Tag Archives: Colour

A departure from the unusual

Tuesday 13th July 2021. Today was departure day, with all of the old familiarities of international travel subsumed by the strangeness and uncertainties imposed by the pandemic. Our departure was not until 4pm, so at least we could do something we  are used to doing, which was to wander the streets of a town exploring as we went.  The area of Reykjavik around our hotel is full of lovely little architectural touches, as well as homicidal people on rented electric scooters, and it repays rambling around. In many places, the actual streets are decorated.

and there’s the longest hopscotch track [Jeremy Clarkson Voice ON] in the world [Jeremy Clarkson Voice OFF].

Many of the buildings have some quite extravagant art on them.

And the touches of colour are not only for the traditionally-architected buildings

but can also be found among the more modern ones.

At one stage we stopped for a coffee, in, as it happens, the bar out of which we got chucked at closing time yesterday.

At that point we were en route from the downtown area which contains both the Lutheran cathedral (which, while attractive enough, is, well, just a church really, and hardly Interesting at all)

and the Roman Catholic cathedral (the Church of Christ the King, an altogether much grander affair, unsurprisingly)

in our search for the final Interesting Church of the holiday, which we’d espied as we scurried to and from our Covid test.

This is Háteigskirkja, which as far as I can tell is a non-denominational church. Its website modestly refrains from conveying very much useful information about it, which is a shame, because it’s a striking building; and as the door was open (unusually in our experience of Iceland’s Interesting Churches) we ventured in to find some lovely mosaics inside.

Climbing the stairs to the gallery level we noticed yet more stairs continuing up… the place was deserted so of course we climbed them, eventually arriving at a final workman’s stair up to an open trapdoor… Well, what is a photographer to do when faced with an open trapdoor? Thus we clambered out into one of the bell towers.

When we did this, it was about five to midday and I wasn’t going to hang about trying for artistic images just in case these bells were attached to a clock – so we scarpered back the way we had come!

On the way back to our hotel, we caught a glimpse of the back end of Hallgrímskirkja, the “Space Shuttle” church.

I was quite glad to get that picture, as it’s very difficult to do it from near the church itself.

And that was the end of our wandering around Reykjavik, as it was time to collect our bags and hope that the taxi would arrive that Dagur had promised us would take us to the airport.  Arrive it did, bang on time, with a very large and friendly chap driving it. He whisked us off to the airport where we went through the various formalities of providing the necessary documentation to prove we weren’t currently plague-ridden.  As we approached the security check, I realised that I still had my penknife with me; I usually remember to pack it in my hold luggage, as the security bods don’t generally like people carrying them on to aeroplanes.  Since this was a Swiss Army knife – not a huge one, but even the small ones are ridiculously expensive to replace – I decided to ask the security chap if there was any way I could take it through.  Rather to my surprise, he said it was OK, which was nice of him.

Covid paperwork – and the necessity to wear a mask – aside, the departure process was exactly like it always was, though I suppose the airport was less crowded than it might have been.  After a mask-free fortnight, this was not particularly welcome, but it shows that care is still needed.

We treated ourselves to a coffee and a toastie, and boarded the plane, which was only a few minutes delayed. Much to my surprise, the WiFi on board was free, so I took the opportunity to update this blog as far as I had time to do (you’ll have inferred that this didn’t include today’s entry), and took advantage of some sustenance to fuel the creative juices.

(That wasn’t all me – Jane decided she had to provide moral support.)

Arrival at Heathrow was on the original schedule, and we took the usual half-mile walk to get to the border checks, wondering if there was a horror story about to unfold, having heard tales of six-hour delays and horrendous queues.  Much to our surprise, everything was very swift.  We had all the right paperwork, we whizzed through the border checks, our bags came out pretty fast and our taxi was very nearly awaiting us, we got through so quickly – Heathrow Terminal 2 was very, very quiet.  From touch down to getting the kettle on at home took barely over an hour and a quarter.

And so we reach the end of our adventure into a really unusual place.  Iceland is a remarkable destination, even if you only stay and do the tourist bit in the south; but having seen most of the accessible areas of the island, with, in Dagur, a guide who knows his way around and could make sure we saw things of interest to us, made our time there even more impactful. And we’ve covered a lot of ground:

The middle bit is only accessible with courage and a backup car, but looking at that summary I can understand why our brains were full of the sights, sounds and smells of the country.  It’s been a fantastic fortnight, and we’ve loved the place.  We Will Be Back, as it will be interesting to see what the place is like in Winter (apart from just cold, of course).  I’ll do a further blog post with some general summary-type thoughts about Iceland, and so maybe you’d like to come back in a couple of days to take a look; it will be our opportunity to round off what’s been an extraordinary holiday in a really unusual country.

 

Surprise-o Valparaiso

30th March 2018

The next major segment of our wanderings around the left-hand side of South America will be a trip to Ecuador and (of course) the Galapagos Islands, which will challenge the abilities of my brain to accept and retain an even greater density of information than was on offer in two days on Easter Island. A return to Santiago with a day of conventional tourism (wandering round taking photos of stuff) seemed a fairly restful way of bridging between the two. First of all, we had to get off Easter Island. Malena got us to the airport nearly three hours before the departure, which on the surface of it seems a bit excessive, given that the airport, small as it is, only has to deal with a maximum of two flights a day. As it turned out, it was no bad thing, as it gave us the chance to claim a reasonable place in, you guessed it, a queue.

This wasn’t the check-in queue, though; it was the queue to get into the check-in queue as your bags went through the X-ray scanner. Then we could join the check-in queue. Then we could go and sit outside whilst waiting for the chance to board. Serendipity gave us the chance to chat to a(nother) nice Australian couple with whom we’d actually exchanged a few words en route to Easter Island. They were on the last segment of a two-month trip and really looking forward to getting home; it made me wonder what my threshold will be. But we got some useful tips about Galapagos and Machu Picchu, because of course they’d already been there and done that.

The flight back to Santiago gave Jane the opportunity to watch “Thor – Ragnarok” for the third time on this holiday alone, which shows true dedication to watching whatever it is that Chris Hemsworth has to offer. Nope, still don’t get it. I watched “Kingsman and the Golden Circle”, because I like classy entertainment, me.

Anyhoo…the break in Santiago was scheduled to include a tour of Valparaiso (a major port) and Viña del Mar (its neighbouring holiday resort), which meant we had another chance to meet our charming guide with the unusual portfolio career, Ronald. (Apparently, we were his last tour of the season, and he’s going to spend the winter concentrating on finishing and rehearsing a musical he’s writing).

Valparaiso is some 65 miles from Santiago, and lies on the other side of the coastal mountains. So the journey there takes you westwards through a 4km tunnel into the first of a couple of fertile valleys, and then another into the second. The first valley is where a large amount of fruit and vegetables are grown; the second is lined with vineyards, growing mainly chardonnay and sauvignon blanc grapes. As we went along, Ronald explained that Valparaiso was Chile’s capital city in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, capitalising on its significantly important location as a Pacific coast port. However, starting in the 19th century,the important and influential families left the city and the Panama canal damaged its standing as a major international transport route. Its standing has been damaged even further by a recent development which saw another (neighbouring?) Chilean port, San Antonio, win the cruise liner business after Valparaiso’s port workers staged a strike. It has strong French, German and English communities (the local football team is called Valparaiso Wanderers, and Viña del Mar’s is called Everton) and this is reflected in the architecture and the naming of places.

After something over an hour we got to Valparaiso, which was completely different from the completely erroneous picture I had allowed to build in my mind of a relatively dull industrial port. For a start, it is enormously hilly,

The hillside neighbourhoods of Valparaiso

with separate neighbourhoods on separate hills, and it makes San Francisco seem merely slightly lumpy by comparison;

The colourful streets of Valparaiso

it is ramshackle and graffiti-covered;

The colourful streets of Valparaiso

the wiring has a distinctly South American character;

The colourful streets of Valparaiso

and parts of it are reportedly very dangerous.

On the other hand, it has considerable charm: lots of the buildings are very colourful;

The colourful streets of Valparaiso

The colourful streets of Valparaiso

(above – the Hotel Brighton) many of them are unusual, like the Palacio Baburizza, built by a Croat and gifted to the city in his will;

Palacio Baburizza

street art of all sorts abounds;

The colourful streets of Valparaiso

with innovative use of resources such as drinks bottles

The colourful streets of Valparaiso

and bathroom furniture;

The colourful streets of Valparaiso

and the various hillside neighbourhoods are served by funicular railways (some working, some in disrepair).

;

Yes, it is an industrial port, but on a sunny Good Friday, with the holiday crowds out

The colourful streets of Valparaiso

and the entertainers plying their trade

Valparaiso shows that it is unique, vibrant and appealing. (The puppet master shown above had his Pavarotti wander over to the money tin after the last aria, peer in and shake his head in disappointment; a lovely touch.)

Ronald made the visit even more individual by performing some of his pieces in a local café called Columbina for us, on an appallingly out-of-tune piano, which is why I’m not providing the video.

So by the time we’d seen that and got to Viña del Mar, there was really only time for a nice lunch at a decent, busy, buzzy restaurant called Los Pomairinos, where we were served by Ian McShane, or possibly Robbie Coltrane

(actually much more genial than he looks in this photo), and then it was time to go back to base, as we decided that there wasn’t much to Viña del Mar beyond beaches, proms, apartment blocks, sunshine and general seasidery. We had an engaging detour to say hello to Ronald’s sister, which you don’t get on your average private guided tour, and then we were back at our hotel, to prepare for a 5am start to our journey to Ecuador. We will report in on that in due course, but will likely be off-grid for a week whilst filling memory cards with photos and videos of all the Galapagos Islands have to offer.

Laters!