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  • Day1

    Hi everyone and welcome to the first blog of my travels...sorry for the little wait there ;-)

    So as I write this I'm finding it hard to believe that I've not even been away for two weeks yet, it seems like my flight from Gatwick to my first stop in Reykjavik in Iceland was a long time ago now.

    So it's been quite the adventure so far and today I'm on a bus (no, not like the ten minute ones we all know and love...this one is more like 8 hours) to Chicago. I did land in Chicago at the beginning of this week but left the following day to spend a few days in Louisville, Kentucky, to see and spend time with my friend's been a blast so thank you Sally for having me...& for doing my washing ;-)

    So I think I can only add a maximum of 6 photos to each post on here but I'll update several so you can see the places I've been to.

    Right, before that, I'm going back to the beginning of my trip now so you can read a little bit about what I've been doing and how I've been getting on...I'm sure most of you are curious, as was I!!...about how I'd feel staying in hostels not hotels, living out of a backpack, travelling around on my own and to not always being able to have an emergency pack of biscuits on me (something I've been caught out with today) to name just a few haha.

    So I had a great first week in Iceland...if you haven't been, it's definitely one to add to your holiday list. In the 6 days I was there I met some really great people with some really interesting stories and I got to do five of the 'most Icelandic' things to do there; whale watching, a northern lights tour (but they didn't make an appearance for me...I have a picture that proves otherwise though ;-) lol), the golden circle tour (you can't miss out on this one - though you will need the Icelandic Krona equivalent of £1.50 to go to the toilet - so for those of you who really know me that was one expensive day out ha), a trip to Blue Lagoon and one to a local swimming pool where at both of those places the water is a warm 38 degrees. So I suggest you get to packing and book the next flight there ha.

    Right, now the fun I have been finding it all. So I was lucky enough to have an easy journey to Iceland...I got to watch a film on the plane (Crazy Stupid Love..& it's with big thanks to Ryan Gosling that I was cheered up after an emotional goodbye to Mum & Dad) whilst sipping on a free tea. Then it turned out that I was able to buy a return pass on the plane for a transfer service to and from the airport and the hostel I was staying at (they made it a bit too easy for me didn't they ha). Then as we landed I got talking to a really nice girl from Boston who's going to give me some tips for Hawaii and she took the picture everyone has to have of 'oh look at me having just landed in my first destination' ha.

    So when I got to my hostel in Reykjavik I thought, seeing as it wasn't very late, that I'd have my pick of the beds but oh my mixed 6-bed dorm I had to take the only one left, the top bunk right next to the door and when I got back to the room after a wander about town I found the room in darkness and everyone in it asleep. This isn't good, especially when you haven't even got anything out of your backpack and you don't know whether or not you're allowed to turn the light on... but I found a way to make it work...I dragged my bag to the social room that was next door ha. Luckily from there though I found it quite easy to adjust to hostel way of life. I did have to watch though as a girl in the top bunk next to me smacked her head on the looked brutal and I'm glad I escaped that one!!

    So then all was going well and it was my last night in Reykjavik! But then at around 10 pm local time a terrible something happened...I disabled my phone by putting in the wrong passcode too many times. Well let's just say it all went a bit downhill from there. I was so busy trying to get that sorted in the morning that I forgot that I couldn't just check out in my own time and when I got back to the room from having a shower my key card to the room didn't work...lovely jubbly. But even though that happened and I felt like I was lost without my phone I realised that I could handle all these little things that were happening just fine! & then someone must've known I needed a little treat because when I got to my hostel in Chicago I was upgraded to a private room...what a result! And with the help of my good friend Sally, I've now got the phone back up and running whoop ;-) hehe!!

    Okay so that's enough rambling for now...when I get to Chicago I've got 5 days there to get out and do some exploring and then I'm going by train (oh this one's days not hours) over to the west coast. Watch out California, I'm coming for you soon...

    I'll post again very soon...

    ....lots of love, Fran x x x
    Read more

  • Day3

    So after filling doggy bags of free food from the Gatwick lounge (thanks Val & Al!), we boarded our icelandair flight. The entrance to the plane was signed by the Iceland women's football team. The safety video was amusing, with artistic licence given to use the nature of Iceland to explain the procedures, such as jumping off a cliff in to a lake to simulate going down the emergency exit slide! The sky was clear as we looked out through the window, glancing over the alien landscape as we came in to land. Once on the ground, several buses with landscapes and auroras pasted across their exterior darted across, ferrying passengers. We made our way to collect our hire car - from our old aygo to a new, left-hand drive! Hugo was first up, and after familiarising ourselves with the controls and learning that cars in Iceland must always have headlights on, we set off towards Reykjavik. Even the dustbin lorry had a nautral landscape on its side! Our hostel had a sea view but was very unassuming from the outside. Inside was a quirky, industrial interior complete with a bar selling pints for £11! We dumped our bags in our top bunks in our 16 bed dorm, ate our leftovers we had packed from the UK and then headed to the seafront. We visited the harpa concert hall, an impressive architectural building made from panels of glass. Next we walked up to the new-age looking church, hallgrimskirkja, and enjoyed a panoramic view from the top, with the evening sun reflecting on the brightly coloured corrugated rooves. The skyline of Reykjavik was punctuated with cranes; a city expanding and developing. Shop windows contained fashionable outdoor clothing (including arctic Fox scarves!), and creative graffiti lined the walls. Back at KEX hostel we joined the crowds in the bar to listen to a live jazz band. After checking the aurora forecast, we headed outside to look north, hoping to see a colourful sky amidst the stars. As we walked along the seafront, unsure whether our minds were playing tricks on us, we noticed a few 'cloudlike' patches and noticed a few other silhouettes also pointing in the same direction. These patches came and went, however the city's lights made it difficult to see any vivid colours. In a last ditch attempt we drove down to the lighthouse, where many cars had also gathered, but unfortunately we were not to be treated to a full display. The one photo does depict some green shades, though! Next morning we were up to begin the drive of the golden circle, the well-trodden tourist path around some of the natural wonders of Iceland. First was Thingvellir national park, where we walked in the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates! Photos from the park showed a good aurora display the previous evening. Time for me to get behind the wheel! The roads were great to practise on, although there were the odd unmarked gravel patches or speed bumps. We arrived in to the busy car park of the Strokkur Geysir. Steam rose from the ground and the smell of sulphur drifted towards us (the smell reappeared throughout the route, with Hugo making some unwelcome accusations as to the source of the odour)! As we gathered around the geysir, along with all the other tourists, an explosion of water burst in to the sky. We sat to have our picnic, absorbed by the spectacle shooting in to the air every few minutes. Next stop was the Gullfoss waterfall. As we neared the car park, a glacier came in to view on the horizon; it's scale difficult to believe, dwarfing the mountains in front of it. In the other direction was a thunderous waterfall with a rainbow beaming across. The weather was glorious and made the scenery more amazing. We walked out to the outcrop, sprayed in water droplets, and admired the awe of the water thundering downstream, enough to fill 6 shipping containers every second! Reluctantly we left, heading off to Kerid crater, spotting a couple in wedding attire coming back from a photo shoot. We walked around the crater, staring down in to the blue water at the bottom, in contrast to the red, earthy ground. On the way to our last stop we passed a geothermal plant and as we were passing several Icelandic horses, Fleetwood Mac played on the radio, with images of the moonwalking pony from that advert crossing our minds! We made our way to Nautholsvik beach, a local hot spring hangout frequented by many Icelanders (the men are very rugged looking!) We headed in to the changing rooms and it was then that the communal showers at the hostel made sense. Icelandic people are very 'free', and I did an awkward British towel dance to change in to my costume (Hugo had no second thoughts about stripping off)! The stone tub overlooks the sea, and we witnessed several natives dipping in the chilly water donning their neoprene shoes and gloves before walking over to the hot tub! After a relaxing soak, we headed back to the hostel to decide on where to eat out. We chose a place selling only two soups that come in bowls made from bread. A hearty meal to fill us up! Exhausted after a busy day, we hit the sack (accompanied by a choir of snorers!) This morning we checked out of the hostel and went to explore the old harbour. Lots of nice seafood places but all out of our budget! We did get a free sample of what i think was rye bread with prawns at a bakery! We chose to look around the aurora museum, watching several time lapse videos and reading about the various beliefs of various nations about the lights. For example, that pregnant icelandic women looking at the aurora could give birth to cross-eyed children or that the northern lights were souls of the dead playing football using the skull of a walrus as a ball?! Afterwards we tucked in to an Icelandic hotdog, not too disimilar from a German wurst. Most of the other tourists we came across were German. To round off our time in Iceland we hunted down a cinnamon bun from the Braud & Co bakery - soo tasty and totally worth the £4 each! Back to the airport we went and on to Canada!Read more

  • Day8

    For this night we are staying in a really nice camp by the lake. It even has trees, something you don't see too often on Iceland. The camp warden was blocking the way when we came, talk about being a total duck. After dark we saw a small cute bird with a long beak 🙄

  • Day6

    We had some time to kill before our meetup at 12, so we started the day here at Dyrhólaey. Many puffins nest here on the cliffside in the summer, but we could not see any since most have flown south at this time ☹

  • Day7

    Really beautiful blue ice here from the glacier. It breaks off and melts on the way down to the sea. Sometimes you can hear the ice cracking in the distance. And seals! They were swimming quite close to where we were standing, just a small stone throw away. Their eyes are pitch black, a bit scary.

  • Day3

    We finally arrived at the camp, and we had to drive through a river to get there 😃 Felt like a badass while doing so 😎 Being further up in the mountains in a humid place, this was the coldest camp so far. Later in the evening we got into the camp's natural hot spring. It was something we instantly regret right before and right after because of the cold, but it was really nice in the water. The water has different temperatures in different spots, and it changes all the time, so if you move around you can get the temperature just right 👌 We stayed there for a while into the night, while watching the night sky with northern lights!Read more

  • Day5

    Right next to the ring road is the famous Seljalandsfoss. Protip: Bring waterproof clothing if you want to go in the small cave behind the waterfall. Here is also Gljúfrabúi, a waterfall inside a cave 😮 Got to try my new Goretex pants here ☺ However, my Samsung Galaxy S7 decided to die from the water. Fortunately, some first aid with a towel and the charger brought it back to life.

  • Day23

    Very busy day today. We drive to Pingvellir National Park, the site of the ancient parliament founded in 930 AD and still active today. The park is also the site of where the earth is splitting apart due to the forces of the Great Atlantic Rift. We then drive onto Haukadalur, a geothermal area and where Storkkur erupts every 5-10 minutes. Continuing on through to one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls, Gullfoss or "the golden waterfall"
    Lunch at Efstidalur farm which is self sustaining and you can see the cattle in barn through the window next to you. Could see a glacier in background
    Next is a visit to Fridheimar farm where they grow tomatoes under a geothermal greenhouse. Very yummy tomatoes! There were also some Icelandic horses there, they do rides and teach horseriding.
    Porvaldseyri farm visit and film about surviving Eyjafallajokull volcano eruption in 2010. The whole farm was covered in layers of ash, now completely clean and very fertile soil from that. They also have a very good family museum of old household and farm articles.
    3 cuts of big round silage bales wrapped in plastic. Many fields with them. The pink ones 10% more expensive but the 10 % goes to breast cancer and blue ones to prostate cancer.
    Some farms have hot springs and make lots of many by selling the energy/heat to their neighbours/village. Many "summer house" villages near these springs.
    In afternoon drizzle and fog limiting views.
    Lots of water, lots of drains. Ash fields, rocky black basalt. Very furtile soil, lovely chocolate colour like north Tassie soil- spud country. Grow anything. Lots of "empty" farm land as many people leave for other countries or to Reykjavik. Large % of Icelanders live in Reykjavik (population 200 000)
    Into hotel about 7.30. Buffet at Hotel Katla in Vik. Lots of different food. Smoked or roast horse. Beef tongue. Arctic char fish
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  • Day26

    Icecream for morning smoko at a dairy, Holtsel farm, that has value added with icecream
    Lunch with the cows at Kaffi Ku cafe is in a glassed area over the fully mechanised dairy. The cows walk themselves into the milking "robot" when they feel full. There was also a robot that swept the hay etc off the floor. Their milk is sold on but use and sell meat from bull calves.

    Some farms just grow grass and bale to sell. No other enterprise
    Hot springs most places - little towns around that as "free energy"
    Bring sheep down from mountains in first 2 weeks of Sept as it may start snowing. The 5th today and feels like it
    26000 cows in Iceland all Icelandic breed as not allowed to import due to disease. Divided opinion as this will only lead to inbreeding. Some want to keep the breed pure, others see it as necessary
    Saw some belted galloway cows, was controversial at first but have adapted well.

    Kaldi micro brewery with much value adding. Used to be fishermen but injury stopped that. Decided to brew so studied in Germany but then realised best brewing was in Czechoslovakia so studied there. All their gear and barley comes from there too- not enough barley grown consistently in Iceland to use local barley. They have a restaurant AND beer spa!! Yes, they have a bath with 15% "young beer" in water and nice smelly oils. Plus beer bath salts and other beauty products. Very clever
    Look around Akureyri. 19000 people in Akureyri, 5th largest town by population
    walked through the botanical gardens. There airport runway juts right into the causeway nearly joining the road!!
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  • Day27

    We're back at Reykjavik which means we've completed the Golden Circle road around Iceland, with a few detours. Big drive again north to south via the west.
    Horse show and lunch at Gauksmyri farm - 5 gaited Icelandic horse, normal horses have 4. The extra gait is calld "Tolt", it has no English translation.
    They are 14 hands high but DON'T  call them ponies!! Lots of different colours due to ancient genetic make up. Come from the viking era and originate from Shetland pony, Scottish Highland Pony and Mongolian horse
    Icelandic horse, like the cow, not allowed back in if gone out of country therefore they choose carefully the ones to go overseas to compete because they have to be sold there. Therefore also no Icelandic horse championships can be held in  Iceland. They're held elsewhere.

    Sheep farm, Bjarteyjarsandur, -1600 sheep, 600 ewes. Most other farms 450 ewes. No predators here. Go into mountains  in May/June then herd them up (muster) September. Lamb in April. Natural mating plus AI about 100 ewes. In winter house them. Slaughter them 4-5 months old as lamb, after that it's called something else. House in October,  shear in November. Muster every 2 weeks for about 3 times. Old law means sheep can graze anywhere. One man in area "King of the Mountain" looks for and organises mustering. This farmer is King.
    Icelandic sheep have 2 layers of wool, white wool more valuable so separate. Shear twice a year. He shears own sheep.
    Delicious late afternoon tea- smoked lamb, cheese and blueberry pancake. Then, a beautiful song by sister-in-law. Goose bumps and had women nearly in tears.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Iceland, Island, Iceland, Ysland, Aesland, አይስላንድ, Islandia, Īsland, أيسلندا, İslandiya, Ísland, Ісландыя, Исландия, Isilandi, আইসল্যান্ড, ཨ་ཨི་སི་ལནད།, Islàndia, Islandëjô, Исланди, Gwlad yr Iâ, އައިސްލަންޑަން, ཨའིསི་ལེནཌ, Aiseland nutome, Ισλανδία, Islando, ایسلند, Islannda, Islanti, Islande, Yslân, An Íoslainn, Innis Tile, આઇસલેન્ડ, Aisalan, איסלנד, आइसलैण्ड, Islandska, Izland, Իսլանդիա, Islanda, Icelandia, アイスランド共和国, ისლანდია, Aislandi, Islandi, អ៉ីស្លង់, ಐಸ್‌ಲ್ಯಾಂಡ್, 아이슬란드, ئایسلەند, Ayisirandi, Iesland, Islànda, Isilandɛ, ໄອສແລນ, Islandija, Isilande, Īslande, Islandy, Исланд, ഐസ്‌ലാന്റ്, आइसलँड, အိုက်စလန်, आइस्ल्याण्ड, IJsland, Islandii, ଆଇସଲ୍ୟାଣ୍ଡ, آیسلینډ, Islândia, Islandya, Ayisilandi, आइसलैंड, Islánda, Islânde, අයිස්ලන්තය, Iislaand, ஐஸ்லாந்து, ఐస్లాండ్, ไอซ์แลนด์, ʻAisilani, Aislan, İzlanda, ئىسلاندىيە, Ісландія, آئس لینڈ, Ai-xơ-len (Iceland), Lisladeän, איסלאנד, Orílẹ́ède Aṣilandi, 冰岛, i-Iceland

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