   a   town   called   Vik   (Veek)   which   is   our   turnaround   point   for   the   day.         We   stopped   in   the   first   little   valley   past   the   hotel   and   drove   a small   road   filled   with   Icelandic   farms,   horses   and   sheep.      We   stopped   and   the   horses   were   friendly   but   the   curious   sheep,   not   so   much   as   they   ran   away   from strangers.  We saw a small unmarked waterfall that was just past hotel Anna which ended up being our unplanned dinner spot. Vik   has   black   sand   beaches   and   looks   like   an   Icelandic   Beach   Town.      The   weather   is   still   cold   but   frequent   rains   look   like   the   afternoon   forecast.      Iceland   weather seems   to   change   minute   by   minute   rather   than   day   by   day.      We   stopped   at   the   Soup   Company   which   served   4   kinds   of   soup   with   homemade   bread   and   it   was   quite good.  Given the weather, in Iceland; a soup company looks like a good business.  After   Vik,   we   headed   back   out   to   Dyrholaey   Nature   Reserve   but   the   weather   is   getting   worse.         We   buttoned   up   to   see   the   site   as   the   forecast   was   bad   all   afternoon.     We   got   a   shot   of   the   black   sand   beach   but   headed   back   with   the   30   knot   winds   and   light   hail   began   to   pummel   our   faces.      The   back   of   the   rental   car   became   the drying room for raincoats, bathing suits and even beach towels eventually.  Today it was very wet from the raincoats already. We   make   a   quick   stop   at   the   crashed   DC   10   airplane   and   decide   not worth   it   in   the   rain   as   we   see   people   hiking   in   terrible   weather.     Alex at   the   hotel   said   it   was   not   really   worth   the   45   minute   hike.      It   is   just a   mile   or   so   but   we   arrived   at   Sólheimajökulsvegur   Glacier   and   the skies   have   begun   to   part.     This   is   a   pattern   we   will   see   multiple   times on   this   trip.      We   are   glad   for   the   cold   misty   rain   over   the   deluge   we had   down   the   road.      At   this   point,   we   have   on   about   six   layers including    a    winter    coat    with    a    raincoat    over    that    and    Gina    has gloves.     The   easy   hike   to   the   glacier   is   only   about   a   half   mile   but   you are   advised   to   stay   on   the   path.      Glaciers   are   amazing   sights   when you   are   up   close.      The   ice   is   mixed   with   the   black   volcanic   soil   of Iceland   but   also   had   blue   spots   in   places.      We   have   never   been   this close   to   one   at   the   safety   point   sign.      Wind   is   frequently   a   factor   in Icelandic   weather   and   it   was   cold   blowing   off   the   huge   ice   cube.     Even   in   the   cold   rain,   we   did   not   want   to   turn   back   towards   the   car as   it   was   such   a   spectacular   sight   but   our   cold   fingers   drove   us   off the mountain.  At   the   bottom   by   the   parking   is   a   lake   with   the   calved   ice   floating   in the   water.      As   we   drove   back   to   the   main   road   from   the   glacier   we observed   massive   boulders   about   half   a   mile   from   the   ice.      When   we asked   our   geologist/hotelier   host   later   he   confirmed   the   glacier   used to   come   that   far   out.      He   explained   the   massive   boulders   could   only be   moved   like   that   by   an   ice   flow.      This   was   our   first   realization   to imagine   that   much   ice   at   one   point   the   Iceland   is   ground   zero   for global   warming.      Alex   also   explained   it   was   a   wonderful   place   to study   geology   for   24   years   as   the   earth   is   right   out   in   the   open   (not covered    by    old    growth    forests    as    it    is    in    many    places)    plus    the geothermal and volcanic activity. Next   stop   was   Skogafoss   Waterfall   which   was   a   beautiful   sight.      We   stopped   for   a   well   deserved   coffee   before   heading   out   but   it   was   a   short   walk   from   the   parking lot.     The   weather   was   holding   and   it   wasn’t   crowded   late   in   the   day.     That   is   the   beauty   of   a   well-planned   fly/drive   which   our   travel   agency   does   very   well.     You   can be   near   attractions   so   you   can   avoid   the   mid-day   tour   bus   rush   and   hit   the   sights   on   the   way   back   to   the   hotel   in   the   afternoon   or   morning.      Skogafoss   is   a   pretty powerful   waterfall   and   a   beautifully   tended   tourist   sight.      If   it   was   this   crowded   at   5PM,   we   can   imagine   how   crowded   it   was   from   11A   to   3P   when   all   the   busses were   here.      When   I   say   busses,   everybody   does   a   2   or   3   day   stopover   on   Icelandair;   so   they   take   tours   from   Reykjavik,   to   see   the   sights   on   the   South   Coast   or   the Golden   Circle.      Since   they   are   picked   up   in   the   early   morning   and   dropped   at   the   end   of   each   day,   EVERYBODY   is   there   from   10A   to   3P   depending   on   which   way they do the tour. We   were   recommended   to   Gamla   Fjosio,   the   “farm   to   table”   restaurant   so   we   stopped   about   7P   as   a   walk   up.      This   was   an   actual   farm   where   they   raised   beef   and lamb   plus   all   the   veggies   they   used   but   we   got   turned   away.      They   were   expecting   a   tour   bus   so   they   were   full.      The   lady   recommended   hotel Anna   which   we   had passed   in   the   morning.      Rain   had   started   again   heavily   coming   down   but   it   was   only   a   mile   down   the   road   and   about   5   to   our   hotel.      We   were   not   disappointed   and had   a   great   culinary   experience   featuring   lamb   with   a   mushroom   sauce   over   a   potato   cake.      It   was   served   on   a   beautiful   plate   with   mashed   parsnips   and   asparagus.     They   had   shaved   vinegar   pickled   carrots   as   a   garnish   that   was   delicious.      The   chef’s   bonus   h’ordeuvre   was   reindeer   pate   so   we   inadvertently   crossed   something really   Icelandic   off   the   list.      The   house   wine   was   a   Sicilian   Nero   Davola   at   about   $40   was   one   of   the   bargains   of   the   trip   as   many   hotel   restaurant   bottles   were   $60 and   up.     As   we   turned   out   the   rain   had   stopped   and   we   realized   it   was Anna’s   horses   we   had   talked   to   in   the   morning   (“they   are   friendly   like   dogs”)   according   to   the waitress.  We got back to Hotel Selja about 9P and our luggage was already in the room. Our   plan   for   Sunday   was   for   the   9:45   Ferry   to   Vestmannaeyjar   Island   with   a   2PM   rib   boat   ride   to   the   surrounding   islands.      We   received   a   text   that   it   could   possibly be   cancelled   because   of   16.9   something   (wind,   meter   waves?)   whatever,   it   did   not   sound   fun,   so   we   concurred.      We   were   hoping   the   ferry   would   not   be   cancelled.     When   the   morning   broke,   the   sun   was   out   but   the   wind   was   howling.      We   had   a   good   breakfast   at   Selja   and   made   the   15   minute   ride   to   the   ferry   landing.         We   were not   taking   the   car   across   so   we   parked   and   pulled   out   our   bar   coded   tickets   for   the   ride.      Our   agency   can   pre-book   all   kinds   of   transport   worldwide.      It   is   about   35 minutes   across   to   Westman   Islands   and   the   cost   was   about   $26   per   person   roundtrip.      When   we   arrived   on   the   other   side,   they   rib   boat   people   advised   the   trip   was cancelled which we had already guessed given the choppy ferry ride. We   bought   a   3   museum   combination   ticket   and   headed   into   the   aquarium/puffin   exhibition.      Here   you   get   to   meet   a   captive   puffin.      This   was   our   second   lesson   in Iceland   being   on   the   edge   of   the   changing   weather   patterns   as   they   are   collecting   about   350   abandoned   baby   puffins   per   day.     About   4800   last   year   or   an   estimated 2%   of   the   total   bird   population   of   Vestmannaeyjar.      We   spoke   with   the   biologist   about   the   situation   and   they   let   me   see   the   backstage   puffin   clinic   as   families   kept showing   up   with   baby   puffins   in   boxes.      The   town’s   children   had   made   it   a   game   to   help   save   this   species   that   has   visited   these   islands   through   generations   of families. These    poor    baby    puffins    were    left    to starve   up   on   the   cliffs   above   and   around the   town   when   the   parents   left   for   the   sea off    of    Greenland    in    September.        The biologist         explained         they         were underweight    and    unable    to    make    the journey     so     they     flew     into     houses, windows   and   hid   in   back   yards   when   they flew    in    by    themselves    from    the    cliffs.      This   baby   puffin   collection   has   become   a yearly   activity   when   the   puffins   used   to be   so   plentiful   the   islanders   ate   the   birds and    collected    spare    eggs    for    breakfast.      Many     of     the     cardboard     boxes     held multiple    puffins    and    the    biologist    with her    staff    seemed    overwhelmed    at    the volume     as     people     and     puffins     kept arriving.          They     thought     it     was     the combination   of   rising   ocean   temperature and     acidification     of     the     oceans     that caused    the    small    fish    the    puffins    had hunted   for   years   to   begin   to   collapse   in numbers.        They    try    to    rehabilitate    as many   as   possible   and   release   them   back to the wild. Later,   we   came   across   a   young   man   in town   who   was   collecting   puffins.      He   had three   chicks   in   a   box   and   brought   out   the one   he   had   named   Minnie   so   we   could   see.      He   approached   us   as   we   walked   past   his   house   so   we   got   the   full   education   in   the   mechanics   of   actual   puffin   rescue   as he   spoke   pretty   good   English.      Apparently,   they   hide   under   cars,   under   bushes,   behind   fences   and   other   places   when   they   land   in   the   city.      He   was   heading   out   to look   for   more.      Some   cannot   be   released   quick   enough   to   join   the   flock   so   they   are   transported   back   to   the   mainland   we   guess   to   go   to   zoos   worldwide   to   publicize the   plight   of   the   endangered   bird.         We   are   sad   to   think   of   puffin   parents   raising   chicks   but   leaving   them   on   the   cold   cliffs   as   they   had   no   choice   but   to   leave   for   the waters   off   Greenland   on   schedule   to   follow   their   internal   clocks   to   their   next   food   source   in   the   life   cycle.     A   couple   of   weeks   (or   a   couple   of   degrees)   can   make   a big difference as we disturb natural patterns across the world the puzzle may not fit together as neatly as needed to sustain life as it is a delicate balance. We   went   up   to   walk   on   the   lava   flow   to   walk   while   we   have   sun.      The   day   on   the   mainland   looks   sunnier   than   out   on   the   island.      It   is   Sunday   so   most   of   the   stores and   some   of   the   restaurants   are   closed.      We   have   been   seeing   periods   of   15   minutes   of   light   rain   punctuated   by   periods   of   sun.      The   lava   is   amazing   as   we   see   the harbor   up   close   and   then   walk   back   across   the   lava   to   the   Volcano   Museum.   Vestmannaeyjar   was   covered   by   a   volcanic   explosion   in   1973   that   covered   ¼   of   the town   and   is   an   amazing   story.      That   day   in   1973   started   with   a   terrible   storm   that   was   so   bad   all   the   fishing   boats   stayed   in   port.      In   the   middle   of   the   next   night   the volcano   began   to   explode   but   slowly   enough   that   people   could   evacuate   to   the   harbor   as   it   threw   lava   and   volcanic   ash   on   the   town.      For   months   the   lava   flowed   and formed   the   rock   that   we   are   now   hiking   on   and   houses   were   as much   as   65   feet   below   where   we   walked.      In   one   spot   on   the   edge as   you   hike   down   you   can   see   part   of   a   house   where   the   rest   was covered. We   headed   up   the   hill   to   the   Volcano   Museum   and   it   was   more interesting   than   we   thought   it   would   be.      It   is   built   around   a   buried house   that   has   been   excavated   and   the   story   is   told   in   the   people’s own    words    and    it    is    actually    riveting.        Other    areas    tell    other survivor’s   stories   of   escape   and   also   focus   on   the   aftermath   of   the volcano   and   the   rebuilding   of   the   current   town.      Some   good   has come   from   the   eruption   as   it   made   Vestmannaeyjar   a   better   port   as it is more protected from the east wind than it was before. We   stopped   at   the   Folk   Museum   that   was   our   third   ticket.      It   was   so quiet   that   the   curator   came   around   with   us   and   gave   us   a   personal tour.      It   seems   that   the   islands   gave   birth   to   many   of   Iceland’s   great athletes.      Many   inhabitants   ran   off   with   the   Mormons   to America   in the   1800s,   they   have   a   great   festival   in   the   summer   and   a   good   bit of   the   museum   is   dedicated   to   the   fishing   industry   which   is   the primary    employer    on    the    island.        We    watched    videos    of    past generations   hunting   puffins   and   eggs   on   the   cliffs   where   they   lived for   a   week   or   so   and   swang   from   ropes   off   the   cliffs   to   get   around.     After    that    we    stopped    at    900    Grillhus    for    a    lobster    sandwich (actually   langostinos)   that   was   served   with   peppers,   onions   and   a garlic    sauce.        I    had    a    pint    of    Viking    Classic    an    Icelandic commercial   dark   brew   that   was   good.      We   exchanged   our   boarding passes   for   an   earlier   4PM   ferry.      This   was   possible   as   we   did   not have   a   car   booked   according   to   the   ticket   office.      One   poignant   note as    locals    were    traveling    with    boxes    of    baby    puffins    using    an informal   network   to   get   the   birds   to   the   zoo   on   the   mainland   as   it was   late   in   the   season   to   rehabilitate   birds   for   release.      We   saw multiple people traveling with baby puffins in boxes. We   stop   at   Seljanlandsfoss   on   our   way   back   from   the   ferry   landing but   it   is   still   crowded.      We   are   nearby   so   we   head   to   the   hotel   and head   back   around   6   PM   as   sunset   is   about   8   PM   in   mid   September.     By   this   time,   it   is   less   crowded   so   we   pay   the   $7   fee   to   park   and walk   a   couple   of   hundred   yards   to   the   falls.     This   one   you   can   climb and   actually   walk   behind   the   falls   if   you   don’t   mind   the   mist.      It   is not   an   easy   climb   and   appears   to   be   wearing   away   from   all   the traffic.      You   also   have   to   climb   some   very   slippery   rocks   to   exit unless   you   turn   around   and   exit   the   way   you   came   in.      Behind   the   waterfall   is   not   for   anybody   with   mobility   problems   as I   had   to   help   Gina   with   the   wet   rocks   and   she   is   a   pretty   good   hiker.      The   flat   path   at   the   bottom   of   the   falls   was   an   easy walk.  We   drove   into   Hvolsvollur   for   a   dinner   at   the   Eldsto Art   Café.      It   was   perfect   as   we   were   searching   for   salads   and   got   a big   green   salad   and   we   split   a   hamburger.      Since   we   said   we   were   splitting   a   burger,   it   came   already   cut   on   two   plates just   to   show   you   how   nice   the   Iceland   people   are   plus   it   had   plenty   of   fresh   cut   French   fries   on   each   plate.     We   gassed   up the car (another 5000 isk) and hit the ATM for the next morning. We   have   come   to   Iceland   also   to   see   the   aurora   borealis   but   it   is   fleeting   and   faint   at   the   early   part   of   the   season.      We   are in   pitch   black   in   the   countryside   at   Hotel   Selja   and   we   have   a   clear   sky   tonight   but   we   check   quite   a   few   times   and   only   see   light   on   the   horizon   or   faint   wisps   of green   light   almost   too   faint   to   see.      Selja   is   a   four   star   room   with   3.5   actual   stars   because   it   has   limited   facilities.      It   is   about   a   mile   from   the   main   road   on   a   gravel road   to   the   approach   is   slow   with   our   tiny   rental   car.     They   had   a   great   breakfast   each   morning   and   we   really   enjoyed   the   room   décor   and   comfortable   bed.     We   could open   the   window   and   talk   with   the   random   sheep   grazing   in   the   countryside   and   we   had   a   spectacular   view   of   the   snow   topped   mountains   in   the   distance.      We   say goodbye   to   our   new   Italian   friends.      They   are   closing   up   the   house   for   winter   as   they   leave   Iceland   and   close   the   hotel   from   October   until   the   end   of April.      We   are the last customers for breakfast so they set up some eggs to order.  The   parking   fee   said   24   hours   so   we   head   over   to   Seljanlandsfoss   for   a   walk.      Gina   announces   she   is   not   climbing   that   muddy   thing   again   but   my   intention   is   just   to get   a   morning’s   walk   before   a   few   hours   in   the   car   and   catch   the   light   of   the   morning   for   pictures.     We   realize   there   is   one   more   waterfall   we   missed   the   night   before so   we   hike   the   whole   base   trail   that   is   about   a   mile.     As   the   tour   busses   and   rental   cars   begin   to   invade   as   we   are   departing,   we   head   out   down   the   road   towards   the snow   capped   mountains   away   from   highway   one.      We   want   to   see   how   close   we   can   get   but   we   only   get   about   2   miles   inland.      We   stop   and   see   some   friendly Icelandic   horses   and   at   the   “end   of   the   road”.      In   Iceland,   the   end   of   the   road   for   rental   cars   can   be   a   jumping   off   point   for   4   wheel   drive   vehicles   and   I   might   think about   paying   twice   as   much   for   a   4   x   4   if   I   return   to   Iceland   as   that   point   is   not   much   more   than   a   couple   of   miles   off   the   main   road   everywhere.      This   is   especially true   in   the   North,   West   and   East   of   the   island   that   we   did   not   travel   to.      Roads   were   good   in   the   South   and   also   on   the   Golden   Circle   so   the   little   Yaris   got   us everywhere we needed to go on this tour. Today   we   are   doing   the   Golden   Circle   tour   over   2   days,   in   reverse   order   and   it   is   a   bright,   warm,   spectacularly   sunny   day.      After   two   days   of   cold   misty   rain,   I cannot    find    enough    adjectives    to    describe that    feeling.        My    advice    to    everybody    is don’t   try   to   do   too   much   in   a   day   or   you won’t   enjoy   it   and   be   driving   all   the   time.     We    are    going    back    towards    Reykjavik    on Highway   1   and   turning   up   towards   Fludir   on Highway   30.      We   make   a   stop   at   a   wool   shop in   the   country.      Gina   buys   the   coolest   hat   I have    ever    seen    knitted    out    of    lambswool.      Our   first   destination   is   Secret   Lagoon   for   a soak   in   the   geothermal   waters.      As   we   said earlier   we   skipped   Blue   Lagoon   because   of scheduling   problems   but   Secret   Lagoon   is   a natural    spring    where    Blue    Lagoon    is    man made   and   water   from   the   geothermal   power plant.      We   thought   we   had   a   made   a   good choice   given   the   beautiful   day   we   had   left hiking   boots   and   coats   in   the   car   plus   the   cost was only about $28 per person for entry. A    word    about    pools    and    hot    springs    in Iceland.        They    are    a    national    passion    but require   a   naked   shower   (separate   mens   and ladies   locker   rooms)   including   shampoo   and bathing   certain   parts   of   your   body   that   are outlined   on   a   sign.      Afterward   you   put   on your   bathing   suit   before   leaving   the   locker rooms   for   the   100   degree   water.      We   spent about   45   minutes   soaking   in   the   hot   water and   we   now   see   why   Icelanders   love   their geothermal   pools.      We   left   the   sunscreen   at home   but   are   shocked   to   see   how   much   sun we have gotten on our 2 “good” days. After   soaking   and   getting   bundled   up   again, we     head     off     to     Farmer’s     Bistro     at     the mushroom    farm    for    lunch.        They    offer    a menu    but    we    are    headed    there    for    the mushroom   soup   lunch   buffet.      It   is   all   you   can   eat   mushroom   soup   and   home   baked bread.      They   grow   both   mushrooms   and   red   peppers   so   they   have   various   tapenade’s made   from   those   ingredients   with   garlic   butter.      They   also   grow   rye   as   rye   bread   is another   staple   of   Icelanders.      They   had   a   spectacular   farmers   craft   beer   in   a   bottle with   rye   seed   and   Angelique   seeds   which   are   legendary   homeopathic   remedy   in Iceland.      Studies   have   shown   they   can   help   with   nighttime   urination   which   makes them   essential   in   my   opinion   to   any   beer   production.      This   was   dark   black   beer   that was   cooked   to   7.75%   alcohol   content   and   was   very   tasty   with   the   rye   seed   instead   of overdoing the hops like an IPA. We   depart   Farmer’s   Bistro   and   discover   there   are   two   ways   to   get   to   the   Golden Circle.      We   make   a   right   turn   on   highway   30   north.      We   found   another   stop   at Bruarhlod   by   accident.      Gina   asked   why   are   we   stopping   here   and   I   remarked   as there   is   a   tour   bus   so   it   must   be   something.      Bruarhlod   is   a   deep   cavern   cut   into   the rock   by   a   very   fast   moving   river   and   the   water   is   very   blue.      We   agree   it   is   a   great stop   on   the   way   to   Gullfoss   but   the   day   is   getting   cooler   as   we   head   into   late afternoon   so   more   layers   are   going   back   on   as   we   pass   through   the   day.      The   road turns   into   gravel   for   about   6   miles   but   it   is   not   one   of   those   roads   that   prohibits   rental cars as some of the gravel roads are pretty smooth as long as you keep the speed down you don’t damage the rental car. I   guess   this   is   a   good   point   to   address   the   fact   that   Iceland   is   not   Disneyland   and   could   have   some   dangers   for   people   unless   you   are   careful.      The   government   has info   everywhere   about   being   safe   as   tourists   sadly   do   hurt   and   kill   themselves   on   the   Island.      The   weather,   driving   and   nature   are   the   primary   dangers.      They   have had   people   killed   by   being   washed   out   to   sea   at   the   black   sand   beach,   fall   off   of   waterfalls   while   taking   selfies,   ice   flows   and   glaciers   are   unstable   by   their   nature   and the   weather   can   turn   in   a   moment   making   whatever   activity   you   are   doing   dangerous.     You   are   not   allowed   to   stop   on   the   highway   but   we   saw   people   doing   it   to   get that   great   picture.      Chances   are   there   is   an   equally   great   pull   off   to   take   the   picture   as   the   Icelandic   people   have   provided   plenty   of   those   along   the   road.     We   saw   two highway accidents where people slid off the highway and watch the speed limit as they have highway speed cameras along most routes. We   get   up   to   Gullfoss   about   4P   and   check   into   the   Gullfoss   Hotel .     About   5P,   we   head   up   to   the   waterfall   after   most   of   the   day   crowds   have   left   and   walk   the   upper portion   of   the   falls.      This   sight   is   operated   by   the   government   so   it   has   nice   walkways   all   the   way   out   to   the   edge   of   the   waterfall.      We   see   some   big   ice   cats   and inquire   about   the   trip   but   we   do   not   have   enough   time   as   it   is   ice   cat   to   snowmobile,   not   just   a   morning   ice   cat   up   to   the   glacier   so   we   head   back   down   to   Gullfoss Hotel.     This   is   a   nice   hotel   with   a   “lodge”   like   feeling   as   the   central   restaurant   connects   the   32   rooms.      It   is   suggested   that   we   make   a   reservation   for   dinner   at   check in   so   we   head   down   at   8P   for   dinner.      Dining   is   always   casual   dress   in   Iceland.      I   was   never   uncomfortable   in   hiking   boots   and   jeans.      One   of   the   house   specialties   is lamb   and   again   it   is   fantastic   but   this   time   served   as   broiled   with   crispy   lamb   skin   and   roasted   potatoes   and   veggies   so   it   is   a   very   satisfying   meal   with   a   great   home baked seeded bread. This   is   really   our   last   chance   to   see   the Aroura   Borealis   as   we   are   heading   back   into   town   the   next   night.      We   are   lucky   and   it   is   clear   but   again   only   faint   wisps   and light   on   the   horizon   all   night   not   the   big   streaks   of   green   light   we   have   seen   in   pictures.         In   spite   of   a   few   trips   to   the   window   overnight   we   are   up   early   for   breakfast and   another   trip   up   to   Gullfoss.     This   time   we   are   parking   and   walking   the   lower   level   right   down   by   the   falls   so   we   suit   up   in   winter   and   raincoats   with   a   few   layers below.      It   is   cold   and   clear   as   we   have   another   good   weather   day   in   Iceland      One   of   our   hosts   tells   us   we   are   lucky   as   they   only   had   10   days   like   this   all   summer   and we got three in the fall.  Back to the hotel for checkout and the trip down to Geysir. Geysir   is   only   about   15   minutes   drive   time   from   Gullfoss   Hotel.      This   area   of   Iceland   has   hot   geysers   with   one   that   erupts   every   10   or   15   minutes   to   a   height   of   40 feet.      We   walk   across   to   the   visitor’s   center   to   uses   the   water   closet   (WC)   as   bathrooms   are   called   in   Iceland   and   do   a   little   window   shopping.      Gina   sees   a   nice sweater/shirt   combo   but   the   two   pieces   are   about   $350   thus   the   window   shopping.      There   is   a   path   up   to   the   top   of   the   hill   where   you   can   see   a   panoramic   view   of the   next   valley   and   also   get   a   nice   perspective   and   picture   of   the   geyser   when   it   erupts.      Note   to   the   future   tourists   reading   this   article,   if   the   place   where   you   are standing   is   wet,   you   could   get   drenched   on   the   next   eruption   if   the   wind   is   blowing   your   way.      We   figure   most   people   would   spend   about   an   hour   at   Geysir   like   we did. We   buy   another   5000   isk   gas   card   but   the   tank   will   only   take   4200   isk.     The   cards   hold   the   balance   automatically   but   we   are   keeping   gassed   up   as   we   are   pretty   far   in the   country   and   heading   up   into   the   National   Park.      Thingvellir   National   Park   was   spectacular   (also   referred   to   as   Pingvellir   on   some   maps   and   guide   books).        As you   leave   the   main   road,   it   is   still   paved   but   the   speed   drops   to   30   or   50   km   in   various   places.     You   can   stop   along   the   lake   as   there   are   pull   offs   plus   there   are   also hiking   trails   with   parking   areas   along   the   route.      It   is   truly   golden   in   September   as   there   are   fall   foliage   colors   all   over.      This   is   the   spot   of   the   first   Parliament   of Iceland.  It is also currently the summer residence of the Prime Minister. The   main   attraction   is   the   place   where   the   tectonic   plates   for   Europe   and   North America   come   together   in   a   spectacular   fashion.      Previously   in   a   violent   manner   the plates   shifted   so   you   can   see   there   is   100   feet   or   so   of   difference   in   the   elevation   between   the   plates   with   North America   being   a   little   higher   than   Europe.      At   one   point   I   am   literally   standing   between   two   continents   with one   foot   in   Europe   and   the   other   in   North   America.      We   get   a   little   bit   of   rain   but   it   is   ok   as   we   stop   for   a prepackaged   sandwich   which   is   better   than   that   type   of   food   in America.      The   sandwich   is   fresh   chicken   dated today   with   avocado.      We   muse   about   where   they   got   avocado   in   Iceland.      Probably   on   the   plane   from   Florida with us.  We   spend   about   two   hours   exploring   this   area   along   the   continental   divide   in   Thingvellir   National   Park.      They have   nice   walking   paths   so   even   handicapped   people   would   be   able   to   tour   some   of   this   site   if   you   arrive   up top.      The   path   from   the   parking   lots   below   is   quite   steep   up   to   the   top.      We   stop   to   see   the   last   waterfall   of   our trip and reluctantly pack it in to head for Reykjavik. Tonight,   we   are   violating   our   cardinal   rule   and   heading   into   a   city   with   a   rental   car.      Googlemap   instructions have   a   minor   problem,   as   usual,   but   we   get   ourselves   back   on   track   and   somehow   end   up   on   Laugavegur   which is   the   main   street   and   also   the   location   of   Hotel   Fron .      We   get   within   two   blocks   but   it   is   closed   for   pedestrian only.      We   are   lucky   as   the   “parking   fairy”   as   we   call   him   when   we   travel   across   the   world   is   good   to   us   and   a space   opens   up.      With   20   years   of   salesman   work   I   am   able   to   parallel   park   a   Yaris   with   only   crawling   up   on the   sidewalk   once   or   twice.      I   do   have   Gina   get   out   to   make   sure   I   don’t   ding   the   parking   meter   as   damaging   a rental car is always a big cost so it pays to be careful when you rent a car and head out on your own. We   are   in   the   high   rent   district   but   got   a   pretty   good   rate   at   Hotel   Fron   on   a   prepaid   basis   from   one   of   our   tour companies   including   breakfast   in   the   AM.      It   is   actually   an   apartment   but   is   clean   and   well   maintained.      We head   out   into   the   cold   rain   looking   for   the   Sundholl   Pool    for   our   last   soak.      After   two   days   of   hiking   we   are feeling   Icelandic   and   need   a   shower   and   a   dip   in   the   geothermal   pool.      Sundholl   is   one   of   the   oldest   pools   in the   area   and   was   originally   opened   in   1937.      It   is   near   the   Cathedral   so   it   is   mostly   locals   with   a   few   tourists mixed   in.      We   did   another   45   minute   soak   in   the   hot   water   and   I   swam   a   few   laps.      The   lap   pool   is   warm,   but not   as   hot   as   the   hot   tubs   plus   there   are   saunas   and   a   cold   plunge   pool   we   did   not   use.      Entrance   to   the   pool   is about   $9   US   per   person.      By   the   time   we   are   bundled   up   and   heading   home,   the   rain   has   ceased   and   we   are menu   shopping   along   the   route.      We   decide   on   Italian   but   in   the   high   rent   district   two   plates   of   pasta,   two salads   and   a   250   ml   carafe   of   wine   is   about   $115.      We   have   stopped   looking   at   the   cost   of   the   cc   slips   we   are signing   about   three   days   ago   as   all   food   is   expensive   in   Iceland   so   just   forget   about   it   and   enjoy   as   you   are   at the   end   of   the   road   in   the   supply   chain   so   most   things   arrive   by   air.      If   you   decide   to   go   to   an   expensive destination,   suck   it   up   once   you   get   there.      It   makes   no   sense   to   worry   about   costs   when   you   knew   costs   were expensive.      Breakfast   at   the   hotel   helps   if   you   can   get   a   breakfast   plan   rate   and   there   is   cheap   take   away   food in every country so learn that and use it to fill in between expensive meals. The   Hotel   Fron   is   gracious   enough   to   offer   a   noon   check-out   when   asked.      We   stop   for   the   breakfast   which   is acceptable   but   not   as   generous   as   the   other   hotel   breakfasts   we   have   had.      For   the   money   in   the   main   part   of town,   we   agree   Hotel   Fron   was   still   a   good   value   for   the   money.      We   decided   to   take   our   own   self-guided   tour of   Reykjavik   so   we   headed   towards   the   Cathedral.      We   had   missed   a   funeral   so   we   went   up   to   light   a   candle and   say   a   prayer   for   Gina’s   Uncle.      We   skip   the   line   and   $10   to   go   to   the   top   of   the   tower   but   it   is   a   beautiful church   architecturally   although   not   fancy   inside   in   a   Nordic   Lutheran   kind   of   design.      It   does   have   a   gigantic pipe   organ   that   plays   concerts   from   time   to   time.      The   skies   were   bright   blue   again   as   you   can   see   from   the Reykjavik pictures. We   loaded   the   car   and   drove   to   the   Marina   district where   we   found   parking.      Parking   was   about   $3   per hour   in   the   city   but   we   only   had   to   pay   from   9A   to noon   as   we   arrived   around   6P   and   you   don’t   pay   at night.        We    went    to    the    Maritime    museum    and stopped   into   Messinn   Seafood   restaurant   for   the   fish buffet    which    had    about    six    kinds    of    fish.        I    am speaking    of    fish,    not    generic    seafood    as    it    was mostly   flaky   white   fish   fillets   done   in   different   kind of   sauce.      With   vegetable   soup,   greens,   fennel   and potato   salad,   coffee   and   a   beer   it   was   only   about $65   for   two.      We   thought   this   along   with   the   two lamb   meals   were   the   best   sit-down   restaurants   we had    visited    in    Iceland.        It    was    very    nice    and appropriate   at   the   Maritime   museum   with   the   large picture   windows   overlooking   the   Marina.      It   looked like    people    ate    outside    in    the    summertime.        We stopped   for   some   cheese   before   the   plane   and   the people   at   Burid   said   he   was   one   of   the   best   chefs   in town   and   that   was   a   new   location   for   that   restaurant.     We    had    stopped    at    the    bakery    next    to    our    hotel before   checking   out   for   bread   and   chocolate.         We were   ready   for   the   7   hour   flight   to   head   for   Tampa with   a   picnic   with   food   to   go   in   our   carry   on   bag.      It is   about   an   hour   to   Keflavik   airport   and   you   need   to allow   extra   time   as   it   is   a   crowded   airport   with   all the   Icelandair Aircraft   coming   in   at   the   same   time   to exchange planes. Final thoughts about Iceland… This    was    a    much    better    vacation    than    we    had imagined   it   could   be.      Iceland   nature   is   spectacular but   it   is   under   stress   with   2.8   million   visitors   a   year.     Places   are   crowded   but   we   did   find   some   more   off the   beaten   path   sights   like   Secret   Lagoon   that   were less    crowded.        Flight    time    was    about    7    hours nonstop    from    Tampa    and    Icelandair    runs    from September   to   about   mid   June   nonstop.      Icelandair was    comfortable    with    efficient    service    and    the planes    looked    well    maintained.        We    read    before departure   to   bring   a   coat   and   we   needed   it   even   in the   early   fall.      We   also   many   times   had   both   the winter   coat   and   the   raincoat   on   at   the   same   time   and frequently     multiple     layers     underneath     as     the Icelandic   wind   is   pretty   brutal   sometimes   and   when you    add    a    cold    misty    rain    you    just    get    chilled.      Icelandic   people   see   no   reason   to   take   an   umbrella as   the   rain   goes   sideways   sometimes   plus   they   get inverted    from    wind.       According    to    the    Icelandic Review   there   are   56   words   for   wind   in   the   Icelandic language.  It   is   one   of   those   destinations   where   you   need   a   fearless   courage   to   enjoy   the   whole   country.      The   people   were   disciplined,   friendly   and   efficient   in   service.      Prices are   expensive   but   tipping   is   not   required.         Forget   learning   Icelandic   as   it   is   a   very   hard   language   and   most   of   the   population   spoke   English.      In   2018   when   we traveled   1000   isk   is   about   $9.40   US$.      If   you   move   the   decimal   point   2   places   or   divide   by   100   you   get   an   approximate   conversion.      We   did   see   planes   from Reykjavik   to   other   points   in   Iceland.      Given   the   cost   of   gas   and   4   wheel   drive   vehicles   those   flights   might   make   sense   if   you   want   to   tour   another   region   besides Reykjavik   or   the   South   Coast   like   we   did.      We   felt   that   our   six   day   trip   was   a   good   thorough   coverage   of   Reykjavik,   The   South   Coast,   Vestmannaeyjar   and   Golden Circle of Iceland. We   write   these   blogs   to   introduce   you   to   our   Travel Agency   Services.      We   would   like   to   book   your   next   vacation   be   it   Iceland   or   wherever   you   want   to   travel   in   the world.      We   do   book   all   the   hotels   we   mention   in   our   blogs   including   Auto   Europe   rental   cars   and   airplanes   (with   supporting   hotel).      We   handle   complex   fly/drive vacations   like   we   took   but   we   can   also   book   prepaid   tour   vouchers   tor   the   South   Coast   or   Golden   Circle   if   you   are   doing   a   stopover.      If   you   are   not   up   to   driving, these same sights can be done by escorted tour companies that we book like Globus, Trafalgar, Insight and Collette plus we have cruises that stopover in Reykjavik. Copyright 2018 Market Access Promotions, Inc.
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BOOK WITH TRAVEL AGENTS WHO HAVE BEEN THERE! John   and   Gina   Rice   run   Vacation   Tour   &   Cruise   in   Tampa,   FL.      They   have been   in   the   travel   industry   for   over   30   years   first   as   tour   operators   and   later   as Travel   Agents.      Book   your   next   trip   with   travel   agents   who   enjoy   traveling   the world and exploring foreign countries in their spare time. (813) 868-0007 info@vacationtc.com http://vacationtc.com http://facebook.com/vacationtc
(813) 868-0007 info@vacationtc.com http://vacationtc.com http://facebook.com/vacationtc  Florida Seller of Travel 10098
We   were   just   searching   for   someplace with   cooler   temperatures   after   90   days over   90   degrees.      The   actual   fare   ended up   being   $437   with   seat   assignments and   a   bag   included   but   Icelandair   does not   serve   a   meal   onboard   just   snacks for   purchase.      We   ate   dinner   at   Café Columbia   which   has   a   location   at   TIA.     We   arrived   at   KEF   and   got   the   rental car   pretty   quickly.      The   last   stop   after passport   control   is   the   duty   free   store so   grab   whatever   you   drink   as   alcohol has   huge   tax   in   Iceland.      We   hit   the ATM    for    35,000    isk    and    stopped    at Dunkin   Donuts   at   the   airport   for   two $5   cups   of   coffee.      We   actually   stayed at   Hotel   Smari   which   was   just   outside the    city    in    Hlíðasmári,    Kópavogur    a suburb   of   Reykjavik,   Iceland.      Hotel Smari    was    your    basic    3    star    Nordic hotel.  We   stopped   at   Baejarins    Beztu   Pylsur which   literally   translates   into   the   Best hot    dog.        Hot    dogs    are    one    of    the classic   Icelandic   foods   for   some   reason and    the    long    line    of    tourists    was testimony   to   the   fact   that   this   was   the “best”.      All   the   way   is   served   on   a   bed   of   fresh   onion,   toasted   onions   and   ketchup   sauce.      Then goes   the   dog   and   on   top   is   brown   mustard   and   remoulade   sauce.      It   was   a   little   sweet   for   this New Yorker, but a bargain as Iceland food goes at about $4.50 per dog. After   a   stand   up   lunch,   we   met   up   with   Evhi   for   the   “free”   walking   tour.      Free   walking   tours are   never   free   as   you   should   tip   at   least   $10   per   person   for   a   90   minute   tour.      Evhi   is   a   tour guide,   musician,   comedian   and   all-around   nice   guy.      He   joked   when   we   went   by   the   gift   store that   Puffins   are   an   iconic   Icelandic   thing.      They   are   migratory   birds   you   know.      He   showed   us street   art,   explained   the   statues   and   told   us   at   one   point   that   Icelanders   have   a   phrase   Petta Reddast   which   means   everything   will   be   ok.      He   is   also   a   craft   beer   officianado   so   he   pointed out the best craft beer places in town and the tour ended at one. After   the   tour,   we   walked   the   seafront   to   the   Harpa   up   close   and   then   down   to   the   Solfar   Son Voyager   which   is   an   ode   to   the   Vikings   who   landed   first.      We   walked   the   Marina   district where   we   stopped   for   some   Icelandic   cheese   at   Burid.      We   did   some   windo   shopping   and headed   back   to   the   Skuli   Magnusson   Fogeti   square   to   see   Steven   at   Fish   &   Co.      This   is   a   food truck   (trailer)   that   serves   fresh   codfish   sautéed   with   cherry   tomatoes   and   served   on   a   bed   of spinach.      It   is   located   at   the   end   of   the   free   walking   tour.      Steven   is   Irish   so   there   is   plenty   of butter   to   sautee   the   fish!      The   Skuli   Craft   Beer   Bar   was   right   next   door   and   you   can   eat   on   the picnic   tables   at   the   bar.      Happy   Hour   was   $9   on   chosen   beers.      Regular   price   was   $12   to   $14 for   a   pint.      Given   that   lunch   is   about   $60   or   $70   and   dinner   is   usually   $100+,   we   had   a   cheap eats   day   at   a   total   of   $71   including   the   beers   and   a   bottle   of   duty   free   wine.      That   included   the mini   cheese   platter   we   took   back   to   the   room.      After   the   bumpy   ride   around   the   hurricane   and 24 hours awake, we headed back early to Hotel Smari.  The   misty   rain   started   right   after   we   left   Reykjavik.         We   do   get   some   sun   along   the   way   and
Last Minute Iceland Adventure Reykjavik, Iceland’s South Coast, Vestmannaeyjar and The Golden Circle September 13-19, 2018
By John Rice Vacation Tour & Cruise
we   are   at   Hotel   Selja   about   noon.      We   drop   our   luggage   and   head   out   to   a   town   called   Vik (Veek)   which   is   our   turnaround   point   for   the   day.         We   stopped   in   the   first   little   valley   past the   hotel   and   drove   a   small   road   filled   with   Icelandic   farms,   horses   and   sheep.      Vik   has black   sand   beaches   and   looks   like   an   Icelandic   Beach   Town.      After   Vik,   we   headed   back out   to   Dyrholaey   Nature   Reserve   but   the   weather   is   getting   worse.         The   back   of   the   rental car   became   the   drying   room   for   raincoats,   bathing   suits   and   even   beach   towels   eventually.     Today it was very wet from the raincoats already. It   is   just   a   mile   or   so,   but   we   arrived   at   Sólheimajökulsvegur   Glacier   and   the   skies   have begun   to   part.      The   easy   hike   to   the   glacier   is   only   about   a   half   mile   but   you   are   advised   to stay   on   the   path.      Glaciers   are   amazing   sights   when   you   are   up   close.     The   ice   is   mixed   with the   black   volcanic   soil   of   Iceland   but   also   had   blue   spots   in   places.      We   have   never   been this close to one at the safety point sign.  Next   stop   was   Skogafoss   Waterfall   which   was   a   beautiful   sight.      We   stopped   for   a   well deserved   coffee   before   heading   out   but   it   was   a   short   walk   from   the   parking   lot.      The weather   was   holding   and   it   wasn’t   crowded   late   in   the   day.      That   is   the   beauty   of   a   well- planned   fly/drive   which   our   travel   agency   does   very   well.      You   can   be   near   attractions   so you   can   avoid   the   mid-day   tour   bus   rush   and   hit   the   sights   on   the   way   back   to   the   hotel   in the   afternoon   or   morning.      We   ate   dinner   at   Hotel   Anna.      Rain   had   started   again   heavily coming   down   but   it   was   only   a   mile   down   the   road   and   about   5   to   our   hotel.      We   were   not disappointed   and   had   a   great   culinary   experience   featuring   lamb   with   a   mushroom   sauce over   a   potato   cake.      It   was   served   on   a   beautiful   plate   with   mashed   parsnips   and   asparagus.     They   had   shaved   vinegar   pickled   carrots   as   a   garnish   that   was   delicious.      The   chef’s   bonus h’ordeuvre   was   reindeer   pate   so   we   inadvertently   crossed   something   really   Icelandic   off   the list. When   the   morning   broke,   the   sun   was   out   but   the   wind   was   howling.      We   had   a   good breakfast   at   Selja   and   made   the   15   minute   ride   to   the   ferry   landing.        We   were   not   taking   the car   across   so   we   parked   and   pulled   out   our   bar   coded   tickets   for   the   ride.      Our   agency   can pre-book   all   kinds   of   transport   worldwide.      It   is   about   35   minutes   across   to   Westman Islands   and   the   cost   was   about   $26   per   person   roundtrip.      When   we   arrived   on   the   other side,   they   rib   boat   people   advised   the   trip   was   cancelled   which   we   had   already   guessed given   the   choppy   ferry   ride.      We   bought   a   3   museum   combination   ticket   and   headed   into the   aquarium/puffin   exhibition.      Here   you   get   to   meet   a   captive   puffin.      They   are   collecting about   350   abandoned   baby   puffins   per   day.     We   spoke   with   the   biologist   about   the   situation and   they   let   me   see   the   backstage   puffin   clinic   as   families   kept   showing   up   with   baby puffins   in   boxes.      The   town’s   children   had   made   it   a   game   to   help   save   this   species   that   has visited these islands through generations of families. Later,   we   came   across   a   young   man   in   town   who   was   collecting   puffins.      He   had   three chicks   in   a   box   and   brought   out   the   one   he   had   named   Minnie   so   we   could   see.      He approached   us   as   we   walked   past   his   house   so   we   got   the   full   education   in   the   mechanics   of actual   puffin   rescue   as   he   spoke   pretty   good   English.      Apparently,   they   hide   under   cars, under   bushes,   behind   fences   and   other   places   when   they   land   in   the   city.      He   was   heading out   to   look   for   more.      Some   cannot   be   released   quick   enough   to   join   the   flock   so   they   are transported   back   to   the   mainland   we   guess   to   go   to   zoos   worldwide   to   publicize   the   plight of   the   endangered   bird.         We   are   sad   to   think   of   puffin   parents   raising   chicks   but   leaving them   on   the   cold   cliffs   as   they   had   no   choice   but   to   leave   for   the   waters   off   Greenland   on schedule   to   follow   their   internal   clocks   to   their   next   food   source   in   the   life   cycle.     A   couple of   weeks   (or   a   couple   of   degrees)   can   make   a   big   difference   as   we   disturb   natural   patterns across   the   world   the   puzzle   may   not   fit   together   as   neatly   as   needed   to   sustain   life   as   it   is   a delicate balance. We   went   to   walk   up   on   the   lava   flow   to   walk   while   we   have   sun.      The   day   on   the   mainland looks   sunnier   than   out   on   the   island.      It   is   Sunday   so   most   of   the   stores   and   some   of   the restaurants   are   closed.      We   have   been   seeing   periods   of   15   minutes   of   light   rain   punctuated by   periods   of   sun.      The   lava   is   amazing   as   we   see   the   harbor   up   close   and   then   walk   back across    the    lava    to    the    Volcano    Museum.    Vestmannaeyjar    was    covered    by    a    volcanic explosion   in   1973   that   covered   ¼   of   the   town   and   is   an   amazing   story.      That   day   in   1973 started   with   a   terrible   storm   that   was   so   bad   all   the   fishing   boats   stayed   in   port.      In   the middle    of    the    next    night    the    volcano    began    to explode    but    slowly    enough    that    people    could evacuate    to    the    harbor    as    it    threw    lava    and volcanic   ash   on   the   town.      For   months   the   lava flowed    and    formed    the    rock    that    we    are    now hiking   on   and   houses   were   as   much   as   65   feet below   where   we   walked.      In   one   spot   on   the   edge as   you   hike   down   you   can   see   part   of   a   house where the rest was covered. We   stopped   at   the   Folk   Museum   that   was   our   third   ticket.      It   was   so   quiet   that   the   curator came   around   with   us   and   gave   us   a   personal   tour.      It   seems   that   the   islands   gave   birth   to many   of   Iceland’s   great   athletes.      After   that   we   stopped   at   900   Grillhus   for   a   lobster sandwich   (actually   langostinos)   that   was   served   with   peppers,   onions   and   a   garlic   sauce.      I had   a   pint   of   Viking   Classic   an   Icelandic   commercial   dark   brew   that   was   good.      We exchanged our boarding passes for an earlier 4PM ferry.  We   stop   at   Seljanlandsfoss   on   our   way   back   from   the   ferry   landing.      This   one   you   can climb   and   actually   walk   behind   the   falls   if   you   don’t   mind   the   mist.      It   is   not   an   easy   climb and   appears   to   be   wearing   away   from   all   the   traffic.      Yehind   the   waterfall   is   not   for anybody   with   mobility   problems   as   I   had   to   help   Gina   with   the   wet   rocks   and   she   is   a   pretty good   hiker.      The   flat   path   at   the   bottom   of   the   falls   was   an   easy   walk.      We   drove   into Hvolsvollur   for   a   dinner   at   the   Eldsto   Art   Café.      It   was   perfect   as   we   were   searching   for salads   and   got   a   big   green   salad   and   we   split   a   hamburger.      Since   we   said   we   were   splitting a   burger,   it   came   already   cut   on   two   plates   just   to   show   you   how   nice   the   Iceland   people   are plus   it   had   plenty   of   fresh   cut   French   fries   on   each   plate.      We   gassed   up   the   car   (another 5000 isk) and hit the ATM for the next morning. Today   we   are   doing   the   Golden   Circle   tour   over   2   days,   in   reverse   order   and   it   is   a   bright, warm,   spectacularly   sunny   day.      After   two   days   of   cold   misty   rain,   I   cannot   find   enough adjectives   to   describe   that   feeling.      My   advice   to   everybody   is   don’t   try   to   do   too   much   in   a day   or   you   won’t   enjoy   it   and   be   driving   all   the   time.      We   are   going   back   towards Reykjavik   on   Highway   1   and   turning   up   towards   Fludir   on   Highway   30.     We   make   a   stop   at a   wool   shop   in   the   country.      Gina   buys   the   coolest   hat   I   have   every   seen   knitted   out   of lambswool.      Our   first   destination   is   Secret   Lagoon   for   a   soak   in   the   geothermal   waters.     As we   said   earlier   we   skipped   Blue   Lagoon   because   of   scheduling   problems   but   Secret   Lagoon is   a   natural   spring   where   Blue   Lagoon   is   man   made   and   water   from   the   geothermal   power plant.      We   thought   we   had   a   made   a   good   choice   given   the   beautiful   day   we   had   left   hiking boots and coats in the car plus the cost was only about $28 per person for entry. A   word   about   pools   and   hot   springs   in   Iceland.      They   are   a   national   passion   but   require   a naked   shower   (separate   mens   and   ladies   locker   rooms)   including   shampoo   and   bathing certain   parts   of   your   body   that   are   outlined   on   a   sign.      Afterward   you   put   on   your   bathing suit   before   leaving   the   locker   rooms   for   the   100   degree   water.      We   spent   about   45   minutes soaking   in   the   hot   water   and   we   now   see   why   Icelanders   love   their   geothermal   pools.      We left   the   sunscreen   at   home   but   are   shocked   to   see   how   much   sun   we   have   gotten   on   our   2 “good” days. After    soaking    and    getting    bundled    up    again,    we    head    off    to    Farmer’s    Bistro    at    the mushroom   farm   for   lunch.      They   offer   a   menu   but   we   are   headed   there   for   the   mushroom soup   lunch   buffet.      It   is   all   you   can   eat   mushroom   soup   and   home   baked   bread.      They   grow both    mushrooms    and    red    peppers    so    they    have    various    tapenade’s    made    from    those ingredients    with    garlic    butter.       They    also    grow    rye    as    rye    bread    is    another    staple    of Icelanders.       They    had    a    spectacular    farmers    craft    beer    in    a    bottle    with    rye    seed    and Angelique   seeds   which   are   legendary   homeopathic   remedy   in   Iceland.      Studies   have   shown they   can   help   with   nighttime   urination   which   makes   them   essential   in   my   opinion   to   any beer   production.      This   was   dark   black   beer   that   was   cooked   to   7.75%   alcohol   content   and was very tasty with the rye seed instead of overdoing the hops like an IPA. We   depart   Farmer’s   Bistro   and   discover   there   are   two   ways   to   get   to   the   Golden   Circle.     We make   a   right   turn   on   highway   30   north.      We   found   another   stop   at   Bruarhlod   by   accident.     Gina   asked   why   are   we   stopping   here   and   I   remarked   as   there   is   a   tour   bus   so   it   must   be something.      Bruarhlod   is   a   deep   cavern   cut   into   the   rock   by   a   very   fast   moving   river   and   the water   is   very   blue.      We   agree   it   is   a   great   stop   on   the   way   to   Gullfoss   but   the   day   is   getting cooler   as   we   head   into   late   afternoon   so   more   layers   are   going   back   on   as   we   pass   through the   day.      The   road   turns   into   gravel   for   about   6   miles   but   it   is   not   one   of   those   roads   that prohibits   rental   cars   as   some   of   the   gravel   roads   are   pretty   smooth   as   long   as   you   keep   the speed down you don’t damage the rental car. I   guess   this   is   a   good   point   to   address   the   fact   that   Iceland   is   not   Disneyland   and   could   have some   dangers   for   people   unless   you   are   careful.      The   government   has   info   everywhere about   being   safe   as   tourists   sadly   do   hurt   and   kill   themselves   on   the   Island.      The   weather, driving   and   nature   are   the   primary   dangers.      They   have   had   people   killed   by   being   washed out   to   sea   at   the   black   sand   beach,   fall   off   of   waterfalls   while   taking   selfies,   ice   flows   and glaciers    are    unstable    by    their    nature    and    the    weather    can    turn    in    a    moment    making whatever   activity   you   are   doing   dangerous.     You   are   not   allowed   to   stop   on   the   highway   but we   saw   people   doing   it   to   get   that   great   picture.      Chances   are   there   is   an   equally   great   pull off   to   take   the   picture   as   the   Icelandic   people   have   provided   plenty   of   those   along   the   road.     We   saw   two   highway   accidents   where   people   slid   off   the   highway   and   watch   the   speed limit as they have highway speed cameras along most routes. We   get   up   to   Gullfoss   about   4P   and   check   into   the   Gullfoss   Hotel.     About   5P,   we   head   up   to the   waterfall   after   most   of   the   day   crowds   have   left   and   walk   the   upper   portion   of   the   falls.     This   sight   is   operated   by   the   government   so   it   has   nice   walkways   all   the   way   out   to   the edge   of   the   waterfall.      This   is   really   our   last   chance   to   see   the   Aroura   Borealis   as   we   are heading   back   into   town   the   next   night.      We   are   lucky   and   it   is   clear   but   again   only   faint wisps   and   light   on   the   horizon   all   night   not   the   big   streaks   of   green   light   we   have   seen   in pictures.         This   time   we   are   parking   and   walking   the   lower   level   right   down   by   the   falls   so we   suit   up   in   winter   and   raincoats   with   a   few   layers   below.      Geyser   is   only   about   15 minutes   drive   time   from   Gullfoss   Hotel.      This   area   of   Iceland   has   hot   geysers   with   one   that erupts every 10 or 15 minutes to a height of 40 feet. We   buy   another   5000   isk   gas   card   but   the   tank   will   only   take   4200   isk.      Thingvellir National   Park   was   spectacular   (also   referred   to   as   Pingvellir   on   some   maps   and   guide books).        As   you   leave   the   main   road,   it   is   still   paved   but   the   speed   drops   to   30   or   50   km   in various   places.     You   can   stop   along   the   lake   as   there   are   pull   offs   plus   there   are   also   hiking trails   with   parking   areas   along   the   route.      It   is   truly   golden   in   September   as   there   are   fall foliage   colors   all   over.      This   is   the   spot   of   the   first   Parliament   of   Iceland.      It   is   also currently the summer residence of the Prime Minister. The   main   attraction   is   the   place   where   the   tectonic   plates   for   Europe   and   North   America come   together   in   a   spectacular   fashion.      Previously   in   a   violent   manner   the   plates   shifted   so you   can   see   there   is   100   feet   or   so   of   difference   in   the   elevation   between   the   plates   with North   America   being   a   little   higher   than   Europe.      At   one   point   I   am   literally   standing between   two   continents   with   one   foot   in   Europe   and   the   other   in   North America.      We   get   a little   bit   of   rain   but   it   is   ok   as   we   stop   for   a   prepackaged   sandwich   which   is   better   than   that type   of   food   in   America.      The   sandwich   is   fresh   chicken   dated   today   with   avocado.      We muse   about   where   they   got   avocado   in   Iceland.      Probably   on   the   plane   from   Florida   with us.  We   spend   about   two   hours   exploring   this   area   along   the   continental   divide   in   Thingvellir National   Park.     They   have   nice   walking   paths   so   even   handicapped   people   would   be   able   to tour   some   of   this   site   if   you   arrive   up   top.      The   path   from   the   parking   lots   below   is   quite steep   up   to   the   top.      We   stop   to   see   the   last   waterfall   of   our   trip   and   reluctantly   pack   it   in   to head for Reykjavik. retty   good   rate   at   Hotel   Fron   on   a   prepaid   basis   from   one   of   our   tour   companies   including breakfast   in   the AM.      It   is   actually   an   apartment   but   is   clean   and   well   maintained.     We   head out   into   the   cold   rain   looking   for   the   Sundholl   Pool    for   our   last   soak.      After   two   days   of hiking   we   are   feeling   Icelandic   and   need   a   shower   and   a   dip   in   the   geothermal   pool.     Sundholl   is   one   of   the   oldest   pools   in   the   area   and   was   originally   opened   in   1937.      It   is   near the   Cathedral   so   it   is   mostly   locals   with   a   few   tourists   mixed   in.      We   did   another   45   minute soak in the hot water and I swam a few laps.  The lap pool is warm, but not as hot as the hot tubs   plus   there   are   saunas   and   a   cold   plunge   pool   we   did   not   use.      Entrance   to   the   pool   is about   $9   US   per   person.