Day 15 – The Golden Circle

The last full day Friday was spent on a day trip on the Golden Circle, a tour of southern Iceland. The following post I’d mostly nature pics so it looks nice but it may be boring to you. Reader discretion is advised.

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A pipeline that is a part of Iceland’s geothermal power.  The network of pipes is expansive.

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Steam off in the distance.

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Yeah, that happened.

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Geysir!

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I took a pile of pics on the other camera and will post them once I get a chance when we return on Saturday.  The weather fluctuated between 7-10C all day and it was windy. By about 4:30 we were wiped and Mari was cold.

We got back to Reykjavik around 7:30 and headed to the other fish and chips place. It wasn’t for from the first place we went to.

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Mari and I both ordered the cod and roasted potatoes.  Sure it wasn’t proper chips but excellent none the less.  The fish was very very good.  Not as good as the first place but the batter was almost perfect.  It was like a tempura.

We headed back to the room,  took hot showers, packed up and now we’re ready for the journey home.

Day 12 & 13 – Welcome (back) to Reykjavik

Tuesday was a travel day.  We started off by having breakfast at the hotel.  It was good to load up for the long day ahead.

Having luggage on the tube is bad. It’s worse when all of your stations are relatively busy and there’s nothing but stairs to climb. It sucks.

We made it to Reykjavik without incident.  The hotel here is nice.  A bit abstract in layout and vibe but clean and welcoming.  The Icelandair Marina hotel is right by the marina and it’s a converted paint factory. 

Once we checked in and unloaded our stuffs, we headed out to a fish and chip shop.  You’d think we’d be sick of it but you’d be wrong.

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I had a bottle of local stout, which was ok, and a cute bucket of fish and chips while Mari had Arctic char with potato salad.  We were both happy with our selections and this was the best fish I’ve had on the trip.

Wednesday was a walking day. 8km according to Google maps anyways. We stopped at a local football club for scarves because that’s what I do.  Afterwards we made our way back to the city centre and booked our bus tour of the Golden Circle and ride to the blue lagoon.  Afterwards we walked up Laugavegur and went for pizza at the same place I got pizza for us the last time we visited.  It was thin crust pepperoni, pineapple and some jalapeños.  Very nice.

From there we visited Lucky Records.  The proprietor was super knowledgeable and helped me out with a few selections.  Bought 6 or 7 CDs and made our way.

Next stop was Loki Cafe.  Another place we had visited the last time where we had good food. 

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This was mashed fish on rye bread, herring and sliced eggs on rye bread and rye bread ice cream. The herring was good, not very fishy at all.  The mashed fish was tasty.  What makes these awesome is the rye bread as it’s sweet and hearty.  Would recommend this to anyone.  The ice cream…

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This was vanilla with chocolate chips and rye bread shavings made in house.  Sounds odd, tastes wonderful. Yes you can taste the bread but it’s subtle. Yes I tweeted this to Ben & Jerry’s.

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Mari had the meat soup. It was very nice.  The weather was raining off and on, with a cold wind so this is was a very good call.

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Here’s my miss looking cute.

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Obligatory photo of the church. It was raining sideways so I took one picture and got out.

Thursday is handball!  Yay!

Day 14 – The Aurora Borealis (sort of)

The plan for Thursday was to grab breakfast, go shopping at the local mall and then head to a handball game between HK and Valur. 

When you leave the hotel, you enter an alley and turn right.  As you make your way to the street, your choices are to turn right towards the city centre or left toward the pier of old Reykjavik harbour.  As we were heading out for lunch, we decided to have a look down the harbour and snap a few pics while the sun was out. (other camera)

We passed a few kiosks and one had a harbour cruise to see the northern lights. We asked when they would know if they were going to operate a tour that night and they said by 6pm (if the weather is bad they won’t go out).  From there we headed around the pier to this seafood shack called the Saegrifinn. We both ordered the lobster soup (which was awesome) and we each got a skewer.  I had scallops and Mari had salmon.

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So we were left at an impasse : do we go out shopping, then come back and possibly go back out for a handball game or do we stick around to wait and see, then determine what we do based on the ship going out.  We opted to stay  in and nap, which was nice.  By 6pm, the front desk confirmed via an email that the tour was on for the evening. We booked our tickets and we stuck around until 8pm when we went out for dinner.

We went for tapas, also not very far from the hotel. The restaurant was cute and the food was good.

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I so want this bottle…

From there we went to the boat cruise.

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Reykjavik at night…

The boat cruise has a policy that if you don’t see them, you can come back tomorrow and try again.  Mari and I met a woman from Germany who told us this was her 3rd attempt to see the northern lights. Wow. That sucks.

You can put on overalls if you want to keep you warm and dry while on the top deck of the boat but we opted not to.  We were fine.  Mostly.

I’d like to tell you that the northern lights were awesome, and vibrant with an array of colours dancing in the night sky, but then I’d be lying, and we’re better friends than that. It was mostly cloudy and the lions share of activity took place behind the clouds. You could tell they were up there and it was happening but it wasn’t super bright. And I’m certain any pictures that were taken have nothing in them.

After an hour and a half of “sorta” seeing the northern lights, we headed for shelter and hot chocolate.  Next time, we’ll get a good view. Somehow.

Day 10 & 11 – Family and Touristy Stuff

Sunday afternoon we travelled out to London east end to visit family.  Oh sure, it’s Mari’s grand uncle as far as the family tree goes, but he’s around our age.  Familial hierarchies can be so entertaining.

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We visited with Uncle Bich and Auntie Michelle for their sons 14th birthday.  We had some barbecue, cake and plenty of high fives. We also got to meet up with Auntie Thuy and meet Bich’s mother in law.

Monday was a tourist day.  Sure we didn’t leave until late again (yay for sleeping in!) but we did get out for a river boat cruise and the London Eye.

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The north side of London was a bit hazy, but it was a clear day all around and far more fascinating to see the place from such a height.  The boat ride was very relaxing and almost too short.  What a beautiful day.

Tonight is the last night in London. We are off to Reykjavik tomorrow for the last leg of our tour.

Day 9 – Fish & Chips, Fulham and Doggies

It’s a very grey Saturday and we journeyed southwest and South.

Mari had found a very highly rated fish and chips shop that was sorta on the way to the footie match.

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After getting a lovely fish we headed to the football.  Fulham’s stadium, Craven Cottage, is old timey and situated behind some housing but one side sits on the bank of the River Thames. Mari and I got our front row seats and took in the game.

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Fulham lost the game 1-0 to Blackburn. After the match we took a wee stroll along the river bank.  Many people walking their dogs and going for jogs.  We discovered that sitting on a river bank is very therapeutic and chill.  I made sure I got a picture or two.

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From there, we made our way to Wimbledon.  While we were waiting for the bus, a van full of kids from Blackburn started heckling us waiting for the bus.  It’s nice to see a group of little bastards allowed out of their parent’s basements long enough for a day trip to the football.

Mari found us a Groupon for a night at greyhound races and after a bit of adventure, we found the place.

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We won a few times early, but then in the 10th, Mari predicted the 1-2 finish and won £46 on a £1 bet.  We largely broke even.  Great fun.  Good night out. The greyhounds are like lightning!

Highlight : Mari is a track expert
Lowlight : Fulham losing 1-0

Day 8 – Trafalgar Square and Comedy

Today was a lazier-than-usual day as we didn’t get outta the room until 3pm. In between extra naps and TV, we decided to head to Trafalgar Square and Covent Gardens.  Though we didn’t really get to Covent Gardens (at least we don’t think we did) we did stroll about and check out all of the consulates in the neighbourhood.

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After a visit to Hamleys toy store,  we were pressed for time to either visit the Comedy Store and skip dinner or get dinner and take in the show at the Comedy Bar.  We stopped for Indian at MasalaZone and I had a very spicy chicken dish and Mari had chicken Saffron korma.  Food was very good.
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The Comedy Bar was good.  5 comics for £10. Not all were great, but many were good.  Felt bad for the comedian who had a door alarm go off in the middle of his act.  It was killer.

By accident, we stumbled into London Chinatown.  Less impressive than what we are used to at home, but we’re spoiled and we accept that.

Highlight : The comedy

Lowlight : what the hell is with the humidity here?

Day 6 & 7 – Stonehenge, Bath and Harrods

Wednesday we had to be up early for a day trip out to the western part of England which took us to Stonehenge and Bath.

We had been prepared with “it’s not as big as you think” and “they don’t let you anywhere near it anymore”.  Let me tell you it was as big as I expected given that it’s got multiple giant rocks moved to this site 4000 years prior from miles away. Still super impressed.  The tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining.  Told me that the ticket allowed me one sheep to take back as a souvenir. The visit was 80 mins long from the time we got off the bus until the time it was to return. It was the perfect amount of time.  If anyone ever says “let’s spend the day at Stonehenge” is not your friend and does not care about you at all.

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She’s so cute.

From there we were another hour and a bit to Bath.  Bath was adorable.

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I must apologize as I took tons of pics with the camera.  I will update the blog with pics once we return.   Promise.

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Bath looks like it could be a small Italian village.  Super super cute place. If you’re going to the Roman baths I’m sure it’s even better but certainly worth a visit. We were there for just over 3 hours.

Highlight : the tour stops.  They were the right amount of time in each place.

Lowlight : Bath Rugby Shop had no scarves.  Totally disappointed.

Thursday we decided to recover from various day trips and tours and slept in.  Like super slept in. We finally got up at 1ish and didn’t leave until 3ish.

After a burger, we headed to Harrods.

First reaction was that it was an overblown frou-frou snooty department store.  But once you get past the throngs of tourists it is super cool.  Very ornate rooms and sections.  The ground floor is something else.

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This is just dedicated to tea.

We checked out the 3rd floor and they’ve got some fly overpriced tech for sale. £40000 toy Hummer that runs on gas, the £70000 video racing simulator. Some of the games were grossly overpriced but that’s probably the cost of being in Harrods.  Mari and I set up shop and tried out a custom arcade cabinet and played 2-player Bubble Bobble for a few minutes. Props to the staff for letting us play the damn thing for 20 minutes.

Also, there’s housewares and office furniture on the 3rd was gorgeous.  Well out of our price range, but gorgeous desks and chairs.  Oh the chairs.

We opted to pick up some charcuterie at the Waitrose and are having a quiet night in.

Highlight : Bubble Bobble

Lowlight : the waft of perfumes coming from the perfume room.

Day 4 & 5 – Oxford Circus, East End Food Tour and Brentford FC

On Monday we took it easy and went shopping down Oxford Street.  Then we went up Oxford Street.  Then arbitrarily we turned left onto some other street and went for a walk.

The strangest part was the tube ride home, namely Russell Square station. To get to the platform, you could take the stairs or the elevator.  As everyone queued for the lift, we went for the stairs but were stopped by a sign that read “it is 15 flights totalling 175 stairs to get to track level”.  So we took the elevator.

Tuesday was far more eventful top to bottom. We headed to east London for a walking food tour which started at Spitalfields Market. The tour was very interesting as the east end has traditionally been a neighbourhood of poor immigrants who become established and move on.  The area has been home to large French, Irish and Jewish populations, now home to a large Bangladeshi and artist population.

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Delicious bread pudding.  Very creme brulee-esque.

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Fish and chips from the defending British Fish and Chips Champions 2014. Poppie’s I think.

We also enjoyed fantastic curries, salted caramel tart, locally brewed ale, salted hot beef on a fresh bagel.  Brilliantly had taken photos on the other camera. Have evidence. Promise.

After the tour, Mari and I killed some time before I headed off for a football match.  We met up with Chris Benoit and Peter Hitchcock at King’s Cross station and made our way to Griffin Park in Brentford.

Britain is as much pubs and beer as it is football.  Every town has a club of some fame and many have been around for over a century. Some of their grounds (a.k.a. stadiums) have never moved. Griffin Park is around a century old and they are looking to move.  During that time, houses have been built up around it and in this case there are 4 pubs, one on each corner of the ground.

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The Princess Royal was first.  (Guinness – feeling good)

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Then The Griffin (Stowford Press cider – a little wobbly)

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Followed by The Royal Oak (another Guinness – ok now things are wobbly)

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And lastly The New Inn (Strongbow – still wobbly but not worse)

When we left the last pub we had 15 minutes to get in.  Good thing it wasn’t 2 minutes to the gate.  This might be the coolest thing ever.

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Norwich City’s 1100 away fans on a Tuesday night.

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Griffin Park alight.

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I kid you not this was my seat.  I was ok with it as this is a weird sense of credibility.  I sat behind a stanchion.  Awesome!

The visitors defeated Brentford 3-0. Quality game and we were 3 rows from the pitch.  True it wasn’t Premier League but there is nothing wrong with the division below.  Glad we could do this before they demo’d the old get.

Highlight : consuming more alcohol in an evening ever and watching an electric soccer game

Lowlight : Mari had a headache back at the hotel and napped off and on

Day 4 – Oxford Circus

On Monday we took it easy and went shopping down Oxford Street.  Then we went up Oxford Street.  Then arbitrarily we turned left onto some other street and went for a walk.

The strangest part was the tube ride home, namely Russell Square station. To get to the platform, you could take the stairs or the elevator.  As everyone queued for the lift, we went for the stairs but were stopped by a sign that read “it is 15 flights totalling 175 stairs to get to track level”.  So we took the elevator.

Tuesday was far more eventful top to bottom. We headed to east London for a walking food tour which started at Spitalfields Market. The tour was very interesting as the east end has traditionally been a neighbourhood of poor immigrants who become established and move on.  The area has been home to large French, Irish and Jewish populations, now home to a large Bangladeshi and artist population.

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Delicious bread pudding.  Very creme brulee-esque.

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Fish and chips from the defending British Fish and Chips Champions 2014. Poppie’s I think.

We also enjoyed fantastic curries, salted caramel tart, locally brewed ale, salted hot beef on a fresh bagel.  Brilliantly had taken photos on the other camera. Have evidence. Promise.

After the tour, Mari and I killed some time before I headed off for a football match.  We met up with Chris Benoit and Peter Hitchcock at King’s Cross station and made our way to Griffin Park in Brentford.

Britain is as much pubs and beer as it is football.  Every town has a club of some fame and many have been around for over a century. Some of their grounds (a.k.a. stadiums) have never moved. Griffin Park is around a century old and they are looking to move.  During that time, houses have been built up around it and in this case there are 4 pubs, one on each corner of the ground.

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The Princess Royal was first.  (Guinness – feeling good)

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Then The Griffin (Stowford Press cider – a little wobbly)

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Followed by The Royal Oak (another Guinness – ok now things are wobbly)

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And lastly The New Inn (Strongbow – still wobbly but not worse)

When we left the last pub we had 15 minutes to get in.  Good thing it wasn’t 2 minutes to the gate.  This might be the coolest thing ever.

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Norwich City’s 1100 away fans on a Tuesday night.

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Griffin Park alight.

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I kid you not this was my seat.  I was ok with it as this is a weird sense of credibility.  I sat behind a stanchion.  Awesome!

The visitors defeated Brentford 3-0. Quality game and we were 3 rows from the pitch.  True it wasn’t Premier League but there is nothing wrong with the division below.  Glad we could do this before they demo’d the old get.

Highlight : consuming more alcohol in an evening ever and watching an electric soccer game

Lowlight : Mari had a headache back at the hotel and napped off and on

Day 3 – Megabus & United

Today was a ‘me’ day more than any other time on this trip. We departed the hotel at 8:30am to make sure we catch our 10:00 to Manchester.  The game kicks off at 4 and it’s scheduled to arrive at 2 so no problem.  Plenty of time to hit the megastore, get some pies and climb up to our seats.

Well that’s how it should have started. Except the megabus didn’t arrive into Manchester until 3. And the metro we caught was one stop short of where we needed to be.  So we walked.  We got to our gate and we had to check a bag. It was a small shipping container with two Manchester United stewards watching over it. Then we got in.  And climbed.

And climbed.

You know you’ve gone up high when the stadium stops labelling the levels after 4. I figured 7 flights of stairs.  That was crazy.  We bought our pies and went further up to our seats.  One row from the furthest back of the ground.

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This was a special game as many new players made their debuts today for Manchester United, namely Falcao, Blind and Rojo (they’re good and expensive, promise). Once we got to our seats, the game was 15 mins in, but we didn’t miss anything.  United defeated QPR 4-0 and it was awesome.

As per our tradition, Mari and I bought pies.  I got the United pie, steak, cheese and chillies. Mari got a steak pie but it’s still in the package.  I thought the smell was really good, the flavour was yum but wasn’t the freshest.  A solid 3/5. Would get again.

After I purchased a few scarves and we made our way to a Tex Mex restaurant we once visited the last time we were in Salford.  The food was ok, but we were looking forward to this :

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That’s a golden honeycomb and chocolate cheesecake with a few strawberries and chocolate pudding. Mari is certain that it’s smaller than we remember it. I wanna say it wasn’t as good as when we first had it, but believe that it was pretty good all the same.

So we made it back,  2 trains, 2 metro rides, 1 tube and 1 cab ride for a round trip. Exhausted and showered, it’s time for sleeps.

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Highlight : 4-0 smashing
Lowlight : the forever long ride back