Pandemic Journal, Day 502

The day started quite early with a presentation about life on Grimsey Island – it’s quite different in the summer when visitors arrive than the winter, when only the 60-odd permanent residents are there and the sun doesn’t rise. Ferry Day is a big event!

We were on the first tender from the ship and took off on the path to the Arctic Circle. We passed the monument marking the former position of the Arctic Circle after only a few minutes of walking – but because of the precession of the Earth’s axis, the marker for current position of the Circle was nearly two miles north!

According to Wikipedia, the Arctic Circle is continuing to move north, and it’s actually about 90 meters north of the monument – we walked far enough to be sure we’d crossed the current position, but there was nothing to take a photo of there!

Grimsey is also known for its puffin colonies – there were more puffins than you could shake a stick at, and they were cute beyond belief!

This afternoon, we visited the Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður – we saw a demonstration of herring salting and got to taste a couple of varieties of herring (and another shot of Brennivín).

Pandemic Journal, Day 501

We were the last group off the ship this morning, which gave us the luxury of sleeping late and having a leisurely breakfast and time to wander around the ship before boarding the tender for Vigur Island. The island is family-owned and only a limited number of visitors are allowed on at any time.

The main attraction of Vigur Island is the wildlife – puffins, Arctic terns (which can be vicious – we had to carry sticks to avoid being attacked by them), and eider (ducks). The island produces about 50kg of eiderdown per year, of a world production of only 3500kg – the down is harvested from the nests of the ducks after they shed it.

We survived the terns and were treated to “happy marriage cake” before leaving the island.

After lunch, we sailed to Isafjörður and visited the Maritime and Folk Museum. There, we sampled some Icelandic delicacies – dried fish, preserved shark, and Black Death (Brennivín, Icelandic schnapps). The schnapps was the best of the three offerings.

After that, we stopped at a waterfall where we drank water right from the glacier that fed it – untreated!

Then we drove through a six-kilometer long tunnel to Bolungarvik for a short concert in an old church and a visit to the Fisherman’s Museum.

And now we’re back on the ship, en route to Grimsey Island and the Arctic Circle. I expect to lose connectivity soon, so I’m posting now!

Pandemic Journal, Day 500

We said farewell to the Hotel Borg this morning and boarded our bus for the Golden Circle tour.

We drove past the geothermal power plant, nearly to Selfoss, through Geysir, and on to Gullfoss where we got off the bus and walked to the end of the trail over the falls. Along the way, we took photos of a big glacier and of fishermen in a river.

Back to Geysir for a walk to Strokker geyser, which erupts every few minutes. It wasn’t easy to capture it, but I finally got some video.

Lunch was at Geysir Restaurant – salmon with Icelandic barley, potatoes, and a vegetable soup. Also South African wine (Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon), though Icelandic beer was on offer, and I had an Icelandic orange soda, Applesin.

Next stop: Þingvellir, the original seat of the Icelandic Parliament, and the place where the European and North American plates touch. I took many photos, but bandwidth restrictions prevent me from sharing them now.

Boarding the ship was complicated because of Covid; we are their first passengers since Before, and things are still a bit uneven.

Connectivity is very slow out here, butt I’ll do what I can!

Pandemic Journal, Day 499

This morning, we began our tour with a trip to the Perlan to get a preview of the wonders of Iceland, including a trip through their Ice Cave (kept at -5C, made with more than 350 tons of snow).

The Glacier exhibits were fascinating, and more than a little scary when they used time lapse photography to show how much glaciers like the Mendenhall in Alaska have shrunk during the 21st Century; there was also an obituary for the Okjökull Glacier, which was declared dead in 2014.

I also enjoyed going outside on the fourth level to take in a 360º panorama of Reykjavik – while we were out there, the guide told us that you could get a very nice 3-bedroom apartment in a very nice part of town for about 1 million US dollars – those of us from the Bay Area wondered why it was so cheap!

From the Perlan, we took a long bus ride through the outskirts of town, eventually winding up at the National Museum of Iceland. This was the last stop of the day; the bus left 30 minutes after we got there, but several of us stayed behind to explore more of the history of Iceland (the museum was a 15-minute walk from the hotel, so planning to miss the bus wasn’t a big deal).

Lunch was at an interesting Middle Eastern restaurant, Mandi, near the hotel. The food was good, the prices reasonable, and the atmosphere non-existent. Diane and I had a “mixed plate” with lamb, chicken, and cod, plus plenty of salad. We also tried basil seed drinks which were bottled in Thailand for a company with Jordanian and Swedish phone numbers – the label, of course, was entirely in English, and the size was given in US fluid ounces first, with metric as an afterthought.

We spent the afternoon roaming around the city (if you want total honesty, it was so I could buy candy – I had to use a self-service cash register with Icelandic prompts!) and returned, one more time, to Caruso for dinner.

Tomorrow morning, we leave the hotel for a Golden Circle tour and end up on the ship – it’s already in Reykjavik, where the crew has been serving a two-week quarantine before starting to sail with passengers; I guess we’re the beta testers!

Pandemic Journal, Day 498

Our pre-tour officially began this morning when we got into a mini-bus with a dozen other travelers for our excursion to the Blue Lagoon.

The trip included a buffet breakfast (in Iceland, such things still exist!), a swim in the lagoon, a drink, and their silica mud mask – we took advantage of all four.

After the lagoon, we got onto a bigger bus for the trip into town and a visit to the Hallgrímskirkja Church – since we’d been there already, we left the group and had lunch at 101 Reykjavik Street Food. I had the plokkfiskur (traditional Icelandic fish stew) and Diane had the lamb soup. I’d go back – even if they didn’t also give us free Prince Polo bars for dessert.

The rest of the day was “at leisure”, so we wandered around town, including paying a visit to the Sun Voyager sculpture on the waterfront.

The weather was beautiful – sunny and 66 degrees – and outside restaurant seating was packed!

Tomorrow, we take a city tour in the morning – it’ll hit places we haven’t been yet, so we expect to stay with the group all day.

Pandemic Journal, Day 497

I follow a jet-lag reduction routine that I found a long time ago in Jane Brody’s column in the New York Times (if you’re a subscriber, you can read the article here; if not, most of the info is here). It seems to work well. Last night, I took my melatonin at 10pm, as directed, and was out soon thereafter, waking around 7am today and staying awake and feeling good all day – well, until I took melatonin this evening and started to feel tired again!

We visited two of the Reykjavik city museums today. This morning, we went to the Settlement Exhibition, which tells the story of the earliest days of the city, based on a 10th Century longhouse they discovered while building a hotel nearby. It was dark inside, so we didn’t take photos inside, but the outside was somewhat interesting.

We lunched at Cafe Rosenberg, where we both had lox and bagels with honeyed cream cheese.

Somehow, we had room for dessert and went to Gaeta Gelato. Fortunately, they offered “little” cones (only $6!) that were just about the right size.

This afternoon, we went back to the Old Harbor to visit the Maritime Museum.

We saw both exhibits at the Maritime Museum – one on the recovery and exploration of the Melckmeyt, a 17th Century Dutch ship that sank while trading with Iceland, and the permanent exhibit about “Fish and Folk”, how fishing shaped Iceland and Icelanders. Both were worth seeing – we spent more time with the permanent exhibit, though.

After the Maritime Museum, we wanted fish; our friends had done some research and found Messinn, less than a five-minute walk from our hotel. It was a great catch – their specialty is “fish pans”. Diane had the Atlantic Wolffish and I had the cod with curry and chili – both were excellent. And somehow, we had room for dessert and split a piece of chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream!

Tomorrow will start early; we leave the hotel at 8am to join the rest of our group for breakfast and a swim at the Blue Lagoon, followed by a tour of the Hallgrímskirkja Church (I’m hoping they include a trip to the tower, since we’ve already seen the rest of the church). The rest of the day will be “at leisure” (which means we get to figure out our own meals – I don’t think that will be much of a hardship).

Pandemic Journal, Day 496

I had hoped to post yesterday’s blog yesterday, but there was no connectivity on the plane, nor on the bus into Reykjavik, and by the time I got to the Hotel Borg, it was already today.

Other than that, the trip was pretty uneventful – Diane and I slept a little bit, but not enough! I’m not sure if the gin

and the chocolate

made it easier or harder to sleep during the flight, but they were very interesting introductions to Icelandic cuisine.

I made a strategic error when packing – instead of one heavy suitcase, we checked two light ones. And we brought a roll-aboard for those things that we didn’t want to check. All very good, until we had to get everything onto the FlyBus and from the drop point to the hotel – then I realized that it’s hard to pull two suitcases at once, no matter how light they are.

Once we got to our hotel and unpacked a little, we headed out for a walk through Reykjavik. Our first stop was the Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat, not far from Reykjavik City Hall.

From there, we walked through the Old Harbor area to Aurora Reykjavik (Northern Lights Museum), passing ships being worked on and art along the way.

The museum itself was quite interesting – lots of information about the aurora (all of it in English), with good visuals. They had a long HD loop of aurora videos taken all over Iceland; it was beautiful and fascinating, but not the best choice for sleep-deprived travelers!

Lunch was nearby at Lamb Street Food – I found it through TripAdvisor, and the guy at the Aurora said it was good. They were right – it was delicious and apparently reasonably priced for Iceland.

We split up after lunch; our friends wanted to go to Fly Over Iceland (like Soaring Over California at Disney, but in Iceland); we wanted to see more of the city, so we did Rick Steves’ introductory Reykjavik walk. We retraced some of our steps from the morning, but soon found outselves in new territory, ending up at Hallgrímskirkja Church, maybe half a mile from our hotel.

Dinner this evening was at Restaurant Caruso, a five-minute walk from our hotel; it was quite good (Diane really liked her salmon risotto, and I thought the pasta bolognese was delicious (and so was the garlic bread that came with it).

Pandemic Journal, Day 495

It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten on an airplane – a very long time. But today, we flew twice – the first flight was from SJC to PDX, and as I write this, we’re on Iceland Air flight 664 from PDX to KEF, en route to our first cruise in 16 months.

So far, everything has gone smoothly – I was debating between Lyft and a taxi for our trip to the airport and finally went with Lyft; it was a good choice, possibly the best Lyft ride I’ve taken. We took advantage of the Priority Pass membership that com aes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card to go to the Club at SJC – it was their new location, occupying the space that was the Admiral’s Club back when American had a significant presence in San Jose.

The flight to Portland was smooth, and we were on the side with nice views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens.

We took advantage of Priority Pass again to have lunch for free at Capers on the C Concourse – the food was good, and the Pretty Good Brownie was better, Portland Airport is under construction, so we had to go through security again to get to the International Terminal; we were able to use the Express Line and avoid most of the wait time, but couldn’t take advantage of TSA Pre-Check. Life is rough sometimes, and yes, I know I’m complaining about a trivial inconvenience.

As I type this, we’re on Iceland Air to Reykjavik, There were more volcano views to enjoy as we left Portland.

This is a short flight, just over 7 hours, which makes it difficult to really sleep, but we’re going to try – Diane already has her eyes closed, and I’m about to join her.

Next stop, Reykjavik!

Pandemic Journal, Day 494

We’re out of practice – it took us a lot longer to pack than it did when we were going places every month or two. I even had to make an emergency trip to REI for sunglasses (my old ones wouldn’t fit over my new glasses). But we’re finally packed and ready to fly!

The volcano put on quite a show earlier today – it’s calmer right now, but who knows what it’ll do when we’re in Iceland?

I look forward to finding out.

Pandemic Journal, Day 493

I spent much of today working on code – first for the Shir Hadash High Holy Day Honors process, and then much of this evening helping with code I’d written for Toastmasters.

The High Holy Day Honors process work was actually pretty easy – and in the end, I feel pretty good that the person picking up the load while I’m away will be ok – he talked me out of making any code changes before I left, which was a very good idea, even if those changes would have made the code much cleaner.

The Toastmasters fixes were in some of the ugliest code I’ve written. The code has to parse an HTML page because Toastmasters HQ doesn’t provide any way to download data about what officers have attended training – and they changed the HTML page this year, after leaving it alone for three years. They simplified it substantially, but it still broke my code.

I got my successor on a Zoom call and we set to work – which meant I figured out what was going on and fixed the code while he listened to me think out loud. I made some improvements to my code (I created a class with meaningful names instead of using a list, for example), but it’s still ugly and fragile code, and I’m not sure it’s significantly more understandable than it was before. But it produces the report they need, and that’s something.

Oh, well; everything is working for now on both fronts, and I can go on vacation with a clean conscience.