August 15, 2013

Iceland Day 4: The Snæfellsnes Penninsula

Hard to say but easy on the eyes, the The Snæfellsnes Penninsula is a little leg that juts out of the southwest coast of Iceland. We drove to the penninsula, again with Reykjavik Excursions, on a very windy Wednesday morning.
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It's a long drive but the view from the bus was breathtaking. We got out a few times to admire glacier-capped Snæfellsjökull, a 700 year old volcano made famous in Jules Vern's tale, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
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Next, we stopped at the beach to look for seals. There was only one and it was so far away I could barely see it with binoculars. Silently, I started to worry: was this day going to be a bust? I should know better!

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Once we got to Arnarstrapi, all my worries faded. While I sometimes feared that the wind would sweep me and the Mr. off the cliffs, at least I would go down with some gorgeous views.

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After Arnarstrapi, we had lunch in the village of Hellisandur. I don't know what it is about old churches but they captivate me. This one was pretty much perfect against the backdrop of the mountains.
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Our last stop was the incredible Djúpalónssandur Beach. The walk down to the shore was rife with giant lava rock formations and hidden pools. I sort of felt like I was on the set of Game of Thrones.
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In 1948, an English trawler crashed on Djúpalónssandur Beach. As a memorial to the crew, the Icelandic government simply left the wreckage as is. It's a much more powerful memorial than a statue or a plaque.

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The powerful current of the ocean washed the lava rocks at the shore to smooth perfection. The teardrop shaped stones are said to be good luck. I have one in my pocket right now.

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While I was jumping around on rocks and exploring, I lost the Mr. briefly. It was so quiet that all I had to do was call his name and , poof, there he was! Clearly, he was having his own Game of Thrones moment.
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August 14, 2013

Iceland Day 3: the South Coast

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At 8:30 am, we boarded our Reykjavik Excursions bus and headed out of the city for points our South Shore Adventure trip. The natural sights in Iceland are amazing. Just when you think you're seen the most incredible, most picturesque scene on earth, the bus turns a corner and, oh look, there's a bigger mountain, a more stunning cliff, a cuter gaggle of puffins.
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Our first stop was the tiny village of Eyrarbakki, right on the coast. Leave it to Icelanders to make metal siding look quaint. I love the wacky colors people choose to paint their houses too.

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From Eyrarbakki,we went to Sólheimajökull Glacier to touch the tongue of the glacier. Walking towards the glacier, it's pretty easy to understand why so many sci fi movies have been filmed in Iceland. It's like walking on another planet. Actually walking on the glacier requires a lot more gear but we touched it at least. It's so cliché really, but looking at the glacier, touching the glacier, you immediately get this sense of the greatness of nature and the enormity of the planet and the smallness of you.

Our next stop was my favorite of the tour: Reynisfjara Beach. The landscape of Iceland is constantly changing, each new step revealing a new layer. Witness our walk towards the beach...
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See that little black and white blur? It's a puffin! You're just going to have to trust me on this because that's as close as I could get!
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According to folklore, the columns that stand in the sea are petrified trolls who were caught in the rising sun whilst trying to drag their boat onto the water. Folk tale or no, this part of the ocean is not to be trifled with. Rogue waves have swept some unsuspecting tourists away so take care when you walk on the beach. Maybe it's the slight tinge of danger that makes this place even more beautiful and unspoiled?

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After the beach, we headed into the tiny village of Skógar to see the Skógar Folk Museum and the Skógafoss waterfall. I loved the tiny little museum, crowded with Icelandic books, decorative arts and fishing ephemera. The photo on the bottom has an interesting story behind it: settlers in Iceland quickly realized that there weren't enough trees to go around to build houses and boats so they often turned to driftwood washed up up on the shore. Families would mark their names or symbols on pieces of wood to "claim" it.

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Our last stops were two beautiful waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. You can actually walk behind the waterfall at Seljalandsfoss. The land near the falls was so lush and green, covered in moss, lichens and sedum.
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In what I was learning was typical Iceland tourism fashion, Seljalandsfoss was a walk-at-your-own-risk affair. You will get wet but you will love it! There are no railings and the rocks can get very slippery so keep little ones close.

Our jaunts out of the city were with Reykjavik Excursions. We thought they were fantastic tours, very informative and able to pack a lot into a day. If you are going for longer than a week, you could definitely rent a car and amble a bit more but you get a lot of bang for your buck on these tours.

August 13, 2013

Iceland Day 2: Viðey Island

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Just a short 5 minute trip from the harbor in Reykjavik, Viðey Island is a tiny little paradise, an oasis of quiet and calm. Everything in Iceland is quiet but Viðey is especially so: you can hear the bumblebees buzzing past your ears, the rustle of the wilflowers in the breeze, your thoughts become magnified and clear.
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Aren't Icelandic horses beautiful? I could look at them all day.
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There are two art installations on the island. One, by Richard Serra, is a series of basalt columns called Milestones, arranged strategically around the island. Serra’s pillars are intended to frame certain views of Viðey and Reykjavík in the distance. They invite visitors to venture and peer between the pillars like frames, with the island itself as the art. The other, Imagine Peace, by Yoko Ono is a column of light that is only visible later in the year, when it's dark enough to appreciate it.

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If the island looks deserted, it felt like that too. Not in a creepy, we-are-alone-in-this-world way but in a magical, this-is-our-own-slice-of-perfect way. There are trails througout and, since most people still to the more traveled paths, we had some whole parts of the place to ourselves. From trails, you can climb down to any of the little beaches, where we found sea urchin shells, cod skeletons and millions of perfectly polished black lava rocks.

There is one ferry that just sort of pops back and forth from Reykjavik all day. Our return trip was pretty crowded so we were left behind for a few minutes on the docks. The water was this magnificent aquamarine, translucent enough to see seaweed and jellfish hovering right below the surface.

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If you are planning to visit (and you should!):
-Check out the Viðey Island website for ferry times. I suggest taking the ferry from the old harbor, both for better views and a more convenient pick-up/drop-off.
-Bring snacks and water! There is a restaurant on the island but it's quite pricey.
-Be adventurous! Like most things in Iceland, you can feel free to proceed around the island at your own risk. You can dake a quick walk or an all-day hike as we did. You can also rent a bike or take a horse ride!

August 12, 2013

Iceland Day 1: The Itinerary

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"Why Iceland?" A lot of people asked.
Because I hate summer in Philadelphia and my outlook on life was going south. Because the Mr. and I needed to get away for real. Because Iceland has always fascinated me with it's call of untamed nature, late night clubbing and wacky design aesthetic. Because Bjork and Sigur Ros and Mum and Kron Kron shoes. Ok, you're with me here right? Iceland is amazing.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, groggy but so, so thankful for clear skies and 65 degree weather and immediately headed down Laugavegur, the main drag, in search of brunch. Our Airbnb apartment wouldn't be ready for a few more hours. On our way, we spotted a water fountain. "The water in Iceland is amazing", we heard. And we heard right. Oh my goodness, it's like holding your mouth up to a melting mountain glacier, cool, crisp and life-affirming.
We ate brunch at the Laundromat Café, a perfect spot for watching Icelanders strolling and enjoying a perfect summer day. Maybe it was the moment, maybe we were tired, maybe it's because we were on vacation but the butter was more buttery, the milk more creamy, the eggs soft and orange as a marigold. Or maybe it's just that everything in Iceland is just more delicious. Who knows, but one thing was for sure: this was going to be a great week.

Stay tuned for more over the next four days....

If you're going to Iceland:
-You'll be flying into Keflavik Airport, which is a bit of a hike from Reykjavik. Their is a FlyBus with Reykjavik Excursions that you can take into the city, either dropping you off at the BSI bus terminal at the outskirts of the city, or at your hotel (if you're staying at an apartment, just have them drop you at the nearest hotel). We also used this opportunity to buy bus passes for a few day trips over the week.

-Definitely consider an Airbnb! We found the cutest apartment for a fraction of the cost of a hotel and, since we had a kitchen, we could stock up on breakfast and snacks, thus saving even more krona!

August 11, 2013

Welcome to Iceland Week

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Oh dear, where have I been? For once I have a good answer: Iceland!
The Mr. and I traveled to Iceland at the end of July and we were smitten. In fact, I think my brain is still hovering somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean...in honor of that, I am making this week Iceland week! Each day, I'll post a bit about our trip, show photos of the places we went and even give you some travel tips. Off we go!

My Books

  • Paper Made!
    Publication Date: May 8, 2012 by Workman Publishing Company

    Also available at
    Barnes and Noble
    And IndieBound

  • Applique Your Way
    Published 2009 by Chronicle Books

  • Creative Embellishing
    Published 2011 by Collins and Brown