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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Kleinfelter's European Adventure Pt. 1 - Iceland


Part 1 - Iceland



Sept 2, 2016
8:15pm Central Time
Location:  Somewhere over Lake Michigan

Our great European adventure has finally begun!  We are on our way to Iceland where we will spend two days before flying to France.  We will then visit Disneyland Paris and Paris itself before continuing on to Barcelona Spain.  After Spain we will board the Disney Magic for an 11 day transatlantic cruise that will take us to the Azores and Canada before arriving in New York City where we will spend the day before returning to Illinois.

Here is ALL of our luggage for 27 days! I could write a whole how-to blog now about packing lightly for 7!
It’s a whirlwind trip that will keep us busy every step of the way, but that‘s just the way we like it!  Our kids our seasoned travelers (as you can see from our other blog entries), but this is the first time we have ventured overseas, so this will be a whole new experience for all of us.

I have to say, even though I’ve only been on the plane for 45 minutes and our flight left a half hour late, I am already very impressed with Iceland Air.  The seats look brand new.  There is personal entertainment at every seat and they treat the kids great!  They gave them goodie bags when we boarded and brought a kids meal to each kid soon after takeoff!  We did have to play musical chairs after we boarded because sometime after we booked our plane changed to a widebody, while our seat assignments stayed the same.  That kind of separated us all over the place.  Luckily everyone around us was very cooperative and we managed to get our seats arranged the way we wanted them.
(Kyrie's comments in blue as usual.) I like Icelandair too, they handed everyone a bottle of water upon entry and there was a blanket and pillow waiting on each seat. They do live up to their reputation of having hard seats though. I sat on my folded blanket rather than covering up with it.

Zach fell asleep instantly when the plane was still finding the runway - so far, so good.  Hopefully the others (and I) will fall asleep quickly too so that we can have a nice day in Iceland when we arrive.

Our flight is scheduled to take 5 hours and 15 minutes which means it will be about 1:30am in Illinois when we arrive.  With the time change, it will already be 6:30am in Iceland, so we will need to get our day started (plus we cant check into our apartment until noon, so we don’t have a choice anyway).

The screen on the airplane tells me that Iceland has about 300,000 residents.  I think our plane holds about 300 people (and it’s very full), So every plane changes the population by 0.1% - yikes!  It will be interesting to see a place  with so few people.  The screen also says that over 10% of Iceland is lava fields.  


By the way, two days before our trip, Katla, a volcano that is 50 years overdue for eruption had two large earthquakes and started rumbling – wish us luck!

Well that’s all for now gotta try to get some sleep now.


Sept 3, 2016
16:00 Iceland Time
Location:  Unmar's Luxury Villa, Reykjavik

The airplane went fine.  The girls and Zach slept fine and the boys slept for a couple hours.  We were surprised that everyone woke up on their own before we landed.  That made it a lot easier to get off the plane and collect our bags and get through customs, etc.

We picked up our rental car without too much trouble.  We had reserved a “Luxury minivan” that was to hold 7.  The guy at the counter said, “we’ve got you setup in a station wagon”.  I said, “I guess that’s fine as long as it fits us all”.  We were all in the room at the time.  After charging us, he looked around and said, “Oh, there are 6 of you!”  I said, “Umm...yeah, 7 actually!”  Then he decided to switch us to a 9 passenger van.  






Next was breakfast from a bakery near the airport.  That was the first time it really felt like we were in another country.  Everyone was speaking Icelandic and the signs were all in Icelandic as well.  Luckily, they spoke good English and all the food was on display so it was easy enough to figure out what we should get.  I also had no idea how much the money in Iceland is worth, so it was kind of hard to know what to get.  


A latte for Kyrie and a cinnamon loaf for all to share

From there we continued on to Iceland's biggest tourist attraction, The Blue Lagoon.  For a place that calls itself ICEland the country has an awful lot of outdoor pools.  This is due to the fact that Iceland sits on the meeting point of 2 tectonic plates which create really hot water about a kilometer below the surface of the ocean and Iceland uses the somewhat cooled water in their pools (and for a bunch of other uses).  The Blue Lagoon is one of those pools except that this one is very heavily marketed.  We had a nice time floating around in The Blue Lagoon.  It really isn't my thing, but people seem to like it.  The minerals in the water are kind of slimy and leave your hair really stiff and dry.
Our kids love hot tubs, and this is one giant hot tub where you can rub mud all over your face and swim up to a smoothie bar. Needless to say the kids and I enjoyed this experience. Definitely put your hair up and try not to submerge it. It makes me wonder how good this water can be for our skin when it seems to be terrible for our previously healthy hair.




Near noon now, we thought it would be a good idea to drive to Reykjavik to the famous hot dog stand, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur for lunch. We found it but it took forever to find a parking spot and we were hesitant to wake up Zach, Ella, and Max. Finally, we found a very close spot and Marc and Jacob proceeded to the very long line while I waited in the car with the sleepers. They woke up just in time to grab the hot dogs at the front of the line. It was fun to try them, and the crunchy onions were good, but the sweet mustard was difficult to get used to as was knowing the meat is mostly lamb (I think.) The Z's wouldn't try them. Max liked them plain. 


Iceland is known for their hot dogs, and they are interesting.  They are topped with ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, crisp fried onion and raw onion.  Also, they are made mostly from lamb.  Overall, I thought they were fine, but not something I would choose to eat in the future.




The parking in Reykjavik is difficult.  It's almost all street parking and the streets are quite narrow in spots.  There are a lot of one way roads (and some that should be).  I had to quickly learn the street signs which are all different than the United States.  Also, I can't pronounce any street names, so even with the phone telling me where to turn it's really hard to find my way around.





Reykjavik is a nice city, there are a lot of little shops and restaurants and the buildings are nice to see.  Half the population of Iceland lives in this city, but that's still not a huge amount of people and the city is spread out a lot.  The downtown area is quite large and could have used some better street planning, but it's a really nice place to visit.




Oh yeah, we stopped at this Te & Kaffi place so that Ella could spill her hot cocoa all over Zoe.

Jacob - The blue lagoon was fine the  hot dogs were tribal (pretty sure that was an auto-fill problem and that he meant terrible, but we thought it was hilarious and appropriate.) Commentary in pink is Jacob's input.

After our tribal lunch, we found the house we are renting and got unloaded.  We found this house through Airbnb, It's listed as Luxurious City Villa.  The owner had sent us the code to get the key a couple of days ago, so we were able to walk right in when we arrived.












The first thing we realized after we walked in, was that this wasn't just some place that Unmar rented out to people.  He apparently actually lives there whenever it's not being rented.  We knew that some of the Airbnb places were like that, but we didn't realize it about any of the places we rented for this trip.  So, who knows, maybe our places in France and Spain are like that too.  It's not a big deal, but it was a surprise to see a refrigerator with opened food and closets filled with other people's clothes!

Anyway, the house is quite nice.  It's very close to Reykjavik and it has a nice patio area.  The beds are comfortable and other than having a hard time figuring out European light switches and appliances, we are making ourselves quite at home here.

I don't like how all of their stuff is still here.

When we got settled in, we headed back to Reykjavik for an early dinner, hoping to get done early and get to bed before everyone got too cranky from our lack of sleep last night.

Being back in the car, quickly knocked out Zach and Zoe
After finding a parking spot we walked up the street to the famous church in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja (had to look up the spelling on that).  We looked around inside and also saw the Leif Erikson statue.  It looks like i could build it in Minecraft.




Upon exiting Hallgrimskirkya we saw the Waffle Wagon and the kids ended up eating a very sugary dinner.

Not really our proudest parenting moment! BEST DINNER OF THE WHOLE TRIP.

Then we checked out some shops and tried to find some dinner for Kyrie and me.  Since the kids had already eaten and Zach was getting cranky, we couldn't really find a good fit downtown.  We ended up driving to the grocery store to get some breakfast and lunch for tomorrow.  At that point Zach changed from cranky to angry monster that hasn't had nearly enough sleep.  He screamed at me throughout the store because I wouldn't get him a Kinder Surprise Egg that he saw (he had picked one out as a treat after lunch, so I really wasn't going to get him another one).  While Zach is three years old and can be quite stubborn and angry, this was a new level for him.  I knew that he was just really, really tired and probably out of sorts because of all the travel stuff.  I took him out to the car while Kyrie and the kids finished up the shopping.  He still hadn't stopped screaming at me, when they finally got to the car - yikes!  Anyway, somehow Kyrie calmed him down and we were able to drive home in "peace" (or whatever the normal level of chaos is in the car.)

  
This was the fast food that Kyrie and I ended up getting on the way home.  It was pretty good.
After we got back to the house everyone fell asleep very quickly.


September 4, 2016
21:00 and I should be in bed, but I have to wait for the washer, so that I can get the clothes in the dryer!
Location:  Unmar's House

Everyone slept well last night.  Zach did wake up once in the middle of the night for some water and then seemed to think he should stay up, but I managed to get him back to bed pretty quickly.

Unmar's cat (on the patio) was displaced by our stay as well!
We had a busy day today exploring the Iceland interior.  They call it the Golden Circle tour and it's a very popular bus trip.  We decided that driving it ourselves would be better for us since we could go at our own pace and not worry about the kids being bored on the bus.  We downloaded an app that used GPS to give us an audio tour as drove the route.  We had a few technical difficulties, but overall it worked out pretty well and gave us a lot of interesting facts that we never would have known.
The drive without stops would be 3 1/2 hours, so with stops it takes most of the day.

The scenery around Iceland is beautiful in a very simple kind of way and the pictures just really don't do it justice.  There are mountains everywhere and so many sheep wandering around.  Also, there are 100,000 of these little Viking horses, in a country than only has 300,000 people!






Our first stop on the tour was where the American and Euroasian tectonic plates meet.  In this location, 9000 years ago, the two plates moved 30 feet apart and you can see the gash in the Earth!  Today, was homeschooling at it's best!



We spent quite a bit of time here climbing and exploring the area.





You can't really tell but we're standing on one side of the continental divide, with the other 30 feet behind us. It blends in!

Form there we continued on the drive for quite a while...






 Our next stop was at Geysur, where they have geyser that erupts every 5 minutes.  There are quite a few heat vents and little bubbler things all through the area and it was interesting to look at.
The original Geysur is no longer active. This was what all other geysers are named after. This is Strokkur, Geysur's little brother and close to where Geysur was situated. It erupts about every 6-10 minutes. We saw a double blow while we were there less than a minute apart. Very cool! There are also smaller geysers nearby. The US has two geysers bigger than Strokkur. It really makes me want to see them now!




Then we stopped in the gift shop for ice cream!

We missed several stops when our audio tour accidentally turned off and we didn't realize it.  That was a bummer, but we saw a lot of great stuff.

The next stop was this waterfall...

And then this one...








Then we stopped at this church that God has destroyed 10 times with earthquakes, fire, etc., and they keep rebuilding it for some reason.




Here are some of those Viking horses...
They are the purest breed of horses in the world because of the isolation of Iceland and they have an extra way of galloping compared to horses anywhere else.

 The last stop was a volcanic crater.  The kids thought that was pretty awesome.

Kyrie talked Zach into staying at the top with her while I took the other kids down to the lake at the bottom of the crater
The big kids and Marc at the lake in the crater

It was such a great drive and the kids learned a bunch and didn't even complain that much!  We learned that one Iceland town holds the record for most earthquakes in a day...at 1500!  It was a great tour of part of Iceland and someday we would love to comeback to see the glaciers and whales and whatever else we didn't get a chance to experience - except the fermented shark - we can do without that!

Speaking of dinner..we had dinner tonight at Roadhouse in Reykjavik.  It models itself after American restaurants and does a pretty good job of it.  We decided to go there because it was easy to get to and we knew the kids would eat the food.  We are all too tired to be adventurous tonight and try to find more authentic food. Plus Iceland isn't really known for good food. 

Tomorrow we leave bright and early for France!  
  
See part 2 for our visit to France!




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