Northern lights!

Even though we knew there was supposed to be a lot of good aurora viewing the past few days, we were thwarted by cloudy skies. Until tonight!
 I fear these pictures are super low quality (phone camera in the dark), but they’re what I’ve got.
 Over a boat!

 These next two were taken one after the other, so you can kind of see how they move:

 This one’s moving down and to the right. It is like watching a dance made of light. So pretty!

 It was cold, though, and I didn’t have a sweater, so we went in. So glad we saw the lights! Perfect ending to the trip!


Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon

Spent the first part of today wandering around Reykjavik. Not many pictures, but we did notice some fun murals.
 This house looks like a nice place to live!

 This was a bit more terrifying:

 But this one charmed us, especially the person eating the 8.

 A view of the tallest church tower in the distance.

 And a skater at the skate park where we stopped for a hot dog. Apparently Iceland loves hot dogs!

 On the way to the Blue Lagoon, the terrain was interesting. Like another planet.

 We arrive!

 What the water looks like:

 A pause while we swim and sit in the sauna and put on mud masks and so forth, all without our phones, naturally.
 And then dinner. Our last dinner of vacation!

Tomorrow we fly back home. We have like 15 more daydream vacations we’d like to take. You cross one activity off the list, and hydra-like, 3 new ones appear!


The other big stop we made yesterday was at Gullfoss, a place with two huge waterfalls.
 This is from the lower path:

 The we climbed up to the higher path.

 Moss bought a sweater, so he was much warmer than I was at this point!

 This is just after we saw a rainbow over the falls! Alas it lasted for only about 5 seconds. By the time I’d pulled the phone out, the sun had gone back to hiding under clouds. It was beautiful, though.

 And here’s a view looking down to the gorge where the water flows after falling. There was a story about lovers who saw each other tending sheep across the river above the falls; supposedly eventually the man waded across to be with the woman, and they married and had many descendants. I don’t quite see how he could have survived the crossing, but it’s a lovely story all the same.

 Today we’re going to the Blue Lagoon, where there may not be pictures. Hard to do that sort of thing while in water.


We spent yesterday driving to some of the Golden Circle sites. Our first big stop was Thingvellir, which was where the Viking parliament was held!
 We don’t know much about Iceland’s elves and trolls, but we’ve heard they live in rocks. Seein so many formations like this made it easy to understand how rocks might be their homes.

 From the moment we stepped out of the car at Thingvellir, there was gorgeousness! It was a bit hard to know where to point the camera, honestly. Here’s water rushing over rocks:

 And a close up from just above:

 Looking up at a higher source of the flow:

 The Icelandic flag in front of some very impressive rock formations. It was easy to see why this area might be a legal gathering spot. It feels very important!

 A view from the top:

 And another angle:

 Coming back down from the visitors center.

 At the visitors center there are videos explaining some of the history and geography. There are also toilets, which I think we ended up paying about $8 to use (we didn’t have coins, so had to pay with a card, which cost double due to service fees), but we decided to call that our entrance fee. Well worth that to visit this place!

Jane Austen’s House

Our last excursion in England was a visit to Jane Austen’s house in Chawton.
 This is where she lived for the last several years of her life, and where she wrote Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion.

 Chawton cottage was given to the Austen women for the duration of their lives by Jane’s brother, Edward Knight, who had been adopted by rich people and inherited several properties.

 Since this year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park, they had several Mansfield Park displays. This one compares opinions of the book from contemporaries and visitors to the museum.

 Some opinions are long and thoughtful, while others embrace the art of brevity. “Fanny is annoying. I like cheese.”

 Jane Austen’s donkey cart, which would have been what she might have used to do shopping type errands.

 The bake house oven, where they baked bread.

 The kitchen, where other foods were prepared. They had a lavender sachet making station, so we made one to take with us. Mann, lavender.

 Jane Austen’s writing desk.

 The view from Jane Austen’s bedroom window.

 A needle case made by Jane Austen. The Austen family seems to have been very handy with arts and crafts.

 A writing case carved by Jane’s brother. This is what I mean by super crafty. Just look at this!

 Sad thing. Jane Austen’s will. She had beautiful writing to the last.

 And a last picture of us at the house:

 Now, to Iceland!

Dorchester and Oxford

 We ended yesterday by watch more Midsomer Murders while staying in Midsomer. Our hotel was one of the main settings in “Small Mercies” along with a miniature village which is actually not really nearby.
 Here’s our hotel from the front at dusk:

 Across the street is The George hotel, which claims to be even older.

 This morning we bid our farewells to the quaint village and headed into Oxford, passing a sign for Larkrise Primary school along the way. We know Lark Rise is a fictional village, but it amused us all the same.

 We didn’t have a whole lot of time to linger, but Moss had never seen the city before, so I took us on an extremely abbreviated tour. Finding ourselves at Carfax Tower right at noon, we watched the boys trike their bells before climbing the 99 steps to the top.

 Inside, we could see the bell cords!

 I didn’t get any pictures from the top, but Moss took a panorama of the dreaming spires. Hopefully that will get posted later.
 On the way down , we had to balance our needs to look where we were stepping and to not look down. Eep!

 From there we walked up to see Christ Church, where C. S. Lewis write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Here’s Tom Tower:

 We also passed this very exciting door:

 Then, the Bodleian Library!

 And finally the Bridge of Sighs.

 We figure we’ll have to come back and spend more time (perhaps combining a few days in Oxford with a few days in Bath?), but for a tiny amount of time, I think we did fairly well.
 Now we are on our way to the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton Cottage. Very exciting!


 From Avebury we drove on to Bath, where we had afternoon tea at The Pump Room.
 The Pump Room has to entrances. This is the main one.

 And this is the side entrance, which is the one we took. They’re both rather impressive.

 A first glimpse of the (in)famous Bath spa water. We’d been told many times over that it was disgusting, but we had to try it anyway. In truth, it was very mineral rich (as in I thought I might grow some extra teeth on the spot…), but the taste was tolerable.

 The restaurant as viewed from the fountain:

 And a close up of the fountain in glorious golden afternoon light. This building was clearly designed for beautiful light!

 Tea was lovely, and made me fall prey to the tea fallacy (“Oh this doesn’t look like very much!” Followed by, “I am so full. How did this happen?”). We speculated about where Catherine Morland and Isobel Thorpe and Anne Elliot walked, and wondered what was different (and what was the same!) when Jane Austen would have come there.

 We did not have time to take a tour of the baths, or to visit the Jane Austen Centre. The Fashion Museum, Bath Abbey, Sally Lunn’s, Pulteney Bridge, or the Royal Crescent, alas. But! We did get a glimpse of the baths from above!

 Here you can see someone on a tour. I think he’s listening to an audio guide.

 A detail of the building’s ornamentation.

 The (outside) side of the Baths, which is classical style, but the spiderweb windows give it an unmistakably Georgian feel.

 We had just enough time to wander a bit before driving back, so we headed for Milsom Street, passing the 18th century hospital for rheumatic diseases along the way. Now that taking the waters is not considered the height of medical care, the whole area has gone over to a shopping district.

 Just a smudge further down we came to Milsom Street, where the fashionable people shopped in Austen’s day. As you can see, it’s still lined with shops today.

 The site of the old circulating library is across the street from a Waterstones bookstore today.

 And here’s a last view down Milsom Street, which is lined with shoppers.

 We reluctantly left Bath then, but we would like to return in the future with more than an afternoon free to explore. There is so much to see there!