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The Land Of Water And Ice

Iceland - South Coast

overcast 12 °C
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In the planning for the holiday there was always going to be one long day to the eastern side of the island, 4½ hours by road away - and we had aimed to have this on our first full day in order to leave the rest of the holiday more relaxing and enjoyable.

Getting up early we left the apartment by 7:30am and headed straight away towards Eyjafjallajökull - the infamous volcano that caused travel chaos in Spring 2010. Around this volcano was not only beautiful scenery, but also some super impressive waterfalls.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

The first was the fairytale Seljalandsfoss - a large waterfall dropping into a pool, with a walkway behind. A little further up the road was Gljúfrafoss, a waterfall inside a canyon, giving it a mystical dark feel.

Gljúfrafoss

Gljúfrafoss


Drive past Eyjafjallajökull

Drive past Eyjafjallajökull

After the short break we continued up the road to the other side of the volcano and Skógafoss, a large waterfall that crashes to the floor.

Skógafoss

Skógafoss


Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

After these short breaks we continued up the ring road making a petrol stop en route before another hefty drive and our goal point, the stunning Jökulsárlón - a glacial lake at the bottom of Vatnajökull, the largest icecap in non-Arctic Europe. Even in summer, the lake is filled with melting glacial icebergs that sit metres from the road, surrounded by sea lions and tourists on boat tours.

Vatnajökull

Vatnajökull

Taking in the stunning views we then headed back towards Reykjavik stopping off on the other side of Vatnajökull at the hexagonal waterfall of Svartifoss.

Svartifoss

Svartifoss

Our last stop on the drive back, roughly halfway, was the hilltop peninsula of Dyrhólaey. After a bit of off road driving we made it to the top for views of the coast and the black beaches before the sunset.

Dyrhólaey

Dyrhólaey

Finally heading back down we then made the trip back to the apartment in Reykjavik after a 14 hour day, and a well earned lie in the following morning.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Iceland Tagged waterfalls water beach ice hill icebergs Comments (0)

Oh my god, it was 98 degrees

Italy - San Marino

semi-overcast 28 °C
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Less than a week after getting back from Budapest, it was time for the next getaway - this time to Italy with my friend and work colleague Fara.

We had planned a trip across the width of Italy to visit San Marino, Florence and Pisa, but as the only way to San Marino was to fly via Bologna or Ancona from Stansted, this meant a long first day of the trip.

Leaving home just after five I drove via Luton to Stansted early on Saturday morning to make our plane to the Italian city of Bologna, where after arrival we would then make our way to our hotel in Rimini. It was already very hot and in no time at all we were already disgustingly sweaty - what a contrast to the weather just a few hours ago at home.

After getting our tickets sorted we boarded our train, but after a fifteen minute delay it turned out there was a problem with our train, and so we had to board the following train. Unfortunately, this one was far busier and we ended up having to stand, crowded with a bunch of Americans who told us that things would only get worse - yesterday it was 98 degrees in Siena...which after translating is 36˚C...

Arriving in Rimini, we quickly checked in changed into summer attire, and made our way down to the bus stop for our hour ride to our third country of the day - San Marino.

Palazzo Pubblico

Palazzo Pubblico

After an hour in a lovely AC bus, driving through the Italian countryside, crossing the border and then making our way up Mount Titano, we arrived at the entrance to the Most Serene Republic's capital, taking in the quaint ambience and views over the nearby countryside, and the coast.

Mount Titano

Mount Titano


Quaint San Marino

Quaint San Marino

Reminiscent of Andorra, but with much less commercial tax free luxury goods, and more general tourist tat, we had a mooch around the 'city' for an hour and a half, paying for a tourist stamp and entering the castle before making our way back to Rimini, for some quick food and a relax before our last trip of the day, to the sight of Rimini - the beach.

Rimini beach at sunset

Rimini beach at sunset

Finding that a local event was going on we walked onto the beach to feel the warm Adriatic water before making our way back to the hotel for a well earned rest....

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in San Marino Tagged sea beach city hill independence italy2016 Comments (0)

Magnificent Montenegro

#BalkanBants - Kotor

sunny 33 °C
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After a couple of days in Croatia, Johan and I continued our Balkan Tour just down the coast in Montenegro. Although just 37 miles to the south, as the whole of the Bay of Kotor was essentially fjords, it actually took 2 hours to travel the 60 miles by road. Although as there were stunning views of the bay, this wasn't really a problem.

View from the window

View from the window

After arriving in Kotor and settling into our apartment with stunning views overlooking the bay, we went to explore the Old City, taking a look inside the Cat Museum, the churches, and admiring the stunning coastal views of the nearby mountains.

Views over the Bay

Views over the Bay

The following day we took a morning stroll up to the St. John Fort, which gave us some absolutely stunning views of the bay, and after a photoshoot with some epic pictures and guzzling our drinks, we then headed for the bus station to catch a bus to Perast, just up the coast.

By the Bay

By the Bay

From Perast, small boats can be hired for €5 that take you over to the little island in the middle of the bay. The island has a church and a gift shop, as well as stunning views of the fjord all around. On our return back to the mainland, the captain even let us sit on the front of the boat, giving us front row seats as we encircled the island.

From the island

From the island

Whilst the weather was beautiful, the heat and mild humidity contributed to some of the sweatiest experiences of my life, and after waiting for a while for the first bus to take us back to Kotor, we found that it was very very busy. Standing all the way back to Kotor I was literally dripping with sweat, standing over some of the other passengers, as I held on trying not to fall over around the bends of the fjord.

Heading back to our apartment for dinner, we ate as we watched today's cruise ship leave before the sun set over the beautiful mountain view, all the time from the window of our apartment. Our last activity in the area was the head back down into the city to enjoy it lit up at night.

Old City by night

Old City by night

The following day we made our way down back into the Old City for our transfer to the wonderland of Albania.

Kotor was unbelievably beautiful, with stunning views that can only be matched by places such as Norway. However with this being the Balkans, the weather was completely different and meant that views from the tops of the mountains were entirely possible. Unlike Dubrovnik, the area was not so busy, and despite the tourists we were fully able to enjoy its splendour. It is one of my favourite places and I despite its small size, I would highly recommend it.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Montenegro Tagged boat history fjords island hill balkanbants Comments (0)

The Rain in Spain...

all seasons in one day 20 °C
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After an afternoon in Andorra I headed back on the bus through Catalonia and arrived back by early evening in Barcelona.

Having been to Barcelona once before I was a little unsure if the city would entertain me. However as this had been a day trip over ten years ago I was proved wrong. There was more than enough to keep me occupied.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

I started my adventures in Barcelona by heading out to see the Sagrada Familia by night, which was nicely lit up, before heading back towards my hotel via the promenade and the ViennaSphere. However it was back at the hotel that the real adventures would happen - getting into my bathroom!

Unfortunately the bathroom lock had jammed, and as I got out the shower I found I had trouble getting back into the room. However with a little tug it was fine. I opened the window and to prevent a draft I closed the door. Going back 15 minutes later to open it I again had problems getting in. However no matter how hard I tried the door simply wouldn't open. Having to put my clothes back on I went back to the reception where the guy came back and tried to open.

Coming back after finding a ruler to try and use to open the door, he eventually resigned to the fact he "had no tools" and the mechanic wasn't coming back until tomorrow. This was fine, but how was I supposed to go to the toilet tonight? Well luckily there was a toilet opposite the room so that wasn't anything to worry about - before he left he gave one final tug and it miraculously opened. "Phew" I thought - so I quickly put my shoes in the way so that the door wouldn't slam shut again.

View over Barcelona

View over Barcelona

The next day I got up, gave the eclipse a miss due to the cloud, and placed the chair in front of the door to keep it open. I then headed out towards the old city, taking a walk past the cathedral and buying some souvenirs before taking the funicular up to the Montjuïc hill.

Inside the Olympic Stadium

Inside the Olympic Stadium


Olympic Park

Olympic Park

From the hill there are some great views of the city, and this is also where the Olympic Park from 1992 is located. I walked around, going in the Olympic Stadium before heading down the hill to Plaça d'Espanya, with its monumental gates - gaining a great view from the roof of the former Bullring, which is now a huge shopping centre.

Plaça d'Espanya

Plaça d'Espanya


Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

After this I headed off to visit some of Gaudí Barcelona - stopping off at the Casas Batlló and Milà before heading back to the Sagrada Familía. I would today be entering and had intended to go up the towers. However due to the horrendously windy weather this wasn't possible. I therefore just made do with witnessing the massive construction from the ground.

Stained Glass inside the Sagrada Familia

Stained Glass inside the Sagrada Familia


Inside the Sagrada Familia

Inside the Sagrada Familia

After having dinner I then headed out to the last stops for the day, heading out from the Arc de Triomf and heading south through the park to the beach, where there were huge waves, showing just how windy it was today.

Arc de Triomf

Arc de Triomf

Going back to the hotel I found that the maid had moved the chair and closed the bathroom door again!! I now had to head back to reception and the fiasco continued, Luckily the mechanic was still there and so he came to fix my door.

With the WiFi also dead, I headed back out to McDonalds to use some quick WiFi when it had began to rain before going to bed for the last day of the trip.

Park Güell

Park Güell

The next morning was again pretty miserable weather wise, but as I had just one more place to visit I couldn't complain too much. I headed out of the city to Park Güell which is the best place to witness Gaudí architecture. Usually there are impressive views of the city too, but unfortunately this wasn't really to be seen.

And this is where my return to the city ended. It had been very interesting and surprisingly busy time and there is much to see in the city. If the weather had been great it would have been the icing on the cake, but even without that it was still a great time!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture church city hill olympic Comments (0)

Britain in the Sun

Strait of Gibraltar - Gibraltar

sunny 21 °C
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Going into Gibraltar was a bizarre experience, and despite crossing many borders before, this felt completely different. My hotel was just a 5 minute walk from the border, but as you get closer to the border itself you pass a massive car park where many Spanish day trippers park and walk into the territory. The closest thing I can relate it to is entering a theme park. As you get closer, the crowd gets bigger and bigger, and in the distance you can see the place that you are entering (although rather than the rides, this was the Rock itself). You then whip out your passport and without stopping walk straight into a different world.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar

Gibraltar to me felt very much like a colony, and I imagine it would be very similar to how Colonial India must've been (although obviously with Spanish features, rather than Indian). Despite Gibraltarians being overly British with more Union Jacks flying than I see in London, there is still a very Spanish presence, particularly in regards to the language heard on the street. For instance one local was talking to her child in English, except using the word "¡Vale!" (Spanish for 'ok') in mid flow. Going to the supermarket I then assumed the woman serving me was a worker from Spain, as she spoke what seemed like native Spanish to the lady in front of me, however once serving me she then spoke to me in the clearest native English I've ever heard!

Crossing the Runway

Crossing the Runway

Crossing the airport runway just minutes after a plan had landed on it, I made my way into Gibraltar Town once again and headed over to the Rock itself. I had already decided the best thing to do would be to take the cable car up, and walk back down - with the ticket lady even telling me "Yes, this is the best thing to do", despite the fact she could have sold me a more expensive return ticket!

The Rock

The Rock

I then arrived right at the top of the Rock, with superb views of the surrounding area, and then walked around seeing the Monkeys and going into the caves and forts that told the story of the importance of the Rock throughout history.

Monkeys

Monkeys

Eventually arriving at the bottom, back in the town, I did a little more souvenir shopping, ate and then headed back to my hotel room. However this is where my biggest mistake of the holiday had become clear - Despite heading over to Africa, I had forgotten all about sun cream!

In my defence, the weather at home was pretty miserable, I was only going for a few days, and I was not sunbathing! However my nose by the last night had become so scorched that a blister had developed and burst, leaking all night, and as I was sunburnt on every side of my face, there was no comfortable position to lie, added to that I was absolutely shattered, and there was a fly in my room had decided to land on my face every time I was almost asleep (oh, and as I said, it didn't get dark until really late at night), you can imagine the quality of my sleep that night!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Gibraltar Tagged hill border gibraltar Comments (0)

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