Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Iceland - Whale Watching Tour

Not only have I been lucky enough to visit the extraordinary country of Iceland, but this most recent trip was my third visit. The first time I went I was alone, and I fell absolutely in love the place. So when I returned a few years later with KC, I wanted to show him all the wonderful sights I loved so much on my first trip. Since we’d already ticked off a couple of the main ‘must-do’s’ in Iceland, like the Golden Circle Tour and visiting the Blue Lagoon, we wanted to make sure that this time round we had a go at some of the other special experiences Iceland has to offer. 

The previous day’s horse riding experience was very high on the list, and so was another chance to get close to some of Iceland’s native wildlife with a whale watching tour.  

I say ‘whale watching’ but we were all warned fairly early on that early February is not exactly prime whale-spotting season, but you never know! My boat-loving other half was just eager to go out for a ride, so the possibility of seeing some awesome sealife was just a bonus really! 

And it really was a beautiful ride. Sat on boat waiting for it to set off, the rain was coming down and we did suspect that it might not go so well,... but as soon as we got going the sun came out and the trip was bright and beautiful! 

Still incredibly cold, like, but bright and beautiful and cold.

The company we went with were Elding Whale Watching, but there’s a number of companies running similar tours. This was booked as part of the holiday package so I didn’t really look into the differences between them, but the Elding tour was grand. The boat was cosy with seats both inside and outside (for the super brave). There was a little cafe inside selling drinks and chocolate bars, and you could borrow blankets and waterproof overalls for warmth too. 

The boat trips all come with a knowledgeable guide. Our on-board marine biologist had plenty to tell us about the kinds of creatures living in the seas around Iceland, as well as where and when to look if we hoped to see anything! 

But did we see anything?

Yes! No whales, though we'd been told that wasn't overly likely anyway - but just as it was about time to start heading back to Reykjavik we spotted a little group of white-beaked dolphins! 

Now, I'm afraid I didn't get any pictures - I'm sure the quick flashes of fin I saw wouldn't have made amazing photos, and I didn't want to miss anything myself by fiddling with a camera.

(And will shamefacedly admit that by this time the boat was starting to get the better of me and I was regretting my decision to reject the earlier offer of sea sickness tablets to all passengers!) 

It might not have been the biggest of most impressive sighting of dolphins in these waters, but I was so utterly thrilled to catch a glimpse of these wonderful creatures, and it made all the feeling-like-I-might-die completely worth it! 

Though with tours like this, there's no guarantee of seeing anything - nature can be fickle! - but I think it's absolutely worth the risk! Just wrap up warm, and say yes to the sea-sickness pills!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Iceland - Horse Riding with Eldestar

It's been over two months since I got back from my last visit to Iceland and I've still barely posted a darned thing about it. It's true that time constraints, work issues and lack of internet connections have held me up a great deal, but it's also been quite difficult to know where to start!

Though I guess in the end it just made sense to start with one of my favourite bits! We didn't go to The Blue Lagoon on this trip, nor did we do the Golden Circle tour (were we even IN Iceland?!) so one of the things we really wanted to do was meet some of the beautiful Icelandic Horses.

I've never ridden a horse before. I probably rode a donkey on the beach when I was little, and once about twenty years ago I sat on a friends horse for about half a minute before panicking and insisting on getting straight off. So I wasn't entirely sure how well this was going to go....

...but this was top of KCs Iceland list so I had to be brave! Plus I'd heard that Icelandic horses are super sweet and small, perfect for beginners!

We booked through Eldestar, who organised a hotel pick-up in the morning before we were driven about 30 minutes out of Reykjavik to their farm, where we were provided with all the equipment needed and paired with our horse for the day. The horses were just indescribably lovely (though mine was obviously these best one!)

You know when you watch films and folk just hop up onto a massive horse like it's nothing? Yeah, my attempt at mounting my lil horse buddy did not go so gracefully.... I don't think I'm a natural horsewoman, but still, we got there in the end! 

We had about an hour and a half to two hours of riding time through the meadows around the farm. It's a beatiful area and our early start meant we got to see the sky transfrom through an array of colours, from pink to grey to blue, throughout the ride, offering a very colorful backgrop to the surrounding mountains and fields. It was just stunning, and I'd have taken more pictures but my hands were staying firmly on the reigns as instructed while we were moving!

Despite my cowardly inclinations, I did love it... mainly the nice calm, slow bits of the ride. When the horses were encouraged to speed up a wee bit (so we could experience the 'tölt', the special gait unique to Icelandic horses), thats when I started to fear for my life. That's just me being a massive wimp though, as KC had the time of his life! It was his first time too, though you wouldn't have known it, as he spend most of the ride out in front (of I guess around 25 riders?) while I was happy to trail along at the back.  When we did catch up (at a mid-way break and when we got back to the farm) he was as giddy as a kid at Christmas, and has been looking up local horse riding options since!

Eldestar have a number of packages available (from the beginner half-day sessions like ours, to week-long riding extravaganzas for those who know what they are doing!), and we'd booked the 'heritage tour', not only becasue it sounded like a great place to start, but becasue it came with tea and cake! So after our ride, when we'd shed the riding clothes and said goodbye to our lovely horses, it was time to head to the Eldestar hotel for refreshments.

We didn't get a good look around the hotel, as we were totally distracted by cake and tea (horse riding was lovely but 'twas cold!) but I'd love to spend a night or two here when we go back to Iceland! By then, KC will probably be an expert horse handler and I'll.... well, I'll be happy to go for a nice little ride then have some tea and cake!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

March Happenings, April Plans

Ah, the end of another month! And golly, it’s been a long one!

I don’t want to be one of those bores who just complains about work all the time, so I promise to not spend next month’s round up going on about how busy I’ve been – but March was tough and I’m glad it’s over!

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though! I think the improving weather always helps – everything seems so much brighter, the pretty flowers are out, it’s all good! Plus we had a couple of nice events and stuff.

Last night, to finish the month off nicely, I had a great night out with one of my very favourite people. My lovely brother got us both tickets to the ballet for my birthday, so last night we headed out to Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre to see Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. The performance was just wonderful, an innovative and beautiful interpretation of one of our favourite films We followed this up with some slightly less graceful dancing of our own! 

We also had a lovely lil weekend in Cumbria. The Mr was booked in to go be a 'zookeeper for the day' so while he was feeding penguins and petting kangaroos, I took myself off for a visit to Muncaster Castle, and swung by Furness Abbey too.  It wasn't the greatest weather for a weekend of outdoor activities, but it was a lovely time and ice to be away. We also went to see the highly anticipated Beauty and the Beast while we were in Barrow In Furness, and it was everything I hoped it would be!

We had a nice family day out in York, which involved a very chocolatey afternoon tea, but mainly taking pictures of the friendly squirrels in York's lovely museum gardens!

Oh, and I'd mentioned previously that the kids and I had a karate tournament coming up at the start of March. It was great fun, and I ended up with silver medals in both my events. Harry did a great job and came home with a bronze and silver, and Emily didn't medal but she had by far the biggest category of us all and did such a great job - I was very proud!

April sees the start of some intense and much needed spring-cleaning (which I am of course avoiding now by writing this, but will crack back on real soon!) . . . not my favourite way to spend a weekend, but I'm sure I'll feel better once I'm de-cluttered a bit! And I did promise the kids that if they got their rooms organised we could go to the cinema, so I forsee Power Rangers in my near future!

I'd hoped to get plenty of blogging done but I seem to have left myself without internet at home for a couple of weeks - oops! Still, I think not having the distractions of easy internet access might actually work in my favour, so if I can organise pictures and write some stuff up offline and posting from work I stand half a chance of getting caught up!

Otherwise, we don't really have lots of separate stuff booked for April, but rather one biggie - the Easter holidays are coming up and we are off to Malta for a week! I honestly can't wait for a week OFF, and hopefully should be a relaxing but fun-filled holiday!

What are you up to in April?
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