Steve n Jen's UK adventures

UK and European adventures. Read on my pretties, and discover what two stray Aussies can get up to on their travels.......

31 October 2009

OCT 2009 b

Mon 19 Oct 2009
Oil painting night - Jen managed to finish two painting samplers she'd started work on last week. This semester's theme is the sea.

Wed 21 Oct 2009
Jen's having an arty week. Spent Tuesday night doing the callig, and tonight the gilding and painting for this Award of Arms scroll. Finished at 11pm.

Thu 22 Oct 2009
After work we got a cab, tube and train to Gatwick airport and the took the "Iceland Express" to Iceland. Picked up at the far end by Ekaterina (who the AoA scroll if for) and her brother, and dropped off at Jacquelyna's place in Reykjavik.

Fri 23 Oct 2009
In the morning Jacquelyna and another guest, Cedric, took us to a museum in town, where we saw the oldest dated remnants of human habitation in Iceland. The exhibition's called 871 plus or minus 2, because that's how it's dated, to within two years! It's the actual archeaological remains of rock-floor and turf-walls of a building with a long pit fire in it's centre, and large porch stone. The museum is built all around the dig-site, with cool interactive bits showing a couple of optional reconstructions of the building and what it might once have looked like.

Above: you can see the centre ring - this is the fire pit at the heart of the building. An the floor would have been wood or straw etc above this stone grounding.
Below: using your finger like a computer mouse on this table was lots of fun. The image is projected from above.

In the afternoon Ekaterina accompanied us to the north, and we arrived in Akureyri. Ekaterina's here in the red top:

Nik, a British lady who lives here, picked us all up at the airport, dropped Ekaterina off in town, and immediately took us up the nearest mountain for views over Akureyri. Steve had great fun chasing Jen about, ready to launch a snowball.

After which we needed a little warming up and refreshments, and chatted in a lovely cafe in town.Here's Nik:

Time for a spot of shopping, and after checking out the local fabric store (very limited range) and "66 degrees North" store (where Jen bought some seriously warm socks) Nik took us to a wonderful store where it's Christmas 365 days of the year! We bought several shiny Christmas tree decorations of course! (I think we've found a young Santa here...)

Above: Finally, we arrived at Nik's place and were blown away by the fab views. Here's the view thru her front door.
 Below: Stunningly scenic mountains from the lounge room.

In the evening we went on-site to the Alfadans SCA event, only 15 minutes from Nik's place. We started to get to know some of the local scadians and watched the indoor rapier tournament. Then back home to Nik's place. 

Sat 24 Oct 2009
This morning, fresh hot bread and relaxing showers, then back to site again.
Much of today's activities focussed on traditional games. Here was a competition to throw three hammers (consecutively) to be nearest to a treestump. 

Below: a closer shot of the amazing scenery seen in the photo above.

Left: The Insulae Draconis standard flies before the glacier-carved mountains above Akureyri.

Below: A game of Kubb, which Steve's team won.

Above: In the afternoon Steve taught balance, movement and power generation (fighter training) to anyone interested.

The feast this evening was great (thanks to lady "Rapgunna" sorry for the spelling) and here's the "beast" presented to us - with a face carved into the apple!

Later into the evening we went back to Nik's place to sleep. Nice comfy beds.

Sun 25 Oct 2009
Back to site for more SCA socialising and Steve taught about safely padding helms, and also fighter practice exercises they could do on their own, long after we're gone.
At 3pm we left site, and Nik took us Touristing! It seems Iceland is very similar to New Zealand and Scotland - but less sunlight (daylight instead) and a bit chillier.

Iceland really is a land of fire and ice.

Left: Geese flying (and calling to each other) over the Mirror Lake

Below: Goðafoss, translating as Falls of the Gods, where the old Sagas tell us Þorgeir Þorkelsson (the Lawspeaker of Iceland at that time) threw his "heathen" god statues into the falls, declaring Iceland shall convert to Christianity.

Left: Pseudo Craters, Myvatn. Apparently these were formed by giant bubbles in mud.

Above: About Iceland's forests. The native trees are very short, more like shrubs or bushes. The joke goes: what do you do if you are lost in an Icelandic forest? Just stand up.
Here is a forest planted a century ago by a local farmer who wanted his children to have a forest they could play in.

Above: Here in Iceland the sheep have horns, and their coats come in many different shades of blacks, browns, beige, and whites. About one in eight are a "leader" sheep, who are smarter, and lead the rest of the flock. The Icelanders traditionally love to knit and are proud of their well insulated, stocky horses.

Left: Nik then took us to see the rift formed by the separation of the Euro and north American continental plates.
Below: Loads of steam about. Nik was here 10 days ago and was really surprised how much activity is here now.

Right: massive volcano crater in the distance, where apparently NASA tested some roving equipment for performance in harsh conditions. In the foreground is the continental split, where Iceland is growing a little larger every year!

Below: This shot is in perfect focus - it's just really steamy. You can see the pipe cemented into the rocks here, to see the continental shift. We put our hands in the ground here and felt the warmth.

Right: I'm on the Euro plate, no, the N American plate, no the Euro plate etc etc etc

Below: Boiling mud, Sulphar bath anyone?
            .... steamy!

 We finished the evening with an hour long soak at the lesser-known Mývatn Nature Baths (thermal lagoon) and then we had dinner back in Akureyri. Here's a photo from this wonderful website: ia/Iceland/Geothermal_Springs_Geysers/slides/ Iceland_0956-Geothermal_Pool.html

Mon 26 Oct 2009
This morning we arose to a magical sunrise, looking out Nik's loungeroom windows:

We packed and Nik farewelled us at the airport. We were travelling again with Ekaterina, and having arrived in Reykjavik now, Jacquelyna picked us all up and we went .. you guessed it, touristing some more!

So, all four of us explored the Þingvellir (Allthing) National Park this afternoon. The first Icelandic parliament was in 930AD! and "All Things" were discussed here.

Above: Can Steve stop the walls from tumbling down?
Below: Click on the photo for a closer look at this grand view.

Left: From front to back: our hostess Jacqueyna, Steve, and Ekaterina. Notice the molten lava rocks at right.

At right: The falls and pool where over a dozen women were drowned (for crimes) in medieval times.

Above and below: Þingvellir falls

Above: Elsewhere in Þingvellir National Park, a deep water-filled fissure (on the way to the church) has become wishing well for tourists. It's so beautiful.
Below: Looking back along the stream, so moody and beautiful.

 Next, we travelled to see Geyser, the place where the original geyser is, all geysers are named after! The Geyser itself is only seen where there's nearby eruptions going on apparently. But there are others to see here, such as Strokkur (a smaller geyser):
Below left: the eruption!  Below right: the water pulsating upward, ready to explode - this happened about every 8-10 minutes. 

Then on to our final destination, Gossfoss (pictured above right), or "Golden Falls". Stunning! It was quite late in the afternoon so the photos are a bit dark.

Here's a better photo from another website: 

We got back to Jacquelyna's place and finished the night with pizza, scotch, and watched Kung Fu Panda. Steve fed us all a wonderful dessert of vanilla ice-cream and home-made chocolate sauce. Yum!

Tue 27 Oct 2009
After a leisurely start, we spent a small fortune on sale items in a local "66 degrees North" clothing store (seriously top quality stuff for colder climes) and were farewelled at the international airport. Got home at about 8pm, unpacked, showered, relaxed.

Wed 28 Oct 2009
Back to work...

Thu 29 Oct 2009
This evening we booked our Xmas holiday in Tenerife - yay!

Sat 31 Oct 2009
A nice sleep-in until 9:30. Also a very relaxed day catching up with emails etc. And blogging!

18 October 2009

OCT 2009 a

Sat 03 Oct 2009
Steve went to work for a couple of hours, and Jen went to a "Far Isles" event elsewhere in London. The Far Isles is a medieval/renaissance group which split away from the SCA a couple of decades ago. The event was held at the same site the big Coronet tournament will be in February so, not only was it a good opportunity to improve relations with them - it was a chance to see the site in use, and get a feel for how we might use it.

Sun 04 Oct 09
Jen spent some time sewing together more satin fabric, to be staple-gunned into the loft. And then there was time for some more Babylon 5 viewing. We're now up to the fifth season.

Fri 09 Oct 2009
After work Steve kisses Jen bye as she heads up to Stansted airport for a flight to Lubeck, Germany. (Steve spends a few hours at work tomorrow)

Sat 10 Oct 2009
Crown Tournament. It was a drizzly day. The field was in a grassy clearing amongst trees. Below are the entrants of the tournament, and the herald standing in front of the Consorts' viewing pavilion.

Above: A photo of Jen - thanks to Lia de Thornegge for taking it.
Below: The finalists and consorts.

Here is the deciding bout between the finalists, Count Thorvaldr and Sir Vitus:
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Below: and the winners were: Count Thorvaldr, fighting for Countess Fiona.

Above: the royals held court shortly before the feast.
Below: one item in court was the explanation that a bard was so impressed by the courteous conduct of the Lady Margaret de May, said bard decided to make a "song and dance" of her. And the amusing performance of this, had Margaret unwittingly at the centre of it all.

Above: the populace awaiting serving of the feast.

Sun 11 Oct 2009
After packing and saying final farewells on-site, Jacob drove Jen and several lovely swedish ladies to the Ryanair airport south of Lubeck.
Jen discovered the airport had no 'left luggage' facilities or lockers, but still decided to while away a few hours in Lubeck town centre anyway (caught a 20 minute bus into town) even though this meant dragging a wheeled bag along. Some footpaths were occasionally (and annoyingly) cobble-stoned.
Here are some of the better photos Jen took of this lovely old German town.

Above: The theatre figure museum - what a wonderfully playful sign!
Below: The main landmark in Lubeck: the famous 15th century Holsten Gate (Holstentor).

Above: The town's also famous for Marzipan. So this shopfront window combines the two!
Below: A very fancy stair, just outside the main square.

Above: ..and looking up, further along from the stair is this pretty bay window.
Below: Jen's just entered the square, looking back the way she came.

Above: The Town Hall (Rathaus)
Below: fab architecture

Above: a lovely cobbled street
Below: the Burgtor - a tower/gate elsewhere along the wall of Lubeck town

It was starting to get dark so Jen arrived back at the airport about 6:30pm (beating the rain by 10 minutes), and waited until her 11:30pm flight in the world's most boring airport... (only a restaurant was open) but at least she was warm.
Having rushed through customs at Stansted, Jen caught her coach, arriving at the Stratford (London) bus stop at 12:30am. Steve came and collected her for the 10 minute drive home, hooray.

Mon 12 Oct 2009
Thankkfully Jen has the day off work - and after a sleep in, she did a few hours paperwork, and four hours of gardening.... namely ripping out our Privet clump, separating them out, and finally transferring these into their purpose-bought trencher pots. Plus, digging up loads of weeds, and emptying out the remaining extra compost and bark across the large part of the garden. Backbreaking work, but well worth the effort!

In the evening Steve cooked Jen dinner before she was once more at Oil painting class. Two "practice pieces" worked on but neither yet finished.

Tue 13 Oct 2009
Jen finally unpacked her stuff from the weekend- only to discover the wet hem of her nice red woollen gown had not been contained, and in fact had 'bled' red dye on several other items in the luggage. Gggrrrr.

Fri 16 Oct 2009
This afternoon Jen left work early for a ENT hospital appointment. It's amazing the odd architecture one comes across when journeying through London. Here's the Travelodge near Kings Cross:

Jen's throat is fine, not a problem. Mentioned the deaf right ear (congenital), and was sent immediately to another department, had a hearing test and a CT scan. Will likely be having another appointment in a couple of months' time. The hearing test did tell us - it's the connectivity between the (right ear's) nerve and the outside world that doesn't work. The nerve works fine.

Sat 17 Oct 2009
Today we drove up early to Deb and Clancy's place and helped pack boxes, move furniture, and fill vans and cars - then drove over to their new place (about 1 hour drive) to help unpack boxes and move furniture. They're pretty exhausted having been working on the house move for much of the past week already. Moving from a massive 5 bedroom house (in Willingham) into a 2.5 bed terraced house in Haverhill. It'll take some getting used to for them I think. At least it's now only 5 minutes' drive from Deb's work, that's got to make a big difference. Below: Deb and Clancy at the end of a long day, in one of the bare rooms (old home).

In the evening the four of us enjoyed a late dinner to quietly celebrate their upcoming 9th year wedding anniversary.

Sun 18 Oct 2009
Came home from Haverhill, we both did some housework, and the blog, and this arvy we'll be researching possible holiday destinations for Xmas (since flights "home" to Australia are triple the usual cost over Xmas).