Onto the (sometimes gravelled) Icelandic Roads

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Onto the (sometimes gravelled) Icelandic Roads

 
 
 

And so these Ukulele Road Trips are off, once again! This time for a sing and a drive all around the famous Ring Road. It's a route, also called "route 1" for the sentimental, which goes all around the icy mystical island of Iceland.

This road, more than probably any other in the know driving universe, presents itself with many almost-irresistible-wayside-musical-inspiration-breaks opportunities. For example:

 
 

The Ring Road is 1332 km long (or 828 miles, if you're a miles kind of person). However it takes a bit longer than you might think to drive the whole way around. Firstly because you'll want to be stopping a lot. A real lot, as we mentioned. That's why you need your camera (or your ukulele, or both, depending on what kind of road-tripper you are) at the ready !

Icelandic-motif-ed ukulele at the ready !

Icelandic-motif-ed ukulele at the ready !

 

And secondly, because there are so many inviting smaller roads that go from "route 1" to breathtaking views and exciting natural landmarks! A lot of them are what is called "gravel" roads, meaning that they are not paved and smooth asphalt surfaces. Rather they are, well, gravel-y. You might want to avoid those by the way if you're driving a big van instead of a powerful 4x4. But hey, sometimes, you gotta go see what you gotta go see.

Odin has an eight-legged horse, Ukulele Road Trips has a Kuku Camper Van ! Here, driving (super carefully!) on lots of gravel.

Odin has an eight-legged horse, Ukulele Road Trips has a Kuku Camper Van ! Here, driving (super carefully!) on lots of gravel.

 

And lastly, you want to drive while you can see the landscape. Not much point otherwise. And if you're smart enough to travel during the harsh winter months, you get between 10 minutes and a few hours of day time, depending on the weather. As you can see from the picture above, mysterious Iceland can swiftly cloak herself in mist and fog.

Just make sure that when heading back into your ride, in the dim light of the 2 p.m. dusk, that you don't leave anything important behind.

 
Oups !

Oups !

 

Kuku Campers accompanies crazy road-tripping people around Iceland all year round and that includes this Ukulele Winter #GoingNorth advenutre !

"Two ravens and this trusted horse" (remember ?) The two ravens in this story are my ukes, a soprano and a not-so-soprano CloudMusic ukulele !

To support this mad adventure, donate here or hop onto Ukulele Road Trips' Patreon page!

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A Viking talk and Odin's song

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A Viking talk and Odin's song

 
 
 

There really is no better introduction to a road trip around the magical land that is Iceland, than a friendly chat with two locals around a Christmas beer.

Luckily for these Road Trips, that is exactly what Icelanders Ásgeir and Hjalti offered graciously to these ukuleles and their carrier. That, and a Christmas beer!

Podcast guests Ásgeir (left) and Hjalti (right) enjoying a seasonal Icelandic ('err... Danish actually!') brew

Podcast guests Ásgeir (left) and Hjalti (right) enjoying a seasonal Icelandic ('err... Danish actually!') brew

 

As well as diving into their history and the mythology of the vikings, we discuss, in the Reykjavik Podcast, some practical and very useful information for the upcoming travels: don't die. And also, don't freeze to near death in your car. Noted.

Listen to the Reykjavik, Iceland Ukulele Road Trips Podcast

For more traveller insights and stunning Icelandic sights you can also view Ásgeir's stunning YouTube channel: Do More Ásgeir !

Possibly said that evening: Ásgeir (on the left):"we're about here, in the capital!". Hjalti :"Here I was born, up in the West Fjords! We have great fish there"

Possibly said that evening: Ásgeir (on the left):"we're about here, in the capital!". Hjalti :"Here I was born, up in the West Fjords! We have great fish there"

 

As a side note, it must be said that this podcast was recorded before I knew I was going around the island with a big robust Kuku Campers van, which is equipped with a big hot heater. And that, luckily, seriously bumps up the survival chances. Or at least, prevents freezing to almost-death. Something we can all agree, is a good thing.

I've got a ride !! And hence, will (probably) not die.

I've got a ride !! And hence, will (probably) not die.

 

The podcast was recorded in the Slippbarinn bar, in one of the separate meeting rooms. As you can see from the map above the article, it's part of the Icelandair Hotel by the Reykjavik Marina. Handily, this great place also has a big map of Iceland in the corridor, very practical to point at stuff. And there's a goat there too.

Spot the goat, and win a free lesson about Norse Mythology

Spot the goat, and win a free lesson about Norse Mythology

 

ODIN'S SONG

In the podcast, there is a song. And in this song there is information. And in this information, knowledge. All the knowledge you'll ever need about Odin, the 'All-Father' of Norse Gods. (The song by the way is a take on the melody of the "Gay Dean" song in Community, season 6 episode 4, itself a take on the song Jolene, by Dolly Parton. It's my favourite show. Just thought I should write this somewhere, at some point)

Odin, Odin, Odin, Odin, greatest God the North had ever seen, Odin, Odin, oh where've you been ? 
Odin's portrait, carved in the back of my tenor Ukulele while at the Reykjavik arts school

Odin's portrait, carved in the back of my tenor Ukulele while at the Reykjavik arts school

 
Inspiration to all Viking men, on the battle fields back when, Northerners spilled enemy blood

Odin, the mightiest of the Æsir Gods, is a war-God. Often depicted wearing armour, he inspires soldiers of the North preparing for battle.

On the land that your Dad did shape, you would freely roam and escape, for adventures with your eight-legged stud

Bor, son of Buri (who himself was licked out of salty blocs of ice by Audhumla, the primeval cow) has three sons: Odin, Vili, and Ve. The sons of Bor killed the giant Ymir, and from his blood and flesh created the universe. Bor shapes the world indirectly, through the actions of his offspring. In this world, Odin would go on many adventures, far from his kin, sometimes riding Sleipnir, his eight-legged horse.

Odin and Sleipnir, from a XVIIIth century Icelandic manuscript

Odin and Sleipnir, from a XVIIIth century Icelandic manuscript

 
Yes, two ravens and this trusted horse, for the invincible God of Norse, oh the good old times

On Odin's shoulders sit two ravens. They periodically leave him to go fly around the world and then tell all that they have seen and heard to the All-Father. These birds are Huginn and Muninn (thought, and memory)

Odin and the gang, from a vendel helmet (pre-viking, approx VIIIth c.)

Odin and the gang, from a vendel helmet (pre-viking, approx VIIIth c.)

 
When your one-eyed face searched the source of all wisdom and of course, of the Prose, of Edda and the Rhymes

Odin is not only out and about looking for adventures, he is seeking many noble treasures, none quite as much as wisdom itself. No sacrifice is too great to quench that thirst, and he took one of his own eyes out for the right to drink from the well of destiny (well of Urd). Thus giving Odin cosmic knowledge of the universe. And an important side note here, those waters hold the roots of the ash tree Yggdrasil, which is the whole cosmos. And also, one of Odin's eyes.

Surprisingly for a warrior, Odin is also a very inspired God. He only expresses himself in poems. Hence the rhymes and prose. The famous Edda is the XIIIth century compilation that is giving us most our Odin-knowledge. It is written in prose, integrating here and there extracts of old Norse poetry. And is fun to read while on an Icelandic road trip!

Odin, Odin, greatest God the North had ever seen. Odin, Odin, oh where've you been?
Muninn just told a funny joke about sparrows, Huginn and Odin laugh (also XVIIIth c. Iceland)

Muninn just told a funny joke about sparrows, Huginn and Odin laugh (also XVIIIth c. Iceland)

 
We miss your knowledge of the runes, your daring deeds set to tunes, never to be bested under the moons

Odin's accomplishments are so great, attempts at glory would pale in comparison throughout the millions of days and nights following his reign. His adventures, often set to music, include also his mastery of the runes: the viking writings are not only precious knowledge, they are drawn straight from the mysterious source of all things to exist, the waters of Urd, below the tree of Yggdrasil. But as you know, Odin drank some of that, so he knows his way around inspired discourse.

If you were a Danish artist in the 1800s, maybe this is how you'd draw Yggrasil

If you were a Danish artist in the 1800s, maybe this is how you'd draw Yggrasil

 
You managed to steal the poetic mead, and were quite the charmer for from your seed, are born Baldr, Valli and Thor

The Poetic mead. Bare with me here. To make peace, lots of Gods spat in a bowl, from which Kvasir, the wisest (ever!) human was formed. He was then killed by some dwarves and turned into some sort of honey beer (mead!), magical and imparting infinite wisdom. The dwarves killed a couple of giants, got killed by the giants' son, who hid the mead under a mountain. However, Odin loves wisdom as you know. So, he went to the place, made 9 servants kill each other, worked as a giant's servant for months, made him drill a whole, turned into a snake to get through it, slept three nights with a lady-giant guard (ouh là là), and then drank ALL of the mead, and flew back as an eagle to pour it back out in Asgard, the land of the Gods of Æsir. Some drops fell over the top, and graced the world under theirs, the land of men. So we can have a few poetic inspirations too thanks to messy regurgitating.

detail of the VIIIth c. Stora Hammars runestone. Odin as the bearded eagle on the left, probably his lady-giant girlfriend with the cup in the middle, and on the right, another giant. I guess.

detail of the VIIIth c. Stora Hammars runestone. Odin as the bearded eagle on the left, probably his lady-giant girlfriend with the cup in the middle, and on the right, another giant. I guess.

 

Odin charmed not only lady-giants, but also had a few children including Baldr, Vali and Thor, each son, with different women. Goddess or mortal, depends.

Though this last one is still around, where can you Odin be found, come forward as you came forth before !

Though Thor as thunder and lightning can still be seen in today's Iceland, where is the mighty All-Father Odin? Will he roam again through the land of man and grace them with his knowledge and divine inspirations? 

Odin, Odin, Odin, Odin, greatest God the North had ever seen, Odin, Odin, where've you been?
 
A scene of the Tjängvide runic stone, dedicated to the brother of the Viking who raised it more than a thousand years ago. Sleipnir (and his 8 legs) can be clearly seen on the right. The rest is up for debate, or at the very least, a caption competition

A scene of the Tjängvide runic stone, dedicated to the brother of the Viking who raised it more than a thousand years ago. Sleipnir (and his 8 legs) can be clearly seen on the right. The rest is up for debate, or at the very least, a caption competition

 

This musical cultural adventure that is Ukulele Road Trips is #GOINGNORTH with the handy contributions of Kuku Campers, and singing about all things Norse with the CloudMusic ukes, which you can check out here, after which you will also be able to carve Nordic Gods into their woody flesh.

Hopefully, two things will happen during this trip: you'll enjoy it (and even support it), and also, this:

 
Odin, bringing back the poetic mead for the Gods, spilling some onto backpacking bards in Iceland in the process

Odin, bringing back the poetic mead for the Gods, spilling some onto backpacking bards in Iceland in the process

 

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An Iceland Kuku Adventure!

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An Iceland Kuku Adventure!

 
 
 

AN ICELANDIC ROAD TRIP

You may remember these ukuleles having stopped off to announce the great freezing #GoingNorth trip in Reykjavik, Iceland. Well, after the harsh winds and kind hearts of Canada, Ukulele Road Trips is back where it all started!

 
Back by the shore in the Icelandic capital

Back by the shore in the Icelandic capital

 

Going North some more, this time, not in the land of maple syrup and traditional tap-dancing, but in the land of volcanoes, ice, and ruthless Norse Gods.

The idea is a crazy, non-thought-through one: to go all around the mystical island in the Winter months and, with a bit of luck, survive. And with even more luck, let the road and frozen mountains inspire songs and poems fitting of their drama. If I can catch a bit of the fleeting sunlight during these short winter days, you might even get to see some of it!!

THE 'KUKU' IN 'KUKU CAMPERS'

If you don't have brains, to survive, you at least need a great ride. That ride can become your house, shelter, and your all round Awesome Road Trip Survival Machine. That's where Kuku Campers come in:

Kuku (short for 'kuku-town banana pants') means mad. And the Kuku Team of the Kuku Campers company, it seems, are Kuku enough to not mind seeing me drive one of their vans!

At the kuku counter with friendly Hölly, just outside Reykjavik

At the kuku counter with friendly Hölly, just outside Reykjavik

 

As I was first communicating with the Kukus, it was pretty clear to them I didn't have a clue about what I was throwing myself into. So their helpful verdict was quite clear: you won't get a better deal to see the island close up than with one of their ride. Plus, you know, freedom !!

And blessedly, because I'm travelling with 'kukuleles', they are giving me a discount which makes it possible for me to rent a spacious (and heated!) van. Because, who knew backpacking and writing original melodies didn't make you a gazillionaire ? Weird, right? Also, they did mention keeping warm in Iceland, in Winter, was important.

A tour of the homey living room/bed/kitchen of the van with Hölly striking a cool pose

A tour of the homey living room/bed/kitchen of the van with Hölly striking a cool pose

 

So with a drivable and robust palace, two ukuleles on the passenger's front seat, everything is in place for some serious Musical-Road-Trip-ing !

The modified Kuku Renault Master, on the parking lot, eager to get going ! "Dont Worry, be Sexy!!" is it's motto, there on the left. The Other side says "Don't Stink and Drive!"

The modified Kuku Renault Master, on the parking lot, eager to get going ! "Dont Worry, be Sexy!!" is it's motto, there on the left. The Other side says "Don't Stink and Drive!"

 

ODSSON HOTEL, KEEPING ME WARM

Another stroke of luck/Icelandic kindness was from the staff over at my only port of call in Reykjavik: the ODSSON Hostel.

Here pictured, the kind Scotsman from the front desk, whose lunch I'm interrupting so I can ask questions about weather, roads, and survival on an icelandic road trip.

Here pictured, the kind Scotsman from the front desk, whose lunch I'm interrupting so I can ask questions about weather, roads, and survival on an icelandic road trip.

 

They are located on top and underneath of the 'Myndlistaskólinn' , the school of arts which I visited just before landing in Canada. That the ODDSSON shares a building with that school is just another reason for the Backpacker to stop there, as it's also friendly, warm (important!), and they do a good price, relative to Iceland obviously.

My level of preparation for the Nordic Winter was this one: a very light summer sleeping bag tucked at the bottom of my backpack. Having had the most comfy blankets and pillows in the whole world at the ODDSSON (not an exaggeration) I have pleaded to borrow some of theirs while on my adventure. The fact they've agreed makes me so very grateful, and indebted to them for my comfy rests in a dream of softness.

Inside the van, in the soft clouds of ODDSSON blankets, already writing down a few lyrics.

Inside the van, in the soft clouds of ODDSSON blankets, already writing down a few lyrics.

So it's with the help and services of both ODDSSON and Kuku Campers that my survival seems like a possible achievment. The Northern Road beckons.

The Adventure #GoingNorth in Iceland is made possible with the contribution of CloudMusic Ukuleles, and also, as you've just read, with the kool kuku help of Kuku Campers !

Feel free to sponsor warm beverages here on the website, or over on the Patreon of Ukulele Road Trips.

Subscribe to all things subscribable to follow the Icelandic #GoingNorth !

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The Toronto Podcast and nearby Niagara Falls

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The Toronto Podcast and nearby Niagara Falls

 
 
 

THE TORONTO PODCAST

In the most polite of countries, and in one of its most buzzing of countries, the Ukulele Road Trips Podcast has joined up with a few hearty locals that embody the soul of Toronto, in one friendly couch conversation.

Click here to listen to/download the Toronto Podcast

From left to right, Adi, Augustin and Canadian Ben ! The smiling guests of the Toronto Podcast

From left to right, Adi, Augustin and Canadian Ben ! The smiling guests of the Toronto Podcast

 

One of the topics discussed in the Toronto Podcast, is that Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, with around half of its inhabitant being foreign-born.

Adi, on the left of the couch is from India and has been living in Canada for a few years already. Augustin, from Mexico, seated in the middle, having studied in Canada is waiting for a permit of permanent residence (or something like that, he explains it better than I do), and Candian Ben, on the right, as his name suggests, is Canadian, 'born and raised' in Ottawa, the capital.

A view on the Canadian Natinal (C.N.) Tower, also a topic in the pod

A view on the Canadian Natinal (C.N.) Tower, also a topic in the pod

 

So it's with the perfect panel that all Toronto-nian things are discussed, with songs and hard hitting questions such as "who is your favourite Justin?" and "Why are you so nice?".

Click here to listen to/download the Toronto Podcast

Post-podcast self-congratulory selfies all around !!

Post-podcast self-congratulory selfies all around !!

 

A WALK AND AN ARREST BY NIAGARA FALLS

The Niagara falls being not too far from Toronto, I seized what feels like a chance in a lifetime to see the glorious water falls. A short drive away from the busy city, and through the suburbs along Lake Ontario, and you're there !

Almost there !

Almost there !

Small confession, I had had a poster of the falls in my room as a child, and I imagined them surrounded by wild nature, green trees, lions and funny looking birds (yes, I also thought they were somewhere in Africa...). It's not exaclty how you'll discover the falls though. They're actually rather surrounded by buildings and skyscrapers. If you're into beautiful water falls, casinos and 3D cinemas, you're in for a treat !

the view to the left of the falls. The other side is the US !

the view to the left of the falls. The other side is the US !

 

I didn't really have the time for 3D cinema, so I decided to get closer to the thundering waters. What music! The bare roaring power of nature. But the sound of cameras and a pigeon getting in the way made me decide to get closer.

Who? Me?

Who? Me?

 

Getting closer, meaning in this case, to jump over the railing and sit down on the grass right next to nature's temple..

Behind the signs saying "do not go beyond this sign", the falls look more or less like this:

 
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From there, you can almost imagine the amazement and awe of the first native tribes discovering these Niagara Falls. Though you may have to face some consequences of your trespassing.

Alex Taccinelli and Ben from Ukulele Road Trips - a souvenir picture

Alex Taccinelli and Ben from Ukulele Road Trips - a souvenir picture

 

Meet Alex. Alex is a policeman by the Niagara Falls. And protecting everybody's safety, in this case meant Alex had to arrest me.

However, luckily for me, Alex was very friendly, courteous, and more concerned about my safety than wanting to issue a punishment of any kind. So friendly in fact, that he agreed to answer a few questions, and to talk a little bit about what it's like like being in the force, and living next to the glorious natural landmarks, an interview which features in the pod!

Stay safe, and there are some less dangerous ways of getting close up to the falls you know.

4D, I'm guessing, is 3D, with actual water.

4D, I'm guessing, is 3D, with actual water.

 

ONWARD

And it's with the final note of this friendly podcast that Ukulele Road Trips heads off to new Northern horizons. The flight is booked and everything ! But not before a bit of editing on the Canadian content, from a Starbucks downtown (coffee ordered in an actual mug!).

 
click click tap tap tap tap, piano piano, and boum, an edited ukulele road trips video !

click click tap tap tap tap, piano piano, and boum, an edited ukulele road trips video !

 

This happy bunch of Backpack, Ukulele player, and ukuleles are helped on their way by CloudMusic Ukuleles, whose ukes you can check out on here !

If you wish to sustain the traveller, with coffee and trailer mix nuts, you can donate top right of this page, or hop over to the Patreon of Ukulele Road Trips ! Yay !

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By the Banks of Lake Ontario - Toronto, Canada

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By the Banks of Lake Ontario - Toronto, Canada

 
 
 

KPI: Key Performance Indicator - A measurement which evaluates a task's success and tracks progress towards a specific marketing goal.

CRM: Customer Relationship Management - A set of programs which enable companies to organise and personalise customer services and support.

CAC: Customer Acquisition Cost - The calculated overall price of sales and marketing expenses of a set time frame, divided by the number of new customers in that time period.

To Skip Stones: To throw flat(-ish) stones in a spinning manner that will bring them to ricochet along the surface of the water, which inexplicably brings about a sense of pensiveness.

 
 

Toronto is a busy city. And the Toronto life is a fast paced one.

IMG_0436.JPG
 

John, Tim and Steve live such lives, sleep in the suburbs, and work Down Town, "where the iron reaches for the sky". "Tim has his coffee to go and he rushes to work on his morning commute." and "Steve doesn't go out too much, C++ is a quite consuming affair"

As the iron reaches for the sky, thousands of careers reach for new heights

As the iron reaches for the sky, thousands of careers reach for new heights

 

All in all, "KPI CRM and CAC, these things do matter a great deal you see".

And what else but these things, and "API" (Application Programming Interface) should be their focus, if they want to finally get that condo (appartment) that's so much closer to "the company tower" ?

IMG_0463.JPG
 

But in the middle of all this commotion, in the midst of worthwhile gusty winds of professional ambition, some sit down by the banks of Toronto's big Lake Ontario, and ponder.

Like Geoff for example. He "comes alone to think and make a few stones skip" under the late-autumn sun, or once in a while. "He thinks"

A view onto Lake ontario and the Toronto skyline

A view onto Lake ontario and the Toronto skyline

 

"He thinks, there must something more to all this, all the days that fly by in a mist, they just skip off, from the shore of, his life, skip like the stones skip."

Geoff, by Lake Ontario in Oakville

Geoff, by Lake Ontario in Oakville

 

And on the beaches of the city, or by the quieter banks of Lake Ontario in restful suburbs, stones skip, and thoughts are pondered by those who dare sit down, and question the pace of city lives.

IMG_0365.JPG
 

Thanks a bunch scrolling/listening/looking - and if you wanna support this Ukulele Road Trips adventure feel free to donate here or hop over to Patreon.com/ukuleleroadtrips

This #GoingNorth adventure made possible thanks to the generosity and help of many local Torontonians - and Mississaugans - and also thanks to CloudMusic Ukuleles, the ukes I'm carrying/playing/using as note stands on this crazy advenutre

 
do feed the ukulele player

do feed the ukulele player

 

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