The Gullfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle in Iceland is truly spectacular. We visited during the winter and the falls were mostly frozen, which made them even more beautiful. It was a very cold day and the observation decks were being hit by the spray from the waterfall, making it even colder as we stood and took photographs. It is an amazing display of the forces of nature at work.
Gullfoss Waterfall translates to Golden Waterfall and is probably one of the most photographed images in Iceland. The waterfall is created by the flow of the Hvítá (White) River as it flows into a canyon. Although we could have hiked around the waterfall to see it from various views, it was way too cold while were there to take the time to do that. It was the last of the places that we visited as we drove the road that loops around several famous locations outside of Reykjavik known as the Golden Circle.
As popular as Iceland has become as a place to visit, Gullfoss Waterfall can be quite a busy spot as tour buses travel there throughout the day. Watching the water as it flows down the two steep steps down into the canyon is almost mesmerizing. It was definitely a highlight of our time in Iceland and should be included as part of any visit to the island.
One of the most memorable day trips that we took during our time in Chennai, India was visiting the city of Kanchipuram. We were told that Kanchipuram was the place in the state of Tamil Nadu to buy silk, so we drove the hour southwest out of Chennai, about 45 miles (72 kilometers), to visit the city. In addition to buying scarves and other silk products, we also visited the Ekambareswarar Temple, which was another gorgeous temple that we were able to see while we were there. It was one of the hottest days that we encountered while we were in India, but the beautiful sites and the thrill of buying the silk items more than made up for any discomfort we felt.
Walking around the Ekambareswarar Temple was one of the few times while we were in India that we weren’t overwhelmed by crowds. Obviously, it is India, so that is a relative term, but it did feel more relaxed than some of the other places that we went to. As with most temples, tour guides will come up to you and offer to take you on a tour and the price always has to be negotiated, but we chose not to pay for a tour at this particular temple. Heading southwest away from Chennai takes you to more of a jungle feel and we enjoyed seeing the parrots that were content to make the temple grounds their home.
One memory that we’ll never forget was getting blessed by a temple elephant while we were in the temple. Apparently, at the time that we were in India, many of the temple elephants were on “holiday” where they are pampered and spoiled once a year for all of their hard work. We handed the elephant a coin, which he took with his trunk, and then we bowed and the elephant gently tapped us on the head with his trunk. We were surprised by how soft the elephant’s trunk was, we were expecting it to be leathery and hard, but it wasn’t. In addition to being blessed by the elephant, another interesting site within the temple was seeing all of the ribbons tied to the “wishing tree”. We were told that many woman would tie a ribbon in hopes of getting pregnant, but people would tie ribbons on the tree for many other reasons as well. It was just another tradition that we enjoyed learning about.
Going to the silk shop in Kanchipuram was quite the experience. We were told that Indian women from around the country order the wedding saris from Kanchipuram due to the high quality of the silk. We sat down at a table and the owner of the shop started pulling out bundles of silk and laying them before us. If we found a color pattern that we liked, he would pull out several more bundles and lay them in front of us. We ended up buying scarves for every female family member that we could think of as well as a beautiful table runner that we use on our formal dining room table. The best thing that we bought, however, was an absolutely gorgeous sari. Everything that we bought in Kanchipuram that day probably cost us less than what a single silk scarf would cost us here in the United States and was even less expensive than the silk that we bought in Chennai.
If you are ever in Tamil Nadu and want to buy some silk, a trip to Kanchipuram should definitely be on your agenda. The owner of the store couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly and we truly enjoyed the experience, even with some struggles with the language. Fortunately, you don’t have to haggle over prices at the silk shops, the price that they quote is what you pay and it is so reasonable, there isn’t any reason to complain. We came home with several souvenirs on our trip, but the silk items we bought are definitely some of our most treasured. Not to mention that our family and friends were quite thrilled to receive such beautiful items.
During our trip to southern Spain several years ago, we made a point of making our way across the Strait of Gibraltar to visit Tangiers, Morocco. We took the high speed ferry from Tarifa (near Gibraltar) to the port of Tangiers, where we were met by our guides to start what would be a truly memorable day and definitely one of the highlights of our entire trip. Tangiers is a unique African city as it has been the doorway to Europe for centuries and therefore has a varied population, although it is still mostly Muslim.
We started our day by visiting a neighborhood market, which was extremely busy with locals buying a variety of fresh foods. It is hard to describe the market in Tangiers other than to say that the colors and aromas overtake you at every turn. There are merchants with spices piled to the ceiling, olives of every possible variety, exotic fruit, butchers with meat on display, and every variety of fish imaginable caught fresh from the Mediterranean Ocean. As we walked among the merchants, we were given samples of olives, dates, candy, and more. It was truly a magical experience. After leaving the market, we were off to the Kasbah or Medina, the fortress and oldest part of the city.
Walking the streets of the Kasbah was like walking back in time. The cobblestone streets and grand arches led to a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. It is off the coast of Tangiers where the Mediterranean Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. Before we left the Medina, we were treated to our own private performance by a snake charmer. Having seen snake charmers on TV and movies, we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it turned out to be fascinating as the charmer played his flute and waived his hand in the face of the King Cobra. We weren’t, however, prepared for what came next as they wrapped a live snake, not a King Cobra fortunately, across our shoulders so that we could take some pictures.
From there, we left the city and headed down the coast where we enjoyed gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and a nearby lighthouse. After a short time, we stopped to ride camels on the shore of the Atlantic. It was a little touristy, but at the same time, how many people get to say that they’ve ridden camels on the beach. From there we visited the pre-historic Caves of Hercules, which is a beautiful geological attraction. It is famous because it has an opening in the shape of Africa to looks out onto the ocean.
Once we got back to Tangiers, it was time for a late lunch, which was good because we had definitely worked up an appetite. We had quite the meal in a tiny, family owned, restaurant, that was authentic Moroccan chicken served in a tagine with hot tea. The food was incredible and the family that served us couldn’t have been any nicer. After lunch, we were taken to the shops of some local artisans with the hope that we’d buy some authentic Moroccan products. We visited a spice shop where we did purchase some saffron, cumin, and marjoram at prices you could never find in the States. At the carpet weaver’s shop, carpets of every description were laid at our feet as we enjoyed some more tea, but as tempted as we were, we decided not to buy one.
Finally, we took the ferry back to Spain and our wonderful day in Morocco came to an end. Although we hope to return to Morocco and spend more than just a day, we were very happy with the day that we did spend there.