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Snow in August!

October 1st, 2019 · eating, Experiencing, Farms, Food, Garden, Iceland, Musings, Site Seeing, travel

We’re in Iceland.  It’s August 11th, and there’s snow!   Not a lot, but the kind that in Massachusetts, and parts of New England signals the closeness of winter.

We are in Akureyri in the northwest area of Iceland, and we are having what will be the worst weather in the trip.  It is pouring rain, high and strong winds and a brish 41 degrees F.

The morning was scheduled to whale watch.   When we signed up for this particular Road Scholar trip, we had discussed that we weren’t likely to go on this segment.  We live a couple of hours from the Boston shoreline, and have been whale watching.  It’s a fun event, but when the weather is bad, it’s not really that enjoyable (at least to us).   So we informed our guide that we’d be skipping the pleasure of being on a boat chasing whales for the morning.

The whale watching ship — we weren’t on it! (No whales were harmed or even spotted!)

For us, we took advantage of the time to rest a bit, and rearrange some packing and that sort of thing.  We needed to join the group at the fjord dock when the ship came in; just a few blocks but a cold and windy walk.   However, we did have time to stop in at the Hof Cultural Center and look around.  It was on the itinerary, but only in a day or two did we realize that the others didn’t get to see it.   There was a lovely shop, and some public art in the hallways.

Main lobby/hallway of the Cultural Center

Wilhelmina Lever – first woman to “vote” in Iceland in 1863

My new friend…



The ship came in, everyone unloaded and we were off to a great diary farm called “Kaffi Ku“.   WOw – it was amazing.  Most of us had never seen such an interesting way to automat a diary farm – I recently learned that there are actually a few around Massachusetts including one in the valley where we live.

We had a most amazing lunch of a grass fed burger from the cows raised right out back, an apple crisp and ice cream also made right there.  After lunch we were given a tour of the diary barn and how the automation works.   Follow the Kaffi Ku link to see a video about it.   It’s hard to explain or to really understand from my photos.



Hard to see – a cow getting milked by a machine driven by computer

The automatic feeding machine in the dairy bard

The owner of the Farm and cafe giving us a tour

Our dessert!

Cows roaming about – some choosing to go get milked, some to go outside, some to eat…











It continued pouring and blowing the rest of the day.   After the far, several of us were brave and had a stroll through the Botanical garden and down the hill back to our hotel.  I would have loved to have seen it on a nice day.

Hubby and a few other of the tour members in the Botanical garden — with all of our layers on!








Dinner was in the hotel, and then a short bus ride to. local church where a musician entertained us for a short time in Icelandic and English.   This actually wasn’t my favorite event of the trip – I found the entertainer a bit on the corny and someone who makes assumptions about what “Americans” want to hear.  But a nice way to end the day, and another gorgeous local church to see.   The small churches were becoming one of my favorite places to visit on this trip.

Lovely church in Akureyri









Where’s the snow you ask?  Stay tuned for the next blog post!

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What does the Franklin County Fair have to do with Iceland you ask…

September 14th, 2019 · Children, Education, Food, Iceland, Musings, Site Seeing, travel

North County Line Dancers!

Well,  nothing really!   However, overnight visitors, line dancing in the Fair Parade, and enjoying an amazing late summer weekend will keep me from getting my blog entries about Iceland finished!   So here’s a few pictures from a great weekend of Fair and good friends!

A local orchard, Clarkdales, always displays the most amazing fruit!

One of the winning displays in the Round House at the Fair — happens to be influenced by the Nordic countries.


So now that we have cleared that up, let’s get back to Iceland!

Sun going down about 10:00 pm in Akureyri

We are still in Northern Iceland in the town of Akureyri where we begin our day in the hotel at a lovely breakfast.  The hotel is situated right downtown, a block from the fjord, looked down upon by a huge church (which sadly was locked the entire time we were there so we didn’t get to look inside).



After breakfast, we walked a couple of blocks to a hall that I think was the local Lion’s Club space to hear a lecture on Iceland’s geology.  One of the things the lecturer shared with us that intrigued me because it had to do with children, and nothing to do with geology, was that Ash Wednesday is a lot like our Halloween.  Children dress up and create songs and skits which they bring to work places to perform and get treats, all of which is done by lunch time.  But, that aside, we learned a great deal about the volcanoes, solfataras, geothermal and other geological features of the country.  It really helped us understand what we had been seeing, both from the bus windows and on our various stops to walk/hike and look around.

Before I forget, let me mention  that it was quite cold – only in the upper 40s – and very windy with rain on and off all day.  Today we wore all the onion layers we had brought – we were quite comfortable with our SmartWools that’s for sure!

At our first waterfall stop, the wind was so hard, it was challenging to walk frontwards!

All layers used today!

We then drove for about an hour to the Lake Myvatn area;  enjoying a magnificent waterfall and a sulphur steam thermal area with bubbling mud and pseudo craters. 







(P.S.  Notice the tourists doing what all tourists are asked NOT to do in Iceland — off the marked trail and seeing how close to the edge of life you can get to get a selfie!).    We stopped for an excellent buffet at Sel Hotel Myvatn near the pseudo craters.


The word “Myvatn” in Icelandic means “midge,” a small but annoying fly that apparently can be so many that it looks like black clouds are surrounding you!  And, we didn’t see a one!   It was too cold and rainy, so I have to admit that the one item we packed – our head covering mosquito nets – did not get used.

After lunch, a drive to Dimmuborgir to see teh “Kissing Trolls.”    Trolls, hidden people, and other creatures are an important part of Icelandic tradition and story.


Our food today was a lot of lamb based food and lots of veggies.  I had the most amazing lamb soup of the whole trip, and tried something called “Sheep Head jelly” — not jelly at all, but I think likely a type of “luncheon meat” at Sel Hotel Myvatn.

Kissing trolls









And, just for fun, here’s a link to a really fun book that I bought as a souvenir for the family about Iceland’s Trolls.  The author, Brian Pilkington,  has a great collection of books, and if you’re looking for a fun, and different, read, that will make you smile – this might be a good choice!


A little summer flower amongst the wilds of Iceland….


Stay tuned for another wild weather day in Northeast Iceland!




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A taste of Northern Iceland

September 2nd, 2019 · Education, History, Iceland, Lesson Learned, Museums, Musings, Site Seeing, travel

Onwards to the north of Iceland – or at least part of it.  Today’s journey takes us to Iceland’s second largest city: Akureyri.  When we arrived it was 45 degrees, starting to rain, and the weather would get even more interesting!

One of the sweet sights we would see at the end of our long day!

Let me say that anyone who is packing for Iceland, do follow all the suggestions given to you about dressing in layers as if you were an onion.   We did, and these were the days that we would wear almost continually for three days, all the layers we brought with us.  Wool products were the best in terms of socks and next to your body layers.

Our day started with about a 1 and 1/2 hour bus ride, when we stopped at a truck stop for refreshments, and necessaries.  I actually really like bus and truck stops when we travel.  Yes, they have a lot of souvenirs, yet they also have the local truck and bus drivers and local families going on their trips.  And, as a result, I find they sometimes have the most “authentic” snacks that the locals are likely to enjoy.  We love trying candy and sweets when we travel and truck stops generally have all the choices.

After the stop, a shorter bus ride to Gauksmyri Lodge to enjoy an Icelandic horse demonstration and lunch.  (Check out the last picture in this blog about the Lodge’s bucket list — look closely — I bet there’s something on there you’ve never thought to put on your bucket list!)

Hubby and I bundled up for the horse demonstration. It was in the 40s with a strong wind (on 8/9/19!)

I know very little about horses– one important item for these folks was that you call them horses, and not ponies.  They were gorgeous.  We enjoyed a great show of four horses by the handler, owner and two young people.  They told us about the horses history, and their place in Iceland in olden days and today.  We then went to the stables to visit with the horses up close.


3 of the 4 Icelandic horses

The riders demonstrated all five of the gaits for us. The horses are unusual in that they have a 5th gait that is very smooth.


Hubby with a sweet horse in the stables.

The five gaits of the Icelandic horse

After the visit to the stables, we had an incredible lunch of soups and salads: tomato soup, sweet potato soup, and dessert was a crepe with whipped cream (we had a lot of whipped cream in Iceland.  They don’t give you one little dollop either – but a huge serving – yum!)

As you can see from the pictures, it was cold.  The demonstration was outside on some bleachers and they provided really warm blankets.   I inquired about the blankets later, and as it would turn out, eventually I would buy a sweater made by the company.  One of the young people we met on the horses and in the stables was the son of the family who owned the wool business.

After lunch, back on the bus and off to the  Heimilisidnatarsafnid Textile Museum.   It was a new building built in 2003.  They house embroideries, national costumes, wool items and annual exhibits of arts from Iceland.  They also have a room dedicated to a well known woman  (1873-1981) in Iceland who saved and created many beautiful textile items. This was one of my favorite stops on this tour.  I could have spent much more time here – given I love to embroider and do crewel work; I really could have spent hours in this little place.  We were given about 40 minutes, and, of course, other travel mates weren’t half as excited as I!    The museum is also on Facebook if you want to follow them – I really recommend a visit there if you get to that area of Iceland.

Here’s but a few of the amazing items this museum had – the handwork was extraordinary.   One of the things I want to mention about this museum is that they offered cotton gloves – you could put a pair on and you could touch anything in the museum for a closer look!

One of the many traditional cross stitched items.

The museum had a room of traditional clothes. I loved seeing these up close – we had a dance troupe perform for us one night in these type of clothes; so it was marvelous to see them up close.

More of the exquisitely made pieces on display

And, as we went from bus to museum, it rained sideways!  We’d been told this was one reason rain pants and coats were the way to go, and not an umbrella in Iceland.  We found this very true – the wind is just too constant and too strong for hats or umbrellas.















It was a busy day, so another 40 minutes on the bus brought us to the Glaumbaer Turf Farm House.  Really cool, that’s for sure!  Another place, we could have spent a good deal of time.  So fascinating.  Hubby and I are thorough museum folks – that means if someone else spends an hour, we spend three or four.  We love to read most of the displays, ask questions of the docents, and then put that information into context and connection with our other learning.   That is one big reason I think I call myself a traveler and not a tourist.  We don’t travel to just “see.”

Old Icelandic farms were a complex of buildings (really the size of a large room each) united by a central passageway.  This farm had fifteen rooms, not just kitchen, bedroom, but smithy, room for the diary, pantries, storerooms, etc.  If you have harsh winters, this was clearly the way to make it through those winter days! Dirt floors, turf walls.  Folks lived in this type of housing until well into the 1930s in the rural areas of Iceland.

Just a few pictures of the Turf Farm:


The main area contained 11 beds, and since each bed could accommodate 2 people, up to 22 people lived in this complex.  Each person worked and ate in their own bed.  Can you see the board inserted into the front edge of the bed?  That kept them tucked in at night.  Each was personally inscribed and decorated with a prayer.  And, they were not heated!


And so at last, we make it to our destination.  What a full day we’ve had.  After checking into our hotel, we had time for a short walk about the downtown area.  The rain had stopped for a bit, although it was still cold.



Here’s a few last pictures from today’s traveling experiences:   One a great bucket list from the Horse Farm, and the last – look closely — at the stop lights in the lovely town of Akureyri.


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Tigers and lions and…..Wait, nope…..Shark and Scallops and Sushi….oh my….

August 28th, 2019 · eating, Experiencing, Food, Iceland, Itinerary, Musings, Site Seeing

What an amazing day this was in Iceland!

We were off on an hour’s drive to the Snaefellsnes Penisula to the town of Stykkes-holmur (my apologies for misspelling anything – Icelandic is a very difficult language for me!)

We boarded a boat called the “Viking Sushi” — give you any ideas?   For two hours, we sailed the fjord, the captain stopping incredibly close to edges of islands.  We were told there were over 3000 islands — mind you, big, tiny and everything in between!  Upon getting really close to the bits of land, we saw many types of birds – the easiest for most of us to identify being the famous puffin.  It was truly amazing to see all kinds of sea birds in the hundreds nesting upon tight edges of cliffs, on top of the islands in holes dug in the dirt and everything in between.   Here’s an excellent blog about birds of Iceland.

Just a couple of the hundreds, if not thousands, of birds we observed!








After about an hour or so, the captain slowed down and the crew rolled out a huge net from the back of the boat and we trawled in a huge circle for about 15 minutes.  They cranked the net up and dumped it onto a table — what an amazing sight!  I’ll let the pictures tell my words for you!  They cracked open the scallops and sea urchins and we dug in – now that is sushi!   (And, I have never liked scallops, but these were amazing!  I also enjoyed the sea urchin!)   Other creatures came along for the ride; and after we had our fill, all of the creatures were put back into the water.




















But, wait, we aren’t finished with food yet!


















After the sail, we drove to a Shark Farm – yup, Shark Farm.  We heard about the shark fermenting business from one of the owners and enjoyed their several generations of farming museum.  And, yes, we did try some fermented shark dipped in Black Death – a local snapps.   I’ll let the pictures tell the tale of this tasting — let’s just say we didn’t enjoy it half as much as the scallops!

Hubby before he tasted the shark!

Fermenting Shark










On the same farm was a magnificent 1830s farm church with pews from the 1600s and a altar piece that was extraordinary.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the church on the inside.   In a future posting, I have some interior pictures of other churches and tell you more about them.














What a food filled day!  In addition to your three square meals, you don’t often get to eat fresh scallop sushi and fermented shark!

Now that’s experiencing a place and not just seeing it, taking its picture and moving on!

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If you’re only looking at the mountains, you’re missing the fish and agriculture!

August 26th, 2019 · Children, Iceland, Itinerary, Musings, Play, Site Seeing, travel

We began our day at the Northern Light Inn in Grindavik.  We ended our day at the Hotel Borgarnes in Borgarnes.   (A note about the hotel – a good basic place, small, but clean rooms with one of the tinyest bathrooms ever; and a quite good breakfast).

In between, a visit to a family owned fish factory, to a agricultural lecture at the Agricultural Science Center and University, beautiful scenery, and amazing weather.  It was in the 50s, sunny and no wind (we would learn a couple of days later how few days without wind there really are in Iceland).

The fish factory — Stakkavik Ehf” – located in a small village was our first stop.

The fishing fleet

The harbor

Sadly, truly sadly, the fishermen had not brought any fish in that day, so we had to see the processing plant empty.  It would have been amazing to see it in action; but we were too disappointed for the economy of the fisherman that day to feel too badly for ourselves.



They had a couple of short videos to show us both about how the fish was processed; and the lives of the fishermen at sea — I think we all should appreciate our fish a bit more when we eat it!

Floor of the fish processing plant

Our trip to our next stop included a fairly new tunnel under a fjord from there to Borgarnes – about 4 miles – pretty interesting.  I did have the momentary thought about what if a volcano erupts while we’re down there!  Best not to let those thoughts linger when you’re traveling!









After lunch at a country restaurant (sadly, I can’t find the name of it – if I do later, I’ll post it), an amazing location where berries where growing wild all around us (actually, I was to find out that that was true at this time of the year all around Iceland!).   No matter where you go in Iceland, the scenario is always breathtaking!



Then on our way to the Agricultural University of Iceland, where we had a lecture on Icelandic Agriculture.  They are, rightly so, very proud of their history.  Their cows, sheep and horses are of old Nordic origin, while pigs and poultry have been imported; but all imports have strict rules as their animals have been kept separate from other breeds for so long.   The fodder is mostly grass and grass products.  The Icelandic sheep is a north european short tailed breed that they use for meat and wool.  The Icelandic horse is world famous for its five gaits.  All during our visit we were told that they are horses, not ponies, although they are smaller in stature than a horse.  And, no other horses are allowed to come to Iceland, and if an Icelandic horse leaves the island it doesn’t return.

It was interesting to know that pesticide and herbicide use is rare, growth hormones are forbidden as are antibiotics in the feed.  They are working on growing their vegetables in hothouses using geothermal power, as well as automatic diary farms (more on those later as we did visit both on our trip).

While in Hvanneyri, we stopped by the town’s center, looking in on their church, a wool shop and their local history museum.  Really so lovely, and welcoming guides.


The town church

Double thumbed mittens – in the museum display – one side gets wet, flip them around!










And so our day draws to a close, as we drive through more breath-taking scenery to Borgarnes.  A lovely town on the water, with if you remember what I said, the rooom with the smallest bathroom ever (it worked so that’s all that mattered!).  We had time before dinner at the hotel to have a walk about town.

Here it is…..small indeed!










The teacher in me loved this area we found: — the sign says “Play with Rocks.”   The flat area is filled with heavy, yes, real rocks painted different colors.   We saw adults and children over the next couple of days building and moving them around – more pictures in my next post.







We’re still jet lagged, we’re overwhelmed with the beauty before us, the kind people we’re encountering, a Tour Guide who will turn out to be one of the best, and lovely people as our travelmates.   The first two days have whetted our appetites for more of this other worldly island.

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