Friday, August 31, 2012

The Little Foss -- Golden Circle, Iceland

Foss = Falls. Little because... well, you'll see in a post or two.
On our full day in Iceland we took a Golden Circle tour with Iceland Horizon, a fantastic small tour company. When you start researching day tours near Reykjavik, you quickly discover that a tour of the Golden Circle will give you the most bang for your krona, and that the most common economical way to see the Golden Circle is on a tour on a large coach bus (the big tour companies charge a premium for smaller group tours). The three main stops on the Golden Circle are Gullfoss, ├×ingvellir, and Haukadalur. Icelandic Horizon offer the perfect compromise: for the same price (a little under $70 per person) as the big tours, you get a full tour in a 16-passenger bus with an amazing guide and the ability to do even more than the coach buses. We made several stops that the big buses would never have reached, and were able to get in and out of the popular locations quickly.

The first of the special stops was a little waterfall whose name I can't recall or find anywhere. It was gorgeous and so special to be able to walk right up to the falls.

Iceland Travel Tips
  • Take a Golden Circle Tour with Iceland Horizon. You'll have to email them to reserve a place but they almost always have capacity and you don't have to pay until the day of the tour (instead of pre-paying online as many of the big companies require). The tour bus itself picks you up from  and returns you to your hotel. 
  • Visit a grocery store the night before and pack lunch (except for bread). I brought my Built lunch bag on the trip specifically so that I could pack lunches to save money. We packed delicious local carrots, pepperoni, cream cheese, caramel (!) skyr and assorted snacks in my Built tote and picked up some amazing cheese rolls when our tour took a pit stop at a bakery in Hverager├░i. This allowed us to sit on a bench with a beautiful view and enjoy our packed lunch while the rest of the group had to pay exaggerated prices for typical tourist cafeteria fare. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reykjavik, Iceland

The cheapest flight to England for our friend's wedding was with Iceland Air. Since every Iceland Air flight stops over at Keflavik Airport (40 minutes from of Reykjavik) and they make it easy for you to plan a stopover of up to three days, we decided to plan a 48-hour interlude in Reykjavik and its surrounds on the way home. We had an amazing trip!

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I didn't take as many photos in Reykjavik itself as I had wanted since we were so exhausted from our adventures, but here are a few. More posts are on the way with other features of our trip!

Iceland Travel Tips
  • We stayed in a little studio rented from Welcome Apartments. It was right downtown and we walked everywhere (with the exception of our Golden Circle tour and our airport transfers).  
  • Since food is expensive in Iceland a kitchenette is a must for your hotel in Reykjavik even if you're only staying for a night. We shopped at 10:11 and Bonus and were able to eat our fill of delicious local skyr and smoked salmon at great prices. They make great bread and cheese rolls in Iceland so make sure to find some local bakeries to try. 
  • While we loved our visit to the Blue Lagoon (more on that soon) we also loved swimming in the Sundholl Reykjavikur, one of the 18 geothermally-heated public swimming pools in Reykjavik. We went both nights and spent hours swimming in the lap pool and trying the various warmer pools and tubs. The building itself has beautiful tall windows and vintage 1930's style changing rooms. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sunset over Crantock Beach

I love watching the sunset over the ocean, but we don't get much chance for it in Boston. Crantock Beach was an amazing setting for sundown, from the Golden Hour to the last violet and amber-tinged light.

We tore ourselves away from the rehearsal dinner to make sure we saw at least one glorious sunset over Crantock Beach.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Caves of Crantock Beach

Both ends of Crantock Bay feature imposing cliffs. One day when the tide was somewhat low we decided to walk along the southern end of the beach and discovered a number of inlets and caves carved into the cliffs. 

Lacking a flashlight, we decided only to venture as far as the light went, but you could tell that some of the caves went in quite a ways. 

I loved the gray-blue shale (or something like it) that poked out of the sand at intervals. Ocean-polished shards of the rock were all over the beach and made perfect skipping stones. 

Someone more adventurous than we might be quite tempted by the cool, sandy caves (not to mention the craggy cliff walls--they would make for interesting if not slippery climbing). 

A modeling the height of the cliff walls

Monday, August 27, 2012

Crantock Beach

Before our trip, I never would have pictured something like Crantock Beach when thinking of England. I know better now...

Walking down the dunes from our B&B

The Cornwall coast can be breathtaking. 

This is just a small percentage of the amazing photos I took on this beach. The dunes are steep but were so worth the walk that we hiked them many times a day to get a chance at this view. 

The low tide line is very far from the high tide mark. Here I was sitting with at least 100 yards from the high tide line behind me looking out at near low tide. 

Our friends took advantage of the huge tidal plain for a little beach cricket. 

These cliffs warrant their own post. 

The weather was in the low 70s but the water was quite nice for swimming (for those of us used to swimming in Maine)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Crantock, Cornwall

I have a thing for thatch.

Other than our drive to Cornwall and a 4 am headlong dash back to London at the end, we spent our entire English adventure in the gorgeous seaside village of Crantock

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The view from our window at Sandbanks

The wedding we were attending was at St. Carantoc's Church, and we stayed at a darling B&B just steps from the church. 

Sandbanks features three cozy but comfortable rooms and a lovely breakfast room, as well as beautiful gardens.

Our B&B was also steps from the beach, which will be getting its own post or three. On vacations I usually try to cram in as much sightseeing as possible, but I've been so happy to be forced to think more locally on our wedding trips this year. If you're sightseeing in Cornwall, Crantock is a must-see. Stay tuned for posts about Crantock Beach and its sweeping cliffs. 

Cornwall, England Travel Tips

  • If you're near Newquay, definitely try to find a day to see Crantock Village.
  • Sandbanks is a lovely B&B with very reasonable rates. Alison and Ian are gracious hosts and Alison's full English breakfasts are the perfect foundation for a long day at the beach!
  • We loved the fish and chips (and mustard mashed potatoes, and garlic mushrooms with Stilton) at The Old Albion.
  • The Morrisons in Newquay was very convenient for putting together cheap lunches and snacks.   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

English Countryside

We began our English adventure with a drive to Cornwall from Heathrow. A did very well driving on the wrong side of the road, luckily we were able to get an automatic transmission for a reasonable rate. The English countryside was lovely. 

This was actually at our destination but it's how I always imagined the English countryside.

After consulting the Internets we chose to take the A303/A30 (which is more direct but sometimes gets down to one lane each way) over the major highway option of the M4/M5.

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Our drive was during the early afternoon of a Wednesday at the end of July and we hit absolutely no traffic, but I hear both routes can be clogged on a Friday or during holidays. 

I'm so glad the route worked out because it was quite picturesque and allowed us to take a peek at Stonehenge. 

Southern England Travel Tips

  • If you're driving to Cornwall from London, try to schedule your flights and driving time to avoid joining more Britons on holiday than you might find convenient. 
  • Stonehenge is right next to the A303. You can just take pictures driving by, or pull onto the provided shoulder on the A344 for a few minutes. We were flustered and pulled into the parking lot, and decided to just pay the £3 for parking instead of attempting to turn around. We took photos from outside the fence; you can also pay £8 apiece to walk around closer to the stones. 
  • There are frequent rest areas even on the A303/A30 route. You can get your fill of meat-flavored potato chips and amazing English chocolate and ice cream, as well as sandwiches and other supplies.