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One World in One Lifetime

Archive for January, 2018

Other Worldly

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 30, 2018

Monday, September 4th -17th, 2017

65.3127001,-15.1456302

The biggest surprise I got when traveling in Iceland was how the landscape changed from day to day. Sometimes it looked like we were on another planet. I kept telling Mark that if they had filmed Star Trek: The Original Series here, the stories would have been more believable as taking place on alien worlds. So for this blog entry, I’m just putting up pictures with some information about where the photos were taken.

Þingvellir National Park

Geysir

Skógafoss

Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara Beach

Laufskálavarða

Scenic Green Lava Walk

Fjaðrárgljúfur

Skaftafellsjökull

Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Diamond Beach

Old Viking Village

64.2877778,-15.0661111

64.2877778,-15.0661111

64.2877778,-15.0661111

Grjótagjá cave

Grjótagjá cave

Hverfjall

Hverir

Dettifoss

Dettifoss

Hofsós Camping Ground

Hofsós Camping Ground

64.9617357,-23.0311146

Kirkjufell

Hot Pot

Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Blue Lagoon


Iceland

How to get there:

You have to fly or get a boat from Scotland or Denmark.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • 1777 for weather information

Downloads:

Website:

Data:

  • Siminn
  • You can easily get one at most convenience stores in Reykjavik.

Videos:

Notes:

  • The weather can change quickly. Make sure to dress in layers.
  • Assume that it will rain.
  • It will also be very, very windy.
  • Everything is very expensive in Iceland.

Old Viking Village

Basic Information

Website

 

Cost:

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 18:00

 

Notes:

  • There is also a cafe here.
  • There are people who try to go to the film set without paying. They get mad when they are caught and leave bad reviews online.
  • The place is wonderful for taking photos.
  • You can camp here, apparently.

Don’t Miss:

Campsites:

Map:

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Posted in Höfn, Iceland | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Iceland: Pools, Hot Pots, and Lagoons

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 25, 2018

Monday, September 4th -17th, 2017

Iceland, as the name implies is cold. But, luckily for Iceland many of its waters are not. The land is literally bursting with geothermally heated pools. Mark, our friends, and I made it our mission to soak in as many types of heated water as we could.

The Public Pools

As I said in the last post, we always went to a public pool if the showers at out campsite weren’t free. The idea was, if we were going to pay, we wanted to get exactly what we wanted: unlimited hot water, clean facilities, shampoo and soap, a hair dryer, and pools of various degrees of hotness. Water slides were always welcomed. The public pools cost on average of 700ISK.

The pools do come with rules, though. Because we had all lived in Japan and had many, many, many onsen visits under our belts, the rules did not come as a shock to us.

This counts as a shower, right?

1. You have to take a shower before you get in the pool.

Even in the states this is a normal expectation for pool goers. Most pools world wide make swimmers clean up before diving in. The difference in Iceland (and Japan) is…

2. You must shower naked.

I assume we all shower without clothes. The hard part for some people comes when they realize that the showers take place in an open shower. There are no shower curtains or partitions. The showers aren’t co-ed or anything. Still, it is hard for many people to shower with strangers for the first time, even when everyone is of the same gender.

I’ve gotten used to it. I did the communal showers in high school and college when playing sports. Also, living in Japan for about 7 years has taken all the terror out of showering with people I’ve never met before. Now I feel like, since I have never met these women before and will never see them again, who cares what they think of my body. Besides, they don’t seem to mind, why should I?

3. Wash your hair, arm pits, feet, and crotch. 

Soap and shampoo are provided for you if you have forgotten to bring your own.

Essentially, when you get to the public pool first you pay and get a ticket or key or something. There is a place where you can leave your shoes, like a shoe rack or cubby. Then men and women separate and go to their respective lockers.

Once in the locker room, there are either lockers or baskets to put your clothes in. When there are no lockers for clothes, there is sometimes a small locker for things like car keys or a wallet.

Put your clothes in the basket or locker. At this time, I like to organize my new clothes in the order I will put them on and put my dirty clothes in a separate bag. Sometimes when I’m ready to leave, the locker room is full and a little chaotic. Moving around to get out of people’s way while getting dressed can be a little stressful no matter how comfortable one is with one’s body.

When you head off to the shower, while being completely unclothed, take your towel, swim suit, and any soap or shampoo you want to use. You can use the soap and shampoo provided, but you don’t have to. There is a cubby near the shower for your things. Sometimes the number there will match your locker number if you have one, sometimes you can take any one. Enter the shower with nothing or just your soap and shampoo.

Take a shower and make sure to wash all the important parts. When you’re done go back to where you left your swim suit and put it on. Leave your towel and soaps in the cubby and head out to the pool.

4. Dry off before going back to the locker room.

After swimming, when you’re getting ready to go home, no one really cares how or if you shower again. Shower naked, shower clothed, do what you like. If you keep your swim suit on, however,  you will stick out. Either way, make sure to dry off with your towel before going to the locker room. The floor of the locker room should stay as dry as possible, so make sure you aren’t dripping when you go back there.

Get dressed.

There are some amenities you will find at some public pools. Most will have a hair dryer but only some will have a clothes spinner. I love the spinners. After every swim I look for one and dry my swim suit and towel.

Geothermic Pools

Next you have the naturally heated public pools. These cost more money to use; from about 4,000 – 8,000ISK. The rules for showering are the same as the public pools. But because they are bigger, you will spend more time in them. Because you will spend more time in them, they all have cafes or restaurants on the premises.

Many of them will have a sulfur smell. They smell like farts. So, if you are gassy, go ahead and relax. No one will no when you cut one. Don’t worry, you will not smell like sulfur after you leave the pool.

Some people will have you believe that most of the overpriced natural pools are overrated, especially the Blue Lagoon. I’ve been to a few including the Blue Lagoon. They are all overpriced, but none of them, in my opinion are overrated. The Blue Lagoon was really awesome. We went there on our last full day in Iceland. Freda and I were even saying that we were glad we left it for last, because it was the best one of all.

The Blue Lagoon is crowded. The line is very long to get in, even when you have bought your ticket online ahead of time. But, once you get in the pool you don’t notice a crowd because the thing is so big. You can hardly move in the locker rooms without bumping into anyone, but the pool itself is not densely populated.

Hot Pots

Then there are the hard to find “hot pots”. During our trip we managed to take a dip in only one even though we were constantly hunting them down. They sound great theoretically, but I was a little put off by them generally.

A hot pot is a term used for a small, hidden, geothermal pool that only a few people know about. They are mostly found on some farmers’ land. Since so few people know about it, it is possible to bathe there alone with only sheep for company.

A lot of hot pots require you to either sneak onto someone’s property or ask a farmer for his or her permission. I was not too keen on trespassing. Roland and Freda were the one’s looking for the hot pots and I knew they weren’t the trespassing type. In fact, there were a few hot pots we did not go to, because Roland couldn’t get a hold of the farmer to ask if we could have a swim.

Some of the hot pots had signs near them forbidding tourists from going any further on the land. Not everyone obeyed. I didn’t want to be associated with those types of travelers. I like to be respectful of people and their property, especially when that property is a means to their livelihood, like a farm.

The one hot pot we found was nice. It was a little boggy. The water was muddy. But it was free, out in the open, and we had it all to ourselves… for about 20 minutes. Shortly after we jumped into the water we saw another camper van drive up. It was a couple and they got into the water too.

Awkwardly, they didn’t talk to us. They just swam around and made out like we weren’t there. The pool wasn’t so big that we could easily ignore them, or them us. We felt very uncomfortable. They clearly wanted to have sex outdoors and we felt like we were intruding.

We didn’t want to hop out just because these two horny people showed up. We had been hunting for hot pots for days and this was the first one we found. So, we stuck it out until we were good and ready. When we got out, the couple must have been so happy to see us go. I can imagine them anticipating the moment when our vans drove away.

Unfortunately for them, as we were getting dressed, another van pulled up. Out jump 5 loud, boisterous, frat boys. They were hootin’ and hollerin’ about how “awesome” various things were. They got undressed as they ran to the heated muddy pool, high-5-ing as they went. One of them carried a bucket of beers and a boombox.

The biggest downside to these secret hot pots is that most of them are not so secret.

Cheers!

I was soaking in a public pool one day and talking to some travelers I had just met. I was telling one of them about the trouble we were having finding just one hot pot. She bragged that she knew where so many secret hot pots were because she was part of some exclusive Facebook group. “You have to know the right people to be invited to the Facebook group,” she told me. I wondered if she wanted me to beg her to invite me, but I didn’t ask for an invite.

I did ask about the quality of the hot pots. “Oh, they are really nice,” she said, describing a truly lovely utopia centered around a hole of hot water. The people there were practically skipping and holding hands while humming Kumbaya. “Wait,” I stopped her regaling. “There were other people there?”

“Yes, I was not alone.”

“How many people?” I was curious about how exclusive these things were.

“Uhmm,” she thought. “Maybe 50 people…”

I looked around the public pool we were soaking in. My friends were sitting in another pool that had 3 other people in it. The was one guy doing laps in the big unheated pool. There were 2 kids running up the water slide and 5 of us sitting in the really-hot tub.

“So your super secret hot pot had more people in it than this public pool?”


Iceland

How to get there:

You have to fly or get a boat from Scotland or Denmark.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • 1777 for weather information

Downloads:

Website:

Data:

  • Siminn
  • You can easily get one at most convenience stores in Reykjavik.

Videos:

Notes:

  • The weather can change quickly. Make sure to dress in layers.
  • Assume that it will rain.
  • It will also be very, very windy.
  • Everything is very expensive in Iceland.

Þingvellir National Park

Basic Information

Website:

Downloads:

Cost:

Hours:

  • Daylight hours

Notes:


Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Basic Information

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • daylight hours

Video

Notes:

  • There’s a cafe in the parking lot.
  • It’s about a one hour hike from where you park your car.
  • Many people ride horses on this trail, so watch out for horse poo.
    • You might want to wear rain boots and hose them off afterwards.
    • There’s A LOT of poo!
  • There are places to change near the hot river, but it does not provide a whole lot of privacy.
    • Be careful when taking photos near the river…
    • Don’t be a jerk and change at the front door of the cafe, even when it’s raining.
      • I saw many people doing this and they blocked the way for paying customers to enter.
      • It doesn’t give you much privacy or shelter from the rain anyway.

Blue Lagoon

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 6100ISK is the most basic ticket
    • The next ticket is about 20USD more and it come with a towel, a drink, and an algae mask
    • I don’t think it’s worth the 20USD extra.

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 22:00

Video

Notes:

  • Always buy your ticket ahead of time.
  • In the showers, there is complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion for everyone to use.
  • There are lots of water fountains are the pool with fresh water for you to drink.
  • What you should bring:
    • a towel – so you don’t have to rent one
    • extra money – in case you buy something at the bar
    • a bag for your wet swim suit
    • a hair tie – You want as little contact between your hair and the pool as possible.
  • What you can bring, but don’t really need:
    • flip-flops – You will do very little walking around the pool.
    • a water bottle – There are plenty of water fountains; you don’t need to bring water
    • a robe – You will spend most of your time in the water where a robe does you no good.
      • Most people who have robes spend 3 minutes in them, then hang them up to get in the water.
  • What you really don’t need: (All these things are provided)
    • Shampoo
    • Body wash
    • Conditioner
    • Lotion
    • A hair dryer

Sundlaugin á Hofsósi

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 700ISK

Hours:

  • M – F ~ 7:00 – 13:00 & 17:00 – 20:00
  • Sa – Su ~ 11:00 – 15:00

Notes:

  • Many tourists come by and take photos, from the outside, of the spa.
  • There are complimentary tea and coffee in the lobby.

Mývatn Nature Baths

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 3800 ISK (01/01 – 14/05 ’17)
  • 4300 ISK (15/05 – 30/09 ’17)
  • 3800 ISK (01/10 – 31/12 ’17)

Hours:

  • 12:00 – 22:00

Notes:

  • This spa has a restaurant.
  • You can order drinks to be brought to you in the pool.

Hot Pots

Basic Information:

  • ??

Websites:

Cost:

  • Ideally, free

Hours:

  • Daylight hours

Notes:

  • The goal of finding a free and secret naturally heated pool of water is really hard to reach.
  • Everyone talks about all the hot pots they have found.
    • Many of them are trespassing, a few are bull shitting.

Don’t Miss:

Some Pools:

Campsites:

Map:

Posted in Bláskógabyggð, Grindavík, Hofsós, Iceland | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Iceland: Campervans

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 20, 2018

Monday, September 4th – 17th, 2017

I was so excited about the trip to Iceland. I had been dreaming about it since we left Japan about 6 months earlier. Iceland just seem so far away and exotic, like it stood at the end of the world.

We met up with the South African friends we made in Japan and together we drove the ring road. Roland did most of the planning. Mark and I were so relieved at this. After traveling for 6 months, we got to a point where we dreaded planning. There is just so much that goes into it. In fact, sometimes we just don’t. We cheat.

We like getting a tourist pass of some sort, like we did in Jaipur. Once you have a pass, you have a list of things to see. Or, we would get a membership to some sort of heritage society, like would we did in Scotland. So when we return to Scotland we don’t have to plan that much. There is an entire book of things to see in the many cities throughout Scotland.

It’s even better when you don’t have to do any work at all. We just followed Roland where ever he went. Both Mark and I were very grateful to be able to enjoy a trip to Iceland without having to plan a thing.

Camper Van

I’m not sure if it was done on purpose, in other words, I don’t remember if we copied Freda and Roland, but we ended up renting camper vans from the same company, Trip Campers. The company is run by some very friendly and talkative guys. Overall, I was very satisfied with the car and the company.

One thing I would do differently, if I were to do this trip again would be to get a bigger van. Mark had the hardest time getting in and out of the van at night when the bed was down. He would knock over everything near him. Then when I’m in bed and want to listen to some music on my phone I think, “Gosh, where did I put that thing?”

Then in the morning when I wanted to make coffee, it took ages. First I had to hunt down the coffee, then find the milk. Then I had to put up the bed so I could reach the kettle. Then I stood out in the cold for 10 minutes trying to remember which bag the sugar was in.

By the second day, Mark and I settled on the best way to pack the van so that we could find the things we needed throughout the day. But, if we had a bigger van, not only would everything be more organized, we wouldn’t have to keep putting the bed away to get to things. We could have some coffee and still rest in bed for a bit before starting the day.

BTW: Be careful when shifting your bed from sofa-mode to bed-mode. Many people break their beds.

Shopping

Before hitting the road, we stopped at Costco. Iceland is expensive so we planned to cook almost all our meals. The prices for things at Costco are low compared to the rest of Iceland. We bought things like pasta, canned tuna, snacks, nuts, and other things that don’t need refrigeration and that we would use large quantities of.

For things we didn’t want in bulk, we went to the Bonus next door. We did most of our extra shopping at Bonuses around the island. Their prices are lower than other stores. Other stores are a little nicer, but their prices are also higher.

If we needed something along the way, we could usually find it at an N1, one of the chains of gas stations on the island. They sell stuff like camping supplies, food, clothes, electronics… Most will have a nice looking restaurant. The prices of these items are pretty high, but you will find what you need. This is where we went to use the bathroom for free during the day. The gas prices weren’t too bad. And it helped that our vans came with discount cards for a couple of the gas station chains. So we were able to save a good 3USD at every fill up.

If I were to do this again, I would also stop at IKEA and pick up an extra blanket. The blanket that came with the van was okay, I just wanted one with a little more snuggliness. I’ve also heard of people saving money by buying a table and chairs there rather than renting them from the van company.

Freda and Roland rented a table and chairs, but they didn’t use them that much. Our trip was in September. In the evening, when we ate dinner, it was too cold to be outside. We usually ate in whatever shelter the campsites provided.

Other things I would get at IKEA for the van or bring with me to Iceland would be…

  • a lantern
    • some campsites were not very well lit
  • a power strip
    • many campsites only had a few outlets
  • a clothes line, clothes horse (That’s what Freda calls it), or “clothes octopus” (You know what I’m talking about?)
    • You will also have wet clothes either from the rain or a trip to a hot spring.
  • an audio auxiliary cable (They probably don’t sell these at IKEA)
    • I had to buy one at the N1. It was quite expensive.
    • The drive was long, we needed to listen to something, but the Bluetooth connection in our van wasn’t working.
  • a car USB charger.

After day 3, the vans were always dirty.

The Drive

The drive was long and there were fewer and fewer cars the further we got from Reykjavik. Sometimes the roads were unpaved. It was not too bad, but it could be bumpy for 30 minutes at a time. There were worse roads, but the vans we rented were not to be driven on F roads. Those mostly go inland.

But with so few cars around, when we saw lots of cars parked somewhere we would stop and check it out. Sometimes, it was just a photo opportunity. Other times, there was something like a waterfall we didn’t know about behind some rocks. Those types of finds were magical and made us glad we chose Iceland to visit.

You Cannot Just Camp Any Where

People keep saying this and it’s really not true. You cannot just put your camper anywhere and spend the night. Maybe it was true 10 years ago, before all the tourists started coming to Iceland. But, it is not true now.

Most rest stops will allow you to park for free during the day. You can have lunch there. It’s okay to take a nap or rest for a few hours, but you cannot stay the night. There are signs stating this. If you look really hard, you will find some places throughout the island that do not discourage the overnight parking of camper vans, but there aren’t many.

Camper vans, and people in tents, have to find campsites and pay fees to spend the night. Some of these have better amenities than others. Personally, I liked the camps at the national parks best. Some of the private campsites make you pay a lot then offer nothing more than just a place to park.

If you’re lucky you will get a cooking room. There you can cook your food out of the rain, wind, and cold. You can charge your phone and talk with other travelers. Many campsites had one of these areas, though only some provided a light bulb. Usually, there is a table somewhere in the room where you take or leave items for your trip. People usually leave food or fuel. The closer to Reykjavik you are, the more stuff you will find on this table. Wait until after your first campsite to pick up things like salt, sugar, and coffee.

The public pool

At some campsites showers are free. The ones with the free showers, tend to be near natural hot springs. Other places charge about 200ISK for an unlimited hot shower, others give you a set time. We only used the camp showers when it was free. Camp showers are usually not very nice. So we paid extra money and did most of our showering at public pools around Iceland, which cost about 700ISK. There, we had all the hot water we wanted and use of the heated pools and sometimes even water slides. Plus, the shampoo and soap were free and they had hair dryers. We did bring our own towel, rather than renting one of theirs.

Keep your tanks full and your car clean

The water in Iceland is very clean. It’s also free. You can drink any non-hot water anywhere you find in Iceland. So when we were at a campsite, we made sure to fill the van’s water tank. There was no need to run low on water.

If you go to Iceland, just remember before drinking hot water, smell it first. A lot of places in Iceland use hot water heated by a geothermal spring. It smells like sulfur. I don’t think it would kill you if you drank it, but it can’t be healthy.

Washing the car at most gas stations is free. When we returned our cars, we washed them first. It cost nothing and the van guys really appreciated it.

General Advice When Traveling in a Camper around Iceland:

  • Pay attention when the van company guy shows you around the car on the first day.
    • They give you a lot of information in a short amount of time, but try to remember.
  • Use a zip-lock bag to put your trash in during the day.
    • The trash won’t make the car stink.
    • It won’t matter if your garbage rolls around on a bumpy road.
  • Be careful when transitioning the bed.
    • Some of them break easily.
  • Use the facilities at N1 gas stations.
    • You can go hours without seeing a public bathroom otherwise.
    • These bathrooms are free, unlike the bathrooms at some tourist sites.
  • Use your GPS and/ or google maps.
    • Sometimes it’s hard to type in those Icelandic names in the GPS that comes with the car.
      • Another reason why you need to pay attention to the van guy.
  • Stay off F roads.
  • Don’t camp at places that say “No over night camping”.
  • Watch out for sheep.
    • Those fluffy monsters like to dart out into the road.

Iceland

How to get there:

You have to fly or get a boat from Scotland or Denmark.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • 1777 for weather information

Downloads:

Website:

Data:

  • Siminn
  • You can easily get one at most convenience stores in Reykjavik.

Videos:

Notes:

  • The weather can change quickly. Make sure to dress in layers.
  • Assume that it will rain.
  • It will also be very, very windy.
  • Everything is very expensive in Iceland.
  • Don’t touch the moss.

Blue Lagoon

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 6100ISK is the most basic ticket
    • The next ticket is about 20USD more and it come with a towel, a drink, and an algae mask
    • I don’t think it’s worth the 20USD extra.

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 22:00

Video

Notes:

  • Always buy your ticket ahead of time.
  • In the showers, there is complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion for everyone to use.
  • There are lots of water fountains are the pool with fresh water for you to drink.
  • What you should bring:
    • a towel – so you don’t have to rent one
    • extra money – in case you buy something at the bar
    • a bag for your wet swim suit
    • a hair tie – You want as little contact between your hair and the pool as possible.
  • What you can bring, but don’t really need:
    • flip-flops – You will do very little walking around the pool.
    • a water bottle – There are plenty of water fountains; you don’t need to bring water
    • a robe – You will spend most of your time in the water where a robe does you no good.
      • Most people who have robes spend 3 minutes in them, then hang them up to get in the water.
  • What you really don’t need: (All these things are provided)
    • Shampoo
    • Body wash
    • Conditioner
    • Lotion
    • A hair dryer

Hallgrímskirkja
and the Leif Erickson Statue

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • October – April: 9 am – 5 pm
  • May – September: 9 am – 9 pm

Video


Saga Museum

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 2,100 ISK

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Notes:

  • Start you visit with some Viking dress-up.

Sægreifinn
(Sea Barron)

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 11:30 – 22:00

Video

Notes:

  • The lobster soups is fantastic.
  • It’s a small restaurant and it gets very crowded.
    • There are more rooms up stairs and in the back.
    • But, when we were there, they had only one very crowded area open.

Costco

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • About 60USD / year for membership
    • The price is different in different countries.
    • Membership will get you into any Costco around the world

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 21:00 Su – F
  • 9:30 – 20:30 Su

Notes:

  • We took our Costco card we got in Japan and did some major shopping in Iceland before starting our Ring Road Trip.
    • Generally one Costco Member can bring in only one friend, but they didn’t seem to care that much here.
  • There is also an IKEA across the street.
  • Buy all the non-perishable items you need here.
    • If there is something you don’t want by the gallon, get it from the Bonus next door.

The Settlement Center

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Museum
    • ISK 2500
    • Include an aduio guide
    • 2 exhibits
  • Buffette ISK 2200
    • 11:30 am -15:00 pm

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 21:00

Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Basic Information

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • daylight hours

Video

Notes:

  • There’s a cafe in the parking lot.
  • It’s about a one hour hike from where you park your car.
  • Many people ride horses on this trail, so watch out for horse poo.
    • You might want to wear rain boots and hose them off afterwards.
    • There’s A LOT of poo!
  • There are places to change near the hot river, but it does not provide a whole lot of privacy.
    • Be careful when taking photos near the river…
    • Don’t be a jerk and change at the front door of the cafe in the parking lot, even when it’s raining.
      • I saw many people doing this and they blocked the way for paying customers to enter.
      • It doesn’t give you much privacy or shelter from the rain anyway.

Barnafoss and Hraunfossar

Basic Information

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Daylight hours

Video

Notes:

  • No camping here
  • There is a cafe nearby

Rauðfeldsgjá

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • daylight hours

Video

Notes:

  • no camping
  • Bring rain boots

Don’t Miss:

Some Pools:

Campsites:

Map:

Posted in Borgarfjörður, Borgarnes, Gardabaer, Iceland, Reykjavík | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Travel Tips for The United Kingdom

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 15, 2018

2017

You have to bring:

  • Just your prescription medication and a doctor’s note.
  • Everything else can be bought here.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • You can use a suitcase or a backpack. A Backpack gives you a little more mobility, but it’s not a must-have here.
    • But, some hostels do not have elevators.
  2. Clothes:
    • You can buy anything here.
    • Try to shop at duty free stores and ask the clerk for the duty free paper work.
      • Fill out the forms.
      • Mail it at the airport you use to leave the European Union.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying in a hostel.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • All hotels provided guests with shampoo and body wash.
    • You are never given conditioner.
    • You should bring your own toiletries if you are staying at a hostel.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at any convenience store or grocery store.
      • Personally, I prefer to shop at bigger grocery stores like Tesco Extra rather than a Tesco Express.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find this here.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • No problem; you can find it here.
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy cold medicine and pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
  8. Other things you should bring:
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone
    • hiking shoes
    • Rain jacket
    • Rain pants
    • Rain boots
  9. If you need to buy outdoor equipment, I recommend:
    • Mountain Warehouse 
      • They are always having a sale
      • Their prices for non-sale items are still generally lower than at other outdoor stores.
    • Cotswold
      • They are a bit pricier, but you can get up to a 20% discount (at the shops in Wales and England) if you have a YHA membership.

Cliffs of Dover

General Tips:

Weather:

  • Always check the weather report before going out.
    • Just because it was warm yesterday, doesn’t mean it won’t be cold today.

Food:

  • Shop at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, or other grocery stores for ready to eat lunches.
    • Many of them have a £3 lunch deal where you choose a main, a drink, and a snack.
  • For cooking your own meals, shop at the bigger grocery stores rather than the Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local.
    • The bigger stores have more products and cheaper generic versions of products.
    • Morrisons is my favorite, but I also like Tesco Extra.
    • You can save a lot of money by cooking your own meals.
  • Try Scotch eggs!
    • They are actually from London, not Scotland.
  • Try Haggis when you’re in Scotland.
    • Get the type without the sheep stomach casing.
  • Try Cornish Pasties.

Transportation:

  • Get a railway card, if you’re going to ride the train a lot.
  • Get a bus pass if you are going to take many buses.
    • National Express Coach Card
    • You can get a 7-day pass to travel about in certain areas.
  • In smaller towns it’s best to rent a car.
    • It’s a lot cheaper to rent a standard car than it is to rent an automatic.
    • So, learn to drive stick before you go, to save about £50 a day.
    • If you want an automatic, make sure to reserve one ahead of time.
      • They don’t have too many of them.
  • Don’t use the black taxis in London.
    • They are more expensive.
    • If you don’t mind paying more for a cab once for a photo or something go for it.
      • They are really nice.

I’m a Scottish Heritage member!

Get Membership:

  • You should get membership at one of the following depending on where you will travel:
    • English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
    • The memberships really do pay for themselves.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most other hostels.

Money:

  • Change money at the Post Office.
  • Or, get cash from ATMs.
    • Most ATMs have no ATM fees, but you might not get a good exchange rate…
  • Don’t tip.

Scams:

  • Not many scams to look out for, just use common sense.

The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most other hostels.

Posted in United Kingdom, The | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Edinburgh

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 10, 2018

Friday, September 1st – 3rd, 2017

“This is what I thought the whole of England would look like.” – Mark

Paris vs The Whole of Britain

When Mark got to Paris, it dazzled him. All the museums and palaces where shiny and fancy. In fact, most of the buildings in Paris were sparkly. It set the standard of opulence high in Mark’s mind. He expected every city in Europe to go all out with gold plated this and diamond encrusted that.

London failed him spectacularly. In London everything is functional, user friendly, and efficient. Very few things are unnecessarily lavish. Personally, I prefer that, but not Mark.

“I want to be wowed,” he whined. “There is no wow in London. It’s just nice. When can we go back to Paris?”

He’s a ‘Racine”. The French are just harder to please.

Our first day walking up the Royal Mile and down Princes street I heard him say, “This looks like Hogwarts!” He let out a little squeal and took photos for a good 20 minutes. After Edinburgh, I never heard Mark speak of Paris again.

Edinburgh is not fancy. But, it has a fairy-tale like feel to it. It looks like it could be inhabited by ghosts yet, be the setting for A Christmas Carol. (Come to think of it, A Christmas Carol was a story about 3 ghosts…) It’s hauntingly beautiful and the bag-pipers everywhere really set the mood of the city.

What do you think of Scotland?

The interesting part of all this, is that Mark didn’t even want to go to Scotland in the first place. I had to beg, bribe, and threaten to get him there. He wanted to go to Ireland or back to France. “I know nothing about Scotland,” he complained. “I’ve heard of Irish cities and towns. Irish dancing, Irish pubs. Irish coffee. French stuff sounds nice too. But can you name one thing you know about Scotland!”

“Well,” I told him. “My grandmother is from Scotland…”

I wanted to see the land of my ancestors. I have ancestors from all over the world. But, being the descendant of slaves and orphans, it’s hard to tell where most of them came from. But I do know for sure that my mother’s mother came from Scotland. According to my mom, the family came from a town just south of Edinburgh. So, I wanted to do a tour of Scotland.

The Scottish tour would not begin here, but after we returned from Iceland. We would rent a car and see as much of Scotland we could fit in 2 weeks. We would do it properly. And, at the end Mark fell in love with Scotland. Now, I don’t think he can even pronounce the name “Ireland”.

Don’t disturb him, he’s learning about Scotland.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Edinburgh Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £17.00
    • Free with Historic Scotland membership
  • Adult £3.50
    • 20% discount for Historic Scotland Members

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 17:00

Video

Notes:


Things to look out for:

Map:

Posted in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Lake District

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 1, 2018

Tuesday, August 29th – 31st

Before we left Liverpool, Mark picked up a car. He was tired of dealing with public transportation in England. The buses and trains in the city are fantastic, but out in the country they come by only every once in a while. Also, there is seldom a direct route to where you want to go, unless you are going from one hub to another. Taking the train from Liverpool to the YHA in Windermere would have taken many transfers.

Mark had driven stick before… in college a long time ago, in a land far, far away… on the right side of the road. He had to quickly remember how to shift, with the other hand, while negotiating the traffic in Liverpool. I couldn’t help. Not only have I only ever driven automatic cars, but adding a second driver when renting a car raises the cost. So, Mark was on his own.

Also, roundabouts are the bane of an American’s existence. Yes, we do have a lot of them in Washington, D.C. But, when I lived there I cursed the Marquis de Lafayette every time I entered one. I have always assumed that he, somehow, had something to do with the absurd number of traffic circles in DC.

Typically, Americans don’t encounter roundabouts. I hate them. They make everything in your car pitch to the right, or left depending on what country you’re in. All this just so you don’t have to stop? How much time can it possibly save?

Once Mark left the city and the roads got less congested, he relaxed and it was smooth sailing to Windermere. The YHA there was very nice with a good view of the lake and some nearby trails. But, this time we weren’t restricted to just these trails. We could drive to any we liked.

We hiked a few trails around town. But, since we had a car we mostly drove to different spots then walked for about 15 minutes. Most of what we did, did not require us to bring snacks, water, or even a map. We still had fun though.

I understand English… I think

One day Mark and I found a place called “Holiday Park” that was very near the lake. It sounded perfect for us. We were on holiday and we wanted to walk through a park. We drove over there. We were a little surprised when we found a gate at the entrance of the park requiring a pass-code. We parked the car and went into the nearby office.

We asked the lady at the desk if the park was opened. From her response I realized that there was a misunderstanding. We weren’t at a place called, “Holiday Park” we were at a holiday park.

Hoping that my American accent would explain my ignorance of holiday parks and that this lady didn’t assume I was a moron, I asked for more information. She gladly explained the rates and when the park was available, which did not help me understand what a holiday park was at all. I had to state my problem very plainly. “I know the words ‘holiday,’ a time away from work, and ‘park,’ a place where you go to be closer to nature. But I’m sorry, I’m just unfamiliar with the term ‘holiday park’. Is it a park or not?”

She gave us more information about contracts and request forms, completely missing my last few questions. She handed us a stack of brochures that said, “Windermere Holiday Park”. I turned to Mark and he shrugged. He didn’t know what was going on either.

“Can we just walk to the lake for now?” Mark asked, handing back all the papers we were just given. The lady told us we could as long as we didn’t bother anyone. “Also,” she added. “Parking in the holiday park is only for guests.” We awkwardly walked out promising not to break any of the rules and headed to the lake. “Okay, no parking in the park. Got it!”

A few yards past the gate we understood what a holiday park was. It was a cross between a trailer park and a time share. People rent these trailers during the summer or on weekends when they head up to the Lake District. This was not what we wanted, so we left to find a real park.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Windermere

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Just pay for parking

Hours:

  • Daylight hours

Videos:

Notes:

  • Be safe while on long hikes.
  • Remember to close the gates behind you.
    • Don’t let any of the sheep escape.

Map:

Posted in England, United Kingdom, The, Windermere | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
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