Scotland Part II

Click here or on the photo above for the “best of” our pictures. Click here for all of them.

We woke up early (4 AM) to see the sunrise. We saw a deer or an antelope. It was cold. It was pretty. Then we went back to bed for a while.

We got up and had breakfast with other guests, a family of three from Florida. I noticed a certificate on the wall that said something like “Thank you for your participation in the 1984 Olympics!” with our hostess’ name on it. Sure enough, she’d gone to the Olympics twice for pistol marksmanship and gotten 12th place once.

We packed our bags and then wandered around the area a bit, seeing little of interest, before getting back in the trusty Insignia and driving to the Aberlour distillery. We were early, so we loitered, chit-chatted with staff (learning that Aberlour rhymes with flour, not with floor), perused the gift shop, and grumbled as apparent frat bros accumulated to join us on the tour. We marveled at the selection of whiskys available, and bought “ZeTol” — a box of empty bottles in which I could take my whisky samples to-go, since it was morning and I had a lot of driving to do that day on the wrong side of the road.

The tour was great. Our guide, Emma, was awesome — she’d spent her entire career working for distilleries; her father had worked for Aberlour (and broken his shoulder on his second day when a barrel rolled into him). I enjoyed confirmation of my ridiculously simplified whisky making process: “Make beer; distill; age in wood barrels.” This is exactly how whisky is made.

I was surprised that the “ferment” step was super fast — less than three days, to create a 9.5% abv beer (with no hops), which I believe they call the wash. I was also surprised to learn that Aberlour produces more whisky than Talisker (barely) or Oban (by a lot), since I feel like it’s lesser known. I really enjoyed an extension of something I hadn’t consciously thought about in brewery culture: Whisky makers are fans of other whisky makers. They talk about what others are doing that they like or find interesting, and for the most part have positive words about their competitors in the industry.

We also learned that the UK taxes distilleries 79% on all whisky sold, and has an arcane law dictating that the stills’ output must go through a “spirit safe” which belongs to the government and can’t be opened by the distillery — consequently, if something breaks, the distillery is shut down until the government sends someone out for repairs.

As far as the tasting goes, they gave us a sample of the Aberlour 12 year at the beginning of the tour, let us dip a finger in the “wash” and taste the beer during the tour, and gave us a sample of the raw spirit, Aberlour 16, Casg Annamh, American Oak, and a distillery exclusive single cask. KrisDi learned she liked some whisky. We packed my samples up in the ZeTol bottles, bought a bottle of the American Oak and the distillery exclusive, and walked into the town of Aberlour.

We went to lunch at the Mash Tun. KrisDi had steak, onion, and cheese on a baguette with chips and “dressed leaves.” I had chorizo stuffed chicken wrapped in serrano ham, covered in a cream sauce. Both were very good. However, the sticky toffee pudding was one of the best things we ate on this whole trip.

We then walked around town, along the river, across the footbridge that Aberlour’s founder and commissioned. Found this rickety little bridge which rocked and wiggled as I walked across it.

We walked back to the distillery and picked up our car and drove to Inverness. We stayed at Ardentorrie Guest House. After we checked in and parked our car (with maybe less than an inch between ours and the next car over, requiring brokeback snaotheus to crawl over the stickshift to get out the passenger side), we walked to Inverness Castle and paid 5 pounds to got to the top of the tower, where we took pictures of the town. We walked around and perused local tourist shops for a dress for Chilkat and a sporran for Chilkoot. We ended up getting it custom fit — the guy behind the counter was super dedicated to getting us a sporran that we thought would fit our five year old. Busted out pliers and cutters to custom size the chain. We also picked up a purse for Popita.

We had dinner at the Castle Tavern. I had risotto, KrisDi had haddock and chips. It was very good. We of course also had some beer.

Then we went back to the room to drink our Aberlour ZeTol thing.

We got up at 7 and had breakfast (smoked haddock, fried eggs, and tomatoes). We drove to the Loch Ness visitors’ center and learned of all the exciting ways people have possibly been fooled into believing they saw Nessie. Waves…a swimming deer…an unusual fish…a stick… It was interesting, but mostly because of the surprisingly large effort that went into ruling something out.

Then we went to Urquhart Castle. Formerly a huge structure, blown up by its occupants (the Grants)in the 1600s or something by packing the tower with kegs of gunpowder and igniting it, leaving cool semi-ruins for us to look at (and a trebuchet!). The touristy intro video taught us (nearly quote), “It’s really easy to take a castle, and really hard to keep it.” Which seems a bit counter-productive. The Grants decided to blew it up so they’d stop losing it and having to retake it.

We left for the next castle, but stopped at a random roadside location (later identified as Eas Nan Arm Bridge) because it was convenient and beautiful. We talked briefly with a Norwegian travel photographer; I’m not sure if he had planned to stop there, or like us, took it as a target of opportunity.

We got to Eilean Donan Castle, which is super cool and in a beautiful location. We ate in their cafe. The tour was really guided, and they didn’t allow much photography. If I remember correctly, this castle is still owned by an individual, and there were pictures up in some of the rooms of her nieces and nephews and grandkids.

We drove on to the Isle of Skye. We saw lots of sheep, including some cute lambs, and road quality declined rapidly. We hit the end of two-lane roads with 8 miles to go to our room. Luckily, they had lots of passing places (outdents in the road to allow one driver to pull over and let the other pass), so we rarely had to back up. But, there was a surprising amount of traffic. I remember when we first found the road, we pulled over to take pictures, and there were like five cars headed our way. I thought, “Let’s let these folks pass, and then I’m sure the road will be clear and we can drive on uninterrupted.” But more came. And then more. And then more…

Eventually we got to the room. I didn’t get to sight see, because I had to pay attention to the road. Our B&B was named Hazel Bank. Agnes was our hostess — an elderly but feisty Scottish grandmother whom I want to adopt. One of those people who is immediately super comfortable to be around. Also, this room had maybe the best bed we slept on during the whole trip (if you ask my back).

It seems like everyone in the Isle of Skye is running a B&B out of their home. But there are only like four restaurants. Consequently, you need reservations. We tried to make reservations at a place, but they never responded. Agnes advised us to go to Edinbane Inn and sit at the bar, where we could get seated without a reservation, but still get the regular menu. She even gave us some handy GPS code that took us to a completely wrong location, only a few miles from our actual target.

30-40 minutes of harrowing one-lane-and-passing-places to get there, forty-seven u-turns to figure out the incorrect GPS code, and we made it. Dinner was good. Pork Pie for KrisDi, Scottish Beef Roast for me. And beer. Weird cooked pear and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Good, but not Mash Tun.

After dinner, we attempted to visit Dunvegan Castle, but failed because it was closed.

The we followed more of Agnes’ advice (but not GPS codes) to go visit Neist Point — a light house under a cliff — another 45 minutes of harrowing country roads. It was beautiful and awesome, but muddy, windy, cold, and it started to rain pretty heavily before the sun could set. We fled.

15 more minutes back to the room, and we pretty much went straight to bed.

Posted by snaotheus in Photo updates, 1 comment

Scotland, Part I

Click here (or on the photo above) for the “best of” photos. Click here for the uncut collection.

We connected in Heathrow, which is huge. We had breakfast there. They didn’t tell us our gate until just before boarding started (like, five minutes before scheduled boarding). KrisDi zonked on the plane, and I read. I think I was reading a book for work.

We got to Edinburgh without any major incident (unlike some dude whose checked bag seems to have been destroyed). We got to our car rental place. They gave me a wristband to remind me to stay on the left side of the rode. I asked the kid giving us a rental car what is the number one stupid thing Americans do that I should avoid. “I don’t know. Don’t drive on the right side of the road.” He proceeded to give us surprisingly detailed descriptions about what damage to the rental car would cost us money, and what wouldn’t. We got a Vauxhall Insignia. She was anxious. Lots of sensors that freaked out given the slightest reason.

We drove into Edinburgh, found where our room was, and went to find a nearby parking garage (very near Edinburgh Castle) since it was too early to check in. We left our stuff in the car and walked around, found lunch, discovered there’s another Lebowski bar, and then headed back for our bags before checking in. On our way out of the lot, someone coming from the opposite direction told us their way up to the castle was closed. This was our first hint of something bad.

It was miserably gray and rainy. We walked quickly to the room, got ourselves checked in, went out to go buy another suitcase, dropped it off at the room, and then trudged through the rain to and through the castle.

It was wet, misty, cold, and crowded. On the bright side, I committed a crime, got caught, and got away with it: Lots of “No photos!” signs around the crown jewels; I snuck a photo as a stepped out of the room; I stumbled on the step; one of the employees laughed at me and made some comment about an idiot taking a picture and falling down (didn’t even keep the photo! turned out blurry).

From there, we walked to Victoria Street, apparently the inspiration for Diagon Alley, then went down Candlemakers’ Row. I saved KrisDi’s life by grabbing the back of her collar and yanking her out of traffic as she walked blithely into it; her recounting of the story may be substantively different than mine. We didn’t immediately find Elephant House (apparently a place where JK Rowling spent a bunch of time writing her books), but we did find it eventually.

We headed back to our room to dry off, ad made a plan to go to dinner at a Doner Kebap place and then visit two bars. On our walk out there, we walked by our parking garage, which was now closed off and guarded by cops. We got distracted and went to ramen instead, which was perfect on a rainy day.

We followed through on our bar plan and went to the Hanging Bat. I think a dude was hitting on me at the bar. We then headed back to the Lebowskis bar for White Russians.

When we went back to the room, we used the hair drier to try to dry off our shoes and clothes. We relaxed a bit and went to bed.

Our plan the next morning was to drop our bags off at the car and then head to breakfast at a place called One Cafe. But, there were cops posted all around the garage, and they wouldn’t tell us what was going on (but said it was in the news). They pointed us to the one and only manned entrance, found our car, felt creeped out by the fact that almost all other vehicles were gone (as in, we were among four vehicles in the lot). We did some quick Googling and discovered a dude was murdered with a pair of scissors in or near our lot; some quick mental math revealed this occurred within about 10 minutes of our visit to the car to pick up our bags the previous day. This was a little unnerving.

We decided we didn’t want to come back to the lot, so we left. But, we didn’t find parking near our target breakfast location, so we left Edinburgh and ended up driving to a place called Toast for breakfast. The food was good, I had black pudding, but every time we got out of our seats (to look around or to visit the restroom, for example), they thought we desperately needed something. We talked briefly to our waitress. She told us her dream was to visit Seattle.

“Oh, why?”

“Oh…uh…it sounds nice?”

So we drove on to Stirling Castle. They had some people dressed for parts. We bought Chilkat a bear. KrisDi thought I had a doppelganger 400 years ago. We discovered I’m moderately tall.

We moved on to Doune Castle, of Monty Python, Game of Thrones, and Outlander fame. I really appreciated that you could by coconuts in their gift shop. This was smaller than most of the castles we visited, and very sparsely decorated — almost empty rooms for the most part.

Again we moved on, and stopped in Perth. We drove around in laps for a while before we decided our only choice was to accept a parking spot that needed to be paid for in cash, which required us to obtain some cash. To break ATM money into parking meter money, I bought a pie.

We walked and peered for a bit, had a beer at a local pub, the Malt House. It was exactly what I imagine in a UK pub. Small, dingy, with a big fat friendly weird-ass bartender with terrible teeth, sparsely populated with locals.

We walked around a bit, and then back to fed the parking meter and meandered off to Effie’s for lunch. And accidentally, also for afternoon tea.

We picked our food, and KrisDi decided she wanted a cup of tea. “Afternoon Tea” was listed in the menu along with “Darjeeling Tea” and “Green Tea” and whatnot; that’s what she ordered — expecting a cup of tea.

“Oh! Well, what sandwich would you like with that? You get a choice! … and, you can choose a scone or cake! Here, come look at them! Oh, very good, but you have to pick a cake, too!”

So, we got a full blown lunch (chicken and leek pie, steak) and afternoon tea which was enough for a second full blown lunch. It was delicious. Just a lot of food. Afterwards, we had to go back to the ATM and get more cash.

We drove on. We stopped someplace with scenic rocks and sheep. We got to our room for the night, Conval View near Aberlour. We made small talk with our hosts, dragged our luggage up to our room, and went to dinner at Dowan’s Inn.

It was a fancy place, where they make you sit at the bar for a while before they decide whether you’re worthy of their dining area. KrisDi drank a Passionfruit Mojito. She later tried to get a Caiperinha (after about fourteen attempts to make the waiter understand her order), but got a Bramble instead. She also wanted sea bass, but they were out, and after some fierce negotiation she got stone bass (they refused to make mashed sweet potatoes with the stone bass, due to lack of herbs that matched the flavor profile). I had a steak with haggis (the steak was great). I drank a Solera Old Fashioned, and then some Benromach with dinner.

After dinner, we walked around the building, saw the grounds, discovered their quite impressive wall of whiskey. Then we went back to the room to juggle our luggage again.

Posted by snaotheus in Food, Photo updates, 1 comment


Click on this text or on the photo above for the best of our photos from Belgium. Or click here for all of them.

We had a connection in Copenhagen in between Reykjavik and Brussels. There was a Brewdog location in the airport, that had Dark Lord 2014 and 2015 — that would have been a pretty epic airport beer, but we weren’t willing to spend $100 on a bottle. We had boring food and beer instead.

When we got to Brussels, it was confusing as hell to get on the train. We had this experience with the trains there before, and I don’t really have a good explanation for it.

We walked with our bag to our room (“Olives“), walked by the door about seven times before figuring out it was our door. Scaled the incredibly steep and narrow spiral stairs. The room was fine, but it didn’t have a bedroom — the couch was a hide-a-bed. Kitty corner to our room was a church — “Church of Notre-Dame de Bon Secours”.

After we were settled, we went for beer at Moeder, and then walked to dinner at Peï and Meï. I wanted the eels in green sauce, but they said no. Instead, I enjoyed a baby lobster. KrisDi had a pork chop with stoemp. It was very near a church — “Église Notre-Dame de la Chapelle“.

We then wandered for a while (encountering a notable giant lobster) before going back to Moeder for a little more beer. We found Westvleteren 12 for 13.95, 11.50, and 17.95 euros. We bought a half dozen at the 11.50 price. We went and walked around Grand Place in the evening.

We started with breakfast at Charli. Before we left, we bought extra bread for lunch. We found a little deli and bought cured meats and some cheeses to enhance our lunch. We were also smart enough to buy some bottled water.

On our way back to the room, we stopped at a place called “Coffee” (you’ll never guess what I was looking for). The proprietor spoke no English, but she understood that I wanted an Americano. Then I realized that if she didn’t speak English, she might not be used to foreign customers, and therefore might not take credit cards — which was correct. And I had no cash. I tried to explain across the language barrier. She appeared to get fed up with me, and just give me the coffee to make me leave. I felt bad about it, but we had not gotten any cash at all.

Our walk to Cantillon was wet. It poured on us for the 3/4 of a mile walk. We were the second people there, at about 10:01 AM. We did the self tour, and I saw three exciting sights: A barrel actively bubbling over with fermentation, a label suggesting they were aging some beer in cognac barrels, and a label suggesting they were aging some beer with vanilla. This is another of those cases where we took a lot of pictures and it was fun and interesting, but there’s not a lot to say about it.

After the tour, we went to their serving area to drink our two included samples, and then started to buy bottles. Nate and Natalie were the first people to arrive; they were from Colorado, and Natalie was pregnant with their first kid. They approached us to start sharing with them, which we happily did.

Later we were joined by Todd & Karen, from Tennessee, who were in the process of adopting their first child and starting Bad Idea Brewing. Then Matt joined us — not sure what he was doing, but he’d been living in Antwerp for about 10 years after marrying someone in the wine industry who had connections with the Cantillon family. Nate and Natalie left at some point to go rest (they had come straight to Cantillon after landing).

We assembled and ate our sandwiches — superbly satisfying. We drank every beer they had available at the bar (sharing with our temporary friends, of course), including a bottle of the Rose de Gambrinus that was on its way into the labeling machine, which was very nice that Matt had convinced them to sell us. Of the several thousand beers I’ve had in my life, I think Lou Pepe Kriek and Fou Foune are in the top five. We stayed until they closed and kicked us out, about 4 PM.

We bought 750ml bottles of Gueueze (1x), Rose de Gambrinus (raspberry, 2x), and Kriek (cherry, 2x), as well as a 1.5 liter monstrosity of the Gueueze. They didn’t have anything else that we could buy to take home (at least, to drink — they had shirts and swag). We walked back to the room to drop off our beer, and then we went to Noordzee for dinner. Smoked salmon and cod ceviche. Then we drank some beer at Monk, where it was crowded and hard to get attention from the staff. We walked, failing to find frites for a long time (at least frites that we could buy with a credit card). Eventually we succeeded.

We got a liege waffle and a bruxelles waffle — both with dulce de leche and whipped cream. Then we picked up a beer at a convenience stored name Alimentations, and walked to look at St. Michael’s Cathedral. On to Poechenellekelder for more beer, and then back to the room. We practiced packing — our suitcases were very heavy, although we didn’t have a way to measure them.

Then we went to bed.

We got up at 5:30, ate some leftover bread from Charli and drank some Nescafe in the room, and walked to the train station to go to Bruges.
The train was much easier to navigate, having gotten Google directions beforehand telling us which track to go to, and already knowing that we couldn’t use KrisDi’s credit card to buy tickets.

We walked to a pretty corner called Rozenhoedkaai for photos. The water in the canals was beautifully calm when we first got there. Then we went to Sanseveria Bagelsalon for breakfast. Strange little place — very eclectic decor, only one very slow employee. She liked to go to a table, take their order, make it, deliver it, and then go to the next table to get their order. The food was very good.

We went back to the same corner, and wandered around to see whatever we saw. We found a pretty interesting map of Bruges, implemented in lace.

Then we visited a the Church or Our Lady, the nearby museum, and Sint-Salvatorkathedral. All three were filled with interesting and/or beautiful art and artifacts. The church had a Michaelangelo sculpture (although it was framed attractively in modern scaffolding). We took many, many pictures, and describing them would be dumb. If you care, look through the uncut photos.

Halve Maan was the place we went for lunch. Their beer was pretty good, their food was a little better. We had Stouvflees beef stew, a cheese plate, and of course beer.

Afterward, we went to Minnewater to chill a bit. Then we went to Grotemarkt to get chocolate at Dominique Personne’s Chocolate Line. They were delicious and pretty. We tried to go to de Garre (a bar that Matt at Cantillon had recommended for their specific house beer). We learned they only took cash, so we walked to find an ATM. Their house beer, a tripel, was definitely the best beer we had (served to us) in Bruges. Although they had a crowd of loud Irish firefighters downstairs.

We tried to go see Jesus blood, but we got yelled at for whispering and didn’t want to pay to see a vial of something any Catholic priest could make out of cheap wine.

So we went to another brewery, Bourgogne des Flandres, where we got one of each of the beers on tap. None were very good. None was bad. Some were in between. The location is really cool, right on the canal. We had a Ukrainian douche sitting next to us playing shitty Ukrainian pop music loudly on his phone, because you know, that brightens everyone’s day. We ate a couple of the Chocolate Line truffles and were visited by a duck.

Then we wandered to Poules Moules for dinner. KrisDi had mussels and I had rack of lamb. After we ordered, KrisDi sent me running for more chocolates from the Chocolate Line, and then I sent myself running to a beer store for some Drie Fonteinen (and a glass) to drink on the train ride back to Brussels (Framboos and Geuze). Dinner was good.

We successfully drank the two beers on the way back to Brussels, and they were really good. When we got back to the room, we packed some more and drank Westvleteren 12 and Rodenbach Alexander and chilled out.

Overall, Bruges was pretty, but it probably wouldn’t draw me back.

We got up at four and walked with our bags to the train station. The walk was not pleasant. There was a surprising number of people still up and drinking / drunk from partying the Tuesday night before. Some made us uncomfortable — a pair of females that were right in the gray area where I’m not sure if I see “friends being intense but not dangerous when they’re drunk” or “one woman getting ready to assault another woman.”

At the airport, the British Air lady was really nice. Patient while we tried to rebalance our luggage, and then just let a couple kilograms pass.

Posted by snaotheus in Photo updates, 2 comments


Click on the picture or this text for the best of our photos from Iceland. Or click here for the unfiltered collection.

We left Seattle after work on Friday, leaving the kids with Les and D, and flew to Reykjavik. Icelandair boarded late and slowly for no visible reason. We arrived in Reykjavik at around 9 in the morning. Looked around in the duty free shop while waiting for our bags, and found sheep dung smoked whisky. Got our bags and went to Alamo to pick up our rental car, a Nissan Micra (tiny!).

We drove to the Blue Lagoon, a touristy-resorty-not-exactly-natural hot spring (as I understand it, the water is natural, but piped into an artificial ‘lagoon’). We ate lunch at their fancy restaurant, Lava, where I had lamb and KrisDi had a delicious langoustine soup.

Then we actually went into the lagoon, and almost immediately got a beer from the wade-up bar (Gull). We waded around, and after a while we went to have floating massages. KrisDi apparently didn’t talk much with her masseuse (her face got covered with a towel), but mine and I chattered throughout. She likes to go to car shows in Florida for her vacations because she’s into American muscle cars (she was excited about my car — or at least professed excitement). After the massages, we went and did a couple facemasks — silica and algae.

Afterward, KrisDi spent the next five days or so complaining that her hair felt weird and crunchy from the minerals in the water. Please tell her that her hair looks awesome in all the photos.

Then we drove into Reykjavik, checked into our room (Aska Apartment), and walked from there. We walked to Hallgrimskirkja, then headed to the Fish Company for dinner (we were distracted on the way by a liquor store where we bought a few Icelandic beers).

Kristen ordered Mexico Tomato with Sear Ahi Tuna and Soft Shell Crab. I had Iceland Fish — fried wolffish, sous vide arctic char, and broiled ling. They gave us a little interested appetizer — smoked haddock with herb foam. We had some kind of milk chocolate confection for dessert.

After that, we went to a nearby beer spot — the Micro Bar. It was a cool place. I was surprised to find some fancy Belgian beers in small bottle format in a cooler there, and asked I could buy them to go. “No, that’s not allowed.” “Oh, OK. That’s too bad.” “Well…it’s not allowed the same way jaywalking is not allowed. Everyone does it and no one cares.” “OK then…I would like to jaywalk.” “OK!”

Then we went to the Mikkeller bar and had some more beer. This place was busier and appear to be trendier, I would say, but I probably would have preferred hanging out in the Micro Bar.

After a couple beers there, we went to the Lebowski Bar, where we drank from their expansive White Russian menu. First round, a Caramel Russian and El Duderino. Second round, From Russian with Love and Jackie Treehorn. They were delicious, the bar was quite busy, and no one else was drinking White Russians.

We decided a late night snack was in order, so we went to the nearby Icelandic hotdog stand — apparently, famous for having some combination beef, pork, and lamb in their hot dogs. KrisDi took a big hearty bite, while I’m a bit daintier in my eating.

At this stage we realized that although it was still pretty bright out, it was almost midnight and we should go to bed.

The next morning, we went to a nearby bakery (Brauth and Co) to buy food for later, and then to Early in the Morning for breakfast.

After breakfast, we headed out on KrisDi’s pre-planned “ring route” — a long series of interesting sites looping us back around to Reykjavik by the end of the day. Part 1, and Part 2, separated only by Google’s apparent limit of ten stops on a route. Straight driving, it was planned at about 170 miles.

First, we went to the Nesjavellir geothermal power plant. Shortly after leaving Reykjavik, we left pavement behind, driving on fairly well maintained gravel roads through the sparse greenery and rocks. We stopped along the way when we found a long, slow slope right next to the roadway with a neat peak on it, and I walked up to the top (I think it’s bigger than it looks — that last photo was taken with the huge zoom lens).

There was a lot of beautiful scenery along the way. The power plant was closed when we got there, so we looked over the security gate and drove away. I don’t think we saw a single car through this.

Then Ljosafossstoth, which I think was a hydroelectric dam. On our way, we were nearly crushed by a giant offroad vehicle coming the opposite way (there are a lot of “not safe for standard vehicles” roads in Iceland due to fords-instead-of-bridges, and they have a special sign just for warning people of this, and you frequently see vehicles that are prepared for this). The gravel roads on this path were loose — like, scary to drive in a little car. Anyway, when we got to the place, it was closed, too. A bird had nested and laid eggs right by the entrance, and she was very angry at me for getting close to her babies.

Kerid Crater (maybe Kerith) was the next stop — it’s a lake in a caldera. It’s unnaturally easy to reach, right off a major road. It’s pretty, and you can walk all the way around the rim and right down to the water at the bottom of the crater. I don’t really have a lot to say about it, but it was one of our favorite stops.

On to Skalholt Cathedral. We didn’t get to go inside because they were holding a mass and we didn’t think we should barge in and start taking pictures. My favorite thing there was the old sod-roof building. The most mysterious thing there was that the churchbells were going bonkers, with no pattern or reasoning that we could discern. Also interesting was the tunnel entrance into the basement of the church, which we weren’t allowed to go into. Overall, it was kind of a boring stop to look at — more historically interesting.

Then we had to change plans because our lunch reservation couldn’t be set up before 3 (good thing we picked up bread first). So, rather than going to lunch next, we went to the Secret Lagoon at Fludir.

It was a nice spot — but we got bored and impatient pretty quickly, and it got hard to breathe pretty fast, too. We think there was a higher sulfur content. It was a genuine active surface-level geothermal site, and it was pretty cool, with tiny little geysers that went off every few minutes.

We then drove to Gullfoss, a huge and magnificent waterfall. Hundreds of people were there. We took hundreds of pictures — more in the “uncut” album of course. Not much to say about it, other than that it was huge and magnificent, and go look at the pictures.

We went to see a pair of geysers after that — Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir is not dormant, but not very active. Strokkur erupts apparently every 10 minutes or so. We wandered around and drank some beer, and saw Strokkur go off about five times, and got a couple cool pictures of that.

Then it was finally time for our lunch reservation at Fridheimar tomato greenhouse. The restaurant is inside the greenhouse. It’s pretty warm. We couldn’t figure out the back story — who decided they should grow tons of tomatoes year round in Iceland, and serve them to people? Anyway, everything they serve was made with fresh tomatoes — best tomato soup and bloody mary I remember having; one of the few tomato beers (still not successful) and the only tomato ice cream (disappointingly icy). Pasta with a delicious marinara sauce for me, pizza for KrisDi.

Efstidalur ice cream barn was the next stop. It’s a little dairy farm that makes ice cream. They sectioned off a portion of the barn for the purpose of selling and serving it. It was really tasty. Ice cream is not particularly well paired with the delicate aroma of cow shit, however. Roads to get there were even worse — gravel again, and not as well cared for — NoDaks will probably know what I mean when it seemed like the grader’s blade was jumping.

Afterward, we made an unplanned stop because it was pretty and KrisDi was falling asleep in the car. I think we stopped by Thingvallavatn, a lake. We took a bunch of pictures and drank some of the beer we had bought the previous day. I thought it was amusing to open a very fancy beer by popping the cap off on the side of a picnic table.

Finally, Thingvellir national park. We took a long walk, by this time my back was already pretty tired. We saw a waterfall at the end of it. I picked my way across the rocks extremely carefully for photos, thinking very consciously about whether my back would let me get back. Another case of “Lots to see, very pretty, tons of pictures, not a lot to say.”

Back then to the apartment (a cat was very interested in crawling on our car), to our room, where we repacked, and then went to Brewdog for dinner. Not yet wanting to go to bed, we went back to the Lebowski bar and had more White Russians. Then bedtime, despite the light.

That night, I was fooled by the light — I woke up at 12:30 AM, and it looked bright outside. I thought my phone was wrong, and we slept through our alarm or something. I thought Kristen’s phone was also wrong. I ended up getting up to check an independent (and not internet dependent) clock before relaxing and going back to bed.

The alarm went off at 4. Headed off to the airport, stopped for gas, dropped off the car, with no incidents.

We were confused by our plane tickets, because they gave us each one ticket that was good for two flights (on two airlines). We ate some skyr (it was thick and dry — reminded me of a kind of chalky mud).

Icelandair continued to be shitty at boarding their fucking planes — they put us on a bus to take us out to the plane, and made us wait on the bus for about 30 minutes before letting us actually get on the plane.

Strangely: Not once did they check our IDs.

Conclusions: Iceland is pretty, sparsely populated, and expensive to eat and drink in ($10+ for a regular beer, $35+ for KrisDi’s little tuna dish). There’s a ton of interesting stuff to see. If you’re into hiking or offroading, it might be a paradise (in the summer). Everyone speaks pretty good English. Reykjavik is not a huge city, but it’s got some interesting things. The seafood was great.

Posted by snaotheus in Food, Photo updates, 2 comments

April 2019 Part II

KrisDi and I decided that this year, we should replace our now 15 year old couches, that have survived just-out-of-college-newly-employed-shenanigans and over eight years of children. This turned into replacing about half the furniture in the house: Couches, end tables, kitchen table, bookshelf in Chilkat’s room, bed in Chilkat’s room, new bookshelf in the kitchen area…anyway, so those replacements started coming in the second half of April, starting with Chilkat’s new bookshelf, which is grown-up sized and immediately covered in books and Legos. We also received our new gigantic sectional couch, which I couldn’t pick up, move into the house, or set up because of my back. KrisDi’s parents very kindly did all of that stuff for us. It has power recliners and built-in USB charging ports — so I like to think of it as an elaborate phone charger.

As a part of replacing the furniture — “Hey, we need to get everything off the carpet anyway, we should probably clean it!” because we’re dummies. We borrowed a carpet cleaner from KrisDi’s parents, which was cracked and chipped in so many places it didn’t have any suction. After some debate, we decided to buy a new one to use, and try to find some way to get KrisDi’s parents to take possession of it (so we don’t have to keep it in our house) and to convince them to get rid of their broken-ass one.

Some interesting child endeavors:
1. We found a to-do list of Chilkat’s (conveniently labeled “to-do list” on the cover), containing three items: (1) Tell on Chilkoot because he bit my hair. (2) Tell on Chilkoot because he kept hurting me and threatening me to get a white paper. (3) <left blank>
2. Chilkat and some friends at school started a “drawing club” in before and after school care. Chilkoot joined. Here’s an example of Chilkat’s “teacher” version of some drawings, and Chilkoot’s “student” version. Smiley ice cream, TacocaT, and a taco.
3. Chilkat invented a ruleset to go along with this Japanese nonsense game I found nine years ago (nonsense since we can read the directions).
4. Chilkoot thinks hammers, knives, and scissors are dangerous; beds, bunnies, and stuffies are safe.
5. Chilkat drew an an awesome tooth fairy.

Easter happened. KrisDi and the kids used her weird shaving cream technique that results in interesting tie-dyed-looking eggs. We went down to the Gig Harbor and spent the day with KrisDi’s older brother, eating, drinking, and letting all of the kids play with iPads.

Chilkat and I worked on her Pinewood Derby car for the girl scouts. She went with a Minecraft theme. She didn’t win (or even come close), but she won a round, and she got a prize for the best add-on (probably the Lego Minecraft cow), so she was pretty happy overall.

This is totally random, but according to KrisDi, this is just how the M&M’s ended up randomly when removed from the bag at work.

I went to San Francisco for a training class on a Thursday and Friday.
– My training was about a block away from Monocular Ben’s office; I met him for dinner and it was fun. Rarely see that guy, and always enjoy it.
– My first hotel was clearly not ready for me. Why the fuck was the phone on the floor of the shower with the coffee stuff? They sent me across the street to another hotel, which was older and shittier (but all of the stuffs were in the right places). Later, it turned out to have a nice view (topless pot smoker girl directly across the street), but also a leaky ceiling. Three rooms for two nights.

After the training, I took the train down to visit my brother. We went to a really good Thai restaurant, and then Northwood and I shared two beers (apparently that’s too much — he was puking all morning the next day).

My favorite part of the whole trip was when Northwood saw one of his friends approaching his new apartment for their housewarming party, looked at me intensely and said, “Her name is L!” and ran into another room. I was sitting there thinking, “WTF?” When she got to the door, I figured it out. I answered the door, and said, “Hi L! It’s been a while since I’ve seen you! How’ve you been? Welcome to our new place!”

My brother and I have been mistaken for twins many times in the past (when we were little). L stared at me, contorting her face, displaying the clearest physical portrayal of WTFness I have ever seen, for fully thirty seconds. Then she pointed at me and accused vehemently, “You’re not Northwood!” She referred to me as “Not Northwood” for the rest of the weekend (I’m not sure she ever actually got my name). This was a fairly significant amount of time, since she enjoyed an alcohol-induced sleepover Saturday night.

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, 0 comments