Southern Indiana Tour: A monastery offering beer and a place to stay

When looking for places to visit in Southern Indiana, we stumbled across the Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, home to the Sisters of St. Benedict.  Upon further review, the monastery grounds offered affordable lodging and a brewery!  We stayed here two nights, attended morning mass, and had breakfast with a sister each morning.  The beer was passable and the central location allowed for quick access to regional tourist sites.

Tours of the monastery are available.  We didn’t partake, though we witnessed several areas of the building when going to mass and breakfast.  The brewery is open Thursday to Sunday.  Please click the link below for hours.

Lodging information

Brewery information

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Southern Indiana Tour: Vincennes

Southern Indiana offers its share of history.  The best part is that most of these sites are not crowded.  First up is Vincennes, a sleepy town of 18,000 on the banks of the Wabash. Our travel route brought us from Illinois to Vincennes on U.S. 50.  The first thing you need to do is exit on the business Route 50 (aka the old highway).  You’ll come across a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, who made his first venture into Illinois at this point.  You’ll drive across the Lincoln Memorial Bridge, a scenic two-lane deck arch bridge that was constructed in 1933.

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Once you cross into Indiana, the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is on your right.  Who was George Rogers Clark, and how did he get this awesome memorial in his honor?  Well, we must have slept through that day of history class.  Clark was a Revolutionary War hero, a brother of William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame, and we’ll let you learn the rest of his story in Vincennes.  We were the only visitors on a quiet Saturday morning.

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The Old Cathedral is adjacent to the George Rogers Clark site, so take a few steps and check it out!  The building dates to 1826 and the parish is the oldest in Indiana, dating to 1734.

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Vincennes continued to be a strategic post for military operations after the Revolutionary War.  It became the capital of the Indiana Territory and home to William Henry Harrison.  We were awake in history class to learn about “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too” and the shortest-serving U.S. President.  We learned much more at Grouseland, where we received a private tour (no one else was visiting that morning).

Grouseland

After Grouseland, we ventured a few blocks to Vincennes University, home of the Red Skelton Museum.  The radio and early television comic grew up in Vincennes, and his boyhood home is visible from campus.

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Vincennes summary:

Free sites:  George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, Lincoln Memorial Bridge, Old Cathedral

Cost attached:  William Henry Harrison home at Grouseland, Red Skelton Museum

We skipped:  Vincennes State Historic Site (mixed reviews on TripAdvisor)

Time allowance:  One day.  We arrived in the evening and walked the George Rogers Clark grounds.  We toured the GRC building and the next morning, then the Cathedral, Grouseland, and finally the Skelton museum.  An easy 1-2-3-4 that took from 9:00 a.m. to about 12:30.

Waterfalls of Iceland: Skogafoss

Skogafoss is a popular waterfall, with close access to the Ring Road.  This one had its pluses and one big minus.

Location:  Southern coast of Iceland, just off the Ring Road.  Google maps location for Skogafoss.

Our lodging was west of Vik, so we made an evening trip to Skogafoss and saved nearby Seljalandsfoss for the next morning.

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Pros:

  • Accessible.  Skogafoss is close to the Ring Road.
  • You can get close to the waterfall at both the bottom and the top.
  • Potential for a great sunset photo from the top platform.

Cons:

  • The big one:  While a beautiful waterfall, Skogafoss seemed to be the most impacted by man’s footprint.  Campers were set up a few hundred feet away.  Lodging and a restaurant are also closeby.  That’s great if you are a camper or hotel guest.  That’s not great if you want to enjoy the serenity of Skogafoss.
  • The stairs to the top could be tough for some visitors.

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Other:

  • Not a big fan of the Hotel Skogafoss Bistro restaurant.  Dining in Iceland is expensive, which we understand.  Dining here is a ripoff.

 

Waterfalls of Iceland: Hengifoss

Hengifoss is Iceland’s third-highest waterfall.  The layered canyon backdrop really makes this one of Iceland’s best.

Location:  About 35 kilometers from Egilsstadir, which is a good place to spend the night.  We were traveling clockwise, so an early morning visit to Hengifoss was in order.  This was perfect as hardly anyone was there (the crowd picked up slightly by our exit).  Google maps location

Pros:

  • Not crowded, at least in the early morning hours.
  • A nice hike to the falls (about 2.5 km).
  • A great photo backdrop.
  • While you have to travel off of the Ring Road, it’s a nice drive on a good road.

Con:

  • The walk was very, very windy – and uphill.  We enjoyed that, you might not.

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Waterfalls of Iceland: Hafragilsfoss

Hafragilsfoss is a few kilometers north of Dettifoss and Selfoss.  Few people bother to make the short drive.  There was one other car in the lot when we pulled into the observation area!

This is a beautiful waterfall in the Jokulsargljufur Canyon.

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Pros: 

  • No crowds, at least when we visited.
  • Beautiful views of the canyon.

Cons

  • The road (864) to Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss and Selfoss is rough.  There is a paved road (862) on the west side of the falls, but the views of Hafragilsfoss are very limited.
  • The short drive to the parking area was steep.

Below:  The canyon below the waterfall.

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Location:  About 60 km east of Myvatn (if you take route 862).  Myvatn would be your likely stop the night before (if traveling clockwise).  We traveled clockwise, staying at Myvatn, visiting Dettifoss/Selfoss/Hafragilsfoss, then going on to Egilsstadir.  This was a full day with several stops.

Waterfalls of Iceland: Dettifoss

Big…powerful…loud…Dettifoss!  This waterfall is by many accounts Europe’s most powerful.  Dettifoss can be reached by two roads:  862 to the west and 864 to the east.  862 is a paved road.  864 is anything but a paved road.  No 4WD?  Plan on some 15-20 mph time.  However, views from the east are very nice.  While you’re here, be sure to check out Selfoss, which is about a one kilometer walk.  Few tourists seemed to be going to Selfoss.  Their loss, your Selfoss.  Afterwards, drive a short distance north to Hafragilfoss.

Location:  About 60 km east of Myvatn (f you take route 862).  Myvatn would be your likely stop the night before (if traveling clockwise).  We traveled clockwise, staying at Myvatn, visiting Dettifoss, then going on to Egilsstadir.  This was a full day with several stops.  Google maps location of Dettifoss

Pros:

  • The shear volume of water is amazing.
  • The opportunity to see three unique waterfalls in a short amount of time.
  • Some tourists, but not overcrowded.
  • A famous waterfall – it has been featured in movies, including Prometheus.

Cons:

  • Road 864.  Not fun, though the east side provides the best views of Dettifoss.
  • If beautiful waterfalls are your thing…well, Dettifoss is more about the power.

Finally:

Be smart.  Be careful.  There are no fences.  This is a powerful waterfall.  Injuries have happened.

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Waterfalls of Iceland: Selfoss

I’ll say something that few visitors to Iceland would venture to say.  Selfoss may have been my favorite waterfall in the country…it’s right up there.

I’m guessing that this isn’t a popular statement because:

  • Selfoss is in the shadows of Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
  • It’s not the tallest, or the most powerful, or one that you can walk under.
  • I don’t believe that many people visit Selfoss (on the day of our visit, I would estimate hat only 10 percent of those visiting Dettifoss took the hike to Selfoss)selfoss2-2

Pros: 

  • No crowds (as of 2016).  You’ll likely have some peace and quiet as you enjoy the view.
  • Great panoramic photos!  Selfoss is a unique, wide waterfall that can shift as the seasons change.

Cons:

  • The walking trail to Selfoss is rocky and you have to climb over some rocks.  Trust us, watch your step!
  • While the east side offers awesome views, it also means you have to drive on a verrrrry bumpy gravel road (#864).  Icelandic gravel roads aren’t graded or maintained.  You’ll be going 15-20 mph in spots.  You can take the smoother road on the west side (#862), though the view may not equal the east side.

Location:  About 60 km east of Myvatn (if you take route 862).  Myvatn would be your likely stop the night before (if traveling clockwise).  We traveled clockwise, staying at Myvatn, visiting Dettifoss/Selfoss/Hafragilsfoss, then going on to Egilsstadir.  This was a full day with several stops.