Little did I know Iceland would have such an impact.
I now feel as though our ever changing world has it's origins rooted on an island in the North Atlantic. Stark naked nature is what you will find in Iceland. Geysers, lava fields, northern lights, waterfalls, geothermal spas, volcanoes, mountains, rushing rivers, lakes, volcanic craters, caves, the meeting of two tectonic plates (North America and Europe) and massive glaciers make up this must experience destination. My reason for heading to Iceland was to see the Northern Lights. My reason for wanting to make a return visit is ten fold that.
I was naive to think that the northern lights were the be all and end all of Iceland. The northern lights are simply a feather in the country cap. Stepping inside all that Iceland has to offer opened my eyes to a vigorous and vibrant Mother Nature whose grasp on this earth is a vulnerable yet tight one.
In traversing the southern coast (by car), from Reykjavik to Hof (golden circle too), I feel we were able to capture the essence of Iceland. Dotted with many highlight reel experiences it would be hard to single out any one in particular. However, the glacier lagoon did knock my travel experience socks off. Venturing from the car we made our way across the black beach to the edge of the North Atlantic. I was amazed to see rolling waves carrying chucks of ice to shore. The black beach was speckled with naturally formed ice scultures. Where one would expect to see sea shells we were seeing ice. Further inland seals swam freely in amongst the masssive and not so massive ice bergs. Deceptively far off in the distance loomed the tongue of the frozen glacier. Powerful winds enhanced the already daunting scene of frigid water and ice. As darkness set in, the sounds of the evening became increasingly present. Nature had the upper hand and we respected its omnipresence.
If you are planning a visit to the southern part of the country I would recommend you experience: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gullfoss, Secret Lagoon, the Black Beach and the Glacier Lagoon. I did not spend much time in Reykjavik. I say to that, 'until we meet again Iceland'.
Chalkful of character.
It took less than a day for the marvelously relaxed nature of PEI to take hold. Rolling hills of lush countryside speckled with meticulously kept homes lent itself well to the laid back lifestyle enjoyed by all.
With fresh air seemingly fresher, and quiet seemingly quieter, I am motivated to journal my stay here. The wonderfully simple atmosphere removes complexities making way for thought and creativity. Artists must find this place an absolute inspiration for their work.
Sitting on the beach, amid the Greenwich dunes, I mentally take a piece of charcoal and begin to imagine how striking the canvas would become were I to sketch the scene. The warm sea is of good temperament today. Lazy respectful waves, clear water and a sandy bottom invite visitors to enjoy a refreshing dip. Grains of sand, easily picked up by a gust of wind, cause me to focus on the fragile dunes. Facing inland the sand keeps its silky white colour as it rises into high dunes. Patches of grass rooted in the dunes do their best to keep the transient sand in place. Forever changing dunes reflect well the acceptance and tough, yet easy going, nature of the Islanders. It saddens me to think that the ravages of wind and constant erosion from the water are, inch by inch, stealing this island from us.
After a wonderful couple of hours of sun, water and reflection, it is time to head back. Crossing over the dunes and walking across the expansive boardwalk I am thankful for the chance to visit such a treasure of a spot.
Memories of the dunes solidified, lobster supper in New Glasgow has me day dreaming of how marvelous it will be. A pound and a half lobster with all the mussels I can eat, takes me to a new level of loving this island. Great laughs with my travel mates and that gosh darn lobster bib strip away any lingering city life tension.
With my brain in, an island imposed, fabulous melancholy, I step into the local Lion’s Club to attend a ceilidh (kitchen party). A trip to PEI would not be complete without enjoying the sounds of fiddling. Fiddlers Son was slated to play. Locals and tourists gathered in the Lion's Club main room. Taking our seats I was struck by how spectacular this hometown gathering is. Cars spilling over the parking lot into the adjacent field while strawberries and ice cream were to be served at intermission. The music was fantastic and the support for the local talent even more so. We clapped and tapped our feet to the rhythm. The camaraderie of the evening and great music, of course, left us feeling truly a part of PEI culture. What an evening! What a day!
Located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this smallest Canadian province is worth its weight in serenity.
David never ceases to amaze me!
After a brief stay in line we entered the Galleria dell’ Accademia. The natural direction to start our tour was to go straight. I knew David was left. My wait had been 12 years to see David again. Going straight was not an option. I would circle back. Rounding the corner, at the end of the long open hallway, there he was. In all his glory David emotionally and physically dominated the space. Wanting to savour the moments of my visit, I did not rush up to the statue. I took my time as I took in his presence. At just 26 years old Michelangelo skillfully created a statue which quite naturally exudes promise, power and protection. This 17 foot tall, 12,478 pound marble statue somehow presents a softness of acceptance. A grand combination of humility and confidence, strength and youthful beauty.
David never ceases to amaze me. His effect on me is an oddity I may never fully understand. I spent a good amount of time staying within the aura of him. I toured the rest of the museum with half hearted interest. It was David I wanted to see again. Seeing a replica does not elicit much from me except to remind me of time I have spent in the Galleria dell' Accademia admiring the original.
As I left the museum a sadness struck me. The feeling took me by surprise. I believe it came from a place of not knowing if I would ever return.
Survival meant borrowing underground.
By June 1941, on the island of Malta, nearly 500 public rock shelters had been finished and another 400 were in progress. At the end of November 1941, the Governor of Malta announced there was space available in a shelter for the whole population of Malta. It is said that there are more streets under Valletta (capital city), than on the surface. Living like ants underground, zig-zagging tunnels allowed residence to traverse the city of Valletta.
Due to the island’s strategic location, Valletta was the most bombed city in WWII. The citizens had no choice but to burrow underground. As I descended the narrow opening of the private bomb shelter, at Casa Rocca Piccola, the Disney like vision I had of a bomb shelter faded. The confines of the dwelling struck first and then the damp, well used air next. Imagining family upon family in this and less spacious shelters gave me a very real image of people having survival thrust to the forefront every day for over a year. Malta was being starved of supplies and the Maltese people along with it.
Visiting the private shelter at Villa Bologna echoed the same sentiments.
Underground too are the Lascaris War Rooms. In 1942, the war was being run from these underground war rooms. Fleets and air squadrons taking orders from the army elite housed 100 feet beneath the surface. Learning of the mechanisms incorporated and the eventual victory was fascinating. With a large map painted on a low platform, fleets of ships and bombers were moved around like playing pieces on a large game board. Motorcycles running from one end of the island to another delivering orders.
With the war being over the passageways beneath the city were closed off, but I would highly recommend visiting one of the bomb shelters and the Lascaris war rooms. Definitely a must do.
Close your eyes. Now open them.
Images of far off lands stimulate our appetite to venture beyond our structured lives. Willing us to be a part of it all, images allow us to daydream of wonderful experiences that exist throughout the world.
A photo coming to life in our imagination gives us a sense of experience. What is stunning is when that imagined experience becomes a reality.
In the promotion of our Sicily & Malta tour I lived vicariously through many lovely images. In destination, photos came to life in an extraordinary way. I no longer had to drum up what it might feel like to be there, I was there.
The first of these experiences occurred when, on the day of our arrival in Sicily, our group viewed the Ancient Greek Theatre in Taormina. All my senses took in the scene. It was sunset so the lighting was perfect for viewing this ancient ruin. Through an arched opening at the front of the theatre I could see the Ionian Sea. Following the sea to the shoreline brought in sight the Gulf of Naxos where ancient Greeks landed and decided to call this part of the island home. It was the third century BC. I felt as though, by merely being here, I became a part of that history.
Our tour continued to emotionally enlarge images for me: the Temple of Concordia, the fishing village of Marsalokk, the Azure Window to name just a few.
Images became my own. When showing my personal photos to friends and family the showing came part and parcel with a knowing smile.