Category archives for Travels

8 good reasons to cycle Iceland

When choosing a good cycling location, several factors come into play. You will most probably be looking at things like elevation plots, water supplies, climate (ok, this probably also applies when you don’t cycle, except that we don’t want it too hot or too wet), distances between destinations and other particular things like “will the local air company transport my bike?” or “are the roads rideable?”.

For us, apart from visiting the country where we met over 10 years ago (yeah, yeah it has been a long time and we are getting really old in the process… ;-) ), we came up with 8 other very good reasons to return to Iceland. Here they are:

  1. Geothermal activity:
    Strokkur ready to fire

    Strokkur ready to fire

    When cycling Iceland, one can always get over this “shitty part in the rain, mud and on a bad road” thinking that tonight one might soak in a natural hot pot or at least in an outdoor swimming pool. Iceland is a geothermally very active country being on the edge of both the American and the European continent. Therefore it has an impressive amount of hot springs, geysirs, mudholes and fumeroles. The good thing for us as cyclists, is that there is (almost) always some hotpot nearby to put our sore buttocks in and relax our aching muscles. :-)

  2. Icelandic pastries:
    Classic pastries (tebollur og snuður)

    Classic pastries (tebollur og snuður)

    Now a lot of countries have good pastries (especially northern countries do, it must have something to do with the cold, long and dark winter nights, where the only thing you can do to wave off your blues is eating home-baked cookies…), but we think the Icelandic ones are among the top ones! :-) As some examples, we can mention “vinarbrauð” or “kanilsnuðar”. Yum yum! :-) And the good thing: when cycling you burn enough calories to binge on Icelandic pastries every night and still not gain any weight. ;-)

  3. The Icelandic: Icelandic people are very nice. On numerous occasions they will actually turn out to be very curious and talkative, even though at first sight they seem to be a bit distant. And once you get them talking (which is in general very easy if you can speak a few basic words of Icelandic), they will especially be asking you “why all those foreigners come to visit Iceland ON A BICYCLE???” as to them this is a crazy concept. :-) The Icelandic have a humour which is a mixture of downright straightness and irony (especially when it comes to themselves or their country). As an example: On the last day we hitchhiked on a stretch of road close to Reykjavik and the Icelanders who took us of course asked where we came from. When we answered that we were from France and Holland, the immediate reply was “Did you have any savings in Icesave?” (therewith referring to the diplomatic dispute between Iceland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which started with the collapse of Landsbanki in the 2008 crisis and left many cities and households in both the United Kingdom and The Netherlands without anything left of their invested savings). As we didn’t have any investments in Icesave, we could laugh about the remark and appreciate the ironic humour! :-) They will also go out of their way to help you when in trouble. A few examples are the friendly workers of a power plant close to Pingvellir who drove us 50 km to get our bicycle repaired when it turned out they couldn’t help us, the employees at numerous gas stations who would call to inquire about taking the bikes on a local bus, or the friendly lady at the Isafjördur sports store, who never had heard of something like bicycle spokes, but still managed to organize us some for free. :-)
  4. The diversity of the landscape: Iceland is incredibly diverse. When we lived in Iceland 10 years ago, we had visited large parts of the country and thought “we had seen it all”. But luckily we were wrong: this year we visited the inlands by riding over a highland route and the far-and-away Westfjords (Vestfirðir), both regions that are again completely different from anything we had seen so far. The highland is barren, with little to no vegetation, but incredibly beautiful with azur blue lakes and glaciers that seem to arise everywhere. The Westfjords are quite green (it rains a lot) and are marked especially by the sheer absence of human intervention and the long routes that follow fjords. Distances can be huge, even if settlements are quite close to each other as the crow flies. But it makes it all more nice and there are few tourists who actually come out there, which makes it for some nice riding without too much traffic.
  5. Iceland still has (relatively) few tourists. Although tourism has taken a great leap now that the exchange rate is so low, it’s still relatively mass tourist free and it is pretty easy to get that “out in the wild” feeling just by avoiding the main roads and main “attractions”. Expecially when travelling by bike it is easy to enjoy the landscape “all by yourself”.
  6. Cycling distances: Although we spoke about “long distances” in the Westfjords, distances are actually pretty small in Iceland and even suitable to cyclists who don’t want to bother bringing tent and sleeping bag. If in Patagonia we sometimes had 500 km stretches without anything, in Iceland there is rarely a stretch of road longer than 100 km without “anyting” and most of the time small guesthouses or campsites are at about 50 km out of each other, which makes that you can always get some food or accomodation when the Icelandic weather decides to play tricks on you. :-)
  7. Seafood: They have delicious seafood coming fresh out of crystal clear waters. Especially in the Westfjords the water of the sea is so clear that you have a hard time believing that it IS actually seawater and not some high altitude alpine lake you’re looking at. It’s just the perfect cyclists’ meal nibbling on some dried fish as a snack or stocking up on proteins with fresh fish in the evening. :-)
  8. And finally, but this reason is completely personal: We just think it’s the most beautiful country in the world. But we will not spend any text on that. Just get your bike into an airplane, enjoy the advantage of “slowliness” that cycle tourism offers and find out for yourself! :-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe

Quick word from the North of Iceland

About 6 days it took us to get from Reykjavik to Blönduós travelling over the highland road called “Kjölur” which traverses Iceland starting at Geysir and ending at the fjords of the north. 7 spokes it cost us to travel 420 km over mainly unasphalted roads.



But what an adventure! We had beautiful weather, allowing us splendid views on the Langjökull Glacier in the West and the Hofsjökull in the East. We also enjoyed some soothing hot springs at Hveravellir and treated our eyes to pure Icelandic beauty (steaming fumerolles, boiling mud potts and amazingly coloured mountains) at Kerlingarfjöll. Not to mention the everlasting beauty of the deserted inlands with cristal blue lakes now and then.

Yesterday it started to rain though and it hasn´t stopped until now. Well, one has to admit: that’s Iceland too! And to be honest: it´s not too bad having a rest day in the rain, when you are sitting with your sore butt (hihi) in a hot tub of about 39 degrees just after having eaten some Icelandic pastries. ;-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe

Picture in the Picture: Chinglish

While in China, we talked about “Chinglish”, the Chinese English that sometimes is a little bit hard to understand and can be very funny sometimes. We already published a fine example of English translation “free style” and while going through our pictures recently, we found a few more examples, that we really think deserve to be shown to the world as they are highly intriguing, creative and most of the time hilarious. :-)

Poor Grass! Luckily they have a nice sign to protect them! ;-)

Poor Grass! Luckily they have a nice sign to protect them! ;-)

The picture below (sorry for the quality) definitely shows one of the finest examples of Chinglish we encountered, a restaurant named “Hong Kong succeeds the sign powder gruel aristocratic family” at Guilin. We think that even Google would have translated this better!! But then, in China access to Google is forbidden. That maybe explains some things. ;-)

No idea what those words all together mean!

No idea what those words all together mean!

And thinking about it, we are actually quite happy that they don’t have any access to translator-services like Google, if not, we would not have been seeing the translation on the following picture, seen on a menu of a restaurant in Chengdu:

Strange Flavor Noodles!!!

Unfortunately they ran out of “Strange Flavor Noodles” so we didn’t get a chance to try them. Too bad! ;-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe

Picture in the Picture: Overloaded minibus

While rumbling through our photo-files we found this picture, which is not of very good quality, which is probably the reason why we didn’t publish it in the first place  (it looks like some ISO-problem, due to bad settings – or better: not verified settings – definitely a sure indication of who took this picture ;-) ) but it sure deserves a place within “Picture in the Picture” where “quality doesn’t matter, but the story behind the picture does”.
Anyboday still has a bike he needs transport for?

Anybody still has a bike he needs transport for?

So this is a sure example of something that is very common in South-East Asia: overloading! And this is the proof, that they not only like to overload buses (yeah, yeah, 50 seats, but 120 people, what’s the problem sitting on a bag of rice for 12 hours???) but also mini-vans, cars and basically any means of transport.

So anyone still interested in transporting his/her bike? There is still a loooooooot of space left! :-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe

Picture in the picture: The sacred blue “hadag”

While travelling in Mongolia, we noted the presence of blue silk cloths hanging everywhere: in temples, around people’s neck, along the dirt tracks (speaking of roads here would be highly exaggerating) attached to stone pyramids and even in the Mongolian state emblem. The blue silk cloth is known as hadag it has an important meaning for the Mongols both in its use and by its colour.

Detail of prayer flags

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Pic’ in the Picture: Australian humour

In most countries we travelled we had a lot of laughter with the local population. The Lao and Burmese always seem to be in a good mood, we had a lot of fun negotiating with Thai tuc-tuc drivers and we remember laughing a lot with Russians in the Transsiberian railroad who at all price wanted to talk to us even if they often didn’t speak a word of English. But there is one folk that marked us specifically with their humour, an extremely not very expanded in Europe (What’s zis Inglîsh? We’d almoz zink zis articul ‘as been ritten by JaiCéé!!! ;-) ). So what I meant to say is: There is one country where the people marked us especially with their humour. A humour that is a very dry one, not very expanded in Europe, except maybe in Great-Britain: the Australian one! :-)

The Australians have this no-nonsense attitude, which makes they greet everybody with “Hey mate!”. And when we say everybody, we mean everybody: from young to old, no matter the social class. We clearly remember one evening when a rather old lady greeted Jean-Christophe with “Hey mate!” and he got a little bit panicked about how to greet back, because, let’s face it, in Europe it would never ever come to our mind to greet someone the age of our grandparents with “Hey mate!” let alone that this person would greet us like that in return. ;-) But the Australians they do. No problem at all!

Below are some other examples of real Australian humour, there is absolutely nothing to add to this. :-)

The sign says it all...

Seen in the Sydney Harbour

Seen at a small market in Sydney

Seen at a market stall selling delicious chocolate


Vera & Jean-Christophe

Pic’ in the Picture: A small lesson about yurts

Motivated by both Melanies (yep, one from Germany and the other one living in Guadeloupe) we decided that it was maybe time to revive this picture in the picture category again. After all it is nice even for us to travel with help from our pics and we do realize that we really have a story to tell for each of them.

Today we want to talk a little bit about yurts. During our time in Mongolia we decided to go on a tour to see the country. Mongolia is vast, there is only one official road connecting the current capital, Ulan Bator with the old capital, Karakorum. All the rest of the roads are “dust tracks” that are impossible to get along on, except if you have a sturdy old Russian jeep and a driver who for some reason knows that if he meets this one particular bush that is opposite this one mountain and with the sun setting over this one sandhill, that he has to make a 90 degrees turn to the right. In other words: it’s impossible to know where to go as everything resembles; all the bushes look the same, as do the mountains and the sandhills, but those drivers “just feel” where to go and during our 12-day trip we never got lost and always found some yurts to sleep (although, to make it even more difficult, Mongolian people are nomads, so those yurts move all the time too).

Detail of a ger (yourt)

Beautiful decoration of the wooden lattice inside a Mongolian gher

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Pic’ in the Picture: Arrogance


“The act or habit of arrogating, or making undue claims in an overbearing manner; that species of pride which consists in exorbitant claims of rank, dignity, estimation, or power, or which exalts the worth or importance of the person to an undue degree; proud contempt of others; lordliness; haughtiness; self-assumption; presumption.”

Source: Wiktionary

Arrogant advertisement

Arrogant advertisement with potential


Vera & Jean-Christophe

For a related article on Chinglish, see our first impressions on China.