Saturday, September 21, 2019

Iceland - Nature's Paradise

Iceland has been a place I've wanted to visit for many years. Every time I choose to go (around Airwaves) I was scheduled for a business trip. This year, I decided not to go during Airwaves and chose September. I had heard Fall was a good time to visit, not too many tourists and the weather fair. 

The weather was so, so and I lucked out for the tours I had booked.

Reykjavik


Arriving early in the morning, I set out to walk around the town and get a feel for the city. Reykjavik (Smokey Bay) was founded in 870 AD by Norseman, Ing├│lfur Arnarson. A statue of him sits before Iceland's biggest church, Hallgrimskirkja. Lutheran is the main religion in Iceland, but there is a cathedral in the Old Harbor area. However, non-religious people are making a stand at about 12% of the population which is now around 360,000 people. 

The area around the church is known as the gods area and many streets are named after Nordic gods, like the Loki cafe which serves Icelandic dishes. Although I do like to try new foods, I decided to pass on true Icelandic food, like the sour shark. 

Iceland is quite hilly built on volcanic ash and the pond area where the national gallery sits with beautiful gardens and several outdoor statues.



Harpa
Beyond the pond area towards the sea is the Harpa, an amazing music theatre center.  As I walked along the sea with the wind and rain pouring down I was taken aback by the juxtaposition of new and old. After the banking debacle of 2008, Iceland almost was bankrupt, but with tourism, now the #1 industry in Iceland, it is under construction.

Originally Iceland was founded by the vikings for farm land and fishing, but now there are less than 2% farmers. Building a country on tourism is risking and in 2010 the volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted for almost one month and many Icelanders thought tourism was through, but this only brought more people for hiking, and outdoor activities. Over the last five years tourists went from 250,000 per year to 2.5M!


Monday morning I took a trip out of town to see the president residence (Iceland was of the first countries to have a women president) and the Perlan. The Perlan (the Pearl) is a “piece of art” made over converted water tanks with an observatory deck with 360 views of the city.


In the afternoon the sun actually came out for me to walk along the sea and enjoy the views. 

Northern Lights



I was worried the rain wouldn’t stop and I’d never get to see the northern lights, but I was really fortunate. It was a full moon and that can disrupt viewing. I was on a tour bus where I spent most of the two hours we waited in a dark forest for the lights to come. Finally they did and it was amazing. The photos don’t do it justice. I didn’t research how to take them and just enjoyed the view. However, a nice couple staying at my hotel sent me some for my memories.


Golden Circle

The next day the weather held and I was able to enjoy the sunshine and had clear views of Gullfoss, water falls. Rivaling Niagara Falls, the sheer power of these falls is overwhelming. Almost from any angle, far away and up close, they are magnificent. 


From there we travelled to the Geysir Hot Springs. The hot springs are all over a fairly large acreage with some just gurgling and one shooting up several feet every 10 minutes. Again, it is difficult to capture on film, but I’ve tried to set the photos up from start to high and then back again. It is really, really quick! There are trails all over the place and since we stopped for lunch, I was able to walk around and enjoy the scenery. 



























├×ingvellir National Park, (there are several throughout the small island), provides many, many trails and unbelievable views, with lakes, streams and wild flowers growing. Climate change has taken hold in Iceland and one of the walkways needed to have a bridge as the plates are shifting rapidly. 








We topped off the tour at the Secret Lagoon, not in any of my tour books, it is a little place with varying temperature levels of water filled with minerals. It wasn’t too crowded and the facilities are well kept, clean and new. It used to be a farm and the owner has turned it into this secret hot springs. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. I hope the video plays. If you click on it you’ll be able to hear the bubbling of the springs. 






Outdoor Sculptures

There are many artists in Iceland; writers, photographers, and sculptors. It would be difficult not to be inspired. One of the most famous is Sun Voyager placed right on the Sea Wall and Partnership. A sculpture dedicated to Iceland from a past US Ambassador, Charles Cobb. I loved all the outdoor sculptures, so here are a few.

Dancing Men (Perlan)
Sun Voyager

Eye to the Sea



Partnership

Puffins



What a trip! I’m so happy I went even for a few days. Normally I don’t like to go back to a place I’ve been because there are so many other places and cultures to experience, but I would go back to Iceland. I’d like to go in summer and hike many of the national parking hikes, volcano’s and maybe even go on horse back ride. The horses in Iceland are unique to the country and once taken from the country cannot be brought back in to keep the species pure.

Best of the Rest

Reykjavik overlooking the sea

City under construction


Wish I had balance like that!

Getting their pride on...



Loki Cafe traditional Icelandic food

Icelandic faces National Gallery




Sunday, July 28, 2019

Yorkshire, the Garden Spot of England

York

I had to make a trip to the Yorkshire area, specially Bingley, for a work assignment. I was there for two weeks and was able to visit some of Yorkshire. It is filled with countryside gardens, farms, cottage and animals.


My first trip outside of Bingley was to York. York is only about 30 minutes train ride from Leeds. Sitting in the middle of a canal on the River Ouse, York was founded by the Romans. Their presence is everywhere, from the Castle ruins, Richard III exhibition, and Roman walled city gates that surround the city.







The large 13th-century Gothic cathedral, York Minster, is near the center of the city and has a park next to you.

The city is quite walkable. I was going to take the walking tour, but decided to walk around myself. I started across the walled bridge gates.










York Coat-of-Arms

York Park


Castle Remains



Garden at the Shakespeare Rose Theatre

Twelfth Night  was terrific, as all live theatre is, and since I hadn't seen the play before, it was that much more enjoyable. 

I stopped and had lunch at The Ivy, sat aside and listened to opera from a street musician. Best food I had while in England.

Leeds

Leeds is one of the fastest growing cities in Yorkshire. It sits on the River Aire, the Royal Armouries, Art Gallery and city square filled with restaurants and shops.  There is a pethera of shops in what is called The Arcade (malls).

Leeds Arcade

Art Gallery

Leeds Canal

Leeds Architecture


Old and New of Leeds
Leeds is filled with 13-century building and the new glass structure of the 21st century.



Park in the Square





Manchester

Manchester is one of the largest city in northern England and build on industry. Again, built around a canal. Next to gardens and country farms, the north has rivers running through it.  The Salford Quays dockyards house the Daniel Libeskind designed War Museum and is close to the art culture center.

The Old Wellington built in 1552

Manchester Cathedral

Corn Exchange Building



World War I Memorial