Thursday, October 15, 2015

Iceland 2015 - Day 4

Our final day in Iceland has arrived.

Everyone enjoyed free time in Rekjavik yesterday after relaxing at the Blue Lagoon and then had dinner on their own.

We had an entire morning to do last minute touring (and shopping) in Rekjavik.  Many took in the view from the Church tower.

Several got their photo taken with these two characters:

And we rested up and chatted in the hotel lobby while waiting for our transport to the airport for our flight home.  Everyone had a terrific time in Iceland!!

Iceland 2015 - Day 3, part ii

Later in the morning we drove out to the most remote part of the area (past a fishing village of Grindavik)

Our route brought us to the very end of the peninsula.  Reminiscent of parts of Hawaii or even the moon - the earth was pretty barren, the cliffs were fairly high and the lighthouse overlooked the end of the world.

Our last tourist stop of the trip was a visit to the infamous Blue Lagoon.  Everyone grabbed lunch, either at the cafeteria or in the restaurant (which garnered rave reviews!).  Then most of the group enjoyed the geo-thermal bathing with high water temps, a complimentary beverage, mud mask and freezing air temps that made the wet walk to and from the water seem more like a 'mad dash'.  A few of us even put on a performance while in the lagoon!

Iceland 2015 - Day 3

Monday has arrived and we head out for another full day of sightseeing.  Today we headed out across the Reykjanes Peninsula.

It was a bit cooler and rainy than our previous days but it did not dampen our spirits.

We drove out to a huge lake with a black beach (from the lava).

From there we continued to drive through lava fields (with delicate moss growing on them somehow) and we stopped at an area of mud pots which was other-worldly (and smelled of sulfur).  Helga shared with us some information about the volcanoes.  For example, all had heard of the eruption in 2010 that stopped air traffic out of mainland Europe for 10 days.  This was actually two eruptions - one in March and a second in April.  The most recent eruption was in 2014.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Iceland 2015 - Day 2 - part ii

Helga then shared some more of her country's history with us while we were on the bus.  The country was first settled in 874 with the first inhabitants coming from Norway - about 400 settlers, mostly men and some women.  They claimed their land by lighting bonfires (or dragging a cow) across an area within a 24 hour period.  Chieftains (we get the irony here) controlled land areas along the coast.  There were about 40 of them.  In 930, they decided they needed one law and they studied Norwegian governance to develop their own rules of law.

Two weeks each summer, all Chieftains with two advisors each, attended a summit to review, discuss, change and add laws.  This meeting point was selected with intent - and we got to enjoy a great visit to this area.  Spectacular photos!

In 1262, the area became part of Norway, and then, years later, part of Denmark, until becoming an independent country in 1944.  The former old meeting point of the Chieftains is a UNESCO Heritage site.

We saw the 'black line' cut the landscape - which actually is the point where the two continental plates met to form Iceland- the EUR-Asian plate and the North American plate.  Very cool to hear and see.

Earlier in the day, Professor Tyrrell took the bus microphone and shared with the group for a few minutes.  She had attended Stonehill for a year in the 1960s before transferring.  Only to return to teach Biology in 1973.  She credits remaining in touch with Fr. Francis Hurley, CSC (who taught so many Biology students over the years) as instrumental in her return to Stonehill.  Prof. Tyrrell spent the majority of her teaching career in the original science building but loves the new Shields Science Center on campus.  She has taught many courses over the years - many in Botany, Ecology and Marine Biology.  She also mentioned a few of the plants/flowers she has spied in Iceland so far.

We returned to the hotel in time for Happy Hour at the Beer Garden.  Some plan to attend Mass at Christ the King parish downtown. Emily and Robyn just departed for a horseback riding excursion - with promises of some amazing photos!

And, as we prepare for 'dinner on our own,' we are crossing our fingers for a successful Northern Lights excursion tonight!

Iceland 2015 - Day 2

Our second day in Iceland was amazing!

A little bit of clouds, a little bit of rain, some sunny skies and some incredible sites we've seen!

Helga shared a bit more about her home country as our bus headed out in the morning.  The lava fields, the mountains, the dormant volcanoes (and the differences between active, dormant and extinct), local skiing and golfing.  We also passed a geothermal power plant and learned how they harness this resource for their hot water and electricity.

We saw the 'Wasserman' Islands in the distance and heard about them as well.  The scenery as we drove through the country was magnificent! 

We had an unexpected photo-stop at a small waterfall which also featured a Salmon Ladder.  Then it was off to Gulfoss waterfall - actually a two-tiered waterfall which measured over 100 feet in total.  Some great photos were taken here.  Many of us saw the falls from above before walking down to the bottom level and then even walking along side to climb the rocks right at the top.  Lots of mist and a bit cold out but that did not dampen the experience!

Our next visit was to the Geysir - or geysers...the larger one is now dormant.  But the active smaller one was impressive nonetheless.  It erupts about every six minutes.  We also got the scents of sulfur from the hot springs bubbling throughout the area.  All enjoyed lunch and, of course, some shopping.

Helga shared some information about Icelandic horses and sheep.  The horses were brought to the island in the 9th century when inhabitants first settled.  Some of these horses are bred for racing; but once they leave the island for a race they can never return.  There are now more Icelandic horses outside of Iceland.  No other breed of horse was ever allowed onto the island.

Northern Lights

First night's excursion to see the famous Northern Lights - cancelled due to cloudy skies...better luck Sunday!

Sunday night was 'go time' and we headed out around 9:30pm to see the lights.  Or, I should say, we headed out to 'hunt'.

And we found success (so lucky!) within a half hour.  Lots of movement.  Lots of white light.  Some colored light.  Clear sky and a guide who was a bit, er, unique.

Here's what my pictures look like:

here's what Sarah's photos resemble:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Iceland 2015 Day 1

Greetings from Iceland!!

After tons of traffic, we all made it to Logan in time for our flight.  We arrived about 6:30am in Reykjavik to some cloudy, cool and damp weather.  By 9:00am, the sun had broken through for a great day of sightseeing throughout the city.

First - about us...there are 37 travelers in our group and our local tour director Helga.  25 of us are grads and the rest are spouses and relatives of grads.  About half of us have never traveled with Stonehill before.  Of the other half, some have gone on most of our trips.  Our grads represent nearly every decade - we have grads from the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, and '10s!!

Professor of Biology Maura Tyrrell has joined the group as faculty host!

Some of what we saw and did today (before 2pm):  a reproduction village, a tour of the National Museum, the amazing Concert Hall (Harpa), the House of the Reagan/Gorbachev Summit of 1986, the beautiful Lutheran Church in the city's center and tons more 'drive-bys' like city hall, Parliament, the Viking Town, the in-city salmon fishing river and a snack with amazing views from the Pearl.

Some headed to Fosshotel Reykjavik and others stayed in the city center for shopping and exploring.  We have our Welcome Dinner tonight at 7pm and (we hope, really, really hope) we head out to see the Northern Lights - weather permitting.