Links: 11-3-2014

  • On Kindness — Matter — Medium
    Quote: "We seem to reserve a special rage in this world for those whose ability to be unafraid in pursuit of something new extends beyond our own. We begrudge them their strange friends and strange experiences under the guise that we find those things to be dangerous or unclean. But really we resent those people because their courage reminds us of how common and terrified we feel inside. Bravery is a virtue people revere in dead soldiers and then turn to disparage in someone extending her hand to a weirdo."
    (categories: life values fear courage )

What I did this weekend: 11/02/2014

  • Saturday I mixed up some onions, yellow peppers and potatoes for breakfast with a fried egg (yummy) and then took the vikings to a National Trust house called Newark Park which was unremarkable except for the 7 geocaches we found (they did a really nice job with this) and then had a scrumptious English dinner at Costco, because cheap food on the way home.
  • Made pancakes and berries for breakfast, the vikings played for a couple hours after breakfast while Mommy and I made my favorite thing to make on Sundays (at least this year) and then we drove out to Goring (quick drive) and had a really nice walk along the Thames, finding 3 geocaches along the way (and our first Travel Bug!) and then had a nice lunch at a small cafe (Boat House Deli & Cafe) on the river before heading home. I got my long (only 4 miles since I’m building back up after hurting my calf a couple weeks ago) run in at night.

What I did this weekend: 10/26/2014

  • Littlest dude had his birthday this weekend so we went to Legoland, which was packed but we managed to have a good time, drove home, made my sausage / sweet potato / egg hash for dinner (adults only). Good day.
  • Mommy got sick and stayed in bed so we kept super busy today. Birthday presents kept the vikings satisfied for hours while I made breakfast, mopped, did dishes, bathrooms, mowed the lawns, pulled weeds and then we did a trip to the tire store (exciting!), dropped off the car to get 2 new tires, had lunch at The Griffin, got 2 geocaches in / around Caversham Court and then picked up the car and headed back home. Sort of the opposite of a weekend driving through Iceland.

Day 9 and 10: Borgarnes, Mosfellsbær, Bláa Lónið and Reykjavík: Iceland

Woke up not too early at Sundabakki Guesthouse, had a nice breakfast and enjoyed homemade “mama” cakes from the owner of the house who has 5 of her own children and 14 grandchildren, 13 of which are boys so we got extra special nice treatment. Hit the road at 8:30ish so that we could get back to Reykjavík with a chance to see some of the sights in the city.

First stop on way back was at a museum in Borgarnes called the Settlement Center which had two very nice walk through exhibits with audio guides which our band of vikings didn’t make it completely through. We did have a very nice snack break in their coffee shop while the vikings played on the floor.

Next, Karen really wanted to get an Icelandic sweater so she found THE place (called Álafoss) in a little town called Mosfellsbær, which turned out to be a really neat stop. She shopped while walked the vikings around and then we (the vikings) discovered a shop where a guy (Palli Kristjánsson) made and sold all kinds of custom knives, which was really interesting for me and the oldest, not so much the little ones who just wanted to put sheep horns on their head:

I ended up buying a really beautiful Santoku knife with a handle made from the horn of a reinder, the hoof of an Icelandic horse, ebony and marbled padauk. I’m keeping it in a box until we get back home.

We finally found Mommy, who got her sweater and then piled back into the car to drive the rest of the way to Reykjavík. The tunnel Hvalfjörður was closed for re-paving which added an hour or so to the drive but we got back to Reykjavík in the afternoon, checked back into our hotel, drove over to the Perlan to look out over all of Reykjavík:

and also had ice cream. :)

Finally, on our last drive we headed out to jump into the tourist trap that is Bláa Lónið (The Blue Lagoon) which is about 40 minutes from downtown but was well worth it for the weary travelers:

and then ended up back in the city for dinner at Íslenski barinn, which was fantastic.

On our last day (Sunday), we had breakfast, returned the rental car and then walked around downtown, checking out Sólfar (Sun Voyager):

visiting the Maritime Museum (free for adults with kids, not highly recommended but nice if you need to waste an hour before you have to get on a plane), getting hot dogs (which are apparently some kind of Icelandic specialty but weren’t any better than what you’d get in Chicago):

and then spending our last bits of cash at a crepe shop which just happened to arrive with a giant pile of ice cream:

All told, a great trip, highly recommended, even in October although I think we got really lucky with the weather. I’d love to go back in July or August and hike around some glaciers and spend some time in the highlands, maybe in a couple years.

Stats:

  • Museums : 2
  • Hot dogs : 5
  • Giant piles of ice cream: 2
  • Geocaches: 0!

Day 8: The Longest Drive: Iceland

We thought going into the trip that there’d be a couple days of long driving but for the most part we were able to make a bunch of stops every day and see a bunch of things… except this day. Think the Google Maps estimate for this day was north of 4 hours so we tried to get an early start so that we could get somewhere and maybe do something in the latter half of the day. The guesthouse we stayed at didn’t have a formal breakfast but he provided tokens for us to use at a local “bakarí”, which was fantastic. We had donuts and ham and cheese croissants at Aðalbakarí and then hit the road.

Our first stop was for an easy to find geocache that was at a statue in the middle of nowhere, everyone got to stretch their legs for a bit and then we packed it in again and drove on roads like this:

at which point I must now pause and say that driving around Iceland was like watching a really long and slow but extremely beautiful nature movie. I thought a number of times that Iceland is like the island that resulted from Hawaii (volcanoes, oceans, etc.) and Alaska (glaciers, snow, fishing, etc..) and some state in the middle of the US (cows, sheep, horses, etc..) all getting together and saying “let’s make an island that has the best parts of all of what we have.”, which is to say that driving wasn’t a chore at all, except for the gravel roads in some places… OH and the precarious cliffs that we drove right on top of to get out of Siglufjörður, other than that though, amazing.

Second stop, which I can’t remember how we found (think it was the navigator) turned out to be really cool. I think she was looking for geocaches as a place for us to stop and she found this geocache at an abandoned house (had been abandoned for 70 years) that you had to drive off road to even get close to. Apparently it’s name is Svarðbæli, but you can read more about it here. We drove out the 4×4 road to about 1/2 mile away and then hoofed it on the gravel road the rest of the way. The geocache itself was a bear to find (had to enter the really old house, climb up to the second floor and then it was hidden away in the rafters, I couldn’t find it, Karen found it later) but the views and the walk were brilliant:

Everyone got to horse around a bit and get their wiggles out which was nice. Didn’t see an option to put an offer down on the house but if I was a hermit, I think I’d want to live here:

We made our picnic lunch in the back of the car, if I remember correctly this was the day that someone decided that they didn’t want a PB&J for lunch which meant that they had to wait until dinner for food. Doesn’t pay to be fussy in our family.
And then we drove:

until our next stop, a hill called Helgafell, which is called “holy mountain” and is a 227 meter high volcanic cone that, drum roll, had a geocache on top, which we found and then got to enjoy the views from the top:

A short drive later and we were at our “hotel” for the evening in another little town, this one called Stykkishólmur, in probably the smallest of all the rooms we had on the trip but we made do. We got there a bit early hoping to find something to do but there wasn’t much open at all (more stuff in the summer) so we hiked up to the top of the lighthouse:

which is called Súgandisey and tried to make sure no one fell off a cliff, then hoofed it back a mile or so into the little town center where the only place to eat that was open at 5pm was a little pizza shop called Stykkið, which ended up having GREAT pizza.

Kids went to bed, I missed a geocache on top of the lighthouse and had to go back at night with my headlamp to find it:

which wasn’t too hard to do, short of the wind and cold.
Stats:

  • Light houses: 1
  • Abandoned houses: 1
  • Geocaches: 4

Day 7: Húsavík, Goðafoss, Akureyri and Siglufjörður: Iceland

Already back from the trip, didn’t have time at night to do days 7, 8, 9 and 10 but I’m trying now. It’s never as good days after when you can’t remember all the little details though. Either way, Day 7 started early just like every morning on this trip since everyone was in the same room and the littlest person that lives with us just cannot keep his wiggles and sounds to himself and MUST share them with EVERYONE else in the room as soon as it turns 6am, sometimes earlier. I tried to keep him in bed and quiet for as long as possible, didn’t work all that well.

We had breakfast at our “hotel”, which was really a house converted into a “hotel”, which was like most of the places we stayed. I remember that pickled herring was on the table set out for folks if they were in the mood, I had a pickled herring plate for dinner on the first night we were in town but could never pull the trigger for breakfast.

After breakfast I took the boys out for a short walk around the harbor in Húsavík both because it a short walk and because there were a couple geocaches but mostly because it’s impossible to pack up the room while three crazy horses are trampling everything. We found two on our short walk, one an old church built out of Norwegian wood supposedly in a Swiss style although that’s been debated in the comments on the geocache log (you can see pictures there) and the other right outside the whale musuem, which we would have loved to have visited but it opened at 10am and we had plans for the day (lots of driving!). Here’s a shot of one of the boats in the harbor that we walked / skipped / ran by:

The dudes and I walked around a bit more (saw some REALLY interesting looking shops right on the waterfront where guys were working on fixing boats) and then headed back to the guesthouse to help Mommy finish the packing.

Our first stop for the day was at another amazing waterfall (Goðafoss), which also happened to be REALLY cold, so cold in fact that the mist from the waterfall was frozen on top of the sand and rocks leading up to the waterfall which made walking a bit of an adventure.

The biggest one and I went and tracked down the geocache that was at this waterfall and we took a bunch of pictures:

got some wiggles out and then packed it in for the long drive up to the northern most point that we’d hit on the trip. We needed a break on the way and so we ended up spending a bunch of the afternoon walking around the second biggest “city” in Iceland (Akureyri) where we had a great lunch at a hostel / restaurant, took pictures with a couple trolls (Karen hasn’t uploaded her pictures yet), found a couple geocaches (had to walk the dogs, err kids) and then went to this “christmas shop” (in Icelandic: Jólahúsið) which was supposed to be really great for kids , which ended up being ok for kids but not something that was going to keep their attention for longer than 15 minutes but that was long enough for us to get our Christmas ornament for the year (hi Grammie!).

Finally, we did the drive up to Siglufjörður (66° north!), which is a teensy little town right on the water that I read later is sometimes not accessible at all in the winter and it was here that we had our first bit of rain (we were very lucky the entire trip and didn’t get much rain at all even though October is supposedly the rainiest of all seasons in Iceland). We got in pretty late (6:30pm), dropped off our bags and walked down to the harbor to find some dinner:

The guy that rented us our house for the night said there were only two restaurants open in the winter, one that had homemade food and another that had fried food and pizza. Sadly the homemade food place was closed but we ended up having a great experience at Veitingastaðurinn Torgið where the hostess and waitress brought us out crayons and TOYS and generally made our dinner really fun. Food was good and we ended up having to run back up the hill to the house because it started hailing on us.

We stayed the night at the The Herringhouse, which if you ever get a chance to stay at, is very nice and has a shower that’s to die for.

If I ever get to go back, it looks like there are some really really neat hiking trails that are easily accessible from the town, would be amazing to hike up into the hills at sunset in the summer:

Stats:

  • Trolls: 2
  • Waterfalls: 1
  • Amazing showers: 1
  • Geocaches: 5

Day 6: Volcanos, bubbling mud pots, swimming in nature baths and cows pooping: Iceland

NO VOMIT! We had an entire night with no one vomiting! Breakfast bright and early again and then we hit the road, big day today.

We drove for about 30 minutes and bagged our first geocache at a place called Tveir Brú and then did a nice hike up to a waterfall:

Said geocache was NOT kid friendly so again, if you’re ever in Iceland driving around Tveir Brú with small children, make sure they walk up to the edge of the 50 foot cliff where the cache is hidden with their head up, not staring at the GPS.

Second stop was at Krafla which apparently is a “caldera”, where we did a short (2 miles?) walk out over a flat plain:

to a small hill with a bunch of fissure vents and bubbling pools of waters:

On the way to the hill Reed made friends with about 10 lovely Japanese people, all of whom gave him (or he gave them?) a high five.

A 10 minute drive later and were we at Námafjall, which is a geothermal area with boiling mudpools and steaming fumaroles and if you’re not wearing disposable booties over your shoes like all the people getting off of the tour buses were, a giant mess for the car. Beck couldn’t take the smell and had to go back to the car (pretty sure he just wanted to finish the book he was reading) but we forced the little dudes to walk around with us. Mud pots were cool but I think this was my favorite:

We did lunch out of the trunk (peanut butter and jelly, apples and if you finished your sandwich, a cookie or two) and then we were back on the road again on our way to Lake Mývatn. Our first stop was at a place called Hverfjall, which is “… a tephra cone or tuff ring volcano in northern Iceland, to the east of Mývatn” as my friends at Wikipedia say. We did the 4×4 gravel road out to the base of the volcano and after a bit of prodding to get up this trail:

everyone made it to the top of the mountain, although not without us having to break out the “You’re a mountain lion! Growl like one!” strategy to get certain people up the hill that weren’t excited about climbing the mountain:

which everyone had to join in on:

but eventually all led to this:

Cool spot.

Our slave driver navigator then proceeded to direct us to Dimmuborgir (a large area of unusually shaped lava fields east of Mývatn) where we did yet another short hike out to see one of the structures which supposedly looks like an old cathedral:

Pretty sure at this point that everyone was really cold and tired and we completely lucked out because the very next thing we did after getting back into the car was a bath in the natural hot springs:

which was AMAZING for all involved, especially people that had floaties. Highly recommended if you’re ever driving through northern Iceland after a long day of volcano hiking and mud pot viewing.

Day only got better though because I found an amazing restaurant / farm on Foursquare called Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe, where we (adults) not only had an EPIC meal (braised lamb shanks and pan fried artic char) but we got to watch cows pooping and peeing and then eventually get milked which if you’re between the ages of 2 and 5 is PRETTY COOL:

Finally, we drove to the hotel, which was another 30 miles away and everyone hit the sack.
Stats:

  • Weird mud pots and fissures: too many to count
  • People that had to be encouraged to make mountain lion sounds to bring out their inner lion to make it up the mountain: 1
  • People vomiting at night: 0 (WOOHOO!)
  • Geocaches: 2

Now with 50% less caffeine!