Best Day In The Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland

Image

Best Day In The Snaefellsnes Peninsula In Iceland

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”  Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

 I was more in awe during my day in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the west fjords of Iceland than during any other part of the country I visited.

This is saying a lot considering how much I fell in love with the glaciers, Myvatin, all hot springs and waterfalls.

It helped that it was a warm, sunny, windless day.  I still can’t say the name of it properly. 

Snæfellsnes Peninsula is often called Iceland in miniature as you can see everything the country has to offer in one area: volcanic craters, lava fields, a glacier, waterfalls, fjords, hot springs, black and golden sand beaches, lush meadows,  cute fishing villages and colorful wooden houses.

Bárður Snæfellsás was the settler of this area, half a troll and half a man,. He came to Iceland in the ninth century and gave the peninsula its name. The big stone structure of Bárður Snæfellsás at Arnarstapi was made by sculptor Ragnar Kjartansson.

Búðakirkja is a little black wooden church in the hamlet Búðir (which seems to consist of a hotel and this church) that was originally built in the 19th century.

It has an isolated location amongst the Budhahraun lava fields just above the sea. 

Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of only a few places in Iceland where the beaches are golden. 

There are stunning views of the mountains and Snaefellsness glacier here. Many interesting stories are connected to the glacier, and it is believed to be the meeting place of extra-terrestrials.

Some people believe it to be one of the seven chakras (energy centres) in the world and you may not sleep well due to the magnetic energy.

Jules Verne wrote an interesting science fiction book called  Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1864 about a group of scientists, who ventured into the crater of Snæfellsjökull glacier. Yes parts of the 2008 movie were filmed here.  

 You can also do long walks through the lava fields.

Every bend in the road, the landscape changes.

Notice how perfectly shaped these basalt columns  are. It’s hard to imagine that nature did this. Lava flowed out, cooled and contracted. The slow speed at which the lava cooled made it crack and create these forms.

We ate lunch at a lovely ancient fishing village in Hellnar overlooking the water and amazing cliffs.

There were  dozens  of birds hanging out on the cliffs and rocks, staining the columns white  poop I imagine, although I definitely could be wrong.

After lunch we were off to yet another black beach (my favorite kind of beach).

There were huge lava formations.

We passed a few turquoise and green colored lakes.

This is a portion of beach with iron pieces from a British shipwreck in 1948 (which are kept here in memory of the brave fishermen who lost their lives).

 I finally reached those beautiful black pebbles.

It’s quite clear why it’s also known as Black Lava Pearl Beach, as the beach was entirely made up of small and smooth black pebbles (called Djúpalónsperlur or “Pearls of Djúpalón).

With huge monolithic rocks in the water and smooth pebbles beneath our feet, I could have walked here all day.

 Nestled deep inside a spectacular landscape of lava fields not far from the fishing village of Stykkishólmur, is the Shark Museum.  Stykkishólmur was featured in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. 

It was masquerading as Greenland.

I assume many of you have not been to the Bjarnarhofn Shark Museum so I will explain it.  The room is filled with an eclectic mix of fishing tools, bones, dried shark skins, as well as taxidermy relating mostly to Arctic birdlife. 

It is randomly displayed like a garage filled with stuff.  Sharks are not specifically hunted, it so happens that some might get caught in the net when other fish are being sourced.

I ate some fermented Greenland shark which is poisonous if eaten fresh. You dip it in  Icelandic schnapps (Brennivin) and it was surprisingly delicious to me. I like the Swedish salt ammonia flavored  licorice so it might not be the same for you.

We went to see some of out tour guide  Argunnar Yi‘s paintings in a nearby hotel.

Art and black sand beaches -kind of a perfect day for me. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

.

Advertisements

Things That I Have Learned In Reykjavik, Iceland

Image

Things That I Have Learned In Reykjavik, Iceland

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer” – Unknown

Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city in the world.

Reykjavík is regarded as the world’s most sustainable city. The city plans to be a carbon neutral city by 2040.

The steam rising from the area’s hot springs gave Reykjavik its name, which literally translates to “Cove of Smokes,” or more eloquently ” Smoky Bay.

Towering over the Reykjavik skyline is Hallgrimskirkja, a 240-foot tall Evangelical Lutheran church. The building which resembles volcanic basalt lava columns, opened in 1986. It is the tallest building in the city—as well as the second tallest in the entire country.

The National Museum of Iceland is the place to go when you want to learn about Icelandic life through the centuries. Everything related to this island nation from belief and religion, to seafaring, farming, culture, costume and the development of trade relationships from the beginning to the present day. The exhibits are beautifully displayed in the various sections with lots of info. Audio displays tell some fascinating stories and computers give access to a wealth of additional facts. A photography exhibition is always on show.

One of the most popular foods in Iceland is hot dogs. There’s no better hot dog stand in Iceland to get them than at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. The kiosk has been in the Reykjavik harbor since 1937, but President Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain’s visit solidified its constant long line of locals and tourists waiting for the lamb-based hot dog doused in ketchup, mustard, remoulade (mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish), and both raw and fried onion. ”The president you have now, I wouldn’t serve a hot dog.”, said the owner.

The Saga Museum which features seventeen exhibits traces Icelandic history from the Norwegian exodus to the Black Death. It is now located  in a historic home on the Reykjavik harbor.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is a must visit for those who are curious about penises – from whales to hamsters. It is located on the main shopping street in Reykjavik. I didn’t have time but I would I have loved to see all the tourists taking selfies. 

From mid-April until late August, the Atlantic puffins summer in Iceland! You can take a Puffin tour from Reykjavik but I saw them near Husavik.

They are cute little birds and definitely worth putting the red suits on (for warmth and flotation devices)  and taking a beautiful three hour tour. 

On October 8, 2007, John Lennon’s birthday Yoko Ono revealed an outdoor beam of light called the Inagine Peace Tower on the city’s Viðey Island in honor of her late husband. “I hope the Imagine Peace Tower will give light to the strong wishes of World Peace from all corners of the planet. And give encouragement, inspiration and a sense of solidarity in a world now filled with fear and confusion. Let us come together to realize a peaceful world,” Ono said. Now it is  lit from October 9 to December 8, December 21 to December 31, February 18, and March 20 to 27.

In 2011, Reykjavik was the fifth city named a City of  Literature by UNESCO, thanks to its “invaluable heritage of ancient medieval literature” and “the central role literature plays within the modern urban landscape.”

Let’s be real. People don’t come to Iceland to shop. They come for the nature, the waterfalls, the glaciers, and all the fun stuff you can do around Iceland.. Reykjavik is one of the most expensive cities.in Europe. However, you can find  cool, locally designed outerwear in many stores for similar  prices to your country. Every time you wear it, you will remember your time in Iceland. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

36 Hours In San Francisco, California With Jet Lag

Image

36 Hours In San Francisco, California With Jet Lag

“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.”
 Oscar Wilde

People from LA (me included) love SF. Its ok to call it SF. But don’t call it San Fran or Frisco – they hate that. I love that their rich people are Techies not Hollywood types. They appear. less materialistic than we are. Techies walk around in hoodies, a t-shirt with the name of one of their first failed start ups, headphones and no eye contact. It reminds me of growing up in NY. I love how geographically tiny it is. It is only seven miles and i have walked from one end to the other in a day. I love how they think their food is better than ours and it is.

I have spent a lot of time in SF so when I had to the chance to spend 36 hours between planes, I avoided all the tourist spots like Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Union Square. There are so many neighborhoods with their own cultures, appearances and even weather systems. Bring a jacket it is not LA – even in summer.

I chose Japantown. Before World War II, San Francisco had one of the largest populations of Japanese outside of Japan. However, that all changed in 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced all Japanese by birth or descent, including Japanese Americans, out of the neighborhood and interned on the Pacific Coast outside of the city. After the war, many chose not to return, shrinking the neighborhood into the small size it currently is today.

9:00pm Check into Kabuki Hotel. I love anything Japanese and the Kabuki Hotel with its Japanese/ art inspired/ hipster vibe was right up my alley.

I have terrible reverse jet lag (flew in from Iceland) . My night alternated between boundless energy and crashing sleep. I knew the next day would be rough.

10:00am  I love the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I was there when it opened and was excited to see the new renovation.

There was an Andy Warhol Exhibit, interesting photography and a wonderful San Francisco Mural by JR. The people in the JR Mural move. Don’t miss it if you are there.

11:30am Walk through the city. My cousin Linda has lived in SF most of her life and is the best person to be with in the city. She knows everything.

12:00pm  We walk to Embarcadero and have lunch at Delancey Street restaurant. It is an inspiring bistro type restaurant, book store and event space. The room is welcoming and the food is delicious. The service is great and it supports a wonderful cause. Delancey Street is a rehab program and everyone who works their is well trained and rebuilding their life.

1:30pm More walking. We walk back to Mission Street.

2:00pm. I had never been to the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The building design is clean and modern. They only had one exhibit at this time.

2:45pm  The United States’ second largest Martin Luther King Memorial, titled Revelation, was built in San Francisco in 1993. It sits behind a 50’ x 20’ foot wall of cascading water. Located in the Yerba Buena Gardens, the memorial is a lovely walkway constructed under a 120,000-gallon reflecting pool.

3:00pm  As I said my cousin knows everything. Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens  is my new favorite tea place. There is a wonderful selection of teas from all over the world. Service is friendly and the food is unique and delicious.

4:30pm I started crashing and went back to hotel. There is traffic. Apparently Uber and Lyft are causing major congestion in the city.

530pm  I forced myself to stay up and get some  sushi at An Sushi.

It is located at the very nearby Peace Plaza Mall.

6:30pm. Shopping at Daiso. It’s like the 100 yen store in Japan but most things cost a dollar fifty.  Everything is so cute.

8:00pm Sleeeeeeeep.

10:00 am  Kabuki Hot Springs is quiet at ten AM on a weekday. They have a hot and cold pool, steam room and sauna. I opted for a shiatsu massage which definitely helped with the jet lag.

1230pm  The nearby Japanese Mall sells many  authentic and not so authentic Japanese things.

I ate some yakitori and matcha tea and went to the airport.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Faith In United

Image

Faith In United

“Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right” .Peter F. Drucker

Years of pent up anger against the airlines was released when a passenger was dragged off a flight. It wasn’t pretty. Everyone is mad at the airlines about something. There are fees upon fees upon fees. Boarding is a mess.There are many airline and TSA personnel that act like they are having a bad day and taking it out on you for no reason. There are  weird overhead bin policies and very overcrowded planes. There are no handicapped bathrooms. It feels like  airline company decisions were made for profit only. No one seemed to care about their customers. They changed the rules to suit themselves and airline travel feels a lot harder than it used to be.

 I lost my iPod and expensive Bose noise cancelling headphones on my recent return flights from Iceland. I didn’t bother to be on hold for an hour to try and track it down because I didn’t know where it could be. I just assumed that someone would take it. 

 Today almost a month later, I received a phone call from Julie at United Airlines Lost and Found asking if I lost something. I hadn’t flown back on United and was about to say no but instead I said “Wait, did you find my iPod? And my headphones?”  She said “Yes.” “But I didn’t fly on United Airlines. How did you find me?” “Your name was in your iPod (not locked). We emailed you twice. (I get a lot of airline email). And you have a frequent flier number so we found your phone number.”

 I wonder how many hands this IPod passed through to get to Julie. Was it a United Airlines person that picked it up in the airport when I was changing planes? Did someone from Icelandair hand it to another person in San Francisco? I asked what I could do and she said, “Just tell people you had a good  experience with United Airlines.”

We want the airlines to be better. We want their employees to smile and be helpful. I try to live my life with the idea that karma is real. Why is it so remarkable to me that I got my iPod back from a different airline and that someone went out of their way to find the owner? I wonder how many people did the right thing here. It looks to me like both people and United Airlines are trying to be better and I should have some faith in the world and also give United another chance..  

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In Sweden

Image

Things I Have Learned In Sweden

“You understand Teacher, don’t you, that when you have a mother who’s an angel and a father who is a cannibal king, and when you have sailed on the ocean all your whole life, then you don’t know just how to behave in school with all the apples and ibexes.” Astrid Lindgren Pippi Longstocking

There is no shortage of fast food in Sweden. The have the highest number of Mcdonalds per capita in all of Europe.

Ice hockey and soccer are Sweden’s main sports,

With 25% as a standard VAT, the Swedish VAT is among the highest in the world. Only Bhutan, Myanmar, Hungary and Djibouti have a higher one.

Since 1979 it’s forbidden to smack your children, which means that that they were the first country in the world with a law against flogging. Thirty five countries around the world have followed their example.

Candy is a big deal in Sweden. For years the country has placed among the top consumers of sweets per capita in the world. The reason is loose candy – a concept introduced in 1984, when the Swedish National Food Agency recommended the National Board of Health and Welfare to allow sugar-craving people to compose their own candy bags by freely picking and mixing from an assortment of items.

A traditional and famous dish of Sweden is Swedish meatballs, served with gravy, boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam.

Sweden has the second lowest population per square kilometer in all of Europe.

It is low on people, but there are about three hundred to four hundred thousand moose roaming freely in the woods of Sweden. Two thirds of the country is covered by forest.

Sweden has a huge music scene that does not involve ABBA. There are a lot of Swedish artists that are internationally popular now such as Zara Larsson, Avicii (R.I.P), Swedish House Mafia, Alesso, Robyn, Måns Zelmerlöv,  Lykke Li. Roxette, Europe, Alcazar, and Ace of Base.

The first Ice Hotel of the world was built near the village of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.

The world-famous discount furniture chain IKEA was founded in Sweden in 1943.

The Swedish passport ranks number three among the world’s best passports. They can enter 124 countries without a Visa and 33 with one.

North Korea has a 2.7 billion Swedish Kroner debt involving the purchase of Volvo cars.

Happy Hour in Sweden is called “After Work.”

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In Stockholm, Sweden

Image

Things I have Learned In Stockholm, Sweden.

“Mamma mia, here I go again.” ABBA 

Stockholm is often known as the ‘World’s Smallest Big City’ or the ‘World’s Biggest Small Town’.

 Gamla Stan (Old Town) is a small island in the center of Stockholm and was once the entire city of Stockholm. Now it is a very cool place to explore.

Since the city streets are so narrow, there is no room for cars, making this part of Stockholm “pedestrian only.” It is great for photographs and souvenirs and can be very crowded.

Fotografiska,  is a real Stockholm success story. They opened 8 years ago in a beautiful old brick building (a former tollhouse) in Stockholm harbor and have, over the years, presented some fantastic exhibitions with many of the world’s best photographers.

It is one of the largest photography museums in the world with branches scheduled to open in New York and London.

The city is sometimes referred to as ‘Venice of the North’, thanks to its beautiful buildings and exquisite architecture, abundant open water and numerous parks.

The total absence of heavy industry makes Stockholm one of the world’s  cleanest cites.

Don’t worry about tap water. I’ts delicious.

The city became the venue for the  first Nobel Prizes awards, in the year 1901. The Nobel Museum in Stockholm is a small museum on a big, noble subject.

Small displays cover Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prize ceremony and artifacts donated by Nobel Prize winners. Current and past Nobel Prize winners are honored through display panels and touch screens.

It barely ever gets dark at night in  the summer .

At the height of its empire, Sweden built a large warship the Vasa to symbolize its power. It was so big and heavy that on its maiden voyage in 1628, it sank less than a mile out of  dock. In 1956 the ship was rediscovered and then salvaged. Now, you can see this ship in the Vasa Museum. It was weirdly very interesting.

The Swedes have a lovely afternoon tradition of taking a coffee break (often accompanied by a yummy pastry). This tradition is called fika, and you should definitely indulge, too!

The Abba museum is perfect if you are an ABBA fan. With a slogan “Walk In, Dance Out” you know that this is not going to be a boring museum visit. Learn about the history of ABBA, try on costumes, and even sing on stage.

One of the most popular candies in Sweden is salmiak, licorice flavored with ammonium chloride – a salty chemical compound resulting from the reaction between hydrochloric acid and ammonia.  Most people outside Scandinavia and Iceland hate it but I am now addicted to it.  

A hop on hop off ferry is a fun, comfortable way to experience  Stockholm. 

Moderna Museet is situated on the pretty island of Skeppsholmen and can be accessed via a ferry from Slussen or on foot from the Östermalm district. It is located in a former power station. The bright red museum attracts big names in contemporary art.

The museum is specialized in Scandinavian and International art of the twentieth and twenty first century. The changing exhibitions throughout the year are attracting visitors from all around the world. .

Sweden’s largest architecture museum, Arkdes, was founded in 1962.

It is attached to Modern Museet and worth it if you are into architecture and design.

The Lydmar Hotel is a great place to stay.  The location is fantastic, being within walking distance of Gamla Stan, Kungsträdgården station, and the Strömkajen ferry.

Sweden is moving closer to a cash free economy. It was impossible to use cash in Stockholm – except at Seven Eleven.  

Fly safe,

JAZ

Vikings And Sagas In Iceland

Image

Vikings and Sagas In Iceland

” Never break the peace which good men and true make between thee and others. Rjúf aldrei sætt þá er góðir menn gera meðal þín og annarra. ” The Saga of Njall

Vikings are a thing all over Iceland.

The hats with the horns sell in every souvenir shop. I hate to tell you people but the horns were a Hollywood invention that caught on. 

Was Iceland really even settled by Vikings? The term Viking applies to Scandinavian raiders. Now the people that settled in Iceland might have once been Vikings but when they came to Iceland there was no indigenous population to conquer, no churches and abbeys to sack for wealth and  no one to rape and pillage. They saw this beautiful country with no one to fight and they became farmers and landowners.

And then there are the Sagas- the classic literature of Iceland. They are stories written down from eleven hundred to thirteen hundred. They started off as a realistic representation of Iceland but the later ones are filled with dragons, maidens and sex.

The saga of Burned Njall is the most famous saga. It is written in the late 1300’s There are a lot of feuds and bad advice and everyone dies in the end – sounds like Shakespeare of the North. There is a cute street in Reykjavik named after it.

Everything is Iceland is Saga this or Viking that.  I’m not sure what they have to do with a hotel or a rental car.

But at least the Sagas actually existed in Iceland. They are  classic and legendary tales  and represent the history of the people of Iceland. Though trolls and ghosts are  featured, much of The Sagas remains grounded in reality.

They tell stories of farmers, families and fighters, lovers, warriors and kings, of betrayal and dilemmas, and which are, for the most part, believable and credible. Women play a strong role too. If you don’t at least read one when you visit, check out the Saga Museum in Reykjavik if for nothing else than historical accuracy.

Fly safe,

JAZ