Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Into the Earth: Icelandid's Lava Tubes

Our final  excursion in Iceland would be to explore a lava tube. We didn't really Know what to expect. I think I was  expecting to be part of a large tour group  walking through some large cavern-like cave. What a surprise it was when aN SUV arrived at our driveway with just the guide inside. Victoria works for Iceland Excursions. We were her whole group: just us five and her. Surprise number two would be waiting for us at the lava tubes which are located in the dramatically named Valley of Death. I never did quite catch the Icelandic name of the lava tube or the valley itself. A five minute walk across a barren lava rock strewn plain took us to a hole in the earth. A modest scramble, nothing for those with good vision to worry about, and you are in the mouth of the lava tubes. Helmets secured and headlamps on we began our journey into the 2,000 year old lava tubes. The floor is pretty smooth though you still do have to mind your step. You are more apt to hit your head on the ceiling though and you quickly will begin singing  praises to your helmet. I'm very glad we had a chance to to do this journey. Victoria was a great guide who clearly knew her stuff. Sure you have the scuttle over some rocks and you had best wear clothing to deal with the wet and chill climate in the cave but it's worth it.

 We entered the lava tube under an overcast sky with spitting rain. When we emerged, about 76 minutes later, we found the skies had changed quite a bit. While rainbows seem to be common in Iceland this was our first truly blue sky. Lovely.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Iceland's Blue Lagoon


Just outside the main building that will lead us to the heart of the Blue Lagoon. This is a cold water pool. Given the weather conditions it's no wonder the pool is devoid of people. 

Today we sallied forth to what is perhaps Iceland's best known location: The Blue Lagoon (Blaa Lonio - I am leaving the diacritical marks off). You can learn a considerable amount about these geothermal pools yourself. I'll just note here that the pools span something like 5,000 square meters and about 6,000,000 liters of water enters the pools from the deep hot springs every 40 hours renewing the pools with fresh silica rich water. It is certainly a tourist spot, a tourist trap perhaps, but that doesn't detract from their quality.

It is overcast and spitting rain. The wind is blowing strongly enough that you can easily feel it pushing you along just a bit when it is at your back. When we stepped out of the changing rooms , damp from cleansing showers, the light rain and wind combined with an ambient temperature that likely wasn't above 55F struck with a vengeance. We couldn't get into the pools fast enough. What warmth. We moved through the milky light blue water passing through slightly cooler and warmer spots. At the hottest I believe the waters touch 100F and the cooler places are noticeably cooler but far from cold. Of course, your exposed back and head are being pelted by wind and rain  that is quite a contrasting feeling. Getting out would be tough. Along with hundreds of others we enjoyed ourselves under the heavy gray skies. I actually think the unpleasant weather made the experience more exciting and memorable.

If you  visit the Blue Lagoon  you may want to give extra consideration to renting a towel from them. We lost 3 towels. They will also rent you a bathing suit but be warned they don't have a wide range of sizes (small, medium and large) and they run small. However, they provide plastic bags for you to put your own wet bathing suit inside so carrying your own suit along and then back home is not a problem.


Clare, Robert, Ken, Judy and Jonathan visit Iceland's Blue Lagoon. It is a remarkable place.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Amsterdam Day 1 - August 5, 2016

 Clare and Robert playing on the I Amsterdam sign. 

 Bikes, bridges, boats and canals are icons of Amsterdam. 

Amsterdam Day 1 - August 5, 2016
Our first day in Amsterdam has come to a close. We spent it exploring beyond the immediate neighborhood. Our apartment is located near museums including the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Somewhat farther away we found , in due time, Central Station and even the location of the apartment Mom, Dad and I stayed in 16 years ago when last here. Yesterday we spent a couple of hours exploring the immediate surroundings; today we wandered farther afield. Amsterdam is certainly walkable but you had best pay attention to the countless cyclists and motor scooter riders. While the vast majority of them follow the same rules of the road that cars do their bike lane is right next to the sidewalk and easy to stray into. It is certainly an extra challenge for anyone with low vision , let alone blind people; walking here can be a real trial even though traffic lights have audible warnings for when you can cross or not.

We walked around for several hours with notable breaks to take in the Van Gogh Museum. He certainly led a troubled life and yet during his productive career, just ten years, he would have a large impact on the world of painting. It is a remarkable museum even if it is somewhat crowded.

Later in the day, a pleasantly warm partly cloudy afternoon, we took a canal boat tour. You get a bit of a sense of the city's age when doing that. You pick up a few tidbits of information along the way too. It is a nice change of pace.

We wrapped our day up with a jazz concert at the Concert-Gebouw. That was a very fine way to top off the first full day here in Amsterdam.

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