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Sean's Blog

Buses, Breakfast, Bloomsbury, and Bush

I arrived in London by train from Didcot in the early evening of September 8, disembarking at Paddington Station.  I was feeling hungry, but wanted to get my luggage to the place I’d be staying before seeking food.

It took a little bit of time to find the correct bus stop, but I did manage to fit myself and my 3 bags onto a bus, rode it a ways south and east, and transferred to another bus to go a bit further.  I had booked a room in an apartment for 5 nights, again through airbnb, and I got there a bit after 8:00.  The couple who lived there were very nice, offering me some leftover stir-fry that they had made for dinner, so I had no need to go out for a late meal.

The next morning, I took a bus north up to King’s Cross Station, and then walked southwest toward some museums I planned to visit.  The bus system in London seems to run pretty well, as there are frequent buses, and most of them are double-decker, so there’s often plenty of capacity.

I had been told I should try a full English breakfast, so I stopped in at at a pub, but it turned out to be an Irish pub.  I got their “Irish Breakfast,” which involved most of the same foods.  It contained:

  • 1 fried egg
  • 2 pork and leek sausages
  • 2 rashers of bacon
  • a piece of potato bread
  • baked beans
  • grilled tomato
  • grilled mushroom
  • 1 slice of black pudding
  • 1 slice of white pudding

I had not even heard of white pudding before, but it and the black pudding were not bad.  The other items were pretty good.

From there I headed through the Bloomsbury neighborhood of the city, where I happened upon a little park called Tavistock Square.  The place seemed somewhat dedicated to peace, as at the center of the park there is a statue of Ghandi:

ghandistatue1

ghandistatue2

and in the north end of the park was a monument to conscientious objectors (click on any image to see it bigger):

objectmonu

The park also had a monument to a famous literary figure of Bloomsbury’s past:

woolfstatue

From there I headed to the Cartoon Museum.  It’s a small place, so I expected to spend only an hour or so – maybe 2 hours there.  I ended up being there for about 3.5 hours, as I wanted to read most of the cartoons and comic pages that were on exhibit.  This being 2014, the museum had a large exhibit of World War I art, which was very absorbing.

Once I was finished at the Cartoon Museum, I walked a couple of blocks north to the British Museum.  At this point I only had a bit over 2 hours to spend there, and it’s a big place, but it’s free admission, and I could always come back later in the week to see more.

Here is the front of the place:

britmuseext1

Which is bordered by this ornate fence:

britmuseext2

And then the interior courtyard, looking back toward the entrance hall:

britmuseint1

This area was in the past open to the air, but now has this interesting roof:

britmuseceiling

This is the center section of the courtyard, with stairways going upward around both sides of it:

britmuseint2

I managed to see a number of Mesopotamian, Greek, and Roman artifacts, as well as an exhibit of clocks and watches, and early Anglo-Saxon items.

Upon leaving there, I took the Underground for the first time, heading out to Hammersmith.  There I got a quick dinner at a falafel place (and cheap for London – a sandwich and drink were only £4 total), and then went to the Apollo theater for the Kate Bush concert (the motivation for this whole trip).

The place was quite crowded, but that’s not surprising for a sold out concert.  I visited one of the merchandise booths to get a couple of things, and then made my way to my seat, way up in the balcony.  Photography was strongly discouraged, as this was supposed to be treated more like a theatrical show than a rock concert.  I did take a picture of the venue before the show started, though:

apolloint1

And here’s one at intermission (the feather on the curtain was related to the second act content):

apolloint2

After that performance, I saw an announcement that some of the nights would be recorded for a DVD release, so I don’t want to say too much about the content of the show, as some folks reading this might watch the video of it at some point.  The show was mostly made up of 2 themed song sets from her albums (one of these sets in each half of the concert), and those involved dramatic content, neat costuming, and even special effects.  But there were several songs performed in a more straightforward manner, as well.  I had a great time, and still find it a bit hard to believe that I actually got to see her perform live after all these years.

Leaving the venue at the end, I noticed it was lit with color-changing lights:

apolloext1

apolloext2

It had still been light out when I went in, 4 hours or so earlier (the show itself was about 3 hours long).

A combination of subway and bus got me back to my lodging, and I headed to bed soon after.

Next: government, science, and more waterfowl.

Posted by seaking on 11-16-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Comics, Travel with 0 Comments

River Tour

On my second day in England, I returned to Oxford and took a boat tour of the Thames River (the waterway also known in that city as the Isis).

I walked down to the tour place a bit early and bought my ticket, and then walked around until the departure time.  Here’s the river, seen from Folly Bridge, right near the tour boat launch:

thamesfolly

I walked down near the river and saw a bunch of geese feasting on bread someone had thrown there:

thamesgeese1

thamesgeese2

I walked south from there, away from the river, and in front of a house I saw some birds I did not recognize.  I found out later that these are magpies:

magpie1

magpie2

I noticed a path that went off the road alongside some athletic fields, and saw that the sign indicated that it was a public path that went through to the river.  So I walked through there and came out on the Thames Path.  Looking up river there were several University boathouses:

boathouses1

Here’s the view downriver from the same spot:

thamespath1

I followed the path upriver, back toward the tour place.  On the way, I saw several houseboats that were moored by the side:

thameshouseboats

Some of which had a lot of plants on them:

houseboatplants

Apparently there are a lot of river sections where the public can moor for a few days at a time.

Here’s a view of a park across the river:

thamespark

I got back to the boat launch and soon was able to get on board the small boat.  There were about 8 other passengers, and fortunately there was a canopy over most of the boat, as it was quite sunny.

First the boat headed downriver.  Here’s a building near Folly Bridge:

thamesbldg1

We passed the boathouses I had seen from the shore, and a few more.  These are the oldest ones, apparently:

boathouses2

We turned around at Iffley Lock and then headed upriver for the major portion of the tour.

This included going through a lock, where the boat pilot got out and operated the controls to close the doors and fill the lock.

Here we are heading into the lock:
thameslock1

thameslock2

As the water filled it, there was a duck floating there with us:

thamesduck

And here is the lock open for us to continue upriver:

thameslock3

At one point, a person on the shore was taking our picture.  I tried to get a photo of him while he was doing so, but I wasn’t quick enough:

thamesphotog

Some other views on the sides of the river:

thamestrees

thameswoodbridge

The north end of the tour was at Port Meadow, which is common land in Oxford (and also a floodplain).  There were a whole lot of birds there:

portmeadow1

Also horses grazing and drinking:

thameshorses

That swan kept dunking its head when I wanted to take its picture.

I did get a closeup of this heron, though:

thamesheron

Here’s a building I thought was neat looking as we were headed back downriver:

thamesbldg2

An obelisk along the bank:

thamesobelisk

I think this is a train bridge:

thamestrainbridge

After the tour ended, I walked back toward the train station, happening to pass Oxford Castle on the way:

oxfcastle1

oxfcastle2

And this is a canal that flows through the city:

oxfcanal

I took the train back to Didcot, where I collected my luggage from my friend’s place, and then boarded another train to head to London, where I would spend the next 5 days.

Posted by seaking on 11-15-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Iceland Summary

Just a quick post tonight, as I’m pressed for time.

When I was in the Keflavik airport, about to fly to England, I found this postcard in the duty-free shop:

icebikepostcard

(Click the photo to see it at a larger size)

 

I thought it summed up the trip pretty nicely.    😉

Posted by seaking on 11-14-2014 at 08:11 am
Posted in Biking, Humor, Travel with 0 Comments

Old and Learned

My first morning in England I had porridge for breakfast at my friend’s place in Didcot, and then we headed off to Oxford by train.

We first visited the Ashmolean museum, where we looked at a lot Greek and Roman items (large statues as well as tiny, intricate jewelry), as well as some South Asian and Middle Eastern stuff.  After that we went by Blackwell’s book store, and got lunch in the cafe there.

Much of the city is the university, and the buildings are quite interesting (and old).  I don’t recall what most of them were, but here are some of the places we passed while walking around:

oxfordbldg1

oxfordbldg2

oxfordbldg3

Some of the buildings have statuary on them:

oxfordsculpt1

oxfordbldg10

Or in front of them:

oxfordbusts

oxfordbldg4

oxfordbldg5

After lunch, we made our way to the Pitt Rivers museum, an old-style museum that is full of display cases crowded together, where the items in a given case are of similar type, though they may be from different cultures.  It’s certainly organized differently from most museums one might go to.

On the way there, I saw these flowers growing out of a wall:

wallflowers

This is the Natural History Museum, through which one must pass to get to the Pitt Rivers:

oxfordnathist

oxfordnathist2

We had time to look through most of the Pitt Rivers, but not to look through the Natural History museum, as they both were closing at 4:00.

More buildings from continued walking in the late afternoon:

oxfordbldg8

oxfordbldg9

oxfordbldg6

oxfordbldg7

oxfordbldg11

oxfordbldg12

oxfordbldg13

Some grotesques on the side of a building:

masksanimals1

masksanimals2

Cobblestones:

oxfcobbles

This is apparently known as the Bridge of Sighs (not to be confused with the one in Venice):

oxfordsighs

Here’s an interesting clock:

oxfordclock

I liked the light on the street in this picture:

oxfsunstreet

We had dinner at a pub called the King’s Arms.  I had rabbit pie with mashed potatoes, which was quite a lot of food.  I had never had rabbit before, but found it pretty tasty.

Not long after dinner, we took the train back down to Didcot.  I had plans to head back up to Oxford myself the next day to see the city by water.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-12-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Travel with 0 Comments

Plane, Train, Buses, and Bike

On my last morning in Iceland I got up somewhat early so I could return my rented bike (Óli Stef).  I headed for the Reykjavik waterfront along the city’s bike paths, and partway there, I noticed geese in the median strip of the road (click photo to embiggen):

mediangeese

I also encountered this little bird at the waterfront:

reykstarling

I believe it’s a starling.  In this photo it’s poking into a seawall, presumably trying to get some food.

After dropping the bike off, I walked back toward my lodging, taking in some more of the city on my way, as I did not have to hurry.

A couple of days earlier, I had visited the home of the original Althing, the gathering of the country’s leaders to make law.  The Althing still exists, but it meets in a building in Reykjavik – this building, to be exact:

althingbldg1

althingbldg2

It’s labeled on this side section:

althingbldg4

As are the spaces on the street in front of it:

althingbldg3

That third letter is the letter thorn, by the way, which has a soft ‘th’ sound.  I’ve been transliterating it to ‘th’ in Althing and Thingvellir, among other words.

I thought this fountain was neat looking:

reykfountain

And yes, that is a hot dog stand in the background – it’s supposedly quite popular.

I came across some interesting sculptures on my way east through the city:

reyksculpt4

reyksculpt2

reyksculpt3

reyksculpt7

Not sure what to make of these folks:

reyksculpt5

reyksculpt6

or these polar bears:

reykbears

I saw similar stuffed bears in chains in front of other stores.  It’s some kind of thing…

At the far end of the street was one sight I wanted to make sure to go by:

hallgrimfar

It is Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland, and of unusual architecture:

hallgrimcloser

hallgrimfront

There is a statue out front of Leif Ericsson out front:

ericsson

This inscription is above the door:

hallgrimwords

The side view:

hallgrimside

I did not go inside, but I did encounter another friendly cat outside the church before I moved on:

reykcat1

reykcat2

I got back to the apartment and packed up my stuff, then took a city bus to the bus station.  There I had some lunch (more lamb) and waited for the bus to the airport.

It had been dry that morning, and for a couple of days before, but it started raining by the time I got to the airport, just as it had been raining when I arrived in the country.

Getting my bags checked required waiting a while in line, because the luggage conveyer belt at the check-in counter had broken down.  Eventually some carts were brought to move the luggage through, and I was able to head for the gate.

On the flight to London, I watched an Icelandic documentary called Electric Reykjavik, about the electronic music scene there.

The plane flew southward over the British Isles, and I was able to glimpse some thin white things in Scotland or Northern England.  I took as best a picture as I could with my phone:

ukwindmills

They’re right in the center of the image.  I was able to figure out pretty quickly what they were, because I could see blades turning.  Apparently, windmills are visible from tens of thousands of feet in the air.

I arrived fine in Heathrow airport, and took a bus from there to Reading train station.  From there it was a short train ride to Didcot, where I was staying with a friend for a couple of nights.  The next day, she’d be showing me around Oxford.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-11-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Biking, Cats, Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Crater and Climb

On my fourth day in Iceland, I checked out of Héradsskolínn to head back to Reykjavik.  There was finally good sunlight shining on the town of Laugarvatn, so I took some last pictures of the hostel:

heradsskolinn2

heradsskolinn3

and of the nearby mountain:

laugpeaksun

and some other buildings in the town:

laugbuildings

This is the Laugarvatn Fontana, where I had the geothermal bread and smoked trout.  It’s kind of hard to tell in the photo, but it has a grass roof:

laugfontana

I also got a picture of this re-purposed mixer inside the hostel:

mixerplanter

I took a different route back to Reykjavik than I had taken out.  I first headed south on Route 37.  Here’s a view of the lake not long after I departed:

lauglakeclouds

I headed south until I hit Route 35, which I then followed west by southwest.

At one crossroad, I made a point not to take the right turn:

borgsign

although resistance was probably futile.

 

At one point on 35, I saw signs for a tourist site called Kerid (it can also be transliterated as Kerith – the last letter is an eth).  I did not know what it was, so I stopped to take a look.

It turns out to be a huge volcanic crater:

kerid1

kerid2

To give you an idea of the scale of the place, here’s a person standing atop the slope:

kerid3

There was a path going all the way around the top, so I got to see the crater and its little lake from all angles.

kerid4

kerid5

kerid6

One can also walk near the bottom, around the water, but I didn’t want to take the time, so I got back on the road.

Not too long later I came to Route 1, near the large town of Selfoss.  I started following it west (with it angling north a bit), and after another half hour or so, stopped for lunch in a much smaller town called Hveragerdi.  There wasn’t much there, but there was a bakery in a small mall that served sandwiches, so I got a decent meal.

I walked around the little mall after eating, and discovered this:

quakesim1

quakesim2

I did not know what to make of it until I saw this sign:

quakesim3

Thorir thú, indeed?  It didn’t matter whether I dared, as it did not seem to be in operation while I was there.

The riding had been pretty level so far that day, but as I left Hveragerdi I had a good-sized hill to climb.  I did not realize just how long a hill it was.  I was in the lowest gear, pedaling as long as I could hold out, and then stopped to rest.  Then I went another good ways, and had to rest again.  I thought I was getting near the top at that point, but I found out soon enough tha my second rest was only halfway up the hill.

Here are some pics from the halfway point:

tallhillview1

tallhillview2

tallhillview3

Here’s the view up the hill:

uptallhill

Which at least contained a pretty waterfall:

tallhillfall

After 2 more rest stops, I was at the top, and rode on a fairly long straightaway.  I could tell I was on a high plateau of some kind, because the wind was fairly unrelenting.  The temperatures had been in the 50s for most of my time in the country, and it was right around 49 or 50 that day, so the wind made it uncomfortably cold.  It also was often blowing from in front of me, so it was not easy to make headway.  Another unfortunate fact is that the shoulders of the road were not very wide through this section, and on Route 1 cars were zooming by at 90 KPH or more.

I do not recommend this road as a good cycling route.   🙂

Eventually, I got to a good long downhill portion, and though I still had to contend with cold wind, the going started to get easier.  I stopped off at a gas station to warm up a bit at one point, after which the shoulders got wider as I got near Reykjavik.

Once I got to the outskirts of the city, I was able to find my way back to the paths I’d used to exit the city earlier in the week, and so I retraced my route back to the airbnb apartment (I was to stay that night in the same place I’d stayed my first night in Iceland).

I got checked in around 4:30pm, showered and changed, and then went to the shopping mall nearby to look for a cheap backpack or something like it.  I was done carrying luggage on a bike for this trip, so I thought I should replace my broken bags with something better.  I found cheap, small backpacks at a sporting good store and bought 2 of them.

After that I headed into the city to get dinner. I saw this recycling container near the harbor:

bottlebottle

I ended up at a restaurant called the Sea Baron, where you pick out skewers of raw food from a refrigerated case, and they grill them for you.  I got skewers of redfish, potatoes, and vegetables (pepper, mushroom, onion, tomato).

I looked around the downtown a bit after dinner before heading back to my lodging.  I saw this figure next to a gift shop:

vikingelf

One of many elves that populate Iceland, I believe.

I also passed by a little lake, which had ducks swimming around in the dark:

reyknightduck

Usually I’d expect them to sleep at night.

Speaking of which, I got back without incident and went to sleep for my last night in Iceland.

Next: off to the UK

 

Posted by seaking on 11-10-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Biking, Food, Travel with 0 Comments

Not-So-Plain Plain

On my third day in Iceland, I had a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola, or rather, of yogurt drink and granola.  It turned out that the stuff I thought was yogurt, Skyr, is more like a thin smoothie.  It still worked fine, as I even like having granola with plain milk.

Outside, before getting on the bike, I took a picture of Héradsskolínn itself (click any picture to see it bigger):

heradss1

And here is Óli Stef up close:

olistef1

olistef2

And here is the peak across the road, without its summit obscured by clouds:

laugmount2

I started riding west, back up Route 365.  When I say ‘up’, I mean that there is a long hill that I had to climb as I headed out of Laugarvatn.  Here’s a view of that same peak from a ways up the hill to the west:

laugmount3

This is a view looking downhill at the town:

laugdownhill

While I was paused at this point, there was a pretty stream off to the side of the road:

rt365water1

rt365water2

As I rode along 365, I took pics of mountains that I hadn’t stopped for when I came through earlier in the week:

rt365mount1

rt365mount2

rt365mount3

I also saw some more sheep, including a variegated one:

icesheep3

When I came within view of Thingfallavatn, I could see what looked like a geyser on the other side of the water:

thingfallspout

Soon I got to Route 36, and headed north into the Thingvellir park.  A little ways after getting into the park, I turned off on a side road that goes west along the north side of the lake.  There I was able to get close to the lake, as at this parking area:

hallviksign

The lake, complete with a fisherman off to the left:

thingfallclose1

thingfallclose2

I walked along the water a bit, and observed some interesting seaweed, which was very brightly colored:

thingalgae1

It was also very stringy:

thingalgae2

The plant life on the ground was mostly low-growing stuff, and not all of it green:

thingflora1

thingflora2

Continuing along toward the center of the park, I soon came to the odder parts of the landscape.  Namely, various geologic fissures:

thingfissure1

thingfissure2

thingfissure3

thingfissure4

Iceland, and the national park in particular, sits on the divide between the North American and European tectonic plates, which are moving apart very slightly each year.  It’s this action that causes much of the ground breakage there.

Around these fissures, I also saw my first view of this long rock wall:

thingwall1

That wall borders the parliament plain (the Althing Vellir) itself.  This is where the world’s first parliament met, established in the 10th century by the Viking settlers of Iceland.

When I got to the plain, I locked up the bike in a picnic area, and headed up some steps toward the rock wall.  Here are some views of the plain from most of the way up:

thingvellir1

thingvellir2

There was a path in front of the rock wall, which went slightly downhill to the north:

thingwall2

And uphill to the south:

thingwall3

I followed the line of people uphill, and came to the top of the wall, with a viewing platform, and a good view of the lake and plain:

thingvellir3

thingvellir4

thingvellir5

I could also see Óli Stef from up there:

olistef3

At the top, there was also a parking area and visitors’ center.  I went in and watched a few videos on the history and geology of the place.  Apparently, the land in the plain is slowly sinking, which is why water flows over so much of the places that people once camped for the annual assembly.

Here is the view back down the path along the wall, just before I headed down that way:

thingwall4

More of the wall:

thingwall5

thingwall6

Here, marked by the flagpole, is the Law Rock, where the Law Speaker would recite the country’s laws:

lawrock1

Looking down at the plain from here:

thingvellir6

Further along the wall, I came to water flowing down from above:

thingwater1

Looking down from a bridge over the stream:

thingwater2

And here the water flows onto the plain:

thingwater3

I headed down onto the plain after that.  Here’s a view looking south:

thingvellir7

And looking back up to the Law Rock:

lawrock2

I wandered through the little collection of buildings on the plain, including a small church.  There is a graveyard there:

thinggraves

And behind the buildings is this mysterious tree:

thingconetree

A wider fissure:

thingfissure5

And here there is a diver getting ready to swim along the tectonic divide:

thingdiver

I headed back to the bike at this point, and noticed the lava rocks found around the picnic area:

lavarock1

lavarock2

On my way away from the plain, I saw some geese – a type that I don’t generally see in the US:

thinggeese1

thinggeese2

Riding eastward, I stopped to check out a couple of hiking trails in the park.  The first one took me through some tundra:

thingland1

There was a cable running across the ground, for some reason:

thingland2

I came to a waterway which had more of the neon seaweed, as well as a much stranger growth of stuff on and in the water:

thingalgae5

thingalgae3

thingalgae4

The other trail I hiked took me through a stand of evergreen trees:

thingtrail1

And then up a hill which has a neat gully cutting across it:

thingtrail2

thingtrail3

thingtrail4

There was another pleasant view from up there (looking west):

thingtrail5

Once I hiked back down from there, I rode out of the park, back toward Laugarvatn.  At the park exit, I stopped and took this picture to the north:

thingexitmount

I had a rain-free day this time, but still wanted a shower when I got back to the hostel.

I met this individual in the hostel parking lot when I arrived back:

iceorangecat1

iceorangecat2

It was very friendly, and must belong to someone, as it was wearing a collar (but no tag).

After cleaning up, I had dinner in the hostel cafe, this time getting an item not written on the menu.  It was local trout, baked with a cheese sauce, and with fried potatoes and salad on the side:

troutdinner

It was quite delicious, and a nice end to the day.

Next: back to the city

Posted by seaking on 11-09-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Biking, Cats, Hiking, Surreal, Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Water Falls and Rises

Having biked from Reykjavik to Laugarvatn, I checked in at Héradsskólinn, a hostel in a former school building.  After getting both rained on and sweaty through the day, it was nice to be someplace warm, and I took a nice shower after getting situated.  I got dinner in the cafe there, which was vegetable soup with bread and a small salad.  They had reindeer meatballs as one of the menu options, which sounded intriguing, but I passed as that dish was pretty expensive.  The soup was unlike any vegetable soup I’ve had in the US, as it was basically a cloudy broth, as though all the veggies had been pureed, and it had a dollop of sour cream on top.  The bread was freshly baked and crusty.

I had no trouble going to sleep after all the riding I had done, and I got up nice and refreshed in the morning to ride some more.  I was going to head further east to a couple of sights, and then back to the hostel.

I had the breakfast buffet in the hostel cafe, which included more fresh-baked bread, with options of jam, butter, cheese, tomato, and cucumber to put on it.  They also had thick, plain yogurt with jam and muesli to mix in, and hard-boiled eggs.  I ended up having a few slices of bread with jam, a cup of yogurt and meusli, and some tomato and cucumber on the side.

Just before hitting the road, I took this picture of a mountain just across the road from the hostel:

laugpeak1

And here is the lake (also called Laugarvatn) on the other side of the hostel:

laugarvatn1

I saw a few more nice views on my way (though a bit more rain fell on me, as well):

rt37mount1

rt37stream

rt37mount2

rt37mount3

rt37mount5

I also crossed a couple of rivers.  Here’s the first, helpfully labeled:

bruarawater

bruarasign

I also saw quite a number of sheep (I had also seen some the previous day):

icesheep1

icesheep2

That one on the left appears to be looking at me, but sheep have just about a 360-degree range of vision, so really all the sheep were looking at me, in some sense.

I also saw horses, who seemed curious about me:

icehorses1

icehorses2

These 2 were scratching each other’s backs:

icehorses3

And at one point, in the middle of a field, I saw a geothermal water spout:

fieldspout

After about an hour-and-a-half of riding, I passed the site of Geysir, where there are multiple hot springs and spouts (also know, of course, as geysers, taking their name from this place).  I would be stopping off there on my way back west.

Here is the other river I crossed:

tungufljotwater

tungufljotsign

The first rain of the day had not lasted very long, but soon after passing Geysir, I got rained on more solidly, and for longer.  It cleared just before I climbed a hill up to the site of Gullfoss, the golden waterfall.

Right near Gullfoss I saw some more, somewhat jagged-looking, mountains in the distance:

rt35mount1

rt35mount2

And there appeared to be part of a glacier visible beyond them:

rt35glacier

I parked my bike on a rack at Gullfoss, and then started down a wooden boardwalk toward the waterfall:

gullfosspath

I then got a couple of pix of the fall itself:

gullfoss1

gullfoss2

I was able to go a good deal closer to the water, but it started to rain again as I did so, and thus I didn’t want to get my camera or phone out for any more photos.

I went inside the cafe/gift shop after I’d had my fill of the falls and the cold rain.  It was late enough that I decided it would be a good time for lunch, and the “traditional lamb soup” sounded pretty good (it came with 1 free refill, plus bread).  The soup contained chunks of lamb, along with carrots, potatoes, onions, and cabbage.  It was very nice on a chilly, wet day.

After lunch I browsed around the gift shop a bit, then headed back into the rain.  I headed back west, with the rain continuing until I was almost back to Geysir.

The geysir site is rather surreal, as much of the ground is steaming:

geysland1

geysland4

Those areas are roped off, because the water flowing over the ground is quite hot:

geyswarning

Around this site you constantly smell sulphur, and there are several spots where minerals are left on the surface:

geysland2

The main geyser at the place is the original Geysir, which I did not get to see erupt.  It apparently only does so after earthquakes:

geysir3

geysir2

geysir1

There is one geyser there which goes off frequently (every 8 to 10 minutes or so).  It’s named Strokkur:

strokkur1

strokkur3

strokkur2

Despite its regularity, I had difficulty getting a good picture of it erupting.

There was also this little bubbling pool, called “Little Geysir”:

litligeysir

There were also some calm steaming pools, and I love the deep blue of this one:

geysland3

I spent some time looking around in the gift shop here, too.  At both places I saw nice looking Icelandic wool sweaters, but they were pretty expensive (and I didn’t have room to transport one anyway).

From there I headed back to Laugarvatn.  A little more rain fell, and I was once again very glad to get a hot shower.  After showering, and before dinner, I went to the town’s little grocery store:

samkaupstrax

I picked up some granola and yogurt there, to have for the next couple of breakfasts.

I then went and had dinner at a spa near the hostel.  It’s called Luagarvatn Fontana, and its main feature is geothermal baths.  I did not take advantage of those, but in their cafe I got a slice of geothermal rye bread (yes, they bake it by burying a tin of bread dough in the hot sand by the lake) topped with smoked trout from the lake.  After eating that, I had a piece of a flourless fruit and ginger cake.  All of the food was quite good.

Next: Back to the parliament plain.

Posted by seaking on 11-08-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Biking, Travel with 0 Comments

Rain, Repairs, and Rocks

September 2 was my first full day in Iceland, and as detailed in my last post, it began with picking up a rented bicycle.  Once I rode back to the apartment I’d stayed overnight in, I packed up my things, including trying to compensate for the broken zippers on my luggage.  I loaded the panniers on the bike’s rack, and used a piece of stretchy netting with hooks (which I got years ago for holding things on a bike rack) to hold shut the side pocket.  I then covered the top bag with a plastic trash bag and wrapped the borrowed bungee cord around it.  This held it closed nice and tightly.  I made a few holes for the buckles that would clip it on top of the panniers, and attached it.  I then put over the whole array the rain fly that came with the bike luggage set.  That would keep things dry and have the added benefit of holding the bags together.

I got going on the bike around 11:00am.  I headed east, following a bike/walking path that paralleled the main road out of the city (Route 49).  On the way, I encountered a river with an island of ducks (click on any image to see the high-res version):

duckisland

There had been a bit of drizzle off and on during the morning, but just after I took this picture, it began to rain in earnest.  The rain did not last very long, though, mostly letting up by the time I got near the outskirts of the city and Route 1, AKA the Ring Road.  Here I’m looking out at Route 1 from up a hill, the bike path having gotten away from 49:

eastofreyk

neofreyk

I managed to make my way downhill to a road whose sidewalk went under Route 1, and then bent north, which was the way I wanted to head on 1.  The sidewalk went away from any roads for a bit, and I followed it in what I thought was the correct direction, but I eventually noticed I could see the city ahead of me.  I had gotten partly turned around and was heading northwest, into a residential neighborhood, and sort of back toward downtown.  I made my way toward high ground to see if I could find my way back to 1, and it started raining some more as I did so.  I did eventually make my way out of the subdivision, and saw a way down to 1.  I headed there and got on the proper bike path, which went north right next to 1.

After a short while, I came to this sign at a cross road:

sveinnsign

Not sure what to make of the graffito on it (it’s reversed from the usual swastika orientation).

In that field were a bunch of horses:

sveinnhorses

with an impressive ridge behind:

sveinnridge

The rain had subsided for a little while, and then started anew.  I had to get off the bike path briefly and ride on 1, and just as I saw where I could get back on the path, I suddenly had trouble steering, and discovered that the rear tire had gone flat.  I got off the road, and looked around for a good place to change the tube.  Fortunately, I was next to a small park, and I spotted a gazebo.

I had planned for such an emergency, bringing a spare tube, tools, and pump.  With the gazebo, I was able to get out of the rain, which made the repair work much more pleasant.  It also stopped raining again while I was working.

This is the gazebo, and Óli Stef with a fresh new tube in place:

stekkgazebo

There was a little pond right near the gazebo:
stekkpond

There were also some fairly hidden ducks there (at least, it took me a while to spot them):

hiddenducks

The park seemed to be in honor of someone or something, according to this sign:

stekkjarflot

and it included this interesting sculpture that uses a big piece of lava rock:

stekksculpt1

stekksculpt2

I got back on the path and rode on to the intersection of 1 with Route 36.  The bike path headed off to the east, running along 36, which happened to be the way I wanted to go which was good.  It was also raining heavily at that point, which was not so good.  I had a rain poncho, but it only does so much good – especially annoying is the rain pelting one’s face in such circumstances.  Soon after starting to follow 36, I passed a cyclist going the other direction – the first other bike I’d seen since leaving Reykjavik.

After another couple of miles, the path ended and I had to ride on the edge of the road.  36 isn’t a very wide road, but there also is not a ton of traffic, so it was generally not an issue for cars to go around me.  As had been the pattern so far, the rain let up after a while, but this time a bit of sun peeked through.  Here’s an example of what the view is like along much of 36:

rt36mount1

For a while after taking this picture, I had dry riding.  Before I knew it, I had reached the border of Thingvellir National Park.  There will be more on the park itself in a later post, as I was only riding through the park that day, and would be coming back to visit more thoroughly later in the week.

When I got to the park border, I found this field of rock cairns:

thingcairns1

thingcairns2

Beyond the field is the park’s lake, Thingfallavatn:

thingcairns3

The road went a bit north at this point, then turned east again (so as to go around the lake).  In the middle of the park I stopped at the snack bar/gift shop and got something to eat.  It was a lamb and bean salad sandwich.  That is to say, the sandwich had a slice of lamb lunchmeat, and the bean salad was basically mashed white bean of some kind, with bits of green bean in it.  It wasn’t bad, and I was certainly hungry, even though I’d eaten some snack food that I brought along.

Some more rain started falling while I was at the snack bar, but the sun was out toward the west, so there was a rainbow in the eastern sky:

thingrainbow

I headed on through new rain, as the road headed south a ways.  The rain stopped again shortly before the road exited the park, and I had dry riding the rest of the way to my destination.  Here are some more views from around the eastern park border, including looking back at the lake:

rt36mount2

thingfallavatn2

thingfallavatn1

I soon turned east again, getting onto Route 365.  This took me another several miles to the town (and smaller lake) of Laugarvatn, where I would be staying the next few nights.

Posted by seaking on 11-07-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Biking, Food, Travel, Wildlife with 1 Comment

Continued Tale, with Luggage Fail

I arrived in Iceland in the late evening, not long before midnight local time.  The international airport is not in Reykjavik, but about 30 miles southwest, in the city of Keflavik.  I had no trouble entering the country – the officer at Passport Control just looked at my passport, looked at me, stamped it and handed it back, without saying a word.  I had nothing to declare, so did not have to stand in a customs line after getting my baggage.  I headed to get on the bus that would take me to Reykjavik, thinking that everything seemed to be going very well.

The bus supposedly had wi-fi Internet access.  I got my laptop out of the backpack/bike bag and was able to get on the wireless, but could not seem to connect to anything online on the ride.  After a while, I gave up and put the computer away – and the zipper completely separated as I was trying to close the bag up.  As I tried to unzip it in order to get the teeth back together, the zipper pull itself broke in half!

Now, to describe this bag, it was designed to sit horizontally on top of a bike rack and the side panniers that were part of a set with it (I had brought the set with me because I was planning to bicycle  around part of the country).  The zipper went almost all the way around it.  It had straps on the bottom so that it could double as a backpack, but with the zipper not closing there was no way I could carry it on my back (and using it on the bike was suddenly very dubious, as well).

When we got to the bus terminal in the capital, I made 2 trips from the bus into the building, as I couldn’t hold that bag together and carry the other 2 I had with me (the pannier set being one of those 2, plus a large duffel).  Once I was inside the terminal and out of the rain (did I mention the cold rain?), I moved some items around in my bags.  In this process, the zipper on one of the panniers’ small pockets separated and broke its pull, just as had happened to the top bag.

After getting everything I expected to need for the next 4 days into the bike luggage, I took the duffel to the bag storage place in the bus terminal and paid to keep it there.  I then tried to lash the other bags closed, and grabbed a taxi outside to get to my lodging for the night.  I had booked a room in an apartment through airbnb, and managed to make it there without losing anything from my bags.  At this point it was close to 2:00am, and I had to be up early to go pick up a rental bike I’d reserved.

I got an okay night’s sleep, getting up a little after 7:00.  As I hadn’t had a chance to exchange cash, I could not take a bus downtown, so I went ahead and walked to the bike rental place (it was about 3 miles, so not too bad a walk).  Just after leaving the apartment, I saw this sculpture, just off in the grass by the residential neighborhood:

reyksculpt1

A lot of the sidewalks in the city seem to be wide asphalt paths that are also used by bikes.  At one point, I was even passed by someone on a moped using the path.

At a few places on the way downtown, I saw odd mushrooms:

reykshroom

I also saw some interesting buildings:

reykbldg1

reykbldg2

This place has a familiar business on the ground floor (you may want to click to enlarge the photo to see what I’m talking about):

reykapple

Here is a familiar brand at this place:

snaelandvideo

And a church with a familiar-looking name:

filachurch

 

Before getting all the way downtown, I ended up by the harbor, where there are separate paths for bikes:

reykbikesign

and for pedestrians:

reykwalksign

I walked west along the water, and saw this art, honoring the country’s viking ancestry:

longboatsculpt

That was followed soon by this neat building, which is the city’s opera house:

reykopera

Here’s a billboard for an odd-looking show (a children’s TV program, I think):

reykbillboard

This is a preserved locomotive from an early railway that was used for construction projects in the harbor area:

reyktrain

There have not been many trains in Iceland, and currently no railways operate in the country, though a proposal seems to be moving forward to run train tracks between the capital and the KEF airport.

Shortly after the train, I reached Reykjavik Bike Tours, from whom I was renting my transportation.  I met Stefan, one of the owners, who got the bike ready for me to ride (he put a new chain on it and made several adjustments).  All of their bikes have names, and mine was named Óli Stef, after Iceland’s most famous handball player (that would be this guy).

I mentioned to Stefan the issue with my bike baggage, and wondered if he could recommend a place to get a replacement bag, and he suggested that I might be fine if I covered the top bag with a garbage bag and then used a bungee cord to hold it together.  He even loaned me a cord for this purpose.  Armed with this idea (as well as helmet and lock that came with the bike), I rode back to the apartment to pick up my luggage and start my tour.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-06-2014 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Biking, Travel with 2 Comments

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