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.

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! 🤗

 

April Travels bring May Flowers?

There’s no better way to finish off a month at home than with a week of traveling. Going from Cabo to New York, I traded mountains for skyscrapers. 

I fell in love with Cabo because it was a mashup of all of my favorite things. You land in the middle of a desert and drive through the mountains before arriving on the beach. There are sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, and marinas full of yachts.

The weather was 85 and perfectly sunny each of the fours days we were there. And you can’t swim in the ocean, so there are a surplus of pools to make up for it.

I spent my three days in Cabo driving from hotel to hotel and attending meeting after meeting so you know I’ll be going back to explore more some day. I want to hike up one of the many trails, and I want to visit one of the many oases.

On top of the amazing sites, every single person I met in Cabo was the nicest person I’ve ever met. As soon as I thought, ‘I’ve never met someone so nice’ I met someone else and thought the same exact thing. They were hospitable and happy and that is just not something you find very often on the East Coast.

Quite the contrast from the people honking and yelling from the cars stuck in traffic around New York City or the man who called my friend a “miserable cunt” for not sharing a cigarette.

I have been to NYC multiple times in the past but there is always something I miss out on or just don’t have time to see. This time I went with two girls from South Africa, whom I met while working in Cancun, and thankfully their plan for the day involved a lot of things I had missed out on previously. I can finally say I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty and have been to Ground Zero.

These girls have been traveling the world for the past year and I swear they are experts at finding their way around unfamiliar places and figuring out the cheapest way to explore. They were leading me through the subways, getting us into free tours, and found the best rooftop bar with no cover charge and an amazing view of the Empire State Building.

While it’s fun to visit the city for a day or two, I am not a city girl and was not sad to leave. On the other hand, I left part of my heart in Cabo and my desire to move out West just keeps growing.

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.