Iceland, England, and Rome

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After enjoying some Florida sunshine, we boarded our overnight flight from Orlando to Iceland.  We took a few naps, I watched a movie or two, but the absolute highlight of this flight was flying over Greenland.  There was a full moon, and it was shining on the beautiful rivers of ice and mountains.  At one place, all the mountains looked like they were slanting at an angle.  It was surreal.  My camera couldn’t capture the beauty!

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We headed out in the dark at 8 a.m., hauling our luggage, to the Blue Lagoon.

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A huge warm pool, and very blue in color. There was a bar at one end, lots of different pools, and bridges to swim or walk under.  It rained a little, so Denis sheltered under a bridge for a while.  I didn’t care about getting my hair wet, as it was already.  They recommended putting conditioner in your hair before getting in the pool, so I had a wet head full of conditioner!

Nice recliners for napping!

Nice recliners for napping!

There was a nice Sauna too, but you couldn’t take your towel, because the only way to get there was up and down some stairs, in and out of pools. Our luggage went into storage, and we had a wristband that locked our lockers and charged whatever we wanted (like coffee for Denis!).  We each got a free fruit smoothie from the pool bar.

going through a cave on our way to the sauna

going through a cave on our way to the sauna

We took advantage of being able to stay as long as we wanted and found the ‘relaxation room’.  These were lounge chairs that only had two positions.  All the way laying back or sitting up.  We took a good nap there. Afterward, we took the bus back to the airport, then the shuttle to our hotel.  There was a good restaurant right across the parking lot, and I had fish (haddock) and chips.  Denis had a different baked fish (haddock) dish.  Tasty (but not as good as the fish and chips we had later in England!)

 

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The next day, we took a Golden Circle tour on a small mini-bus.  Only seven of us, so we had a couple of extra stops.  First, we pulled into a black sand beach.  Haven’t walked on one of those since Hawaii!

Denis had to put his foot into the North Atlantic ocean.

Denis had to put his foot into the North Atlantic ocean.

We saw waterfalls and waterfalls.  Snowy mountains.

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Not too many trees.  The Icelandic horses are short, stocky and according to the tour guide “thick skinned” (he meant thick hair!).

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The sheep have very long thick hair.

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We saw a geyser shoot up a couple of times in a Yellowstone-like area, and then stopped for ice cream at a dairy farm.  Very creamy, and first we got to see the little calves and milking parlor.

ice cream flavors

ice cream flavors

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About 40% of electric and heat are from geothermal plants.

About 40% of electric and heat are from geothermal plants.

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Walked up a trail to get to this last waterfall.  Gorgeous!  And the water splashing on the rocks was forming ice.  Won’t be long until it’s frozen solid, I’d imagine!

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We got to crawl down a ladder into a lava tube cave.  Iceland is covered with lava!

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Up early for our flight to London. Snow!!!

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Denis was hot to the touch (running a high fever), so anxious to get to England.  Tossed Tylenol his way, and off we went!  WOW airlines is nothing to rave about (that’s all I’ll say!) We caught our train from Gatwick, with two changes on our way north to Telford.  Denis was feeling better, and able to haul our luggage from train to train.  Coffee helped!

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The first cattle we saw were banded Galloways!

Just leaving the second station (north end of London), I was at the window, and very close to me, I saw a cougar (puma, mountain lion) posing right on the hillside!  I googled it later, and it is very rare to see one in England, although there had been reported sightings, including pictures, in the past couple of years.

 

Judy & Lyle's house in Telford, England

Judy & Lyle’s house in Telford, England

Lyle and Judy picked us up at the train station and took us to supper.  We ate out several times and enjoyed tasty English food.  Found out I love ginger beer!

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The next day, we experienced National Health Care.  Called a number and the nurse called back.  Told how we were visiting friends here and needed to get antibiotics (per Denis’ cardiologist – a fever needs antibiotics). Described symptoms, they made an appointment.  We arrived at the Saturday clinic, buzzed the door, announced our name, and they let us in.  Met us in the hall, asking us to have a seat.  All the information they wanted they had gotten over the phone and there was NO paperwork!!!  Had a bit of a wait, but not longer than in the U.S. most of the time. The Urgent Care provider spent quite a bit of time examining and talking with Denis (seemed quite more thorough than in the U.S.).  His temperature was back to normal, so advised to only take antibiotics if his fever came back, got a prescription, went to a pharmacy.  No waiting line, checked a box, stating he was 60 years or over (free prescriptions), had his antibiotics in 15 minutes.  Smooth, quality health care.  We were impressed!  Now we could go on with our adventures!  Denis was feeling better already!

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View of their backyard, and from our window early the next morning.

 

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Lyle and Judy have a lovely house, converted with a lift from the living room to their bedroom on the second floor.

Lyle had a stroke 5 years ago and is pretty much paralyzed on his left side.  He is the most entertaining Irish man, can tell stories, and quote poems, and sing too!  He is from Belfast, so one day we got Google earth on our computer, and found the Ellis Island records for my grandfather, and got his address in Belfast.  Then we looked at the street.  The street was there, and the old original flats, but the end one was gone, which would have been my grandfather’s home.  Lyle said it was probably destroyed in “the blitz”.

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Example of an English cottage, along our drive.  Beautiful country to drive through.

IMG_1243Us in Judy’s kitchen.

We had such special days with them. Sunday, we went to his daughter’s for meeting, and right afterward, she brought out a beautiful tea service and served us tea and biscuits.  Then we had lunch there, home to rest a bit, then drove about an hour westward for a mission meeting.  It was on the border of Wales.  I was sitting in the left front seat, with Judy in the driver’s seat on the right, and driving on the left side of the road.  Lots of roundabouts, and borderline heart failure on my part. Denis was in the back seat right side, left seat removed, and Lyle in his electric chair that rolls in on a ramp and locks in.  He was the navigator!

our menu Sunday evening

our menu on Sunday evening

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We visited Mandy, one of their caregivers, in her cottage built in 1460!  Inside was quite small, with cross-beams.  The yard in the back went up a hillside with a picnic area.  So unique and ancient!

Judy and Mandy and tea

Judy and Mandy and tea

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Backyard of Mandy's cottage, built in 1460.

Backyard of Mandy’s cottage, built in 1460.

She said goodbye to us with “Just pop in the next time you are here!”  That’s English.  They do a lot of popping in!

The countryside became quite rural, pastured hills with sheep, fall colors, and narrow roads through quaint villages.

Afterward, we had supper (chicken, ham and leek pot pie – very English!) at a lovely country inn.  Brick with ivy growing up the sides.  Inside tables around an open fire, and a few friendly fellows up at the bar chatting with all of us (one had his little dog with him).

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We were treated royally.  One of their caregivers served us lovely suppers, we were on our own for breakfast, which Denis made for us.  Lyle and Judy have so much energy!  They took us to museums, and along the River Severn, the old Iron Bridge, and historical industrial area.  The Coalport museum was where they made china.  The kilns were huge, and we learned all about the process, including seeing the materials that went into china.  I didn’t know bone china had bone in it!

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We also explored Wroxeter, an old Roman City.

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IMG_1411Sheep grazing next to the old Roman city.

 

Toured Attingham Park, and 18th-century mansion:

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We visited the first cast iron bridge in the world, over the River Severn.

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So many beautiful sights, old homes, and scenes.  The Shropshire area is absolutely breath-taking (especially when traffic is coming at you on the wrong side of the street!)  Just joking.  I got used to it, and felt quite comfortable with Judy’s driving and Lyle’s navigating!  We stopped for tea at historical old inns and drove beautiful country roads.

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Five days later, off on the trains again – this time four trains.  What an adventure!

Having fun on the trains!

Having fun on the trains!

We got our ticket from the machine with our reservation number and credit card and felt quite confident when there were only two platforms, and we could read the time of the next train.  We only had 6 minutes to switch at the second stop, so some young folks told us we could catch an earlier train.  That was nice, and we did that, so we had about a half hour (time to use the toilet ((as it’s called in England))… not restroom).  The second train no problem.

Next transfer we had to go from platform one all the way to 15, and no signs we saw, so asked an employee.  The train was sitting there so we hopped on and it took off.  Looked at the reader board, and it did not say the next station we were supposed to be going to!

Off at the next station and figured out how to get back to where we were supposed to be.  Got back there, and of course, had missed our connection.  Asked around.  That station did not have very good reader boards!  We did get on the next train and knew what time we had to catch the following connection.  Well, there was a delay on the tracks, and we arrived at the same minute that train was leaving, so then we had to find the next train.  We got it.  Good thing we allowed LOTS of time.  Did I mention this was midnight on Halloween???!!!

Gatwick airport had a nice couch area for us to sit at, and even lay down, because our flight wasn’t for hours.  Then our flight kept having gate changes, and finally, we found the right gate and took off only an hour late.  Which made us almost late for our train reservation from the Rome airport into downtown Rome, but we make it!

Arrived at our hotel, a very short walk from the train terminal, only to find out they had closed the upper levels due to leaking – there had been really bad storms – but they’d booked us at a nicer boutique hotel – only it was about 5 blocks away – and by now, it had started to rain torrents!  Luckily, Denis had gotten a new suitcase when we went shopping in Telford and discarded his old carryon that had a broken handle, and not very good wheels.  His was the only non-cloth luggage, and all our other luggage got wet as we were escorted with an umbrella through the pouring rain!

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The hotel room was two floors (like an open loft), so all the railings had damp clothes strung out to dry!

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The rain had let up so found a very nice restaurant and had pizza and pasta.  The next day, we took a hop-on-hop-off tour and saw Rome from the top deck, and toured the Forum, Palatine Hill, walked up Capitoline Hill, and the Coliseum.

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The Roman Forum was our favorite of all we saw in Rome, and we walked and walked!

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We stumbled across a little restaurant near our hotel and had a fabulous dinner, bread with several toppings, and the best rib steak served with lemon.

Weather:  5 degrees Centigrade in Iceland was the warmest.  We bundled up in two layers of jackets, earmuffs, and mittens.  Up to 8 degrees in England, still dressed warm, and I wore leggings under my skirt.  Rome was the upper 60’s  F!  Down to one light jacket, which we occasionally removed.

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Walked to the train station and had a lovely ride up to Cevittechia (sp), the Rome cruise terminal.  So nice, we took off our jackets and strolled along the harbor to the shuttle stop, where we got on a bus to the ship.  Sunny and 71 degrees!

Next, sailing off into the sunset on our 14-day transatlantic cruise on the Crown Princess!

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