Merry Christmas!

I can’t believe December is half way over and I hadn’t blogged here since November!

Life has been kicking my bootie! I put a lot of miles on my car the last month. Visits to my dad, book signings, and dentist trips. If you are an ice chewer or love hard crunchy foods, stop now before your teeth start falling apart!

With all the traveling and preparing for Christmas, my writing has been on the back burner. This week, I’d planned to get back in book 14 of the Shandra Higheagle series, but I find my narrator for book 2 in the Gabriel Hawke series has finished the reading, and I need to listen to those. So I may not get to Shandra and Ryan’s trip to Hawaii until next week, or even January.

Beach in Hawaii that may end up in a book…

It’s going to take a lot of discipline when I get back to writing. After seeing how hard it was to manage the goals I’d set for this year, I’ve backed off a bit, and have down to write two Gabriel Hawke books and 3 Shandra books this coming year. So 5 books total. I had tired for 7 this year and didn’t make it. Too many things came up and 2 trips of a lifetime.

The good thing is those trips are going to go into books. Which will help me remember the fun I had.

Gingerbread cookies! Yum!

I have been baking for friends an neighbors. That is one of my favorite things about this time of year. Sharing something I’m fairly good at. But I’ll have to say… watching the Cookie and Gingerbread challenges on TV has taught me a few things I didn’t know and I’ve been incorporating into my baking this year. We’ll see if the people who receive my goodies enjoy the changes. 😉

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas filled with family and friends and you are healthy and prosperous in the new year, 2020!

Finally Found Paradise

Chickens were everywhere

Saturday morning, we planned to drive up to the end of the road past Hanalei and walk the hiking trail to a water fall. We discovered you had to have a parking permit, which were already spoken for three weeks out or take a bus.

We went to Hanalei and had a snack and coffee and tea again in the Wake Up Cafe. We asked the waitress/owner about the parking permits and discovered if you didn’t have one, there was no way to park. So we looked up the shuttle and discovered that we couldn’t get it just a couple blocks from where we were staying but we could get on it at Waipa just a short distance out of Hanalei. We booked it for the next day.

Flowers being sold at the market

After that we took in a Saturday market, checked out the shops in Hanalei and went back to our condo and hung out waiting for the next day.

Sunday, we rose early, packed drinks, lunch, towels in the backpack and headed to Hanalei for breakfast at the Wake Up cafe. I had the Over The Falls French toast without the coconut and whipped cream. It was very good and kept me full for the hike.

We drove to the shuttle stop an hour early but were lucky they let us on then. The ride in the shuttle to the end of the road, was nice. Hawaiian music was playing and the large windows made it easy to see everything outside.

Rocky trail

At the park, we were told the last bus left at 5 pm, to be sure and be back before that time. We walked through the park and found the trailhead. It said 2 miles to the beach and 4 miles to the falls.

We started out planning to go to the falls. Weeellll, let me tell you. The first half mile was all up hill on an uneven rocky path, then we went down and had switch backs were some of the steps were almost too tall for me to pull my heavy bottom up.

But the views! This was the Hawaii I had dreamed of seeing! Bright green plants, beautiful blue ocean, colorful flowers! It was gorgeous everywhere I looked. And I stopped often to look and snap a photo!

We crossed several places were water was running down a small ravine. They were like mini waterfalls. I used one to wash the sand off my feet on the way back.

fish in the fresh water

At the bottom near the beach and before the trail went up to the waterfalls or down to the beach, we crossed a river. It was just the right temperature to cool us down after our two mile trek. We kept our shoes on to cross. The water at the deepest was up to my knees. After staring at the sign for the falls and seeing the trail went up and up, we decided that 2 miles in and back out was all we could handle.

We went to the beach and enjoyed seeing fish in the fresh water coming from the river, a small cave, which I sat in for a photo, then the crashing of the waves and watching sail boats go by. We hung out on the beach for a couple of hours taking photos, enjoying the view, and picnicking.

Pretending to be a mermaid

The hike back was harder as there was more downhill than uphill. The views were stunning and I stopped a lot to take them in and remember this was my paradise!

Researching the Next Book

Painting that caught my eye at the art show.

I had two reasons I wanted to go to Hawaii- I had always wanted to see a tropical island and I wanted to set a book there. After working on my husband for 40 years, he finally gave in. Our daughters who had visited several of the Hawaiian islands suggested they thought their dad would like Kauai the best. When he said yes to going, I quickly booked a place to stay and got plane tickets before he changed his mind!

Last week I showed you the first couple of days in Kauai. This week I have photos from the next two days.

On Thursday we drove the Waimea Canyon Road. The canyon was pretty. It was deep, had lots of deep gorges and narrow peaks. The colors ranged from orange and pinks in the soil and rocks to the vivid greens we’re expecting to see in the foliage.

Waimea Canyon

From the Canyon Viewpoint we continued north and stopped at all the viewpoints along the way. One had a trail to the top of the waterfall we’d viewed at the Canyon viewpoint. Hubby and I started out on the trail, thinking we’d see more than the trees, brush, and vines as we slipped and slid down the muddy trail. After about a mile, we turned around and went back. It was hot, humid, no air in among the vegetation, and we couldn’t see anything.

Back at the car, we continued up the Koke’e Road to the next lookout. The Kalalau lookout overlooked the Kalalau valley and the ocean. It was really pretty.

A short distance from there was another lookout, the Pi’u o Kila. From here we took the Pihea Trail and walked a good mile and a half up it and stopped to have a picnic lunch. This trail had a rocky down hill climb to start, then it even out along the rim of the canyon but was a bit on the slippery side, but not near as bad as the trail that we’d hiked earlier in the day. There were wonderful views of the Kalalau Valley and the Waimea Canyon on the other side.

At the car we headed back the way we’d driven that morning because we had come to the end of the road. We had dinner as a small restaurant and went back to out place to soak in the hot tub and visit with some of the other vacationers at our condo.

Friday I was excited to attend a luau that night. To make sure we weren’t late for the luau we only had plans for me to check out an art show happening in Lihue.

Mindanao Gum tree

The morning started out with us walking around the area where we were staying. I took photos of the flowers and the Mindanao Gum tree which has gorgeous colored striped bark. The art show didn’t open until noon which gave us time to slowly make our way to Lihue, have lunch at the mall where the show was being held.

I’m so glad I had discovered the art show! I talked with the young woman manning the show and explained why I was there and discovered that the show is held every year and it’s a juried show with a judge. The judge this year came from California! I discovered that I can have Shandra be the judge for one of their shows, by having her be friends with one of the board members. Spending time looking at the art, I wrote down the names of the artists I admired so I can look them up online and get a feel for the type of artists who enter the show. As I walked around studying the different mediums, ideas slowly swirled in my head. While I’m still uncertain how the character will be killed and why, I know how Shandra will be in Kauai, how she becomes involved in the murder, and where I want the murder to take place.

painted gourds by Sally Tomiko

It had started raining in the afternoon. we were almost and hour early for the luau and the man at the gates suggested we go see a waterfall that was about 15 minutes away. We drove there and sat in the car for fifteen minutes waiting for the rain to let up so we could get out and look at the waterfall without being soaked.

Sitting in car waiting for rain to slow
Opaeka’a Falls

We noticed a man standing inside the open door of the men’s restroom when we drove up to the waterfall lookout. He was weaving a basket with palm leaves. Hubby and I discussed he was probably making the basket to sell. We waited until it looked like he was about finished and Hubby walked over and asked him about the basket. He was making it to sell and was asking $10 for it. I had told Hubby I’d to as high as $20 so we were both excited when he got into the car with my $20 basket.

the basket

We went back to the area for the Luau, still raining, and waited with the others at the entrance under a small entry to the gardens. We learned what I had thought would be a more intimate affair and I had made reservations for months ago had 500 people attending! It was a fun night with buffet style serving, dinner entertainment of Hawaiian songs and hula lessons and then a beautiful show afterwards. The show at the end depicted dances from all the cultures who inhabited the islands- Philippines, Tahitian, Japanese, New Zealand, Samoa. While it wasn’t as intimate as I’d thought it would be, it was definitely worth the money.

Next week I’ll tell you about finally finding the paradise I’d been looking for.

Aloha!

After 40 years, I finally talked my hubby into going with me to Hawaii! I will have to say the flight over wore us both out! We left Boise, ID at 3 pm CST and arrived in Kauai at 10 pm then drove another hour to where we are staying. It was only 26 miles but the highest they allow you to drive is 50 mph and most of the time it is 40 and 35. Needless to say it was 2 pm our time.

Day one, even though we had little sleep we woke at our regular time. Because we had come is so late, we didn’t stop at a store for groceries. We set out heading north and eventually found a restaurant open in Hanalei. It was a fun little spot with two women cooking and serving. The guava juice was delicious! And my breakfast quesadilla with white rice was tasty.

We drove on north to Haena Beach that has a cave that looks as if it has either been a lava tube or worn in through time from the ocean. There wasn’t a sign to tell us which. I put my feet in the water and walked a bit on the beach. So far, I’m thinking I like my Oregon beaches better. But you can’t beat the beautiful blue water and sunshine!

Cave.
Haena Beach

On the way back we stopped at a grocery store and stocked up for breakfast and a light dinner the rest of the week. And lots of water and drinks. While it is so moist here you feel sticky all the time, we noticed we aren’t drinking enough.

After putting the groceries away we decided to go check out Kilauea Lighthouse that isn’t far from where we are staying. It was interesting but a bit disappointing that we didn’t get to go in it. It has some great history about saving a ship and helping out during WWI. It is also a bird refuge for the Red-footed Boobie and NeNe and well as other water birds.

We stopped a small little restaurt called The Bistro in Kilauea. It was only serving bar fare until 5:30 but what they had on that menu was fine. I had the best ribs and crunchy, tasty coleslaw I’ve ever had. Hubby had a pulled pork sandwich and said it was delicious. So far the food has not let us down. 😉

The Bistro
Wailua Falls

After ten hours sleep. Yes! We were asleep early because of the lack of sleep the night before. We roused early again, walked to the cliff edge and watched the sun lighten up our part of the island. After that we ate breakfast and headed out to see Wailua Falls. The twin falls made popular because they were used on the opening of Fantasy Island TV show. I was a bit disappointed as I had read you could walk to the falls. There were signs that said no trespassing, no trail.

After that, I wanted to go to the Kauai Museum. It told the history of the island. I found the information about Bird Catchers interesting. Because red and yellow bird feathers were favored for the royal families clothing men could make good money bringing in the colored feathers.

Cape decorated with bird feathers

After the museum, I suggested we go see another Falls that it said we could hike to. We went to the other Falls, saw cars lined up but we couldn’t see the falls or any signs that said there was a trail, only no trespassing signs. So we back tracked and went to the Kona Coffee Plantation. It was fun to see and my husband loved seeing how coffee was grown.

Coffee Harvester

After the plantation we stopped in Koloa and had lunch at an Italian Restaurant. After eating we walked the street and I found an art gallery. I went in and asked the woman working there about ideas I had for a Shandra book and how to connect her to the art world in Kauai. She was helpful and with some more digging on the internet, I should have some good info to get the book figured out. Then we drove to Poipu Beach. There were lots of fancy houses for sale on one street. We wondered about that. Then headed back toward where we are staying.

Tomorrow the plan is to get up early and drive the Wiamea Road. I’ll let you know about that in another post.

Sunstone Adventure

wild rose bushes with rose hips on Hart Mountain

Two weekends ago, we (hubby and I) and another couple started out shortly after 7 am to check out Sunstones in Plush, Oregon and go on a road we’d never traveled before.

Not even an hour into our trip we saw 4 wolves alongside the highway to Frenchglen. They took off up the side of the rim when we drove by. I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to get a photo of them.

Our first stop was Frenchglen Hotel for breakfast. Breakfast is served from 7 to 9:30 am. They have three long tables with benches where everyone sits. Whether it is guests staying at the hotel or people like ourselves who stop in for breakfast. We always visit with the people at our table. This time it happened to be a father and son who have a Christmas Tree Farm in the Willamette Valley. They were telling us how someone took Jackrabbits from our area to the valley and they now are so plentiful they have become a nuisance over there. The rabbits like to bite the tops off of small tender Christmas trees.

From there we headed to Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge. We saw a few antelope- my photos aren’t very good. While there we took a road we hadn’t been on before and discovered a nice, but primitive, camping area and a really nice hot spring. Hubby and I walked over to check out the hot spring and found 2 men in the water. One was in his birthday suit! He ducked under water when I came around the corner of the enclosure! LOL

Antelope

On our way back to the main road, we spotted a fire starting on the top of Hart Mountain. There were people at the Hart Mountain Headquarters standing outside watching the fire. We continued on to Plush but could see the fire coming over the rim of the mountain and travelling along the ridge.

Fire on Hart Mountain starting

At the Sunstone site, we parked and each went our own way with either a shovel or pick. The wind was blowing like crazy giving us a good dirt shower. I managed to get one stone about the size of the end of my thumb but mostly just little pieces. We dug around there about 2 hours after having a picnic lunch.

Sunstones

After Plush we headed to Denio on a road that is the farthest south in the state. It was a nice drive. We saw some different scenery. I was the only one who wasn’t scared when we drove on an uphill grade that didn’t have a guardrail. In fact, I was looking down the side and relaying to them the pieces of cars I saw scattered downhill.

We reached Denio to find the restaurant Hubby had planned to eat at was closed. But just down the road the Diamond Inn Bar was open. It was an old, bar with the doors all open, locals sitting at the bar talking politics, and a big mutt named Texas sprawled on a small couch. We ordered food from their minimal menu and asked the owner questions about the area. The town had at one time been in Oregon but the residents petitioned and got it moved into Nevada. Because of less taxes. We asked the owner of the bar where he shopped. He said Boise, Idaho about 3 hours away.

From Denio we headed to Fields, Oregon where they still serve real ice cream milkshakes in many flavors. But by the time we arrived they were closed.

We made it back to our house about 8 pm. We were tired but had had a fun trip. I’m hoping our next adventure is to check out some hot springs we’ve heard of.

Jet Boating My Way to a Book by Paty Jager

It seems like ages ago, when it was only about a month ago that I and four friends took a jet boat ride down the Snake River. When my friends mentioned they were going, I invited myself along because I had planned to do the trip as some point this summer for research for the next Gabriel Hawke book.

photo from Pittsburgh Landing

The only drawback was the trip was three days before I left for Iceland. That is why you haven’t seen photos or heard about the trip. 😉

I had planned to visit my dad in his Senior Living Center that same week and make a round trip by spending the night at my younger brother’s house on his birthday. So tossing in one more day and jet boating worked out perfectly!

Except, the weather! Because it was a cloudy and not very warm day, the clear plastic side awnings, I guess you’d call them, were down to keep use from getting too wet.

We put in at Pittsburgh Landing on the Idaho side of the Snake River.

I wanted to take photos of the terrain. The best place to do that was either in front on in the back of the boat. I chose the back. I have quite a few blurry photos because of the speed we were going but the photos will allow me to remember what I saw.

We stopped at a ranch that is now a museum. The old fruit trees that had been planted years ago had fruit beginning to show. There were a few wildflowers, but we were lucky to not see any rattlesnakes. When I’d participated in our Senior Sneak before graduating from high school, our senior class rafted a different part of the Snake. There was a raft for the boys and one for the girls. Several stops along the way the boys would catch a rattlesnake and throw it on the girls’ raft. Not cool! But ever the tomboy, I’d pick it up and throw it back at them. Then it wasn’t so much fun. 🙂

On this particular trip, we enjoyed wonderful cinnamon rolls made by a woman who takes the trip every year on her birthday. I have never had such delicious, light cinnamon rolls before! From there we watched a fisherman catch and haul in a sturgeon. He was large!

fishermen with a sturgeon

We also saw some rafters trying to right a raft that had capsized. I was glad I was rafting this time!

We rode the rapids, one a class 5, and had a great time. We stopped at the Hells Canyon Dam for lunch that had been packed for us. It was delicious. Then we checked out the visitor center and climbed back on the boat for our trip down stream to the landing where we put in.

Hells Canyon Dam

To me it felt like the rapids were trickier going back down then gunning upstream through them. I enjoyed watching our guide who had been doing this for nineteen years. When we were in the regular water, he’d relax behind the helm, crossing his ankles. As we neared the rapids, he leaned forward, both hands on the levers. His feet would uncross, and he would eventually stand as he guided the boat through the rapids. When the rapids were behind us, he’d settle back down and cross his ankles.

I guess you’re probably wondering, will Hawke be on one of these boats? At this point, I say no. Only because while talking to the boat’s crew, I learned that there are always boats going up and down this section of the river. If it’s not tour boats, it’s fishermen. The river is open year round. Which made me decide most of the action will take place up on the peaks and rocky sides of the canyon walls. And that is why I wanted to take the trip. To see the terrain and learn what I could about activity on the river.

Iceland Trip- part seven

A clothed pig statue that caught my eye.

Friday, my birthday! I didn’t tell anyone on the trip because they had made a big deal out of someone else’s birthday earlier in the week. I just enjoyed the day and being on a grand adventure!

We drove up to the Presidential residence of Bessastaoir, the President of Iceland. It was a large home with farm type buildings out in the middle of open ground. There was a large pond and some geese.

I loved the drive to Lake Kleifarvatn and could see my character Hawke bringing a tracking class out to this moon-scape type surroundings to learn to look for tracks that weren’t there. It had large volcanic rises, sifting ashy dirt, minimal plants, but a beautiful lake.

On the southern end of the lake our noses crinkled. Hot springs, mud pots, and boiling pools of mud and water were just beyond the parking lot. The sulfurous steam that came up from the earth needed to be kept down wind. But the mud, steam, and sulfur made for colorful rock features. Here I had the idea of perhaps Hawke could discover a body half in one of the boiling mud pots. The upper half, making it hard to discover who the victim would be.

Our “relaxation” for the day was an hour in the Blue Lagoon. It was a spa or sorts with geothermal mineral water. We all brought our swimsuits and entered the waist high water. The silt of the minerals was so think you could only see a few inches into the water. I don’t know what the minerals were but it made my body float even more than usual. I could barely stay seated on the cement bench along the inside of the pool.

After the Blue Lagoon we drove to the Viking World Museum. Here we walked on the deck of Islendingur (the Icelander) a Viking replica ship finished in 1996 by shipbuilder Gunnar Marel Eggertsson. They used information gathered after the excavation of a ship in Norway in 1880. They believe the ship excavated had been built around 870. Using the same tools that would have been used in 870 Eggertsson and a crew built the ship. After it was built they sailed in it from Iceland to North America.

We returned to Reykjavik in the afternoon and met a specialist on the Icelandic language. He told us about how they are trying to preserve the language using more of a Norse language than other Norse countries and sticking to the odd characters in the spellings. He said many of the Norse languages these days are adding in English words and dropping some of the sounds that make the language so distinctive.

After the talk, while walking back to the hotel, I spotted a jewelry store and popped inside. A pair of earring that looked like ice caught my eye. I inquired what the price would be in dollars and purchased myself a birthday gift that will remind me of this wonderful birthday trip.

Dinner our last night was in the Harpa. A concert hall we’d been staring at every day from our hotel. After dinner and a delicious dessert of berry sorbet, a caramel nougat and berry cream slice on a nut crust, we attended a play. Icelandic Sagas: The Greatest Hits. It was a two person show that quickly ran through many of the Icelandic Sagas in a witty and hilarious depiction. I left the theater laughing until I realized I had to get up at 3:30 am to catch the bus to take me to the airport.

I’m so glad I took the chance to go on this trip. I enjoyed the other nine participants and made friends. And I traded emails with the guide so I can contact him when I need information for the book I plan to set in Iceland. I hope the Authors Guild can come up with another interesting trip next year. It could become a yearly trip for me.

Thank you for reading my blogs about my trip to Iceland. Keep checking in as I post about my jet boat trip up the Snake River and other adventures in pursuit of research for books.

Iceland Trip – part six

The harbor at Reykjavik

The Saga Circle. Today we learned more about Icelandic Sagas. I do have to say the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes could have been left off the itinerary. While I enjoyed the artistic license taken by whoever made the scenes on the audio tour, the information was repetitive of what we’d already heard several times. And I don’t have any photos of the carved masks people made from bits and pieces of boards, and the wild-eyed berserk Egill, an Icelander who would have been titled a psychopath in this time period.

We moved on to Reykholt and the home of Snorri Sturluson, a significant chieftain, poet, and historian of the Middle Ages. Here Pastor Geir Waage told the group of Snorri’s life and how the Icelanders who were pagans slowly came around to becoming Christians, even if it was only in the public to keep the King of Norway from taking over the island. But eventually, the king did get the island when a civil war broke out and no one could come to a consensus. They asked the king to step in and help them straighten things out. This was in 1262. Snorri was dead. Killed at the hands of the king’s men after he’d befriended the king for years.

Pastor Waage was an interesting and eccentric man. He had a Hercule Poirot mustache, a dramatic flair, and when he pulled a small horn out of a pocket inside his jacket, I stared in awe as he unscrewed the top, poured two small mounds of black powder on his hand above where his thumb attached and continued talking. He replaced the horn, walked some more holding his hand in front of him with the small black mound. Then he paused, inhaled the powder into his nose, whipped out a colorful handkerchief and kept on talking as he wiped his nose and shoved the cloth back into his pocket. I’m naive enough I had to ask our guide what he’d sniffed. “Tobacco,” was his answer.

After the saga of Snorri, we drove further inland to Hraunfossar and Barnafossar waterfalls. (Fosser means falls) These were pretty, but there was a sad story that went along with the Branafosser falls. There was a land bridge across the river. A farm was on one side of the river and the church on the other. One day a mother and father left three children at the farm while they crossed the rocky precipice across the river to visit the church. When they returned the children were not home. They followed their tracks and discovered they ended at the rocky foot bridge. It was believed the children tried to follow their parents and ended up in the river. The parents knocked down the rocky foot bridge. But as I wandered around taking photos, I saw a smaller foot bridge low in the river bed. Could it have been that foot bridge?

After the waterfalls, we visited the most powerful hot spring in Europe, Deildartunguhver. There were Danger signs everywhere and our guide suggested we stay back unless one of the boiling spots should spit hot water. I noticed a young woman dressed in a flowing blue dress, posing. There was a photographer behind a bush. I call her my water nymph but I believe she was posing for an advertisement.

The event I’d been waiting for happened at the end of the day. We visited with Yrsa Siguroardottir crime fiction and children’s writer. I’d listened to the first two books of her Thora Gudmundsdottir series. It was fun hearing her talk about why she chose the occupation of lawyer for her character and how even though she’d made her character the opposite of herself, her life and moved in a direction that correlated with her character. Because I was the only member of the tour who wrote mystery, Yrsa and I started talking about writing mysteries. I was excited someone of her caliber was so open to talking with me. She said she looked forward to seeing me at Bouchercon.

Yrsa signing a book for one of my tour mates.

Later that night at dinner, one of the other members said she enjoyed listening to Yrsa and I talk about the genre we both loved. I went to bed Thursday night a very happy writer!

Iceland Trip- part five

Wednesday was an all day literary tour. We started at the Arni Magnusson Institute for Icelandic Studies at the University of Iceland. We viewed ancient manuscripts with the tales of how the island was found, populated, and traveled from democracy to being part of Denmark and back to democracy.

Specialist Gisli Sigurosson showed us the manuscripts and talked about Icelandic folklore and storytelling. How it had first been written down using calf skins and ink. And how the letters and writing were formed.

We walked to the Nordic Culture House for lunch and then joined two men at the Reykjavik City Library for the Dark Deeds Literary Walking Tour. The tour took place in the old downtown narrated with Icelandic crime fiction and ghost stories.

We started at the library with the story, “A Ghoul’s Greeting” from folktales collected by John Arnason.

City Library

From there we moved to the government building which was formally the jail. There an excerpt from “The Black Cliffs” by Gunnar Gunnarsson was read.

Old Jail

At the Culture House “The Saga of Grettir” translated by Bernard Scudder was read.

Briet Square (which I found odd because it was a circle) we heard an excerpt from “Drapa” by Gerdur Kristny and translation by Rory McTurk was read. This story was even more creepy after learning that the square was a memorial for a woman who had died in similar circumstances.

An excerpt of “Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was” by Sjon, translation by Victoria Cribb was read in the Parliament garden. It was a beautiful place for so dark a story.

And last a poem by Benedict Grondal, “To Bother” was read on the street beside his former home that is now a tourist site.

After “Dark Deeds” A literary Walking Tour, we walked back to the hotel and climbed on the bus to attend a cocktail reception in our honor at the Gunnarshus, a house given to the Writers’ Union of Iceland. The director of the union, an assistant, and two authors greeted us. We had wine or sparkling water, appetizers and talks by the two authors and discussions. It was interesting learning how writers in Iceland can put in for stipends to help them live while they write books. That is all but the crime fiction authors. It is felt by the union that because crime fiction novels are popular that the authors don’t need financial help. Yrsa Siguroardottir, who we met with the next day, had a different take on it. And not for her, but for the up and coming crime fiction writers.

The house was beautiful. It had been the house of a famous Icelandic author who started by writing in Danish to have a larger audience for his books. Upon his death the house went to the government who gave it to the Writers’ Union. They hold meetings, signings, and literary events at the house.

After the reception we returned to a nearby restaurant for dinner. It had been the easiest day on the trip and also the one that had my brain soaking in the most about writing and literature.

The next post will be about discovering the Icelandic Sagas.

Iceland Trip- part four

This will finish off day two of my trip to Iceland. This was the longest day of our tour. After Gullfoss waterfall, we hurried to Frioheimer a tomato greenhouse and horse farm.

The weather is not conducive to growing very many vegetables and no fruit because while they may have almost 23 hours of sunlight in the summer months the temperature never gets much above 65 degrees which makes it hard to grow much of anything. However they have learned to use the geothermal hot springs that are nearly all over the island to not only provide hot water and electricity for towns but it also works for greenhouses.

At Frioneimer greenhouse we learned how the hot water not only heats the greenhouses but also provides the water for the plants. The tomato plants are started in intervals to have tomatoes ripening all year round. The roots seedlings are started and then transplanted into long rectangular dirt pouches that are placed evenly spaced to allow for new plants to be placed in between them as the older ones start producing less. The plants are trained to grow up with strings. Bumble bees are used to pollinate the plants. They were flying around as we were instructed on how the greenhouse ran and we were able to look into a hive box.

The greenhouse grows salad tomatoes, cherry or grape tomatoes, and plum tomatoes. They also had flowers, a dining area, and served us bloody Marys as well as gave us samples of the tomatoes.

From the greenhouse we were given an exhibition of the Icelandic horse. These horses are less than 14 hands high but sturdy, like a small draft horse or haflinger. They were brought to the island by the Norsemen and have never been bred with any other horse breed, so they are a pure breed. The Icelanders are very proud of their horse. While there are only 350,000 people on the island, there are 80,000 horses. They are used for meat, by farmers to gather their sheep from the upper country in the fall, and ridden for pleasure. They also have competitions showing off the 5 gaits. These horses are said to be the only horse that has 5 gaits. They walk, trot, gallop and have a four-beat lateral ambling gait known as the tölt. And on the upper end of the gaits they have what is called a pace or “flying pace”.  This is fast and smooth, with some horses able to reach up to 30 miles per hour.

While the horse that was ridden to show us the gaits had some spunk and personality, the ones standing in stalls in the barns appeared asleep and aloof. Visiting the horses was nice. They were the perfect size and while they are sold all over the world, once a horse leaves the island they cannot return. The horses are not vaccinated because they never leave and don’t com in contact with diseases.

After the horses we traveled on to Skalholt, a Church of Iceland cathedral that had a role in the history and literature of Iceland.

After the church we arrived at Hveragerdi and the Skygeroin skyr factory. We watched a video about skyr, how it is a national food. We were served skyr in its natural state, I thought it had the consistency of cream cheese but was sour. Then they gave us a thinner version with sugar and strawberry. It was good! And a third with the same type of skyr but with a berry liquor and a blueberry. Then we had dinner and returned to REykjavik. Day two was finished. It was a long day. We’d visited and saw a lot and were excited for the next day.

That will be in my next post.