Author Topic: The Not Your Something Fishy Iceland Trip by PBaruch  (Read 1944 times)

Offline PBaruch

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: May 2013
  • Posts: 2108
  • Total likes: 79
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 2
    • View Profile
  • Location: HutzNPlutz
The Not Your Something Fishy Iceland Trip by PBaruch
« on: February 06, 2016, 10:54:55 PM »
Here is a trip report from our summer 2015 to Iceland.  Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading. (This trip report was formerly posted in the Iceland thread before the creation of a dedicated trip report section).

Initially, I would like to express sincere gratitude to my good buddy for helping me book our Icelandair flights.  Many thanks. Your help was greatly appreciated.

We arrived at KEF on Sunday night intending on spending the first night of our trip at the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel.  We met up with Sofus, a part time taxi driver/student/plumber, who became our taxi driver for the rest of the trip.  As I later learned, having multiple jobs in Iceland isn't uncommon as many people work in tourism during the hectic summer months and do something else during the winter.

We decided to stay at the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel on the first night of our arrival and then again for Shabbos, for reasons which will be discussed below.  Things didn't go exactly as planned.  We arrived at the Blue Lagoon on Monday morning at 2:30 a.m. (Iceland time) to an empty lobby.  After ringing the front desk bell a few times, a very wet attendant came running out.  He had clearly been soaking in the private hotel lagoon, a nice perk of the job.  After repeating my name a few times, I learned to my dismay that we didn't have a reservation.  Apparently the person who took our reservation didn't properly book it.  Further, since the hotel only has 15 rooms (they are presently expanding) they couldn't just give us another room because they were fully booked.  I later learned that the hotel had messed up another unfortunate fellow who booked a number of rooms for a conference only to show up and be told that the rooms were still under construction and wouldn't be ready until September.  Luckily, in our case, the front desk attendant was able to find us a room at another hotel nearby.  We loaded our bags back into the taxi and Sofus drove us to the brand new Geo Hotel.

At the Geo Hotel, the front desk attendant was a very pleasant Scotsman.  When asked how a Scotsman ended up in Iceland, I was told that he initially came for a visit, met a girl and had a baby.  The rest is history.  He also spoke fluent Icelandic.  Apparently, he was forced to learn Icelandic when his boss stopped speaking to him in English.  I wonder if he speaks Icelandic with a Scottish accent. 

The next morning, Sofus picked us up at the hotel and drove us to pick up our camper truck, our home for the next four nights.  After a brief orientation, we were off.  The truck was a 2008 Ford F350 with a camper in the bed.
 
IMG-20150629-WA0000 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Although the truck was old (by USA rental standards) and had 125k Kilometers, the camper was brand new.  It took a bit of getting used to drive this behemoth.  For instance, you would normally expect a vehicle to stop once you press on the brake.  Not with this truck.  I quickly learned that I had to start braking about a block before I needed to stop.  That being said, once I got used to the truck, it was relatively easy to drive as long as I didn't have to back up.

We then drove to the local Reykjavik airport for our helicopter charter to the "inside the volcano" tour of Thrihnukagigur Volcano.  In this tour, you either hike ( a few kilometers) or take a helicopter charter from the Reykjavik airport to the volcano, which we chose to do.  Once there, you are lowered by a construction type lift into the magma chamber.  As some of you may know, I have a thing for volcanoes and lava and once I learned about this experience, I just had to go to Iceland.  For this trip, we booked the helicopter excursion, which was the least expensive way to get a semi private tour of the volcano.  With the hiking tour, you are stuck with a group of 15 descending into the magma chamber. However, if you take the helicopter tour, they take you to the magma chamber in between the regularly scheduled hiking tours.  If you fill up the helicopter with your family/friends, you will pretty much have the magma chamber all to yourself for about a half hour.  This experience was well worth it and I even managed to convince a frum family we met up with on the plane to join us.  The only thing that I'm pissed off about is that the volcano people refused to let me take the baby into the magma chamber.  I thought it would make for an awesome family picture.  Feh.

Here are some photos from the volcano tour:

View from the helicopter of the opening in the volcano.

DSC_2378 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Kids getting ready to descend into the magma chamber.

DSC_2398 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Elevator descending into the magma chamber.

DSC_2400 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2401 by P Bryan, on Flickr

My daughter inside the magma chamber.  What did your kids do on their summer vacation?

DSC_2431 by P Bryan, on Flickr

After the volcano tour, we drove around Reykjavik hunting for kosher food and supplies.  After realizing that neither the hotel we had stayed at on Sunday night (or the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel) had microwaves, we went to the Elko store (an Icelandic version of Bestbuy) and bought a 220v microwave (to heat up Mealmart box meals) and crock pot (for Shabbos).  We forgot to get a VAT form from the store to get a refund of the taxes (DW insisted on bringing back the microwave and crock pot) so if any of you decide to purchase something that you will take back with you, remember to ask the store for a VAT form.  Given that one of the major supermarkets in Reykjavik ("Bonus") has a large pig as its mascot, we didn't really expect to find much in the way of kosher food.  We only managed to find three things with a hechsher: (i) Popcorn chips; (ii) Nature Valley bars; and (iii) Powerade.  Even American brands such as Pringles didn't have a hechsher. 

We ended Monday by camping out at Thingvellir National Park in the parking lot by the visitor center.  There was a "pay" toilet (which isn't too uncommon in Iceland as we later learned) where it cost you 200 ISK (~$1.50) to use the loo. This is where the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates can be clearly seen in the cracks or faults which traverse the region.  For those who are interested (and I know of one DDF member who has done this), you can dive into the lake and touch both plates at the same time.  We aren't divers (yet) and didn't have time for this activity anyways.
   
Continental drift - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Continental drift is the movement of the Earth's continents relative to each other, thus appearing to "drift" across the ocean bed. [2] The speculation that ...
Read more...

The next morning we took a charter super jeep tour to Langjokull Glacier.  The glacier is in the highlands and requires driving on unpaved roads.

The super jeep.

 DSC_2501 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150630-WA0005 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2711 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2713 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Views along the way:

DSC_2494 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2557 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2500 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Luckily for us, our super jeep had huge tractor type tires and had no difficulty navigating the large mounds of snow still covering parts of the road.  The roads were impassible to everything else, including a bunch of land rovers we saw along the way. 

Can your jeep do this?

DSC_2531 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2532 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2533 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Since we were the only tour heading out to Langjokull Glacier that day, we had the entire route to ourselves.  The scenery was spectacular and it was an interesting experience driving on the glacier. 

On the glacier.

DSC_2573 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2598 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150630-WA0015 by P Bryan, on Flickr

On the way down the glacier, we had a flat tire.  Our driver/guide Jonas quickly fixed whatever the problem was.  Not sure how many others can say they had a flat while driving on a glacier.

After our glacier tour, we went to the Laugardalur Swimming Pool, a top rated public pool in Reykjavik.  The water was clean and refreshing and they had hot tubs with different temperature ratings.  However, the changing room/shower area was a revelation.  Apparently, the people in Iceland have no problem showering naked in front of everyone else.  You do your best to avert your eyes but sometimes you just can't help it if something is dangling literally right in front of you.  After Laugardalur, we drove back to Thingvellir and stayed at a campground.  I made a bbq at about midnight.  The next day, we began the drive to the Golden Circle.

Here is a picture taken at the campground.

DSC_2735 by P Bryan, on Flickr

In our Golden Circle tour, we went to Geysir, Gulfoss, and Seljalandsfoss.  Here are some pictures from our Golden Circle Tour:

DSC_2758 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2836 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2841 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2906 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2914 by P Bryan, on Flickr

We made a bbq at Skogafoss and then at about midnight drove to Jokulsarlon, arriving at 4:00 a.m.  Jokulsarlon is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajokull National Park.  Along the way, we passed by awe inspiring scenery which words cannot describe, including  Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that erupted in 2010 and grounded flights throughout Europe due to the ash cloud.  The drive itself was worth the trip to Jokulsarlon.   

DSC_2919 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2874 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2883 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our view upon arrival at Jokulsarlon:

DSC_3064 by P Bryan, on Flickr

While everyone else was shluffing, I woke up at 7:00 a.m. feeling refreshed and decided to take a walk.  I saw arctic terns fishing and flying back to their nests with their catch.  My attempt to get closer to the nests was promptly responded to by multiple dive bomb attacks.  When everyone woke up, we did a duck boat tour where we saw 1000 year old icebergs (I really should have brought some whiskey) and seals.  A little later in the day DW and my older kids did a zodiac boat tour while I stayed behind with the baby.  (DW says if you have a choice to do the zodiac tour as they take the zodiacs right up to the icebergs).  We ended up spending the entire day at Jokulsarlon.  Here are some pictures taken at Jokulsarlon:

DSC_2946 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2958 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2964 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2985 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2992 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_3046 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_3050 by P Bryan, on Flickr

After our boat tours, we drove across the road to a black sand beach where I had the opportunity to photograph ice washed up on the black sand.  That evening, we began our trek back to Reykjavik for Shabbos.  We drove for a while and stopped to stay the night at the Skaftafell Campground.  Hot showers cost 500ISK (~$3.75) for 5 minutes.  They also had a washing machine and dryer.  While I did the laundry, DW, my older daughter, and the baby (in a carriage) hiked to Svartifoss, a beautiful waterfall framed by hexagonal columns.  From this campground, they lead tours where you can walk on the glacier.

On Friday morning, we continued our drive back to Reykjavik and didn't really have much time for any touring.  Once again, we gazed at the awe inspiring landscape on the way back.  We returned the camper truck at about 4:00 p.m. and met our buddy Sofus who drove us to the Blue Lagoon Clinic.  Along the way I had to fill up the camper with gas.

Can someone please tell me which button to press for S&S gas rewards?

DSC_3123 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Luckily, this time the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel had our reservation.  While driving, we called the hotel to ask that our Pomegranate meal that we intended to eat Friday night be taken out of the freezer (we left it at the hotel when we arrived Sunday night).  We weren't surprised to learn that they didn't take the meal out of the freezer.  I asked the front desk attendant if there was a way they could heat up the meal for us and was told they didn't have an oven but that there was a restaurant on site.  I then inquired if the restaurant would heat up our meal but was told in a rather stern tone that "we don't do that in Iceland."

Pictures of the private Blue Lagoon available only to guests of the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel:

DSC_3145 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_3148 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150705-WA0000 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150705-WA0008 by P Bryan, on Flickr

This is the public Blue Lagoon:

IMG-20150705-WA0016 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_3173 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150705-WA0014 by P Bryan, on Flickr

They opened it up just for us.  Just kidding - we got there early when no-one else was there so I could take photographs.

After taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon, we put a Pomegranate chicken meal into the crock pot, which was our Friday night meal.  We then put a few Mealmart cholent meals along with potatoes and carrots into the crock pot, which was our Shabbos meal.  We also placed eggs into the crock pot which we ate for shalosh seudos.  After eating the Friday night meal, DW lit candles.  We davened, made kiddush, washed, benched and went to sleep.  Shabbos started at about 11:30 at night and ended after 1:30 a.m.  Since the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel is located in the middle of a lava field, we couldn't go anywhere to walk around.  Then again, it was a good opportunity to catch up on a weeks worth of lack of sleep.

We made havdalah on Sunday morning and then went to take a soak in the public lagoon (which opened at 8:00 a.m.) and then back to the hotel for a soak in the private lagoon (which opens at 9:00 a.m.).  This was one of the main reasons we decided to stay in the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel.  The hotel has a private lagoon for hotel guests only.  While the public lagoon gets very crowded, there are rarely more than a few people in the private lagoon at any given time.  Further, guests at the hotel get free access to the public lagoon.  Of course the baby went into the lagoon as well, although technically you have to be two years old to go into the lagoon.  (Some may already know I don't much care for rules).

After relaxing in the lagoon for a few hours, we packed out and met Sofus, who drove us back to the airport.  Before this trip DW didn't want to go to Iceland and now we are planning a winter trip to see the northern lights.  DW says she wants to go back because we didn't have time to go to the Viking Museum or the Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik.  I'm also planning a two week camping trip to circle the entire island.  (DW says its not happening but we'll see about that).  Anyone interested in a kosher caravan tour of Iceland?

After a week in Iceland, I felt like we barely scratched the surface and there is so much more to do and see.

PS:  In case any of you are wondering, BI is still number one.
What do you do after your dreams come true?

Offline Something Fishy

  • Global Moderator
  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • **********
  • Join Date: Jan 2011
  • Posts: 6174
  • Total likes: 969
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 43
    • View Profile
    • Kosher Horizons
  • Location: Not Brooklyn
Re: The Not Your Something Fishy Iceland Trip by PBaruch
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2016, 11:14:34 PM »
Like the title ;D.
Check out my site for epic kosher adventures: Kosher Horizons

Offline sam28

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Jun 2010
  • Posts: 1428
  • Total likes: 11
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
Re: The Not Your Something Fishy Iceland Trip by PBaruch
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2016, 11:53:40 PM »
Wow nice TR thanks

Offline Tovia

  • Dansdeals Silver Elite
  • **
  • Join Date: Jan 2016
  • Posts: 69
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: The Not Your Something Fishy Iceland Trip by PBaruch
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2016, 11:59:07 PM »
Nice TR, fun trip.
Nice to see the little one rolling around (no pun intended) with the volcano hat.
My signature is worth more than that.

Offline Luvtotravel

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Dec 2012
  • Posts: 2612
  • Total likes: 41
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 6
    • View Profile
  • Location: Ny
Re: The Not Your Something Fishy Iceland Trip by PBaruch
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2016, 01:33:56 AM »
beautiful. already read it in iceland thread but definitely worth a reread!
Quote
In case any of you are wondering, BI is still number one.
?
Don't wait for the perfect moment; take the moment and make it perfect.

Offline yakrot

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Dec 2013
  • Posts: 1712
  • Total likes: 21
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
    • View Profile
Re: The Not Your Something Fishy Iceland Trip by PBaruch
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2016, 02:51:40 AM »

beautiful. already read it in iceland thread but definitely worth a reread!?
big island Hawaii

Offline 3yummyboys

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 1730
  • Total likes: 24
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
Re: The Not Your Something Fishy Iceland Trip by PBaruch
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2016, 09:13:05 AM »
Nice! Great write up! Thanks

Offline LoLo

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2014
  • Posts: 3541
  • Total likes: 117
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: The Not Your Something Fishy Iceland Trip by PBaruch
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2016, 01:30:40 PM »
Nice TR, Beautiful pics!