North America, Europe · 33 Days · 148 Moments · June 2014

Iceland & France

22 July 2014

Final gps point! Home sweet home.
The US is a little over stimulating. Now I want to go back to the relaxed pace where everything is closed on Sunday.
Last meal. Even the yogurt has a nice design. You're killing me Iceland. I went for a brief walk to the sea and watched the arctic terns one last time. And, well, I cried a bit. Maybe it was the three hours of sleep. Or maybe this country is just that beautiful. At the airport (where all the staff is polite and efficient) i headed for the duty free and finally got that Icelandic sweater. A nice soft one that will always remind me of rain and wind and volcanoes and sea birds.
The air here is so, so fresh. The freshest.

21 July 2014

The stewardess on Iceland Air said "good dayun" and my brain almost exploded from language overload.
I can't believe I'm going back to Iceland now, this is quite the circuitous route. All my wool is in the outer compartment of my suitcase for quick access.
Last visit to boulangerie. I stocked up. Happens to be the best croissant I've ever had. Moist and flaky without being greasy. I will also miss the daily fruit and vegetable markets with great prices and fresh food. No wonder French kids eat their veggies, they actually have access to the good stuff. All those vast fields of American agriculture and I can't get a fresh zucchini.

20 July 2014

The language barriers result in some pretty funny repetitions because I don't understand the surrounding vocabulary. "Skdjwnshehbs WHORE skdid" "Huh?" "Sjebejdisndnjd WHORE downsldndfosnsn" "I'm sorry?" Etc. After I got some falafel from a famous establishment called "l'as du falafel". I don't know what that means but I think it's a funny name.
So I was on my way home post falafel when a guy asked me for directions. In retrospect I wonder if he really needed directions. However he was quite nice and on his way to a free music concert and I went with him. The music was over but we walked around the area and he gave me a mini tour. I bought him a glass of wine before we parted 2 hours later. I realized after that our conversation was almost totally in french! So I've made progress in these last two weeks.
So last night I decided to leave the apartment after it stopped raining, just a quick stroll I thought. Maybe to the Marais, which being full of Orthodox Jews is a happening place on Sundays. I considered several cafés for a glass of wine but didn't settle on one. Suddenly I saw one of the lesbian clubs I saw listed online and thought oh, finally. It was almost totally empty except for a straight couple and a crazy lesbian. I know this because I started chatting with them while I sipped my shitty tequila. The lesbian whispered in my ear that the straight girl was a whore because she wanted to have sex with the guy. I was confused, because it was her boyfriend. Clarification was impeded by a multi layered language barrier (French person fluent in Portuguese speaking in shitty Spanish combined with my shitty French) combined with loud music. I talked with the girlfriend for a while and we decided her boyfriend was pretty weird for bringing her to a lesbian bar. Then I left.
Things I can't wait to have at home: - more than 2 pairs of underwear - a washing machine i understand (that won't auto-lock and cause me to panic) - a bathroom I can access barefoot and with my eyes almost closed - fully stocked kitchen - cellular data - flip flops
Long, long walk yesterday to and from Eiffel Tower. Longer because I started off in the opposite direction. Sigh. But the side trip was actually really nice, lots of cool loungey bars on the river.
This is the apartment that tortured poor, clumsy me for several days. I tripped over everything and hit my head really hard about 4 times a day. What you see truly is the entire apartment.
Well, it's my last day in Paris. It's raining which is actually fantastic because I don't feel as guilty that I'm not out walking and wearing my feet down to tiny nubs. I can see the Eiffel Tower from my window and I'm drinking fennel tea from Iceland. Hopefully that's legit. I haven't been a good recorder this last week. I've been mildly cranky, which seems ridiculous. I think I get overwhelmed by the feeling that I should be doing something amazing at every minute and consequently pleasure is shaved off of ordinary activities. Maybe if I spent my money on therapy instead of travel I wouldn't have this problem. So I'm going to go back and fill in some blanks and listen to the traffic outside.

19 July 2014

Walking around. Those animals are made of chocolate.

18 July 2014

This is the lady who taught the cheese and wine class. Sadly it's not a great likeness. She took us on a cheese buying field trip. I got a chèvre shaped like a boob, because, why not.
There's no one here to take pictures of me for evidence so I'm selfie-ing it up. Waiting for a cheese tour to start at a boulangerie where I finally got food after wandering for hours. It's good I gave myself hours to find the meeting place. I saw a store yesterday I wanted to return to this morning and I'm proud to say I found it again but I tried to meander casually toward my cheese meeting place and ended up going in the opposite direction. Then I thought that's okay I've been down this street three times but now I'll stroll along the seine, who could complain about that but as soon as I descended my idyllic stroll went under a tunnel. I wonder if this would happen if hannah was here with her fancy sense of direction All I had to eat in the morning were two apricots because I thought I'd find a nice breakfast but the line was long at the boulangerie and then somehow I didn't pass another one. (How?) So anyway I'm glad to eat and drink some water, it's 95 degrees today and humid.
Picture of the holocaust memorial, with a lot of security. I wonder if it's always there or if it's because of the very recent attacks on synagogues. The guards would have been intimidating but after Israel I'm used to men with guns thinking I'm dangerous. A large man with mirrored sunglasses walked behind me and shouldered me as I took this picture.

17 July 2014

First Eiffel Tower view.
So I just kept walking around. Finally I gave up on finding a spot with good gay-lady watching and settled on a cafe. I thought my waiter was a friend of Dorothy but he asked for my number. You really can't tell in France.
So, I found the gayborhood. But as usual, no women.
Je suis arrive! This apartment is a wee bit minuscule. Thank god the a/c works. Probably I'll be running it 24/7. Also the elevator is barely big enough for one person. Looks like I'll be using the 6 flights of stairs... I'm so excited to be here but I'm so hungry and so tired I don't know what to do.
Bye ste terre! Bye croissants and tea and bread for breakfast with friendly air b&b hosts! I left the lentils behind.

16 July 2014

Out for a bike ride. Nice bridge and river. Annoyed that nothing is ever open here. Maybe it is my own cultural incompetence because I never know when it's safe to go looking for anything. At least in Latin America when they close for lunch they stay open late. Did I already type out that thought? I keep thinking it. And they say Mexicans are lazy. But try and buy anything after 5pm here. I keep thinking about that commercial they had in the Olympics about how Americans are so hard working compared to Europeans who get months of vacation. Not that it doesn't sound nice, but the idea that you're entitled not to work seems weird to me. Maybe I'm just cranky because my bike seat is hard and my ass is one giant bruise.
From bike ride. Late entry: The Netherlandians who were also at the B&B left so I took one of the bikes they were using. It was better, but I really missed my own. It was, as you can see, quite picturesque though I was constantly stopping to check the map on my phone and worrying that I was lost, which sometimes I was. The bike seat was quite hard and my ass was quite sore (yeah yeah, insert joke about anal sex, then insert joke about the word insert) and so getting lost meant I might have to sit on it for hours and hours. I did have a nice picnic in front of the castle. I wanted to go in, but it was closed (as was the tourist office and the underground river I planned to see).
Cat sneaks in through window to rummage for lentils.

15 July 2014

Beggars at my door. I drank a lot of wine in the sun, got a nice burn because I couldn't figure out how to apply sun screen on my own back. Belly full of wine I fell asleep for a few hours, so luxurious.
I guess I'll just finish this bottle of wine after all.
Today's activity is limited.

14 July 2014

En route to and from St Emilion on a bike with enormous low-air tires and a seat that kept slipping lower. Quite a workout. When I got back I spent a long time chatting with my family on facetime which was really fun.
Outing to St Emilion. I walked into the first wine store I found at the same time as a knowledgable man from New Zealand. We tasted wines together and he explained various concepts and flavors to me. I finally understand what a tannic flavor is and more about how aging affects taste. Meandered around the touristy little village. Kind of reminds me of all touristy little vacation villages, but with a wine theme. Tasted a few more wines at other shops then went back to the first one to purchase a cheap (price is relative in wine country and euros) bottle that I couldn't get in the US. In the process struck up a conversation with the dude working there who also manages a band in LA. We are now facebook friends, so we can continue to have awkward electronic encounters for the rest of our lives.
Couple more important items for scene-setting. The canelle was soooo good.
Breakfast with cats.

13 July 2014

There is a kitten here. Two kittens actually. I cuddled it and almost put it in my backpack. There is also an old dog that hangs out at my door and asks for cheese.
Rainy rainy day. Sat at the train station for at least 3 hours because I couldn't think of anything to do indoors. Also I'm a little paranoid about having enough time to clarify what train I have to get on. Took a nap, did a little unnecessary shopping, ate a mini croissant.
It's really the part after eating that confuses me. I can't compute all the time they give me. Why aren't they kicking me out? What if I have somewhere to be? How could I get the check rapidement if I wanted to? The first two meals I had in France made me super impatient and uncomfortable. Now I'm settling in and humming along with the American oldies on the radio. Not like I have anywhere to be.
Well I wandered around looking for a crepe but seems like that's not the thing to do on Sunday afternoon. Everything is closed. I'm convinced nothing is ever open here. Probably it's worse because it's Independence Day weekend but in America we celebrate that by opening all the stores and spending lots of money. Anyway if I can't get a crepe I'm going all out and having roast beef. Omg so so delicious. Glass of wine #1: demioselle de sociando-mallet (haute medoc 2011). Light but strong enough for beef. Finish a bit bitter. #2: les tourelles de longueville (pauillac 2007). Yummmm. Fruity and earthy and way better finish. More expensive of course, dammit. Go get some. #3: chateau patris (st emilion grand cru 2006) a tiny bit sweeter without being sweet. A little peachy? Smells like a bouquet of red flowers. Where are my eating buddies?
Some pretty amazing toilet paper.

12 July 2014

A bunch of kids hanging in the street drinking and blasting "rump shaker" from the boom box. I mean, I'm assuming it's a boom box. It must be.
Forced myself out for another walk, sitting in a square.
Evening wanderings. Tango on the fountain!
Around Bordeaux, botanical gardens.
Old and new bridges, cathedral.
What exactly does "fondant" mean? I have one "au chocolate"... And another glass of wine. Because if I'm going to get rained on, I should be at least mildly inebriated. Also let's talk about that goat cheese on the salad. It was heated with some herbes, omg, on toast sprinkled with oil. Definitely try that at home.
Breakfast. Delicious but I almost don't want more gluten. Oh well I'll eat rice when I get home...

11 July 2014

Arrived in Bordeaux! Long train ride. Slept a lot thanks to drugs. I had to find the house without google maps. Looks like I've got a good walking day ahead of me tomorrow!
These horrible children have been staring at me for hours. Get off the train horrible children.
On the train to Bordeaux. I think I just saw some alps in the distance!

10 July 2014

I went to a museum exhibit on the advice of yesterday's artists. It was in a beautiful house that I think has an artist residency. (Most of what I understand in French is approximate.) The main exhibit was on internet scammers - the Nigerian scam and its variants. I loved it! Such a great visual representation of that crazy phenomenon. The second exhibit was stuff by the resident artists. I didn't have enough time to decipher the French explanation placards. I found construction in the hall and for a while couldn't figure out if it was an art installation. It wasn't. Then I went in search of a case for my keyboard at Carrefour (French Walmart equivalent). If anyone thinks that's not a legit travel destination they should try it. Not a tourist in sight and a hell of a vocabulary lesson. Try explaining what an insulated lunch bag is in French, it ain't easy. "I'm looking for the thing you can take to school to keep your food cold." It was in the camping section, in case you wondered.
P.S. Worried about your white wine getting warm during your picnic? No worries, carrefour offers two options for your picnicing pleasure, including one you don't even have to open to drink out of.
Bowl of lentils with fresh baguette, Comte and Chablis. Omg. This is within our abilities at home...
Sunshine! Success.
Here is one of Olga's drawings and here is a link to the book of jean's I was looking at:
4. Thank god she helped me home because I was planning to be home by dark so I didn't bring my regular glasses. Reading a map with sunglasses at night would have been challenging. Celia says the weather in Nice is never so bad as it has been these days. I accept the bad weather curse. But I will go to the beach first thing today and soak up some rays before it rains. Also, I will accept my status as a tourist and finally carry my backpack. I'm going up a hill today after the beach, Jean told me about some place that's very pretty and has an art exhibit. Also there's a Carrefour around there and I may get some tupperware.

9 July 2014

3. Jean also told an amazing story about how his grandfather was a mayor and a doctor of a small town in central France during the Nazi occupation and sheltered a lot of Jews in an empty hotel. (Wars are hard on the tourism industry it seems.) He went to the dentist in his hometown and it turned out that lady's parents had been sheltered by his grandfather and they had a portrait of him on their mantle! "Incredible," as Olga would say. Olga is also an artist (and a beautiful singer, she just sings at random) and they gave me a book of her art. Jean thought it was more accessible, which is true, there are a lot of lovely sketches of Nantucket and her pregnant belly. Btw Olga had her pregnant belly cast by a (probably very famous) artist friend but the kid kicked and broke the cast three times! Celia lives near my apartment and helped me get home on the tram. She was impressed at the duration of my 8 year relationship and asked for advice! I guess we are old married people.
2. So the rain cleared a bit and we were going in the same direction so I walked home with her and she invited me up for tea. I thought what the hell. She and her husband live in a lovely studio full of desks and papers and art supplies. They immediately invited me for dinner, and I accepted, though I thought briefly of my lentils languishing in my fridge. Then their son's girlfriend stopped over and was also invited for dinner. We were sent out for bread during which time Celia reported to me that Jean (husband, last name Depuy) is a famous artist who worked with Andy Warhol. He now does conceptual art. Crap, I thought, what a shame someone more qualified to appreciate conceptual art didn't wander into their home. We dined on delicious prosciutto, bread and pasta, cheese and wine. Jean talked a little about his art and I asked him what it all means, because I want to appreciate it. He said he's not too pretentious and it can be too me whatever it is. (caption - shady character.)
1. So, I went to the beach. I was there for five minutes when an enormous cloud covered the sky and the wind picked up. There was a mass exodus from the beach and I figured if I was going to get back to the other side of the city before it rained I'd better pick up and leave. On my way out of Vieux Nice I came across a commotion surrounding a young woman that was unconscious on the sidewalk. I decided to linger in case, I dunno, I felt obligated, Nightingale curse or pledge or whatever it's called. An older lady who was watching struck up a conversation with me, in French, and I replied, in French. Then we started speaking English and it turned out she's from New York. She told me stories as the ambulance eventually came and then as the wind kept picking up and it started to rain. We huddled in the Subway sandwich entrance for shelter, she noted the coffee there is only 1 euro 20 centimes, "incredible". (caption - amazing and helpful toothbrush dispenser at restaurant.)
Wandered around Vieux (old) Nice, got some spices to cook with - herbes de Provence of course and some couscous 10 spice mix. Walked in and out of a couple of cathedrals (obligatory) one of which had nice music playing so I sat for a bit. I wasn't hungry at the appropriate time so by the time I started looking for my salade nicoise no one was serving lunch anymore. I was unreasonably depressed and annoyed that Vieux nice wasn't that pretty anyway. Finally I decided to quit being nuts and go to the beach. The croissant probably had enough calories to last me until dinner anyway. En route to the beach I found a street where they do still feed hungry people. Et voila, I got my weirdly delicious salad! (Anchovies? Really?) The small glass is because I refused to order a wine I've never heard of (Bandol) without tasting it. It was delicious, just like perfume.
Pretty pretty clothes on sale in euros is still one million American dollars.
We meet at last, croissant. Here goes another day of massacring the French language.
Saw more designer stores, some sculpture and the mayors office with a giant thumb for no apparent reason.

8 July 2014

I think the lentils came out pretty good. Should be good for dinner tomorrow. Someone should come over, I made a lot.
A very serious well coiffed woman on a scooter.
Wandering around
The challenge of finding the gay beach in France where all the men wear those hipster bathing suits and carry a purse...
Walked around doing "errands". Got laundry detergent, a working charger for the camera and a French SIM card. Also groceries from the lovely outdoor market, not too expensive. This looks like lentils to me.
View from bedroom window. Sun! Sweet.

7 July 2014

Je suis arrive
7:30 and it's getting dark! Weird. It is raining though, so that's comforting. I'm out of snacks and never found a water fountain so I'm thirsty. Just as well since I'm not sure whether there's a bathroom near this car. Definitely don't know where the snack car is. 45 min to go?
Earlier a super nice lady who overheard the earlier interaction saw me in the vestibule and told me to find an empty seat and make myself more comfortable. Just now another nice lady asked me if I was okay and told me they had scolded the conductor for wanting to make me pay another ticket. You officially can't tell me French people are mean.
Well my first class ticket turned into subclass. I accidentally bought the wrong train ticket but got on the train I originally intended to take, I think. So I have no seat. I got booted from my first class luxury armchair into a pull out seat between cars. At least now I'm facing the direction of travel... 6 hours of train ride to go. Also unfortunately the agricultural landscape I'm seeing looks like Iowa. The very nice train conductor after scolding me didn't charge me for a ticket on this train, which would have only been fair.
Pretty different landscape landing at Charles de Gaulle. Lots of people, and multicolored ones at that.
Awaiting takeoff from Keflavik, apparently the toilets don't work, god help us all. Nice amount of leg room though.
Very entertaining article about Icelandic name restrictions. There is a "Person Naming Committee" which determines acceptable baby names for the National Registry. Harriet and Duncan were denied. Also an interview at the famous hotdog stand in Reykjavik.
Well here I am in line for my flight to Paris. I left my Hannah back at the breakfast area with a giant pile of luggage since she can't check in until 8a. So sad to part with my travel buddy! We had a rough sleep last night. The bed was weirdly soft, the air wasn't fresh, the noises were different. H turned on a noise machine to fake rain sounds in the middle of the night. Bye Iceland!

6 July 2014

Entering our room with its own bathroom and shower we could hear angels sing. After 15 nights of camping the motel room felt like the highest decadence. A real bed! A comforter! No wind! Actually I missed the wind and rain sounds during my nap. But there was no tent rhythmically hitting me in the head. And a hot shower with unlimited time! Amazingness. We dined across the street on freshly farmed Arctic char (an ocean trout, pink and delicious like salmon). This farm sends fish to whole foods!
After a halfhearted visit to another geothermal area we decided we were tired and proceeded to the motel.
Well, we wandered around the tiny town where we slept and walked into another church. The churches are so uniform and simply nondescript on the outside and then so colorful and pretty on the inside! We never would have guessed to go into them if we hadn't gone to the concert. We never did get our Icelandic pancakes. But we were mollified by some delicious waffles with that yummy tart rhubarb jam and unsweetened whip cream eaten on a sunny picnic bench. We read a tiny book about Icelanders which informed us that they get mad when they travel and their views are blocked by trees. They are not used to tall trees.
Lovely free campsite on a farm for our last night of tent living. Breakfasted on fresh duck eggs. Thrillingly, despite gusty winds overnight it didn't rain so our tent was dry enough to pack up tight. Gave the rest of our food away to other campers just getting started.

5 July 2014

They just put on a soccer game and I need a gps tag. Btw h and I were talking about how we have nothing left to talk about. We already told make-out stories the first trip we took together 7.5 years ago. Without separate work days, the only long conversations we have are about our bowel movements. Which is weirdly not unromantic.
On the road again. We started off feeling too lazy to get out of the car so we did a drive-by waterfall viewing. Stopped to see a random farm and it turned out to be under the glacier under which the 2010 erupting volcano sits. They have a beautifully designed visitor center and even a well done 20 minute video about what it was like for their farm. Very cool. Some indecision due to the very late start on whether to make a four hour detour to see Geysir (after which all others are named). We're going for it, but rather than cook dinner we stopped on the way. Lots of wide green fields and horses in this part of the country. Those are cucumbers in the greenhouse! Hannah is doing great with manual transmission!
Vicinity of the campground in Vik. The Icelandic sweater I wish I wanted at the wool emporium.
The sun came out! We did a great job packing I still think, but there's a couple things that would have been rad: wellies, an electric water boiler (the small kind you put into the cup), that extra pair of fleece pants I left at home, a thigh length warm sweater.
The last thing in the world I want to do today is put on my dirty clothes. But I can't wash them because nothing dries and they can't go in the drier. It's too cold to put on my nice clean moderate-weather clothes. Sigh. Maybe they are selling woolen onesies across the street at the 24 hour wool emporium.

4 July 2014

Finally we arrived in a crowded campground and shower at long last. Going out for pizza and brenevin. All together we walked 30,000 steps today! Happy Fourth of July! P.s. This picture is of a different rainbow. Cause we saw more than one.
Legs aching, exhausted we drove on to a canyon, insisting we were only going to look. But then we compulsively walked the trail. Some of it at least. So much green, at last, and a rainbow. When we left we drove through vast lichen covered lava fields it took an hour to cross and in the middle a large dark cloud which unleashed hail on us.
We followed another trail to the glacier tongue in the park - according to a video in the visitor center you can hear it creak. We had already walked about 20,000 steps and were tired but went to the glacier-front on principle. (My principle, I was the one who wanted to hear it creak and H was a good sport.) We walked right up to the meltwater in front of its dirty face and heard nothing. So we trudged back along the path for people with "limited mobility" which was a rock path in no way suited for people with limited mobility. It's true there weren't any hills or rivers to ford. Up by the waterfall we were hot but by the glacier we put on all our layers, like everything we brought to Iceland. Good thing I bought a larger day pack for all those layers!
Svartifoss waterfall is super famous in Iceland, but we liked the stone behind more. It appears we have entered a zone within range of Reykjavik day trips - this park was super crowded relative to the isolation we found before. The trail we took had lots of safety items like railings and stairs, though that too is relative. Our trail (that H is standing on with all her layers) was marked easy which may be true for Icelanders. We tried to imagine our patients whom we coax into 15 minute daily walks around the block on the trail and shook our heads. The empty view is of the vast nothingness left behind when a volcanic eruption under the glacier caused an enormous flood to burst forth - most recently in 1996!
Woke up at 5:30am to beat crowds to the glacier lagoon. It was beautiful and calm before the busses started coming in. The lagoon is super hyped and we had high expectations. Upon first glance we both later admitted to a bit of underwhelm. It's a bunch of ice chunks in water, at the foot of a dirty enormous ice chunk. Then as we walked and looked closer we saw more colors and shapes and movement that drew us in. We spent two hours wandering around the edge. Across the street is a beach where ice chunks wash up on black sand. Only after that did we finally eat breakfast. Yogurt and granola in the car. We pulled up to another glacier on the way to our next destination and watched it like a drive in movie.
Can't sleep, maybe because I forgot to take melatonin? Or maybe because I'm not used to sleeping in all my clothes... It's raining on the tent again which is a nice sound. I'm concerned we'll never be dry again. Wellies would be nice. There is a man snoring several tents away so loud, I can't stop wondering about his Malampati score. Unfortunately the alarm is scheduled to go off in 2 hours.

3 July 2014

Now the wind really is coming off a glacier. I saw my breath for the first time while washing my face in the bathroom. They say for tighter looking pores, rinse with cool water. My pores are shut up real tight. We had another longish drive today though we only realized it in retrospect. When the driving itself is part of the tour it feels so much less arduous. Perhaps a good life philosophy? Along the same lines we noticed today that it's apparently possible to enjoy being outdoors in weather we would consider shitty at home. Ready access to hot pools helps with this, as does always being dressed in woolen underthings. If Smartwool made a onesie I'd be wearing it even in the shower. Anyway, I thought I wouldn't see the glacier because of the heavy and ominous fog all day. I also thought you had to put on crampons to see it closer than the distance. Imagine my surprise to camp right at its feet! (Technically/worryingly, "tongue," not feet, because it really does want to eat us?)
Hot springs at Hoffell, within sight of a creepy glacier tongue! So relaxing while in, so cold to get changed!
Confused the shit out of the Icelander behind the counter by ordering my "lax" (Icelandic for lox) on a bagel instead of bread. They gave me a giant stack of lox, enough to share with Hannah without causing emotional distress, and only charged about $12. Also, it was possibly the best lox of my life (noted with a guilty nod at Zabars). How is this incredible food the only thing in Iceland priced reasonably?
Stop in a fishing village with a quirky sculpture garden, and a foggy roadside farm.
GPS check-in, tea and pastry. Very surly staff at Salt. It appears poor service at trendy hip establishments is an international phenomenon.

2 July 2014

Beautiful acapella concert by five charming fellows wearing bow ties in a simple pretty church. We bought a cd but chickened out to get autographs. Then we went to the bar and sampled chocolate cake, local beer ("grillo" - not great) and Icelandic birch liquor (birkir, delicious). We are currently using the internet to desperately seek Icelandic pancakes on our route.
Rainy day. Last night was an incredible wind and rain storm. Luckily we are in a fjord and therefore protected somewhat. Tent rattled around but kept us warm and dry again. Plan was to kayak this morning but it was still raining so we wandered around craft stores and the town and came back to the artsy town tavern for some indoor time. We just ate the most incredible fried fish with pumpkin risotto and artichoke-potato soup. The pizza here has whole wheat crust. Maybe we'll stay forever.

1 July 2014

We tried to make it for a long hike, but we were stymied by a very large deep river. So we had lunch on the bank of the river and promptly turned around as we were getting cold in the wind. It was really a lovely hike, just shorter than expected. So far the weather has not been so bad. Now we are drinking wine and eating Hawaii pizza in Seydisfjordur.
This is from our hike, and the river that finally made us reverse. Should have brought gaters, oops. Turns out it would be impossible to overestimate the amount of water coming at you from all angles in Iceland.
This is Alfa Cafe. Before heading out for a long hike we had to stop and get tea and update our location point with wifi. The campsite lady said "be careful of the weather", I said "like wind and rain?" She replied "very bad weather" ... What does that mean to an Icelander? We'll let you know. -h.
This picture is from yesterday. We went into a home goods store and admired the sleek and modestly sized appliances. Then we went to a design and art store and wanted more cute tea cups.

30 June 2014

Ok I'm over my snit. We had a giant warm meal of pasta and veggies and then I put on every layer I own and finally warmed up. Then we went to see puffins up close at the harbor, which was awesome. The sea gulls (I think they're technically something else but they look like gulls) were sitting on nests full of tiny fuzzy baby gulls! Sometimes the hatchlings were so big that the parents could barely sit on the nest. And now I'm safe in our cozy tent drinking fennel tea so all is well.
View of our campsite in Borgafjarfarreppur - if you look closely you can see Jo in action in the bottom left hand corner. 2nd photo is the view from the top of the Borg where the queen of elves lives. The last one is Jo eyeing a puffin flying overhead. -h. Hahaha I just noticed hannah gave up on spelling the town we're in and put a bunch of random letters at the end. -j.
Commentary: 1. It is really, really windy today. 2. There are a lot of cute baby animals everywhere. Ducklings, lambs, foals. It's like a kid's farm book. 3. I'm starting to get a bit tired of being outside 24/7. Actually I think I enjoy the long car trips because they're nominally indoors... Probably when I get home I'll miss all the fresh air. But I will luxuriate in walking barefoot to a bathroom whenever I want.
A very nice sunset last night. Also instead of dry granola and an apple for breakfast we decided to splurge at the local restaurant. It was hard to choose between "love balls" and waffles, but in the end we opted for waffles. They came with rhubarb jam and whipped cream... So good I even got over my altered fruit phobia and lapped it all up. Off to the Eastfjords today if we can get up after all that cream... -h

29 June 2014

Finally we arrived at the campsite, a lovely oasis. It would be perfect if it wasn't for the swarming flies that require fancy footwork to get into the tent without them.
En route to the next campground we realized we had forgotten to go to Dettifoss, a large waterfall with the biggest volume of water in Europe. So we trudged dutifully there on principle.
We relaxed in the "blue lagoon of the north" a series of naturally heated mineral pools. Basically an immense hot tub with a view. I heard a bunch of languages around me from people chatting to their travel companions.
Then we visited the crater from a big eruption hundreds of years ago, I think. There's a blue lake inside! And everywhere little bubbling mud vents. And weirdly also snow in places.
Then we went to a lava field that is still hot from a series if eruptions through fissures between 1975 and1985, approx. The area of the eruptions is vast and blackened and of course steaming. Be careful where you step!
Then we went to a part with boiling acid mud pits. It smelled disgusting, like hot sulphur from the intestine of the earth, which is what it is. Everywhere the ground was steaming.
Today we had a list of sights to see in the Lake Myvatn area, all related to the weird/scary/amazing geothermal/volcanic activity here. On our way to see the sights we saw this retired lake which had been used to somehow make fertilizer out of algae. People also poked steam vents near to test for ways to harness that energy. Later on we drove through the valley where there is a geothermal energy plant.

28 June 2014

Lunch/dinner was amazing: quinoa stew prepared on a picnic table! Later we went to Lake myvatn which is a lake in a valley full of lava. Also a crater, birds everywhere, we finally check out godfoss waterfall up close. The yellow hotel is our campsite.
We are spending the day relaxing. Since we pushed the driving so much yesterday we have time to recuperate and do some laundry. It's actually sunny today so hopefully our things will dry before we go to bed instead of in 3 days like they have been. Something to consider when packing for Iceland... Clothes don't dry in 50 degrees with 90% humidity. Turns out our beautiful isolated waterfall is a major tourist attraction with busses and everything. (And the bathroom for campers is inconveniently also for the tourists.) So we're gonna wait and explore it tonight after they leave.
Come on gps show us a map point. Hannah is making breakfast and I want to help. First time breaking out the camp stove!

27 June 2014

We drove for 10 hours approx after horseback riding. I can't believe we made it to this region. You should see the map how far we came. We did stop a lot to take pictures, though not as often as we would have liked. There were so many amazing views that we wanted to record that it was actually frustrating at times. "This place sucks," said H at one turn where a winding river between foggy snow-capped peaks came into view. It's just so ridiculous. We finally landed at a campground that just happens to be next to something that looks like Niagara Falls. It is now 1am, the birds are chirping and I'm clearly still caffeinated from the emergency Coke Zero I had to relieve my earlier exhaustion and godawful headache. I think H would like me to go to sleep.
This morning we went for a 2 hour horseback ride around the valley. It was English style, which was fun for me since that's how I learned in class many years ago. Hannah was a great sport, she a little bit hates horseback riding. Galloping through a valley full of waterfalls felt like a great adventure. Our legs have been semi-functional since. We tried to get in another (cleaner) hot tub but were defeated by a busload of competitor-tourists who claimed the spot.

26 June 2014

Further update on the hotpot adventure: we tried to drive to it on the rock and puddle riddled road that leads right to it but kind of chickened out even with the four wheel drive. So we did an 8 point turn and went back. Then we got out of the car and walked, like we should have done (attempt #4) and successfully reached it. The first thing we saw was the decrepit tetanus shack called a changing room. We changed while freezing and praying the floorboards would not collapse. Then we crept up to the pool. Magnificent setting, geologically fascinating and full of slimy algae. On principle we had to get in. It was the perfect temperature with tiny little geothermal fart bubbles emanating from the ground. Also green stuff kept floating on to us. It was a dichotomous experience, at once horrific and awe-inspiring. It was so strange that we didn't speak for 20 minutes after emerging. It's been 24 hours since at time of writing and we still haven't showered.
Dinner was a delicious lamb stew and fresh trout. We forked over the obscene amount of money to eat in a real restaurant and it was worth it. Iceland is really, really expensive. $40 per person per meal is common. We are eating a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. Going to try a land route to the geothermal pool or "hot pot" as they call them.
We arrived at a lovely farm named Heydalur with camping facilities and a restaurant. Upon arrival we were told there is one natural hot pool and one swimming pool. We thought we'd check out the natural one before dinner. All we had to do we were told was wade across a stream. It turns out Icelanders are impervious to the cold and totally insane. It was a river fed by melting glaciers and we'd have to be waist deep to get through! So we finally gave up and went to the indoor pool but before we could get in we were chatted up by the very sweet 13(?) year old granddaughter of the owner. She was amazed that Chicago is so huge and so flat. We were amazed she crosses the river in a bathing suit and crocs. Picture captions: H enthusiastically cleaning caked mud off the car and looking for a way across the river.
Delicious Indian inspired vegetarian lunch at Braedraborg cafe accompanied by nicely designed French glassware, a stroll, and evidence of the practice of leaving babies outside for the sake of everyone's convenience (sleeping baby included).
This is our campsite. If you look close I think you can see our clothes drying. I don't feel like climbing the waterfall because I just showered and washed mud off of our clothes. I feel like a brat but it's so nice to be clean... P.s. I did end up climbing the waterfall.

25 June 2014

Wow what a day for scenery. I guess that's the point of Iceland but it really is jaw-droppingly beautiful everywhere. We spent a long time in the car again today but the driving itself is entertaining because it's like driving through a movie set. I keep thinking of the beginning of Jurassic Park when they're slowly touring the island in Jeeps while dramatic music crescendos in the soundtrack. Especially because we spent a lot of time on dirt roads today so the going was slow. Mostly it hasn't felt too hazardous, especially since we rented a 4 wheel drive SUV. There was though one mountain pass where it was incredibly foggy and wet and we passed through what looked like the perfect location for an avalanche with 2 feet of visibility and no guard rails. I think we both stopped breathing until we got back below the fog layer. So far the campgrounds outside of Reykjavik are lovely, with kitchens, showers and wifi. We are loving all the gear we brought, all useful (and warm) purchases.
Stuff is kind of out of order and I can't change the time stamps!
After 24 hours of steady rain and wind I am happy to report our tent is intact. We spent last night listening to a Swedish murder mystery and laying flat so when the wind bursts folded the tent we wouldn't be hit in the head. Sun is sort of out today. Plan is to press on north and see how far we get.

24 June 2014

Breakfast. It's raining today. We came all this way to see the latrasbarg bird cliffs, hopefully the birds don't mind rain... Btw my spellings of Icelandic locations are mostly approximate. Not only can I not pronounce anything, I get bored of sounding things out before I make it to the last consonant.
Bird cliff outing.
Latrasbarg bird cliffs! It has been raining all day and apparently that's the best way to see puffins because otherwise they're out looking for food. But today they were hanging around their burrows at the cliff's edge. Try YouTube-ing "puffin walking", it might be funny. Got back soaking wet and made some pasta with kale in the campground kitchen, now to brave the rain in order to shower and put on dry clothes. I noticed that we were not the only pair in matching rain gear. I guess that's what happens when you get married.
I'm a little bit obsessed with the sunsets here. After waking up at 8 yesterday, wandering Reykjavik for a bit and then driving 9 hours to the Westfjords, I was still full of energy at midnight when the sun was starting to set. The Breidavik campsite is right off the beach and the sun slowly slid into the water. I wanted to stay awake until it rose again, but my tent mate was dying for me to go to sleep. I've posted some pictures of the light. -h

23 June 2014

We made it!! After 9 hours of splendid driving around fjords and over paved and gravel roads we are at the westernmost piece of land in Europe. A beautiful campground with none of the evil blaring bass beat from last night. Forgot to mention earlier that we were at the penis museum in Reykjavik. Words cannot describe the weirdness.
Self explanatory.
We saw an arctic fox!! Running around some lambs! It was brown just like they are in summer!
Hannah drove the stick shift car!
The road trip begins.
Mokka Kaffi, 1950s decor. Trying to caffeinate. Too serious for wifi in here.
A note on climate: 1. Even the gentle breeze here is frigid. It feels like it's coming off an iceberg. 2. The 24 hour light thing is so weird. One minute it's day, even though it's 10pm, then you put two eye masks on and it's night. You have to watch the clock or you have no idea what time it is. 3. I'm mildly concerned that we're literally going toward the arctic circle and I do not yet own an Icelandic sweater. I did not count on how itchy they are.

22 June 2014

We walked around some more, checked out the inside of the very simply designed big church and finally bought groceries. Unfortunately I had to abandon Hannah in the middle of the grocery trip because of a sudden gastrointestinal issue. Amusingly, people keep speaking to Hannah in Icelandic. It seems she fits right in.
Walking tour of Reykjavik today. Hannah found this tour from a lady that blogs about Iceland. Her writing is funny and interesting and so was the tour. Hot dogs are a thing here, they are mostly made of free range lamb. Apparently they do not import meat, which caused macdonalds to go out of business here. No one wanted to eat what they were importing. Another fun fact: there is not a lot of wood on this island so when they were building in the style of other Scandinavian countries they replaced the wood with corrugated metal. But the houses still look pretty! We also walked into a few shops full of beautifully designed home goods and I wanted all of them.

21 June 2014

We walked around the festival grounds and listened to the music and watched drunks with sagging tight pants. Like Wicker Park, but it's ok cause it's Europe.
Reykjavik campsite
We finally collapsed into our tent after a shenanigan of looking for an open grocery store (finally found one called 10-11, like 7-11 but lazier). Ate some snacks and passed out with bass beats from the Secret Solstice festival echoing our way. Woke up at 10p and forced ourselves to get up and walk around, to our surprise the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining at a lovely angle. So bizarre. Now to shower in water heated by hot sulfur springs that smells like gently rotting eggs.
Walking around Reykjavik. Encountered "probably" the best fish and chips in town, about to taste these modestly named items. Also sampling Icelands local liquor which is delicious, gin-like.

20 June 2014

Flight is overbooked. They are holding us hostage like toddlers. Until five people give up their seats this flight goes nowhere. Is missing the solstice worth 2400 in "delta dollars" and a free airport hotel?
Getting used to sleeping on the floor.
5 hour layover at JFK. Stopped to eat the sandwiches we packed at these funny little booths. They keep advertising culinary delights but I can't figure out how to order so much as a glass of water.
Airport: we brought our amazing osprey 46 liter travel backpacks that fit in the overhead bin for all our clothes and toiletries. I'm impressed with how efficiently we packed and how much they fit! I guess the true test of packing will be when we get there... Anyway we also have our camping equipment in two giant duffels. I was worried they would be over the weight limit but one was only 20 lbs! The lady who checked in our bags was shocked. So all that searching for lightweight gear paid off. Ok boarding soon, time to drug myself into oblivion.