Iceland 2021 – Reykjavik

Today I embarked on my first trip out of Canada since October 2019. I would have travelled sooner, however the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked havoc on the entire globe for the last 18 months. I’m very fortunate that Canada’s vaccination rollout program occurred as quickly as it did, and I was fully vaccinated by July 2021. Iceland was one of the few countries that I was interested in visiting, that allowed fully vaccinated people to travel there.

This marks my 2.5th time visiting Iceland. I had previously visited Iceland in Summer 2014 with my dad, and I had a brief stopover in 2018 when I completed my France trip, which you can check out here. Getting there was a bit different this time, because usually I fly from Edmonton or Vancouver with Icelandair, however those routes were temporarily paused due to the ongoing pandemic. This time I flew WestJet from Calgary to Toronto, and then Icelandair from Toronto to Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. I originally paid $1420 for an economy class return ticket, however I paid an additional $230 to be upgraded from economy class to business class for both of the departure flights. Previous trips to Iceland showed the economy class prices to be about half of what I paid. This is my first time experiencing the new business class seats on Westjet, and Icelandair, since they both refreshed their aircraft during the pandemic. I must say I was very impressed by both.

At the Calgary airport they verified that I had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that I had a negative anti-gen test prior to check-in. The Calgary to Toronto flight was on an older Westjet Boeing 737-800. Roast beef and mashed potatoes were served for dinner, which was actually quite food. Hot meals are a new thing for Westjet since they launched their new business class, but I think they have a hit here. The flight was quite smooth, with exception to the last 45 minutes approaching Toronto, due to a storm in the area.

In Toronto they again verified that I had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that I had a negative anti-gen test prior to boarding. The Toronto to Reykjavik flight was on a brand new Icelandair Boeing 737-8 MAX. The new business class seats are adorned in incredibly comfortable grey leather. Their older seats were more a blue leather colour, and were not the most comfortable. An incredibly generously sized dinner was served, which included chicken kababs over couscous and vegetables, alongside some fresh meats and cheese, and a cake for desert. I skipped eating the cake, as I’m not the biggest fan of sweets.

Upon arrival in Reykjavik I grabbed my bag and went through customs, which was very easy, and almost the same as usual, except I had to hand them some paperwork that I had pre-filled online. After exiting the airport I went and picked up my rental car, which was a Kia Picanto from Blue Car Rental. The daily rate was about $200, which is about the same as pre-Covid times.

After picking up the car I started a day of exploring, before I was able to check-in to my hotel at 3pm. First stop was Snorrastofa, a cultural and medieval center named after Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson. I didn’t go inside, as I was just fascinated by the architecture style, which I would characterize as Medieval, and perhaps Art Deco (the white building).

Next stop was Hruanfosser & Barnafoss, two waterfalls located right next to each other, and about a 75 minutes drive North of Reykjavik. Hruanfosser is definitely the cooler looking of the two waterfalls, and is a series of waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming over a distance of about 900 metres out of the Hallmundarhraun, a lava field which flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjökull.

After taking in the gorgeous views of Hruanfosser I drove back to Reykjavik to check out the Reykjavik Art Museum Kjarvalsstaðir, one of three art museums run by the same company. This building was opened in 1973 and was the first building in Iceland specifically designed for hosting art exhibitions. Kjarvalsstaðir houses the works of one of Iceland’s most influential and recognized artists, Jóhannes Kjarval. The exhibitions at Kjarvalsstaðir focus primarily on modern art paintings and sculptures. Architecturally the building is considered a great example of Nordic Modernism, however I would say it closely resembles that of some Brutalism traits.

Perlan, a prominent futuristic looking building situated on top of Öskjuhlíð Hill, was the next stop. The site where the building is situated started out in 1939 as a single hot water tank to supply enough pressure to push water up to a 10 story building anywhere in Reykjavik. Over the next two decades five more tanks were built, however were later torn down and six were reconstructed in the later 1980’s. In 1991 the six hot water tanks became the base of Perlan, a building open to the public, housing a planetarium, exhibition of the role of water in Icelandic nature, a photographic exhibition, and “Wonders of Iceland”, which is an exhibition that shows Icelandic nature, glaciers, geysers, and volcanos. The tanks are still in use, and each hold 5 million litres of hot water to supply to city.

Perlan overlooks Reykjavik Airport (RKV), which only serves internal flights within Iceland and to Greenland due to its shorter runway lengths of only 4000 an 5100 feet. The first flight from the airport occurred in September 1919. Regularly scheduled flights started to occur in 1940 by Flugfélag Akureyrar (now Icelandair). The airport in its current form was built by the British Army during World War 2, and originally only had a grass surface. After the war the British Army handed the airport operation over to the Icelandic government. The airport underwent some renovations in 2000. There’s a lot of controversy over the airport as its considered noisy, takes up a lot of useful area near downtown, and poses a safety risk. There’s a few options being considered including leaving the airport as is, demolishing and building a new one close by, or demolishing and moving all flights to Keflavik International Airport.

Close to Perlan is Nautholsvik, a small neighborhood overlooking Reykjavik Airport, which includes a beach, and an artificial hot spring, where hot water is pumped into a man-made lagoon. It provides to beautiful views of airplanes landing, and boats coming and going.

Reykjavik Art Museum Asmundarsafn was the next stop. This is the second of three art museums run by the same company. The building was designed, worked in, and lived in by the sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson. The white dome structure, built between 1942 and 1950, is surrounded by Sveinsson’s sculptures in the garden, and houses his work all throughout on the inside.

It was time to check-in to my hotel, named Hotel Muli. This is a self-service hotel where you’re provided with an entry code to the building and lockbox, where you can obtain your key. The room was newly renovated and had a fairly comfortable bed, as well as a nice rainfall shower. One thing to note about the hot water supply in most of Reykjavik is that it’s supplied by geothermal water, so has a bit of a Sulphur smell. It doesn’t bother me, but is noteworthy to others. I took a three hour nap before continuing on with my daily adventures.

It was time for me to eat some dinner. I walked to Islenski Barinn, which is highly regarded for its well-priced quality focused food. I ordered a Reindeer Burger and a beer. The burger was delicious and reminded me of an even more tender elk burger, which makes sense as they are both from the same family, however elk are typically much heavier than reindeer.

Next door to where I had dinner is the National Theatre of Iceland, a beautiful Art Deco building designed by Icelandic architect Gudjon Samuelsson. The building was built in 1950, and showcases Samuelsson’s beloved basalt columns. Another building similar to this is the University of Iceland’s Main Building, also designed by Samuelsson. I explored that building on a later day, so be sure to check back on a later post.

Close by is Hotel Borg, a beautiful Art Deco hotel that was opened in 1930. The hotel was originally built by Jóhannes Jósefsson, who competed in the 1908 Olympics, travelled around America in a circus, and then after returning to Iceland in 1927 felt like building a luxury hotel.

Next to Hotel Borg is Reykjavik Cathedral, a cathedral church built in 1796, and reconsecrated in 1879 after a large restoration.

Close by is Parliament House, located on Austurvöllur Square. The building was built between 1880 and 1881. Two additions to the building occurred in 1902 and 2002. The main building was built using hewn dolerite, a subvolcanic rock similar to volcanic basalt. Today only a handful of parliamentary items take place in the Parliament House, with most taking place in adjacent buildings.

It was getting late, and I was quite tired so it was time to head back to the hotel for some sleep. Be sure to check back shortly for the next installment in my Iceland series. In the next installment i visit the famous Fagradalsfjall Volcano Eruption, hike the Krysuvik Geothermal Loop, and attempt to visit the Blue Lagoon.

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Puppies!!!

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of taking dog maternity photos for my friend Delaney. This is Luna’s third round of puppies, and my goodness do they look cute! Shown below is some photos I took of Delaney and Luna.

On July 10th the Cavapoo (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel / Poodle) puppies were born. The puppies, all named after Disney characters, will most likely grow to 15 pounds, with exception to Minnie (10 pounds), and Pinocchio (20 pounds). Luna (the mom) is 20 pounds, and the dad is about 10 pounds. They will be ready to go on September 3rd. Picking happens when they are 4 weeks old on the August 6th weekend. They can contact Delaney at delaneyiatkinson@gmail.com.

Shown below is some pictures of the last batch of puppies.

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Spring Update – Hiking, Yurt Camping, a New Puppy, and a Wedding

It’s been a while since I last posted here so I figured it was time to give an update as to what I’ve been up to.

Maligne Canyon Hike

Julie and I took a trip up to Jasper at the end of January to hike along the bottom of Maligne Canyon. This has been a bucket list item for me for many year, and I’m glad that I finally got to do it. The hike is only 15 minutes outside of Jasper and starts at the parking lot that you access the “Fifth Bridge”. From there you cross the bridge, follow the trail east, until you see a gate in the fence beside “Bridal Veil” waterfall. The waterfall is stunning to view, and a fun fact is that it never freezes, even in the middle of winter, as the temperature of the water never drops below 0°C. After viewing the beautiful waterfall you have two choices; you can either walk along the riverbed, and go up the little rock slide, or you can continue on the path and enter 200 metres further along the path. We chose to enter the difficult way, up the slide. From there you continue walking along the frozen riverbed and take in the amazing views.

During that weekend we also drove up to Pyramid Lake during the evenings in hope of trying to view the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights were unfortunately not active, however I was able to take some beautiful long-exposure pictures.

On the way back we also stopped at Abraham Lake, a place we visited for the first time last year. This year was much better, as there were even more trapped methane bubbles!

Work

In February and March I had to take two trips up to Red Deer for work to do some photography, which was fun. Our company was involved in the detailed design of a pharmaceutical grade ethanol production facility, and I went up to take pictures and video of the installation of the large distillation towers.

A New Puppy

In February we picked up a new dog named Ruby. She’s the same breed as our previous dog Grady; a wheaten terrier / poodle cross. She’s been an incredible delight to have in my life, despite being a terrorist at times. She recently just turned 6 months old.

Inner City Walks

In the spring we ended up going on quite a few inner-city walks with my dad, and occasionally Julie on the weekends.

Radius Yurts – Radium, British Columbia

At the end of March we drove out to Radium and stayed at the Radius Yurts for the weekend. That was incredibly fun, and I’d definitely do it again. I’ve always wanted to stay in a yurt, and this was a lot more convenient that going all the way to Mongolia to stay in one. One thing we learned was to travel substantially light than we did, because it was quite the walk to our yurt. While we were there we went on a nice long hike around the property, which lasted about 3 hours. There was some incredible views of the Bugaboo’s at the top of the property.

Hiking – Tunnel Mountain Hoodoo’s Trail, Chester Lake, Blackshale Suspension Bridge

At the end of April my father and I did a father-son trip out to Canmore for the weekend. We completed three hikes during the weekend; Tunnel Mountain Hoodoo’s Trail, Chester Lake, and Blackshale Suspension Bridge.

Tunnel Mountain Hoodoo’s Trail is a 7.7 kilometer trail located just outside of Banff, which provides beautiful views of the mountains, and a waterfall, however dad nor I saw the waterfall.

Chester Lake in the winter is simply stunning! This is my third time completing Chester Lake in the last 12 months, and it is significantly different in winter than in the spring, summer, or fall. The trail used in winter is quite a bit steeper than the one used during the other three seasons and is in a more forested area.

Blackshale Suspension Bridge is located high above Blackshale Creek, located along the Smith-Dorrien Trail. The hike takes just over 15 minutes to reach the bridge.

Sara & Tom’s Wedding

On May 1st I got to see my close friend Sara get married to her partner Tom. It was such an incredible experience to be able to photograph their wedding, which was held at Brentview Baptist Church.

Following the wedding we drove out to Banff to take photos at the Banff View Point located on the windy Mt. Norquay Scenic Road. We lucked out with our arrival, as the weather on the drive was extremely rainy, however when we arrived we had a 5-10 minute window of beautiful weather, before it started to snow again. After taking some pictures at the view point we drove down to Cascade Ponds, and again lucked out with the weather, before it started raining.

After taking photos we checked into our hotel, Canalta Lodge, which was graciously provided to us by Sara. The hotel was absolutely stunning, and I really appreciated the rustic feel of the lodging. The beds were super comfortable, the room was spacious, and the decor was cute. For dinner we picked up some burgers from Eddie Burger, and we watched a movie called Without Remorse on Amazon Prime.

The next day we went on a small hike on Canmore’s Hoodoo Trail, before heading home.

Baby Robin’s

At the beginning of May we also had the pleasant surprise of baby Robin’s being born on our balcony.

What’s Next?

What’s in store for me next? Besides a quick trip to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan this weekend I’m not entirely sure as COVID-19’s third wave is here. I’ll still be out hiking, but I don’t see any significant travel plans in the horizon at this point in time.

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2020-07-05 Calgary Tornado Warning

On July 5th 2020 I was playing Civilization 6 with my friend Carissa and was presented with a tornado warning on my cellphone at around 9:30pm. I looked outside and sure enough there was an ominous looking cloud looming over our condo building. I took some photos with my Canon EOS R and threw the DJI Mavic Mini up in the air to take a better look.

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I wasn’t too concerned and the warning ended at around 10:30pm. We talked about a contingency plan if things were to get worse, so we have an idea of what to do if it were to happen again.

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Frank Lake

Over the past few weeks I’ve visited Frank Lake a few times; once with my friend Hadrian, and once with my girlfriend Julie. Frank Lake is a restored wetland area located about 45 minutes Southeast of Calgary, which is my hometown.

The earliest recorded history of the lake dates back to 1883 from Survey reports referring to it under multiple names such as Begg Lake, Green Lake, and Windsor Lake. It was eventually named Frank Lake, after Bishop Christopher Frank, who established a nearby Mormon settlement known as Frankburg. In the early days the lake was used by hunters, who hunted waterfowl, and then shipped the waterfowl to the USA by rail. Eventually feedlots were established in the area and the east side of the lake was used for drinking water.

The lake became extremely dry in the 1930’s, 1940’s and again in the 1980’s (more on that later). This was also in contrast to massive flooding which occurred in the 1950’s and 1970’s. During the floods in the 1950’s Ducks Unlimited Canada, a conservation organization, constructed a drainage ditch to try to stabilize the water level. Further work on the wetlands occurred in 1975 when a weir was constructed on the south end of the lake. Sadly the lake became dry again in the 1980’s and it was decided that a pipeline was to be built to bring treated waste water from High River and the nearby Cargill meat packing plant to ensure a constant supply of water. One obscure note is that during World War 2 the area in the middle of the dry lake bed was used as an alternate landing field for the RCAF Station in High River.

During my visits I saw a bunch of beautiful birds, and even some rare birds. I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron, some Red-Winged  Black Birds, some Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, hundreds of Pelicans, some Killdear, some Eared Grebe’s, some American Avocets, hundreds of Gulls, some White-Faced Ibis, some Black-Faced Ibis, some American Coot’s, Lesser Yellow-Legs, hundreds of Canadian Geese, and some Forster’s Tern’s.

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Also, I’m extremely proud to announce that I’ve been featured as one of Calgary’s best photographers of 2020 by The Best Calgary.

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Calgary Zoo Fall 2019

It had been a while since I had visited the Calgary Zoo and I wanted to visit before the Giant Panda Twins left for China. They were scheduled to leave back to China in October, but it was recently announced that they would stay until Early 2020. On November 17th we took the opportunity to visit the Calgary Zoo to see the Giant Panda Twins, the penguins, owls, bison, leapords, lions, primates, hippos, lemurs, warthogs, and giraffes. Below are my favorite photos that I took.

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Grotto Canyon Hike

Two weekends ago my Dad and I completed a really unique hike that was close to home called Grotto Canyon. The hike is about an hours drive outside of the city of Calgary. The 4km round trip hike starts out on a fairly boring stretch of pathway next to a concrete plant, before venturing into Grotto Canyon. Along our hike we ran into some rock climbers that were there with their dog. At the end of the canyon is a small, but beautiful waterfall which I climbed behind to get some unique photos. Coming down was a bit of a challenge because the rock was extremely slippery. Overall the hike took us about 1.5 hours to complete. This hike is rated easy due to its short distance, and only 225 metres of elevation gain.

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Wings Over Springbank Air Show 2019

On Saturday July 27th 2019 I went to the Wings Over Springbank Air Show for the first time. My friends Hadrian, Nick, and his girlfriend Heather attended. The biennial airshow was celebrating Springbank Airport’s 50th anniversary. The Canadian Snowbirds,a CF-18 Fighter Jet, Brent Handy & Todd Ferrell (each in a Pitts Special), P40 Kittyhawk, P47 Thunderbolt, and Team Rocket (Ken Fowler & Eric Hansen), as well a female pilot I didn’t catch the name of (in a Vans RV-6) attended. A ground display of the reconstruction of the Avro Aero 2 was also present. Sadly some of the displays were cut short on the Saturday showing due to a storm that rolled on in. The show was cancelled early at about 2:30pm. Hadrian ended up going back on the Sunday, but I wasn’t able to attend. I still managed to get some great photos.

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Travelling Home From South America

Iguazu Falls was the conclusion of our trip to South America. I slept in due to being up so late the night before on the phone with Avianca and Air Canada. We packed our bags and got ready for breakfast. When it was time for breakfast the power in the kitchen was off due to a faulty circuit breaker. While they were repairing the circuit breaker we had some cold cuts, bread, fruit, and cereal. Eventually the power was turned back on and we got our morning coffee.

After breakfast we walked a nearby corner store to get some more bottled water and some more Kleenex as we were both still suffering from a cold. We then walked to Tres Fronteras, which is a monument where the Iguazu River joins with the Parana River. On the west is Paraguay, in the Northeast corner is Brazil, and in the Southeast corner is Argentina. It gave an extremely unique perspective into the different levels of wealth of each of the three countries as you could see the three varying levels of development.

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After visiting Tres Fronteras we walked back to the hotel and ordered a Taxi for 700 Argentinian Pesos ($21.50) to Brazil’s Cataratas International Airport (IGR). The taxi driver helped us fill out all of the paperwork required for the border and drove us to IGR, with a very quick and painless stop at the border to process our paperwork. I have dual citizenship so I do not require a Brazilian visa, but C required a visa (which she obtained beforehand).

Once at the airport it was confirmed that our flight was not going to work, so we took an earlier flight on a different route to get to Sao Paulo, which is where we needed to be to get home on a later Air Canada flight. We flew on a 3 week old Airbus A320neo, which was extremely comfortable. It’s too bad they’re going to have to give it back as they’re in huge financial difficulties and are in bankruptcy protection at the moment. The Airbus A320neo is extremely quiet on takeoff, even quieter than the new Boeing 737 MAX.

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Once arriving in Sao Paulo we had about 8 hours to kill before boarding our Sao Paulo to Toronto flight on Air Canada. We checked into our complimentary Star Alliance lounge in Sao Paulo to eat, drink, shower, and relax before boarding our Air Canada Boeing 777-300ER. I ended up upgrading us to Business Class for a small fee due to my annoyance the day before. I was situated in 7D and C was situated in 7G. I had a delicious dinner and a few beers before falling asleep for the majority of the flight. The flight was extremely smooth and despite leaving 1.5 hours behind schedule ended up only arriving 30 minutes late.

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Upon arrival in Toronto we cleared Canadian customs and went to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. Canadian customs took a while to clear because they were not even open as we were the first flight to arrive. We had to wait for the staff to show up for their shift, and they also were late. We had some coffee and breakfast in the lounge before making our way to our return flight to Calgary. We were warned we would be experiencing an extremely turbulent takeoff and first hour of the flight as a huge storm was rolling in. We ended up being the last flight out of Toronto. That was the most turbulent flight that I have ever been on and did give me a bit of anxiety.

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Christmas & New Years 2018

As 2018 slides into 2019 I sit back and reflect on what a wonderful year I had. I changed my career path from Structural Design to Business Development. I met my wonderful girlfriend Catherine and was also able to travel to all these amazing places:

  • Thailand (Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Koh Samui)
  • France (Paris, Mont Saint Michel, Toulouse, Lyon)
  • Spain (Barcelona)
  • Drive US Route 66 with my Father
  • Visit Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary with my Mother
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Greece (Athens, Santorini)
  • Switzerland (Zurich, Jungfraujoch)
  • Ottawa with Catherine TWICE!
  • Jasper National Park

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On New Years Eve I prepared Catherine and I a delicious dinner of salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables, then we went skating at Canada Olympic Plaza before making a toast to 2019 with some champagne and fireworks.

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I’m extremely looking forward to 2019 as there are quite a few wonderful things planned.

  • Travel to Chile / Argentina / Paraguay / Brazil
  • Travel to Vietnam / Chile
  • See Darci Lynne Live in Portland
  • Moving to a New House
  • Numerous Alberta Hikes (Galatea Lake & Lillian Lake, Junction Creek to name a few)

Chile & Argentina 2019Vietnam & Cambodia

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