The big smoke

Yesterday was a very long day.

We headed into Reykjavik for some city action.  Reyk is the Icelandic word for smoke, so Reykjavik really is the Big Smoke!

We wandered around some souvenir shops, had lunch in a cafe, then visited Hallgrímskirkja.  This spectacular Lutheran cathedral is a major landmark in Reykjavik, very visible on top of a hill.

Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja

Inside it is beautifully light, simple and elegant, with an amazing 5,275-pipe organ.

light and beauty

light and simplicity

organ

organ

 

We wandered back through town, and found a very nice coffee shop for afternoon tea.  There we discussed our next move: the big swimming pool with hot pools, water slides, etc; or a late-afternoon whale-watching tour.  A consensus was reached in favour of whale-watching. We’ll go swimming another day.

The day had been very changeable, sunny one minute and torrential rain the next, but the evening was spectacular.  The sea was flat and calm and the weather was perfect.  We were glad we’d chosen to cruise the bay.  There weren’t many people on the tour, so it felt very relaxed and personal.  We saw three or four minke whales, some porpoises and a pod of 8 white-beaked dolphins.

The Dad & Pearl get up close with dolphins

The Dad & Pearl get up close(ish) with dolphins

 

The dolphins were closer than they look in the photo!  At one point they were within 10m of the boat.

We also saw POOOFFINS!  The puffins were swimming about in the bay, and often tried to fly away when the boat got near.  They’re not very good at taking off from the water though.  As the guide said, “They make pretty good rowboats!” They were adorably cute while flapping along the surface of the water.

Fainjin & Babess on spotting duty

Fainjin & Babess on spotting duty

The crew were very welcoming to the children, sitting them up in the captain’s chair and giving them crew hats to wear, explaining the course computer and talking about whales with them.  Apart from the kids spotting the snacks for sale and pleading starvation from then on, we all had a fantastic time.  Even if we hadn’t seen any wildlife, it was a lovely evening to be out cruising in Faxafloi bay.

But… it was a 5pm cruise, so we got back at 8:30ish, and it was an hour’s drive home again… and we got a bit lost in the Reykjavik traffic system… so we didn’t get home until 10pm.  By which stage Babess was asleep in the back seat, and Fainjin very nearly so.  Fainjin woke up for some dinner, but Babess just went to bed.  (Perhaps we should have fed them snacks on the boat after all…).

The Dad and I took a while to wind down, and soon found ourselves watching the sun set.  It was a beautiful calm evening.  The Dad went outside just after midnight and took these photos.

a neighbour's place in the midnight dusk

a neighbour’s place in the midnight dusk

looking towards the just-set sun

looking towards the just-set sun

This morning was, not unexpectedly, a slow start.  The weather was… perfect. Fine, sunny, warm – about 19’C, much warmer than previous days, and calm.  We fluffed around the cabin for most of the morning, reading, playing chess, doing not much, then decided to head back to Þingvellír to see it properly.

But first the kids went up to investigate these potential trolls behind our house. This is the view from our bedroom window!

But first the kids went up to investigate these potential trolls behind our house. This is the view from our bedroom window!

Since we were last here, a visitors’ centre has been built at Þingvellír, and new walkways over the rocks.  It’s all very swish and nice, although we somewhat regret that the pressure of tourist numbers (to which we are contributing) has made this kind of development necessary.  It’s still a very beautiful place.

view of the lake at Thingvellir

view of the lake at Thingvellir

The water in the rivers and lake is incredibly clear, you can see right to the bottom of very deep pools, and often can’t quite judge where the surface of the water is.  It’s a shame to see lots of coins have been thrown into nearly every pool though, despite signs asking people not to do this.

one decent earthquake and this will fall...

one decent earthquake and this will fall…

pretty church at Thingvellir

pretty church at Thingvellir

inside the church

inside the church

our silhouettes on a river bridge - we'd just seen a trout swimming past!

our silhouettes on a river bridge – we’d just seen a trout swimming past!

It was so tempting to linger, but we had an appointment, so we headed home for a very quick lunch, then straight out again to a horse-riding centre.

Pearl & I signed up for a one-hour ride on Icelandic horses.  I was a bit nervous – I haven’t ridden for years and never very well – but these horses were steady and well-behaved and a delight to ride.  We just walked along the track; perhaps next time I will summon up the courage to attempt the famous tölt which is a unique Icelandic gait.  Again, the scenery was spectacular.

Pearl & I and our two guides ride along the base of a local mountain

Pearl & I and our two guides ride along the base of a local mountain

After our ride, our lovely guides suggested that they could give Fainjin and Babess little rides as well – just in the driveway.  Of course they jumped at the chance! I thought Babess’ face might split, she was grinning so much.

Fainjin has a ride in front of our lovely guide

Fainjin has a ride in front of our guide

The afternoon was wonderfully relaxed – there was tea & coffee available, a sunny deck to sit on and chat, some other people but not too many, a friendly dog and a pet lamb called Hercules.  We were there for two hours doing our one-hour ride!  The sun was so warm and there was no wind… I felt a small regret that we hadn’t signed up for the 3-hour ride instead. Until I hopped off my horse, that is, and tried to walk!  Luckily we have a spa back at the cabin for soaking tired muscles.

So that’s what we did – we came home, had a leisurely dinner, had a soak, then sat eating ice-cream until after bedtime.

Anyone would think we were on holiday.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

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