Iceland – Waterfalls, Geysers, Craters

After being away from home for a month, I finally feel like things are settling down. I finished unpacking, paying bills, reinstated the email that I got blocked out of on day 2 of the trip due to forgetting a digit on my PW, got my sunglasses fixed (they broke early on), and had a little dental work on a tooth that got chipped somewhere along the way.  You know, the usual.

Anyway, it is time for me to get back into the blogging world.  I’ve missed reading about your adventures and will hopefully get caught up with you soon.  In the meantime, let me share a little of my trip with you, one country at a time.

It seems like everyone you talk with these days has either been to Iceland or is planning a trip soon.  For us, it was a less expensive trip to Europe that allowed a stopover – we spent 4 nights and enjoyed every minute.  What a place!!!

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First of all, Iceland is a fairly new country (by European standards) started in 874 A.D. by Norwegian settlers.  Their language evolved from Norwegian, but today it is quite different.  We had a tour guide (on day 2) who was getting a Master’s in Icelandic history, he was a wealth of knowledge.

Even though it is touristy, we took the 8 hour bus tour of the “Golden Circle” and it was well worth it.   We were well layered, but it was very windy and cold – we even saw snow flurries as we stepped out of the bus on our first stop.  But as the day went on, the sun came out and even though the wind continued, it became more pleasant.

 

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Þingvellir National Park  This wall is the backdrop for Game of Thrones.

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Geysir This is the original that is no longer active.

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Gullfoss After Niagara Falls, this is the most impressive waterfall I’ve seen.DSCN5027

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Kerið  Note the steps leading into the crater.

The next day we rented a car and drove to the Middle Peninsula which was recommended by our tour guide.  Also, when we mentioned where we were going, the agents at the car rental said that was their favorite place.  I can see why.  These are pictures I took from the car with my cell phone while JG was driving.

 

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These two pictures made me fell like we were on the moon.

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 Snæfellsjökull the volcano that inspired Jules Verne to write “Journey to the Center of the Earth.

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Renting a car, even for a day, was well worth it.  We visited little villages, got away from the tour buses and enjoyed a relaxing day exploring the island on our own.

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The rest of the time was spent in Reykjavik.

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With it’s colorful buildings. . .

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and murals.

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It never got dark.  We had to catch a bus at 4 a.m. to go to the airport and this is how light it was.

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I can definitely understand why so many tourists are flocking to this amazing island.  It is well worth a few days stopover – or as a destination.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven states, 1750 miles, weather varieties

Just back from a winter getaway to the Gulf Shore.  To say we experienced a variety of weather is an understatement.  Our first 2 days in Alabama brought sunshine and upper 60 degree temps.  It was wonderful, people were playing beach volley ball, my husband got fully submerged in the gulf, we took beach walks and enjoyed nature.

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That little dot in the center is my husband’s head sticking out of the water.

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Then came the storm.  For Alabama, that meant heavy rains, near freezing temps and wind – lots of wind!

There’s really not much to do at the beach when the wind is blowing and the rain is everywhere, so we spent our last afternoon at the Gulf Shore in our room watching the weather channel and wondering if we would be able to get to Atlanta the next day.  I appreciate the job weather people have and how excited they get when there is a big front coming in, but they do tend to over hype most of the time.  As we were trying to come up with a plan B – Atlanta got a little ice which was completely melted by the time we rolled in to town the day after the storm.

However, it was 15 degrees with chilling winds – so we did not venture far that first night.

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The next morning, the sun was shining bright and it actually warmed to a balmy 34 degrees (still plenty windy).  We spent most of the afternoon at Stone Mountain.  Having hiked Stone Mountain, NC – we had to see what Stone Mountain, GA was like. To our surprise, there was a carving of Confederate heroes.  Seriously?  Who does that?  I cannot imagine the time, energy, and skill that went into this carving!  It was impressive.

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This stone mountain looked completely out of place in a rather flat part of Georgia – we didn’t think it was real at first.  (Stone Mountain, NC is actually in a mountain range.)  There is a whole village there with fun activities for the entire family.  I don’t want to know what it is like in the summer as crowded as it was on this chilly Sunday.  It’s definitely worth the $15 admission.  Although, it did bother me just a little to learn that this park is privately owned.  It is owned by the same folks who own Dollywood.

We also managed to find a couple of German restaurants in Atalanta.  The first one had a flag from the town where my husband’s grandfather was born and where his brother lives.

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The second one was downtown Atlanta and had been recommended by my daughter.  It was fun getting dressed up in a drindl.

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Anyway, we will go back to Atlanta when the weather is more agreeable, it was a fun city.

Driving home, we didn’t see snow until we were well into South Carolina, the accumulation was highest in North Carolina, but we did have a decent covering in our backyard in Virginia.

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Even though it was a great trip, I am happy to be back in my own bed and ready to get this new year started.  Here’s to 2017!!  I hope it will be a good year for all of you!

The Holidays

It’s always fun to hear about friend’s holiday traditions and how they got started.  Since my daughter left home, my husband and I started a tradition of taking a trip for an extended weekend right before Thanksgiving.  It began with Myrtle Beach, where we discovered that on those off days you could get ocean front hotels for very little money.  Often times, my husband would be the only person brave enough to actually swim in the ocean – it can be quite cold that time of year. But it was fun to walk the beach and eat fresh seafood without the usual crowds.  We did this for about 3 years in a row before deciding we needed a change.

The next two years we spent in Nashville after becoming late in life country music fans.  Nashville is a very fun city with live music everywhere, if you have not been there, I highly recommend it.

This year I wanted to go to Asheville, NC and do some hiking.  We booked an airbnb months ago and had received many recommendations from a friend’s daughter on where the best trails and restaurants were located.  Unfortunately, forest fires have been rampant in that area and it looked like hiking would not be an option.  I quickly cancelled that reservation and booked us a couple of nights in Greenville, SC, a city that was recommended to me by friend and fellow blogger, Laurie (Life on the Bike).

Turned out to be a very fun place to visit.  A waterfall park with a 9 mile walking/biking trail is located right downtown, along with over 100 great restaurants.   So while we didn’t get to hike, we did enjoy being outdoors along with dozens of others who were enjoying the sunny fall day.

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Where we go doesn’t really matter much, we just enjoy exploring new places together. And that is what I am most thankful for this year.

 

Exploring the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway)

This has been the summer of cabin rentals.  We just returned from our 3rd cabin trip – this time to Boone, NC.  Found a charming little cabin just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, that offered easy access to town, but was just remote enough to provide a peaceful setting.

Before we went, I got on-line to find good hiking in the area.  I found 3 promising trails.  Unfortunately, laziness stepped in and I did not go beyond a name and location.  So the first day we came up short in the “view” department.  We were on a mixed use trail – mountain bikes and hikers.  The trail was very rocky and steep in spots.  We went up, and up, and up. And just when we thought we were at the top and were positioning ourselves for a great view – the trail started back down.  What the wha??  That’s right – 3 hours and over 8 miles with NO VIEW!!

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Okay, it was great exercise and the woods were beautifully lush.  At this point, you have to really like hiking to be happy about a hike like that.

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So the next day, we did a little more reading (thanks to our host and her many brochures).

We hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway and just stopped at several places that had short hikes to some great views.

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First up (no hike) Moses H. Cone Memorial Park

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with this view.

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A challenging, but short hike at Rough Ridge – provided this view of the Linn Cove Viaduct

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Here’s a shot of the viaduct, taken from my cell phone as we were driving on it.

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Next we stopped at Flat Rock – less than a mile hike, but nice view of the backside of Grandfather Mountain.

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Our last stop was Linville Falls – what we thought was going to be an easy hike – was really further than anticipated and rather steep in places.  But worth the view and just as we got back to the car the rain came.

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If you have never been to the Blue Ridge Parkway, you should really put it on your bucket list. It is beautiful whether you drive it, bike it, hike it – as long as you experience it!   You’ve got 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina – so what are you waiting for??

From Pathway to Waterway

Decided to give my legs (mostly my knees) a rest today and work the arms instead.  Since it was going to be a little too warm for hiking, we pulled out the kayaks instead.

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I don’t normally try to take pictures while I drive – as I was attempting to shoot this from my phone, I accidentally dialed my brother-in-law (ha) thankfully he didn’t answer and I was able to get this silly shot.

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It was a near perfect day to be on the water.

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My first time paddling upstream to the Little River Dam.

 

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but we had to paddle extra hard in places as the wind fought against us.

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Less than two weeks until the wedding – my boat completely explains how I feel.  Mine is the orange one.

B-day, Wedding, and the Joy of Hiking

In three short weeks, my only child is getting married!  The planning (which began 2 years ago when they got engaged) is done and everyone is ready for a June wedding!  She turned 27 last month, and yesterday came home to have a belated birthday celebration.

After a lovely dinner last night, followed by wedding chatter until midnight, we all got a good night’s sleep so we could go for a relaxing hike today.  This was the first time my daughter had been to our favorite state park – Hungry Mother.

My husband and I go to Hungry Mother several times a year, either to hike, stay in a cabin, kayak on the lake, or just enjoy the town nearby.  I was very excited to share this park with her and we had the perfect weather for it.

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We took a trail that was fairly new to me and enjoyed a fantastic view of the highest peak in the park – Molly’s Knob.

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I have been to the top of Molly’s Knob, which offers the best view in the park, but this scene is not too bad either.

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I regret that it took me so long to discover hiking, but I’m glad Lori is enjoying it at a much younger age.

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What a great way to celebrate her birthday, her upcoming wedding, and life!