Friday, March 15, 2013

An Icelandic Adventure/#29/#96

Continuing on the year of "get busy living," Chloe and I booked this trip to Iceland back in August. A lot of people had asked me "Why Iceland?!" so I hope that this post answers those questions and inspires you to get there someday.

I departed Denver at 4:15 p.m. Friday, March 8 and arrived in Iceland to meet Chloe, around 7 a.m. Sunday, March 9. We had two hours to kill at the airport before catching the bus so we sat, drinking lattes and catching up. When we arrived to the Blue Lagoon, I was convinced that we had actually arrived on the moon. Silica face masks and sparkling strawberry wine (hey, we know how to keep it classy) with hours relaxing in the geothermal water made for the perfect post-plane trip and a fantastic kickoff to our time in Iceland.

Then we napped.

We awoke to have our traditional bottle of Veuve Rose at the hotel, followed by dinner at Cafe Paris before we discovered Laundromat Cafe, which would quickly become our favorite place in Iceland thanks to the best cup of coffee ever. This was necessary at 10 p.m. because we had heard that the Icelanders like to party l a t e. Now, I'm from Vegas - where there is no such thing as last call but even Vegas has the decency to go out before midnight. Not Iceland though where the party didn't start going until 1 a.m. We were on our third round of White Russians at the Lebowski Bar (yes, dedicated to the classic cult here in the States, complete with a bowling theme) when we met our new best friend, Ed. Ed was traveling solo, over from London. The three of us danced until the wee hours of 3 a.m. before heading to grab a slice of pizza and turn our heads down at 4:30 a.m.

When I woke up the next morning I thought to myself 'Today is the day I hike a glacier and have a shot at seeing the Northern Lights (#29).' The tour picked us up from our hotel and we headed to lunch at a gas station (?!?) where we had hot dogs (I don't want to talk about it) before heading to the glacier. Now, for those of you who know KK - you know that I am hardly the glacier hike kind of girl but that changed on Sunday, March 10 because I hiked that glacier - even after it tried to eat me (In typical clumsy style, I fell in to a crevasse but saved my phone) - and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. With crampons on my feet and an ice pick in my hand, I made it to the top.

From there, we headed to a farm that had been affected by Eyjafjallajokull, the volcanic eruption in Iceland in 2010. We watched a video about their experience and then headed to Hotel Anna for a local dinner (read: lamb soup, I opted for tomato). There, we broke bread and enjoyed wine with new friends Wes and Dawn, two high school sweethearts that have traveled the globe and were on the hunt for the Northern Lights. Chloe and I were both so inspired to see a couple who were very much best friends and very much in love. I think it sparked a hope in us that someday we too will have a partner like the one Wes and Dawn have found in one another.

Once it was dark enough (10ish), we headed out for our search of the Northern Lights, a huge part of the reason that this trip was booked. When we first arrived, the lights were leaving something to be desired. I'd heard that your eyes have to adjust but even after 30 minutes (in the freezing cold), we couldn't see much more than a faint green cloud-like shape in the distance. They scale the lights on 1-9 and we were expected to see a 2. Chloe got back on the bus and about five minutes later, I saw a double shooting star in the lights so I took that as my Northern Lights experience and joined my friend to warm up. Another five minutes passed before our guide came on the bus and told us, "Everyone off the bus, everyone off the bus" so we followed suit and OH MY GOD there they were - the lights had come on and it was like a giant laser light show in the sky. I had never seen anything like it in my life. My expectations were set pretty high and they were exceeded. The lights really do dance and they put on quite the show for us that night. In the moments where we thought they were done - they would come back, full force, causing yours truly to jump up and down in excitement. We were predicted a 2 and we ended up with a 7/8. The best all year according to all the Icelanders we spoke to. I did not get any photos of the lights as I wanted to take in the experience and knew that I would find myself obsessing at the screen and frustrated by my lack of skill. But as I laid in bed that light at 2 a.m., with visions of the lights dancing in my head, I knew I made the right (light) decision.

The next morning, we headed to an organic tomato steam farm which at first seemed totally random but then I had a cup of the soup and it was delicious. Then we headed to the Golden Circle where we met Gulfoss! The most massive waterfall surrounded by stunning scenery. 

 I saw my first geysir!

Fontana Steam Baths were the next stop - where, once I learned to embrace the heat, I felt at ease. That was until we jumped in to an Icelandic lake. Then back to the heat then back to the lake! Our circulation was pumping for sure. Can I mention that we went to Iceland for four days and had to bring two bathing suits? Who knew.

We stopped at a National Park where we were lucky enough to catch the sunset over the lake which was absolutely breathtaking.

A quick shower led us in to an evening of fish and chips (no London but definitely better than the States) with Ed and another trip back to Laundromat. Apparently, I had a little too much wine on our last night in Iceland because Tuesday greeted me with a scowl but we rallied - yes, with another coffee from Laundromat, and got a little shopping in before we had to catch the bus to the airport. We were delayed getting out but luckily I was in good company with Wes and Dawn who were also on the flight back to Denver. Then, on the flight home, I knocked another one off the list and watched Shawshank Redemption (#96). Excellent (as expected) and somehow made me love Morgan Freeman even more, which I didn't think was possible.

Overall - such an unbelievable trip that I would highly recommend to anyone. All of the landscape was jaw dropping, the people were friendly (enough), spoke English and we saw hundreds of Icelandic horses. And on that note, if this post was able to sell any of you on traveling to Iceland, please let me know - I need to go back to ride the horses.

1 comment:

Pep said...

I'm so glad you didn't die in a crevasse. That would have sucked. Literally.