Every time I travel I seem to get a fixation on a particular topic and this time it's Celtic Crosses…
The Ring of Kerry
Today we drove around the Ring of Kerry. Spectacular scenery that again has not made it adequately into the photographs. As seems to be always the case, we ran out of time and had to make a dash for home/dinner as the light was starting to wane. It’s a bit of a trap here as judging by the light I thought it was about 4pm and it turned out to be after 6pm. As we were still on Valentia Island at that point it was a case of getting back onto the mainland and getting back to Killorglin asap. We plugged the destination into the SatNav and the quickest route turned out to be a minor road across the middle of the loop. The road started getting narrower and narrower; higher and higher. I suggested that we shouldn’t stop for dinner but keep going as I suspected it would get worse and it would be better to have the light for such a potentially dodgy road. It was a good call. I really wanted to stop and shoot the spectacular scenery but couldn’t. We did stop very briefly at the top of the pass and eventually made it back to Killorglin after 8pm by which time we were ravenous.
Every time I travel I seem to get a fixation on a particular topic and this time it's Celtic Crosses…
Galway to Kerry
Long drive down, we visited the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare but the light was in the wrong direction so the images are not that great. We also had an unplanned stop in the historic town of Ennistymon as we caught sight of the river as we entered the town. It turned out to be a great stop as the waterfall underneath the bridge was spectacular.
We stopped for dinner in the village of Adare about 7.30pm & got drenched in a hail storm as we crossed the road. Dinner was lovely but we still had a long way to go. finally reaching the cottage at 10.30pm. It was freezing & damp with no heating on. There was no WiFi either. I went to bed wearing a thermal top & socks… and kept them on all night. That is the first time I've been cold indoors the whole trip.
Driving the Connemara Loop
We drove around Connemara in County Galway admiring the scenery which seemed difficult to translate into acceptable images. Don't know why that is; may be the big landscapes, maybe the muted colours, maybe just me. But we enjoyed our day nonetheless.
We decided not to photograph the parades, in hindsight we didn't want to get stuck in the city. I've never seen so many police in all my life. Every road into the city was blocked by the Garda and there were helicopters circling overhead. It took us over 2 hours to get out of Dublin.
While we were stuck in traffic I saw a photo that I wasn't able to take - a guy dressed like a Mongrel Mob member, complete with a German helmet, passed us… pedalling, yes pedalling a fat wheeled bicycle. What a hoot, I'm gutted we didn't catch up with him I so wanted to take his photograph.
Basically we spent the day driving to Galway but when we finally arrived in Tully Cross we couldn't believe our eyes. The cottage is new, modern and very very comfortable, we walked up the road to dine at Paddy Coyne's pub. Paddy's opened on 18/11/1811 and has gone through many iterations in its life one of which was an undertakers.
Suffice to say it is back to a very successful pub. We had a great dinner chatting with the locals and obliterated the memory of a crappy dinner at the Hairy Lemon in Dublin last night.
We lost the 25th to travelling from Iceland. In terms of flying hours it wasn't that much but we had a long lay over, 8 hours, at Frankfurt airport.
Must have a wee word in the ear of that travel agent!
Anyway, we are now in Ireland, Dublin to be exact.
We have landed in the midst of Easter celebrations compounded by the anniversary of the 1916 Easter uprising.
What a cool time to be in this city…it's a 4 day party, albeit with a serious side for most people. The parades today were for the Irish who have moved away from Ireland, but tomorrow is the actual anniversary day and there are 1mio people expected into the city.
We spent the day photographing cobbled streets, people, little pubs etc. There seemed to be musicians at every corner - some good some not so much. This guy was great.
When it started raining so we popped into a pub for shelter - the girls had wine & Guinness. No, not together; I had the wine. The boys didn't partake - which was amusing & odd! I tried a sip of draught Guinness - its very different from what I have tasted in NZ and I quite liked it - very smooth. Judy described it as a beer milkshake!
I don't know if it's because this is a religious country, but there seems to be a heightened level of excitement about Easter that isn't evident in NZ.
Sorry no photos today - I'm too tired to edit them.
We collect the car tomorrow and head for Galway.
Our last day in Iceland
Our last day in Iceland. We returned the beast and went down to the old harbour in search of the saga exhibition. Saga is the story telling, the history of Iceland. Seems the original settlers were Vikings from Norway but they brought many Irish women with them; a result of raids in the British Isles. So there is quite a close link to the Celts. The exhibition was well done with very life like figures. I had thought that as this is such a harsh land that they'd all be busy surviving… but no, it was the usual story of in fighting and civil wars.
Some little snippets:
Vik to Reykjavik
Leaving Vik we had planned to go a different route to Reykjavik but someone William spoke to put him off it so we just returned the same way. That person suggested at stop at a village called Hveragerdi; it was supposed to be picturesque, but I guess picturesque is in the eye of the beholder. We did pass an open air swimming pool that looked fantastic, diving boards, water slide etc. Bloody freezing temps and there were people running about in togs and jumping in. We should have gone in… yep we should have, that was an experience missed.
We stopped at the large arch at the north eastern end of Dyrhólaey Beach; the opposite end to the stacks where Erin got wet & killed her camera. After that it was pretty much a straight run back except a lunch/hot chocolate stop.
On the way we saw some horses out for a run and managed a drive by shot showing the special gait...
Back at Jökulsárlón
William and I went back to the ice beach at 7.30am. I didn't want to go but felt it was my last chance. The temperature was only -2 but felt much colder. We discovered huge pieces of blue ice further down the west beach and had them to ourselves for about 45 minutes but eventually other photogs discovered us. I enjoyed shooting and hopefully have a better collection that I might be able to do something with.
After a quick shower and pack up we headed north east and drove back up to Höfn (pronounced Hup). There was no specific reason to go northwards other than to fill up with petrol and take some photos that we'd seen when we passed that way with the tour group. We were booked in Vik (Veek) for the night which is part way between Hali and Reykjavik. So it was an up and back journey with lots of stops.
We met some Icelandic horses. I think I've mentioned these before - they are small, hardy, strong & very bright. They are highly prized and specially bred to keep their bloodlines pure. They have a unique gait called holt which is a prancing step that reminds me of the Spanish dancing horses; apparently it makes for a very smooth ride without the bounce of a trotting gait. They love a good scratch and missing Diesel I took time to have a smooch.
The roads out in the country are often very straight (imagine the Himitangi straits for about 100km). Apart from the scenery its boring as hell when driving, but you have to concentrate all the time because the beast is wider than we are used to, the roads narrow and we are on the wrong side. We drove past a black lava sand field that stretched to the hills on the right hand side and to the horizon on the seaward side. Notable because it was so big and because we could see it - it was covered in snow before.
There are some strange green landscapes on the drive to Jökulsárlón. It seems to be some species of moss that covers the rocks. So over the years this has come to resemble a fantastical landscape that you can easily imagine trolls living in. The folk lore here is big on trolls, they seem to be mostly benevolent and are turned to stone if they get caught in daylight. I could definitely see lots of faces on the green landscape and also in the mountains.
The guest house in Vik was better than the one at Hali but it's still back packer accommodation at hotel prices, so it'll be a relief to get back to a proper hotel in Reykjavik.
Retracing our steps back to Hali
It was a long drive from Reykjavik back to Hali, we set off at 7am with me driving and William navigating.
We stopped a few times for photos. Had a lovely lunch at a country café. The food here (actually everything here) is very expensive, I had a veg dish with coconut curry sauce & a hot chocolate and it was NZD37. I feel like I’m haemorrhaging money.
It is quite strange retracing our steps from the tour - the first time we passed everything was covered in snow and the landscape is almost unrecognisable this time with amazing colours. Muted colours, but lovely tones of green, brown and gold.
In times past Icelanders built houses into the land, there are still a few of these structures around but they are mainly used to house the animals now.
I haven't mentioned the churches yet; they are very cute and all made from the same cookie cutter design (Reykjavik being the exception).
It is said that being a tourist is hard work - being a photographic tourist is even more so. We are usually out before first light photographing and then travelling or more photographing during the day. Usually we manage a short break during the day (not today though); it might be 30 minutes or 90 minutes then out again for last and it’s not dark until around 8.00-8.30pm. Then its race back for dinner. Back in my room I have to download images from the day, back them up and then catch up on emails, blogs etc. So that is why I am still bashing the keyboard at 11.30 at night. Not moaning - just explaining why I am struggling to keep this up to date :-)
Wandering about Reykjavik
I'm feeling much better today although my neck is as stiff as a board.
We went to collect the rental car at the domestic airport, what a drama. It was waaaay too small. So we drove it to the Thrify Depot and set about negotiating how to resolve the issue. The car we ordered was not available and nor was the next size up. The choice we had, was a transit van (plenty of room but high sided, dodgy in wind, harder to drive) or a Ford Expedition (hugely more expensive, massive beast with leather seats, with 4WD). In the end it came down to driveability so we went with the Expedition. OMG coping with a car 3x bigger than mine plus driving on the opposite side of the road is a mission - then add navigating with place names that are unfathomable and also bear no relation to how they are pronounced.
Thankfully GPS comes standard - so William was in charge of telling me where to go (he enjoyed that) and I manoeuvred the beast back to the apartment. I haven't tried to parallel park it yet but I'm totally hooked on the comfort level and it's so high that I can see for miles!
We grabbed bags of laundry and walked to the Laundromat Café and had brunch and enjoyed decent wifi while our laundry was doing its thing.
Some of us spent the afternoon sleeping, and some sorted out camera and Lightroom issues... that was me with help from William. About 6.15 we went out with the cameras and photographed around the waterfront till 8.15ish. There is an amazing building on the waterfront, the Harpa Centre, a concert/art/convention centre that is fantastic to photograph. It sort of looks like a giant honeycomb and inside there are abstracts to be found every where you look. We eventually sat down for dinner about 9pm to gourmet burgers and chocolate cake for Pete's birthday.
Our last day "on tour"
No photos today; we flew back from Akureyri in the north to Reykjavik.
It was a write off day - spent travelling and being ill; which is a truly awful combination.
The group were having a farewell dinner at a very expensive, trendy restaurant which was very hot and very noisy and I couldn't cope.
It is the most expensive meal I didn't get to eat.
Less said the better.
Super jeeps & snow shoes
Today was our big trip out in the super jeeps. We were to visit the western side of Dettifoss which is never done in winter. We had 2 big jeeps plus one sort of like a 9 seater mini bus, all 3 had huge tractor like tyres.
The area that we went to was stunning; a huge valley (obviously carved out by some glacier in early times) all covered in snow with beautiful blue hues in the sky.
I was lucky and scored a front seat in one of the jeeps (largely because of car sickness) and as we got further into the valley the big jeep/bus got stuck. Much time was spent hauling it out and then it got stuck again - this time very seriously. To cut a long story short we waited 2 hours watching our drivers work very very hard trying to pull, winch & dig trying to extricate the vehicle. In the end they called up another monster truck to come and help. This was all a result of the warmer weather (despite it being -3 when we started out this morning) the past few days have meant that the snow underneath the top layer has softened and very heavy vehicles just sink.
It was another 20k to Dettifoss so obviously we weren't able to continue as things would just get worse. So we went back to where the road was closed to normal traffic and travelled around to the eastern side of the waterfall. At this point our drivers got out a whole load of snow shoes. I had been expected the old "tennis racket" style but these were modern jobs and we scuffed our way to the waterfall.
While much easier than walking without snow shoes it was still quite an effort and I was shattered by the time we had gone to the waterfall and back which was about 2km.
After dinner we could see a strong aurora with the naked eye as we drove back to the cottages. Everyone rushed out to photograph it but I had had enough for today. Unless its a red aurora I'm not interested. How's that for being fussy!!
There is a hex in Iceland. Weird things have been happening to the cameras & I initially put it down to jet lag/senior moment/operator error but it has been happening to other people. Todays glitch has been that the camera numbering system suddenly jumped several thousand which is causing me difficulty as it mirrors numbers already used. The assembled photographers do not have an answer. Marsel told me that weird things do happen when there is a high level of solar activity causing strong aurora phenomena.
We had a nominal sleep in this morning - breakfast at 8am. I've still not recovered enough sleep though & feel very flat with no energy.
We drove out to a rock arch that most people seemed to be going gaga over. Except me. Lunch was a stop in the small and picturesque fishing village of Húsavík (hoos-a-veek), which we had an hour to wander around. Even that was hard work.
Our accommodation is in Myvatn (Me-vak), where a film crew is here for a month filming another Fast & Furious movie. This has mean us being booted out of our hotel and we've been relocated to some guest cottages further around the lake.
The film crew has also commandeered the section of the lake that we wanted to photograph. We drove past the film site but couldn’t really see much other than trailer city; some tanks, APVs and trucks and one very flash looking red/orange car. It was too far to be able to photograph or identify it and security would have shooed us on anyway. We stopped further up the road and shot some images from a distance..
This thermal area smells just like Rotorua. The cold water here is pure but the hot water has been heated by geothermal power and smells very sulphurous.
It has been unseasonably warm with temperatures around +5 and even +15 in some places, so we have not been able to do the glacier/ice crave trip as it is too dangerous.
And guess what - it was out the door by 6am again and back to the ice beach for the 3rd day in a row...
It was a lovely morning crisp clear and cold. For the next 2.5 hours we knocked ourselves out photographing ice chunks again as the light came up and eventually the sun rose. Only 6 of us hardy souls ventured out. I must admit I nearly didn't as I was (and still am) desperately tired but I'm so glad I did. This morning was without doubt the best by far.
At 8.30 we raced back to the hotel scoffed a very hurried breakfast, showered, packed and left at 10.30 for a drive to the airport at Höfn (pronounced Hup). We saw quite a few reindeer on the way. I was surprised at how small they are and grey rather than brown and no antlers. We enjoyed the luxury of a chartered 18 seater plane to fly us to Akureyri (Ah-coo-rere). No baggage issues, no tickets, no in flight briefing, it didn’t matter how many people we had as the plane was ours. It was a 35 min flight and the scenery was stunning. We flew over Iceland's (and the worlds) largest glacier. A plane load of photogs is quite amusing; all you can hear is ka-chunk, ka-chunk of the shutters. We didn't get time to have a look about the town but from what we did see Akureyri is very cute with colourful houses and some very like gingerbread houses.
After driving to our accommodation for tonight we dumped our bags were off to Godafoss (yes, another waterfall). I must admit I'm waterfalled out now.
As we got back from dinner I was standing on the veranda and looked up to discover a strong aurora immediately above us. My yelp alerted everyone else and we grabbed our gear and tore across a snowy paddock to find a spot that we could shoot without any light pollution. I was going to have an early night but the excitement of seeing a strong aurora put paid to that.
Ice blocks & Hunting Auroras
We were back at the beach at 6am. There was not nearly as much ice, most of it has all washed out to sea overnight. The waves were not as fierce and we have had no more dunkings. After a late breakfast at 10am we did some homework to select an image to present to the group - but the ice lake outside the window is fantastic and I keep photographing it.
The weather cleared and the wind dropped so the afternoon critique was canned and we went off to Jökulsárlón lagoon itself (rather than the beach). The light was soft and milky and the lagoon had plenty of icebergs. We wandered happily in sunshine and the still crisp air; it was fabulous. Then we crossed over to the beach again and were stunned to see it littered with ice. The previous low tide had pulled tons of ice out of the lagoon & onto the beach. There were some really big pieces (the size of a car), some crystal clear, some opaque white and some a fantastic blue. I was in 7th heaven. About 6.30 we left there and raced back for dinner. Then it was out again by 7.30 on an aurora hunt.
That turned out to be a laugh, we hunted around for a bit, the cloud cover was too thick at the lagoon so we went back to Hali… we thought it wasn't happening as we could not see anything with the naked eye. But a shout from Gail revealed that the aurora was active and appearing in camera. For the next 3 hours we were squealing like little kids as we captured little glimpses of the aurora through the cloud cover.
So that was a big day; 6am start and back at 10.45pm.
This was the day I have been waiting for… Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The glacier calves huge chunks of ice which float down the lagoon and escape to the sea as low tide pulls water from the lagoon. They get washed back up onto a black sand beach and are, as I found out this morning, extremely difficult to photograph. Fortunately we have 3 days here, so I'll have a chance to improve my performance to date.
The ice ranges in size from a large stone to a chest of drawers. Looks are deceptive though, you cannot move one the size of a small dog even a millimetre. Some are quite regular in shape and some are fantastic, like Dr Seuss characters.
Again we have been lucky, this year there is more clear ice, often the pieces are milky and opaque. The technicalities of photographing these beautiful bits of ice are immense and you have to always, always keep an eye on the raging sea. Four people got a soaking this morning, two seriously, despite warnings, and that brings the dead camera total to 3 in two days! The plastic over pants and insulated boots kept me dry even though I got washed up to my knees several times.
Later we went to another arm of the glacier that feeds the lagoon & got some exercise trudging up a hill, sinking up to knees in the snow, or higher in some cases. We couldn't get close enough though as there are rivers running under the snow. And everything is starting to melt from underneath.
The rain cleared and we have had sunny weather all day and no wind at some point. It is a balmy 5 degrees - amazing what you get used to.
Big, Blue & Beautiful
A short & sweet report today.
I piked out this morning. I made a considered decision to pass on visiting a tall, skinny waterfall with the ability to walk behind it. Despite that attractive feature, the wind factor means the water will be blowing all over the place so I'm sitting in bed under a fluffy duvet listening to the rain hammering on the window :-)
After everyone got back we drove for most of the day in heavy rain from Vik to Hali stopping at Svinafellsjokull Glacier on the way. It had been raining heavily all day and miraculously eased just after we arrived. The glacier is much bluer than usual; an unforeseen benefit of all the rain washing the snow away.
It is stunning; big, blue and beautiful.
Backwards Waterfalls & Wild Beaches
Given the dire weather warnings of yesterday afternoon I was surprised that we ventured out this morning. It was a marginal call in terms of the wind speed threat to traffic, especially high sided vans, but off we went to another waterfall, surprise surprise. It turned out to be amazing though, the wind was so strong the waterfall was being blown backwards, and it was too dangerous to climb up to the viewing platform. But the upside was that there were very few other people around.
After that we went back to the hotel and didn't stir out again until late in the afternoon. The afternoon jaunt was to a turbulent black sand beach. The weather was still changeable to the extent that we had rain, hail and snow within a 5 minute period, all accompanied with near gale force wind. Apparently people regularly get caught out at this beach, getting dunked by rogue waves and a tourist was fatally swept away fairly recently, so stern warnings were issued about keeping an eye on the water at all times.
As we are still on the "tourist circuit " here there were lots of happy snappers about, gaily wandering in front of your carefully set up shot, which is situation normal for serious photogs. At one end of the beach are fantastic basalt lava stacks and several pinnacles just off shore. At the other the rock bridge of Dyrhólaey (pronounced Derra-ho-lay). The surf was huge, dumping and fierce. It is hard to imagine people surviving it. The stacks proved a popular place for every man and his dog to take a selfie. One couple were so busy taking photos of each other they didn’t notice their kid wandering down to the waters edge. We all got rather anxious and I think someone may have said something - next thing a huge wave came crashing in; Mum, who had been posing, ran to avoid a dunking and Dad grabbed the kid but got wet in the process. The force of the wave made it travel up the beach twice as high as expected and poor Erin got a complete soaking head to toe including the camera. A major mopping up was required and the prognosis for the camera gear is hopeful but uncertain, currently being dried very slowly.
While the weather is still meant to be rubbish tomorrow, the forecast for it to warm up to around +5-7. This will mean it is too dangerous to visit the ice caves on the glacier. So we are in the bizarre position of hoping it stays below zero !
Our first 'working' day
Today was our first day "on tour" so we were packed, breakfasted, checked out and into the vans by 8am.
It snowed steadily last night and there was 6 inches of fresh snow. If you'd asked me last week I would have said no way would I be out in these conditions, but there we were in 0 degrees (real feel -10) with horizontal driving snow photographing happily - ok maybe happily is not exactly the right word. We started off in the sun but within 15 minutes the snow became pretty heavy. I wanted to take a pic of us all huddled like sheep with our backs to the wind & snow. But the camera on the tripod was set up for a shot and under a storm cover and there was no way I was going to open my camera bag. The bad bits never last too long and in 10-15 minutes it stopped until the next sweep through.
This is how you manage these conditions: before leaving the van you put plastic rain pants over warm pants. Crampons go over rubber insulated boots, add hats, neck gaiter/scarf, gloves and a sturdy water & windproof coat over 2-3 layers of merino. I was totally warm except my hands which got wet and therefore cold.
First we went to Oxarafoss. Foss means waterfall and Iceland is fairly littered with them (I think there are more waterfalls than people) and each one is different.
The next stop was the thermal area called Geysir (Icelandic spelling & pronounced Ghee-sir) and lastly the famous Gullfoss (pronounced Ghoul-foss). The geysir was hilarious; there were bus loads of tourists (many wearing jeans and sneakers… go figure) who all rushed up the hill to stand waiting for the geyser to blow, which it did every 10 minutes or so. They failed to notice which way the wind was blowing and when the geyser dutifully did its thing there were howls and shrieks as people copped a good drenching of sulphur water.
Today was tough, I have been awake since 3am so my brain was not seeing the images and not computing the technical requirements at all well.
To illustrate how changeable the weather here is - when we arrived at Gullfoss you wouldn't even know there was a waterfall let alone a massive one. I was tired and quite prepared to wait in the van, but when the cloud/rain/fog cleared 15 minutes later there in front of us was this most amazing sight.
The weather is set to get worse tomorrow...
Oooh it's snowing
Woke to heavy rain which has now turned to snow. Wet snow, not that lovely dry fluffy ski stuff. The temperature has dropped to 1 degree (real feel -10) I'm sure everyone at home enjoying 28-32 is dead envious... not.
I went out and photographed for 90 minutes or so and in that time saw sun, rain, sleet, hail, snow, and heavy snow.
I have been surprised at how many buildings are tagged and how grubby the city is. For some reason I expected Nordic citizens to be cleaner & more concerned with the environment. Drivers here are extremely courteous to pedestrians and will wait for you to cross the road even when they have right of way. The red bikes (see below) are actually gates used to block the road to cars. The cathedral is an amazing building unfortunately it was also full of tourists. The statute out front is of Leif Erikson. There is conjecture that he found America before Columbus.
We are mooching about doing chores in preparation for leaving on tour tomorrow.
We had a nice evening, meeting the rest of the tour party & had a lovely dinner. They had Minke Whale on the menu which didn't impress me. There is a saying here that Icelanders will eat anything & potatoes. Apparently they also eat the Icelandic horses (god forbid that you call them ponies) and even the puffins. We are out of season to see the puffins which is a shame.
The water is fantastic, so pure its tasteless. We've been told to keep drinking water as its very easy to get dehydrated - people don't drink enough coz its so cold.
So tomorrow we have an earlyish start in our full cold weather regalia including artic boots & crampons, the whole nine yards!
Frankfurt to Reykjavik
I had an amazing 18 hours sleep and now feel fine.
I got out for a walk in the morning frost. It was that lovely dry fresh cold. Just what I needed after a night in an almost hermetically sealed hotel and being shut up in a flying tin can.
Then it was back to the airport for a 4 hour flight to Reykjavik. I got a pretty thorough body search at security and a good going through of my bag - I must admit I was rather surprised that it wasn't from the Americans.
We arrived this evening to 2 degrees, wind and drizzle. From what I have seen so far the land between the airport and city is very reminiscent of the Desert Road and Central Otago in winter. Golden/brown tussock, black rock, black soil, patches of snow and flattened grass where the snow has melted. It's rather hard to imagine making good photos in this - I hope this tour leader has a few tricks to show us.
The rest of the evening was chores (laundry) and emails and dinner. The rain has now set in properly.
The joys of travel
Today was all about travelling. Another tortuous 11 hour flight.
I managed to doze for maybe 60 minutes.
We are now at a well engineered, very precise, small roomed transit hotel in Frankfurt.
And I'm crook. My family think it's hilarious that I've travelled around India twice with no problems and get sick here. I have declined dinner, the others have gone to a German restaurant down the road for schnitzels and apple strudel.
I just want something plain to eat & sleep. Pringles in bed!
Fortunately the rain of yesterday has cleared -so we were off out for breakfast at Walgreens. I imagine from the name its a cuzzie of Walmart but we have not observed any of the sights that come through on those "Walmart" emails. Mind you we are in California!
We bought Muni day passes which turned out to be a brilliant investment & we hopped on and off public transport all day; cable cars, trams & buses. We walked down Lombard street, reputedly the steepest street in the world. Cars come down it but they have to zig zag at a crawl of about 5kph. We then walked down the hill ending up at the sea front north of Fishermans Wharf.
Ghiardelli's famous local chocolate factory was next on the agenda. The initial plan was a hot chocolate but when faced with a massive menu of chocolate treats we indulged in sundaes. Mine was a 'Nob Hill Chill', an insanely sweet and very filling chocolate sundae that became lunch. I am a total chocoholic but that sundae beat me into submission. I was given freebie chocolate as we left and I cant bear to look at it. I don't think I could face anything sweet for a week!
After that we bussed out to the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately the sun disappeared & it was very windy as we walked across it . It was such a shame the light was rubbish, but we photographed it anyway. It must have taken us 90-120 minutes to cross the bridge but when we came back it was very cold and I'd totally had enough so I stepped up the pace and made it back in 35 minutes.
I have really enjoyed San Francisco, the houses around Nob Hill are beautiful, character terraced buildings that cling to the hills. The people we have met have been extremely friendly and helpful. One of the cable car drivers was hilarious, with more customers than space he was wrangling people onto his car like he was managing chess pieces; bossing everyone about, telling them where to sit & to hold on this way, not that way. It's hard to convey just what a character he was. We got a ride & a show all in one.
Tomorrow we fly to Frankfurt for an overnight transit stop before heading for Reykjavik. Another long flight :-(
Alcatraz and rain
The joys of travelling… I woke at 2.30am and have tried to sleep but its now 4.30 and I've given up. My roomies are still snoring away so I've dialled down the lights on my laptop and decided to catch up on my diary & blog.
There is always a balance taking photos when you travel; you want to depict your impression of the place you are visiting (which by necessity will include local icons) but also capture the more artistic side of what you are seeing & feeling. Last evening I found myself being drawn to the old fashioned lights and the trees and the detail of the older buildings but I must remember to capture more the essence of the city.
It’s a small world - our breakfast waiter is married to a girl from Porirua and is a hard core Hurricanes fan.
This morning we caught a tram out to Pier 33 and then the ferry to Alcatraz. It was raining and pretty miserable, but somehow that seemed more appropriate than visiting on a nice sunny day. We went early to avoid the worst crowds - unfortunately so did everyone else.
Still, it was a sobering experience & well worth the visit. It's hard to convey the dank. cold, dripping wetness of the older parts of the complex or the depressing, hemmed in feeling of the cells. I went into a solitary confinement cell and it was 6 of my feet wide and 10 long. I do not have big feet. It wasn't emotionally disturbing like Robben Island though. The inmates here were outright criminals, while Robben Island was about being incarcerated for your beliefs and race.
We got pretty cold and damp but Sod's Law being what it is, the sun sort of poked through the cloud as we landed back on the mainland. We wandered down to Fisherman's Wharf in search of lunch. I can now verify that Key Lime Pie is just like Lemon Meringue Pie but made with limes. I overheard someone commenting that the rain was due to set in and get worse around 2pm. And it did, almost bang on time.
So at the moment 3 of us are asleep and snoring and the remaining 2 of us are banging keyboards to the smell of wet socks and wondering if we can summon up the energy to go out in the rain for dinner.
I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance - maybe tomorrow the weather will be kinder...
We finally got here about 3pm and its raining. Unfortunately the forecast for rain the whole time we are here which is such a shame.
We went out for a wander to get an early dinner and spent a happy 90 minutes shooting in the street. So far San Francisco is a pretty city with plenty of character, old buildings and nice trees, well juxtaposed with modern buildings. Rather reminiscent of Wellington until you see the shops: Niemen Marcos, Bloomingdales, Macys, Vera Wang, Jimmy Choo, Oscar de la Renta to name a handful. I wouldn't have dared to walk in to any of these shops dressed in "Kiwi Tourist" mode.
We came across the famous cable car turnaround/junction & watched for a bit. It is somewhat surreal to see something that you saw on TV just recently.
Dinner ended up being at a true blue burger joint. The others liked the burgers but I found the huge amount of raw onion& melted cheese too much & I mistakenly asked for chilli thinking it was chilli sauce or fresh chilli. It turned out to be a chilli con carne (without the chilli) and it was completely smothering the fries. Live and learn!