Visited the Space Shuttle Atlantis

Recently we were in Cape Canaveral before driving down to the port to hop on the cruise ship Carnival Elation. On my bucket list has been visiting all of the space shuttles across the country. This trip to the Kennedy Space Center was my first time, and seeing the Atlantis checked off shuttle #2 from my list. Though technically with them having pieces of Columbia and Challenger on display, I have seen 4 at this point. Which leaves me with Endeavor and Enterprise. 

Snapped a few shots of Atlantis that I wanted to share, and felt that KSC did a really good job of displaying the space bird. With it set up the way it is, you can actually get closer to it than you can Discovery at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. 

Iceland trip

We just returned from our trip to Iceland. We landed in Reykjavik on October 3rd earlier in the morning, and returned back to Atlanta on the 10th. I backdated a few blog posts that you’ll find below this one. We traveled to a lot of traveling to cities that I can’t spell, or pronounce the names of. But I did get around to editing/uploading photos in a timely manner which can be viewed clicking the image below.

Back to where we began

We headed out early back to Reykjavik, retracing our steps back across the south. After checking into Fosshotel Baron, we headed to explore the city in the rain. Kat and I got hotdogs for lunch from the famous stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. They were good, but tasted pretty much the same as the ones we had a gas station earlier in the week. The best way to describe them is having a bit of a crunch, as the casing is made from lamb instead of pork. We then went to the Kolaportið flea market, where I found a PSP and Kat found some lava jewelry.

We visited the harbor, then went to the Phallological Museum, which has many different species on display & was far more educational than we expected! We returned to the hotel via Laugavegur Street, picking up a few more souvenirs, before getting everything repacked for our flights home in the morning.

My wife would not let me buy this

We returned to Café Loki for dinner, where Casey & myself tried fermented shark and Brennevin, traditional Icelandic food and drink. We were not a fan! We’re told our faces were great as we choked it down. We stopped for a few more drinks at Lebowski bar & Reykjavik Bar before heading back to the room to sleep.

Inside of the Lebowski bar

A better weather day in Iceland

Today started as a beautiful sunny day, making up for the poor conditions the previous day. We had breakfast at the hotel & headed to Skaftafell National park, where we walked to the edge of the glacier lagoon created from the melting Skaftafellsjökull, a glacier spur of the largest Icelandic glacier Vatnajökull.

We then drove to our furthest east point, Jökulsárlón, the enormous glacier lagoon where the runoff of the melting Vatnajökull meets the ocean, with many icebergs of various sizes floating throughout the lagoon & washing up on the black sand beach, nicknamed Diamond Beach.

The variety in colors of the iceburgs, with stunning blues were breathtaking. We had wonderful weather to wander up and down the shoreline and along the beach, photographing the scenery & watching for wildlife – we briefly saw 2 seal heads pop out of the water before disappearing from view again.

The weather was starting to turn and we headed back to Kirkjubæjarklaustur for the night in the rain, getting dinner at the other restaurant in town.

 

Stormy day across South Iceland

The weather report was not good for today, but we had to get over to our next hotel, down the south coast, so headed off after another good breakfast spread. We stopped at Seljalandsfoss, where we walked behind the waterfall & saw several others further along the cliffs.

It was raining & windy by our next stop, Skogafoss Waterfall, so we skipped the walk to the top and just took some photos at the base before getting back into the Duster and pressing on to Vik. It was crazy windy & stormy as we drove, and we passed a small tour bus that had clearly rolled of the road, people already had been removed. When we entered the town to Vik, there was a large truck blocking the road out of town with a sign noting the road was closed.

We ate lunch at The Soup Company and stopped at a grocery store & souvenir store area, trying to kill some time & hoping the weather conditions would improve. We were right at the Reynishfjara black sand beach, so I crossed to the edge for some photos in the storm, though everyone else stayed dry in the car. Vik is about an hour from our hotel in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, and we decided to try the road.

We were behind a bus heading out of town, and passed a sign that was mostly in Icelandic, but did flash to say “closed” in English. Shortly passed the sign, the tour bus pulled off into a parking lot. There was no barrier or blocking vehicle, so Donny decided to keep going.

It was a very tense & quiet car ride, with mye fighting the winds, sometimes with the steering wheel angled sideways in order to keep us going straight down the road. We crossed lava fields with the car buffeted by very high winds, and did eventually make it into Kirkjubæjarklaustur, again passing a vehicle blocking traffic out of town along the road we just drove.

When we got to the hotel, the front desk clerk was surprised we were there, as that road we drove was closed & no one should have crossed it, as the winds were hurricane strength. Hotel Klaustur was the largest place we stayed, with a bar & restaurant inside the hotel. We just stayed inside for the night.

Skogafoss Waterfall. Not much for pics today, weather was awful.

Golden Circle and Snowmobiling!

After a delicious breakfast spread at the guesthouse, we headed off to finish the golden circle. Our first stop was Kerið Crater, a collapsed volcanic crater that now has a small lake in the center. We circled the top of the crater & drove north to Geysir, where there are a number of hot springs & geysers, including one that goes off every 5-10 minutes.

Kerið Crater
Geysir

We saw the explosion several times, got lunch at the visitor center, then went to meet our snowmobile tour. We took a van with enormous tires off the road & up to the snow line, where we were suited up for the tour and dropped at the snowmobiles on the edge of the Langjokull glacier.

Our guide led us around on the glacier, showing where an ash covered protrusion, left by the explosion of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 is protecting further ice melt. He gave us some ash to take home as souvenirs. He pointed out the various glaciers, connected through the center of Iceland & had all of us stay silent & still, to hear what true quietness is. There was not a single sound on that glacier.

Volcanic ash. They gave us some to take home.

Myself and Casey mounted GoPros to the snowmobiles & we had a wonderful time riding on them. Eventually we were taken back down the mountain and returned to our rental, for our last stop on the golden circle, Gullfoss – the enormous double waterfall into a ravine, as the sun set.

I have got to get myself one of these!
Gullfoss was absolutely massive!

New wipers for the Duster

We started the day with coffee & pastries from a local bakery before trying to locate replacement windshield wipers for the car. The mechanic in Stykkishólmur advised that ours used a new style that would be unlikely to be found outside of the Dacia dealership, back in Reykjavik. 

We detoured back to Reykjavik, obtained new wipers, and then continued our trip to begin the Golden Circle with a visit to Þingvellir National Park. 

This is where the original parliament of Iceland formed back in 930. And also where the tectonic plates are pulling apart, separating the Eurasian plate from the North American.  We walked through the park, seeing early Icelandic cultural sites & enjoying the natural beauty.  We spent the next 2 nights at Lambastadir Guesthouse, on a small farm outside of Selfoss.  We had a wonderful dinner (seafood pizza for me, lamb for Donny) & relaxed in the hot tub before heading to bed. 

Snæfellsness Peninsula

We started the day with coffee & pastries from Reykjavik Roasters & pastries for the road from Brauð & Co., which were delicious, then headed north to the Snæfellsness Peninsula. Scenery was beautify as we drove – snow topped mountains to one side and water to the other, more moss covered lava fields, and farms with horses and sheep.

Our first stop was Gerðuberg Cliffs, formed similarly to those at Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. It was crazy windy there, but we climbed up the very sketchy path to the top and back down. Our next stop was Ytri Tunga Seal Beach, which is one of very few white sand beaches in Iceland. There were no seals, but we did see a coast guard ship off the coast and some replica whale bones.

Gerðuberg Cliffs

We drove a bit further down the peninsula and stopped at Bjarnarfoss, a waterfall where we walked partway up the cliff for a better viewpoint. Looking toward the sea, we spotted our next stop, the Búðakirkja Black Church, one of the only black churches in the country, with the rest all white, often with a red roof. We stopped for lunch at Arnastapi – soup & fish & chips.

We walked to the coastal cliffs past the Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss Statue but it was getting late and so windy that we didn’t want to walk them. We drove to the end of the peninsula, past the Lóndrangar Cliffs, to Djupalonssandur Black Beach, the first black “sand” beach of the trip, though it was more pebble like then sand to me.

Not sure if whale bones real or not

There are bits of shipwreck on the beach from The Epine GY7 fishing boat that sank in 1948. As well as stone that traditionally were used by fisherman to prove they have the strength to go out on the boats. I was able to lift the 150lb stone and Jeanette tried but failed. Casey and Kat did not give the rocks a try.

Remains of the ship wreck

We caught glimpses of the Snæfellsjökull glacier through the clouds, where the entrance to the center of the earth was located. There were very high winds all day and it was raining off and on, though luckily the rain hit as we were driving. Unluckily the Duster only had one working windshield wiper, in front of the driver.

We crossed the mountains to our guesthouse on the northern coast. Stykkishólmur, the largest town on the peninsula, has a lighthouse & ferry across to the West Fjords, but only a few restaurants – 3 were open, 2 of which were booked until late with reservations, so we ate burgers for dinner at the gas station. With all the rain, it was too cloudy to see the Northern Lights (a common problem throughout the trip) and we headed to bed early.

Stykkishólmur

Arrival in Iceland

We landed and cleared customs/immigration in time to see the sunrise as we took the shuttle to the car rental depot. We got a Dacia Duster rental from Lava, got all loaded in & headed over to the blue lagoon after a brief stop for coffee and pastries at a local bakery. Iceland scenery is so different from everything I’ve seen before – very desolate lava fields with little moss and few trees. After showering & changing into swimsuits, we relaxed in the lagoon.

The water felt wonderful as we were all very tired & jetlagged. We got 1 drink and 2 masks with our entrance package – the cleansing silica mud mask and the rejuvenating algae mask, and spent time floating and bobbing around the lagoon. It’s definitely geared for tourists, but makes a wonderful first stop after a red eye flight.

We decided to head to Reykjavik and discovered the rental car was dead – we couldn’t get it started. We got a blue lagoon employee to come over to help us try to jump it (pushing the rental out of its parking spot and over so the cables would reach, but no luck. We then were able to get it running by Casey dropping the clutch while myself, Jeannette, the Blue Lagoon guy, and Kat were pushing the car as fast as we could.

The little Duster that couldn’t.

It worked & we took that car straight back to the rental place and swapped to another Duster. We were tired and annoyed so went straight to Reykjavik, instead of driving past the new volcano, which we could have done if heading to Reykjavik from the Blue Lagoon.

Luckily Fosshotel Baron had our rooms ready (even though we arrived well before check in time) so we went up and took naps. Our room was so small! After a few hours nap, we went exploring Reykjavik. We walked up the hill to Hallgrimskirkja, the iconic church in the center of downtown and got dinner at Café Loki, which offered traditional Icelandic foods.

We then wandered through the streets, down Skólavörðustígur painted rainbow colors and Laugavegur Street, filled with restaurants, bars & shopping. We stopped for White Russians at the Lebowski bar, walked down to the harbor for a few pictures of the Sun Voyager Sculpture, before returning to the hotel to sleep.

The happiest place on earth