Reykjavik, Iceland - day 1

We made a major change in the way we travel for this trip - we took only carryon luggage - and IcelandAir has really small allowances.  But we managed to fit everything in these suitcases with room for souvenirs.  It was such a pleasure to avoid checked luggage and to be able to easily maneuver through the tube or metro with these smaller suitcases.  We won't travel with full sized suitcases again!

Our grand adventure begins with a red-eye flight to Reykjavik, arriving at 6:30am in the dark and rain.  We drove the 45 minutes from the airport into Reykjavik, ate breakfast and starting exploring the city.  The weather was WINDY, cold and rainy.

First on the 'must see' list is Hallgrimskirkja church.  In a town where the tallest building is maybe 3-4 stories, this 9+ story church dominates the landscape.

Leiff Eriksson statue out front
the church organ

The city as seen from the top of Hallgrimskirkja.

We got out of the rain for an hour or so and took the tour of the Harpa Concert hall on the waterfront. It's a strikingly modern building.  We didn't get a picture of the outside (it was pouring and windy), so this is from google search.

These cool windows are about 4' tall and three dimensional like a big beehive.

The mirrored ceiling meets the dimensional glass wall.

We checked into our hotel room in the late afternoon - it had lots of personality.  The entrance to the hotel was through a restaurant but that wasn't the most surprising thing - the most surprising thing was that the hot water in the shower and faucet smelled like sulfur.  All the hot water in the city is from underground and smells like sulfur! Who knew?

Jet lag finally caught up with us and we were in bed asleep by 8pm! - end of day 1

Iceland - day 2

The weather today is much better.  Still cold, but mostly sunny.  We get an early start to drive the "Golden Circle". We opted to rent a car and drive ourselves instead of taking one of the many tours so that we had the freedom to explore at our own pace.

 What's up with this funny sign????

The rain clouds followed us all day but we only had an occasional sprinkle catch up to us.  The landscape was much prettier and more colorful than I expected. Each curve in the road brought out ooos and ahhhhs - I expected harsh, barren land and instead found this colorful landscape.

And a glacier.........

We arrived at Thingvellir park where we saw the valley between the North American tectonic plate and the European plate.  It's about 7km wide and moves apart at 1cm a year. We watched but didn't see any movement. :) This park is also the site of the country's first church and the prime minister's summer home.

This cliff is the face of the North American tectonic plate.

 Prime Minister's summer home.

Next stop was Geysir.  We saw the Strokkur geysir go off a couple times then continued down the road another 15 minutes or so to Gullfoss Falls.

Gullfoss falls - one of the largest in Europe.  There is a serious volume of water crashing over this falls. It may not be tall, but it is mighty.

On the left of the photo you can see a trail with people and then midway, out on the point, those little dots are people looking out over the top of the falls.  We walked out there and got soaked in the mist!

You can see the people a bit easier here..... and me below, wet and cold.

Overall the drive was probably 80-90 miles and, as you can see, it was totally worth getting out of the city and seeing more of the country.  Truly beautiful. 

Tomorrow is an early morning flight to London.

London - day 1

We arrived in London about noon and quickly passed through customs, found the tube and started our journey to our apartment in the Islington neighborhood, north of the city.  It's the first of many times we're thankful we have only carryon luggage to haul around!

Small, but clean and adequate for us.....kind of like a cruise ship; we mostly need a place for breakfast and to sleep!   It was mid afternoon so we decided to just walk around and explore our neighborhood and get a feel for the city.

A typical neighborhood - no detached houses anywhere and we were pretty far out in the suburbs.  All attached homes and didn't see any garages unless they're in a back alley somewhere.

Tomorrow starts some serious sightseeing as we head to Cambridge.

London - day 2

Our first full day in London and we spent it in ........... Cambridge. We'd planned to go to the Changing of the Guards, but they only switch every other day, tomorrow.  So, Cambridge it is.

It's about a 30 minute tube ride to Cambridge.

Bicycles are the main mode of transportation - they are everywhere and ridden by everyone - students, teachers, men in suits and women in skirts. Handbills are also everywhere - fences are covered with them.

Punting on the Cam (which we didn't do - Dan said 'no thanks'. You can see we had a beautiful day - the weather was so pleasant our whole time in London.

I had two main things I wanted to see in Cambridge - the Wren library and King's College Chapel. Both were amazing!  We couldn't take pics in the Wren library, but it was fascinating - for once we were intrigued by the contents of the building rather than the building itself.

There were original notebooks from Isaac Newton with his scribbled notes in the margins, the original handwritten manuscript of Winnie the Pooh by Milne, a beautifully illustrated first edition Koran, a first book of Shakespeare, and more. 

King's College Chapel was located down a couple of alley/streets and around a corner. 

We visited a couple of museums - the Whipple museum was a surprising delight full of all sorts of scientific inventions.  

 Ceiling of the portico of the Fitzwilliam museum

Dan is a huge Pink Floyd fan so of course we had to have lunch at the Anchor, where some of Pink Floyd got their start.

This was a great start to our London stay and we're looking forward to exploring the big city even more.  For now, it's home to dinner at a neighborhood pub and sleep in our little apartment.