Day 7 – Wind, Waterfalls, and SUN!

by Jenn

Today, Jeff and I ventured to Vik, the southern most city in Iceland, and saw the sun rise and set on our journey.  I still cannot get over both the morning and evening twilight – so blue and so much longer than in California.  And the blues aren’t the only colors – the sky itself becomes a rainbow.  It is awesome.  We made quite a few stops for photos on the way to and from Vik, but the main stops were Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss – 2 big water falls and a bunch of other little ones.  Another highlight was that we saw the sun for the first time in a week!  Being from sunny Southern California, Jeff missed his friend and was excited to get out of the car when it popped above the clouds to say hello.  It had been behind heavy clouds in the daylight the other times we were out, but today we actually saw it completely above the clouds, shining bright.

Here is our little road trip in photos:

Day 6 – Low Key in Reykjavik

by Jenn

Didn’t do too much today.  After going to bed between 5 and 6am, it was hard to wake up at 9:45 and run downstairs for breakfast, but we did.  Afterward, we had to nap – except that I can’t stop reading The DaVinci Code, so I didn’t sleep.  About 1pm we finally went to town just to walk around and shop a bit then have lunch at The English Pub.  At 3 I crashed while Jeff caught up on some work, and then we went back out for twilight photos and dinner at Cafe Paris.  Tomorrow I think we will be ready earlier and can head south in the daylight to see some more sights.  Here are a few things we saw today:

Day 5 – Exploring Reykjavik and More Northern Lights

by Jenn

Woke up late this morning… or afternoon as the case was.  Missed breakfast at the hotel but had a smoothie from across the street then headed to town.  We went to the settlement museum and learned about the pre-Christian era and a bit about Yule (Christmas).  We then went up to the bell tower at the church – the highest point in the city to see the sunset.

Our long day yesterday must have really worn me out because I was in such need of a nap after only having been awake for 4 hours.  We decided to skip it and go back to the hot pot instead.  Good idea.  Ate a hot dog on the way then afterward, came back to the hotel for dinner and warmth before driving 3 hours north for more Northern Lights.  We stopped a few times and ended up somewhere around the town of Hunathing Vestra.

On the way beck we stopped more, just outside of Boragnes by the water where the light danced even more than we had previously seen.  It is truly amazing to see the movement of the dancing lights across the sky.  Jeff set up a time lapse in our northern most spot and over a series of just a half dozen photos, you really start to get the idea.

We got back to Reykjavik and could even still see a faint light in the sky, so we took a few here as well but it is 4am now, so time to turn in.

Here are just a handful from today:

Iceland Day 4 – Gulfoss, Geysir, Thingvellir, Hot Pot and Photos around Reykjavik

by Jenn

Wow we did a LOT today.  Woke up before the sun (easy to do!), ate breakfast and made the 2.5 hour, icy, snowy drive to Gullfoss (The Golden Waterfall).  It was freezing cold out there and of course I slipped and fell on some hard ice, but it was worth it (minus the slip) to see the amazing fall (the waterfall, not my fall).  The waterfall is huge and drops twice within a few hundred meters.  Thank goodness they were not allowed to damn it up and harness the power, it is too special for that.

We traveled back down our same path of the Golden Circle to Geysir – the Old Faithful of Iceland.  Getting to see the sun rise behind it was neat as well.

Our last stop of the morning trip was Thingvellir which was actually just before the 3:30pm sunset.  Jeff and I made a very long journey on more ice, but managed to stay upright this time. The tectonic plates were an interesting sight to see – I found it sad that the 3 tour groups that came while we were there simply stopped, used the restroom, and got on their way without ever trying to see the land shift.

Back in Reykjavik we had to return our rental car due to what sounded like faulty breaks – scary, I know, after 5 hours of driving on ice.  But it wasn’t a problem at all and then we got our evening nap before heading to Laugardalur, a Hot Pot (Geo-thermal public pools).  It was so relaxing and really helped with my sore muscles from the stressful drive and hard fall.  We got yummy hotdogs right outside on our way out.

After a quick stop for warmer clothes we went back downtown to ride around the city and make quick stops for some night-time photos.  The lights around the city are beautiful this time of year.  Tomorrow is supposed to be the official kick off of Christmas celebrations (I think it has something to do with the 12 days of Christmas), so that should be fun.

Here are some of the many many photos from today!

Day 3 – The Blue Lagoon

by Jenn

Briefly seen on an episode of The Bachelor years ago, the Blue Lagoon was a must visit destination for this trip.  We don’t have many plans while we were here but I am glad we made this one of them,  We started the morning about 7am local time with breakfast at our hotel.  We then made the drive to Grendavik where we arrived at the Lagoon a little early – before they opened and before the sun rose.  Of course even after entering and spending the “day” at the baths, we never saw the sun.  The chilling wind whipped our faces as we huddled in the naturally toasty warm water from the geothermal earth.

Included in our day were some interesting skin treatments, a glass of champagne while we waded in the water, and a delicious 3-course lunch at LAVA, a unique restaurant overlooking the lagoon.

We thought we would spend a few hours at the destination – but it was so relaxing we stayed past sunset and ended up leaving around 4pm.

Super sleepy after the lull we were put into from the warm waters and the drive in the dark back to the hotel, Jeff is sleeping now while I write and I will probably sleep soon as well.  I am not sure what time zone we are existing right now but 12 hours of sleep per day is something I could get used to.

For tomorrow’s daylight hours, we hope to make our way to some waterfalls, and the Auroral predictions for the evening look promising.

Wish us luck!

Here are the photos from today!

Off

Day 1, Part 2 – SEA to RVK

by Jenn

Just a few shots from the OC and Seattle Airport and IcelandAir flight Saturday/Sunday that we didn’t post before.  I enjoyed all of the translations to Icelandic on board and the informational videos about the country.

Day 2 – Iceland, Northern Lights

by Jeff McNeil

After having a tricky time getting our rental car after being a given a key that only opened the trunk, our next day… err… night… um… afternoon…  began when Jenn and I woke up after nap at about 3:00pm local time.  The downtown of Reykjavik is a nice small town, but on a Sunday evening was pretty dead.  Following dinner for breakfast at an English pub Jenn and I drove an hour north to Borgarnes.  I played navigator using the tablet with GPS to tell Jenn where we wanted to go:  through a 6 kilometer long underwater tunnel, to the shoreline of a lake far away from big cities and small towns.  It was in the middle of nowhere.  One car passed us in the hour and a half we were there.  The photos of the Auroras in this location were so amazing.  You can see them below.  At first it looked like just clouds, reflecting light from nearby cities… but there were no nearby cities!  We pointed our cameras up, uncapped the lens and shot a test picture.  What came next on the screen is the first aurora image below.  We spent the next hour taking images together with the lights above us.  It was a subtle moment of realization but that is what made it all the more special.  It was a secret between nature and the two of us.  We captured the beautiful auroras under the chilled moonless night.  A moment I will never forget on the snowy shore of that isolated lake.

Iceland Day 1, Part 1 – LAX to Seattle

by Jenn

Our journey has begun.  We are currently in Seattle waiting for our 10 hour flight to Iceland to board.  This morning we were so happy to get to the airport we waited outside the condo hoping each car pulling into the complex was the cab.  The flight left a little early from John Wayne and arrived to Seattle with a bumpy landing.  Our new tablet worked great as we watched Johnny Depp in his first Pirate’s role. The Seattle International terminal is undergoing renovation so there are not a lot of places to plug into for power, but Jenn and I are masters at finding one.  We are excited to get on-board,, especially since it is not snack time until we are airborne.

Iceland Sights – Blue Lagoon

by Jeff McNeil
Iceland Blue Lagoon

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon natural geothermal hot springs

The Blue Lagoon geothermal hot springs in Iceland are one of the most popular hot springs in the world.  Rated by National Geographic as one of their bucket-list places to visit.  The hot springs are fed by a near by geothermal power plant which takes super heated water from 6000 ft within the earth to create steam to power the turbine.  The pools are the excess water pumped up from within the earth and are at a consistent 102°F.  Your average spa is set to 103°F.  In Iceland the summer months have mild day time temperatures to allow slowly dip into thw warm water, however in the winter the outside air temp can be hovering around 32°F… you will see just how fast can you jump into the water.

Recent films or shows shot in Iceland were Prometheus, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, James Bond: Die Another Day, Amazing Race, America’s Top Model & the Bachelorette.

Ireland + Iceland = Happy Jennifer

by Jeff McNeil

Northern Lights above IcelandWe are going to the I-lands, Ireland and Iceland!  We just booked our flight to Reykjavik this afternoon and are extremely excited about it.  I am sure you are wondering why we want to go to a frozen land during the coldest month of the year?  Two words… aurora borealis.  In the longer days of winter, in the higher latitudes you get the best conditions for the auroras.  Jenn and I are going to pack our warm clothes, grab our camera gear and hop a plane to Iceland.  When we land there will be only 4 hours of “daylight” when the sun is in the sky, the remainder of the time will be twilight or night as the earth spins away from the sun.

From Wikipedia, the universal source for all known knowledge:

An aurora (plural: aurorae or auroras) is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere). The charged particles originate in the magnetosphere and solar wind and, on Earth, are directed by the Earth’s magnetic field into the atmosphere. Aurora is classified as diffuse or discrete aurora. Most aurorae occur in a band known as the auroral zone,which is typically 3° to 6° in latitudinal extent and at all local times or longitudes. The auroral zone is typically 10° to 20° from the magnetic pole defined by the axis of the Earth’s magnetic dipole. During a geomagnetic storm, the auroral zone will expand to lower latitudes. The diffuse aurora is a featureless glow in the sky which may not be visible to the naked eye even on a dark night and defines the extent of the auroral zone. The discrete aurora are sharply defined features within the diffuse aurora which vary in brightness from just barely visible to the naked eye to bright enough to read a newspaper at night. Discrete aurorae are usually observed only in the night sky because they are as bright as the sunlit sky. Aurorae occasionally occur poleward of the auroral zone as diffuse patches or arcs (polar cap arcs), which are generally invisible to the naked eye.

In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621. Auroras seen near the magnetic pole may be high overhead, but from farther away, they illuminate the northern horizon as a greenish glow or sometimes a faint red, as if the Sun were rising from an unusual direction. Discrete aurorae often display magnetic field lines or curtain-like structures, and can change within seconds or glow unchanging for hours, most often in fluorescent green.