August 9 &10th-Iceland

It’s another drizzly day here so we have not much desire to explore before heading to the pier. At the gas pumps in Reykjavik on the way to the ship, I noticed that price of gas was 336 ISK or CAD$3.31/L. I suppose that we shouldn’t complain.

This was such an easy well organized arrival onto the ship…. Oceania Insignia, the only one of the smaller ships that I have not been on. Since we last were on any of their ships they have totally redecorated and improved somethings aboard. They certainly have done a beautiful job.

As we headed off to the sea, things got rockier and rockier. It was really very difficult to walk after having dinner….. and all night long it was a rockin’

Today in Isafjourdur, our tour is to the bird island of Vigur, meaning the point of a spear because of its shape. The only inhabitants are a couple and their 6 year old son. She, who is British, is the first and only woman to have crossed Antarctica solo. On the island we apparently will see puffins, black guillemots, eiderdown ducks, arctic terns & oyster catchers. It is open to tourists and scientists that investigate bird life… one of the best places in the world to do so.

Walking with sticks held high to prevent being dive-bombed.

They harvest the down from the eiderdown ducks. It is so, so incredibly soft …. The weight of which is nothing. You’ve heard of featherweight…. well “that” weight is way more than nothing. I believe the gal told us that 80% of the world’s production is in Iceland but that they don’t produce anything like clothing, etc., from it…. that it is all sent out of the country to be made. How they harvest the down is, the harvesters when the momma duck leaves the nest for a short while, go and raid the nest of the down, replace it with straw and replace the eggs all within 30 seconds.

When we walked around the island we were given poles that you held up above your head so that the dive-bombing arctic terns didn’t attack your head. We saw lots of terns….. babies included. Also we saw lots of black guillemots but best of all were the puffins. Babies are called “pufflings”. When the adults leave on their migration, they leave the babies behind …. apparently because the babies are way to fat to fly. We would be close to the last group to see the adults before they leave. As the days get much shorter (around end of September) the babies will have lost enough weight to leave the nest to join the migration. Oh my goodness are they cute! I can only imagine the cuteness of the babies. Just before we were to return to our boat, several of us went to have another look and guess what…… there was one out of the water sitting on a rock (just about their entire life is lived in the water…and not really close enough to take good pictures). As the guide/shop cashier told us, they will get so many fish in their beaks, they will strutting their stuff, letting the others know how good they are at catching them…. like “look at me, look how good I am”!!!

“Look at me, look see what a good fisher I am!“

After our initial walk, we were invited to coffee and “Happy Marriage Cake”….(with whipped cream), something Iceland is famous for…. and to warm up. The cake is made with rhubarb jam…..from rhubarb that is grown in the garden on the island. That’s about all that can be grown here. God it’s cold….>10C.

The start of our trip to Reykjavik Aug.7/22

I got up this morning and opened my messages and emails as I always do. Our flight has been canceled….OMG but not really! They have replaced it with another that is to leave at the exact same time, just a different flight number. So why bother sending that notice out???

I drove my car to my travel buddy’s place where another friend picked us up to take us to the airport. After getting in the check-in line at the airport, J. realized that she forgot her purse with her passport, etc., at home. I called to tell C. and bless her, she came back to take J. back to pick it up.

Finally we both made it to the gate only to have the departure time change from 11:55 to 12:15. To 12:51 with us finally leaving the ground at 1:10pm. I so hope that we are able to make our connection to Reykjavik.

As with the flight leaving from Victoria to Toronto, the next one from Toronto to Reykjavik, Iceland, was delayed in leaving…several times. It finally left about and hour and half late. Our luggage arrived (thank goodness. It was one of my fears) and immigration and customs, a breeze.

Barren landscape of Iceland
Statues at the Reykjavik’s airport
Other “art” pieces seen at Reykjavik’s airport.

Originally I had searched for a tour that would take in some of the southwest area of the country…. An area that included the “Blue Lagoon”, the thermal pools, bubbling mud and the recently erupting volcano. All were in the area of 11+/- hours from the city. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to see any of that after getting to our hotel room around 1 pm. on the 8th.

The weather, by the way, was about 10-11 C. and drizzling with low clouds. The terrain is so barren covered with long-ago dried up lava….not pretty! There are no trees to be seen anywhere other than that which has been planted. After a short nap (oh my we were exhausted), we took a walk to see the famous Lutheran church “Hallgrimskirkja”as well as to find a restaurant that served traditional “Icelandic” meals.

The “church” is really a cathedral …..spectacular with an elevator that will take you to the top of the spire (we declined). I personally liked the typical Scandinavian lines….no ornate gold-covered stuff that you see in most of the world’s cathedrals or temples esp. those associated with the Catholic Church.

Looking up the street towards “the” church.
Leif Ericckson in front of the church

We found the recommended restaurant called the “Loki Cafe”. How appropriate! it was not what you would call a luxury upper-end fine dining establishment. I had lamb shank in a sauce with little new potatoes and root vegetables…..yum! Jeanette on the other hand was more adventuresome and went with the really tradition, mushy fish on black rye bread, dried cod that you dip in butter, smoked raw trout on rye, very thin lamb (smoked), etc., marinated shark and some kind of straight liquor that had a caraway flavour that you take after a bite of the shark. J said that the shark was not nice.

Cafe Loki where we had our traditional Icelandic dinner

The buildings are quite simple, with “pride” stripes painted on the pavement and elsewhere”. Below are a variety of scenes taken the first day

More later after we get on the ship.

More Malta… pictures plus..

In archaeological digs, they have found “smaller” prehistoric elephants and hippos in Malta so some believe Malta may have been connected to Europe at one time.

Not sure why … all kinds vacant abandon buildings around Golden Bay.

Beautiful arches!

Example of new buildings. …. mostly they are preserving all the old.

Every evening this old man spent some time fishing in the bay.

Notice the road coming down the hill as well as one going along the waterfront… crazy…. and they drive on the “wrong” side of the road. When turning the corner, Ron would very frequently say “you’ve got to be kidding”!

The church across the bay from where we stayed.

Pieta area

Valletta gates… entry into the capital. The one on the right is the original, the other is reconstructed!

Lots of agriculture on this side.

Prickly pear seen all over this island…. introduced from Mexico.

Big cotton growing country.

Churches in villages or small towns have 2 clocks….. the one on the right is the correct time, the one on the left is incorrect as to confuse the devil.

Fort. St Elmo, at the tip of the Valletta harbour(site believed to have been fortified since the Punic era…200 bc).

Ft. St. Elmo… entrance to Valletta harbour

The next step could be dangerous????

Local pastime… fishing from the dock….Valletta!

Local seagoing fish boat

Well worn!

Little boats quite willing to take you for a cruise around the harbour.

Well worn steps

We got off the bus at one of the fingers of this incredible harbour, where you can see oh so many sail boats and huge luxurious ocean going yachts and Ft. Angelo…. a fort that has survived sieges by the Ottoman Empire in 1565 and the other the Axis command in 1944.

More of these typical windows seen everywhere!

While sitting at a seaside eatery on opposite side of Valetta harbour, with umbrellas with the support off to one side set up to shade the customers. The granite support broke on one and the whole thing crashed down on the table but missing the two ladies sitting at it. Shocking!!!

Grapes are picked only from 5:30to 10… otherwise too hot.

Marsaxlokk is the lovely fishing village with bakery sweets and other tourist trinket markets….. is also a LNG and other container port.

There are six grottos for scuba diving incl. blue grotto.

There doesn’t seem to be any stray dogs and next to no livestock… odd!

The roads are very bad outside towns.

I left the next morning bound for London, Vancouver and home to Victoria for knee surgery. Ron, on the other hand was just starting his incredible journey…. heading east. Thanks for sharing!

Malta hop on Nov. 4 & 5/19

We took a hop on bus from our location at St. Julians Bay to Sliema to start a tour of the upper part of the island. This is a gorgeous harbour with magnificent yachts.

Valetta, is an absolutely stunning harbour that we checked out the next day. It is one of the few surviving inhabited walled cities in the world and is a UNESO world heritage site. It was started by the Knights of the Order of St. John in 1568.

We stopped at Mosta with its domed church, is the third largest unsupported dome in Europe. It survived a direct hit from a bomb (unexploded) during WW2 for which the pilot later apologized for.

Mdina (meaning walled city), was the capital before Valletta, has been inhabited since 700 BC by Phoenicians then in 218 BC by the Romans.

Mdina as seen from a distance

Ron talking to this horse… he really had the horse falling in love with him …. funny!!!

Me entering the gates of Mdina

I don’t recall ever seeing this kind of iron cages on the “windows”

Talk about a tight squeeze… horse drawn carriage and a car passing each other on a decidedly narrow street to begin with.

Beautiful bougainvillea…. and Ron.

Beautiful narrow lanes of Mdina

You could see the enemy coming for miles from this viewpoint in Mdina

60,000 people were killed in the region in a earthquake in 1692 ad. The vast majority of buildings had to be rebuilt

There have been prehistoric excavation of ruins in Mgarr from 3500bc and another from 5000bc.

St. Paul’s Bay…

Typical boat of Malta

Chapel to honour St. Paul who was shipwrecked here in 60AD

St. Paul’s Bay

Not sure why … all vacated abandon homes around Golden Bay

Prickly pear seen all over this island…. introduced from Mexico.

Salt flats at Bugibba.

More pictures to follow….

Malta-November 3-6/19

We got a taxi from the airport to our hotel …the Juliani Boutique Hotel on St. Julian’s Bay. Interesting thing….the taxi is not metered but you are charged a flat rate to the specific areas you are travelling to….and collected at the place of origin. Unfortunately the driver took us to the wrong hotel and we ended up walking and dragging our suitcases along the very narrow ( unlike Barcelona’s) to the correct one. The hotel was very lovely with a rooftop pool and deck that overlooks the bay…..nice! From the rooftop, Ron counted 30 hammerhead cranes…..amazing!

First day….November 3rd……

Final pictures of Barcelona 2019….. Malta to follow

Finally I think I am able to post the remainder of my trip. I ran out of space and had to upgrade. Sorry for the delay!

Everything is available at the market including some weird looking fish.

I have NEVER seen a cleaver like this one. It looks even scarier when it’s in the fishmonger’s hand!

Wine on the go… just pour into your bottle and away you go… for about 3€ each.

The side wall of the Paral-lel wall

Love this door in the rear of the city wall (Ciutat Velma)

A replica of a submarine built 23 September 1859

Maritime Museum Barcelona

This little pooch had already taken a dip in the pool in attempt to get the turtles that were basking on the rocks… at Maritime Museum

The largest cemetery of the city on the slope of Montjuic!

More November 1/19……La Rambla

Las Rambla is a huge pedestrian walk in the middle, vehicles one lane on either side, 1 lane of parking on either side and the metro running under it. You can feel the vibrations and hear it a wee bit!

One if many flower stalks along La Rambla

Motorcycle parking spaces marked and all lined up in orderly fashion

Seen on the exterior of one building

Entrance to the Guell residence.. Gaudi designed

Scroll work on a Gaudi building for Guell family… just off La Rambla

How do you like the name of this restaurant?!!

Beautiful door just around the corner from our hotel……the bottom right of it is the man door. We were looking for the street that our room faces… couldn’t find it even thought we walked the entire block.