Last full day on the island for this trip so we had to return the hire car at lunch time so were able to borrow Anne's car for the rest of the day. We made a last few visits to people we wanted to say bye bye to, for this trip and to do a few final things such as pay our mobile phone bill and leave enough on credit so that it is not cut off before the next time we come over.
There is no doubt that we will continue to visit on holiday but we have both realised now that we have made the right decision to move to France. As always these sort of decisions are a very personal choice, but we both feel that the changes on the island are not what we would have expected and in our opinion, not for the best.
We had a nice big gathering at Green Palace for our final evening there, a total of fourteen people around the table. Once more a fun evening with good food. Lets hope that this restaurant doesn't change.
The gathering at The Green Palace on our last evening. Drinks were on us this time as everybpdy had looked after us so well during our visit.
A long day ahead. Charles very kindly collected us from Anne's villa at 0600 hours for the airport. We got to Ercan airport in plenty of time to check in and then realised that our hold bag was 23 kilos. Not a problem, but we knew that we would probably have to do some repacking in Stansted before getting on that Ryanair flight.
The journey is a long old haul from the island as we have to sit on the ground for 1 hour in Istanbul before completing the Stansted leg. Good old Pegasus airlines, exactly on time at Stansted so that gave us three clear hours before our next flight to Bergerac. We were right. Tried to check in to Ryanair and the girl said we would have to pay £40.00 extra for a too heavy bag, so nothing else for it but a bit of repacking in to the carry on bags. Joan ended up wearing a skirt over the top of her crop trousers and a second t-shirt as well as a fairly heavy jacket so we finally got away with it.
Don't understand what the difference is between airlines. The Ryanair aircraft was the same model Boeing 737-800 as we flew in with Pegasus, but with far less comfort and we think a pilot with a big red L on the back. He stuck the thing down on the runway with a real bang, shaking everything and everybody all over the place. It happens every time and we just wish there was an alternative route over to UK, or that Ryanair would spend money on pilot training.
Anyway, Ian was waiting for us when we landed and we were home around 7.30 p.m. local time and as you might guess we did not rush the next morning.
Before going over to Cyprus, I had put some weed and feed onto the grass and that sure as hell fed the weeds. Whilst we have been away it has been very dry so the grass had not grown much, except of course in the border areas but clearly the next two days are going to be busy ones.
It has been a quiet week really so not much to write about, just the usual shopping etc and Joan and I going out for lunch to Eymet on Wednesday.
We did go out to a restaurant in St Foy on Thursday evening and this time we took Danielle, our French neighbour, who kindly looks after our plants etc when we are away. As she is going to have to do it again when we go to Iceland, we thought the least we could do is buy her dinner. We met her in St Foy after she had finished work, as she is a speech therapist and works quite late. We all four went to the restaurant called Cote Bastide which is a bit more upmarket than our usual local places, but then the menu is also a bit special, so worth the effort.
Today there was a "Vide Greniers", Boot Fair to you, in Eymet so we went out of curiosity, plus the weather was bit more favourable today so it was good to get out. This boot fair was in fact really big so it took us a couple of hours to find absolutely nothing that we would want to buy. Strange isn't it, we have a lot of similar junk that we could do with trying to sell, stuff accumulated over the years, but then you never know, one day we might find something that we can't do without. One really interesting stand included some classic cars, like this AC Cobra pictured here. The stand was in a side street and it appeared that the whole was in fact a garage were one man was restoring old classics. He had a 1960s MG hardtop there that he wanted 24,000 euros for, so when the notice on the AC said price negotiable I guess you would be silly to even ask.
Yesterday we had the final appointment at the hospital in Marmande as a prelude to Joan's operation in July. This means we are now all set to prepare for our, much looked forward to, Iceland visit. As part of this we also bought a new suitacse yesterday as like most of you, we found that airlines eventually do so much damage to cases that they need almost annual replacement.
We have also sold our big Acer laptop, mainly because when travelling it already weighs in at around 3 kilo which eats in to your hand luggage allowance. So have bought one of these tiny notebooks which are great for travelling and come complete with many bits, such as webcams etc so are all ready to go. I have spent most of today loading up essential software so that I can do this website when abroad. So with a bit of luck, we should be able to give you some really good Icelandic pics.
On our way to Iceland at last. We left Bordeaux late afternoon to catch an Easy Jet flight to Gatwick and just for the one niight we are booked in to the Sofitel, which is conveniently situated at the North Terminal. A late arrival at 11.30 p.m so we just unpacked the essentials and then went down for a night cap, before settling down for the night.
The following morning saw us enjoying a really great full English breaakfast and then making our way to check in for the 1420 flight to Iceland.
Our flight was on time and after what seemed like a very long wait for our suitcase we finally made it out to meet Steini and Sigga. We have been looking forward to the vist for a very long time and they tell us that they have planned to drive all the way back to Dalvik, the town in the very north of Iceland where they live. It is going to be a drive of over 400 kilometers so we excpect to be there around midnight.
The following is a sequence of photos taken on our journey north. In the first two you can see the different mountain styles created by the volcanic eruptions many years ago. Steini tells me that some of the land in this area is based in lava which is much as 10,000 years old. You can see the different layers and the downward flows on the mountains.
Once we started to progress northwards we saw a change in the landscape, some more green areas appeared but still with high mountains. We stopped briefly at a major car park for walkers. There follows a pic of yours truly with Joan and Steini. Little isn't she?
In the last four pics you can see the snow levels that awaited us. I disatinctely recall Steini promising a warm summer starting early June!!!!!!
We have been told that this is the coldest summer recorded since 1949. Trust us to pick this summer to visit. There are also more pics which clearly show the lava layers which created this beautiful island. Other pics show the differing moubntain styles, such as the one with the towering spiked peaks.Also yet more snow.
We stopped about half way through the journey at a service area were we were able to get a light snack to see us on our way. Very welcome, as the last food Joan and I had was at breakfast time this morning.
We finally made it to Dalvik at just before midnight and this stunning sight of the midnight sun awaited us.
We are getting 24 hours of sunshine at this time of the year and the sun just goes down, touches the sea and then immediately starts to rise again. The first picture was taken at 11.45 p.m. and the next one just a few minutes after midnight. A fantastic sight and one we feel so lucky to have been able to see.
A bit of a liesurely start as we were all tired after the journey and we had also stayed up for a little while after arriving to talk and have a welcome drink.
This being the first day, Steini, who is acting as tour manager I think, decided that we should take a look at one of the two fish processing plants that they own here. In this one they almost exclusively process catfish which is exported to France and Germany. He tells me that they take in between 50 and 100 tons of this fish per week and in the first pics below Joan gets her first sight of one of these fish and what one ton looks like in the containers they arrive in.
The fish goes on to a production line and is then filleted leaving the head and the backbone. Even this is not wasted as it goes later on to other processes where the cheeks are removed as they are sold as a delicacy and then the backbone is also processed in a different plant and any small pieces of fish, left after the fillets are taken, is removed in a further machine and go to cat food manufacturers. The full size fillets go through a skinning machine and the skins reserved to go on to their fish leather factory, which we are to visit at a later date.
The whole fillets are manually sliced by girls working on a very complex computer driven production line and they are then, according to customers requirements, cut to size before being passed through a huge freezer plant. Frozen pieces are either packed in bulk bags and cartons or in plastic bags of fixed quantities so that they can be shipped to be packed by the customers fo sale in French and German supermarkets.
There are some lovely areas in the hills above the town and some views out across the fiord. Even now the snow is still melting and the rivers are forming falls over the rocks and in these areas the town has built picnic places for all to be able to take advantage of the beauty that surrounds them.
A really mixed day today. Sightseeing, Horse Riding and then a BBQ in the evening .It is still not brilliant weather, but at least it is staying dry.
We started off the day by going north, further up the fiord from Dalvik. Stopping at a small fishing village called Olafsfjordur, go on try to pronounce that and then driving through a pair of mountain tunnels, which were some 8 kilometers long, to a fishing port called Siglufjordur.
We visited a museum in this town as we were told that this as late as the 1950s was the major fishing port for the Icelandic herring fleet. During that time the economy improved so much that this operation was considered to be the founder of Iceland as it is today. The herrings were processed by hand and salted ready for onward shipment, bringing in much needed foreign currency. As much as 30,000 barrels were processed over a season.
The remains of 9 mooring piers can be seen where the herring fleet brought their catch and in another part of the museum, one of the old wooden boats has been preserved for you to see.
Later in the evening Steini had organised for a BBQ at his home, this to include his family and some friends. These two had four children themselves so now have 12 grandchildren. Two of these live in England, the older ones, around the 14 year age group, were all out playing in a junior golf tournament, but there were still enough for the three so called chefs to do. We even put catfish cheeks on sticks to BBQ, very nice too.
There follows some pics of the grandchildren, down to the youngest of them all.
You can clearly see that Joan and I enjoyed the evening very much, but the next morning we felt a little different.
Today, Steini, our tour manager had planned the longest day out, all the way over to the East, to see one of the volcanic regions and the place known as the Devils Garden, where steam and hot water comes out of the earth under tremendous pressure and at temperatures as high as 200 degrees C.
We started the day off by stopping off in Akureyri, a city which is considered the capital of the North and in fact after Reykavik is in fact the biggest city in Iceland. But big is something else, in comparison, as I am told that the population is only 17,000 residents. Joan, of course managed to find the Tax Free shop but I got off lightly because we did not have our passports with us and she couldn't find anything she wanted !!!!
Steini also knew about a really wonderful ice cream parlour and that was a real treat.
Our next magor stop was at Godafoss. Foss meaning waterfall and this one was quite spectacular as these two pics show. the water falls a distance of over 12 meters and it is quite loud when you get near and the river which this fall is on is a total of 180 kilometers long.
From the falls we drove in the direction of one of the largest lakes, known as Myvatn. This area is famous as a wildlife centre and as a major sport fishing and walking places and apart from tourists many locals come here for the weekends. Joan and I were amazed at the lanscape here, everywhere we looked the land had been pushed upwards and great lumps of lava rock were exposed, on the way to the lake we stopped off at a bird museum which has only recently been opened.
Shortly after the bird museum we arrived at the most amazing place. A huge area were the land is completely bare and brown and at the centre of it was a few acres with what you could only term hotspots, but hotspots which spout out sulpher gases and water at incredibly high temperatures. It is essential that you walk only in the designated places as it would be very easy to get scalded badly.
Just outside the tourist area there is a major power station which is run from the huge steam pressure and scalding hot water which comes out of the earth in this area.
Close to this power station we found an extinct volcano site. This one has lain dormant for many years but who knows in this land that is full of volcanic regions, It could fire up at any time I suppose. The picture gives you some indication of the size of the remaining crater which has over the years filled with water.
Shortly after leaving there we went to one more waterfall, which Steini tells me he understands to be the biggest in Europe. certainly the volume of water is huge and the noise tremendous.
A really exciting day today. Whale watching in the fiord on a boat which belongs to friends of Steini & Sigga.
We were not out in the fiord very long when the skipper spotted two humpback whales playing out there. Apparently they come in every year by the dozens to feed on the abundance of fish around here. They dive after a couple of minutes and stay under feeding for anything between 5 & 7 minutes. They have no teeth so just scoop up the food, spit out the water and this enables them just to put on weight. These creatures can grow to 16 meters and weigh in at 40 tons. Once they have had their fill at the end of the summer period, they then go back out into the oceans to have their young before returning again and again. There are many types of whales in these seas and the locals say that there are certainly no shortages and they are not about to become extinct, despite what Greenpeace say.
Here you can see the whales when they are on the surface and just as they dive deep, in this fiord to a depth of 120 meters.
After the whale watching all those on the boat went fishing for cod and haddock. The boat had eight rods already prepared along the side of the boat so many of us got the opportunity to fish.
I was lucky and caught quite a large cod and then Joan also managed a medium size one. There were some Danish people on the boat with us and they were staying in some summer houses, along the side of the fiord, so they were absolutley dleighted to take the fish with them for an evening meal. The boat owner was busy cleaning them in peparation.
Today we went further west, to the town of Skagastrond, where Steini and his family have an 80% interest in a leather tanning factory, the only one in Iceland. This is where all those fish skins end up. These are dried, tanned, stretched and dyed into fashion colours for use in the making of jackets, skirts, handbags, shoes etc. We even saw one of a pair of Nike fashion trainers covered in yellow/gold fish leather.
In addition to the fish skins, the factory also does all sorts with sheep and lamb skins. We were told that they handle about 30,000 of these skins per year. They do not handle larger skins as their equipment is not large enough to deal with this.
It is very interesting to see all these processes and quite amazing what they have to do as specials to satisfy the fashion industry. We saw about 2,000 ostrich leg skins, which had been treated and especially died black and then coated with a gold stripe. These apparently were going to an Italian shoe manufacturer, so next time you buy a pair of shoes with gold pieces ladies, just think where they might have originated. Also all this special hand work is very time consuming and makes you realise where lots of the final costs come from.
Finally we saw many of the sheep skins which are just prepared as rugs to go on the floor.
Today was another museum visit. This time in a village called Saurbaer, which is some way south of Akureyri, the capital town of the north.This was a very strange museum because it displayed one mans collection of things during his life. The man was a local carpenter who did work for many people in the area, but who threw nothing away, even the nails out of old floorboards that he had replaced. When he got older he started to make display cases for all this stuff and he had even labelled everything with details of where he had collected it, with dates and all.
Does anybody recognise some of those electric switches and plugs in the second of the above two pictures, because if you do, then you are as old as I am. A strange museum, but certainly interesting and the items brought back memories of things in my grandmothers place.
From here we went back towards the north and stopped off at the Christmas House.
We went downstairs to the santa's grotto and Joan bought a couple of little items for next years Xmas decorations. On the way out, Steini and I just had to act the goat with the photo board.
This evening, because yesterday had been my birthday, we all four went with a ferry boat over to the little island of Hersey were a good restaurant is available. We had a really lovely meal which was a great way to finish off another lovely day.
Oh boy, was it cold there, but quite an experience. We actually crossed the marker on the Arctic Circle, which is of course especially set up there for tourists. You can see from the pictures that Steini was well prepared with a bottle of Bells, just so that he and I could celebrate the crossing.
The steel tube actually represents the circle crossing place and you can see pointers which tell you how far it is to various points in the world.
You can also see quite clearly just how cold we all where.
The walk from this point back to the warmth of the restaurant was about two kilometers and this time we had the wind in our back. On the way we stopped at the cliff edge and saw this colony of puffins, which of course had Joan going "Ohh and Ahh" and then when we got back to the restaurant we found them on the menu there.
They obviously have different ideas about what is edible than we do and there was no way Joan was going to order puffin and chips. Sigga actaully had this dish and I tasted it, the flavour was very like liver and I suppose it is no more than chicken style meat, just a question of what you are used to.
Today is our last full day here in the North of Iceland, tomorrow Joan and I fly down to Reykjavik to spend a couple of nights before flying back to Gatwick.
We started off the day close to home in the museum in Dalvik. Outside this building there are a series of markers to honour various men from Dalvik who have, in the eyes of the councillors, done things that put this lovely town on the map and who are honoured by the residents. Below you can see the row of markers and the last one, placed in 2010, is non other than Steini.
The Dalvik museum has lots of exhibits relating of course to the fishing industry. but also some to the farming which has gone on here for years. On very specific area is given over to details about a man who was born here and who grew to the amazing height of 8 foot 4 inches. He spent most of his life in America, where he performed as a circus entertainer before eventually coming back to Dalvik, where he died in 1989.
From Dalvik we went east again to the town of Husavik, which is in the next fiord over the mountains, but quite a long drive. This is another fishing port but is also well known for taking tourists whale watching. There is an extreemly strange museaum in the town and from the pics below you can see what the nuseum is about. Most of the exhibits relate to whales and animals but there is in fact a human example in a jar. Very strange !!
After a brief visit to the above, we decided that a harbour cafe was the only place to sit, after all today is one of the first sunny days we have had and a man can get thirsty on holiday.
We have both had the holiday of a lifetime here in Iceland and have seen so much in the time we have been here and feel that we will never be able to repay Steini and Sigga for the super hospitality. They actually said at the beginning, they were going to have a holiday with us because, like most of us, we don't see enough of what is around our own vicinity. This has been a tremendous benefit to both of us of course and just as they promised we have been overawed by Iceland and its beauty.
Tomorrow we fly off and say bye to Steini and Sigga but they can be sure that we will be back.
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