Monday, August 29, 2016

Land of Fire and Ice: Day 2

If Day 1's theme was waterfalls, I'd say Day 2's theme was beaches. Day 2 was truly magical as it was one of the things I'd been looking forward to the most - Black Sand Beaches, Glaciers and the Ice Beach.

We woke up in Vík, made breakfast and were ready to take on the beaches!

Our campsite was near the black sand beach, so we spent the morning hiking around Vík and the beach. It was soooo windy, but amazing. I feel like I can use that word to describe everything we saw.  The black sand was just so stark against the frothy white of the waves and the jagged cliffs and rocks that surrounded it. The contrast of the landscapes were just so vivid that we just found ourselves staring off into the waves in awe. The town is another iconic Icelandic town with an amazing red roofed church that overlooks the town and the beach. It was so peaceful to hike up and look out over the whole place.

We then hopped in the van and made our way toward the glaciers! This was another day that the distance was shorter - and could probably be made in 2.5 hours, but of course it took us the full day again. The landscape and the weather changes in the blink of an eye and it's impossible to foresee what lies just around the next curve, so each new landscape was a welcome surprise and we couldn't resist stopping to soak it in (and of course snap some shots).

We came across more waterfalls, drove through what I assume a far off planet to look like, saw some mossy lava flows, tall green cliffs, grasslands, and then saw the glacier peeking through the mountains in the distance. It was like we were driving through sets of movies or shows; each one so unique and yet they all fit together so nicely that it was as if it was one big green screen fake-out.

We stopped at Skaftafellsjökull and hiked to the glacier. Since it was summer, there were pools of water and long stretches of dry ground blocking the way, but we still got an awesome view of the massive ice block and its surroundings that have been formed over thousands of years by volcanos, rivers, and other glaciers.

Svartifoss (Black Fall) was a couple kilometers away and had such an intense backdrop of basalt columns.

We continued on further along the southern coast to arrive at Jökulsárlón by the late afternoon and spent the rest of the day wandering around the glacier lagoon, a small lagoon into which huge blocks of ice constantly break off the glacier, Breiðamerkurjökull, and large icebergs float on the water. When the icebergs flip, they radiate a vivid blue tint that almost glows in the sunlight. The lagoon is not very wide, but according to its website, it is up to 250 meters deep - which makes it the deepest lake in Iceland.

The iceberg pieces break off and either float toward the shore or out to the sea {where they sometimes wash up onto the ice beach - stay tuned for Day 3!} and I of course had to feel what thousand year old ice was was cold. Just like the ice in your freezer, but still, it was a pretty cool experience and lived up to all my expectations. I also kept thinking about how much I would not want to be stranded in glacier-ice filled waters, and how there was TOTALLY room for Jack...


We made some friends with a seal family, and if you look closely you can see one of the little guys in the shot above - ok, by 'made friends' I mean we stalked them for a bit trying to get a picture of them. They were frolicking around the icebergs and would just come up to look around and then dive back under for a long swim. It was adorable, though.

After marveling at this site and scoping out where to come back the next day for sunrise shots, we headed back to Skaftafell to camp for the night at the base of the glacier.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Land of Fire and Ice: Day 1

Wow you guys - we just got back from the most amazing trip ever. Dan and I agree it was our best idea since getting married ;)

We road tripped around Iceland for a week in a camper van to celebrate Dan's birthday (which happens to actually be today! Happy Birthday, darling!)

Since it truly was a trip of a lifetime, I'm gonna have to break this up into manageable bits for you guys or I'll just overload you with pictures and be THAT person. Well I'm already THAT person who is going to overload you with Iceland posts, but I'm trying to minimize the amount of scrolling through pictures that will inevitably happen.

Iceland has been on both Dan and my bucket lists for a long while now. It pretty much has everything we look for in a destination - vibrant landscapes, rich culture, interesting experiences and varying weather patterns to keep you on your toes! Ok, maybe we don't look for that last one in every place we visit, but Iceland surely has it.

Upon our arrival, we stayed our first night in Reykjavík and picked up our camper van first thing the next day. We jumped right in and headed for the open road...except for the fact that we misjudged our electronic converter capabilities - see we have pretty much every converting type available in our bag of electronics: EU to US, US to UK, US to EU, US to any other country, and (most) other countries to EU. However, we did not in fact have UK to EU or UK to US (in order to utilize those other combos) - and we needed to make a UK camera charger fit into our EU inverter. What's a person to do? Well, you go to the nearest electronic store and hunt for something that will work. We ended up getting pretty lucky and finding a cord that would fit our charger and THEN headed for the open road...again. With that all sorted out, we were ready to explore what Iceland had to offer.

The plan was to drive all the way around Iceland's Ring Road in 5 days. It was a bit optimistic, but it can totally be done - and we proved it! However, there will have to be a second trip back just to experience everything else that we missed this time around...but that's for another post.

Our first day we drove to Vík- famous for it's black sand beaches. It's only a roughly 2.5 hour drive from Reykjavík so naturally it took us like 9 hours to get there - because it's impossible to drive through Iceland and NOT stop every 2 seconds for a gorgeous picture. I dare you to try it, it's impossible. So on our way to Vík, we saw approximately 500 waterfalls. I am only sightly exaggerating here.

We stopped along the way and hiked around the famous Seljalandsfoss, one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland, that you can walk behind and get sprayed with water! Because that's pretty much the dream of every waterfall explorer.

Next to that were a few more and we climbed to the top of one (Gljúfrafoss), which also happened to have a little cave entrance that you could go to the bottom of as well. It was incredible.

It seems like Iceland should be nicknamed the land of waterfalls and rainbows, because I swear they were everywhere.. and it was beautiful.

Something we had heard a lot about and were just the slightest bit hesitant to try at first was the suggestion to eat hot dogs while in Iceland. Neither Dan or myself are big hot dog fans, but something about the way they prepare it (toasted bun, fresh AND fried onions, and three types of sauces) just made it so delicious. We had one of these bad boys every day for lunch - so easy when you are road tripping it through the country and can't stop for a long lunch every day!

We pulled into the campsite near sunset, which was around 9:30 pm each night. We then made dinner,  set up our bed and were completely comfortable for a night of strong winds and low-ish temps. The first of many times I was grateful for the van. It was somewhat glamping since we had running water, a cooler, dishes and a gas living, folks!

Day 1 was a success and set a pretty high bar for the rest of the days to follow. We were in awe of God's creations and were incredibly thankful to experience this example of beauty and grace every day.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Very British Quirks I'm Learning to Love

The other night, Dan and I were reading through one of our favourite* social media accounts: Very British Problems. Seriously you guys, I think I've been secretly British this whole time: 


While giggling profusely and taking turns pointing at each other when a particular line struck a chord, I thought it'd be fun to list a couple other things I've started to see as 'totally normal'!

(side note: we realized yesterday was our 6-month-iversary in London! I'd say this commemorates that little milestone nicely.)

Not ONLY having Starbucks everywhere - 
There are surprisingly some super good coffee chains around here (GASP, I know). Being the die hard Starbucks fan I am, this has been a  bit of a shock for me, but I've LOVED trying the multitude of other coffee shops, chains or local stores around the area. In fact, a couple of those times, I've gone with an Italian friend who has a VERY particular palette for his espresso and is not afraid to give his opinion on the flavor (or lack thereof!). Really, this has just convinced me that I need to go to Italy for coffee (and gelato, and pizza, and pasta, and wine and and and…) ASAP.

Tea - 
Speaking of beverages, there's just really no other way to drink black tea for me anymore other than with milk. When asked if you want black or white tea, don't respond with a 'huh?' like me, respond with 'white' - it means with milk, not referring to the type of tea.

Being aggressive(ish) on public transport
Ok, so the tube is an entirely different beast during commute hours. And I don't particularly recommend it for anyone coming to visit to even venture down one of those holes from 7:00-9:30 or 16:00-18:30 M-F. But outside of those hours, public transport overall is quite convenient. Thankfully, I don't take the tube to work (yippee!), but even my commute sometimes requires a firm 'can you please move further into the train' or a 'can someone please open a window.' The latter, I've mastered a bit more in the recent months (read: the three day heat wave that almost killed me). I've also had some luck with politely excusing my way into a crowded train and finding a place to balance myself or a random pole to hold on to, but I'm slowly working my way up to the loud requests. Thankfully, on the particularly crowded days, I've been near one of those mercifully brave/loud/forceful Brits. What it has mostly come to is adjusting my commute time - really does wonders. And my extra little secret (just between us) is that I venture toward the rear coach. It seems that everyone wants to be one of the first to get off the train when it arrives at its destination, but I have no problems in walking a bit further in order to find myself a seat for those rides. Sort of like those coveted front Walmart parking spaces back in the US - nothing wrong with walking a bit more in exchange for an open space. Or for that matter, not to spend 20 minutes circling the lot like a shark.

Queuing for EVERYTHING - 
Really, it's everywhere. They form formal and informal lines. Queues to get into train stations, queues to buy fruit at the local farmers market, queues to get on and off of the transport, queues to pick up a basket at the market...and on and on.
You know how you can find a line by connecting any two points? Well same is true of a queue. Find any 2 people standing in any direction and there's bound to be a queue that forms from their relative locations. Ok, a bit exaggerated, but still, come visit and you'll see!

The fact that I just said Queue! -
It's not so strange anymore. In fact, I feel like the weirdo when I accidentally say 'line' now! And then look around and pretend to wonder who said that. Other words that aren't as foreign: bin (formerly: trash can); lift (formerly: elevator); Post (just Post, used interchangeably rather than verb: 'to mail it' or noun: 'post office'). Lastly, I've also succumbed to the spelling of anything with an ou (formerly o; i.e. colour/color, favourite*/favorite, etc.) That used to bug me, but I think what bugs me more is the little squiggly red line yelling at me every time I try to spell colour as color. Therefore, I'm a convert, but a somewhat reluctant convert.

The one I'm still working on successfully interjecting into normal interactions is 'cheers' - one of my favs, but it eludes me. I either feel like I choose the wrong time to say it or stay markedly silent when it feels expected. Or worse - when I accidentally let a 'thanks!' slip out. I'm a work in progress, people.

Your turn! Ever come across some quirks you adopted as your own? Or does your inner grammar police forbid you from switching spelling sides?