August 4, 2019

Iceland 07/19

We loved Iceland so much the first time, we jumped at the opportunity to go back!

Iceland 07/19

Last summer we took an 18 day Arctic Cruise. It stopped off in 3 Icelandic cities. We rented a car each day and drove out into the wild beyond. We were utterly amazed at the beauty, diversity, and ease at which you could move through this amazing country.

When a friend, Perry Marshall, sent word regarding his 50th birthday Iceland...... well, the wheels started turning. We decided to make a go of it – attend Perry's party then spend a week in a remote cabin in the middle of Iceland, then do an 800 mile drive around the Island visiting beautiful places. Off we go!

We flew from Salt Lake to Denver (1 hour), then Denver to Reykjavik (7 hours). It was a red eye flight so we boarded, had a quick bite to eat and then tried to get some sleep. It was a great flight!

After a drive into town and a little rest, we spent the first evening exploring the beauty of downtown Reykjavik. Hallgrimskirkja, Rejkjavik's most famous Lutheran Church. The pipe organ inside is amazing with over 5,000 pipes!

A few fun finds on the street :)

Dinner at Messinn, a seafood restaurant, where we had delicious pan fried Salmon and Icelandic “Plokkfiskur”, a kind of Fish Hash.

Perry's Party was an all-day and late night (11p!) event. Right at the end we got this picture of Damon and Perry with some of the group (John Fancher, Jay Fancher, and the two Michaels) who were in Ireland in 2016 – a transformative event for Damon that is recorded here:

About a week before we left for our trip Lizzie said to Mitzi, "The next time I go to Iceland I think I'll check out the Blue Lagoon."

Mitzi smiled and said, "Great Idea! But I don't know if there will be a next time.....we better check it out this time!"

We stopped by "Hjá Höllu" for lunch, a little restaurant in a sea side town just south of the Blue Lagoon. When you walk in and see juice and bread and know it's going to be good!

After the hotel in Reykjavik we rented this rural 3 bedroom home in Southern Iceland for 6 nights. It was so quiet and so peaceful. It was also a great location to see many Golden Circle wonders.

Bruarfoss Waterfall. Totally worth the 4 mile round trip hike. The walk is gorgeous and there are 2 additional waterfalls you encounter on your way!

We found the only picnic table around and the old people had to lay down and rest :)

On our way back to the cottage we stopped for a Dairy Barn. A most unique experience to eat a delicious hamburger and fillet of lamb, while watching their various business ;) . The restaurant also offered home made ice cream.....vanilla licorice! Oh these Icelanders and their licorice. Mitzi is in total heaven! (the picture below captured Damon while watching the cows below...."all I can think about is where the brisket is!" then he let out a mooooooo)

Friday we drove road 35 and encountered a 6,500 yr old crater.  The water at the bottom was clean and clear.  It is said to be connected with a near by lake.....when one rises, the other falls.  

Fridheimatorg: a tomato green house that opens for lunch.  They harvest 1 ton of tomatoes each day.  There are hundreds of large bumble bees that pollinate the plants.  It's beautiful!

At the top of the route is one of Icelands largest waterfalls – Gullfoss.  It has a Niagara Falls type of feel.  The sky could not decide if it wanted to shine or down pour!

We stopped in the town of Geyser to see...... you guessed it...... an exploding Geyser!

Today was Saturday, and a fun Saturday it was! We started by sleeping in until pretty late in the morning, then finally getting out the door around 1p. We drove to another waterfall, this one called Urridafoss (have you noticed how all the waterfalls have the word 'foss' in them?).

Then Lizzie and Damon went riding on some Icelandic horses. These horses are unique. They are the only breed in Iceland and they keep the breed pure. If a horse ever leaves it's never allowed back.

These small horses have a special gait that no other horse has. It's called tölt and is a very smooth gait, unlike the canter and trot which are more bouncy. We couldn't get any pictures of us tölting as we couldn't hold the phone for pictures and tölt at the same time!

After riding we went to dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. It's an older married couple that operates it. There's a sign at the entrance explaining it's just the two of them, one seating and serving while his wife, from Ethiopia, is making her delicious food in the back. So please be patient!. The place is called Minilik. The food was in fact delicious. The flat bread is a fermented sourdough and you break pieces off and pick up the food with it to eat. Yum!

By the way – those of you who know Mitzi will be impressed by this – Mitzi tried the Lamb mushy pile!

Behind the restaurant was a bouncy pad sort of thing. We don't actually know what it was, but Mitzi and Lizzie had a great time jumping and getting tired. They've still got the ability to do aerial splits – impressive!

A small branch of our church meets in Selfoss. It's in a little business building. The chapel seats about 50 people. Relief Society was in an adjacent music school. Mitzi and Lizzie sat with a few other ladies on couches for the lesson and it was fun.

We went to lunch at Vid Fjorubordid in Stokkseyri. It's known for lobster soup and it was delicious! Here's a before and after picture of the soup – clearly it needed to be finished to the last drop.

We also had a bowl of boiled lobster tails. This is the most tender lobster we've ever had. The look on Mitzi's face tells it all, she was basically in Heaven.

Our last activity was visiting the Thingvellur National Park. It's where the border between the North American and European tectonic plates meet.  The land is slowly moving apart and a deep wedge exists. It was a wet and drizzly all afternoon.

Monday was Mitzi's birthday! She turned 46. She loves birthdays, but grief is a sneaky and cruel thing.  She missed Brandon –memories from 27 birthdays.   He was famous for making her birthday special. Damon had kindly made a plan and went into town in the morning and got her a cake and some presents. The decor he picked out for the top of the cake made her smile :)  The cake was chocolate cinnamon spice.  It was delicious!  It was a warm day and we all went outside and lay in the sun for a while. It felt so good. That evening we went for a drive and then had pizza and salad for dinner.

Mitzi loved this recording Navy (3) sent to her singing a little birthday song.

Tuesday we left the cabin we'd been staying at for 6 days and drove a few hours to a hotel. We made several stops along the way. Prepare to be wowed by the beauty!

Stop #1 - Seljalandsfoss.  This waterfall drops 200 feet over a cave like cliff.  There is path to walk behind the waterfall...... and ya, you do get heavily misted :).

After looking at the waterfall, we took a small scenic hike to another waterfall. Mitzi and Damon rested on the grass while Lizzie skinnied through a cave to see another waterfall called Gljúfrabúi.  Her pictures were amazing!

Stop #2 - Skógafoss. This is a massive roaring waterfall. We looked at the trail leading to the top and said, "Let's do it!" We were winded and our legs were burning but we reached the top.  It was raining the entire way.  Damon was grateful he could make the climb without any trouble, given the trouble he had 2 years ago climbing up Mt Timpanogas with a mostly blocked artery he didn't know about!

Stop #3 - Reynisfjara Beach. This beautiful black sand beach has these amazing basalt columns. It was very windy – gusts of about 40 MPH!  And we were  freezing in our wet clothes from the last stop!

Stop #4 - The Soup Company in Vík. It was so windy and cold at the beach, this meal warmed us up. Have you ever seen black bread – we have :)

Stop #5 - Magma Hotel in Kirkjubæjarklaustur (now that's a big name!). Looks small on the outside but was nice and comfy and comfortable on the inside. A beautiful view out the window. Some swans were on the grass across the lake.  We were able to watch them with the binoculars.

On the last day of July we woke up to a raging wind and temps in the 40's.  We packed up and continued to head north east.

Dverghamrar.  Interesting ancient basalt columns thought to have been moulded at the end of the Ice Age.  Columnar basalt is formed when lava flow gets cooled and contraction forces build up.  Cracks form horizontally and the extensive fracture network results in the six sided column.  

We drove for several hours over the eastern glacier field.  Keeping an eye out for sheep crossing the road and taking our turn on 1 lane bridges which span over the glacier run off.  We probably crossed over 30 of these bridges.

We made a stop at Diamond Beach to see pieces of the Jökulsárlón Glacier float out to the sea.  Some small pieces were washed up on the black sand.....hence Diamond Beach.  

This part of the country is so rugged and remote.  The mountains are steep and the coast is stunning.  

For two nights we rented a small pine cabin in Djúpavogshreppur.   It's on an old sheep and cattle farm that recently has been equipped with a few small cabins.   The first morning we were met by the family dog, Tinni.  He was very friendly and accompanied us all the way to the waterfall.  Lizzie also found a sheep that was particularly friendly.  This area is so isolated and peaceful!  

It's a wonderful place to Live Slowly.

This valley was so beautiful and desolate.  It was camera candy!  Mitzi loves a good camera angle and has been known to assume all kinds of positions to get just the right angle.  Damon has taken lately to capturing her in the act.  His candid shots make us laugh :)

Mitzi and Lizzie went into the little town near our cabin named Djúpivogur in the afternoon while Damon stayed at the cabin and read. They checked out some shops and had a blueberry cheesecake (delicious!) and went swimming in the local's pool. Then we all went to the sheep barn to have dinner. Damon had a Sheep Burger and we all loved the Rhubarb Waffle.

Friday we did a 4 hour drive from the southeast to smack-dab in the north of Iceland. It was a beautiful drive through rugged mountains, plains, and basically no people or structures. We saw waterfalls all over the place. We saw random sheep grazing along the road, a common site in Iceland. Mitzi loves wide open sparsely populated places and this drive fulfilled that love.

We entered the town of Myvatn, our destination, and saw the mud pond Hverarönd – Mitzi and Damon saw these last summer when we came through here on our North Atlantic cruise and fell in love with Iceland for the first time. Lizzie couldn't stand the sulfur smell so we quickly headed back to the car after taking the picture :)

A few minutes later we stopped at this beautiful blue pond of hot water that has warning signs. Basically you will be boiled alive if you go in there!

After checking in to our hotel Mitzi and Lizzie went to the local hot springs and had a relaxing time, along with getting some amazing pictures.

We had dinner at a local dairy and sheep farm. They serve raw smoked lamb, something Damon had never tried. It goes without saying that Mitzi and Lizzie have never had it because they hate lamb and would never let it pass their lips :) So Damon ordered it, along with some smoked fish and mozzarella and tomatoes. The bread is baked all day in the ground. The presentation was beautiful and  colorful. The raw smoked lamb didn't really reach Damon's expectation of amazing but he's glad he tried it.

Lizzie's dish was a barley vegan vegetable course, quite good. We had chocolate cake for desert. Lizzie swears there was a black licorice flavor in it, which made it disgusting to her, but Damon and Mitzi couldn't taste it. So we had a lot of fun with that!

When we were at the first hotel in Reykjavik upon arriving in Iceland, Lizzie got a candy bar in the lobby. A few days later Mitzi and Lizzie were trying to remember what it was called. Lizzie said it was a Lava Bar and didn't have caramel in it. Mitzi said it was a Lion Bar and did have caramel.

After several Lion bars were purchased and consumed during this last week, and a Lava Bar was never found, each participant in the friendly debate doubled down on their opinions, and we all had a good laugh when we walked into the lobby of the Fosshotel in Myvatn and saw ... Lava Bars! Lizzie was right – and she probably won't let Mitzi live this one down for a few years :)

Saturday started with Damon putting Pepsi Maxx in his Oatmeal. Lizzie was appalled and asked what the heck he was doing! Damon said, "It's like a root beer float, except it's Pepsi and Oatmeal" :)

A year ago Mitzi and Damon visited the Godafoss waterfall. It was a cold, stormy day and Damon was wearing a medical boot and could barely walk because of pain. Today the weather was warm and clear. It was a totally different experience. Damon felt so good, like a new man, and said, "I feel so good I could take off running!" But he didn't to avoid making the bone spur in his heel flare up again :)

We drove to Akureyri and decided to experience some local treats and food traditions. Kudos to Lizzie for putting herself out there with food for the experience – she ordered a Vegan Hot Dog and as you can see in the picture she was thinking, "I don't know about this thing!" We had ice cream in chocolate and then went to a sushi place where the food goes by on a conveyor and you just grab what you want.

We spent some time exploring Akureyri. When Lizzie saw the "o amber" sign she had to take a picture for her friend Amber. Her inner Viking came out when she put on the helmet. When Mitzi was taking her picture with the trolls, Lizzie was afraid they would suddenly come to life and grab her!

It was 55 degrees outside and Minute Maid was sponsoring a waterslide for children in the middle of the downtown. We all got a good laugh watching the Icelandic kids enjoy the freezing water in the (what we considered) freezing air. Here's a progression of two boys coming down the chute, Mitzi captured it perfectly. Right at the end one of the boys slips off the tube and is completely submerged in the freezing water.

The red lights in downtown Akureyri are hearts. We've never seen that before.

We drove along the northern fjords. It was cloudy so we didn't get the best views, but it was still beautiful. We drove through about 5 tunnels, several of them were 6 to 7 kilometers in length. Here are pictures showing coming up on the tunnel entrance, what it looks like deep inside, and eventually – there is light at the end of the tunnel! We also saw a large group of Icelandic horses running from one pasture to another. What a beautiful sight to see.

Sunday in Borgarnes, our last full day in Iceland. We drove for about 2 and a half hours. We drove along fjords and fields and in some places a foggy mist created a dream-like quality to the drive.

We didn't have the exact address of our destination, just a written description from the house owner of how to get there. As we got near Borgarnes, Damon decided to pull off the road in a safe place so we could figure out how to proceed.

As he turned off the road on some random dirt side road Mitzi suddenly explained, "This is the street!" By random chance we happened to turn off on the right road!

We pulled up to the house and a car was parked. So Mitzi volunteered to go in and see if it was the house we were staying at. A few minutes later she came out to the car and started laughing almost hysterically. Here's what happened:

She walked into the house and loud music was playing. She called out several times, "Hello, is anyone there?" Suddenly a large middle aged woman walked by in a scarlet bra and pants, saw Mitzi unexpectedly, and jumped back yelling while bouncing up and down, "Oh my! You scared me!" The woman explained that because of global warming in Europe, it was hot in Iceland and she had to clean with her shirt off (it was a toasty 55 degrees!)  Mitzi had to call Maddy and share the story of scaring the poor lady as she knew Maddy would get a kick out of it.

We left so the lady could finish her cleaning. We went to lunch at La Colina Pizzeria. You can see from the pictures we devoured it to the last crumb – great pizza! Then we drove back to the house, but the scarlet bra lady was still there so we waited in the car until she left – Mitzi didn't want to run into her again :)

After resting at the house, we went out in the evening for a couple activities. First stop was Deildartunguhver, boiling natural hot springs. Hot hot hot water boiling out of the ground. They have a restaurant there called Krauma and we had dessert – Rhubarb Cheesecake and Coconut Cake.

Then we drove over to Barnafoss waterfalls. The water comes out of volcanic rock, not a river. It appears out of nowhere. Magical. Damon was on the phone with Emily during the drive, and while we were visiting the falls. On the way back to the cabin we stopped along the road and Lizzie had an encounter with Icelandic horses.

Here's Damon helping Mitzi put this blog together. Along with Lizzie in the hot tub (it's 10:24pm!) and our last cabin where we are staying tonight. Every night we've had fun putting the pictures up on this blog and writing the stories of our adventures. What a wonderful trip! Tomorrow we fly back to the States. We feel grateful for the wonderful trip and a bit sad that it's coming to an end.