Monday, October 23, 2017

ICELAND: Private Super Jeep Tour of Northern Lights

We did the northern lights tour, on the Saturday we arrived in Iceland, with a company called Mountain Taxi. They picked us up in a modified Mercedes Sprinter. They take a standard Sprinter van and replace the standard suspension and tires.

Image: Courtesy Mountain Taxi

For northern lights, our Icelandic travel agent Auður Ösp of I Heart Reykjavik told us that it's always better to go with a smaller group and vehicle. The bus tours are the cheapest but you might end up with 400 people and it's just not as nice. She also likes the super jeep tours since they can take you to areas the buses can't (and therefore you won't be surrounded with the aforementioned 400 of your fellow travelers).

Auður was right, we had a private tour for eight, and that made it really special.

We drove outside the city and made a few stops, looking for the northern lights.

We caught a glimpse a few times, then stopped at a secluded lake, and started to see bands of green coming us from the horizon. We sampled some local schnapps called Brennevin, and they was a treat.

After the stop at the lake, as we were driving through the darkness, our driver, Gisli Pall, thought he saw something in the sky, safely pulled off the road, and told us to all get out quickly!

We did, and then the real show started.

The Northern Lights in all their glory. Dancing green and purple lights, going in and out, moving across the sky, and painting a ribbon above us.

Our group was exclaiming with joy about what we were seeing. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

Image: iPhone attempt at capturing a bit of the northern lights.

Image: Our driver, Gisli Pall

This video shows what it looked like:

ICELAND: Blue Lagoon

We visited the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. The transfer from Reykjavik was provided by Icelandic Taxi Tours.

The taxi was a nice big Mercedes van, and easily fit our party of eight, and all of our luggage. It was not a problem.

Taxis are able to pick up at hotels. We were picked up at 11:00 AM and arrived at Blue Lagoon at 11:45. Our reserved time was for 12:00 to 2:00 PM. The standard time for Blue Lagoon stops is 90 minutes but you can add extra time in the lagoon if you feel that’s not enough. The price for extra time in the lagoon is 5400 ISK, ($51.21) as of today, for 30 minutes (2 hours total). That turned out to be a perfect amount of time.

On arrival at the Blue Lagoon, the driver parks in a waiting area and stays with your luggage for the duration of your visit.

The walk to the Blue Lagoon from the parking lot was windy on the day we arrived because of the remnants of a recent hurricane.

We sprung for Premium admission which included:
Entrance to Blue Lagoon
Silica Mud Mask
Use of Towel
1st Drink of your choice
Algae Mask
Use of Bathrobe
Reservation at LAVA (optional)
Sparkling wine if dining at LAVA
Pre-booking is required and you can't just show up there an buy tickets. When we arrived, we heard that they were sold out. Make sure you book this in advance.

Here is some background on the Blue Lagoon:
Situated in a vast lava plain on the south coast of Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, the Blue Lagoon holds nine million liters of geothermal seawater, covers an area of 8700 square meters, and has an average depth of 1.2 meters and a maximum depth of 1.6 meters. The lagoon’s water is sourced directly from the Svartsengí geothermal field and its recirculation interval is 40 hours.

The wellspring of the Blue Lagoon’s beneficial powers lies 2000 meters within the earth, at the boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. In this subterranean frontier of porous lava and searing heat, seawater and groundwater converge, giving rise to a hybrid fluid known as g eothermal seawater. Under immense pressure, this fluid surges to the earth’s surface, integrating the elements through which it passes and emerging enriched with unique concentrations of silica, algae, and minerals – the primary, rejuvenating components of geothermal seawater.

Image courtesy of Blue Lagoon

I wasn't able to take a photo like this because I don't own a drone.

Here are some details on what it's like when you arrive and the showering situation.

When you arrive you will be given a wristband, which acts as a key for your electronic changing room locker. You can also use your wristband to buy drinks and refreshments while you are in the spa. It works like an in-water credit card – you just pay for anything you charge to the wristband when you leave.

We recommend that you store all your valuables inside your locker, including jewellery, shoes, cameras, etc. Be sure to check that your locker is properly locked before you walk away. Blue Lagoon is not responsible for any lost valuables.

Cleanliness is a fundamental aspect of a geothermal spa experience. Prior to entering Blue Lagoon, a full body shower - without a bathing suit - is absolutely essential. Everyone benefits when everyone is clean. This same aspect of spa culture is found at every pool in Iceland. Private shower cubicles are available in both man and women changing rooms.

We had a fun experience. Floating around the lagoon, putting on silica mud and algae masks, showering in the amazing Icelandic water, and stopping for a nice cold beer before going back to our taxi for the short ride to the airport.

This is the way to end your Icelandic vacation.

Everything was booked through Auður Ösp, owner, blogger, and photographer at iheartreykjavik.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Buying Decision Process for an Inkjet vs. a Laser Printer

My existing EPSON WF-3520 stopped working when I installed 3rd party EZ Ink. It was a lot less expensive than the ESPSON ink, but I should have believed one of the commenters who said that it made his printer useless.

Next up was the decision on what to get. This lead me on a journey from COLOR INKJET to a Black and White Laser Printer.

I asked my friends on Facebook what they liked, and they were helpful in guiding me to my final decision.

I kept notes!

I ruled out HP based on a poor experience with the life of a previous printer. I also ruled out Canon after deciding that I wanted to go with a FASTER BLACK AND WHITE LASER PRINTER.

I decided to get my photos printed out at CVS for now.

My neighbor has the Brother HL 2280 DW and likes it, so I narrowed in on that, and then saw the Brother HL-L2340DW reviewed on The Wirecutter.

My neighbor's HL 2280 DW supports a hard wired Ethernet connection and the new above model is wireless only. I don't think that it will be a problem.

I bought this one, Brother HLL2380DW Wireless Laser Printer (affiliate link) and Brother TN660 High Yield Toner. I liked the upgraded LCD display on it. The High Yield Toner is rated for 2,600 pages, so that should last a while.

I also noted thatt there is a way to allow the printer to continue past the page counter life of the ink cartridge, until it is actually empty by setting this up.

"For the HLL2380DW there is a continue mode in settings. Press X then Settings then All Settings then General Setup. Then scroll down to Replace Toner and change it to Continue."

Wish me luck.