Thursday, June 23, 2022

Our England Trip Overview

It was a month ago that I posted our ICELAND trip overview, after which the next day we left for England!  It's been that kind of whirlwind, from which we're still catching our photographic breath.  Seriously.

Not that I'm complaining!

Our England trip, a week after Iceland, came in two distinct parts because of being hosted by two different Shutterchance friends.  Still, it was all ENGLAND, and that's what counts:

1.  With LISL in Winsley, Wiltshire, England, from May 24-June 1:

From the get-go, she's the hostess-with-the-mostess!
After her husband died 2 years ago, she moved from Bath to Winsley, 6 miles away.
It was a move from the big city (ca. 100K pop.) to a village of ca. 2K pop.
Besides Five Crowns, a new game for us, we played Qwirkle almost every day.

We're all walkers, so, of course, we took walks!
This one was from her house in Winsley to Bradford-on-Avon, 2 miles away.
The center weathervane is on Lisl's garage, a gift from friends for her 80th birthday last November.
The fish vane is of a gudgeon...a new fish for me.

Lots of impressions along the way for my Shutterchance (SC) photoblog.

These are just some of the flowers I saw on that walk.

And this is just one of the irises in bloom all along the way.

These were in Lisl's garden.

Speaking of which, she's been working on making the garden what she's used to from her past,
but her challenge is getting rid of all the rocks, she says, of which there are boatloads!

Another special walk was up in the Cotswolds where Lisl's husband's ashes were spread.
It's also where Lisl will be "spread" when it's her time, so it was very touching to feel the moment.
Surprisingly, in all the years we have visited friends in England, this was our first time there.

Unbeknownst to us, Lisl took this photo of us!

Nearby, we visited 2 long barrows (burial chambers) from approximately 5,500 years ago.
The first one (top row) no longer has the "hill" covering it, but the second one does.
When I see something like this, I know I'm not in America...or the Netherlands, for that matter!

It so happens that I call Lisl my Big Sister.  
Our fellow Shutterchancer, Chris (bottom-left), calls Astrid his Little Sister.
So to mix things up a bit, one day Chris picked us up to take us to the Steam Museum in Swindon,
32 miles from Winsley, where we were joined by his friend, Katy.
Guess where we ate lunch!!!  WAGAMAMA.  
It's one of our favorite restaurants of all time but a first for them...and they loved it.

Chris took us there because it's a photographic paradise.
I haven't even begun to work on those images for SC but what a heyday that was!

Speaking of Chris, one day he, Lisl and Astrid took a walk without me
because I was under the weather with a cold.  I slept all morning to restore myself.
But these are Astrid's photos that I put into a collage.

Once restored, I continued with the activities, this time with another SC friend, Suzanne,
with whom we met up at the Chief Trading Post in Bristol.
What a crazy, quirky place, full of ins and outs, twists and turns, all stuffed with...stuff.
It was a great place for a coffee break before we drove to Suzanne's for fish-n-chips and Qwirkle.

On the Sunday we were with Lisl, her childhood girlfriend from Ireland, living now in Wales,
came to visit Lisl so as to meet us.  How special is that!
After a fabulous roast pork lunch/dinner at the nearby pub, we walked around Winsley to work it off.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

2.  With CHAD and Norma in Rudloe/Corsham, Wiltshire, England, from June 1-4:

The day we switched home base, Chris picked us up to go meet his partner Jackie at her farm, 
from where she took us to see the Norman parish Church of St. Christopher in Ditteridge.
The front arch/porch is Saxton, which means it's older than a thousand years!
This was when the switch took Chad and Norma's house...who joined us at the church.
They live just 8 miles from Lisl!

A view in the back yard from the church.

Chad and Norma, with whom we have stayed before, had also recently moved, 
so it was time to get acquainted with their new environs.
Fun fact:  Corsham has 15 resident peacocks who are free to roam the town wherever they want!

As you'd guess, we, too, went on walks.
We even stopped and waited for the train to come through the Box Tunnel after we ate at a pub.

Then one day we visited visited the Fox Talbot Museum at the Lacock Abbey in Lacock,
known as Britain's birthplace of photography.  How fitting for us photographers, of course.

Chad is one of our fellow Shutterchancers. 

I used this ceiling boss from the ceiling of the 13th century Lacock Abbey cloisters 
for my birthday greetings on June 13th:  from my heart to yours!

These are just some of the flowers seen on the grounds there.

While at Chad and Norma's we watched most of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee,
just as we would have done if we had been at home.  We loved it!

If you could sum up all the time we had with Lisl and Chad (and Norma), 
you could say it was all around great food and fellowship.  Kinda like how I picture heaven!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Now, for the main reason why we went to England so soon after Iceland:  our Shutterchance Meetup in Oxford!  It happened while we were staying with Lisl, who, sadly, wasn't able to join us because of a funeral memorial she attended.  

It was an all-day trip by 3 different trains, coming and going, with Chris, who orchestrated the entire travel, thankfully.

There were only 12 of us this year, 9 of which are SC bloggers. 
Normally our meetups have been at least twice as big, but it made this one extra cozy.

After a delightful walking tour of the Oxford campus, we all stopped at a pub 
to have a drink/toast to say good-bye, until the next time!

Astrid and I come from these people we have grown to love, having met each other virtually
on our Shutterchance photoblog back in 2007, and then, against all odds, getting married in 2010.
These are the friends who love and support us, as we do them.
Does life get any better?

Monday, May 23, 2022

Our Iceland Trip Overview

Put on your seatbelts because this will be a long post but...mostly in photos!  Those of you who follow us on Facebook have already been-there-seen-that, so feel free to pass this by.  This is, as I often say, FOR THE RECORD.

With a rental car, we drove the Ring Road from and back to Reykjavik, clockwise,
arriving May 6 from Amsterdam and returning back to Amsterdam May 16 (11 days/10 nights).

Day 1, Friday, May 6:  Arrival in Reykjavik, the capital (55 km):

Arrived at Keflavik Airport by 3:30, picked up our rental car, drove 31 miles to Reykjavik,
and arrived at our hotel by 6 p.m.  (The flight was 3.5 hours from Amsterdam.)

A wee walk from the hotel, we found an "electric" place to eat our first Icelandic food:
smoked charr, baked cod and Bríó beer, topped off with Italian ice cream.

Then we took a walk near our hotel to get our first impressions of this city...and country.

Day 2, Saturday, May 7:  Snaefellnes Peninsula (305 km):

Beginning the Ring Road northwest from Reykjavik, I felt like I was in an episode 
from the Lord of the Rings, expecting to see Gandalf and the Hobbits around any corner/curve.

Two major attractions:  the Bjarnarfoss waterfall and the Black Church across the road 3 km away...

...then to the Snaefellsjökull National Park to see the black rocks and cliffs.

Day 3, Sunday, May 8:  Borgarfjördur Fjord near Borgarnes (223 km):

The Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are 2 waterfalls next to each other, where we spent 45 minutes.

On our way back from the falls, we stopped at the Rock 'n' Troll campsite in Fossatún, since trolls
 are a huge part of Icelandic (and Norwegian!) lore.  We had the unexpected surprise of a wee waterfall.

Day 4, Monday, May 9:  Akureyri (342 km):

After 30 min. of driving, we stopped to climb the Grábrók volcano in Bifröst.
The 500+ timber steps did not stop me, though I was a bit wobbly at the end.  HA!

Astrid has always been intrigued by peat, which is used to help stabilize the Dutch dijks,
so it was a must to see in Vidimyri one of the 6 remaining peat churches (center image)
 as well as the Glaunbear turf houses 11 km away.  

That's when we saw our first sheep of the trip, finding out they don't leave the barns
until their lambs are born.  From then on we started seeing them everywhere.
But they look nothing like the Dutch sheep!

Day 5, Tuesday, May 10: Mývatn (119 km):

At the Godafoss, "Waterfall of the Gods," we spent 1.5 hours walking both sides of the river.
This was supposedly where Christianity was introduced to Iceland in the 11th century.

These are views of our drive around Lake Mývatn, the area of lava fields, craters, 
geothermal hot springs and mud pools, the latter of which we saw the next day.

Day 6, May 11, Wednesday:  Egilsstadir (309 km):

We woke up to snow, which made the road impassable to the Dettifoss falls, 
considered to be Iceland's most famous and powerful.  But we took it in stride and did what we could.

The most northern harbor city of Húsavik was actually more on our radar,
known as Iceland's center for whale-watching, as well as for the wooden church landmark.
(No, we didn't go whale-watching, something I'd already done in Alaska.)

The geothermal fields of Námaskard that we passed the day before were a highlight of our trip.

Day 7, May 12, Thursday:  Eastfjords and Höfn Area (286 km):

We drove south from Egilsstadir through sun, rain and snow in and out of the eastern fjords.

Once out of the fjords, we stopped by a field of sheep and got invited into the stable by the farmers.
Those 2 lambs on the right had just been born that morning.  Talk about getting an education,
especially about cutting the rams' horns if they keep them from eating (leading to death).

Once in Höfn, finding out it's known for its lobster (Norwegian langoustine),
we made sure we had lobster pizza for dinner that evening.  OMG!

Day 8, May 13, Friday:  Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to Vik (296 km):

By now we were at the SE side of Iceland, visiting the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 
where we saw the break-down of icebergs from the Vatnajökull Glacier.

Like the peat houses before, Astrid wanted to see the basalt deposits from the cooled lava.
Twelve km apart, we first saw the Dwarf Rock columns at Dverghamrar (left side) 
and then the Kirkjugólf Church Floor (right side).

Because I researched places to eat, I especially wanted to find this Skool Beans coffee café bus
in Vik.  It was a rainy day, perfect for a latte macchiato inside the mostly empty bus with a roaring fire.
You apparently can't get a seat during tourist season, because it's that busy.

Before eating supper that night, we went to the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach near Vik, seeing 
our only puffin of the trip.  Not sure if it was sick because it didn't fly away when people were around?

Day 9, May 14, Saturday:  Golden Circle (355 km):

This was the first of 2 waterfalls that day, at Skógafoss, one of Iceland's tallest.
This time I was wise and did NOT climb the 600+ steps that Astrid climbed, happy to stay below.

In between the 2 waterfalls, we stopped to see the Strokkur Geysir, erupting every 4-8 minutes,
30 meters into the air.  [Thanks to Astrid for her iPhone video.]

Addendum:  the video works in draft but not here.  Will try to figure it out.  (sigh)

The 2nd falls that day was Gullfoss, Iceland's most famous because it's only 47 miles from Reykjavik.
The rain had just stopped but the blowing spray was everywhere.

Day 10, May 15, Sunday:  Reykjavik (23 km):

We added an extra full day in Reykjavik** to see what we thought might be important,
spending 4 hours at the Perlan Museum in the morning, to synthesize all that we had just seen,
and then driving/walking around the rest of the day, seeing the sights.

Day 11, May 16, Monday:  Back to Reflavik Airport (48 km):
        ...for our 7:40 a.m. flight back to Amsterdam.  We got up at 3:45 a.m., picked up our hotel to-go breakfast and got there in plenty of time.

Total trip:  2,290 km = 1,423 miles
(ALL driven by Astrid, bless her, because of my shoulder tear!)
And YES, it was totally worth it!  More to come, of course, in time.

**[We used the Rediscover the World site out of the UK to book our 9 nights/10 days, adding one day at the end, 
and highly recommend their service and communication.  Top Rate!]

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And now, after a week of getting settled, we're off tomorrow for our Shutterchance meetup in England.  It usually happens every other year but because of COVID, we last met in 2018.  It's time to meet up again!

Our England Trip Overview

  It was a month ago that I posted our ICELAND trip overview, after which the next day we left for England!  It's been that kind of whir...