Friday, November 3, 2017

Iceland part 1

Iceland has been on my bucket list for ages.  For our 25th wedding anniversary, we visited Iceland.  We stayed in Reykjavik.

We flew to NY, then a direct flight to Iceland.  After checking in, we napped then went to the Blue Lagoon.  If anyone reading this blog ends up visiting Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a MUST.  Book your time slot first and take your swimwear and I must include this disclaimer about your hair.  Ladies....your hair.....with the blend of geothermal seawater that has silica and sulfur and other minerals....that shit does NOT easily come out of your hair.  DO NOT make this your last stop before heading to the airport or you will have a very long flight with disgusting unmanageable, gross hair.  It takes about 5 or more shampoos before your hair feels relatively normal again.  I am now on my 3rd day here also my last and my hair is still kinda gross.  It's OK though.....I didn't come to Iceland to complain about my hair, besides it has been under a beanie most of the time, so who cares. So besides the hair, it really is advisable to book ahead of time.  You can't just show up and go in.  During the summer months, you need to book months in advance.  Once you get there, you get access to the hot springs, towels, lockers, shampoo and conditioner (ha ha, that's a joke), bar and restaurant.  One must shower without your swimsuit on before entering the lagoon.
Steamy Blue Lagoon.  The water is a gorgeous powder blue.






The next morning we set off to do the Golden Circle drive on our own.  Our first stop was the tectonic plates (A Game of Thrones scene was filmed here).  Þingvellir National Park also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one to put on your bucket list.  The park is in the valley between North American and Eurasia.  Pretty cool to be able to say you walked from one continent to the next.  
Þingvellir National Park 


At the bottom of the North American plate is Öxaráfoss waterfall.  




 The second stop of the Golden Circle was Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths.  We just weren't feeling it as we were both coming down with some icky cold and the idea of disrobing to walk from the changing room in the cold to the baths just wasn't appealing.  The baths were manmade with spring water.  Maybe next time, but Fontana isn't as popular as the Blue Lagoon, so if you can't get a time slot that you like at the BL, then try Fontana or search for other springs as Iceland is loaded with hot springs.  You can also take a dip in the lake, but that part is cold.  No thanks.  We just walked around the property (see below).








The little holes in the sand in front of Dereck are bubbling with boiling water.  Behind him in the grass, we found some egg shells that someone left behind.  They must have boiled a few eggs.  Surprising as littering is so frowned upon in Iceland.  It's the cleanest country I have ever visited in my life.  




Next stop:  The highlight of the Golden Circle, at least for me.  The geyser field.  I have never seen one before and there are 2 here, one is Geysir and is dormant and doesn't erupt and the one is Strokkur Geyser.
On lookers waiting for Strokkur to erupt.

Strokkur erupts every 8-10 minutes.

Hot spring holes are scattered in the area.

Strokkur erupting.

Another steamy pool.  Some tourists like to toss coins in the pools but are not allowed, it is considered littering.

Geysir, Iceland's most famous geyser.
Then on to this huge waterfall called Gullfoss.  This was Dereck's highlight.  The walk to the waterfall was frozen and slippery and downhill, so most of us hopped over the rope rail and walked in the grass.  There's a lot of parts that you are not allowed to walk on because it destroys the vegetation and it could take many many years to grow back, if at all.  But in the case of the waterfall, it's for your protection but lots of tourists were ignoring the signs and going on cliffs for those epic Instagram selfies. 



The spray creates beautiful rainbows.

The grass covered in frost.

The amount of water moving at such a furious and powerful pace was amazing.  

Yep, trying to get that perfect selfie with my Olympus Pen E-PL2 was not as easy as using my iPhone.

D-man.

A lone tourists walking where he shouldn't.


You can see the NO HUMANS ALLOWED sign, but yet they still go.

The lower part of Gullfoss.  So strong and powerful AND cold!

Someone offered to take our photo at the top of Gullfoss.  I know, I spelled Gullfoss wrong on the photo. 

Yep, stupid tourist standing where she shouldn't!  It's for your safety so follow the rules!

The final stop was this volcanic crater,  Kerið.  It was formed about 6,500 years ago.  That's pretty damn old!
Kerid crater lake. 



We rushed to see this one as the sun was setting, but we soon realized that the sunsets here last hours and not minutes.


Photobomb!  
Iceland is amazing and there's so much to see and do.  Three days here was just not enough.  I'd like to return in the summer, but I'd have to battle the crowds of tourists.  Snowmobiling and walking through ice caves are year round activities that I'd like to do in the future.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Taj Mahal!

The Taj is on the list of New 7 Wonders of the World.  It certainly is a wonder to the naked eye and looks like a backdrop in a photography studio.  It's majestic and grand.
A guest house lies to the east and a Mosque to the west.  The mausoleum was built for the Emperor, Shah Jahan's favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth of their 14th child.  There's a second grave where the Emperor himself, Shah Jahan lies next to his beloved. The tombs we saw are the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and the Emperor.  The real graves are on a lower level which we were not allowed to view.  The security there is strict.  Absolutely NO photos to be taken of the sarcophagi.  I saw one man take a photo with his phone and the security tried to punch him, but he got away.  Wow.  Not sure why photos are not allowed, but that's just how it is.

Scaffolding on the entrance to the Taj.....drum roll please!


And here it is!!!  THE TAJ MAHAL!!!  I can't believe it! 
What a glorious sight.  I can now check it off my bucket list.



The Taj Mahal's Mosque at sunset.

As we were leaving, we heard the call to prayer.  

Jumping for joy because we are actually at the Taj Mahal.

We had so much fun!

What a joyous and expressive woman. 

What a wonderful expression of love.  A ridiculously expensive mausoleum built by a man for his favourite wife.  Made of marble with inlays of semi-precious stones like carnelian, black onyx, mother of pearl, turquoise etc.  It's all still perfectly there.

Jenny!

We had the time of our lives.  Can't wait to tour south India.

Monday, October 2, 2017

India

My journey though Rajasthan was amazing.  A very long trip with many hours on a bus through small villages and big cities like Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Agra to name a few.  So many interesting sights along the way.  I posted quite a few on Facebook but here are some I saved for my blog.
There was a shrine on the side of the road and when offerings of food are left, the monkeys help themselves.  We stopped to get a closer look at this tribe of troublemakers.  They were perfectly happy to be a safe distance from us till our bus driver got out and opened a packet of cookies.  Their eagle eyes caught sight immediately and they rushed to see who could get the packet first.  They don't seem to like to share.
I was quite happy to use my zoom to capture these critters, but then they started to rush toward me.  Holy shit!!  I didn't know that our bus driver got out and was offering a packet of cookies.  

My Nat Geo moment....capturing a blissful mother nursing her baby.

Waiting for something to happen....like another packet of cookies.  

Best hotel view ever.  We were at The Lalit Laxmi Villas Palace in Udaiper and this is their view.  So beautiful.

My beautiful mother making the sunset more beautiful.  I was so lucky to share this tour with her.  She's a real trooper!

I could have done a lot more damage in this store than I did.  I bought a vintage Kanta blanket. Not sure which side to use!  

Oh, this woman made me laugh.  The gorgeous Jennifer Robinson.

Not sure where this was taken.  It was hot and it was in Jaipur.

Next 2 photos and this one are scenes from our bus.

I don't know, boxes of shoes?