New Years in Iceland; Moulin Rouge Paris; Ski-ing in the Alps and Amsterdam..again :)

We spend the last day of 2018 back in Reykjavik  taking it easy, using the spa facilities (there’s something sublime about dashing from a sauna through icy air, into a warm pool and sitting there while snowflakes twirl above you) and exploring the city.  The whole of Iceland is dramatic landscapes, stark, colours pared down to white, grey and blue.  Here is no exception though of course more shops and houses, many of them, specifically in the Main Street very quaint. The town sweeps down to the harbour with the towering snow covered mountains behind that. 

Reykjavik city centre
Reykjavik city centre
Reykjavik city centre

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Iceland Day 2 & 3 – Glacier Hiking & Ice Caves

Ooops guys, I almost forgot to include the final stop we had before spending the night at UMI hotel – it was at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall which has it’s origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. It roars and splutters, icy cold spray stinging the face as we shuffle carefully closer to it over icy and wet stones.   The light was fading fast and I was beginning to really feel the cold so we didn’t linger long – nor was it easy to get a decent pic however this probably accurately reflects how I was feeling at the time.


The following morning we set off at a reasonable 8:30 am to further explore the South Coast – Skógafoss, a waterfall 15 metres (49 feet) across situated on the river of Skógá which runs through the Skógárgil canyon until descending dramatically from the edge of the moor for a 60 m (200 ft) drop as the Skógafoss waterfall.  The waterfall and the river above were declared a protected natural monument in 1987.  Now ensconced in my Mitchelin man outershell pants and thicker socks it was easier to appreciate the beauty without feeling the cold.

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Iceland – Glacial and untamed

Arriving at Keflavik airport after a 3 hour flight from Amsterdam we immediately boarded a bus for a 40 minute ride to Blue Lagoon spa, a spa built around geothermic waters.   We highly recommend the Private Retreat Spa option.  Although more expensive it allowed us to jump the long queue and gave us a private room where we could store our luggage.  It also allowed access to a self treatment room, the restaurant, private pool and relaxing rooms.  All in all worth the extra bucks if you can afford it.  Unfortunately you cannot take pictures there so you will just have to imagine us in this space

We shed our clothes ate a light lunch and then dived right into the warm pool.  The  warming water and ice cold air causing steamy tendrils to rise above us.  When our fingers were pruney enough we climbed out and went to a room where attendants guided us through a process of scrubs of salt, volcanic ash, applications of silica and algae followed by a lovely soothing oil which we applied to our faces.  Feeling renewed we went to lie in one of the relaxing rooms where chairs and loungers surrounded a little fire.  Soon we were both dozing. We reluctantly roused ourselves and got ready to head to the hotel.  An amazing experience I can highly recommend, of course, try not to miss your bus back to Reykjavik as we did. Instead we caught a taxi and, since nothing is cheap in Iceland that cost us a cool 18000 Kroner, around R1800.  Arriving at The Central Hotel Midgardur on a blast of frosty air we checked in and enjoyed a lovely dinner in their restaurant before hitting the sack in preparation for an early start.

Reykjavik - church in the distance
Reykjavik – church in the distance

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Amsterdam old friend ….

Stepping out of Amsterdam Centraal the neon lights and Christmas decor blinked against a palette of greys.  A chilly wind pushed back our hoods and teasing out hair (for those of us that have hair).  Suddenly aware of how inadequate our jackets were we prioritised going shopping for jackets made for European winters.

I’d wondered how I’d feel about my old friend Amsterdam visiting her in the Winter instead of Spring or Summer when fields of brightly coloured tulips abound and pots of pretty flowers overflow. I need not have feared – the welcome was as warm as ever even if the streets were the quietest I’d ever seen.  It was the 26th of December and clearly people were recovering still from their Christmas festivities.

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Friendly Easygoing Seattle

Seattle is poised between the salt waters of Puget Sound and the fresh waters of Lake Washington. Beyond the waters lie two rugged mountain ranges, the Olympics to the west and the Cascades to the east.  Built on hills and around water, in a mild marine climate it is abundant in vegetation and also known as the Emerald City due to the greenery within and around the city.  The streets are pretty easy to navigate and we found The Fairmont Hotel easily. Continue reading “Friendly Easygoing Seattle”

Strolling the terraces Levou; Cycling in Sion; Snow comparing Chamonix

Day two in Geneva brought us yet another beautiful spring day and Pierre and I set out for the station, caught a train to Montreaux where we walked around the market while waiting for the ferry, and what a ferry it was – I must say I thought it rather grand compared to the old ferry to Ellis Island in the USA .


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The best part about travelling are the experiences and the people you meet along the way. We are now travelling to Geneva, somewhere we haven’t been before, so plenty of new experiences await, and we’ll be staying with a couple we met in Morocco, Sara and Randall .

We land in a very chilly Amsterdam and make our connecting flight easily, it may help that the flight itself has been delayed.  A further delay when upon landing in Geneva Dot recalls she has left her passport on the plane…!  They find it easily though it takes awhile and then we are finally on our way.

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Magnificent Mountains of Springdale Utah and # Vegas Strong in Nevada

What to say about about Springdale, Utah? A small town in the shadow of the giant mountain ranges of Zion National Park it was originally settled in 1862 by Mormon farming communities fleeing flooding in nearby Northrop. It was they who named the canyon Zion.  At last count (2016) it had a population of 570.  Continue reading “Magnificent Mountains of Springdale Utah and # Vegas Strong in Nevada”

Colorado: Alpine Perfection and Dining in Denver

This part of the world couldn’t be more different to New York! The people are chatty and friendly, joshing one another and new arrivals equally. It all started with the train ride from the plane to luggage collection…yes, this airport is so huge you have to take a bus to get to luggage collection, and then, if you are hiring a car you get another bus that takes you put to the car hire section. In terms of size it’s the largest in the States 33,531 acres to be exact. It also has some cool conspiracy theories attached to it  but sadly I didn’t get to see any of the creepy murals.

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Serendipity and Heaven

We woke early on the morning of the chimp trek because ideally one wants to be on the trail early, around 6am. Unlike Gorilla’s, whose sheer size and weight makes spending the night in a tree unlikely if not fatal (we heard of one Silverback who’d died falling out of a tree) the chimps build themselves nests high up in the branches and spend the afternoons in the tree tops sunning themselves, so the best time to see them closer to the ground is in the mornings when they come down to forage. We’d just got on the road when our guides Sam and Moses got a call to say the Chimp guide, a gent by the lofty name of Everest, was stuck. He’d been going to ride with another two tourists but he’d just discovered that their car had broken down the night before. We turned around immediately and about half a mile down the road we picked up Everest, Cyril and Yang.  Everest was born and raised in Rwanda, Cyril was from the States now working for a few months in Rwanda and Yang is Chinese but studying and working in the States for the last couple of years.

So we set out, 3 couples in the group, following Everest who was talking to trackers ahead. We’d come to find chimp’s in the trees but, what we didn’t expect was the sheer colour and variety of the flora and fauna that nestled beneath the tree canopy.  Brilliantly coloured fungi clung to rocks, beautiful orchids peeped between branches or nestled in valleys, butterflies flitted past while we stepped carefully around dark streams of giant ants…I felt like Alice through the looking glass, peering at one rather bold caterpillar I found myself looking for his pipe.  Everest had to plead with us “come, we need to find the chimps. Pictures later.”


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