Part 5: 36 Hours in the Land of Fire and Ice

The sun was setting over Amsterdam as we took off as a final farewell to that beautiful country.

Ironically, the sun was also beginning to set when we landed three hours later in Iceland. (at midnight.)

Thanks to my time in Alaska, the midnight sun is something I’m used to. On the other hand, counting by the number of times John woke me up after I fell asleep at our Air bnb, he was not used to the sunlight peaking through the cracks in our blackout curtains.

My control freak friend, gave me power over two decisions this entire trip: spending a day at a castle in the Netherlands, and spending a night in a tent in Iceland.

Of course with my luck, these are the two things that went wrong and he got to rub it in my face. First, the castle was closed the day we decided to go, and second, the store I had rented the camping equipment from opened at noon…. and we had planned on leaving Reykjavik at 9 a.m.

As it was, we only had about 30 hours to enjoy in Iceland to begin with, and we weren’t going to waste four waiting for a tent. New plan: spend the night in our rental car.

After a quick stop at the grocery store and Dunkin Donuts, where we spent $20 on six donuts(!), we hit the road.

Iceland is the kind of place that makes you feel small, like really small. Whether you’re driving through the valleys between vast fields and mountain ranges, or walking along paths next to glacially charged rivers and waterfalls. Everything is huge.

Pingvellir was our first stop along Ring Road. This is the location where the European plate is diverging from the North American plate. The rift in the Earth is now huge and beautiful to hike. We started our hike with 25 mph winds and 55 degree temperatures, this sent us right back to the car to add more layers just to finish our hike sweating when the wind died down.

Our next stop was to check out the Strokkur Geyser. I think the thing that awed us the most about this was that this series of geysers and hot springs were located right next to the main road, so close that I saw the first burst of water as we were pulling into the parking lot.

On our drive to the next location we passed the perfect pull off o the side of the road. Right next to a pasture full of friendly Icelandic horses. I say passed, but you know we wouldn’t have actually passed up this opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures.

Gulfoss was the next location on our tour of Iceland. This was the biggest waterfall I have ever seen. The wind had picked up again and I’m not sure if it had started to rain or if the wind was blowing drops of water from the waterfall towards us – maybe both.

Our next stop was Skogafoss, these were our two stops that had the greatest distance between them and the sky decided to let loose during our drive. I won’t complain because we had spent hours at different locations without it raining yet – though I wasn’t the one who had to drive through it.

Just as we were approaching a giant plateau the sky cleared up and we both were amazed at this huge waterfall falling from the rocks in front of us. The road didn’t appear to get close to it so a mental image was going to have to do. It was so windy that the smaller waterfalls next to it were blowing away and evaporating before the water could hit the ground, which shows just how big and powerful this one waterfall was in comparison.

There was a small gravel road that lead to the base of this waterfall, so we made a quick detour to Seljandsfoss. There was a path that lead us behind the waterfall and I got my kiss behind a waterfall. (The #3 most romantic thing to do in Iceland according to a book we found in a gift shop, FYI.)

And then we moved on to Skogafoss, where we didn’t hike around or behind the waterfall, instead we climbed 600 stairs to the top. If we had kept hiking we would have made it to the Eyjafjallajokull glacier – after a day or so.

Our next stop was Vik and although we felt tired and it was already after 8 p.m. it looked like noon and we had no desire to stop. The plan was to get dinner in Vik but we got there after 9 and everything was already closed so we enjoyed a cup of soup heated in the one gas station in town.

Instead of hanging around Vik where the fog was too thick to see a mile in front of you we drove back and parked our car at the the base of the glacier we saw earlier and tried to sleep to the sound of pouring rain on the roof of the car as the temperature dropped.

Around 5 a.m.we decided sleep was pointless and went to hike the glacier. Literally, past the warning signs and onto the glacier itself. I was scared for my life but couldn’t be the only one to not do it.

On our way back to Reykjavik we made a quick pitstop to check out the volcanic crater in Selfoss. Back in Reykjavik we had a couple hours to check out the Harpa Concert Hall, a history museum, and grab lunch before our flight home.

We reached the end of a fairytale, and it was time to go back to reality. Happily ever after?

 

“Not all fairytales have a happy beginning, but they always have a happy ending.” JM

Part 4 – I’m the Queen of the Castle and He’s the Dirty Rascal

Finally an early morning in Amsterdam. For me at least – I had to drag John out of bed, but I didn’t care because the one thing on top of my Amsterdam Bucket List was to go see a real life fairytale…. sorta.

I wanted to visit a castle and Kasteel de Haar was my dream come true; surrounded by a moat, flower gardens, and even a maze, it had everything.

It took us two trains and a bus to get there just to find out the castle was closed for a private event. Fortunately, the grounds were open and it still took us over an hour to see about two-thirds of it.

It was vast and amazing, with green everywhere you looked dotted with pink and purple flowers. There were swans roaming around the different bodies of waters and if we had had more time we could have wandered down to their deer pasture.

As predicted, I fell in love with the place and for the first time on this trip, took hundreds of pictures. If I had actually been let into the castle I’m not sure if I would have ever left.

Before heading back into Amsterdam we spent a couple of hours in Utrecht. The first hour was spent searching for the “perfect” pizza place – only one owned and operated by Italians would satisfy John’s taste buds at this moment.

After pizza and gelato we explored the St. Martin’s Cathedral – originally built and designed by Catholics and destroyed during the Reformation in 1580. Catholic symbols were literally chiseled off the walls, making this an interesting place to visit.

The other thing that makes this place so interesting is that the entire central hall collapsed in 1674 and was never rebuilt. There is now an open air courtyard between the tower and the main building – you can visit both sections separately.

I guess we saved the best for last because this was my favorite day spent in Holland and after arriving back in Amsterdam we only had time to grab our luggage from the hotel before heading to the airport to catch our flight to Iceland!

Part 3 – The Typical Touristy Stuff

June 30th-

Finally, after being in the country for 3 days already we took a day to be actual tourists.

Even though waking up was a burden, either because the jet lag finally hit home or all the Heinekens did. My vote is for the Heinekens so what better place to start our day than the Heineken Experience? Yay, more beer!

But first chicken wings – yes, for breakfast because vacation. (and it was already noon.)

The history of the Heineken brewery is predictable. Rich kid invests family fortune on a brewery and proceeds to make family fortune bigger.

The whole thing was interactive and of course included several beers – definitely a must see in Amsterdam.

We then took the risk of attempting the Anne Frank House. Unfortunately, the only thing this mission was good for was the exercise because that hour long line was just not going to happen for us.

Our next stop on the list was courtesy of our bartender from the night before. Europe’s highest swing on top of the A’dam Building. It’s located right across the canal from Central Station and you can take a free ferry over. The tower also happens to be the second tallest building in Amsterdam so you get the best view over looking the city.

On the floor below the swing is a 360 interactive observatory. Being able to see the sites and ‘click’ on the locations to read about it in real time is awesome.

After dinner there was one more museum I had to make time for, this one brought us back to the Red Light District. The Museum of Prostitution features a red window tucked right in with all the others and is actually a room where a prostitute got murdered a while back. The museum had some fun facts about the different types of legal prostitution around Amsterdam and a confession wall where visitors can display their dirty secrets as well.

We woke up tired and spent the entire day walking back and forth across the city, I don’t think either one of us even considered staying out that night. It was an early bedtime to get ready for what was going to be my favorite day in Amsterdam.

Zandvoort – Part 2

After an early night – I say early but I think we were up until 3 a.m. eating candy in bed and laughing at ourselves- and a not so early morning (oops) we planned on spending the day outside of the city.

It was 80 degrees and sunny and perfect for a trip to the beach.

The twenty minute trein ride to Zandvoort was scenic but uneventful – although it did spark a conversation about possibly hitching a ride to Paris later in the week. It was also cool to get out of the city and see some of the more ‘country’ parts of the Netherlands.

There were villages that looked exactly like how you would picture a quaint Dutch town to be. Old Dutch houses alongside small canals, horses and sheep grazing around huge green fields and even a couple old school windmills.

Our day was full of tanning, beer, and fried goat cheese. The croquettes were John’s idea- we just had to try some traditional Dutch food- but I knew it sounded bad when the guy said they take whatever they have in the kitchen and fry it. I’m honestly still not exactly sure what we were eating but the restaurant was an Indian-ish style, beach side bar. I wish I had taken a picture of it without me in it.

The thunder and pouring rain when we go back into the city brought our plans of a fun night out to a stop. Fortunately, John and I can have fun together regardless and we enjoyed our night hiding from the rain at the various pubs in the square right behind our hotel.

We even got some local tips from a friendly Irish bartender we met that we added to our agenda for the next day. I’m still disappointed at my lack of picture taking, though.

European Adventure – Part 1

I’m sure if I tried hard enough I could summarize our trip enough to write only one post about our time in Amsterdam, but instead of one huge, long anecdote I’m going to split it up a little bit.

Day 1 started off with our overnight flight from Boston to Reykjavik to Amsterdam.

I’m not sure if it was the stress of the overnight flight, or the stress of the chaos surrounding me on WOW Airlines that got to me, but the only thing I wanted to do when we landed in Amsterdam was nap.

Until this point I have never been on a flight where people were allowed to line up outside the bathrooms or shuffle through the overhead bins mid-flight.

I was slightly annoyed upon boarding, really annoyed after sitting at the gate for over an hour, and extremely annoyed at the people constantly hovering over me while waiting in line for the bathroom.

Thanks to the hour delay in Boston, our hour layover in Reykjavik quickly diminished into a five minute layover consisting of a bus ride between terminals and a nice sprint to our gate – thankfully, we made it.

Even through all our planning we somehow missed the part of our trip that consisted of getting from the airport in Schiphol to our hotel in Amsterdam Centre. Trying to read a bus map in Dutch with all of our luggage after a 10-hour night of traveling was not the highlight of my trip.

Sometimes I am thankful for John, and this was one of the times. He got us on the right tram, found the right stop, and carried all of our luggage while navigating the streets of Amsterdam until we found out hotel. All while dealing with me complaining the whole time 🙂

I would have gone right to sleep if I could have- but it was lunch time, and we were in Europe, and our room wasn’t ready yet.

Once I was cleaned up and luggage free I could actually enjoy myself. Maybe John’s positivity rubbed off on me a little and I woke up enough to wander the streets. We didn’t know where we were going and we had no plan, but that was just fine with us.

I wish I could remember what exactly we saw on that first day but I can’t. I was lost in the history and the architecture, as well as just physically lost in the city. I took my eyes off the scenery so little that I think I have less than 10 photos on my phone from that first day. I honestly don’t think photos would do the place justice anyway.

Our wanderings took us into the night – with a brief nap before dinner, I admit- with dinner across the way from a sex shop, some space cakes, and a stroll through the Red Light District. Whilst in Amsterdam, right?

Tequila Shots for Harambe

It has been almost a year since I was getting ready to work my first spring break in Cancun, and I am so excited that I am doing the same thing again for Spring Break 2017.

I know it is kind of insane that I spent five weeks in this beautiful place and there is still so much more that I want to do. I was actually so unprepared because I had no idea what to expect last year – literally, a foreign man over the phone told me he wanted to send me to Cancun, all expenses paid, and I agreed.

I got to check a couple things off my bucket list last year – kayaking, catamaran booze cruise, getting lost in the ‘not-safe’ part of downtown Cancun by myself – but this year I am going to make the most out of my time there and check off even more adventures.

So, for all my spring breakers, honeymooners, and fellow travel enthusiasts, here is the top five items on my Cancun bucket list; feel free to be inspired and to join in.

Chichen Itza

I know, this is one of the most basic sites in Cancun and how could I have missed out on it before? No idea, but I did and that is why it is at the top of my list this year. 

This will probably be the first excursion I do this spring break. Even though it is the most tame thing on my list, it’s one of those things that you have to say that you’ve done.

Snorkeling

Fun Fact about Me: I love marine life. Marine science was my minor in college and I loved it (aside from the fact that I am completely inept at math.)

I’ve snorkeled with sting rays in the Bahamas and now I want to snorkel with sea turtles in Mexico. Then I want to snorkel with manatees in Florida, and cage dive with sharks in South Africa. Read: if it has to do with being in the ocean surrounded by some crazy wildlife, I probably want to do it.

But, I have to start somewhere so this spring break I will be hopping on the ferry to Isla Mujeres to enjoy a day on one of the many natural reefs there.

Pink Pool Party

Obviously! I was so mad that I had to work during this party last year and after working for Pink the last four months there is no way I am going to miss it this year.

The party is at Mandala Beach Club, which is my favorite club on the strip. It’s during the day and the club offers both a pool and is located beachside. Plus, all the free Pink goodies they hand out – don’t miss it.

Cenotes

Apparently, I was extremely boring while I was in Mexico last year because this is another one of those, “I can’t believe you didn’t do this!” places on my list.

For those of you who are as ~lame~ as me, a cenote is basically a natural pit or hole in the ground filled with water where you can swim. Based on the location of the specific cenote (because there are tons around the Mayan Riviera) I could be able to tie this item into my next one, the ATV jungle tour.

ATV Jungle Tour

This is something that I wanted to do last year but never had the time to set up. This year, I am being sent on the jungle ATV tour for work purposes. Yes, my job is to ride an ATV into a jungle with two cute English guys. Best job ever?

Go Blue Tours offers this tour right on their website, which you can find here, or you can book it through whichever hotel you’re staying at in Cancun. This specific tour offers an ATV ride through the Mayan jungle and you end the day with a swim in the nearby cenote!

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Cancun Sunrise