I’m late. I’m very very late. I wrote this post about a month ago when I got back from Iceland. Oh wait, that’s right. I went to Iceland. The reason that I haven’t written anything in two months is that I have been so incredibly busy. In the last two months, I’ve been at the bottom of the Eiffel tower, watched Paul McCartney sing in front of Buckingham Palace, smashed a lot of plates and danced on them, went to a black tie ball (tiaras and white gloves optional), swam in the dead sea, hung out in the desert, went snowmobiling on a glacier, and saw two of my best friends and my dad. Oh, and I moved. Plus, there’s this thing called a job… So I guess it’s been busy and I’m so sorry that I haven’t kept up with everything. Here’s the Iceland post. I promise to update again soon with one from Israel. And you know, life in general.
Just a warning. I think this has turned into a bit of a travel blog rather than just an easy way to update friends and family from home. In fact, my Iceland trip couldn’t have come at a better time. The night before I left Jamie, my ex-roommate and one of my best friends, and Brian got engaged in front of all their family and friends. Jamie’s sister Lisa was sweet enough to Skype me in using her phone so that I could at least say my congratulations. While I couldn’t have been happier to have been a part of it, seeing Jamie so happy made me miss Richmond. If I could have changed my ticket that night to have flown home to congratulate them I would have done it in a second.
I forgot that this blog was a way for me to stay connected to people and I really do want to do a better job of updating it.
So first, let me say ICELAND WAS AMAZING! I’ve never seen such a unique landscape. Take Yellowstone national park, cover it with Alaska, and then add in a little bit of Seattle and you’ve got Iceland.
My friend Attie was heading over to visit, so we decided to spend her first weekend meeting up in the middle. One of the amazing things about flying Iceland Air is that you can schedule a free layover on any cross-Atlantic in Reykjavik for no additional price. I would recommend that anyone who comes to Europe takes a stopover in Iceland for a few days. It’s free! And you are going to be flying over it anyways…
So, Attie was due to get into Iceland Sunday morning around 6am but the thought of taking an early morning Sunday flight made my stomach curl, so I flew out Saturday afternoon and spent Saturday wandering around Reykjavik by myself. I had brilliant plans to hop on a northern lights tour that night or do some serious adventuring; however, ended up sitting in a cute café eating lobster, drinking wine, and reading my book by myself. It wasn’t the exciting Saturday night in Reykjavik that I expected, but it was fantastic nonetheless. I tend to over plan EVERYTHING and it was nice to have a relaxing night to myself. (Probably didn’t need to go to Iceland to do that…but oh well.)
Attie came in the next day and we immediately headed off to our first Iceland activity: 4×4-ing through the lava fields of Thorsmork. Our guide picked us up in his massive jeep and we took the drive about two hours East of the city. The whole area is called God’s Land in Icelandic and I can see why. When the Vikings arrived about 1000 years ago that’s exactly where I’m sure they thought they had landed. We drove through the lava fields (obviously lava-free at this point) and went to the base of the volcano that erupted a few years ago. Known or more commonly as “the annoying thing that ruined everyone’s travel plans” I was surprised at how simple and serene it was — it looked just like a normal mountain. We went hiking on the glacier for a bit (harder than it seemed) and after several falls on the way back down we settled for our only option: sliding.
I could write lots of flowery things about how beautiful the area was (ironic, as there were no flowers) but I really did feel like I was in a completely different world. Doc Brown would have loved it – there really were no roads where we were going. It was a strange feeling to be completely alone.
After hiking on the volcano we went to another part of the valley, did some more hiking, found a hidden waterfall, drank some glacier water (yum!), had lunch, did some more off-roading, and ended our day hiking by one mountain stream. The stream trailed off into a cave and our guide stopped. He had been talking about the “Viking Test” all day and turned to us, telling us that it was time to pass the Viking Test and go swimming. There’s a water fall at the other side of the stream, but you have to jump in the water and wade up to your waist in order to see it. We laughed, thinking it was a joke.
“Yeah, sure, you want us to…OMIGOD!!!”
We looked up and our 40-year old guide was standing there in his grey tighty-whiteys about to jump into the water! He told us to take off our shoes and pants and to come join him. At this point a small voice in the back of my head (I also call this voice “Mom”) warned me that an older man just asked me to take my pants off and go off with him into a dark cave. But as normal, I pushed that voice aside and decided that I didn’t want to miss out. After dipping our toes in, the other three members of our group decided that the misery of the cold water wasn’t worth it, although Attie did put up a good effort. So I took off my top layer of pants and headed in. (Thankfully I was wearing two pairs of pants that day. Don’t judge – its Iceland.)
I learned one thing that moment. Apparently, I do know a lot of curse words. Because that water was f@!£*^$ freezing.
However, my fear of missing out was bigger than my fear of being cold so I persevered and after a few minutes my legs went numb and I was fine. The cave was pretty cool, although it was really dark and I tripped over a stone giving me a massive bruise that still hasn’t gone away.
We headed back to the city, showered and went to dinner. Still high off my Viking challenge, I didn’t want to lose the adventurous streak so we ordered whale carpaccio as an appetizer. That’s right. RAW WHALE. I think some of that cold water must have killed a few brain cells, because I loved it. It was kinda grainy and tasted very sweet…exactly what I would have expected whale to taste like. A fishy steak.
Monday we went horseback riding in the morning, followed by whale watching in the afternoon.
Horseback riding: Icelandic ponies are really cool. They let them all live out in the wild for the summer months and then go and get them at the end of the season. And like, every horse does this. They also have a unique form of riding called Tsolting. Our guide said that Icelandic Ponies are the “Rolls Royce” of the horse world and she was right – it was incredibly smooth.
The ride was great and my horse was obviously the best one out of the bunch. However, at the end all the horses got back to the stable, dropped to the ground at the same time, and started rolling around on the ground like dogs. SO STRANGE. They apparently do that every time. I dunno.
Whale Watching: Imagine Rose and Jack at the front of the Titanic. Now imagine that the winds are blowing, it’s pelting rain, the ship is rocking back and forth, and they’ve both got on massive body suits. Because that’s what it was like for Attie and I. We stood at the very front of the ship, desperate to both see the whales and cling to the railings at the same time. I don’t know that I would call it a “fun” experience, but it was definitely an experience nonetheless. We managed to see a few puffins but I guess the whales were just as annoyed by the rain as we were. As a well deserved treat for being the only ones to last the whole time, we treated ourselves to a hot chocolate and Bailey’s on our way back to port. Definitely made up for the lack of whales.
And, since our dinners tended to follow suit of what we did earlier in the day, it was only fitting that we ordered the “Icelandic Sampler” that night. Puffin, whales, and reindeer, oh my! After spending a few months in Mexico, I’m not a picky eater so if it looks like chicken then it’s fine with me. I actually really enjoyed all three, though I think my favourite was the reindeer. [Just payback for the one who ran over Grandma…]
Our last full day in Iceland and by far the best. We hired a super-jeep that day to take us through the Golden Circle and then up to the glacier to go snowmobiling. First of all, there’s a reason the Golden Circle is the highlight of Iceland. It’s a ring around Reykjavik that’s just full of these amazing natural sites. We started off at the continental divide and then went down to Gulfoss, a waterfall that puts anything I’ve seen before to shame. Then we went up to Geysir to see the hot springs and off to the glacier in the center of the island. If you were wondering what a super jeep is, take the biggest redneck truck you can find and double it, and that’s a super jeep. We needed stairs to get up and down. Our guide had a little fun making us scream when he went through dirt roads to get to the top of the mountain (at one point I swear we were at a 90 angle with the ground). That car drove through a river, a lava field, and a snow covered glacier all in one trip. Intense.
Once on the glacier we drove for about 10 minutes through nothing but snow and ended up at a tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere. So again, we snow-suited up and headed out. SO.MUCH.FUN. I’m buying a snowmobile for my next car, because it was a blast. Not to mention gorgeous. It’s how I would imagine the sand dunes in the middle of the desert look, only this was white instead of tan.
We made it back to town around 7pm that night after a few more stops, specifically at an old volcano and a teeny tiny church. (Attie mentioned that she had heard there was a cute church near the Golden Circle so the guide randomly took us to the place where his in-laws are buried. The church was cute, but it was a slightly uncomfortable moment. But oh well, at least this guy didn’t take his pants off and bring us into a dark cave…)
The Blue Lagoon!
We had booked a flight that afternoon, so woke up early and spent the morning lounging in the natural hot springs of the blue lagoon. I wasn’t expecting much and was blown away (no pun intended) by how truly relaxing the whole place was. It’s a real spa and they make you shower before you get into the hot springs. First, the water is actually REALLY hot. Second, its really salty, so you float. Which makes it easy to just close your eyes and fall asleep, floating aimlessly around the lagoon. I would come back to Iceland just to spend the day at the hot springs again. It was a perfect way to relax from our non-stop activities.
Attie flew back with me to London and spent the next week hanging out and exploring the city. It really never gets old and it was so nice to have her around. I had been having some horrific flatmate issues (which I’ll describe next time) and it was a nice reminder of what it’s like to live with a friend in a happy environment.
Which leads me to my next update: I’ve moved! I’m about 3 blocks from my old place and I love it. My friend Eileen was moving and knew that I was looking to get out of my place, so we found this adorable little flat that had just been renovated. The place is amazing and I couldn’t be happier. All of a sudden the sun is shining, the clouds have cleared, and it just feels like the right place to be. I won’t mention the fact that I’m still paying two rents and am stuck in a really frustrating situation. I’ll give that whole story next time, as well as some good detail about Israel. And I promise (as always) not to wait so long before updating.