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Europe Part 2 – Keflavik Iceland

**Yes I am aware that we got back from our vacation to Europe over 9 months ago, and I have not posted any real posts yet. I’m sorry, allow me to make it up to you by starting posting RIGHT now!**

We had decided to fly with Iceland Air for the very simple reason you can have a layover for several days in Iceland at no extra cost. This worked out to a one day layover on they way to Europe and a FIVE day layover on the way back home! Keflavik was the one day layover. That said, I would fly Iceland Air again as it was a great airline. The service was good, the atmosphere was pretty neat (they had things explaining Icelandic culture and history everywhere, including the sugar packets!), and the blankets, oh the blankets were amazing! Most airlines don’t give you blankets to use on long flights anymore, not Iceland Air. They were sitting on our seats when we boarded and they were warm. Not the old ones, you know like a really thin piece of cotton. No, these were a beautifully soft and warm ribbed fleece. Don’t mind we we try to snuggle up under them and catch some sleep! We didn’t sleep, but that’s nothing new, neither of us are the kind who sleep well on planes ūüė¶

On to Keflavik . . .

We arrived at 630 in the morning after a long day of traveling and very little sleep. The first things we noticed – we couldn’t read Icelandic. The second thing? It was raining and chilly (about 5 C). We managed to get ourselves to the hostel and discovered there was no one there to greet us. What to do? Easy, leave our bags with a note attached and start wandering around town. Our very first mission? Locating a cup of coffee for Mike.IMG_4734

At this time of day on a Saturday, none the less, it turns out that Keflavik is pretty much a ghost town. We just started off walking and hoping for the best. After a while we were pretty sure that we were no where near the centre of town and much to our luck a cab drove by. We stopped him for a moment and after asking the ever important question of “Do you speak English?” asked how to get into town. We were on the right track. He even directed us to the only place he could think of that might be open for coffee! This is where I’ll give you the answer to the above question. When in Iceland there is no need to ask, they all speak English and look at you like you are nuts if you ask if they do! For the record, we did eventually find a cup of coffee for Mike – his first¬†experience¬†with European coffee! It grew on him ūüôāIMG_4755

We did spend some time resting and napping, but didn’t want to waste the full day. In the afternoon we rose, bundled up and headed out. The hostel owner had told Kirsten of a Viking Museum not too far that we wanted to check out. It was about a 20 minute walk, but once we got there were quite happy with the find. There were animals to look at and play with, and we even got to stick our heads inside and see a re-built Viking ship. We decided not to pay to enter as we didn’t know how long we’d last (tiredness was setting in again!), but enjoyed ourselves none the less.IMG_4792

I’ll be the first to admit, Keflavik was not the most exciting place I’ve ever been to, but it was interesting none-the-less. I think if we hadn’t been so tired and the weather had been a little warmer we would have enjoyed ourselves more. It wasn’t a write off though ūüôāIMG_4748Europe Part 2 – Keflavik Iceland

Next, we head off to Frankfurt!

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Europe Photo Album

I know that everyone has been waiting with baited breath for the Europe posts and I just haven’t got them up yet. You see, I’ve been busy working on the photo album that Mike and I now get to add to our bookcase so we can look back the trip whenever we want. Selfish yes, but I’m not going to apologize. That said, to make it up to you, I’m going to share the photo book with you right now. All you have to do is click right here, or on the picture of the cover below,¬†and enjoy.

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Europe – the Overview

As we all know, I love to travel. Therefore when Joy decided to get married in Switzerland I said YES! Back in January I booked my flights to and from Europe including stops in Iceland, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. I was all set to head off to Europe on my own (once again) and along came Mike. Luckily for me he also loves to travel and jumped at the chance to come to Europe and see my best friend get married. To make it even more exciting for him, he’d NEVER been to Europe before. Cue epic adventure in my beloved Europe!

We departed on our adventure May 11 and returned to the True North (AKA Canada) May 31. Okay, it was barely May 31 but still, 2 am counts right? In three weeks we covered the above mentioned four countries, visited two different groups of family members (I love having one whole side of the Family in Germany!), one friend from days gone by, watched my bestie get married, battled sickness and sunburns (both me), and culture shock (that one was Mike). I used my German for the first time in close to 10 years – I don’t count the occasional conversation with my Father as really using it, they don’t last more than a few minutes! Since this journey was a full 20 days, versus my much shorter Scotland adventure, I will break the post up by cities as opposed to days. Please join me as I relieve our adventures. I hope you have fun living vicariously through the two of us!

Pictures to follow in city by city posts!

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Scotland Part 10 – the last photos

** For Glasgow posts please check parts 1, parts 2, parts 3 and parts 4 of my trip!**

**For Edinburgh posts please check part 5,  part 6, and part 7 of my trip**

**For the Highlands please check part 8 of my trip**

**For the town of Stirling, Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, please check part 9 of my trip**

In the last 9 posts spread out over the last year I’ve covered a lot of stories, and a fair number of pictures.¬† That said, I took well over 1500 photos of my trip, and after cutting out all the crappy through alright photos I was left with about 600.¬† As you may have noticed, I didn’t share that many with you.¬† Don’t worry, I’m not about to throw hundreds up here.¬† I am however going to share a few more, some of my favorites that just didn’t make the cut for each post.¬† I hope you enjoy them…

The Glasgow Council Chamber – the Scottish version of a City Hall

Some of the marble found in the Glasgow Council Chambers

More of the incredible marble.¬† I’ve never seen so much marble in one place before!

Some classic red phone booths – as seen on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Edinburgh, it was the sight of this structure that caused me to fall in love with the city

Me in front of the Locks at Loch Ness – Fort Augustus

A Scottish flag flying at Loch Ness

A police box!¬† Sadly this one didn’t appear to be the T.A.R.D.I.S as the Doctor never appeared

My favorite statue in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens greenhouse.  I kept coming back to this one.

Some rather awesome looking doorways in Stirling Castle

Wallace Monument

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Scotland Part 8 – Scottish Highlands

** For Glasgow posts please check parts 1, parts 2, parts 3 and parts 4 of my trip!**

**For Edinburgh posts please check part 5,  part 6 and part 7 of my trip**

Guess what, we’ve almost made it all the way through my week-long¬†trip to Scotland.¬† Best part¬†is think we really will make it through everything before I’ve been back for a year.¬† If all goes according to my current posting plan, there will be one maybe two more posts!¬† Good grief.

What are we reminiscing about today?¬† Just one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.¬† One place I wish to re-visit, this time for longer and with some serious hiking.¬† Where on Earth could this magical place be?¬† If you really are wondering, go read the title of my post.¬† Yep, the Scottish Highlands.

One of the few things I knew before landing in Glasgow was that I wanted to take a tour of the Highlands.¬† I would have loved to do one of the multi-day tours, alas I was only in the country for a week.¬† Had to limit myself.¬† For that reason I made a point of picking the one day tour that seemed like it would show me the most.¬† I ended up going with Rabbie Burns Tours¬†as they had lots of great sounding awards.¬† The way I see it, awards mean people like them and have had good experiences.¬† I want to have a good experience, so why not.¬† Also, I had a coupon for…I don’t even remember how much.¬† The tour I took was Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands.¬† We also saw Loch Lomond.¬† I have to say, the tour was well worth whatever it was I spent on it.

Our first stop was at Loch Lomond, and we all got out, wandered around, took some pictures.¬† Already the views were stunning.¬† For those of you who don’t know Loch Lomond is the largest of the Lochs in surface area.¬† Oh yeah, Loch is Scottish for lake.¬† I kind of want to start calling it Loch Ontario instead of Lake Ontario now!¬† After we got back on the bus we listened to a very haunting tune “Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.”¬† I’m not going to lie, every time I listen it brings tears to my eyes, and while passing along side the banks of Loch Lomond it was even more of a struggle to keep my composure.

Try not to be moved by that song.

After Loch Lomond we headed over to Fort Augustus where we stopped for lunch and to check out the locks and Loch Ness.¬† Try saying that one five times fast!¬† I think many of my travelling companions stopped in a restaurant¬†for lunch, I on the other hand purchased a portion of chips and wandered along the locks while munching on them.¬† It was chilly, but well worth the extra time to make sure I could take everything in.¬† That and locks are cool!¬† **side note, I still remember stopping somewhere with Dad when WAY younger to check out a lock…I was fascinated**

After lunch we hopped back on the bus, drove along the banks of Loch Ness, which I might add, is not only home to famous Nessie, but is also the largest loch in the UK by total water volume.  After awhile we passed Castle Urquhart, not much further up the road we pulled over and hopped on a boat tour of Loch Ness.  We got to go right up to Castle Urquart and I of course took a bajillion photos.  After viewing the castle we headed back to the dock, all the while keeping our eyes peeled for Nessie.  You be the judge as to if I saw her.

¬†The only other part of our day trip that was amazing, mind-blowing and/or heart wrenching was as we drove through Glencoe.¬† Which if I remember my translation from Scottish correctly means, where the valley meets the river Coe (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, it has been almost a year!).

Many of you may have heard about the Glencoe Massacre, I had previously not.¬† I’ll try to do it some justice right now:

Back in 1692 King William wanted all of the highlanders to swear an oath of¬†Allegiance¬†to him.¬† For some reason, never known, the Chief¬†of the MacDonald clan was late arriving to sign, possibly due to the weather, or maybe it was an act of rebellion…we will never know.¬† William was not happy about this so he sent the Campbell clan to the MacDonald’s to stay until further notice/order.¬† Back then in the highlands there was an unwritten rule that you never turn away someone needed a meal or bed, it is a rather harsh environment.¬† For this reason, for two weeks, the MacDonald’s played host to the Campbell’s, until February 13.¬† On this night, the Campbell chief received notice that they were to kill the MacDonald’s, and the Campbell’s followed their orders.¬† All told, 36 MacDonald’s were killed in their homes, while another 40 women and children died of exposure in the winter night.¬†

Even now, writing out the story I get shivers running down my back.

There you have it, my day trip up to the Highlands.¬† It was filled with gorgeous scenery, and interesting facts.¬† Oh yeah, and it lit up some sort of fire in my soul, I dont’ just want to go back, I feel like I need to go back.

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Fundy Revisited

As I have no doubt everyone remembers, last year I took Mayfly to Fundy National Park and Hopewell Rocks.¬† Well, it was such a great time that I was game to go again.¬† I didn’t fully revisit the last trip as I only went for a weekend and with different company…adult company!¬† Wow, totally different experience when I don’t have to fully assemble and tear down the campsite, cook all the food and build/maintain the fire BY MYSELF!¬† Okay, so I still did the cooking, but Matt took care of the fire.¬† We took turns with the dishes (last time I did them all…letting the kid go play at the park, aren’t I just so sweet), and we¬†both did set up and tear down.¬† Best part, I didn’t have to fight with those darn fire pits once.¬† That’s right, not once, Matt was the fire builder ūüôā

Anyway, away from the “division of duties” and on to the fun stuff.¬† I’d booked us a camp site at Chinecto¬†North again, as both Mayfly and I loved that camp ground and the site were nice and private.¬† I really don’t like it when you’re pretty much sharing your camp site with all of your neighbours…not cool, just not cool.¬† This time our site was at the opposite end from last time, and a little smaller.¬† That said, the sites were even more private and a little quieter because we were far away from the playground.¬† Don’t get me wrong, being close was great with Mayfly, she could just go and play, but for two adults, we didn’t really need easy access to it.¬† There was no hiking this time, we just didn’t have the time, after all, we were only in New Brunswick for one full day, and that day was dedicated to Hopewell.

Matt had never been to Fundy Park, and more importantly he’d never been to Hopewell Rocks.¬† Since it was one of those things he really wanted to do, we decided it would be a great weekend trip and boy was it.¬† We headed off to Hopewell a little later this time, getting there around noon (which was JUST before high tide at 1230) and were hoping to go kayaking.¬† We didn’t think to reserve our spots, and so found that there were none available.¬† Next time!¬† Instead we wandered around, looking out at the stunning coastline and exploring.¬† We also got to watch the tide go out at the astonishing rate of one foot every ten minutes.¬† Yep, you read that right, 1 ft every 10 min.¬† C-R-A-Z-Y!!!¬† After that we got to walk on the ocean floor (though we didn’t go into the deep sticky mud) and check everything out.¬† During this time I managed to burn my shoulders, chest and arms (I forgot the sunscreen in the tent), scrap my ankle, twist my ankle and fall on my bottom.¬† I’m talented.¬† Matt, he didn’t injure any part of him self, and I don’t think he ended up with a burn, if he did, it was gone by morning.¬† Not fair.

I’m not gonna lie, it was a great day, but by the time we left I was tired.¬† Thankfully, since I was travelling with an adult this time, I didn’t have to drive ūüôā¬† Being as both Matt and I are the kind of people who like to explore¬†and check things out, we took the scenic route, and the scenic route off of the scenic route (a little complicated sounding yes).¬† Thanks to this we got to see views I’d missed last time.¬† We also found Cape Enrage, where I believe¬†Matt would like to go next…not sure I’m into that trip, so it might have to be with some of his friends instead.¬† I’ll admit, it seems like a rather interesting¬†place, beautiful views that’s for sure.¬† It’s more the ziplining¬†and repelling things I’m a little unsure of.¬† After all, I’m rather timid about heights.

All in all, I have to say it was a great weekend, and I’d be willing to head out that way for a third time.¬† Maybe get some kayaking in this time!¬†

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Scotland Part 7 – St. Giles Cathedral

** For Glasgow posts please check parts 1, parts 2, parts 3 and parts 4 of my trip!**

**For Edinburgh posts please check part 5 and part 6 of my trip**

¬†Good news, we’re on the last Edinburgh post, and then there are only two or three more posts to sum up the whole trip!¬† I think I just might get you all caught up before November (and the one year anniversary of my trip) like I said I would.¬† What part of Edinburgh are we visiting today?¬† We’re taking a brief tour of St. Giles Cathedral.¬†

I already spent some time waxing poetic about the Glasgow Cathedral, and I’m not going to lie, I liked that one a bit more.¬† That said, St. Giles was amazing and the Thistle Chapel was magnificent.¬† Apparently one of the many carved angels¬†in the Thistle Chapel can be found holding a bagpipe, I was not able to locate said angel.¬† The stone work, columns, stained glass and general character of St. Giles was rather impressive.¬† While I may have a slight preference¬†for the Glasgow Cathedral, I was still awestruck at the majesty found in St. Giles.¬†

Here is your chance to take a peak ūüôā

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