Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Whale Watching, Vomit & The Saga Museum

Our second day in Iceland, we hadn't got anything booked, my idea was that if the weather was good we would go whale watching but if not we would check out the museums. It wasn't raining but it was a bit cold so we decided to walk down to the old harbour and decide from there.

That in itself was a bit of an adventure, we walked along the sea front, stopped at the Sun Voyager Monument along the way. As you can se the clouds looked heavy so I was a bit worried about the sea conditions.

sun monument - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

sun monument - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

We got close to the old harbour but couldn't get through because of all the construction work going on so we went on a slight detour and had to ask a dad pushing a pram for directions (Ebi-kun noted that it was strange seeing a viking pushing a pram!) He was very helpful and pointed us in the right direction. We ended up going through the town to get there.

We finally found the whale tour offices, there are plenty of companies that run the trips. I had googled beforehand and decided to go with Eldling Whale Company, they are eco friendly and are leading the way in green tourism, they are also the oldest whale watching company that operates out of Reykjavik. 

Now, they did tell us that the sea was going to be rough and the do give you free sea sickness tablets. The guy at the ticket office said that the weather was supposed to get better by the end of the week but it's very changeable so it's anyones guess really.

One other thing this company does is that if you are unfortunately to have no animal sightings, you get a free ticket to use on another day. This is what swung our decision, if we went out and saw nothing, we could try again on the Friday. 

Truth of the matter is, you would have had to drag me on the ship a second time! So it's a good job we did see some!

whale watching - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

By law, all kids under 13 must wear a life jacket or one of these warm flotation suits, they are also available to all other passengers. It was cold out there so we put ours on straight away. From the picture above the sea didn't look too bad but don't be fooled, I was already feeling queasy before leaving the bay!

We did see a couple of minke whales and a couple of pods of dolphins, cuteness alert! This was in between me sharing my breakfast with everyone, pretty sure that they didn't sign up for that! Needless to say, I was having enough trouble keeping my stomach in place so photos were an after thought. You can just about see the fin of a white nosed dolphin, if you look hard...

whale watching - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

After the longest 3 hours of my life we got back on dry land, I am certainly not cut out for a sailors life! Give me a horse any day. 

We wandered around the town a bit, Ebi-kun didn't throw up on the boat but he was feeling queasy too, so we let our stomachs settle before having a late lunch.

Eating out is expensive, this meal, Ebi-kun had a burger and I had a lamb sandwich, the food was good but there was too much for us to finish, maybe we should have shared. We didn't buy drinks but the meal still cost around ¥5000.

whale watching - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi
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I'm not a big fan of lamb but this was delicious, so tender and melted in the mouth, veggies were a bit scarce, I had some pickled cabbage and a piece of lettuce!

lamb sandwich - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

After lunch we decided to have a look around the town and head to The Saga Museum, the city centre isn't very big and is basically full of tourist and coffee shops!

reykjavik - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

The Saga Museum was good, it wasn't as big as I expected, when you pay you can choose to leave your stuff in one of the free lockers and/or hang up your coat. I recommend doing that. Then you get given a headset and you get listen to the commentary as you walk around.

saga museum - reykjavik - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

The wax work figures are very lifelike and it smells like the olden days too! There are 17 stations, each one explaining about the stories and histories of the sagas. It was interesting and not too long for the kids.

saga museum - reykjavik - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi
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When you have finished there is a room where you can try of traditional clothes. They had real chainmail, which was really heavy, I have no idea how they could have an epic battle wearing that! All in all it was a good couple of hours. They also have a cafe and shop.

saga museum - reykjavik - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

We then wandered back home via the supermarket. One thing we noticed about the town were all these amazing murals on the side of buildings, Ebi-kun took to photographing them

reykjavik - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

reykjavik - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

But there was also a LOT of bad graffiti which is a shame because it's such a cute little city. If you are fit and healthy you can pretty much walk around the whole place.

reykjavik - Iceland - jo ebisujima - jojoebi

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Icelandic Horse Trekking and The Blue Lagoon

For our first full day in Iceland I had booked a morning of horse trekking - I would have liked to do more but Ebi-kun hasn't ridden before so I thought it might be a bit much. We booked with Laxnes farm, which is a local family run farm about 20 minutes out of the capital.

They pick you up at the hotel in a mini bus and take you to the farm. The guy who picked us up was, as Ebi-kun said "a right jolly viking" he really did fit the stereotype to look at but was also a really happy chap!

Once you get there, they kit you out in helmet and jacket. The rules are very strict about brining your own equipment in, you need to have it disinfected and certified that it has been done and I think leather goods like saddles and bridles can't be bought into the country at all.

Then they ask about your riding experience and find a horse that is suited to your ability. Ebi-kun is a newbie so he got a lovely little plodder called "Bad Boy", he was far from it! And she gave me a mare with a bit more "umph" called Queen.

There were 4 guides all on horseback and the horses are obviously used to doing the route and just follow each other, the guide know which are the newbies and keep an eye on them and we started with just walking.

The scenery is stunning but the pictures doesn't really do it justice, we crossed a few small rivers, Bad Boy kept stopping to drink which was funny. Once everyone was comfortable with their horse, we did some trotting, the unusual thing about Icelandic horses is that they have a really smooth gait, unlike trotting on a pony normally which has you bouncing around all over the place. 

At the half way point we had a rest and then they split the group into beginners and more advance, the beginners left first and then those of us who could ride (well some of them I'm not too sure about) went back at a fast pace, of course the horses knew that they were heading home so picked up the pack naturally. 

It was great fun, am made me realise how much I miss riding and horses!

After the ride we were taken to the bus station where we got the bus to the Blue Lagoon. If you are planning to go you need to book a ticket for the lagoon beforehand.

I have to say I was super impressed with the Blue Lagoon, I'll do a post on it from a business point of view, as a customer, they were top notch.

When we arrived we asked for robes and because Ebi-kun is 12 he has to use the mens changing room. I was a bit worried about this but the staff were amazing and two members of staff took him through, showed him what to do and how to use the locker and then waiting with him on the other side until I got there to meet him.

You have t use swimming suits and you have to shower BEFORE you put your swim suit on. The locker key is an electronic wristband and you can also use it to buy drinks etc. You have to be careful, I nearly lost mine twice because it came loose.

Even though this was supposed to be the peak season, it wasn't crowded at all, we needed to wait about 10 minutes to get in but that was in. With the basic admission you get the free silica face masks, Ebi-kun LOVED them and we end up going back 4 times!

You go over to the bar and gat a handful of the silica, slap it on your face for 10 minutes then wash it off in the water. We both had beautifully clear skin afterwards! There are other face packs, in pool massages and treatments available. Plus steam rooms and saunas.

And the pool complex is massive, they do recommend putting conditioner in your hair before you get in because the water dries out your hair, mine felt pretty awful afterwards, despite the conditioner!

There is also a pool side bar, we got drinks even though they were expensive because... you have to really hahaha. Ebi-kun had a blue slushie aptly named "Krap" and I had a glass of white wine, my only alcoholic drink of the trip!

We spent 5 hours there, most of it in the water, the weather was cold and drizzly but it down't matter once you are in the pool. There are spots to get out and rest and there is a cafe and very expensive restaurant too.

When I eventually managed to drag the boy out we got changed and had some dinner. This was the only disappointing part really, they choice in the cafe was very limited to a few sandwiches, salad or sushi. Ebi-kun had sushi (he didn't think it was up to much!) I had a ham and cheese baguette and we both had a bottle of smoothie type drink. It came to $45 / GBP 35 / ¥5000 - ouch!

We then got the bus back to town and got dropped off at the hotel. The buses run every hour and will drop you either at the main bus station of at one of the designated hotels, luckily our apartment was right next to a hotel pick up point!

It was a fabulous day and we loved every minute of it, when we got in we basically just hit the sack! We both wanted to do it all again!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Laser Zone, lunch on the beach and football...

For our last day in Brighton we took the boys to Laser Zone, the boys went in for the first game then me and Di joined them! I haven't played for years but it was great fun, I'm not sure if they have it in Japan but if they do I can see it in our future!

Then we headed down to the beach to meet Rob and we had lunch at the Lucky Beach Cafe which was delicious.

Ebi-kun decided to keep his tiger face on overnight, Ry wanted to keep his on too but he had gotten sweaty and most of it had rubbed off, he looked like he had a badly bruised face!

Birthday lunch and drinks on the beach, it never feels like you are on holiday until you have a fancy drink!

After lunch the boys went off to the Brighton Vs Atletico Madrid, even though Brighton lost they had a great time!

Di photobombing, makes a change from small boys doing it!

Ebi-kun loved it and had to give me a blow by blow account of the whole match *yawn* I'm really not that excited about football!

GOAL !!!

And whilst all that was going on, us moms had a nice mooch around the shops, stopped for fancy hipster coffee served in a milk bottle!

And the G&T on the deck whilst we waited for the boys to arrive home - bliss!

We finished off we a feast of fine food on the deck, great company and great weather! Can't wait to see these guys in a few months when they come to Japan.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Brighton Pride and dinner with the cousins

Rob took the boys to goalie practice first thing and whilst he was there got some bad news about a friend so although he had planned to join us for the day he stayed home and we got out of the way so he could call round and let his friends know what had happened.

The Pride parade and festival was fun, very colourful and lots of happy vibes going on. We walked down to watch some of the parade, Ebi-kun hasn't seen a non Japanese festival/parade before so he was a bit bewildered but it was a good way to open up the conversation if he had questions about it all.

It was great to see people of all shapes, sizes and colours letting go and enjoying themselves

And of course it was very colourful, loud and fun. Lots of dancing, cheering and high fives

And of course, plenty of fabulous outfits, I could certainly get into the outfit making side of things.

I can't believe the footwear that some of them were walking in and had managed to walk 3 miles in, I would have given up after the first 10 yards!

It looks quite sunny here but as the end of the parade went past the heavens opened and we all got soaked - 4 of us trying to shelter under one brolly!

Di had won tickets to the festival site and the kids got in free. To be honest they hadn't got the organization down at all. The staff were all telling us different things. We ended up in the main arena which wasn't too bad in the middle of the day but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be suitable for kids later in the day!

Eventually we managed to find the kids area which was great. They had a load of free entertainment on which included face-painting. Ebi-kun decided he wanted his doing and of course because he had his done Ry wanted his doing too. The woman doing the painting did a great job, Ebi-kun loved it! The heavens opened again so we were a bit late in leaving to get to my uncle Si's house. 

The boys looking adorable - don't let them know that I said that!

My uncle is just 4 years older than me so his kids are my cousins, which is a bit weird, having cousins 40 years younger than you! It all gets very confusing with the who cousin situation because my other cousins have got kids that are more Ebi-kuns age, so we have given up trying to decide what kind of cousin they are and they all get the blanket "cousin" title!

Even though the kids only get to see each other once a year, they just got on with it and went to play straight away, so us adults could get down to some serious wine drinking and catch up!

Si had given the kids shots of smoothies, I don't think F was impressed hahaha.

Friday, 4 August 2017

A Day Trip To London - The Tate, The Dungeon and The Mexican

We had a big day out in London starting with meeting our old uni mate Brogs at The Tate Modern. They have added an extension to it, so we went to check that out. The Tate is great for kids because it's so big and open, it's OK for the kids to run around a bit and let off steam. And the exhibits are always a bit weird and interesting, good conversation starters with the kids. These were big concrete balls attached by ropes and some had speakers, I'm not entirely sure what it was all about!

You can now walk around on the 10th floor, there is a small cafe so it's a nice place to stop for a cuppa and you get a good view of the city. 

The Tate is all free except for the special exhibits, which is always a bonus. I rather liked this one... I don't remember the artists name though!

The boys looking dashing against the orange carpet wall...

Di teaching the boys how to make shadow animals and other such silliness. I think this is one of the best things about London, there are so many parks, museums and galleries that are free, you can have a great day out without spending much money, especially if you take a packed a lunch with you.

Just hanging and being cool... as you do!

We stopped to get some lunch and spotted a small shop doing bubble waffles, of course, we recorded an Ebi-kun eats so you will have to wait for that to be published to find out if it was any good! Might be in a couple of weeks time, we need to catch up on the episodes.

After lunch we split up. Di and Ry headed off to Ripley's and Ebi-kun, Broggy and myself went to the London Dungeon. We luckily had complimentary tickets and I think they advise that isn't suitable for kids under 12 but it doesn't look like they enforce the rule.

I think that really they should, it is quite scary and there were a couple of kids, maybe three and seven, who were clearly terrified. You can't actually take photos inside, this is just where we were waiting to get in.

The actual tour is great, there are a couple of rides inside to take you to different sections. Each area has an actor that tells you about that period of time in gruesome detail. There is often water and jets of air or things moving about to make you jump and it is all in dimly lit rooms.

We really enjoyed it and had a big discussion on which are the scariest parts - I won't share, just in case you want to go too. All in all it is fun, educational and gory! But really not suitable for little ones!

We managed to time it just right and came out just as Di got back from Ripley's, so we had a wander down the Southbank. I do love it down there, you never know what is going to be along there, with the street artists and performers.

We happened upon a random band, which was fun to watch as they went by...

We had a bit of time to kill so we stopped to watch the skaters, we seem to do this every year, but Ebi-kun still has no interest in taking up Skateboarding.

We finished off the day at Wahaca for Mexican. Rob and Roger joined us after work, I'm not sure what we ate but we ate a lot of it! Great meal and service, not too spicy! And they do kids menus.

All in all it was a fab day and great to catch up with everyone. The boys had a great time and were all shattered by the time we got home.

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