Brett and Nate

The traveling adventures of two wayward Canadians.

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  1. Iceland: Fire, Ice and Hospitality

    Well, I guess we should post one last update on our blog. Better late than never. Iceland was our final destination, and it was decided upon half way though our stay in Malta. It turned out to be fairly inexpensive to fly back home to Canada through Iceland, so we thought a detour was a great idea. Having friends and family in Iceland made the decision a whole lot easier as well.

    After a hectic day of train schedules, connecting flights, bus tickets and crowds of people, we finally made it to the Reykjavik airport and into the welcoming arms of Helga and her daughter Svanna.  They graciously allowed us the “guest” room while in Reykjavik (thanks for the bed Aaron) and our stay there couldn’t have been better.  Lazy mornings of good coffee and salmon became a favorite pastime.  And we loved the trips into downtown to see the sights and museums.  These were always followed by evening visits to the local pool to rest our weary, travelling bones in the all natural hot tubs.  Best of all however was that we finally found some Cribbage partners for the first time since Dublin!  Playing one on one games can get a bit repetitive after a while.

    Helga works for an airline in Iceland and was able to get us some discounts on bus tours while we were visiting.  We took an entire day and did the Golden Circle Tour, and while it’s apparently even better during the summer, it was still breathtaking for us. 

    Gullfoss, The Golden Falls

    Geysir Shots, during the golden circle tour.  This works as a bit of a slideshow.  Brett has a movie but deleted it or something, not sure what happened. I FOUND IT! (Will post later.) The whole experience was pretty cool.  Scared the crap out of me the first time the geyser went off.

    The pools at Geysir releasing steam heat from deep underground.

    At some point during the bus tour we spotted some Icelandic horses in a field by the road.  Everyone on the bus decided it was a great idea to stop for the photo-op.

    Icelandic Horses!
    Icelandic Horses!

    Þingvellir (pronounced “Thingvellir”) National Park.  Location of the very first recorded parliament in the world, called Alþingi.

    The tour was fantastic and we were really happy to be able to see some of the Icelandic countryside.   It was sort of touch and go because of all the snow on the roads while we were there so we were lucky we were able to go at all.

    Back in the city there was still lots to see.  Almost every day Helga or Svanna offered to drive us downtown on their way to work which was amazing a definitely saved us a lot on bus fare.  We spent a lot of our time in Reykjavik simply wandering around and visiting any museums we could find.

    The Harbour in Reykjavik

    Harpa, the brand new concert hall.  We were even invited to a concert inside played by a friend of Helga’s.  The show was very good and very funny, while the whole programme was in Icelandic and we were a bit lost at times, some jokes are just universal.

    National Museum of Iceland

    Model of an old church in the Museum

    Downtown Reykjavik, the President’s house/office

    The main square in Reykjavik, right next to Hlölla Bátar!!

    Main square again.

    Hallgrimskirka, Reykjavik.  The largest church in Iceland.

    One place we had heard we absolutely had to go during our visit was the Blue Lagoon.  It is apparently the most visited attraction in Iceland and when you see the water you’ll know why.  We usually try to steer clear of the main tourist attractions and do more local things instead but this was one thing we couldn’t really pass up.  We spent all afternoon in the warm, mineral rich waters and came out completely relaxed.  It was definitely a good experience.

    The colour of the water is really amazing.

    Lava rocks and moss around the Blue Lagoon.

    For the next part of our stay in Iceland we were headed north.  About 4 hours north to a town called Hofsós where some of Brett’s family lives.  Staying with Valdis, Runnar and their beautiful daughter Valla was one of the highlights of our entire trip.  Life in northern Iceland was unlike anything we’d done thus far and the hospitality we received made it a truly amazing visit.  Hofsós is right on the northern coast of Iceland and there are some very unique things in that area.

    Columnar Basalt on the coast in Hofsós.

    Brett hanging out by the Arctic Ocean, no big deal.

    Anyone care for a swim?

    The small harbour in Hofsos and Drangey Island in the distance, both beautifully visible from the Valdis and Runnar’s living room.

    The coastal roads can sometimes be treacherous, but some of the views are spectacular.

    After our magical stay in Northern Iceland we headed back to Reykjavik for a few days before catching out flight back home to Canada.  It felt very surreal to be returning home after all the places we’d visited and amazing people we’d met.  Getting back to real normal life didn’t seem like a very attractive option, but knowing the flight attendant on the way home definitely helped smooth the transition (Thanks Helga!).

    The four months we spent away were some of the best I’ve ever had.  We had some fun, learned a lot and both absolutely caught the travel bug.  This is only the beginning and I couldn’t be more excited to live in a world that has so much to offer and explore.  I know the next adventure will be even better and I can’t wait to start prepping for that one, whenever it may be.  That’s half the fun though!

    Signing off for now, but we’ll be back an better than ever soon enough.  Thanks for following along with us!


    Brett and Nate

  3. Gozo: The Sister Island

    We had spent almost an entire month in Malta and still hadn’t been to the neighbouring island of Gozo. We realized this was completely unacceptable so we finally shook of the laziness we had become victim to and ventured out towards the ferry on the very last day of our stay. Gozo is northwest of the main island of Malta and as we were staying near the north of the island, the ferry terminal was a short bus ride away. The ferry only takes about half an hour to journey across the channel, but we were able to get a taste of the island before even landing.

    Xewkija Church on Gozo, the grand rotunda of this church is bigger than that of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. We could easily spot it from the ferry.

    There is an even smaller island between Malta and Gozo named Comino that has only 4 permanent residents. It is primarily used as a nature reserve and tourist destination in the summertime.

    The ferry docked at Mgarr harbor and we began our day!

    We had heard about many of the things to see and do on Gozo but as we were too short on time to figure out the best way of seeing it all we decided simply go along with a bus tour. Before we even departed on the ferry from Malta we were ambushed by salesmen interested in selling us tickets to the “Hop on Hop off Sightseeing Experience of Gozo!” Usually these guys are kind of annoying but on this day, it was exactly what we were looking for.

    The tour is actually a pretty good deal. A fleet of buses circle the island and stop at designated points, at which time you can choose to either stay on and continue to the next point or “hop off” and explore. The buses run every hour or so, so you simply “hop on” to the next one that comes by. It really took the guess work out of exploring what Gozo has to offer and there is even an audio guide on the bus in a range of different languages that doles out information on the various stop locations which made it much easier to decide what what we wanted to see and what we wanted to skip.

    A valley near the first hop off stop, Ramla Bay.

    The beautiful Ramla Bay.

    The bay’s true Maltese name means “the red sandy beach” because of the unique colour of the sand.

    A view of Ramla Bay from a lookout at a place on the west cliff called Calypso's Cave. It is believed that Gozo is the island described as Ogygia in Homer's epic, The Odyssey. This is where the nymph Calypso imprisons the hero Odysseus for seven years before the messenger god Hermes is sent to ensure his release.

    Ggantija Megalithic Temples. These are the oldest freestanding structures in THE WORLD! Constructed over 5500 years ago they are believed to have been used for religious rituals.

    Altar inside a room of one of the temples.

    The Ta’ Kola Windmill in Xaghra, near the temples.

    The bus stopped running around sundown so we were a bit rushed near the end of the day. We were able to see much of the island throughout the day but didn’t have enough time for all the tour stops, we’ll just have to go back sometime!
    One of the last places the bus visited was one of the most beautiful places we saw during our whole stay, the picturesque…

    Azure Window.

    Waves crashing on the shore.

    And a perfect sunset to finish up our stay in the Mediterranean.

    Gozo was everything we’d heard it would be and more, a wonderful way to complete the trip. The next morning, after a tearful goodbye to our gracious host Clint (sorry for waking you up buddy, haha), we were on our way to catch a plane. Our next destination was Reykjavic, Iceland but in an effort to keep transport costs down our itinerary was a bit hectic:

    1. Flight from Malta to Bristol, England
    2. Bus from Bristol Airport to Temple Meads Train Station
    3. Train from Temple Meads to Paddington Station, London
    4. London Underground from Paddington to Victoria Station
    5. Train from Victoria to Gatwick Airport
    6. Flight from Gatwick to Keflavik Airport, Iceland

    We had to do all of this in the span of about 13hrs and if we missed any connection along the way, we were effectively screwed. It was a long day. But, we arrived and met with our welcoming party here in Iceland without a hitch! Helga and her daughter Svanna have opened their home to us while we stay here and the comfy couch in their warm living room on which I am writing this is exactly what the doctor ordered after 14 weeks of traveling. We are really enjoying our stay so far and already have lots more pictures for our next post so check back soon!

    Stay cool!

    Nate and Brett