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!

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?

Adventure Time

This morning I woke up feeling like a 2-year-old on Christmas morning, I haven’t been this excited to travel in a long time. As you prepare for your long four day Memorial Day Weekend, I’m preparing for my 14 day vacation and my first time traveling overseas.

I’m getting ready to spend four days in Amsterdam, two days in Iceland, and then five days in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!

I think it might be my first time traveling in almost two years on a totally non-business related trip, the first leg of the trip at least. Going back to Mexico means going back to work for me, although I’ll still be in Mexico so I can’t complain too much.

Going to Europe for the first time and being able to see the beauty of both Amsterdam and Iceland is what has me really excited. New countries = new discoveries and that means new adventures! I feel like an adrenaline junkie for seeing new places and learning about new cultures.

Anyway, for the next seven days I’ll be exploring the world with one of my best friends so what can get better than that?

Get ready for lots of stories and pictures! 🤗

 

The West Coast is the Best (Looking) Coast

I left the East coast for the first time almost exactly a year ago when I traveled to Skagway, Alaska for the summer.

Now for the second time I find myself on the West coast of North America, dipping underneath the clouds above the Baja Peninsula.

The sight as we fly towards Cabo is so similar to the approach into Juneau but at the same time, so different.

The mountains are covered in sand rather than evergreens and ice. I am surrounded by  the turquoise waters of the Gulf of California rather than the deep blue of the fjords. The mountains aren’t as high here and the valleys aren’t as deep.

All of these contrast but you get the same feeling that the topography wasn’t always like this. And the scarcity of civilization besides the small oceanfront towns is the same. The rivers carved into the sides of the mountain are the same, but in Alaska they are constantly powered by the melting glaciers while here in Mexico they run dry.

The feeling of adventure as you approach a place you’ve never been before is the same. Although the four days I’ll be spending here won’t compare to the four months I spent in Alaska.

It’s such a beautiful thing to be able to enjoy the many different horizons of the world.

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Thoughts

Everyone wants to feel significant in life. Like they meant something to someone or they made a difference.
Writers wants to write something significant. Artists want to paint, or to draw something significant. Teachers want to teach their students a significant lesson.
It is not until we take a step back and look at life’s big picture that we realize how insignificant we are.
And how amazingly pure it feels to be insignificant.
Nature is significant. Earth, wind and rain are significant. World peace and prosperity are significant.
Look at yourself in these situations and realize, although insignificant, you are great.
Look at the pictures of yourself where you are small and the world is big. Feel peace and comfort from this. You are protected by the world; and the world is protected by you.

 

I recently read Into the Wild. A book about a recent college grad who escaped society, backpacked across America and eventually met his fate in the deep backwoods of Alaska.

I felt I was the same as him; but I also felt different. Different because of our backgrounds but the same because of our hearts.

He wrote in one of his journals, “there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon.”

He lived in the way I would like to some day; without fear and without anyone to answer to. I want to enjoy the beauty of the Earth as he did, without limits.

If you are an explorer, traveler, gypsy, backpacker, lost, confused, or misunderstood, I urge you to read this book. Or at the very least watch the movie.