January 12/17 – When Mother Nature Gives you Ice, Build an Ice Castle

This is a repost of my 2017 Ice Castle visit.


The weather for the last few days has been brutal with temps down to -25 and wind chills down to -45. Snow has  been falling, drifting, swirling, piling up and unfortunately, being shovelled. So, when the snow stopped falling and the wind stopped blowing, we decided that the Edmonton thing to do would be to surround ourselves with ice.

This is the second year for the Edmonton Ice Castle, the first build outside the U.S. (2016) and the most successful ice castle to date. We tried to go last year, but 3 days before our ticket date, we got a notice saying the Ice Castle was closed due to warm weather. In Edmonton???? Really???

So, we decided to jump in early in 2017 and booked a 6:30 time. As we got closer to the date, we thought, this is stupid….we need to see the place both in the light of day and the darkness of twilight. We changed the tickets to 5:00 PM and arrived at 4:30 PM. We were just in time to see the glow of the setting sun on the exterior.



Walking across the snow to the South of the castle was treacherous due to the water overflow from castle creation.

We reached the entrance and decided to go in early. Standing under the entrance, we wondered what would happen if an icicle broke loose.




We were assured this would not happen, and proceeded inside to a winter wonderland of ice and snow.


Winding our way along the North wall, we soon arrived at the Throne Room, where we took this regal pose, while our A—- slowly froze to the thrones.


I did this 360 pan below and managed to catch Pat in both ends of the shot.


We were amazed at the formations of icicles and how they stood in stark contrast to the darkening sky.


While waiting for darkness to ensue, we made several trips to the roaring wood fires to warm up fingers frozen by my continued photo snapping. The colours started coming alive.


The crowds were sparse at this point on this day and we were able to walk unimpeded around the place. There was no rush to leave, except for the aforesaid frozen fingers and Nature’s call (not using Porta Potties at -20). Music grew louder and the lights kicked into overdrive as we walked and snapped.


A wonderful sunny frozen day.


Day 10 (Part 2) – Tuesday – Paris Outside the Window

April 17/19 In light of the recent sad events at Notre Dame Cathedral, I am reissuing this post from happier times. I hope the cathedral can be rebuilt in the 5 years Macron promised.


Resting time now over, Paris skies still sunny and blue,

drawing us out to enjoy the hot weather and fine view.

Past stores bright and shiny with fine clothing and macarons,

we ambled towards the Seine to see sights further along.

On Ile Ste Louis, past traffic and tourists, seeking shade,

everyone sauntered along, as if in some slow parade.

Pausing to enjoy the showy blossoms dans le jardin

arriving at last at Gothic Cathedral Notre Dame.

Feeling the heat and tiring at last, we headed for home,

stopping to watch a piano man’s fingers bounce and roam.


Tell us it Ain’t Over – Europe 2017 – by the numbers

This has long been my favourite way to wrap up a long travel blog sequence and I see no reason to make an exception here.

Just a note…if you have missed a post, they are all still here in numerical order from newest to oldest (top to bottom) All you need to do is scroll down to the post you missed. Cheers.


  • # of bags of roast chicken chips (crisps) consumed
  • # of welcome package French SIM cards in stock at FSR offices in Nice
  • # of times our passports were checked going into Iceland


  • # of nights spent on a plane
  • # of nights spent in Galway City
  • # of nights spent in Westport
  • # of times Nice police blew their whistle at us (for going behind a barricade on beach)
  • # of Russian Orthodox churches visited
  • # of canal cruises in Amsterdam
  • # of waterfalls walked behind in Iceland
  • # of macarons eaten in Paris
  • # of macarons sundaes eaten in Paris
  • # of cases of conjunctivitis on this trip
  • # of doctor visits on this trip
  • # of suitcases purchased
  • # of oil paintings purchased
  • # of toques purchased
  • # of blessings by nuns
  • # of Salade Lyonnaise eaten
  • # of times we encountered sheep being herded on the road in Ireland
  • # of times traveled below English Channel
  • # of walks under Thames River


  • Exchange rate – Canadian $ to Euro


  • Exchange rate – Canadian $ to British Pound


  • # of friends visited on this trip
  • # of nights spent in Derry
  • # of rivers in Lyon (Rhone and Saone)
  • # of bicycle rides in Amsterdam
  • # of apartments stayed in
  • # of geysers seen in Iceland
  • # of 1st class train rides
  • # of archaeological sites visited on this trip (Lyon and Trim)
  • # of visits to Billy Thai’s Restaurant
  • # of donuts eaten in London
  • # of visits to De Vier Pilarin Pancake restaurant
  • # of bottles of gravy browning purchased
  • # of countries visited where elections had just or were about to occur.
  • # of cities in France where we saw car race courses being set up
  • # of young Blue-tits we saw fledge in Sheffield


  • cost of a 1 hour bus ride from Nice to Menton in $CAN


  • cost in $CAN for a liter of gasoline in Iceland


  • # of hours our lunch in Menton took to complete


  • # of currencies used on this trip (Euro/Pound/Krona)
  • # of B & B’s stayed in
  • # of Salade Nicoise eaten
  • # of nights spent in Lyon
  • # of nights spent in Paris
  • # of nights spent in London
  • # of nights spent in Reykjavik
  • # of visits to Borough Market in one day
  • # of windmills visited in Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam
  • # of days we went to pancake restaurants for breakfast in Amsterdam
  • # of double-decker buses ridden
  • # of visits to Leon Restaurants
  • # of visits to Islanski Barinn Restaurants
  • # of visits to Sandholt Restaurant


  • # of nights spent in Amsterdam
  • # of nights spent in Trim
  • # of nights spent in Collon
  • # of cousins visited on this trip
  • # of Iceland Independence Day Ice cream bars consumed
  • # of colds suffered or caught in travels
  • # of sips of Guinness Pat had at Linehans Trad Night
  • # of highway overpasses driven over in jets on airport taxiways
  • # of soldiers in street patrol groups in Nice
  • # of Blue-tits seen
  • # of ice cream cones eaten
  • # of suitcases used (2 checked and 2 carry-on)
  • # of cities visited where terrorist acts have occurred before or during our trip.


  • # of nights spent in Nice
  • # of train journeys
  • # of hotels stayed in
  • # of courses in our meal at a Braijade Meridounale in Menton
  • # of pints of Guinness Allan had at Linehans Trad Night
  • # of city transit systems (bus/train/subway) used (Nice/Lyon/Paris/London/Amsterdam)
  • # of waterfalls visited in Iceland (Þingvellir/Gullfoss/Urridafoss/Seljalandsfoss/Skogafoss)
  • # of hours of rain in 42 days that minimally impacted our travels
  • cost of good bottle of wine in Monoprix in Nice in Euros


  • # of countries visited
  • # of hours time difference from Canada in Iceland
  • # of highway overpasses driven over in jets on airport taxiways (2 at Brussels, 4 at Schipol)


  • average time in minutes between eruptions of Strokkur geyser in Iceland


  • # of airplane flights
  • # of nights spent in Sheffield
  • # of hours time difference from Canada in England and Ireland
  • date in May of the French presidential election


  • #  of airports visited
  • # of windmills in Zaanse Schans
  • # of hours time difference from Canada in France and Nederlands
  • # of pints of Guinness consumed in Ireland
  • # of pubs visited
  • date in June of the English election


  • # of train stations used in travel
  • # of buses ridden
  • minimum daily low temperature in Celsius during our travel in Iceland
  • average cost of demi-pichet  of house wine in restaurants in Paris


  • # of wooden tulips purchased
  • cost in Euros of day pass for travel to Zaanse Schans
  • # of recorded followers to the blog


  • # of streets culminating at l’Arc de Triomphe, Place de l’Etoile in Paris
  • # of different beds we slept in


  • # of hours riding trains


  • # of protesters shot and killed in Derry on Bloody Sunday
  • # of glaciers in Iceland


  • # of cities visited
  • maximum daily high temperature in Celsius during our travel in Iceland


  • average height in meters of Strokkur geyser in Iceland


  • century our apartment in Lyon was constructed in
  • date in June of Iceland’s independence day from Denmark


  • # of Euros for 7 km taxi ride from Lyon train station to apartment
  • km walked in Lyon in one day


  • # of Euros for 1.7 km. taxi ride from Nice Hotel to train station


  • # of paid attractions visited


  • # of hours flying


  • cost in $CAN for a package of 25 souvenir napkins (made in Germany) in Iceland. (not purchased)
  • cost  of pharmacy dispensing fee in Nederlands


  • hottest  Celsius temperature during our travels (Paris)


  • average cost in $CAN of breakfast for 2 in rest of our travels
  • # of active volcanic systems in Iceland


  • height of two steps of Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland


  • # of likes on my travel blog


  • # of minutes it took for the once every 15 minutes car rental shuttle to arrive at Sixt Rental car at Keflavik Airport


  • price in $CAN for my Iceland toque


  • length in kilometers of undersea portion of Channel Tunnel


  • # of days on this trip


  • cost of foreign doctor visit in Euros


  • # of mosquito bites on Allan’s back in Nice Hotel


  • length in kilometers of the Channel Tunnel


  • # of blog posts on this trip


  • average cost in $CAN of breakfast for 2 in Iceland


  • # of times Patty looked for roast chicken chips (crisps) in stores


  • floors above the ground of the Shard’s Loo with a View


  • height in meters to top of Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik


  • depth in meters at deepest point below sea bed of Channel Tunnel
  • # of minutes spent in the line waiting to get into Anne Frank Museum


  • Exchange Rate – Icelandic Krona to Canadian $


  • # of comments on my blog (1/2 of these were my replies)


  • # of islands in Amsterdam


  • # of visits to my travel blog


  • # of km of canals in Amsterdam
  • # of Krona required to pee at Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park in Iceland


  • cost for 2 to go up the Shard in Canadian $


  • depth in meters below sea level of Channel Tunnel


  • # of gigs of photos and video taken on this trip


  • average price in $CAN of simple suppers for 2 in Iceland


  • price in $CAN of our 5-course meal in Menton with wine pairings and liquers


  • maximum Eurostar speed in kph through Channel Tunnel


  • # of canals in Amsterdam


  • meters in height of the observation deck of the Shard in London


  • # of steps to top of l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris


  • top speed in kph achieved on our trip on Eurostar from Paris to London


  • height in meters to the tip of the Shard in London


  • cubic meters per second of water flow over Urridafoss waterfall in Iceland


  • # of meters elevation drop on Nietzche Path from Eze le Village to Eze Bord de la Mer


  • population of Collon


  • largest number of windmills working in the Zaan at the industrial peak


  • height in feet above the ground of the Shard’s Loo with a View


  • # of days Anne Frank spent hiding from the Nazis


  • # of photo view on my travel blog


  • # of windmills remaining in Netherlands today


  • # of bridges in Amsterdam


  • # of houseboats in Amsterdam


  • # of Amsterdam Jews who survived the Holocaust


  • population of Westport


  • population of Trim


  • # of bicycles fished from Amsterdam canals each year


  • number of kilometers flown


  • # of Amsterdam Jews that were murdered in the Holocaust


  • population of Reykjavik


  • population of Galway


  • population of Iceland


  • # of households in Amsterdam


  • population of Lyon


  • population of Sheffield


  • # of bicycles in Amsterdam


  • population of Amsterdam


  • population of Paris


  • population of London

Day 42 – Part 2 – Saturday – Things not to Like about Iceland



Don’t get me wrong, Iceland has a few warts, mixed in with all its beauty marks.

  • The high prices for food, lodging, sightseeing, souvenirs and most everything make it mostly unaffordable.
  • Most roads are rough and rugged. You have to be very careful whether the car is yours or a rental. There are too few roads with shoulders, too few locations to pull off to see the sights and in many cases, not enough signage to mark the Points of Interest or distance to next town.
  • The weather can change in the blink of an eye. That being said, we managed to keep ahead of the rain throughout our stay.
  • The airport is congested, confusing and under construction. I doubt they will catch up to the expanding traffic in the near future. The costs for the reno must be huge when you see all the wood flooring and benches going in. There are not many trees on Iceland, so one must assume this is all imported.

We had packed up, checked out of our apartment, seen our last sights and were headed for the airport to turn in our rental car. All went well, until I saw the rental return agent studying every inch of our vehicle and using a mirror to inspect the underside. At last,  he was able to advise that Yes! There was some damage. He seemed relieved that he had found something. Sure enough, there were scratches on the underside of the front spoiler, you know the one that we all hit on parking curbs, speed bumps and pothole jouncing roads. As I had not had a similar inspection at vehicle take over, how could I argue? Back into the office to fill out a report. He seemed disappointed to learn I had taken the extra insurance, but happier when he told me I would still have to pay the deductible charge.

Paperwork complete and deductible paid, we were finally on our way or were we. The shuttle bus to take us to the airport was supposed to run every 15 minutes, but it had been 35 minutes since the last one. Just when we were thinking of hoofing it, the bus showed up and we all piled on and piled on and piled on. We had virtually no room left after our 2nd stop and we still had one more to go.

In the airport at last, check-in was completed, baggage was dropped, security check done and we were looking for a chance to spend some more money on food. No problem here, after all, this was Iceland where food costs were high.

We arrived at our boarding gate early and sat waiting for the flight to be announced, but it never was. People were starting to stand up, so we did too and all of a sudden, we were going through the door to the gate, where we stood, while the gate agents looked confused. Intermittently, they would scan a few boarding passes and a few people went through into a tiny holding area in front of the boarding bridge. We also got through before the agent, now alert told everyone else there was no rush and to take a seat until after the pre-boards had been handled. Pre-boards on and then our little group boarded ahead of those who had priority boarding rights. We were on and seated with carry on stowed in no time. Confusion definitely benefited us.

We waited about 15 minutes for some passengers on a late connecting flight and all too soon, we were on our way.


After beverage service and duty-free sales, the staff announced that June 17th was Iceland’s Independence Day (Iceland became an independent republic on June 17, 1944. Prior to that, they had been a Danish state) and to celebrate, they would serve ice cream. As there is no free food included on Icelandair flights, this truly was something to celebrate. When the staff came back down the aisle with bars remaining, we asked if we could celebrate again and got a second bar. They were only going to melt, anyway. HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, ICELAND! YOU ROCK!

The rest of the flight was uneventful. We watched a couple of movies, ate the food we had brought from the Grab and Go Express in the airport and enjoyed the scenery as we flew over Canada from East to West.

Despite our late departure, we arrived in Edmonton at 5:25 PM, the time announced in the schedule. We were finally home after 42 days of exciting travel. Can you be both happy and sad at the same time?



Day 42 – Part 1 – Saturday – We Lava Iceland

There are many things about Iceland to love:

Unique public art glinting in the infrequent sun at Reykjavik harbour.

Gleaming new Harpa concert hall.


Modern new condos along the harbour


Beautiful clouds in a threatening sky.

Names and words that are impossible to say or spell.


Colourful houses on Reykjavik streets.

Interesting architecture of Halgrimskirkja and other buildings.

Unique traffic signs


Icelandic flags



Public beaches, where you wear wet suit gloves and booties and the lifeguard wears a parka.


Picnic sites with lava tubes with ladders.


Rough lava scenery

Geothermal power and heat plants.


Fishing villages like Grindavik.


Being able to see the colour of Blue Lagoon without actually having to pay the exorbitant price to go in.


We were only in Iceland for 3 days, but it left us wanting more. We can only hope we can get back some day and that we will be able to afford it.


Day 41 – Friday – Still Wet Behind the Ears

I do not know what we expected when we first landed in Iceland, but, everything  so far has exceeded our expectations. This day was no exception. Breakfast at Sandholt today, breakfast bowl for Pat and granola yogurt and fruit and a cinnamon bun for me. add in the 2 coffees and the bill came to $50.23. As Linda would say…”Can you Dig it? All of the prompts on the payment terminal were in Icelandic. As I waited, I read “Taka Kort”. Hey I understood this and removed my card.

Today was our day to explore the South Coast, at least as far as Vik. We only made it about 25 km, before we had to pull off to look at the landscape of moss coloured lava fields and volcanic cones. While watched, Golden Plovers wandered around on the moss, making a peeping sound. We suspect they were protecting a nest..


Another 25 km up the road,  we spotted a hang glider dancing dangerously close to some high tension lines What was this guy doing? We pulled into a viewpoint parking lot to watch and to enjoy the view over Selfoss.

Our original first stop was to have been Urridafoss, but this turned out to be our 3rd stop and you guessed it. It was another 25 km down the road. Attraction signs are not always prominent and often just beside the turn off. We almost missed this one. If we kept stopping this frequently, we would never make it to Vik(Veek).

Urridafoss did not really come up on our radar, as it was a very low waterfall. But, when we got a look at it, it was beautiful and turned out to have the highest water flow of any waterfall in Iceland. Little cascades fed into the river from several angles.


This spot on the Thjorsa River  (longest in Iceland at 230 km) also happens to be one of the best fishing spots in Iceland, with Brown Trout, Sea Trout, Atlantic Salmon and Arctic Char. As we watched, it did not take these fishermen very long to snag a big one.

We stayed here quite a long time, enjoying the falls and river from all angles. We finally decided we had to make a move and as we headed back to Highway 1, we spotted this road sign. Despite the spelling, we understood it, were we learning to read Icelandic.


We regained the Highway and headed for Seljalandsfoss, a 60 meter high waterfall that is on every tourist’s radar, as you can actually walk behind it. The parking lot was busy and we could see everyone gearing up for a wet trip, as we arrived. I was a bit worried for my camera, as it was getting water spots on it from a great distance away, but, sheltering it as best I could, we headed down the rough rocky trail. It did not take long for our glasses to be covered with spray, but kept stopping to enjoy the thunder of the waters as they rushed over the rocks above our heads.


Once you got past the waterfall, the path got a little more rugged and as I looked back, I saw Patty puzzling her way through the rocks. Good thing she had her hiking poles.

Did I mention yet, that Iceland is covered in lupins. Most of them are blue purple, but every once in a while you would see some that were pink or white. Patty took this shot from the car as we rolled along towards Vik.


Given that our 2 sandwich picnic yesterday had cost us $57.44, we opted to catch lunch on the road today. At long last, arriving in Vik, we searched for a restaurant. Anything down by the water was full of tour buses, so we headed up the hill to see what else was in town. Patty had spotted a place as we drove into town and it turned out to be the right choice. I had cream of asparagus soup and fresh bread and Patty had the smoked char. the food and coffee were great and we were soon on our way to explore Vik.

Vik (population: 318 if everyone is home) is famous for its black sand beaches and ocean views of rock pinnacles, but they are also home to nesting sites of many sea birds, including the puffin. Oh, and did I mention that Iceland is covered in lupins?


In other photos of the area, we had seen a hole in the rock scene similar to Percé Rock on the Gaspé, but where was it? After talking with some other folks, we found out it was on the other side of the mountain and the only way to get there was to drive.

On arrival, we spotted the hole, but also saw the cave guarded by basaltic columns similar to those at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and by a waterfall in Whangarei, New Zealand. The rocks were quite beautiful, even in the softly falling drizzle.


But, we could linger no longer. We had a 7:00 PM reservation is Islenski  Barinn and it was a Friday night. We could not let that slide, given the number of folks turned away the previous night.

We blasted back to Reykjavik along Highway 1, past

…glacier capped peaks


…60 meter high Skogafoss where we stopped briefly


…sheds built into fallen volcanic rocks


…we did stop in to see the short film on the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and how it affected the farmers living right below the glacier at þorvaldseyri farm.


…past cascades flowing over rocky crags


…and rainbows over lupin fields


The sun came and went and the rain pounded our car as we headed back up the mountains and into Reykjavik. All that being said, the rain on this date never really affected us.

We arrived at the restaurant early and settled in for supper. This would be our last meal here and we had become regulars.

A walk about the town and a bit of shopping. A very little bit, as all we bought was a toque for me at $37. There were lots of shoppers in the stores, but few buyers. Stuff was exorbitantly priced. $2 fridge magnets for $15, a cheap dollar store tray for $40 and a pack of 20 souvenir napkins (made in Germany) for $25. Forget the Icelandic sweaters from $180 to $700.

OK, we would just take in the views around town.

Goodnight all. Tomorrow would be a big day of packing and travel. Our wonderful trip was coming to a close.

Day 40 – Thursday – Land of Fire and Ice – Driving the Golden Circle

Our top reasons for renting a car in Iceland were.

  1. Affordability – The cost for the shuttles to and from the airport and the two tours we wanted to do would have been almost $900. The three-day rental was only $400.
  2. Flexibility – Bus tours would mean we would be spending more time getting on and off the bus than seeing the sights. The car would allow us to take our time to see what we wanted to see.
  3. Mobility – We could use the car to see a bit more of Reykjavik and the surrounding area on the last day, without booking another tour.

Every day when we woke up and went to bed, we would check the 5 day weather forecast ad every day it would tell us to expect rain showers in Reykjavik. The truth is there were rain showers, but for the most part, they were not where we were.

A lot of breakfast places in Reykjavik did not open until 9 AM. We set off to find one open at 8 and settled on Lauf, a place that had numerous small plates on the menu. You marked your choices on a card and they would bring your selections. Great in theory, but Pat had allergies, so a little more complex in the end. We managed to get fed, but plates were small and the cost for breakfast was around $55. After breakfast, we purchased sandwiches from Sandholt Bakery ($57 for 2 sandwiches).

On the road at last, Gertie got us out of town nicely and within minutes, we justified our choice to rent a car. The scenery was stunning, even in the cloudy light we faced this day. It was not long before we spotted this church and just had to turn off the road for a look. The lupins made framing shots easy.


Back on the road, we rolled through more stunning scenes until we hit þingvallavatn lake (the letter þ sounds kinda like a t) at the edge of  Þingvellir Nasjonalpark. The lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in Iceland at 84 square kilometers with a depth of up to 114 meters.


Moving on, it did not take us long to get to the National Park, the site of the first Icelandic Parliament in 930 and now a beautiful walk in the rift valley created by shifting tectonic  plates. After paying $6.55 to park and $2.61 to use the washroom, we set off on our hike. It was unlike anything we had ever seen. We were barely out of the vehicle, when the sand flies were on us like stink on a monkey. We swatted and flished, buttoned our coats up to our chin and covered our heads with our hoods, all to no avail. They were everywhere, even on my camera lens. They must have got the memo that advising fresh tourists were coming.


There were rock swirls from lava flow


beautiful flowers

and birds of every description.

At long last, we decided we had best be moving on and instead of paying another $2.62 to pee, we bought a couple of magnum ice cream bars for $10.50. It was at this point that I came up with a new name for Iceland….I would call it PRIceland.  I am going to digress here to explain why most things in Iceland are so expensive.

  1. Labour rates are among the highest in the world and include 12% union dues, 37-46% income tax and parental leave at almost full salary.
  2. Farming is tightly regulated and there are importation restrictions on many agricultural items as well as price controls on local products. Almost everything required to run a modern farm must be imported. Locally produced milk costs twice what imported milk would cost, but, milk importation is forbidden.
  3. Importation costs on this island nation are high.
  4. There is an 11% VAT on food and another 24% VAT on nearly everything to make food.
  5. If you are in a tourist trap outside a major center, prices will be high, because they know people will pay them.

Due to this, Reykjavik is the most expensive capital in Europe to visit.

Now, back to spending our money. En route to our next stop (Geysir Thermal Region) , scenery continued to astonish, with mountains, valleys, streams and rivers. There were plenty of choices to pull over for our picnic lunch…which we ate inside the car….to avoid the voracious sand flies.


Arriving at the Geysir (Gay-Sur) visitor center, we were happy to be able to park and pee for free. Setting off across the road to the geothermal area, it began to sprinkle intermittently. We gathered with a large group around the smaller geyser Strokkur and did not have long to wait before it erupted 30 meters into the air. Wow, OK, lets hike over to Geysir only 80 meters away and watch that show. We waited and waited and waited, all to no avail. And the funny thing is there were only about 10 of us waiting. Eventually we gave up as Strokkur continued to erupt every 4-6 minutes. We wandered around the rest of the place past bubbling pools, muddy paths and lupins, every once in a while hearing the shrieks of delight as Strokkur performed. But, Geysir never did (until much later when we drove by on our return trip). Turns out Geysir is not a regular kind of geyser. It has erupted up to heights of 170 meters but eruptions are infrequent and unpredictable and at times can stop for years. Good thing we did not hang around.


Leaving the area, we crossed some road reconstruction and marvelled that any car could survive these road conditions. Our destination was the waterfall, Gulfoss on the Hvita River, which was not far away. We soon arrived to another packed parking lot. While the drop is only 32 meters in two stages, the size of the falls is immense. At one point, a hydro-electric generator was proposed for this site, but due to lack of money and public protest, it never happened and the site is now protected by law.


We felt very lucky to be here, especially as the slight drizzle seemed to dampen the sand flies enthusiasm. Oh, they were still there, but now they were trying to get out of the rain and into our car, for our continued swatting enjoyment.

As much as we tried, Gertie could not find our next stop, Kerid, a 3,000 year old volcanic crater,  55 meters deep, 170 meters wide and 270 meters across. Driving along, we just managed to turn in after spotting the small sign. The parking lot was small, as were the crowds and at only $5.22 admission each, it was a steal. Sun was starting to break through the clouds, so the shadows and colours of the crater and lake were quite dramatic. As we climbed up to the top, we spotted another crater and another and another, marching off into the distance. We were clearly in a volcanic zone.



Golden Circle route almost complete, we headed back to Reykjavik about an hour away, stopping to admire the scenery


or simply rolling on by and window snapping.


No luck finding parking near our apartment, so we headed up the hill to Halgrimmskirkja and the free parking. We opted to go back to the same restaurant and had the fish of the day, grilled salmon on mashed potatoes with Portobello mushrooms and bacon sauce…….yummmm, bacon sauce.

Did I mention that there are almost 24 hours of daylight at this time of the year. Leaving the restaurant, the sun was shining and I thought there might never be a better time to go up the 74.5 meter tower of Hallgrimskirkja, the largest Lutheran church in Iceland, built in 1945. Crowds were light and we were son admiring the fine views of Reykjavik.

Below is:

the Perlan hot water storage building used to store heated geothermal water  for heating, as well as housing concert/exhibition space, a restaurant and 3 shops.


the beautiful Harpa concert hall, opened in 2011 at a cost of 164,000,000 Euro


and some older Reykjavik houses, including this one with a sod roof.


The tower was getting crowded, so we decided to head down for a look at the church interior. A little austere, but nonetheless, beautiful.


Returning to our apartment for the night, we stopped for a chat with some new friends.


Day 39 – Wednesday – How do you Fuel a Luggage Slave when you Head North?

Our time in Amsterdam was drawing to a close. We had really enjoyed our stay, particularly the Dutch  pancakes. We were determined to have our last meal in the little stand in the park not far from our hotel. No photos of this meal exist, as we are too embarrassed to say we shared a Dutch pancake loaded with strawberries and whipping cream, as well as a platter of poffertjes (light fluffy tiny pancake morsels covered in butter and icing sugar). OK, you got us… they were friggin’ donut holes of mass deliciousness. So, instead of photos of our over  indulgence, we leave you with the ad for the place and a photo of the restaurant.

Refueled, we headed back to the hotel to pack everything up for our last travel leg to Iceland. There were a few luggage alterations to ensure we could meet Icelandair’s restrictions. We had bought a cheap rolling duffel and this allowed us to spread stuff around. Checked out, we lumbered toward the #197 bus stop. The bus came immediately and we got aboard and took our seats. Here are photos of the luggage slave and his better half.

We rolled along past now familiar territory, like the stadium for the 1928 Olympic Games.


At one transit stop, we saw the emphasis put on the bicycle commuters, including this glassed  in bicycle garage.


Schipol Airport is Europe’s 3rd busiest airport and 14th busiest in the world with 63,625,664 passengers per year (by comparison, Edmonton handles 7,981,074, Calgary handles 15,680,616 and Toronto handles 45,335,198).

Unlike Frankfurt, the airport has a single terminal split into 3 halls. Airport staff were very friendly and efficient. In no time, we had our luggage tags and were ushered into the correct line to drop our bags. We breezed through security, found lunch and waited for our flight.

The flight left the gate 15 minutes late and we rolled along the taxiway for what seemed like forever, crossing overpasses above two major expressways, until at long last we were in position for takeoff.

We flew through cloudy skies most of the flight and occasionally caught glimpses of the Iceland coastline. As we dropped lower, we could see that the landscape was covered in blue lupins.

At the airport, you could tell they were going through growing pains. There were not enough landing bridges and we had to be taken by  bus to the terminal. Walking toward the baggage carousels, we passed loads of people lined up in corridors awaiting their flights. Passenger numbers have jumped from 1,883,725 in 2004 to 6,821,358 in 2016.

We thought it strange as we walked along, that passport control was off to one side of our path. With most of the rest of the passengers, we  walked right on by to the baggage carousel. We wondered why we were able to walk right into the country without any passport check.

Baggage in hand, we headed for the bus to Sixt rental cars. I joined the queue and after about half an hour, we finally had our rental car and were driving the 40 minutes from Keflavik to Reykjavik. Good old Gertie, our trusty GPS got us to our apartment and we were checked in quickly by Marco. We asked for a restaurant recommendation and he gave us some pointers and advised us we could expect to pay about $80 US each for a decent meal without drinks. We were a bit shocked. We knew things were expensive, but youchhhh!

Hesitantly, we set off in search of supper. None of the places we passed seemed right, until we found Islenski Barrin (Icelandic Bar – An Iceland chain serving Icelandic specialties). The place was busy, but service was attentive and friendly and the beer and food was great. The best part was that the price was much lower than Marco had warned.


Fortified, we decided to wander the town and headed down to the waterfront.

Construction was happening everywhere, as Reykjavik struggled to keep up with the tourism growth. We soon found ourselves beside the new concert hall (Harpa). It was beautiful and as we wandered by, the rain gave us an excuse to go inside and have a look.

Shower over, we headed back outside and past the brightly coloured buildings back to  our apartment.



Day 38 – Tuesday – Tilting at Windmills (with apologies to Cervantes)

A little quicker start this AM, which comes with its own set of problems. Most breakfast places do not open before 9, so our preferred pancake place was out. We set off hiking to find De Bakkeriswinkel recommended by Amanda. The city was starting to look familiar to us by this point and we found the place, but, given it proximity to the Red Light District and the fact that despite the fact they were open, they did not appear to be ready to serve breakfast, we hastily moved on.

The canal water was calm this morning and the commute, as usual was fairly silent…mostly bicycles and very few cars. The bicycles, cars, trams and pedestrians did their delicate dance and as long as there were no sudden changes in course or speed, there were no catastrophes.


We spotted a Pancake restaurant close to the station and enjoyed our meals, but they were not as good as the ones the previous day. Off to Amsterdam Centraal to catch our bus. My Patty had Googled a place where we could go see operating windmills. This was exciting, even if it was in a historical park setting. While we waited, we people-watched and could easily spot the tourists that looked so much like us on our arrival day. Nervously flitting about looking at everything, perhaps not seeing anything, like the signs, which my Patty got right away…a picture of a pedestrian surrounded with a red circle means NO PEDESTRIANS.


Bus #391 soon arrived and we got on, thinking that we would be rolling through the countryside. Not really, just residential suburbs. The bus stopped at the final station and we found ourselves at the Zaanse Schans, a historical theme park of windmills, museums and period businesses and homes. We got roped into buying an “all included” pass, but the info agent neglected to tell us that not all was included. We likely got our value out of it,  but just barely. Honestly, the place was beautifully scenic and just what we wanted to see. Do the Dutch know their tourists or what?


The first mill was a spice mill that showed us the inner workings of a windmill. It was more of a shop. The first working mill was De Kat paint mill from 1782. While no paint was being produced, it was interesting to see the mill’s workings and gave us a tremendous view from the upper open deck.



Next was the 1672 De Zoeker oil mill used to get linseed oil from flax seeds. There was a neat short video that explained the whole process from the arrival of the miller each morning, setting up the sails, pouring in the flax seeds to be hulled, compressing the seeds to remove the oil and then stripping the compressed seeds to be used as cattle feed.

The final mill we toured was the lumber mill, a 2007 reconstruction of one that used to stand on the site (1680-1942). The video showed the building of the mill and complex assembly and the Yay! moment when the builders realized it actually worked. We timed it just right to see them sawing a log into planks. This was said to be an improvement over the old way boards used to be made, but it was still a painfully slow process.


After a bathroom and eye-drop break, we decided to rent bicycles for an 8 km bike ride around the site. Little did we know you would actually have to stop and puzzle over the map if you wanted to keep on the right course. We asked numerous people along the way and they made sure we got back safely to the starting point. It was thrilling to ride through the old village, along the one lane road atop the dike, past scenes of flat pastoral splendour. We are glad we did it.



After dropping the bikes off, it was time for a  lunch break. Coffee crossed our minds….alcohol crossed our lips, as did Kaas and Arugala Kroketten. Yum.

We still had a few more highlights to hit.

..the bakery, where we had waffle stroop (Dutch wafer) and a Stroop waffle (Belgian waffle with stroop syrup).


On our way to the clog shop, we could not help but pause to enjoy the beauty of the day, the birds, sheep and lilies.

At the clog shop, we walked through a brief history of clogs and found out that they were actually used to protect farmer’s feet from being stepped on by cattle and miller’s feet from objects dropping on them. Turns out, you could drive a car over these clogs and not hurt your foot. Well, you could not drive the car over your own foot, but you know what I mean, Clogs still comply with ULC/CSA footwear safety standards to this day. In the shop, a machine demonstrated how a rough piece of wood got its clog shape from saws set to follow the contours of a blank. Samples of more modern clogs were also there, including wedding white, rhinestone and even clog fiddles.

Below, we finally got our turn to ham it up in these rather large clogs.


Before leaving the park, we decided to tour the Verkade chocolate and wafer museum and the Zaanse Schans Museum that gave a history of manufacturing in the area, both during the height of windmill production (650 windmills operating in the area) and after they were replaced by steam and modern mechanical processes. Alas, there were no chocolate or wafer samples.

Fulfilled, we arrived at the bus stop, just in time to catch our red bus back to Amsterdam Centraal Station and just in time for rush hour. Rush hour in Amsterdam is quite different from that in most other major cities. There are plenty of bicycles, pedestrians, trams and buses, but very few cars. Rush hour is eerily silent without the roar of diesel trucks and honking of cars.


Back to Billy Thai’s for great green curry and Gang Massamun Thai food.


We have fallen in love with Amsterdam.