Trip

Universal Studios Orlando

Posted in Trip on October 29th, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We went to Universal Studios Orlando! We got up early every day to beat the crowds. We took advantage of a very rare 4 day weekend on the school calendar thanks to a teacher work day on Friday and Diwali on Monday. We flew down to Orlando Thursday night for four days of fun in Florida.

Here we are at our hotel (Portofino Bay) waiting for the ferry boat to show up to take us to the park. The three of us have Harry Potter-themed shirts, robes, and wands. And I've got glasses too. And if you want to point out that my robe is not a Hogwarts robe, I'll point out that only the students at Hogwarts wear house robes - professors can wear whatever fits their style 馃榿 .

Universal Studios Orlando

Inside the gate on the first morning. Ready for fun.

Inside the gate

Jen wore a Potter shirt, but had no robe or wand, so she became the victim/test subject for our spells.

Victim

We of course went straight to Diagon Alley to experience some Harry Potter. Once you walk through the brick wall, it's like you're transported to a different world. There's lots of fun things to do, but I was happy just to wander around and take it all in, especially first thing in the morning before it gets crowded.

Of course, we did lots of fun things. Our first ride was the Escape from Gringotts, which was a lot of fun.

Escape from Gringotts

We'd bought wands at Olivander's when we went to Universal Studios Hollywood five years ago. These can be used to cast spells around the Wizarding World. They didn't seem to be working, so we stopped in to Olivander's to get their wands "repaired". They could only repair Leah's, as Molly's wand had been discontinued and they no longer "had the parts" (we think they just replace the wand). Fortunately, after further testing, Molly's wand did work (at least some of the time). She cursed her mom with a weather jinx here.

Meteolojinx

Meteolojinx

We spent a while wandering around casting spells and exploring. The girls tried out Sirius's motorbike, though it would be the next day before we got to ride it.

Sirius s motorbike

The dragon on top of Gringotts breathes fire every 10 minutes.

Gringotts dragon fire

After an early morning and lots of exploring, we were hungry. We had a delicious lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. It was authentic British fair, including Fish & Chips, Scotch Eggs, Cottage Pie, and Bangers and Mash. Highly recommended.

Leaky Cauldron lunch

After lunch, we rode the Hogwarts Express from Diagon Alley (part of Universal Studios) to Hogsmeade (part of Islands of Adventure).

Hogwarts Express

First stop was one of my favorite rides: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, where we get to fly around Hogwarts. We'd ridden this in California, and it was still so great. We rode it 4 times over the course of our visit. That was in part because it's a great ride, and in part because our Express Passes meant the line was always super short.

Forbidden Journey

We spent the rest of the day around Hogsmeade in and out of shops, riding Forbidden Journey again, and riding the Flight of the Hippogriff (a kiddie coaster, but we had to ride it anyway). Then we went back to our hotel and ate Italian food at Mama Della's Ristorante (which was excellent).

Saturday morning we got to the park early to go to the most popular (by far) attraction - Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. We got to the park around 20 minutes before the start of Early Park Admission (7:40), were in line by 8:04, and got on the ride at 9:00. Not bad, considering wait times ranged from 120-280 minutes during normal park hours. The ride is the most expensive roller coaster ever built, and it is a lot of fun. #1 ride for both Molly and Leah (and a tie for first for me as well). We managed to ride it a second time Monday morning at park open as well, after getting there even earlier then waiting through a 30 minute ride delay.

Hagrid s Motorbike Adventure

Hagrid s Motorbike Adventure

We rode Forbidden Journey again.

Forbidden Journey again

We then left the Wizarding World to head to Marvel Superhero Island. First stop - The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

Spider Man

Hulk was our first traditional big roller coaster to ride (Hagrid is so much more than just a roller coaster). It was a lot of fun, so we rode it twice in a row. Leah discovered she's a bit of a daredevil.

Hulk

We discovered this hot dog place in City Walk (outside the parks). Cheaper, and less crowded. We all ate there Saturday, and the girls at there Sunday as well.

Foot long hot dogs

After lunch we hopped to the other park to check out non-Harry Potter things there. We saw some the Horror and Make-Up show, went on the Transformers ride, rode the E.T. ride, and went on Men In Black Alien Attack.

Men In Black

We went back to Diagon Alley and watched a show. We went on Jimmy Fallon's Ride Through New York and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. We saw the Beat Builders show. And then we headed out of the park for dinner.

We ate dinner at Cowfish in City Walk Saturday night. They have a mix of sushi and burgers, including some hybrids. The girls loved this, and begged us to go back (which we did for our final lunch on Monday).

Cowfish

Molly and I both got Burgushi - burger sushi. These are sushi rolls with hamburger meat in place of the fish. They were fantastic. Molly got The All-American Bacon Double Cheeseburgooshi and I got The Taste Explosion Roll (which it was).

Burgushi

Leah's first time eating special rolls (she's usually more of a simple salmon or tuna roll kind of kid). Fancy sushi

Certified Angus beef, applewood smoked bacon rolled and coated with tempura flakes and topped with Roma tomatoes, jalape帽os, pepper jack cheese, then baked. Drizzled with spicy mayo cashew cilantro pesto.

Crazy Burgushi

And some serious milkshakes for dessert.

Milkshakes for dessert

After dinner, we went back into Islands of Adventure to catch the Dark Arts light show (running around Halloween) at Hogwarts, and it was phenomenal. Highly recommend you don't miss it (I assume the other seasonal light shows are also great).

Hogwarts Dark Arts show

Hogwarts Dark Arts show

Hogwarts Dark Arts show

Hogwarts Dark Arts show

Hogwarts at night is truly magical.

Hogwarts at night

Sunday we hit the park early and went to the newest big roller coaster - Velocicoaster. This ride is awesome - one of our favorites. It's so fast, full of thrills, and extremely smooth. We rode it twice Sunday, and a third time on Monday.

Velocicoaster

On the second ride, I was on the car in front of them, so we aren't in the pic together.

All by myself

Second ride

After Velocicoaster, we continued exploring Jurassic World. First we went on the Jurassic Park River Adventure. This is a fun ride through Jurassic Park, which ends with you plummeting down and getting a little splashed. I thought the little splash was no big deal, but the three ladies in the family decided they needed ponchos. As you can see, Molly decided she even needed to cover her face. She also decided to be fancy and hold up her pinky finger. Leah, on the other hand, looks disgusted. The two of them alone might make this our favorite picture, but several of the other riders added to it the awesomeness as well.

The best picture

I don't know why they decided to make this photo spot, but we took our picture there.

Picture with a Jurassic Park Jeep

We were thirsty, so we ducked over to Hogsmeade for some Butterbeer. We drank a lot of Butterbeer on our visit. Cold (normal) Butterbeer, frozen Butterbeer, and even hot Butterbeer (first time trying it, and it was fantastic).

Butterbeer

To finish out the morning, we rode Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Then we headed to City Walk for lunch again (hot dogs for the girls, Bread Box sandwiches for Jen and I). We then hopped to Universal Studios to watch the Bourne Stuntacular (which is really good). Then we rode Rip Ride Rockit - a fun roller coaster with music you pick and a start that has you go straight up before plummeting down. Leah liked it so much she and I rode it twice in a row (Molly took the second time off).

I should mention when I say "we" rode these rides, Jen passed on a bunch of them. She gets motion sickness too easily to ride all these rides, so she was very choosy about what to ride (and never rode anything more than once).

We ducked out of the parks early on Sunday to give ourselves a break. We headed back to our hotel for some pool time. Portofino Bay is probably the nicest hotel at Universal Orlando, so we took advantage of it. The girls really liked the water slide at the pool. But before we got on the boat back to the hotel, we got a picture with the Universal globe.

Universal Globe

For dinner that night we had late reservations at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. We decided in the end to go ahead and eat pizza at the hotel, then just get dessert at Toothsome. The three of us got some awesome fancy milkshakes - Key Lime Pie, Chocolate X5, and Strawberry Cheesecake. They were awesome (and more than we could handle). Jen got a small white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, which was good too.

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium

Monday was our last day, so was a shorter day. Jen stayed at the hotel to check us out and stow our luggage while the girls and I headed to the park early to ride Hagrid again (once was enough for Jen). After Hagrid's we rode Velocicoaster for the 3rd time. Then Jen met us and we went through the Olivander's Experience where they help one person choose a wand (the inspiration for the wand choosing ceremony at my Harry Potter birthday parties).

Then we went back to Cowfish for lunch. We hadn't planned to go back, but the girls begged us to go again repeatedly, and we eventually relented. If we had one of these near us, they'd want to go there every time we went out to eat. The two of them ordered the same thing they'd had two days ago (Jen and I did not).

Back at Cowfish

Then we headed back to the hotel to collect our bags, head to the airport, and fly home. It was a great trip, though I'm not sure we'll do it again any time soon.

Iceland Day 7 part 2

Posted in Trip on August 21st, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

On the afternoon of day 7, we had our most extreme activity. 5 days before we left for Iceland, a volcanic eruption began. Within hours, we got an email from one of the companies we'd booked a tour with saying we could book a guide to take us there. We made a quick decision, and decided to do it.

Over the next week, we kept getting emails warning us off the hike. They told us it had been reclassified as a challenging hike, and that children were not recommended. Then the government officially banned children under 12 going (good thing Leah's 12). We were excited to go, so we stuck with it.

We were supposed to meet our group at the parking lot at 4:30, but were running late (didn't count on Reykjavik traffic). We got there right as the tour was supposed to leave, but couldn't find our guide in the sea of people. After phone calls and emails, we finally found our guide and rushed to catch up with the rest of the group.

Meradalir volcano hike

Around half way, we got to see the field of mostly cooled lava rock from last year's eruption.

Lava rock

The hike itself was tough. 14km round trip, with a maximum ascent of 350m. The majority of that was maybe 1km in and was really steep. About a third of the hike was over very rocky terrain, but the rest was on nice dirt paths that had been created since the eruption began (we went to see it on day 13 of the eruption).

Volcano hike

After a couple of hours, we topped a ridge and saw the volcano. It was incredible.

Initial volcano view

Meradalir volcano on day 13 of the eruption. The eruption began with a 100m fissure, but much of that has stopped, concentrating the lava flow in one area. A cone has just started to develop there, so this is a baby volcano. Depending on how long the eruption lasts, this cone may continue to grow bigger and bigger.

Meradalir volcano

I took some video footage of the volcano in the rain and heavy wind. It was so awesome. Note that this is an HDR video, and is best viewed on an HDR display.

Leah, Molly, and Jen found a great spot to sit and watch the volcano from the hillside next to it.

Watching the volcano

3 girls and a volcano

Here we are, in Iceland next to an erupting volcano.

Us and a volcano

The eruption was nice and active, constantly throwing lave into the air.

Erupting

The hillside next to the volcano was really steep, but I decided to try to walk down to the edge of the lava flow to get as close as possible. I made it down (though fell a couple times on the way). It was much warmer down there.

Up close to the volcano

That's my hand, touching the cooled lava rock (though still a bit warm).

Touching lava rock

Here's a view of the volcano erupting from ground level.

Erupting

Erupting

While I was down next to the lava rock, a bride and groom came down with their photographer to take wedding photos. Icelanders are tough.

Wedding photos

As we left the volcano, our guide invited us to his "souvenir shop", where we could pick a lava rock to take home.

Souvenir

The weather was nice as we started out hike to the volcano, then got very windy and rainy after the first hour. It got even nastier on the way back, including fog/clouds that reduced visibility a lot while walking through the rocks.

Hike back

Here's a view of all the switchbacks that formed the primary ascent on the way there. This hike was tough, and we weren't' sure if the girls would make it up. Molly in particular struggled to breath during the hike, which made even more sense when she tested positive for Covid two days later. But they both pushed through, and were rewarded with a once in a lifetime experience. If you ever get the chance to see an erupting volcano up close, don't pass it up.

Our trip to Iceland was amazing. We highly recommend going if you get the chance. Also, we planned this trip ourselves using lots of online resources, but the biggest and most helpful resource was Jeannie at Iceland With A View. Her videos and blog posts were so helpful in planning, and we referred to her guides constantly while traveling around. Big shoutout to her for helping us have such a great trip.

Table of contents for the whole trip

  1. Day 1 - Reykjavik and Lava tunnel
  2. Day 2 - Golden Circle
  3. Day 3 - Vestmannaeyjar
  4. Day 4 Part 1 - Ice Cave
  5. Day 4 Part 2 - Black sand beach, puffins, and waterfalls
  6. Day 5 - Glacier hike
  7. Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon
  8. Day 7 Part 1 - Blue Lagoon
  9. Day 7 Part 2 - An active volcano

Iceland Day 7 Part 1

Posted in Trip on August 21st, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Day 7 was a super full day, starting with a 6am wakeup and ending with us getting to the apartment to eat dinner after 11pm. It was so full, that I'll split it into 2 posts.

Our early wakeup was due to having tickets to the Blue Lagoon at 8am when they open. It can get crowded, but getting there can avoid those crowds.

The Blue Lagoon is a natural hot spring with milky blue water. It was neat, and very warm.

Entering Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

The water gets its appearance from silica found in the spring. That same silica forms a paste that the Blue Lagoon offers as a mask. Only Leah and Jen partook in the mask wearing.

Masks

The water was very warm, ranging from 97 degrees in the cooler parts to 104 degrees in the warmer parts. Molly ventured into the deep, hotter part of the pool (around 104).

Blue Lagoon silhouette

It was a fun experience. It felt more like a luxury spa than a natural wonder (even though it is a natural wonder), which was a nice break before our more extreme afternoon activity - an active volcano.

Table of contents for the whole trip

  1. Day 1 - Reykjavik and Lava tunnel
  2. Day 2 - Golden Circle
  3. Day 3 - Vestmannaeyjar
  4. Day 4 Part 1 - Ice Cave
  5. Day 4 Part 2 - Black sand beach, puffins, and waterfalls
  6. Day 5 - Glacier hike
  7. Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon
  8. Day 7 Part 1 - Blue Lagoon
  9. Day 7 Part 2 - An active volcano

Iceland Day 6

Posted in Trip on August 20th, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Day 6 in Iceland continued our glacier-related adventures. We went to the J枚kuls谩rl贸n glacier lagoon. This is a lagoon next to the Brei冒amerkurj枚kull glacier, formed by the glacier melting and full of icebergs that have broken off of the glacier. We booked a tour on a Zodiac boat to explore the lagoon.

J枚kuls谩rl贸n glacier lagoon

On a boat

J枚kuls谩rl贸n

Big iceberg

J枚kuls谩rl贸n glacier lagoon iceberg

J枚kuls谩rl贸n boat ride

A view from out the back of the boat.

View from the boat

There was a seal hanging out on a rock in the lagoon.

Seal

The four of us, on a boat, in a glacier lagoon.

The four of us

We eventually reached the back of the lagoon for a good view of the glacier.

Brei冒amerkurj枚kull

We were lucky enough to get to see a piece of the glacier break off (calve) and fall into the water. It was awesome to see, and bitter sweet. Knowing that it happens, we were excited to get to see it happen. But the fact that it is happening is sad, knowing that it means the glacier is melting and receding. The lagoon has doubled in size in the last 15 years at the expense of the glacier. Note that the video is shot HDR, and is best viewed on an HDR display.

After the calving, the place it had broken from had fresh ice, which appears blue.

After calving

J枚kuls谩rl贸n boat trip

Sadly, we ran into car trouble at J枚kuls谩rl贸n. As we pulled into the parking lot, the rental car alerted that one of the tires had low pressure. We got out and could hear the air escaping and tire deflating. We ended up going on our boat tour and leaving this problem to solve afterward.

Unfortunately, the car had no spare. It did have a tire repair spray, but it required an air compressor to use which the car did not have. So, I needed to call the rental car company, but I had no way to do that. I'd opted for an eSIM to get data in country, but had no way to make a phone call. I ended up borrowing a phone from the ticket desk (her personal phone) to call the rental car company. They said they'd send out roadside assistance, but we'd be paying out of pocket because we had not opted for the extra roadside assistance package. Also, in Iceland, tire damage is not covered by the rental car company, so we were going to have to pay to replace the tire as well.

The roadside assistance guy in Kirkjub忙jarklaustur was busy, so they had to send the guy from H枚fn (both about an hour away, but H枚fn was the opposite direction of where we were headed). Since we had an hour or two to wait, we wandered around J枚kuls谩rl贸n to see it from land.

J枚kuls谩rl贸n from land

J枚kuls谩rl贸n from land

The roadside assistance guy, Sven, was very nice and helpful. He looked at the tires, and said that all 4 were totally worn down on the inside, likely due to an alignment problem. The car needed 4 new tires. The good news was this was the rental car company's fault, so they'd be paying for everything. The bad news was that he'd have to tow it to the tire shop in H枚fn. Our plan of seeing a few more things, then driving 5 hours back to Reykjavik was shot, but we were still going to need to drive to Reykjavik to our new place to stay. H枚fn is a bit more than an hour further east of J枚kuls谩rl贸n, so we'd be adding that distance to our drive back as well.

So, we hopped in Sven's truck and rode with him to H枚fn.

Car trouble

Gas stations are a hub of food, supplies, and gas in Iceland. So, while our car was getting new tires, we walked to the closest gas station and got ice cream. Ice cream is Iceland is so delicious.

Gas station ice cream

After our car ordeal, we drove all the way back from H枚fn to Reykjavik (about 6 hours driving). We passed Fallj枚kull glacier on the way, where we'd hiked the day before. So, we decided to stop and get a picture of the glacier from afar. Note that Fallj枚kull is just the glacier in the foreground, though all the glaciers you see are part of the Vatnaj枚kull glacier system.

Fallj枚kull

We finally got to our apartment in Reykjavik a bit after 11pm. We got our stuff in quickly and got to bed, as we knew we had to be up around 6am the next day.

Table of contents for the whole trip

  1. Day 1 - Reykjavik and Lava tunnel
  2. Day 2 - Golden Circle
  3. Day 3 - Vestmannaeyjar
  4. Day 4 Part 1 - Ice Cave
  5. Day 4 Part 2 - Black sand beach, puffins, and waterfalls
  6. Day 5 - Glacier hike
  7. Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon
  8. Day 7 Part 1 - Blue Lagoon
  9. Day 7 Part 2 - An active volcano

Iceland Day 4 Part 2

Posted in Trip on August 20th, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The ice cave was amazing, but day 4 wasn't even close to done yet. There's lots to do around V铆k that we weren't going to miss.

Iceland's coastline is full of black sand beaches (volcanic rock turned sand). One of the most famous is Reynisfjara, which was very near to us when we stayed in V铆k.

Reynisfjara black sand beach

One of the most famous features of the beach are its enormous basalt columns.

Basalt columns

Basalt columns

We walked along Reynisfjara beach for a while, and there are so many awesome things to see. This giant basalt cavern, for one.

Huge basalt cavern

There were rocks to climb.

Rocks to climb

More rocks

And more caverns.

Another cavern

Me and Jen, on a black sand beach, in Iceland.

The two of us

After some time on the beach, we went up to Dyrh贸laey lighthouse, which gives fantastic views of the coastline.

Dyrh贸laey

But better than landscape views, there were a bunch of puffins next to Dyrh贸laey lighthouse. Thanks to Molly for finding them. They were even closer to us than they were on Vestmannaeyjar! We stayed for a while watching and photographing them.

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

Dyrh贸laey puffins

I spent a lot of time photographing puffins. In fact, a fellow tourist who happened to also be from Maryland gave me his email address so I could send him my pictures. But eventually I pulled myself away from photographing the puffins, and we headed to another waterfall.

Sk贸gafoss is another waterfall that's easy to get to, and magnificent. I love that Molly's totally up for getting up close and drenched.

Sk贸gafoss

Near Sk贸gafoss, there is another hidden waterfall if you know where to go. Getting there involved climbing this ladder over a barbed wire fence. You really feel like you're trespassing, but our guidebook said this was OK so we went with it.

Trespassing

After hopping the fence and a short 20 minute hike, we arrived at Kvernufoss. You can go behind this one too, as you can see from Leah, Molly, and Jen's bright colored jackets.

Kvernufoss

Behind Kvernufoss

For dinner that night, we went to the Black Crust Pizzeria in V铆k, which has, you guessed it, pizza with black crust. Very on-theme for all the volcanic rock and ash around. It was absolutely delicious - some of the best pizza I've ever had.

Black Crust Pizza

Table of contents for the whole trip

  1. Day 1 - Reykjavik and Lava tunnel
  2. Day 2 - Golden Circle
  3. Day 3 - Vestmannaeyjar
  4. Day 4 Part 1 - Ice Cave
  5. Day 4 Part 2 - Black sand beach, puffins, and waterfalls
  6. Day 5 - Glacier hike
  7. Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon
  8. Day 7 Part 1 - Blue Lagoon
  9. Day 7 Part 2 - An active volcano

Iceland Day 4 Part 1

Posted in Trip on August 19th, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Days 1 to 3 in Iceland were amazing, but day 4 took things to another level. In fact, I'm going to have to split day 4 into 2 posts. For the first post: our big activity of the day - an ice cave!

We booked a tour to see an ice cave in the M媒rdalsj枚kull glacier near the Katla volcano. Getting there is difficult, so we rode in this fancy van with giant tires. They even had a phone app to control the tire pressure to deflate them when riding through the volcanic ash desert.

Monster truck

We spent a 30-45 minutes driving through the ash desert created by Katla's last eruption, and stopped to take in the amazing views. It really was awesome. Of note, this is where they filmed the opening scene to Star Wars: Rogue One.

Volcanic ash desert

Volcanic ash desert

We could start to see the glacier in the distance from there.

Glacier from afar

After a bit more driving, we got as far as we could and had to proceed on foot. To walk on ice, you've got to have crampons. These were smaller and simpler than the ones we used for our glacier hike the next day.

Crampons

Walking to the glacier

Here's M媒rdalsj枚kull glacier. The ice is covered in black volcanic ash.

M媒rdalsj枚kull glacier

M媒rdalsj枚kull glacier

Our guide let us have a little fun with his ice axe.

Ice axe fun

Ice axe fun

They built a makeshift scaffolding to get up to the ice cave.

Headed in

Heading into the ice cave.

Inside the ice cave

The ice cave was so cool. It was created by the rivers of water that flow through the glacier. At some point, this was a river, but the water eventually took a different route leaving a tunnel for us to walk through. And since this glacier is full of volcanic ash from all the eruptions, the river left a convenient layer of ash on the ground for us to walk on.

In an ice cave

Note that this ice cave is open on both ends, as it opens up into a large crack in the glacier.

The four of us in an ice cave

In an ice cave

Molly's not sure about tasting the glacier ice.

Tasting the ice

Tasting the ice

Tasting the ice

Jen in the mouth of an ice cave

In an ice cave

After leaving the cave, we got a little bonus. The glacier has melted a bit at one point, leaving an opening we could go in. Yes, there's thousands of tons of ice above their heads.

Bonus

Bonus

One last picture of the glacier and surrounding landscape before getting in the monster truck to head back.

Landscape

This was one of our favorite experiences of the trip. The ice cave was so cool, and the drive there through the volcanic ash desert really did feel like you were on a different planet. I can see why Star Wars chose to use it.

Table of contents for the whole trip

  1. Day 1 - Reykjavik and Lava tunnel
  2. Day 2 - Golden Circle
  3. Day 3 - Vestmannaeyjar
  4. Day 4 Part 1 - Ice Cave
  5. Day 4 Part 2 - Black sand beach, puffins, and waterfalls
  6. Day 5 - Glacier hike
  7. Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon
  8. Day 7 Part 1 - Blue Lagoon
  9. Day 7 Part 2 - An active volcano

Iceland Day 3

Posted in Trip on August 19th, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The main event for our third day in Iceland was to leave the mainland and go to Vestmannaeyjar, an archipelago off the south coast. The largest puffin colony in Iceland lives there, and we couldn't wait to see them. But first, in the morning, we checked out another couple waterfalls.

Seljalandsfoss is fun and easy to get to. It is a bit crowded, though.

Seljalandsfoss

You can go behind Seljalandsfoss, but beware that you'll be soaked (rain pants are a must). Sadly, it was so bright behind and so dark inside that you can't see any faces.

Behind the waterfall

Molly was happy to get drenched, so ventured out onto this rock where the water was pouring down.

Getting drenched

Seljalandsfoss was a lovely waterfall.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

Gljufrabui is a short walk from Seljalandsfoss, and hidden inside a cave. It's a challenge getting into the cave, but once in there it's beautiful.

Gljufrabui

We then hopped on the Herj贸lfur ferry to go to Vestmannaeyjar.

Herj贸lfur ferry

Vestmannaeyjar

There are lots of small islands surrounding the main island in Vestmannaeyjar, and each one has a single house on it. These are members only clubhouses (think like the Elks Lodge in America).

One house

On the ferry as we were getting close to the island, I saw some sheep from afar and decided to photograph them. Turns out they were surrounded by puffins! I thought we were going to have to venture to the furthest corner of the island to see them, but there were all over the hillside as we approached!

Sheep and puffins

Once we got to Heimaey, the big island of Vestmannaeyjar, we took a tour of the island. Our tour guide showed us Spranga, the local sport involving climing, rapelling, ans swinging from the cliffs. This is not just for fun, but also a source of food as residents gather eggs from nests along the islands (not puffin eggs).

Spranga

Surtsey Island is the newest of the islands of Vestmannaeyjar. It was created by a submarine volcanic eruption from 1963 to 1967. Humans are not allowed on the island yet, as scientists are studying how long it takes for plants and animals to colonize it.

Surtsey Island

We saw a bunch of puffins right next to the golf course on the island.

Puffins

We learned that it is easy to identify puffins in flight because they are really bad at it. They flap their wings very quickly to remain aloft, and often take multiple passes before landing as they keep missing their desired location.

Bad flyers

Puffins

Puffins

Puffins

Also near the golf course were turf houses made to replicate the early Viking houses here. We even got to go inside them.

Replica turf houses

Inside a Viking turf house

The four of us, up high on Heimaey in Vestmannaeyjar.

The four of us

Vestmannaeyjar

We saw a lot more puffins at the south end of Heimaey.

Puffins

Puffins

The hillside was covered in puffins.

Puffins

Puffins

Puffins

Puffins

Coming in for a landing

Puffins

Puffins

Puffins

Puffins

Leah had fun watching puffins, and patiently waiting on her dad photographing them.

Watching puffins

There was a seal hanging out in the water near the puffins.

Seal

Here we are on Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar where the eruption of the 1973 Eldfell volcano started. We're in the crater, surrounded by lava rocks and standing on volcanic ash. This eruption caused the island to be evacuated for months, and buried 400 homes in lava. As the lave kept approaching the center of town, they sprayed it with sea water to cool the edges and create a wall to keep the flow back, saving the rest of the town.

Eldfell

Eldfell

A view of the mainland of Iceland as the ferry approaches it.

Ferry ride back

Iceland

Two kids on a boat, headed back to the mainland to drive on to our second lodging in the small town of V铆k.

Two kids on a boat

Table of contents for the whole trip

  1. Day 1 - Reykjavik and Lava tunnel
  2. Day 2 - Golden Circle
  3. Day 3 - Vestmannaeyjar
  4. Day 4 Part 1 - Ice Cave
  5. Day 4 Part 2 - Black sand beach, puffins, and waterfalls
  6. Day 5 - Glacier hike
  7. Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon
  8. Day 7 Part 1 - Blue Lagoon
  9. Day 7 Part 2 - An active volcano

Iceland Day 2

Posted in Trip on August 19th, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For our second day in Iceland, we went around the Golden Circle to see lots of natural wonders. Our first stop was Keri冒 crater, a giant crater created by the collapse of volcanic rock. It was beautiful and cool. The tiny yellow, pink, and teal dots are Leah, Molly, and Jen.

Keri冒 crater

Keri冒 crater

Keri冒 crater

Us at Keri冒 crater

Us at Keri冒 crater

We then headed to Br煤arhl枚冒, a beautiful canyon flowing with water. Most of the places around the Golden Circle had crowds, but this was a hidden gem with hardly any people there.

Br煤arhl枚冒

Br煤arhl枚冒

These two sisters always get along.

Loving sisters

See...

Getting along great

The two of us

We then headed to the biggest waterfall we'd see on our trip (and we saw a lot of waterfalls) - Gulfoss. Gullfoss is huge, and very popular. Tons of people, but the waterfall is spectacular. Be prepared to get wet if you go to the closer vantage points.

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Our next stop was Geysir. Geysir is the original geyser that the rest take their name from. It's dormant now, but still steaming.

Geysir

Geysir

Geysir love

Strokkur, right next to Geysir, goes off every 8 to 10 minutes. I got a nice burst of photos of it going off.

Then we moved on to 脼ingvellir National Park. It's is a beautiful park with lots to see. This is a view overlooking the landscape from the visitor center.

脼ingvellir National Park

A fun thing to do in 脼ingvellir is to walk the continental divide. The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling away from each other here, and you can walk in between them.

Between continents

Between continents with a flag

脼ingvellir

After that, we continued exploring 脼ingvellir, checking out 脰xar谩rfoss - a beautiful waterfall.

脰xar谩rfoss

脰xar谩rfoss

After 脼ingvellir it was getting late, but we had to squeeze in one more waterfall. 脼贸rufoss was the most hidden gem we hit. Beautiful waterfall, but not a soul around the entire time we were there.

脼贸rufoss

Molly tried to hold super still for this long exposure.

脼贸rufoss

脼贸rufoss

Then we headed back to Selfoss to turn in for the night. But not before a very late dinner. Icelanders are very proud of their hot dogs, called pylsur, and you can find them everywhere. We ate them a lot, including from gas stations. Our first experience was at Pylsuvagninn in Selfoss. The normal preparation is with both fried and raw onions in the toasted bun as well as ketchup, then the hot dog on top of that, then mustard on top (which is a bit more like honey mustard, but not all the way to how sweet American honey mustard is). I also got the potato salad hot dog, which has potato salad. Molly got their deluxe dog, which had french fries, garlic sauce, and cheese under the dog.

Pylsur

It was a fantastic day, but the adventures only got bigger as the week went on.

Table of contents for the whole trip

  1. Day 1 - Reykjavik and Lava tunnel
  2. Day 2 - Golden Circle
  3. Day 3 - Vestmannaeyjar
  4. Day 4 Part 1 - Ice Cave
  5. Day 4 Part 2 - Black sand beach, puffins, and waterfalls
  6. Day 5 - Glacier hike
  7. Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon
  8. Day 7 Part 1 - Blue Lagoon
  9. Day 7 Part 2 - An active volcano

Iceland Day 1

Posted in Trip on August 18th, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We went to Iceland! The trip was amazing and full to the point of bursting. We got on our Icelandair flight (very fancy airline for those of us used to Southwest) Tuesday evening and flew through the night (6 hour flight), arriving there at 6:30am Iceland time (2:30am according to our bodies).

Icelandair

We got through the airport, got our rental car, and hit the road toward Reykjavik. We stopped off at Brau冒 & Co for some delicious breakfast.

Iceland breakfast

We then made it to Reykjavik. First, we checked out Hallgr铆mskirkja church in the center of Reykjav铆k.

Hallgr铆mskirkja

We went up to the top for a great view of the city.

View from the top of Hallgr铆mskirkja

View from the top of Hallgr铆mskirkja

View from the top of Hallgr铆mskirkja

The bells rang while we were up there, deafening us for a bit.

Hallgr铆mskirkja bells

We then wandered the streets a bit. Had to get a picture on Rainbow Street.

Rainbow Street

We walked (probably should have driven) to Aurora Reykjav铆k, the Northern Lights Center. It was very educational, and even had a little booth to simulate photographing the aurora. It was lots of fun, even if we didn't get to see the real thing on our trip (which we expected, going in the summer).

Aurora Reykjav铆k

Aurora Reykjav铆k

We got lunch at the Fish & Chips Vagninn truck. It was excellent, though very cold outside. And I tried the mushy peas, but don't get why you'd want your peas to be mushy.

Fish  Chips

The big event of day one was a tour of the Raufarh贸lshellir lava tunnel/tube. This is a tunnel created by a giant lava flow, and it's awesome. The outer parts of the flow cool and harden into rock, while the inner parts keep flowing. Eventually, the lava all flows out leaving a tube. It is 10 meters high throughout and we spent an hour walking down into it.

Raufarh贸lshellir lava tunnel

Raufarh贸lshellir lava tunnel

Raufarh贸lshellir lava tunnel

We then headed to our first lodging, a VRBO in Selfoss which we spent two nights in. Selfoss was a great place to stay for traveling the South Coast, as it has lots to offer and is within short driving distance of lots of things to see and do.

Table of contents for the whole trip

  1. Day 1 - Reykjavik and Lava tunnel
  2. Day 2 - Golden Circle
  3. Day 3 - Vestmannaeyjar
  4. Day 4 Part 1 - Ice Cave
  5. Day 4 Part 2 - Black sand beach, puffins, and waterfalls
  6. Day 5 - Glacier hike
  7. Day 6 - Glacier Lagoon
  8. Day 7 Part 1 - Blue Lagoon
  9. Day 7 Part 2 - An active volcano

Beach vacation

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 13th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We went to Ocean City! G'Mom and Grampa came in town, and we took a vacation to Ocean City with them. We arrived Sunday evening, and walked out to the beach as the sun was going down to check it out and throw some surfer dudes.

Surfer throwing

The next morning it was time for some mini golf followed by beach time.

Mini golf shark

We hit the Ocean City boardwalk the next morning and rented a bike surrey from Bike World. It was a more serious workout than we were expecting and very crowded, but it was fun still fun.

Surrey ride

We spent lots of time at the beach.

Beach kids

Swimming in the ocean

G'Mom brought a new game for us to play - Sequence.

Sequence

And we had lots of treats.

There was a Dodo edible cookie dough and ice cream shop right near our beach house, so we had to try it out. Not bad.

Dodo

Candy Kitchen

Candy Kitchen

Leah saw this Thai style rolled ice cream place off the boardwalk in Ocean City and kept begging to go. Finally we did, and had rolled ice cream for the first time ever. It was awesome. Highly recommended.

Rolled ice cream

And of course got Boardwalk Fries.

Pier