I had been looking forward to a quiet september but as it often happens in my life suddenly everything changes. I had to go to Paris for work twice in the past two weeks and I wasn’t too happy about it. But I do what I have to do – part of my understanding of doing my job. Last week it was just an overnighter but this week I had two nights so on the second night I went geo-caching around the Eiffeltower. When it started to get dark I had enough and was thinking about taking the metro back but then decided to walk since I was already closer to the bridge over to the Trocadero than the metro. One of the best decisions I have ever made… 😉 It got darker and the lights on the Eiffeltower went on. It looked different but I didn’t really notice. When I crossed the bridge I thought that it had been stupid to carry around my ‚big‘ camera when I had been taking pics with my mobile… 10 meters later I saw an add about the lights of Japan on the Eiffeltower for two nights. When I went by it was the first night. So I imagined there would be white and red on the Eiffeltower. What I didn’t know was that at 20:30 h they started with a 10 minutes lightshow that usually is showing for 5 minutes at the full hour. After that there was a light show with music that lasted 10 minutes and then it started again. I watched it twice and it was absolutely FANTASTIC. On the website I read that this was a special display to celebrate the 160th anniversary of diplomatic relationships between France and Japan. I felt really really blessed that I just happened across this without knowing it… See some pics here…
When planning the trip I had checked on excursions. The girls initally wanted to go to castles. I came across ‚Aveiro – the portuguese Venice‘. When I googled pics of Aveiro a lot of umbrella pictures turned up. So I investigated and found that these umbrellas are an art installation for three weeks in July. Since that was exactly the time we were there I wrote the girls that I was going to go to Agueda. And they decided to skip the castles and join me So on our last morning in Porto we took the train to Aveiro where we had to change trains to go to Agueda. Walking down to the city center we came through the streets with the balloons. We soooooo loved that. In the city center there were two streets with the colourful umbrellas while another one had transparent umbrellas. There was a lot of additional art installations which is why I have so many pictures. It was much hotter in Agueda as it had been in Porto so finally we walked back towards the train station and took the train to Aveiro. My canadian friend had said that the reviews she had read were all not impressive so we didn’t expect much. And actually we were not really impressed. Just because there is one canal doesn’t mean that this is similar to Venice… by that time we were really hungry and tried to find a restaurant that actually would feed us. But no way at 5 PM…. kitchen was closed everywhere until 7 PM. So we took the train back to Porto and had dinner there before we went back to the hotel to pack as the girls left early the next morning to continue their adventures in Portugal while my flight back home was at noon… here are the pics from my personal highlight in Portugal.
Yeah, I know I haven’t been very busy with uploading more pics from my trip to Portugal. Really sorry about that but somehow life got in the way. 😉 Here are days 3 and 4 now. And let me add something else: if you ever consider going to Porto, I can not highly enough recommend the Fine Art Guest house where we stayed. I liked the rooms and the entire guest house anyway but then I realized about 4 weeks after I got home that my bag with the photo-filters was missing. I searched for several days but when they didn’t turn up I sent a mail to the Fine Art Guest house to check if I had somehow left it there. I didn’t have a lot of hope because I knew I had checked my room before leaving. But then – they wrote me back that they had found my bag outside of the guesthouse. And I got the filters back a few days ago. Not only are all of them still in the bag, they are not broken either. Photographers know how expensive this sh… is… so thanks to the guesthouse I don’t have to buy new ones which would have hurt my bank account. Thanks again for keeping them and sending them back to me!
And here are the impressions of two days spent entirely in Porto…
So…. it had been planned for a while that I would go to Portugal the first weekend in July to meet some friends from America/Canada/Mexico. And finally two weeks ago it was time to take the train for Frankfurt and fly to Porto. ‚The girl‘ (one from the US and the other one from Canada) arrived around the same time that I did and it couldn’t have been more perfect with our luggage belts being next to each other. When I had my suitcase I walked over to the other belt and they came just out of immigration. Timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Our inital idea had been to share a taxi but then we decided on a whim to take the metro – only to end up in the parking garage… 😀 We finally found the metro, bought the tickets and were off… once we got to our hotel we had rooms next to each other too. The american girl wanted to stay in but with the canadian I went off to explore a bit and we found our own personal panorama spot over Porto… 😉 Then dinner and sleep…
The next morning our american friends who live in Mexico were supposed to come in by train from Lisbon. We went to explore Porto first and found out that Barak Obama was supposed to arrive later that day for a climate conference. Around noon the ‚mexicans‘ arrived so we headed back to meet with them for lunch. Obama somewho sneakily arrived without saying hello to us… 🙁 After lunch we hung out a bit I went out again with the girls, the ‚mexicans‘ somehow were out cold… and that was it… 🙂 Here are some impressions from the two days…
On the way back from Faroer I stayed in Copenhagen for three nights. Since our flight our of Faroer was early I had all afternoon to explore Copenhagen. The next day it was marathon so I went over to Sweden (pics of Malmö are already in the latest blog entry) and the weather had substantially gotten better by then. The third day I went on the hop on-hop off tour even though I walked a lot of the way between the stops anyway… here are some impressions from Copenhagen.
On the way back from Faroer Islands I did a 3 day stopover in Copenhagen. Unfortunately the second day was Copenhagen Marathon and I didn’t really want to get into the chaos that is involved with this. Public transportation is deviated or closed so – no thanks. So I took the train over to Sweden to spend the day in Malmoe. Which is a nice little city too.
The last two days were already there… on day 6 we got up at 2:30 AM and left the hotel at 3 AM to catch the sunrise – which didn’t really happen. Around 3:30 we were stopped in a tunnel and our tour guide had to do an alcohol test. When we told the police-guy that we were hoping for some sun (I mean – we were trying to get pics of a SUNRISE). For a moment he looked at us as if he was about to send us to a mental hospital, then he started to laugh and said ‚Sun? Why did you come to Faroer then?‘ At breakfast we were still laughing about that. Once arrived at destination we got into position but there were too many clouds for a real sunrise. We saw the sun for about 5 seconds. It was still a very impressive spot. After several hours we got back to the hotel for breakfast and then we stayed there till 4 PM when the reain was supposed to lighten up. We went back to Saksun and even if we had shorts showers in between we were finally able to take our pics there. Unfortunately we missed a beautiful rainbow by about 15 minutes. From there we went to tidal pools for sunset but once again the photo session didn’t turn out as planned…
The last day we did some sightseeing too but had several photosessions in different spots too. And then that day was over as well and we had to pack because we had to leave at 6 AM on the last day because our flight was at 9:30AM and we still have to drive for over one hour. I found the Faroer Islands very interesting. There are beautiful spots there but it is becoming a hot spot for photographers and the people on Faroer fear that they will become a second Iceland. I hope that this won’t happen…
No, I haven’t forgotten day 2 – actually arrival day counts as day 1 so I didn’t skip anything. Now we have days 3-5. The first day we went on a 3.5 km hike to the slave-rock. The name comes from the fact that vikings have been said to push slaves off the clives. Walking over was beautiful so I did stop every now and then just to take in the landscape. Once up on the cliff we needed to be careful not to go too close to the edge because if you are going over – then that was it. The lake you can see is about 100 m above sealevel and up on the cliff you are 142 m above sealevel. We intended to stay till sunset but then around 6 PM clouds started to roll in so we left as we still had to hike back. On the way back we saw an asian wedding couple coming over… she in her white bridal gown – 3 km through the mud… that can’t have been fun. Not sure she was able to use it after that hike because we were lucky to be back at the car when it started to rain – they weren’t. That day we had dinner in one of the few small restaurants where they opened a small room only for us because all regular tables had been booked already.
The next day we knew that the weather wasn’t likely to be good but we tried. First we went to Saksun which is a very picturesque spot. But shortly after we arrived it started to rain hard so we gave up and went to Torshavn, the capital of the Faroer Islands. We strolled around some, took pics and then had something to eat and drink. After that we went over to a small gorge. Since it was still raining we looked for shelter and took some pics from where we were dry. When I went back to the car I saw that we had some reddish clouds from sunset so we went over to the edge of the main land and took some more pics.
Day 5 was not a good one photowise. We knew that this would probably be the worst day weather wise. So we went to a little village to take pics of a waterfall but it was so windy that the water flew up instead of falling down. Then it started to rain again and we left to go to a different spot. While driving along the sea we saw several ‚dust devils‘ (but water) form on the water. I have never seen anything like this. Once arrived at our destination there was no way we could take pics. The wind was about 9-10 beaufort in gusts and one of the others had difficulties to get back to the van as the wind was blowing her away….
So here is an assortion of pics from these 3 days.
We arrived at Faroer with relatively good weather. So after having gone to the hotel (which was about a 1 h drive from the airport) we checked in, had an early dinner and then we went out again for the first foto session. The next morning we got up to have breakfast at 9 and we left the hotel at 11. First stop was a waterfall, second were some nice typical houses (abandoned), then a picturesque village and then a very iconic sight for sunset. Which turned out good but the sunset itself didn’t really happen. 🙁 Long day, only hotdogs at the gas station – that was the first glimpse on what was to come… 😀 Here are some pics of the arrival and the first full day.
So…. I had booked that foto-workshop on Faroer Islands. Faroer Islands had been on my wishlist for a while so I finally just booked the workshop. Not sure what to expect. I know the mentor though and I know that he is a big teddy bear who thinks that women take ‚yummy‘ pics and during his workshop trips he wants the participants to take posters. Let’s wait and see. Not sure I will get a lot of sleep during the week but I have a small hope for northern lights… we will have to wait and see what is going to happen… 😉
And here we are coming to the end of the trip. On my last day in Iceland I had booked a tour to Thingvellir National Park (where you are between American and Europe without needing a passport ), the geysirs and then Gullfoss waterfall. I had taken my tripod to take some longterm exposures at Gullfoss but when the hail comes down hard on you you know that there is no way you can take longterm exposures. White water steam from a geysir in front of grey clouds is equally hard to see on a pic… it was interesting anyway. When I got back to Reykjavik I booked another Aurora-tour but that was more an adventure than anything else. We saw a green spot somewhere but nothing really exciting. That was it from my trip to Iceland!
That morning after breakfast we went to the Diamond Beach first. If the sun comes out and the ice on the black beach starts to sparkle you know exactly where the name is coming from. Then we went back over to Jokulsarlon lagoon where we had been on day 5 already but ‚today‘ the lake was reflecting everything so it was another of these perfect moments where you should just stand there, breathe and enjoy. Then we went over to my favorite place in Iceland: Fjallsarlom glacier lagoon. We went to a different spot than where I had been last year but again it was breathtaking. After that we had lunch and then we went to Skaftafell National Park where the rest of the tour group had booked a walk on a glacier. I went in search of a geocache instead. Unfortunately the guide of the glacier-walkers was an idiot and he messed up the entire rest of our trip. Because when the group went into the bus to return to the place where I was waiting, their tour guide went into a car to come over separately but he didn’t tell anyone. So their bus waited for nearly one hour for the missing guide who was already back at base. For us that meant we had lost one hour and had to drive back to Reykjavik without any more sightseeing stops…
Day 5… first day of an overnight trip to the South West where I had already been last year. Our driver/guide Friman was a source of a lot of information. He kept telling us what king of music/which artist he had selected for the next leg of our tour. First we went to Seljalandfoss – one of the nicest waterfalls in Iceland. Usually you can go behind it and I wanted to take pics from there but the path was closed. Next was Skogafoss, one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland. After that we went to the black beaches at Vik and REynisfjara. The waves at Reynisfjara are downright scary. The guy you see as a comparison for how high the waves were actually got wet feet. There are basalt caves at that beach. Then we stopped at the moss-covered lava landscape. Then the highest cliff (600m). After that it was Jokulsarlon lagoon with it’s glacier tongue and the ice berg. On the last two pics you can see some northern lights activity but apart from the fact that the pics are not really in focus it started to rain so we gave up and went to sleep.
Day 4 was another day off. Meaning without excursions. When I woke up it was raining but the forecast said it would stop around 11. So I took it slowly, had breakfast and was surprised when I didn’t get any latte macchiato at the coffee machine. When I asked if the milk was empty the guy told me they were out of milk… weird!!! Especially since there was milk going with grains… anyway… shortly before I was to leave I watched out of the window and saw the rainbow over the Hallgrimskirkja. Since the sky cleared I want back to the Solfar-sculpture but taking pics there without any tourists on it was impossible. I waited a long time but it wasn’t happening. Then I walked on, looking for geo-caches again and ended up in the aurora-center where I heard that the aurora-tours for the night were on. So I went back to the hotel in the afternoon to get some rest because it would be a long night. The tours start at 10 PM and you are back at your hotel around 2 AM. Short night as the next day my tour pick-up was at 8 AM… In between I went to meet some geo-cachers which was fun as well.
On day 3 I had the first excursions which was towards the Snaefellsness Peninsula. I wanted to go there because of the famous Kirkjufjell mountain which is one of the landmarks. I usually see it with waterfalls in the foreground. Our bus stopped at another place though and I saw that the road is going below the waterfalls and not above it as I somehow had assumed. It was raining hard that day but on most stops we were lucky that it mostly stopped raining while we were outside of the bus. I hadn’t imagined this excursion to be that wonderful. In the afternoon it stopped raining so on the way back to Reykjavik we actually saw the landscape we were driving through and it was breathtaking. With the grey sky a lot of my pics look much better in black and white although I am not usually a fan of black and white pics.
Our tour guide Inga told us a lot of stories about trolls and elfes that she had heard from her grandmother. It was quite interesting. So on one of the pics you will see a big black lava rock and the story is that these were two trolls who stayed outside too long so they saw the sun and turned into stone. The big one is usually the female.
On my first entire day in Iceland I had a ‚day off‘. Meaning I was free to roam without any tours booked. So here are impressions from in and around Reykjavik (I went geo-caching…). Weather wasn’t toooo good but at least it wasn’t raining so that was something… Aurora tours for the evening were cancelled again. Imagine why… 😉
Yes, I know I am jumping a bit ahead as those pics that are going to follow have been taken only on day 4 of my trip but I know a lot of people have been waiting for them. I consider myself lucky and I am immensely grateful to have been able to experience something as wonderful as this show last friday. I know that other tour groups who went to other places didn’t see any northern lights while our show started as soon as we arrived and it wasn’t finished when we left more than one hour later. I know that some of my pics are a bit on the dark side but the thing is that if you make the exposure time longer you can’t see on the pics that they were dancing…. so my pics are a compromise and I can’t say I am too disappointed with them. 😉
Since it is raining hard this morning I have lots of time to write my first entry. Yesterday I arrived after an uneventful journey at Keflavik airport and there were only scattered clouds. Not what the forecast had said. During the bus ride to Reykjavik (about 50 minutes) the weather got worse altough I could still see some blue sky in the distance. Once checked into my hotel I discovered that I have a room with a wonderful room over Reykjavik. It is a 180° view and in the distance I can see snow covered mountains. The additional plus to this is that during the nights I can check for northern lights from my balcony and don’t have to get dressed to go outside (only to discover that there is nothing to see 😉 ). Since the weather was still basically OK I didn’t unpack but instead went out to discover Reykjavik. First walk was to the waterfront where there is a sculpture walk. The one I really wanted to see is Solfar, a wonderful sculpture that looks like a viking ship. There I found my first geo-cache in Iceland too. 🙂 Then I walked over to the concert hall and then slowly back via the Hallgrimskirkja to the hotel. That was about a 2 h walk. Then I went to the supermarket to get some supplies. Once back I finally unpacked and relaxed a bit. Since I have that cool view from my room later I had this spectacular sunset that I could admire… clouds are not good for northern lights but for sunsets they really make for dramatic skies….
I woke up several times during the night and checked for northern lights but there was nothing green… activity is supposed to pick up today though and if I can believe my app I will have a wonderful aurora tour tonight… 🙂
Here are some pics from yesterday.
So tomorrow it is the big day… I will be off to Iceland again. After weeks of not too bad weather forecasts it totally changed this morning when it went to rain, rain, rain… It was a bit frustrating. But like last year I will make the best out of it. Tomorrow I am going to meet someone who lives in Reykjavik and if I am lucky during the next week and there is a chance to actually see the northern lights somewhere I might go there with the ’northern light catcher‘ from Reykjavik. Wish me luck… the northern lights are supposed to be fireworks in the next week – I only need to chase away the clouds so I actually can SEE them (and take pics of course)…. 🙂
Well… I am finally back to my usual health and before it went all bad this week I booked another trip for the one to Norway that I had to cancel this week. I will fly to Iceland in two weeks instead. Can’t wait… 🙂 Already checking the geo-caches that I want to find and have booked several excursions. The main idea is to stay in Reykjavik for a week and do some excursions but I will go on a two day tour to my ‚ice lagoon‘ Jokulsarlon too. Really looking forward to this. Will go to places that I haven’t visited so far as well so this will be an interesting trip… 🙂