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Published: August 22nd 2009
CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT
I said I had a really early flight!
I left Charles De Gaulle airport really early in the morning. My flight was only 3 hours and what an airline (Icelandic Air). I had a tiny screen right in front of me and I could choose the movies I wanted to watch. I did have to buy my sandwich for 3 euros but the Pepsi was free. A really smooth flight.
I landed in the Keflavik airport to find that I had gained 2 hours. Fabulous!! The drive to Reykjavik took about 35 minutes and then only to the bus station where I took a taxi to my hotel.
I AM IN ICELAND!!! I can hardly believe it! My first impressions is that it is an island of mystery with dark looming clouds hanging over the mountain and the city itself. A cool chill in the as it is only about 50 F at 9:30 AM.
I am anxious to meet the manger of my hotel. This man went beyond the call of duty to help me with my accommodations. I book his hotel 3 days prior to landing in Iceland, from booking.com for 4 nights. However, he e-mailed and said that the
booking engine had made a mistake and he only had the 1st night and the 4th night available. He offered to help find me other accommodations close to his hotel and within my budget. This was not easy because I had search the web and had a really difficult time finding rooms for Thursday and Friday nights. Many of the rooms were going for 2500 to 3000 USD for the 4 nights. Way over my budget.
I got the email the morning that I was flying to Iceland and would be there in less than 4 hours that he had indeed secured my rooms for the additional 2 nights.
If you are ever in Iceland the place to stay is with Jon at HOTEL PHOENIX. On Trip Advisor his ratings is 9.5 out of 10. His place is more like a B&B with beautiful rooms and personal service. And all of this with a real affordable price for Iceland at 90 euros a night.
I arrive early enough to book a tour to go whale watching for the afternoon. Whales are legally hunted here in Iceland just to keep the numbers of them manageable. The most frequent
seen whales here are the blue whale, the humpback, the Minke, and the Orca. But all we see today are the Minke and we spot a couple dozen in the 2 hours that we are out. This whale averages from 22-33 ft. long and are the ones often sited during these trips. I don't suppose you have ever wonder if whales have bad breath... Well let me tell you that if you are down wind from one off their water spouts you will get this horrible fishy smell. Yes they have very bad breath!!
We also go to see if there were any puffins left on Puffin Island. The mating/hatching season was clearly at the end and not as impressive as if I had seen it a week earlier. The Puffin is the most recognizable bird here on the island, but only comes to nest during the summer. It's black and white with a large hooked orange beak. I would show you a picture but I couldn't find one.
I wander up and down the main street here in the capital city of Reykjavik and keep thinking that is such a small town yet the shops have this
THE LITTLE PEOPLE????
Or do I have rocks in my head
very sophisticated look about them and have that European style appeal. For a country that is covered in snow for most of the year they certainly don't lack style and flair. In fact is was voted the Cultural Center of Europe in 2000.
One things that I find very strange is that I was looking for a pair of plain old sweatpants and not one single pair to be found in any of the stores. I am not prepared for this cold weather and was going to buy some warm pants but not having any luck. The do have long johns , but just the bottoms alone cost about 60 USD. I can't justify paying that much for underwear. So I will just layer my clothes. I did buy a hooded sweatshirt to wear, since I don't have a fleece jacket. I think I will survive for 4 days. I didn't want to carry a fleece for 4 mths just to use the 4 days here in Iceland.
I had a wonderful day in Iceland. I am tired and go to bed about 10:30 but it is still light out. The sun doesn't set until after 11:00PM and
the sun rises about 4:00AM. This is the land of Midnight Sun in the summer and Endless Nights in the winter.
I am going to take the golden Circle Tour today, it is the most popular of all the tours. Some of the interesting things that I learn is that Iceland is the size of Kentucky and that 12% of Iceland is covered by glaciers and 11% is covered by lava fields. Most of the trees have had to reforested by trees from Alaska and Siberia. There are no native tree species.
The wind here can be very fierce and I got a taste of it today and it almost knocked me down.
I went to visit one of the 6 Geothermal Power Plants, this one was the Nesjavellir Plant and also the largest. It was very interesting. They bore 24 holes into the ground at about 1000-2200 meters to release water that is heated by the molten lava that sits relatively close to the surface. The temperature of that water has been up to 380C. This water is full of minerals and these minerals have to be taken out. This water has a
sulphur smell to it. This water is used for heating and generation of electricity. All of the homes in Reykjavik are heated this way and most of the business too. Once the water heats the homes then it is used to heat road and parking lots to keep them frost/snow free during the winter months. They have lots of heated swimming pools here.
From the power station they pipe the hot water 86 C in insulated pipe line 13 miles to the city. It only takes 7 hours to reach the city with an average heat loss of 1.8 C.
One of the most famous tourist attraction is the by-product of a failed attempt to recycle the hot water back into the ground. Because so much of the land is lava rock. This rock is very porous and when the recycled water loaded with minerals was dumped on the ground it clogged the porous rock and formed what is now known as the Blue Lagoon. It's suppose to good for many aliments of the skin. (I'll visit it tomorrow)
Iceland is well aware of global warming as the glaciers are receding at an alarming rate and their
winters are getting colder. Because of the gulf stream that flows towards them they seldom get below
14 F in the winter but they do get more than enough snow.
One of the places I visited today is Pingvellir and it is historically important as it was the place where the first general assembly came together to form a formal government structure around 930 AD. Even though the first settlement was around 870 AD.
This area lies within a belt of volcanic activity and fissures which pass across Iceland and is part of the Mid Atlantic Ridge. This is where the American and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The land on the west of Everyman's Gorge is moving westwards and the land on the east of Raven Gorge is moving eastwards at the rate of 3mm annually. As the land moves the valley sinks.
Also located here is the Pingvallavatn lake and it is the largest natural lake in Iceland and 90% of the water comes from fissures and springs beneath its surface. The water is relatively warm and a vacation spot for Icelanders.
Another great spot was the hot spring area, with it's 2 famous
geysers, Strokkur and Geysir. The Strokkur is not erupting as it has in the past and probably due to the shifting of the plates has blocked the pipeline but the smaller Geysir is every 5-7 minutes and I actually saw it spout several times within a 5 minute time frame. It has been really active as of late. The word geyser is the only word in the Icelandic language that is used in English.
This park is nice but it is only a fraction of Yellowstone National Park.
Probably the most memorable site today was the Gullfoss Waterfall. This waterfall is the water coming from the glacier. It is a massive falls not unlike the American Falls in NY, but it is at an angle to the river below. The mist from the water falling hits you in the face 50 meters from the falls. An awesome site. Also in the distance you can see the glacier, it looks like blue-white clouds hugging the ground but it's really ice.
The tour makes a quick stop at the Skalholt Church that was the ancient seat of the Icelandic bishops. The church is very simple undecorated church, except for
a beautiful mosaic behind the altar and nice modern stain glass windows as it seems is the way the churches are here in Iceland.
Our last visit today is to the Hverageroi which is a small horticultural village. This is where the majority of the veggies and houseplants are grown in green houses. They even have a small banana crop. Most of all the food grown in Iceland is grown in these greenhouses. But they still have to import many foods. The fields are reserved mostly for hay for the animals. But the interesting things about this area is that is it highly susceptible to earthquakes. In fact many register in the 7's in this remote area. This is also where some of the unknown people live (elves). But they don't refer to them as elves. But they believe them to look just like us but smaller and they can cause havoc when angered.
It was a really nice day, it started out as a dark dreary cloudy morning but turned out to be a beautiful partly sunny day. The guide was great and very enthusiastic. She was originally from Germany but has adopted this country 2 years
ago and already speaks Icelandic. This language is still the same as the Vikings spoke and many Icelanders have no trouble reading the ancient records of the Vikings.
My lunch today consisted of lamb soup, pecan pie and a bottle of water costing about 18USD. The pecan pie was the ultimate of all pies. It was basically thick soft caramel topped with pecans. My 2 favorite sweets together!!
For dinner I decided to go out for a steak at the Argentina Restaurant. The hotel recommended a steak house so I went. The steak was OK. But the restaurant was high class, the meal of a salad, steak, baked potato and grilled veggies cost me about 80 USD. I had only tap water to drink. That's expensive for me!!
But everything here is expensive. I try not to think about it, because I am really enjoying Iceland and I am so glad I came.
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