To The Ends Of The Earth

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You see the appeal, right?

There’s been a slight change in plans, dear Reader. Our original plan to return to Reykjavík and enjoy some additional time in the city has been scrapped. Before bed each night I’ve been mooning over our map of Iceland, contemplating the far away places. The places just beyond our highlighted route.

Specifically, I’m eyeing Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon located another two hours (and back) further east along the coast. I casually toss out the idea one night to Billy and, of course, he’s on board despite the additional mileage. But then, my husband is always on board. And sometimes I wonder, dear Reader, is that what I wanted in a man all along? No, not someone to humor me and cater to my latest whim – although that’s nice too! But rather, isn’t that the hallmark of a good partner: the willingness to encourage you to do the things you love? To do them with you? Also, Billy is randomly really into glaciers. So there’s that.

Kids These Days… 
With the car packed and Billy behind the wheel, I make a few phone calls and rearrange our hotels so we can spend a night in the southern town of Vík. Our drive will be long and, according to the map, offer little in the way of civilization aside from the occasional gas station. After an hour or so the lush, soaring cliffs fade to curious oceans of moss. From there the terrain becomes more stark, with grey mountains to our left and long, wide stretches of black beach to our right.

Radiohead’s The Bends plays in the background, lending an eclectic and haunting ambiance to our already otherworldly excursion. I’m shocked when we see two female hitchhikers with large trekking packs along this stretch of deserted road. Hitchhikers are not uncommon along the Ring Road… but this far out? Where did they come from? Where are they going? They are on the opposite side of the road (presumably heading in the opposite direction) and yet they shake their fists angrily at us as we pass.

“Pff! There’s something distasteful about hitchhikers.” I rant. “Oh sure, they’re supposed to be all freewheeling and adventurous… but honestly, expecting others to cart you around? It’s so presumptuous!”

“You really are such an old lady sometimes,” Billy laughs.

And it’s true, dear Reader, I am. But there’s something about the practice that irks me, something that banks on the good nature of others to compensate for the hitchhiker’s own lack of preparedness. I’m not referring to emergencies, of course, but it seems a precarious position to assume willfully. Why put yourself at risk of assault, Iceland’s no-joke elements, or hours of potentially awkward chitchat with a driver of unknown conversational skill?

Or is it simply a fun way to meet locals and other travelers? What do you think? I’m always curious about other people’s experiences with hitchiking.

Speedboating With Jarl
We pull up to Jökulsárlón’s parking lot and, even from here, the unearthly blue of the floating glaciers is mesmerizing. This picturesque lagoon has served as the backdrop for several action films including Tomb Raider, Batman Begins, and Die Another Day.  For you Game of Thrones fans out there, most of Westeros is, in fact, Iceland.

Before long we are suited up and boarding our Zodiac boat while our guide Jarl (that ‘j’ is a ‘y’ sound), offers some general safety instructions.

“How long would you last in water like this?” I inquire.

“Four to five minutes,” replies Jarl. “And then you die.”

I nod appreciatively. The woman next to me glares at me, perhaps less appreciative of this icy immersion tidbit. Jarl goes on to explain the lagoon’s formation as the gradual retreat of the Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland’s largest icecap (another nod to climate change for you kids keeping track at home). Large chunks of ice calve off the glacier and make their way to the sea via the lagoon. We hold on as Jarl speeds through the lagoon, zipping between the translucent icebergs, bringing us closer and closer to the formidable glacier wall.

I feel cool, you guys. Yeah. Cool. I got my ready-for-anything suit on and I’m speeding through a dramatic landscape on a Zodiac that still has that “new boat” smell.  I turn to Billy and nod my head as if to say, Dude, this is awesome. He nods back like, Yeah, we cool. 

Our boat pulls up to The Wall, or at least as close as we can safely get. Glaciers are unpredictable beauties. We learned about their abysmal crevasses during our snowmobiling excursion but, today, we are more concerned with part of the ice wall calving off. This would create a ripple effect that could topple our tiny vessel. We even maintain a distance from the floating icebergs knowing they flip and roll without warning. I admit, it’s tough to be too concerned about the danger with all of this natural beauty surrounding us. Seals frolic among the ice as we slow down to take photos and enjoy the view.

After our lagoon tour, we cross the street to Diamond Beach to get a closer look at the glacier ice flowing out to sea. The black sand is sprinkled with clear, bright chunks of ice – evidence of how the beach got its name.

Billy and I are so glad we made time for this last-minute exploration. I have no doubt this southeastern excursion topped anything we would have seen in Reykjavík! Content, we leisurely make our way back to Vík, stopping often to take photographs along the road.

Puppy Love & Personal Brands
After a delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep in the village of Vík, I awake refreshed and ready for our final day in Iceland. Like I’ve done every morning of our vacation, I reach for my phone and immediately open my Facebook app to the Endless Love Pet Palace page (Miss Mary’s current accommodations). Sometimes they post pictures of the pups at play. It’s pathetic, I know, but I miss her so much! I miss her little puppy smell and the low woofs she makes when she’s having a puppy dream.

No new photos today. Sigh.

After breakfast we enjoy a stroll along the beach. It’s sunny today (!) and I sip my tea on a small boulder while watching the ebb and flow of the ocean. Billy is somewhere around here amidst the maze of hulking, black boulders… I think maybe he’s decided to climb one. My quiet moment is interrupted by a couple approaching. The man is filming the woman as she walks along the shore. She talks to the camera (iPhone) for a few minutes and I realize she is starring in her own travel vlog.

“Do you have anything to say to your fans?” the man asks from behind the iPhone.

I chuckle to myself quietly. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about, dear Reader – this concept of being on trend, of developing my own “brand.” I should promote my blog more and beg people to share it. I should post videos because people love videos! (It seems I’m the only person on the planet who would rather read an article). Or what about the time my friends told me I had to get the blog on Insta – a social media platform designed for people who don’t read. That, by the way, resulted in a bunch of followers with names like 2Huge4U messaging me and encouraging me to post more “full body shots” – all while never clicking on my blog link! At the very least, I should be blogging in real time.

But then, dear Reader, I wouldn’t be here. Sitting quietly on this rock. Staring at the water. I’d be in our hotel room tapping away at my laptop. Or worse! Posting poorly written entries on the fly <<church faint>>.

“Hellooooo!” a voice calls from a distance. It’s Billy. He’s conquered a boulder after all. I wave back and smile. See? Would have been a shame to miss that.

Things That Can Kill You In Iceland
Our next stop is another black sand beach further up the road called Reynisfjara. Known for its unique basalt columns and for killing tourists, it is one of the country’s most popular beaches. As we make our way from the parking lot to the shore, there are several signs warning us of dangerous sneaker waves – waves that carry unsuspecting visitors out to sea. Iceland’s natural beauty is beyond words, but tourists do have a habit of gettin’ dead here. Allow me to share this handy guide called Things That Can Kill You In Iceland so you don’t perish while “on island” (as they say). Lucky for me, my husband was a swimmer. He gave me an unsolicited ten minute tutorial on the importance of swimming parallel to the shore should I get swept away.

Parallel! he emphasizes once more. Parallel. Got it.

With the safety lecture out of the way, Billy and I explore the cave and take some obligatory pics on the Gardar Cliff’s basalt columns. They remind me of a large assembly of organ pipes – I love organs!

And so our adventure is coming to a close…. Time to head back to the city and prepare for our early morning flight and our reunion with Miss Mary! Thanks for coming along, dear Reader, and for supporting my totally untrendy, woefully old school labor of love. Until next time!

That little face!

 

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Snowmobiling A Glacier, Anyone?

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Take me to the glacier!

Buckle up, dear Reader, I’m rehashing four days of adventure along Iceland’s south coast in two whirlwind blogs. Nothing I write will do this region justice – there are visual delights as far as the eye can see – but hopefully this will be just enough to entice you to book a trip. Let’s get started…..

I Get “Meta”
Our first southern excursion is a snowmobile tour of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Our group suits up at Arcanum’s base camp, awkwardly fumbling with balaclavas and huge helmets. There’s something exciting about donning gear… I feel prepared for the adventure ahead! Excitedly, we pile into the van that will take us to our snowmobiles further up on the glacier.

Bear, our guide, is a tall blonde somewhere in his late 20s (but then, it seems nearly all of the Icelanders are tall, blonde, and young). He drives the van like he stole it, bounding over the rocky, unpaved road and jostling us around so much that my helmet occasionally knocks into Billy’s. A few moments later, we are mounted on our snowmobiles. Billy is driving and I’m seated directly behind him. We listen carefully to Bear’s instructions, paying particular attention to the whiteout safety procedure.

Whiteout? I nervously pat myself down, noting the empty pockets of my snowsuit. But I didn’t bring snacks! Not even a Lara Bar! Yes, this is was my concern, dear Reader. As if a gluten-free energy bar was going to save me from Snowmaggedon. My balaclava slips down over my left eye and I tuck it up into my helmet before we take off.

We speed over the glacier single file. It’s overcast today so what would be a stunning view of the landscape below is instead a haze of white… a haze of white and the black balaclava hanging over my left eye again. Ugh. Thank goodness I didn’t offer to drive! My repeated attempts to tuck it up under my helmet prove unsuccessful. My hand mobility is limited by my bulky glove and, naturally, the need to hold on! That’s the inevitability of gear though isn’t it, dear Reader? What’s designed to keep you safe ultimately limits you, restricting your freedom of movement. In that sense gear is a lot like our attachments, I muse, still fiddling beneath my eye visor with one hand as we whizz through the other-worldly terrain.

Yes… aren’t we often all too willing to sacrifice what is possible for what is comfortable? That would be a great theme for a yoga class. I consider how this concept might translate to asanas as I risk removing my glove to adjust my balaclava once and for all – this time with my bare hand. And then we hit a bump. A big bump. A bump that results in me both knocking a contact out of my eye and scratching my own forehead. Pretty sure I’m bleeding a little. Lovely.

Just to recap: I’m half blind, bleeding slightly, and without snacks. Gah!

Let Me Count The Ways….
Bear has everyone park their snowmobiles and gather at a particularly scenic point. He gets on his knees and begins moving the snow around until I realize he’s making a map… of the glacier itself it seems. Fun! Billy and I drop to our knees as well to huddle around the map and hear what Bear has to say.

“Does anyone know the name of the glacier we’re on?” Bear asks the group.

But the majority of our group is wandering, posing for photos, and probably altogether unaware of where they are. Rude! There are only a handful of us poised over the snow map.

“Mýrdalsjökull” I mutter, breaking the silence. I feel sorry for our tour guide.

“Yes! Very good. Good pronunciation too!” Bear exclaims, seemingly used to being ignored. “And does anyone know when the last notable volcanic eruption was?” he asks, testing our knowledge further still.

I pause, indulging in an old habit, not wanting to reveal that I might know more than the person next to me. The small group around the map is silent.

Billy smiles and declares with confidence, “She knows.”

I love him so much in this moment, dear Reader. And not because I need to answer Bear’s question. This seemingly insignificant gesture, this small nod to me – to what I know – makes Billy different from any of his predecessors. It proves my husband is proud of me and not intimidated by me. It reminds me why he’s a keeper, why I’m in Iceland celebrating a wedding anniversary with him and no one else.

I sit up a little taller. “There was an eruption in 2010 at… I’m going to butcher this… Eye-a-fyalla-yokull.”

I sound like I’m choking but Bear is excited: correct again! We’re all happy – Billy because he has a smart wife, me because I have a confident husband, and Bear… well, Bear is just happy to have people pay attention to him!

We Ask ALL The Questions
We continue to explore the glacier, stopping close to a section of crevasses (at least as close as one dares to get). I watch Billy peer far below him, admiring the crevasses and their dark, gaping holes that plunge 50 meters or more into the earth. He looks like an astronaut exploring another planet.

So, one key factoid I failed to mention is that the Mýrdalsjökull glacier – the one we’re currently standing on – is an icecap covering one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes, Katla. Katla has shown signs of unrest lately and I ask Bear what the evacuation plan entails. (I can be a real killjoy like that, dear Reader). Much to my surprise the plan is simple: they’ll close the roads to the areas where the damage is expected to be the worst and see what happens.

“That’s it?” I ask.

“That’s it,” Bear says. Huh.

Bear proves to be a good sport as Billy and I interrogate him about everything from Iceland’s high cost of living to the rising tide of tourism (I am especially interested in this topic after reading so many articles about tourists behaving badly). But to my surprise, Bear expresses appreciation for the work opportunities created by so many visitors.

After sipping some fresh-as-it-gets glacier water from the stream nearby, we begin to talk about climate change. Bear notes the many ways in which climate change is evident in his country and, perhaps sensing my shame, generously notes that he believes most Americans understand the reality of climate change too. Well, that makes one of us, I think. But then, I have far less faith in my fellow Americans these days.

And Waterfalls, Of Course
After pausing for lunch, Billy and I stop at the three – that’s right, three – headlining waterfalls along the southern stretch of Route 1. And they’re only about 25 minutes from each other! First up is Skógafoss, one of Iceland’s biggest falls. Tucked just off of the main road amidst idyllic green cliffs and turf houses, Skógafoss is a classically-shaped rectangular fall. Tour buses pause a few moments in the parking lot, just long enough for their passengers to take a photo from afar and scramble back onto the bus. Not nearly enough time to enjoy this charming spot!

From there we make our way to Seljalandsfoss, a rare beauty. The cliff face here juts out, making it possible to walk behind the waterfall’s cascade. It’s pretty magical. And wet. Definitely wet.

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Seljalandsfoss

Just a few minutes walk from Seljalandsfoss is Gljúfrabúi, a lesser-known but no less beautiful fall. Gljúfrabúi is often called the “hidden waterfall” because it is enclosed by the walls of the canyon into which it falls. Sneaking a peek at this fall requires getting your feet wet but it’s totally worth it.

Okay. One last installment coming to a newsfeed near you! Then I promise I’ll shut the heck up about Iceland already.

(But omg, you should totally go!)

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#OOTD (Errryday) in Iceland

Dear Reader, how many times have you thought to yourself: Gee, Malia is such a fashion visionary, I wish she would do a style issue!

Exactly zero times? That’s what I thought.

My love for beautiful clothes is no secret but neither is the fact that I have little patience for shopping. A far cry from a Maxxinista, I am all too happy to pay full price for something that is neatly sized, creatively displayed, and will get me outta that store pronto. Despite all of this, I spent a good chunk of time contemplating  my wardrobe for Iceland. Knowing the temps would range from 55-75 degrees throughout the day to totally-freaking-freezing on the glaciers, I was stumped.

Oh sure, the guidebooks suggest you pack layers. But what help is that? Layers for hot spring dipping, layers for rain storms, layers for glacial conditions, layers for the impending volcanic explosion of Katla due any minute now…. It’s all too much! With the weather changing every five seconds, I often found myself peu chic or, at the very least, impractically dressed.

So let’s talk about the ensemble that was crucial to keeping the good times rolling in Iceland….

(drum roll please)

… The all-purpose, one-piece SNOWSUIT! 

Stepping into one of these babies is like sliding into a warm, puffy sleeping bag. Zippers run alongside the leg from the knee down, making wrestling matches with tight ankle holes a thing of the past. The suits are peppered with handy pockets that accommodate everything from survival snacks to iPhones all while bright colors and reflective strips increase your odds of being rescued in an emergency. And can I get a “hell yeah!” for the cinchable hood?!

This smart one-piece, provided to us by several of our tour vendors, kept us comfortable during windy whale watches, snowmobiling excursions, and speed boating through glacial lagoons. (We’ll chat about those last two excursions in my next post). So bring your layers, dear Reader, but do not fret (or jam your suitcase); the Icelanders expect you to be unprepared for the elements and they totally have your back!

Hey, I’m not saying looking stylish in Iceland is impossible. But I am saying that it should be the least of your worries. Get outside already! (Even if it’s raining. Because it’s probably raining. Or about to rain).

Thanks for reading my first – and likely last – style blog. Ever.

P.S. Fearing I might be out of touch, I did some research before posting my first style blog. And by ‘research’ I mean I typed style blog into the Google search bar. Mostly it resulted in a bunch of boring stuff about clothes, but it also revealed – finally! – the meaning of the mysterious #OOTD. After months of not knowing (and not caring enough to find out), at last: Outfit Of The Day. Did you hear that, dear Reader? The Day. People are being stylish on the regular! Whoa!

Asshats & Epitaphs

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Are you sick of our stupid faces yet?

After a couple of days in the West, we’ve got our bags packed (again) and are heading South by way of the The Golden Circle, a collection of must-see attractions for first-timers in Iceland. This popular route is located within an hour of Reykjavík making it especially convenient for those visitors short on time.

“So… it looks like we can just get on Route 1 and go back the way we came for the most part.” I advise Billy from the passenger seat.

“The way we came?” his distaste for the idea immediately apparent. He leans over the map. “What about this other route?” he suggests, clearly feeling the call of the unknown.

“That works too, although it’s Iceland… not sure what the road conditions will be like.”

“It’ll be fine,” he says.

The Road Less Traveled
Rain falls and chunks of rock ping the underside of our rental as we bounce along the gravel stretch of the road less traveled. There’s nothing but hills as far as the eye can see and no sign of life. Even the sheep are elsewhere. The radio cut out about 20 minutes ago so Billy and I sit in silence. I could fill the void with “I told you so” but this is a marriage, dear Reader, and that shit don’t fly in a marriage.

“The map has us turning up ahead shortly. Hopefully the road will even out a bit there,” Billy offers. Yes, hopefully it will, I think. Luckily for us both (and the underside of our car!), paved road was in our future after all. The rain stops and the sun begins to creep out from behind the clouds. The tunes – and sheep! – are back.

“So serene…. feels like we’re the only people in Iceland,” I remark. “I’m glad you suggested this route, it’s really gorgeous.” Check me out, totally crushing this wife gig! And it’s true, I am glad.

Lush green hills, glaciers, crisp air… it all reminds me of our trips to Bavaria or Switzerland. And yet, there is something distinctly different about Iceland – something altogether more wild and unpredictable. If the tidy, wooden clusters of Europe’s alpine villages suggest strength in numbers, the modest homes of Icelanders – often located miles and miles apart – lend credence to the Icelanders’ reputation for isolation. Clearly these are people who aren’t afraid to go it alone.

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Haukadalur Valley, The Golden Circle’s geothermal area.

The Golden Circle
A flood of tour buses signal our arrival to The Golden Circle. Our first stop is Þingvellir National Park (don’t stress, that weird symbol just makes a th- sound: Thingvellir). Home to Icelandic parliament circa 930 AD, the park is also the site of the continental rift splitting Iceland between the North American and Eurasian Continents. It’s a hot spot for sure – and there’s a gazillion people here to prove it. William and I spend an hour or so enjoying the views but it’s drizzling again and any real exploration is becoming less and less appealing.

We drive on to Haukadalur Valley, home to several hot springs including Geysir – the geyser after which all geysers are named (yet another fun fact for your next cocktail party, dear Reader).  We score a primo parking spot and make our way over to the crowd of tourists. Though Geysir is dormant, the Strokkur geyser erupts every 10-15 minutes and is the major attraction in these parts. Judging by the horde of tourists with their cameras at the ready, the eruption should be any minute now. And sure enough… The waters of Strokkur spring forth, leaping high into the air just as a tall, overbearing man knocks me over in pursuit of the perfect photo.

It begs the eternal question: does anyone care where you’ve been if you were a total asshat while you were there? Food for thought.

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We hop back into the car and I begin snacking on a lunch wrap I had squirreled away. Billy puts the car in reverse and I comment on my tasty lunch when a horrific metallic screech stops us both in our tracks.

“What the hell was that?!” I demand.

“The car,” my husband responds, puzzled. Fahk.

We both scramble out of the vehicle in search of answers. Somehow a metal plate behind the front bumper has been knocked out of place. It’s hanging low and dragging on the ground. Lovely. Billy wastes no time getting under the problem and, rather unceremoniously, bangs the plate back into place (or at least closer to ‘into place’). We get back in the car.

“Is it fixed?” I ask. He shrugs, putting the car into reverse once more and no doubt praying silently. We both hold our breath. No sound.

“You did it!” I cheer, immediately clicking my seatbelt secure and returning to my lunch.

But I can tell Billy is still anxious.

“Don’t worry about the car,” I say with a wave of my hand between bites. “Did we learn nothing from the Neapolitans? If it drives, it’s fine. I mean… until it blows up on the side of the tangenziale anyway… but whatever – va bene! We’re on vacation and we need to focus. Make this left…”

Rule #1: Have Fun

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Good Looks & Even Better Intentions
With that brief interlude behind us, we come to our final stop along the Golden Circle: Gullfoss, a thunderous two-tiered waterfall. Water crashes down into a narrow canyon nearly 70 meters deep as spray kicks up, dousing throngs of admirers along the footpath. On our way out I pause to read some information about Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the woman who dedicated her life to preserving Gullfoss. When foreign investors sought to dam the waterfall for hydroelectrical production in the 18th century, Sigríður was having none of it – she even threatened to toss herself into the falls if they didn’t reconsider!

The information board goes on to make some interesting notes about Sigríður. Apparently she “was of average height and strongly built. She was also considered good looking in her younger years and had thick and beautiful blonde hair.” Poor Sigríður. She was one of Iceland’s first environmental activists and here we are, talking about her hair! Can you imagine? Here lies Malia Rosado. She cured cancer, brokered world peace, and was a solid 7 when she put some effort in.  

I shake my head. Sad!

Not Featured, But Still Pretty Awesome!
Yet again, it was impossible to include all of the day’s activities in one post, dear Reader. I know I’m already pushing my luck by sharing 1,200-word blog posts in an image-obsessed society, so here’s what you missed today real fast:

  • Our horseback ride at Hestheimer. The farm’s adorable dust mop of a dog, Scündi, accompanied us the entire two hours. A band of wild horses ran alongside us for a while. It was so beautiful, I think my heart stopped for a moment. Also, Billy’s horse was super flatulent (his horses always are).
  • Our lunch in a greenhouse on Friðheimar Farm. The tomato-themed menu is limited and also incredibly delicious. And yes, we paid $30 for a bowl of tomato soup. Because, also yes, Iceland is kick-you-in-the-pants-pricey. The sooner you accept it the better!

Rainy Days & Road Kill

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Djúpalónssandur

The sunshine is gone, dear Reader. Outside our hotel window the azure waves of yesterday have lost their playfulness. This morning the Atlantic Ocean is uninviting, opaque – a still blanket of sulky grey concealing untold mysteries. Drops of rain fall fat and fast with no signs of letting up.

There are few things I love more than a rainy day, but there’s no denying they are less welcome on vacation. Today William and I plan to drive West and explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula – home to a National Park, several tiny fishing villages, lava caves, and about a million other natural wonders. This rain simply would not do!

“It’s raining. What if we can’t do any of the stuff!” I whine to my husband who is quietly packing up our things.

“We’re going to do the stuff. All of the stuff,” he reassures me, referencing our most important, and really only, travel rule – Rule #1: Have Fun.

“We Have A Deal!”
Billy drives through the downpour as we make our way along Route 1 to Borgarnes. As navigator, I occasionally reference the map and entertain my husband with interesting facts I’ve picked up about Iceland. Presently, we are discussing the local language which remains unchanged from its Ancient Norse (although, thankfully, Icelanders speak English just as well). Once you grasp some basic root words, the road signs become easier to understand. For instance:

Anything ending in -ssandur refers to a beach. Names ending in -jökull, a glacier. -Vík, a bay, as in Reykjavík which means “smokey bay.” Aren’t we clever, dear Reader? Day two and we’re already picking up some Ancient Norse! Billy and I fall silent, indulging in our own thoughts for a moment. On the radio Miley Cyrus sings somewhat ironically:

But here I am… Next to you… The sky is so blue….

Up ahead on the road a small grey bird with a long beak stands and stares at us. An internal alarm sounds as the bird remains resolute, unmoving. We’re approaching it quickly and – THUNK!

I gasp loudly, turning to face the back window, “Did he make it?!”

“I don’t think he made it,” Billy says quietly.

“You ran him over! That poor little bird!”

“He didn’t fly away! That what birds do – they fly away from cars!”

“You killed it!” I cry.

“We’re going fast on a narrow country road in the rain, what was I supposed to do?! Oh God, I hope it wasn’t endangered. Those flightless birds are always endangered! Like the dodo!” Billy frets, feeling simultaneously guilty and defensive.

“Well, we can be sure you didn’t hit a dod-” THWACK!

I jump as another bird flies smack into the passenger side window. The impacts sends it reeling, flipping a few times mid-air before (I think) flying off into the fog.

“Oh shit,” says Billy in disbelief, his eyes leaving the road ahead of him for only a momentary glance my way.

“Why don’t you just take out one of these baby sheep on the side of the road for another 10 points?!” I shriek. It’s unfair, I know. As any Seinfeld fan can tell you, when it comes to birds in the road: “we have a deal!”

“Don’t make me feel bad. I already feel bad!” Billy insists.

We sit in stunned silence for a moment. The whole scene is unfortunate for sure but…. is it funny too? We begin to laugh. I reach over and put my hand on Billy’s leg.

“My Dad would probably just call it natural selection,” I offer reassuringly.

*Let the record show, dear Reader, that there proved to be tons of these small, grey birds in Iceland. Not only was it not endangered, it was the only one who failed to flee an approaching car. Also note: we stopped more than a few times for animals in the road over the remainder of our visit (see photo of the gaggle below for proof).

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Raidin’ & Tradin’ 
Having arrived in Borgarnes and eager to get out of the rain, Billy and I visit The Settlement Center museum. While this is undoubtedly the least Instagrammable portion of our Icelandic adventure, it was also one of our favorites. We don our headsets and navigate the first exhibit which, as you may have guessed, schools us on the settlement of Iceland.

Iceland was discovered by Norwegian Vikings in desperate search of farmable land. I say “desperate” because you’d have to be desperate to sleep on an open boat with 100 other men and livestock while aimlessly trolling the North Atlantic in hopes of fertile land, wouldn’t you? But hey, what gumption! No doubt, dear Reader, you’ve heard the (not entirely undeserved) bad press about the Viking raids of monasteries and unprotected villages. I’m not here to defend that – “Bad Vikings, Bad!” – but a nod to their trade network is totally in order. We were surprised to learn Viking trade routes extended through Novgorod, Istanbul, Jerusalem, and as even as far as Baghdad.

The second exhibit focuses on one of Iceland’s famous Sagas, a collection of prose narratives that depict (with editorial flair, no doubt) the historical events of the settlement years. Today we learn about the rebellious Egil Skallagrímsson who is described as “a farmer, poet, and all-around feisty Viking.” If only there were online dating profiles back then…. Billy and I exchange shocked glances as our audio guides describe Egil’s first revenge killing – at age 7! – in which he takes an axe to the skull of a classmate after being cheated in a game they were playing.

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Our Western Whirlwind
After a delicious meal at the museum’s restaurant, William and I make a happy discovery – the rain has subsided! Downgraded to a light sprinkle, we are able to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula a bit. We stop in Hellnar (population of 10) and Djúpalónssandur, a black sand beach with interesting rock formations. On our way down to the beach we admire two serene lagoons and stop to test our strength at the Lifting Stones (by “our” strength I really mean Billy’s). The Lifting Stones are four stones of varying weight that were used to determine a fisherman’s strength and seaworthiness back in the day.

The unpredictable nature of the ocean is also on display at Djúpalónssandur, its shore littered with the rusted wreckage of a British trawler that capsized in 1948. The iron debris of Epine GY7 remains untouched in remembrance of the fishermen who lost their lives that day. I call my husband back several times from the water’s edge just to be safe.

It’s midnight before the sun finally makes an appearance. But it’s too late, we’re already cuddled up in bed with our reading material. We do make good use of the summer sun in our next two days out West, dear Reader. We drive the remainder of the peninsula admiring the countless waterfalls, sheep, and horses along the road. We even see two orcas (named Phantom and Bandit) on our whale watch from Ólafsvík.

But we can’t stop, won’t stop… the Golden Circle awaits!

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Gah! Baby animals everywhere!

Fire & Ice (& Anniversaries)

Our Xtreme Anniversary Begins!

Pack your bags, dear Reader, because we’re about to beat this Middle Georgia heat!

(And there was much rejoicing.)

In celebration of our two year anniversary, William and I – and you! – are heading to Iceland to rejoice in dramatic landscapes, midnight sun, and long-sleeve shirts.

Iceland: “So Hot Right Now”
Iceland is totally having a moment. It seems nearly every week another one of my Facebook friends is kicking back an Icelandic beer at some hip bar in Reykjavík. Dear Reader, if you’re starting to get the everyone’s-been-to-Iceland-but-meeeee feels too, well… they have.

If I’m being honest, this made me hesitant to visit Iceland at all. And not just because I’m late to the party or because the most clever hashtags have already been claimed. Rather, the tourism boom of the past decade has resulted in the Disneyfication of some of my favorite sites and cities. (Hi Barcelona! I still love you!). With the ratio of tourists to Icelanders hovering around 6:1, I feared we were destined for lines, overpriced entry fees, and crowds.

Still… the case for Iceland was compelling. A small island roughly the size of Ohio, Iceland is home to a mere 350,000 people (like, total). The country is truly a study in contrasts: its fiery volcanoes juxtaposed with frosty glaciers, its sustained summer sunshine offset by the endless night of winter. And yet, Iceland received little to no love from the travel community until 2008 when the value of the Icelandic Kroner plummeted, making vacations there extremely affordable. Then, in 2010, ash from the massive volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull (not a typo) halted air travel throughout Northern and Western Europe for almost a week! Okay, Iceland. Now you have our attention.

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Daydreams & Recycled Air
Let’s fast forward through our trudge to the airport, shall we? Regular readers know I’m one of those rare finds who truly enjoys air travel. Flying offers a brief reprieve from my earthly woes as I literally float above the trappings and frustrations of my life below. I love having hours to read and to ponder the digital world map illuminated on the seat-back TV – oh, the places we’ll go! For me, vacation begins right here in Seat 5A: my airborne library complete with teeny, tiny snacks.

My “Ode to the Majesty of Flight” aside, I arrive in Reykjavík with a cramp in my neck, anxious to get our adventure underway. Billy crams our luggage into the tiny trunk of our white Peugeot rental car and we head straight for the famed Blue Lagoon. Our reservation – and you must make a reservation for this trendy geothermal spa – is for opening time, 8AM.

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In Hot Water (And It Feels So Good)
Surely you recognize the milky blue/green waters of The Blue Lagoon, dear Reader? You likely already know its warm waters are renowned for their healing properties – the silica contained therein brightens complexions, soothes irritated skin, and eases weary bones. Old news, right? Most people don’t realize, however, that the Lagoon is man-made (though the full swim-up bar complete with skyr smoothies should have tipped you off). Instead, the Lagoon waters are renewed every two days by the adjacent geothermal power plant. So while Iceland is brimming with natural hot springs, this pricey tourist spot is not one of them. Not that I’m complaining mind you, it’s the perfect way to recover from a cramped overnight flight.

Steam rises thick from the surface of the water. It creates a cozy veil separating me from everything outside of myself, everything outside of this experience, this moment. Even my mind is quiet. Ripples of warmth, soft as silk, glide over my shoulders as I wade through the mist in search of my husband. A few moments pass before Billy’s silhouette finally comes into view.

“Masks?” I suggest, referring to the available silica and algae mud mask treatments. He nods and soon we are lounging in the shallows, waiting patiently for the silica to do its magic. The crowds are beginning to roll in now and we people-watch together in silence.

“This crew, over here,” Billy gestures to a rowdy group of older Asian men.

The men have drinks in their hands and they speak boisterously in a language I don’t understand. They call over to a group of Asian ladies at the edge of the Lagoon, their wives maybe. I don’t understand them, and yet I do. Some things are universal, like the bravado of men entreating women to come celebrate. And the feigned reluctance of women to release their inhibitions and partake in the festivities.

Billy smiles and shakes his head. I giggle. It’s fun.

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Blowin’ Through Town
After a few restorative hours, it’s time to leave the Lagoon behind. Our drive to Reykjavík, the world’s northernmost capital city, is uneventful and we pass only the occasional car. With a thriving arts and music scene, the city is the beating heart of Iceland’s economy and government – not to mention host to some of the summer’s hottest festivals (if you’re into that kinda thing). Remember those 350,000 Icelanders? Well, 60% of them live in Reykjavík!

After throwing our bags down at our hotel, there is no time to waste. The weather lends itself to my favorite fall ensemble – ripped jeans, fun sneaks, and my green military jacket over a baggy v-neck. Inwardly I rejoice and tilt my face to the sun. The air is crisp, the breeze light through my hair. It’s the first time in months I’ve enjoyed being outside. Back in Georgia I’ve come to dread my walks with Miss Mary – the scorching heat, oppressive humidity, and persistent gnats make for an unbearable combination. I firmly believe that if Emerson had settled in Middle Georgia, there never would have been a transcendentalist movement. But I digress….

We begin by strolling over to the Harpa Concert Hall, its distinctive glass facade visible from our hotel window. Once inside we inquire about a few of the upcoming shows and enjoy the atrium’s architecture for a few minutes. Our journey continues along the waterfront where we admire the surrounding snow-capped hills and the deep blue of the Atlantic.

From there William and I cut over to Laugavegur, the city’s main drag. We pop into a few stores and peer eagerly into several bakeries (well, maybe that was just me peering eagerly). Perched on a hill overlooking the city is Hallgrímskirkja, one of Iceland’s most recognizable landmarks. This Lutheran church is the largest in the country and its facade is inspired by the mysteriously shaped basalt columns found along Iceland’s south shore. I mean, it’s cool alright but I’m a little churched out to be honest. Between living in Italy and our current tour of the Deep South, the past two years have felt like one big Churchapalooza. Besides, everyone already knows my fave places to get my prayer on are La Sagrada Família and The Blue Mosque. 

Does it seem like we’re blowing through Reykjavík, dear Reader? We totally are! The city’s funky charm is palpable but there is so much more waiting for us out on the open road. Won’t you join us?