Wednesday, July 20, 2022

19th and 20th of July 2022

Yesterday I woke to find my mattress had moved in the night.  I have never seen anything like this before.

The return to the UK was relatively straight forward.  Thankfully my holiday meant I missed most of the heat.

This morning I was scheduled to meet people so I did a Covid-19 lateral flow test.  I tested positive for the first time and am isolating.  The silver lining is that this only happened once I'd returned home.

18th of July 2022 - Return to Reykjavik and Puffins

Today we docked in Reykjavik and returned to our hotel.

In the afternoon we took a one hour excursion by boat to Akurey Island, home to puffins and other native seabirds.  Sixty percent of the world’s puffins breed in Iceland.  Puffins are relatively heavy birds and remind me of RAF Hercules transport aircraft when flying.    In order to fly they need to flap their wings at up to 400 beats per minute, reaching speeds of 55 mph.  Puffins can dive 200 feet below the ocean surface, flapping their wings as if they are flying underwater.  We saw loads of puffins however my camera battery ran flat.  The photo is kindly courtesy of Ruth.

In the evening we visited a hotel restaurant buffet including Icelandic specialities.  The reindeer pâté was excellent.

17th of July 2022 - Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon

Our last full day of the cruise was spent seeing the Golden Circle, reportedly the most unique and scenic drive in the world, and visiting the famous Blue Lagoon.

We first visited Þingvellir National Park in order to see the Almannagjá Gorge.  The gorge has been formed where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.  However, the makeup of this area has changed dramatically over the years due to the slow but steady movement apart of the plates.  Along the trench, the rate of convergence ranges from 5 cm/year on the east to 7.8 cm/year on the west.


Almannagjá Gorge was also one of the prime locations for the old Icelandic parliament known as the Alþingi.  Today's Alþingi can be found in downtown Reykjavík.


Gullfoss is the largest waterfall in Europe in terms of volume.  This spectacular waterfall is fed from the wide Hvítá river as it travels from Langjökull, Iceland’s second-largest glacier.  We followed a path to obtain various views of the massive, two-tiered waterfall below.


Along the Haukadalur valley lies one of the most active geothermal areas in Iceland, home to a number of geysers - including one called Geysir, which is where the English word originally comes from.  Geysir, which is said to be the first known to modern Europeans, has been inactive for some time however we saw the nearby Strokkur erupt.

We sopped at Friðheimar Farm for lunch. At Friðheimar, Knútur Rafn Ármann and his family grow tomatoes hydroponically under artificial lighting in greenhouses all year round despite Iceland’s inhospitable winters.  They also brew tomato beer which I did not try.


After we visited the greenhouses, lunch was held in among the tomato plants.  We had the most delicious homemade tomato based lunch including tomato cheesecake in a plant pot

Knútur Rafn Ármann and his family also breed horses.  They put on a short horse show for us after lunch.  I was delighted to see Icelandic horses up close as the previous Icelandic horses I'd seen were at a distance.


The Blue Lagoon was a perfect place to unwind after a busy day sightseeing.  We spent our time there relaxing in geothermal outdoor pools with a drink.  I tried a silica facial mud mask which seems to have improved my skin a little.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

16th of July 2022 - A wet and foggy day on the island of Heimaey

On the way to our destination of the island of Heimaey we passed the island of Surtsey.  Surtsey is a new island formed by volcanic eruptions in 1963-67.   Ruth has wanted to see Surtsey ever since she saw its formation on the television when she was a child.  Surtsey has been legally protected from human interference from its birth and provides the world with a pristine natural laboratory.  The island of Surtseyhas produced long-term information on the colonisation process of new land by plant and animal life.

It was a very wet and foggy day when we visited Heimaey, indeed very much typical Icelandic weather.  The entrance to the harbour requires a pilot and we were able to see the pilot being dropped off on Le Bellot from our balcony.

There were also some spectacular cliffs on the way into the harbour.

Heimaey is the largest and most populated island off the Icelandic coast, also the only populated island of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago.  The Vestmannaeyjar airport and the Westman Islands golf club taken together cover a good portion of the island.  Icelanders seem to play golf whatever the weather.


Next to the golf course were some reproduction sod houses.  These houses were typical of early settlers on Heimaey.


The town of Heimaey is located in a beautiful spot on the island.

We did a tour of the island of Heimaey but it was usually too difficult to get pictures because of the weather,  At one point we did see some puffins but only in the distance.

In January 1973, lava flow from the nearby Eldfell volcano destroyed half the town and threatened to close its harbour, the island's main income source. An operation to cool the advancing lava with sea water saved the harbour.

The Eldheimar museum stands over an excavated building which was buried by the lava flow during the eruption of the Eldfell volcano.  This museum gave an excellent description of what happened from eruption to resettlement of the island.  I find Icelanders very pragmatic in how they deal with life.


Part of the Eldheimar museum is dedicated to Surtsey however I didn't get the chance to see this exhibition.

As an aside, Keiko the whale from the Free Willy films was in real life flown to Klettsvik Bay on Heimaey as his final home before being freed.

Friday, July 15, 2022

15th of July 2022 - Ísafjörður and surroundings

Last night at 11.30pm on our way to Ísafjörður I took a picture of the almost midnight sun.

Ísafjörður is a town in the northwest of Iceland and the largest settlement of the Westfjords of Iceland.  Our first stop was the Bunárfoss waterfall not far from Ísafjörður where our ship was docked.  We tasted the water from the waterfall which was refreshing.


We had the opportunity to visit the Ísafjörður Maritime Museum to taste salted cod and fermented, or sometimes called rotten, shark.  I'm usually an adventurous eater but decided instead to explore the little harbour in the rare Islandic sunshine.


The Ósvör maritime Museum is a replica of a 19th century Icelandic fishing station.  It stands on the east side of the town of Bolungarvík down by the sea.

We finished our tour in the Bolungarvík church of Hólskirkja which was built in 1908.  There we listening to a medley of songs sung by a young Icelandic singer playing an acoustic guitar.  She was excellent and the Icelandic songs added a cultural note to the day.

This afternoon we had the opportunity to try the most expensive ham in the world which is Pata Negra,  Pata Negra is an Iberian ham made from prized Iberian pigs of the Bellotta breed.  These pigs are bred in the wild and whose dietis composed mainly of acorns and cereals.  The Pata Negra was delicious however I was disappointed that only French wines were on offer and no Spanish wines.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

14th of July 2022 - Akureyi and Godafoss

This morning we docked in Akureyi which is located in the Eyjafjordur fjord alongside some other cruise ships.  Le Bellot is the smaller cruise ship.  I prefer the more personal touch one gets with the smaller cruise ships.


Akureyi is the second largest town in Iceland but much prettier than Reykjavik.

Our first visit of the day was to see the botanical garden in Akureyi.  The public park in Akureyi opened in 1912 and the botanic garden area was added in 1957.  The aim of the botanical garden is to grow trees, shrubs and perennials in the demanding climate of Northern Iceland which is characterized by pronounced seasonality of temperature and day length.  Some shelter is provided by the Eyjafjordur fjord.


The main visit of the day was to the spectacular Godafoss or ‘Waterfall of the Gods’ located in North Iceland near Akureyri.  Glacial water flows over an elegant semi-circular arc.  There is much folklore in Iceland.  Sccording to one myth, in the year 1,000 chieftain Thorgeir Thorkelsson, returned from the annual parliament of Iceland with the decision that the nation of Iceland would convert to Christianity.  He ceremoniously disposed of Norse pagan idols into the falls.

13th of July 2022 - Arctic Circle

Today we were meant to visit Grimsey, the northernmost island of Island.  The Arctic Circle runs through Grimsey.  Sadly, the sea was too rough for us to take tenders to Grimsey Island and Le Bellot was too big to dock there.  Instead the ship circumvented Iceland so Ruth and I have been within the Arctic circle.  We took a few pictures of coastline on our way south again.


In the afternoon we headed for the main lounge to listen to Ilona sing and play the piano.  She was very good and played some contemporary music, e.g. from Adele and Coldplay.  They do some wonderful non-alcoholic cocktails on board which Ruth and I have been sampling.

In the evening we had another dinner in the restaurant.  We are being fed far too much and I am dreading getting on the scales when I return home.  In the meantime I shall just enjoy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

12th of July 2022 - Docked in Grundarfjörðurto see Snaefellsnes peninsula park

Today we anchored at Grundarfjörður.

We opened the curtains to a view of Kirkjufell which may be familiar to Game of Thrones viewers as Arrowhead.


Most of the excursion today was in the Snaefellsnes peninsula park.  We are being fed too much on this trip however Ruth and I couldn't resist the homemade apple pie with caramel topping at our refreshment stop,  The main stop on today's tip was a walk along a 2.5km cliff path which passed nesting seabirds.  This was very hard going due to the wind but well worth the effort.  Today there is few words as I feel the pictures speak for themselves.

Our final stop was at a lighthouse by the Snæfellsjökull volcano.

Our ship, Le Bellot, is French owned though chartered by an American company.  Steak always seems to be one of the options on the menu.  Tonight, we had a special gala dinner with umpteen yummy courses.  My favourite was the lobster starter.  I am enjoying meeting different interesting people at each meal in the restaurant and on the excursions.  Most people we have met so far are Americans and quite a few of the tour crew are from South America.