Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dali is weird.

Another direct quote from Mr. Munchkin.

One of the very few days that there was rain (and it stayed mostly on the Plain, while we were in Spain - sorry, couldn't resist), we decided to go to Figueres and visit the Theatre-Museum Dali.

It was the theatre in Dali's hometown. He and his wife bought it after it had been turned into ruins during the Spanish Civil War, and they turned it into a museum to house some of Dali's works. And Dali, too ... eventually. His tomb is in the basement, surrounded by incredible jewels of Dali's design.


The outside of the building is covered in what looks like little golden nuggets. But it turns out that they are supposed to be the local meat pies. Yeah. It gets weirder.

The place is covered in HUGE murals, filled with installations specifically made for the museum, and the sounds of Dali's clanking, unfolding, mechanical pieces fill the air.


While I thoroughly enjoyed myself (and spent more than a few euros just to see the coin operated mechanical pieces unfold) ... I think that it was eventually too much sensory overload for everyone. Eventually, we escaped back into the rain, and ran away from the headless dolls and tortured sculptures that lurched over the balconies of the Museum.

The town of Figueres is charmingly decrepit...but even that wasn't enough to erase some of the nightmare images conjured up by Dali.


In the end, I watched the storm clouds roll away at the end of the day, while perched on the balcony. Perfect antidote to the too much-i-ness of Dali.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sand between my toes...

On the Costa Brava of Spain.

We spent a month of total decadence in Spain. It was ... heavenly. Most of the days blended together in a haze of good food, cheap Cava and lots of swimming in the pool. Our daily routine mostly went something like this: homeschooling Mr. Munchkin in the morning, followed by escapades in the afternoon. I'll be showing you some of the highlights in the next few posts.

One of the first adventures was trekking down to some local Roman era ruins in Empuries. (Geeky factoid - the Spanish highway that we travelled on was the II. It still retains part of its Roman name - the II Augusta - as it was one of the primary roads to Ancient Rome.)


The town started as a Greek/Eutruscan trading port, and then the Romans took over and really built the city into a major stop on the Roman highway. It was fascinating seeing the construction techniques that the Greeks used initially. As you continue walking further through the site, you get to see how the Romans later dramatically improved on the Greek techniques.

There's only about 1/5th of the city that's been uncovered. And since the site isn't swarming with tourists, many of the original mosaics have simply been left where they were found. And you can walk right up to most of them.


There were three domus (houses) that were fully uncovered in the Roman town. Here's my favourite. The mosaic floor on the left is a HUGE banquet room. Since the site was only minimally cordoned off, we were able to walk around the house (except on the mosaics), and were left alone to dream a little.


Apart from a forum, arena and the requisite baths, there was also a small museum housing some of the finds from the digsite.



The top picture is of a very detailed mosaic showing the sacrifice of Iphigenia. I found the bronze bust of the woman to be particularly interesting, as its eyes follow you as you walk around. I didn't get a picture of the magnificent marble statue of Aesculapius, but here's a link. He was the patron god of the town, and there's a replica statute standing in the remains of his temple in the city.

And the best part of the day?

Moonrise on the beach afterwards.


Thursday, December 8, 2011


Or to be more precise, Legoland.


This part of the trip was notable for two reasons.

One, we car camped. And it was AWESOME. I may have to "acquire" a VW camper just for this purpose. Never done it before, will definitely do it again.



First roller coaster ever for Mr. Munchkin. And his very own Driver's License.


Lego pony ride for Miss E. (See this ride? I took her on it 23 times in a row. And there were squawking German marionettes everywhere. Never say that I don't love my kids.)


Two days was not enough, I could have stayed for a week. But the siren call of Spain's Costa Brava was whispering in my ear...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Yadda yadda yadda...

Ok, last little bit of Iceland. Glacier fields are fun, as long as you keep the toddler away from the mile deep crevasses.


and reconstructed longboats are even better.


And that's about it. (Yes, even I'm getting bored with all the stunning scenery. Time to move on.)

Germany was much the same old, same old.



This one's haunted! And for good measure, had a display of chastity belts


weaponry and seige engines.


Hokey but fun.

Here's Mr. Munchin's journal entry for the day: (Direct quote, I swear.)

August 25

I woke up and ate breakfast. Then we went to a castle called Burg Berwatstein. The knights became robbers. We went around the castle. For lunch I had scrambled eggs.

The fact that we drove from Germany to France to have lunch was totally lost on him.


The Alsace region may just be my favourite part of France. Ever. Especially because they're the ones who invented flammkuchen. Yum.

Oh, we also went to a few medieval/Celtic festivals. Guess you're wondering how the Viking costumes turned out?




No pictures of me, as I refused to wear mine out of fear of death of heatstroke. I kid you not. UN retrospect, I should have used matching coloured thread in my serger. I had no idea that the seams would show up as often as they did. But I'll know better for next time.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Try saying that three times fast. Landmannalagur is a vast hiking area in the middle of Iceland. You NEED a 4x4 to get to it - there are several rivers/streams to ford before you even get to the hiking trails. Even before you arrive at the campsite, you will see:


A lake in a volcanic crater


and deserts of volcanic sand whipped into weird formations by the wind (please tell me that I'm not the only one who sees the figure of a man carved into the hillside).

Base camp is very picturesque, and fairly crowded by eager campers.


From here, there are many hiking trails to try, but we decided on something low-key, seeing as there was no way in hell that we were taking Miss E's stroller along. So, headlong we plunged into the lava fields.


The mountains in this area are the strangest colours.


It's just a very very odd place. Filled with obsidian boulders, sulphuric vents


and very NON-TODDLER-FRIENDLY terrain. Seriously, we were lucky that we made it out of there with only three scraped knees, one sprained ankle and some tears.


But other than that, I'd go there again in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


As I was saying. We also went to see more waterfalls...


This one is called Háifoss (High Waterfall), and it plunges into this massive crevasse. The walk down is a little treacherous, especially because of the very strong winds that threaten to throw you over the edge of the cliff. I know it doesn't look like much, but when you're crawling on your belly just to peek over the edge, the sheer drop becomes much more apparent. On the way back to the cottage from Haifoss, we stopped at the reconstructed longhouse at Þjóðveldisbær.



Inside is surprisingly warm and cozy, and the platforms on each side were inviting if lacking in privacy. I can see how Vikings gained their notoriously liberal sexual reputations, as there's just no where else to go when the birds and bees start knocking boots. I mean, there's a dairy/pantry(where the HUGE buckets of skyr were kept),


the women's room (for weaving, spinning and gossip), and the toilet. That's it. The only people who get their own private room are the owner and his wife. They get a closet to sleep in.


Needless to say, this is going to impact the sex scenes in my book. Not that I'm complaining about having to revisit that part, but...y'know. I'm lazy.

The only other building on the grounds was a tiny little church.


After that, back to the cottage for more soaking. And ice cream.

Get this - the ice cream truck drives right up to your front door. Not at the end of the driveway. Right to the front door. So, you buy ice cream and then go and then go and sit in the hot pot while you eat said ice cream. In addition, it may be just the most perfect, fresh and delicious (remarkably free of preservatives or additives) ice cream you'll ever eat in your life.

God, I love Iceland.

Monday, November 7, 2011


The next few days were spent "offroading" on what were technically roads...but were definitely only for 4x4s. One of my regrets from our last trip to Iceland was the fact that we didn't make it to Stong. But we did this time! And we went round the long way. In order to get here, you have to drive through a desert-like stretch of landscape. Affording one the opportunity to take self-portraits.


But as you progress through the valley, the land starts to turn lush and green.


This is one of my favourite pictures from the entire trip. He was looking at a river, trying to figure out if we'd be able to ford it in our 4x4. He had no idea that I was even taking the shot. I'm sure that I could photoshop it to make it even more dramatic, but ... I like it the way that it is. In a lot of ways, this is how I see my lovely husband. Strong, wise, brave and larger than life. Even after ten years of marriage, he still makes my heart skip a beat when he enters a room. Admittedly, sometimes he sneaks up behind me just to see me jump (I'm ... easily startled) but you know what I mean.


We made it to Stong, and it was a little overwhelming to be standing inside the ruins of the longhouse. Even more than the reconstructed longhouse (which you'll see next time), it was very easy to imagine what it was like in a Viking era home.


Doesn't look like much, I know. But it was ... tangible. Hard to explain, you'll just have to go here yourself. The view of the valley from the front door is quite magnificent, as well. But we turned our backs on the valley and instead went in search of a place that I've been dreaming about for years. The valley Gjáin.


This valley is tucked away in a large crevasse. It's possible to just drive right past it if you're not looking for the (miniscule) signposts pointing the way. When you get to the parking area, you have to climb down a huge set of rough-hewn stairs to the valley floor. But it's so worth it.


Looking out of the valley, towards Stong.


Crazy lava formations, with moss and waterfalls all mixed up.


See what I mean?

And at the other end of the valley, there's a series of boards to walk across...


and they take you to one of my favourite waterfalls in the whole world.


As we were climbing the stairs to leave, I turned around and blew a kiss to the valley. I have a feeling I'll be back.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fun in the Fjords...

The thing about West Iceland is that it has fjords. Gorgeous, lovely, stomach curdling winding roads curve in and around said fjords. Offering photo opportunities like this one:


Nice, huh? Tucked into one end of Hvalfjörður, we stumbled across this remnant of a Icelandic home.


Your own personal waterfall next to the fjord...a nice place to live, eh? And of course, sheep.


Everywhere you go, there are sheep.

We only spent two days in West Iceland, and we spent the second day exploring the area around Borgarnes. There is a really well done museum documenting the Viking era there called the Settlement Center. The top half of the building is dedicated to the history of the settlement of Iceland. It's superbly done, and educational without being dry. The kids particularly liked the room with the simulated ride on a Viking ship. Me, my stomach and my easily triggered motion sickness did...not. On the second level of the building, there's a wonderful telling of Egil's Saga, using sculpture, paintings, dioramas, and sound effects. Sounds like it belongs in a carnival, but it was also very good. Creepy as hell, but good.

The day was ended with more beikon and a dip in the hot pot. (If you keep reading these blog entries, you'll see that this holiday was mostly spent eating. And there's a reason that I and my ever exanding waistline stay behind the camera most of the time.) :P

The next day, we drove across the country to the next cottage. It's the same one that we stayed in last time, in the Þjórsárdalur valley. Since we were driving over the main highway, we decided to retrace part of the "Golden Circle" on our way there. Geyser, Gullfoss and Thingvellir - all of the greatest hits of Iceland tourism. See last years photos...they're pretty much the same as the ones from this year.

However. One difference.

We had to drive along the way to Kjosarskard in order to get to Thingvellir...and it's probably the most astonishing topography that we saw during our entire time in Iceland. Soaring mountains with almost sheer cliffsides, waterfalls roaring into crevasses, moss covered rocks jutting out everywhere. I think that for sheer drama, this was one of my favourite drives through the country. The awful thing is...I was too busy gaping at all of the amazing scenery to take many photos.



Going to have to go back and take photos. In a few years, though. Need time to figure out how I can smuggle an Icelandic sheep home in my luggage first.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Well, Hello There...

Not Dead Yet!

(Referring to myself and this blog as well.)

Just been traveling. A lot. Really. Iceland, Germany and Spain.

We had less than two weeks of summer in our own home and we just got home less than two weeks ago.

Phew. Shall we recap?

We flew to Iceland in the beginning of August. Yes, Iceland. Again. Can't get enough of this place. If it wasn't for the elves, trolls and having to learn Icelandic, I'd move there in a heartbeat.

This time, we started on the west coast of the country, a little north of Reykjavik. On Lake Medalfellsvatn, we rented a cottage.


Here's the view from the balcony. Lovely, rustic and very comfy. And it comes with its own rainbow. This was homebase for a few days while we explored West Iceland. Best part about the cottage? It was close to this sooper sekret hot pot on the shore of the nearby fjord.


See the steam rising from the ground? Someone smart noticed that there was a natural hot spring here, and was intrepid enough to build this rock bathtub. There's a rubber hose that is buried in the ground. To heat the water, you simply put the hose into the tub and sit back and relax while the geothermally heated water pours in. It's such a natural tub that anytime you move around in the water, gobs of algae get dislodged and start floating around. Incentive for the kids to stay still and enjoy soaking? Yes please.

The first day, all that we did was get groceries, sit in this hot pot or the jacuzzi at the cottage and sleep. Not a bad start, eh? Especially since it was at Bonus (Icelandic grocery chain) that we found these.


BEIKON!!! CHIPS!!! They're Bacon flavoured potato chips...but what makes them epic is the stoned pig on the packaging. That pig is the chain's mascot/icon, but to then put said pig on bacon flavoured chips makes the nauseating taste sensation almost worth the purchase.

More to tell, but gotta go and get back into the rhythm of real life now. Soon! Promise.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Do you know what the easiest way is to lose several of your brain cells at any given time?

Combine 40 hours (total) driving across the country + two small children + sunburned/grumpy husband.

Oh yeah. All I know is that I knit two pairs of socks. One on the drive down and the other on the drive home.


One set for my FIL. It's my standard man's sock recipe. Hence the name of the socks...Man Socks v1.6. Here the socks are hanging out chez in-law cottage. Loughborough Lake is really beautiful and quite warm. Especially when you jump into it in a desperate bid to escape the mosquitoes that are the size of a QUARTER. A flippin' quarter, people.


And one set for me. This one was finished just as we pulled into Halifax. As you can tell, I ran out of yarn on the second sock. Grabbed the extra ball of yarn (doesn't everyone carry an extra ball of yarn with them when traveling?) and finished them off.

Actually, it's been a crazy crafty month.

Socks for Miss E.


And the package for the movie swap.




My partner's favourite movie is A Clockwork Orange. I couldn't bring myself to watch it. (There's a few scenes in there that I *know* would deeply upset me.) So I went with more iconic images in lieu of actual familiarity. Really enjoyed embroidering the project bag, it's been ages since I did anything like that. And the amigurumi Droog is my first amigurumi ever. I'm not sure that I'm very good at it may be my last one too. Heh.

And finally...I had to repackage the majority of my stash. All of the space saver bags that I was using decided to collectively commit seppuku at the same time. So the stash went into rubbermaid boxes instead.


When I look at this...the only thing that I can bring myself to think is:

"Gotta start knitting faster."