Reykjavik: Happy Anniversary Sweetie! & No Is Not An Option

May 31

First I want to wish my hubby, Jason, a happy Vesuvio anniversary! On May 31st, 2011  he and I climbed to the top of the volcano, Mt Vesuvius, in Naples, Italy and privately said our vows to one another on a ledge overlooking Naples Bay as the clouds rolled over misting us with cool, wet air while lavender butterflies fluttered around us (no joke, it was truly epic). It was one of the best days of my life and I’m so grateful to somehow be even happier with him today than we were on that idyllic day. I love you, sweetheart! I am so grateful for your support and encouragement while I’ve been traveling and left you home with all the responsibilities. ❤

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Now back to today: The weather in Reykjavik has turned rainy again. It’s a gentle constant mist that somehow soaks your clothes more efficiently than larger drops. At least the temperature has warmed up now. It’s been about 52-57 degrees during the day and only 48 degrees at night. It makes for much more comfortable car sleeping. 🙂

I’ve been ailing from harshly negative dreams this week. Generally, when I have an extraordinarily good day the following night’s dreams are the exact opposite. For example; if I have a fun-filled day with Jason I will then dream that he and I fight and call it quits over something awful. I wonder if it’s my mind’s way of balancing out my endorphins and stress hormones? I suppose since I’m having such bad dreams it must mean I’m having far too much fun here in Reykjavik!

Sigrun and Andy headed over to Cafe Babalu and I went downtown to return the camping stove I had purchased at the beginning of the trip. When I had realized it would be so expensive to buy one here I made a promise to myself that I would only open it and use it if I really needed to. I shouldn’t have even bought it because I had absolutely no need for it once my mind was set on returning it. Any time I made my little cup-o-soups on the road I was perfectly happy eating them cold because it meant I could still return the silly stove.

I went into the Marmot store and the man remembered me and asked how my trip has been. We chatted a bit and then I asked him if I could return the stove. He said I could only return it for store credit. I decided not to take no for an answer (you know, since I’ve been practicing being bold and doing things I wouldn’t normally do). I stood there and looked around then said “but my trip is over, there’s nothing else I would need here that I could fit into my luggage.” He stared at the receipt a bit and then pulled out the (fairly hidden) signage saying returns beyond 24 hours will result in only store credit. I mirrored his silence and read the sign for an uncomfortably long time, chewing on my lip with a worried look on my face. Just as I was about to give in, because I was getting so uncomfortable in the silence, he said “Okay, for you I will make an exception. Because you’re so nice.”  I smiled as big as I could possibly manage and thanked him. I told him I will give him rave reviews online and he laughed and said “Good, but don’t tell people that I let you return this for money back.” I laughed and gave him my word (aaaand I’m just now realizing I’ll be blowing that promise…).

Because I was able to get the stove returned when normally I would have accepted the initial answer of no, and then would have sulked about it all day, I felt like I was queen of the universe! I walked back onto the street with my head held high and mentally added another item to my list of Things I’ve Learned and/or Done Out Of My Comfort Zone In Iceland.

I popped into a few chic art galleries along Laugavegur, chatted with shop-keeps and felt right at home in the city. I hadn’t realized how often I tend to create things at home until I have now spent so much time traveling. I think I’m having withdrawls from being handy! Each time I find something cute that I might consider buying my brain snaps and says “Oh hell no, you can make that for cheaper when you get home!” I’ve been taking photos of all the cute things I want to make and the list is getting frighteningly long. 😉

Sigrun jokes about how Icelandic people park wherever they want to. This is a perfect example.

Sigrun jokes about how Icelandic people park wherever they want to. This is a perfect example.

My favorite street art shot so far. <3

My favorite street art shot so far. ❤

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This is my favorite indoor-gallery piece I’ve seen so far. It’s by Tolli. It’s so beautiful and large in real life. It’s on my “if I win the lottery” list of buys 🙂

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I stopped at a cafe-by-day bar-by-night called Tiu Dropar (The Ten Drops). I ordered a latte and tried an Icelandic donut. The coffee was not so good but the donut was really yummy. It tasted like a dense funnel cake without the powdered sugar.

I walked home in the rain and stopped in to a few more shops. I found an extremely cute teacup and saucer – it was so simple and white and elegant – but when I flipped it over and saw the price was close to $50 USD I boogied out of that store as quick as possible before I broke something I couldn’t pay for. If you ever go to Iceland know this: you will spend a fortune if you don’t want to live off of peanut butter and crackers nor forgo souvenirs. Even the crappiest, made-in-china-plastic-keychains are at least $15. I even found an 8” stuffed animal for $100 at a particularly chic store. Chic must be Icelandic for expensive. 😉

I ducked into Bonus, a grocery store chain, and picked up some milk, apples and tomato sauce. I was thinking we could maybe make pizza sometime this week with the leftover shredded cheeses from when I made the quiche. I really enjoy cooking at home and doing so here in Iceland for everyone has made me feel even more comfortable.

When I arrived back at the flat Stuart had joined Sigrun and Andy. Joanna had taken her flight out of the country that morning and now Stu will be living here for the next few weeks until his new place is ready.

Sigrun and I took the car to run some errands. It’s fun to be able to help in that way since they don’t normally have a car at their disposal. We dropped off the recyclables and collected the money for them – enough to buy a fancy bottle of wine! – then we went to pick up a loaned folding bed for Stu to use while he’s staying. We got a little lost at one point but it’s fun getting to see more of the rural outskirts of Reykjavik. It’s such a beautiful area, and the old apartments we visited were absolutely charming!

Back home we decided to rearrange the entire flat to fit Stu’s new fold-out bed and make better use of the limited space. We even moved the refrigerator to a new location! It was fun; like Tetris, but with furniture.

Once the furniture shuffling was completed we ran to Vin Budin to get our wine with the money from the recyclables, and we picked up some ginger beer that Sigrun had been wanting to try. Just like most everything else I’ve tasted here in Iceland, the ginger beer was delicious. We were all a bit tuckered out so we kicked back and watched the first Xmen movie, which I’d never seen before, and then Stu cooked us all an amazing asian inspired blackbean sauce pasta. I have to learn how to make that.

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Though I’m really loving this slow-paced week of playing in Reykjavik it’s making me miss Jason all the more. I cannot wait until he arrives so I can show him all my favorite places and we can reconnect. My heart starts to pitter-patter just thinking about it!

Reykjavik: History, GoKart Races & A Drunken Pest

May 30

My morning was filled with writing, a powdered latte and a quick visit from Stu and Jo when they brought over a few suitcases since Stu will be moving in with Sigrun and Andy for a couple weeks until his new apartment is ready.

I have begun to feel like I’m wasting the day away if I don’t at least stroll downtown for a few hours. I know I’m going to miss Reykjavik like mad when I go home so I keep trying to soak in as much as I can, always finding new art and shops during each trip I take. While I was out I visited the museum Reykjavik 871(+/-2) and it was fascinating! In 2001, while constructing a new building downtown some old artifacts were found. Construction ceased and careful excavation begun. Check out the above link for further information, it’s pretty cool. When I visit old settlement sites I always have an intense reaction. Regardless of if I’m walking through a grain factory from 1893AD or Egyptian tombs from 1300BC – it’s still amazing to me that I am witnessing bits of my ancestors’ lives.

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When I came out of the museum I could hear hundreds of children yelling and cheering. I followed the sound over to a public square that is normally filled with skateboarders. Today it was filled with primary school children dressed in 4 distinct team colors. There was an announcer dressed as a cow and all the teachers/coaches were wearing superhero capes. Everyone was screaming and cheering. It took me a while to understand what was going on but once I saw the make-shift go karts I realized it was a race. The children all had their own team chants and were all impressively in sync with one another as they chanted their little songs.

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After I’d had my fill of screaming children (it didn’t take long, haha!) I headed South of the square and found a charming cafe. It was a Te & Kaffe (which seems to be the Icelandic counterpart to Starbucks). I ordered a mocha latte and quickly understood why it was a popular joint. It easily made the top 3 lattes I’ve had in Iceland. I daydreamed in the comfortable cafe and watched the rain pour down for about an hour before heading out into it again.

On the way home I snapped images of more street art, then finally stopped by a bakery. Every single one I walk by is so enticing that I finally caved and bought a big round loaf of bread and a gorgeous little creme-filled pastry to share with Sigrun and Andy after dinner.

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I headed home and got started on making another quiche, by request. It makes me so happy everyone has liked my recipe! Sigrun and I chatted while I worked and by the time Andy got home we were ready for dinner. I absolutely love cooking while I’m here. It makes me feel so at home.

After dinner we took a walk down to the old cemetery that I had told them about a few days before (I couldn’t believe I was introducing the locals to something new in Reykjavik, woo hoo!). It was so interesting to look at the names and dates of the gravestones. So many long lives, and so many short lives. We found one unique mosaic headstone for an artist who had died at 33 in the 1890’s, and several infant gravestones for kiddos who never made it past their first year… so sad.

After our quiet walk we stopped into a pub for a brew. We were enjoying our drinks and discussing travel and movies when a man who had already pestered Andy when he went out to smoke came in and started trying to chat up a group of young women sitting near us. They were clearly annoyed by him and he was completely oblivious. He eventually got the hint and wandered away. We shook our heads and kept talking. We were deep into a conversation about the most effective teaching methods we had enjoyed as kids when someone pulled out the chair next to me and sat down. It was the Drunken Pest. He immediately started asking me questions. Where was I from? Was I Mormon? Why am I in Iceland? I knew he was intoxicated so I mostly returned his questions with the same questions about himself but he refused to answer any of them – or did so in a cryptic manner. I quickly decided to show him my mean face because he sat down, uninvited, and interrupted our conversation with his questions while never answering any of my returned lobs. Sigrun thought my mean face was pretty funny and said she’d have to remember that one. I felt bad for being cross with a stranger but he was far too aggressive and I’ve learned if you’re nice to people who already aren’t respecting your space it never ends well so it saves time to nip it in the bud. ;P

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Reykjavik: Relaxation & a Goodbye Party

May 29

I’m thoroughly enjoying this week of pretending I live in Reykjavik. It’s been so relaxing and has given my mind a break from always being on the move. There are less photos being taken some days but grand memories being made none the less. I suppose I would be comfortable saying 4 weeks of nonstop photos has earned me a week off?

We were enjoying a relaxing holiday morning at the house; I was writing and letting my pesky blister heal, Sigrun was feeling even more ill so she was resting and watching Dr Who while Andy went for a walk. Down the street the Hallgrimskirkja church bells started going off at 10:30am and just kept gonging. We thought maybe there was a wedding or something but they didn’t stop. We discussed it for a bit until Sigrun said “Wait, today is a Christian holiday. That’s why we have the day off of work.” and we both laughed that we never made the very obvious connection. I later read that the holiday is called Ascension Day.

Sigrun did a little house cleaning and I needed a break from writing so I headed to the Hagkaup market to buy ingredients for the quiche I was planning to make for Joanna’s going-away party that evening. After I got back from the store Andy fried up some Welsh cakes for the party and they were so delicious! I will certainly be adding these to my baking repertoire from here on out.

We relaxed the afternoon away until Sigrun had to go to her gymnastics meet. I started making the quiche and for some reason I was so nervous it wouldn’t taste good but, really, I suppose you can’t go wrong with eggs and cheesey goodness. It was fun cooking in a new kitchen and figuring out how to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, and cups to deciliters. The only thing I messed up on was adding too much salt, but it was still quite tasty!

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When Sigrun returned from gymnastics we walked over to Joanna and Stuart’s flat a few blocks away. I was introduced to one of their friends named Freddie who is from Denmark and currently employed as a bartender while working on her thesis on TEDx and the spreading of innovative ideas. Everyone I’ve met here is so fascinating!

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We sat down for a dinner of quiche, a delicious veggie pizza that Stuart made, the Welsh cakes Andy made and some Pimm’s that Emily and Keir, the lovely couch-surfers from the UK I’d just met, had left behind. If you’ve never tried Pimm’s, I highly recommend giving it a go. I’m told it’s a wildly popular summer drink in the UK and if the sun is shining then out comes the Pimm’s!

We laughed and dined our way through the evening. My favorite moment of the entire evening was when Stuart noticed I’d used dill in the crust of the quiche and told us all what he thought that dill was comparable to a crying strong-man. Because, he explained, spices are supposed to pack a punch and give a distinct flavor but when you taste dill it’s this wimpy whisper of a flavor. We had a good laugh about that brilliant description.

Since Joanna and Stuart will be living apart for the next several months they’ve decided to make an extremely creative website to connect their two worlds. They will be posting songs, images, poems, etc. from their respective corners of the world and lining them up together each day finding way s to connect the two together. I think it’s fantastic! They asked if I’d take a photo for the website banner so we walked down the street to a uniquely painted joining of two buildings to use as our background.

Back at the flat we moved on from Pimm’s to Vodka-Cokes and then we sampled some Brennivin. Brennivin is an unsweetened Icelandic liquor made of potato mash and flavored with caraway, cumin and angelica. It tastes mildly of licorice and pumpernickel bread. I liked it a lot but probably couldn’t drink it often.

We talked the evening away until Sigrun and Andy headed back home since they had to work in the morning and poor, sweet Sigrun was still feeling so ill. I stayed a bit longer to chat until I had enjoyed far too much drink and figured I better head back before I was unable to.

I said my goodbyes to Joanna and wished her well since I may not see her again before she moves back to New Zealand on Saturday, was given some clothes-hangers to take to Sigrun, thanked the three for a lovely evening and off I went.

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My home-away-from-home neighborhood ❤

I walked home in the midnight sun. The night was the warmest one yet (summer is nearly here!), with my little quiche dish in one hand, an armload of colorful clothes-hangers in the other and a giant grin on my face. Halfway back to Sigrun’s I stopped and sat on a stone wall for a minute to soak in the moment. There were still a few quiet birds murmuring in the trees though it was midnight, and I could hear the sounds of traffic and a few laughing voices from an open window nearby. A lanky orange cat with a big blue collar walked atop the mossy stone fence and stopped next to me. I gave him a nice pat and told him to remember this moment. “No one else will experience this exact moment beyond you and me,” I told him, “We are very lucky to be in Iceland, and in this beautiful weather, and to be happy and healthy and safe.” He rattled a purr in answer.

By the time I got back to my bed I was even more intoxicated. Be it from the alcohol, the incredible circumstance of this past month of my life, or a perfect combination of both; I was punch drunk either way, and fell asleep with a big dopey grin on my face.

. . .

Quiche a’La Lanna

Iceland_20140529_Reykjavik-8_WEBThe Crust-

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup iced water

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 scant tablespoon tears of a strong man (dill)

Blend flour, dill and salt in mixing bowl; combine oil and icewater together and whisk until cloudy; combine flour and oil mixtures (knead it only enough to form a clump, no more, to keep crust flakey); press into pie dish and set aside.

The Filling-

4-5 eggs

~3/4 milk (more milk, less eggs for a fluffier quiche; more eggs less milk for a more substantial quiche)

2 tablespoons butter

1 small to medium red bell pepper [I love to do a mix of red, yellow and orange peppers in the quiche to make it pretty then eat the remainder of the peppers with a creamy dip while I bake the quiche… but it’s not necessary ;)]

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1-2 cups of any other shredded cheeses you like. More mozza, cheddar, feta, gouda or any herb cheese are tasty choices

3 whole green onions

Salt and black pepper to taste

Dice the white portion (about 2-3″ worth) of the green onions and dice the peppers into small uniform chunks, sauté together in 1 tbs butter. Chop the remainder of the green onions. Blend eggs, milk, shredded cheeses, green onion, salt, black pepper in a bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 375f/190c. Once the sautéed peppers are finished, let cool for 5 minutes and combine into egg mixture. When ready to bake, pour egg mixture into crust and use a fork to squish the edge of the crust down to hug the egg. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. Let it cool 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Reykjavik: Dinner With Friends, Botanic Garden & Street Art

May 27

From my parking spot in front of Sigrun and Andy’s place I was surprised to see the day begin without any rain. The updated forecast for the day was cloudy with a slim chance of rain so I excitedly packed my day bag and planned to walk the city. I remembered seeing something in the guidebook about the Reykjavik botanic gardens and thought a stroll through some lush green gardens is just what I needed after all this gloomy weather.

I left the house on foot and figured I’d find directions once I was out and about. The gardens turned out to be about 40 minutes away on foot so I hesitated. In the end I figured it’d be good for me to get out and pound the pavement a bit since I’ve been mostly driving for the last few weeks and haven’t gotten much exercise. Besides, you can get to know a city more intimately when you walk it!

I along the way I passed what looked like an Olympic training center and down a grassy hill then through a beautiful tree-covered lane. I saw a small zoo on my right and I talked to the brindle striped cows laying on some rolling hills on the other side of the fence.

The gardens turned out to be absolutely lovely – and free! Oh how I dig free things! I thought about how much my mom would enjoy the place since she’s a natural plant whisperer (and my go-to person for all things green). I slowly walked on the white wooden bridges over narrow ponds, strolled through rock gardens and got lost in thought listening to the birds sassing each other in the trees above. I even encountered a ferocious Icelandic beast!:

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I always get so inspired when visiting beautiful locations. I take a mental picture of the best designs and tuck them away in my mind for when I get home and can work on my own garden – and this place gave me several fantastic ideas to try! My favorite elements from Iceland that I’m hoping to somehow incorporate in my home garden are the rolling grassy mini hills, stacked stone walls, and the turf houses.

Near the back corner of the gardens was a greenhouse. As I got closer I saw it was a cafe! Oh boy, oh boy, oh, boy! You know how I love my cafes.

I went inside Cafe Flora and it was absolutely fantastic. Gorgeous wooden garden tables and chairs, a koi pond, a big fruit laden fig tree, grape vines, a condiments table made of the trunks of trees… I was in heaven!

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Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-123_WEB I asked the barista for a double latte and got her opinion on what she’d recommend for lunch. She said the soup of the day was a coconut curry with shrimp and parsley. I’m not big on meat any more but I thought I’d give it a try (you know, when in Rome…). It was served in a hot, lidded glass crock on a bamboo board with a few slices of fresh sourdough grain bread and a little square of butter wrapped in parchment paper.

As the girl brought me my soup I couldn’t help but do a wiggly happy dance in my chair and clap my hands. She laughed and shook her head at me and it made me realize most people probably don’t get this excited about food. I guess Gastronomy has always pleased me. Tasty food is one thing, but tasty food served up in a beautiful presentation is happiness on a whole new level. More so, tasty food presented beautifully and sourced responsibly? Oh Jeezus!  Plug your ears because I’m apt to gush about that meal for weeks.

Maybe I’m meant to be a food blogger? A traveling food blogger? Hmmm, I have an idea… oh dammit!  theveggietraveler.com URL is already taken. Fine, back to the drawing board I go. 😉

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The bread was so soft and flakey on the inside with a thick and chewy crust. I slathered each piece with the fresh butter and then dipped them into the curry soup. I was such a perfect blend of flavors! The soup was savory though the coconut gave a hint of sweetness, and there were big hearty chunks of onions, carrots, parsley, squash and butter beans. I even tried a few of the tiny shrimp and they were so fresh and tender they practically melted in my mouth.

I enjoyed my lunch and wrote for a couple of hours in the warm, deliciously earthy smelling greenhouse. I wanted to stay right there for the rest of my life. It was heaven. I would probably live in a greenhouse if it were a feasible thing to do.

The day was so relaxing and lovely, though my stomach was not being very accepting of the shrimp and I whispered an apology to it for trying to trick it into eating meat. I promised not to do it again no matter how fresh and incredible it may be.

I meandered back towards the house and admired the fantastic pedestrian and bicycle lanes next to the large roadway. Why do we not do this in Colorado? Cycling is so popular in the state it seems insane not to. There’s even a well-known joke about Coloradans and their obsession with cycling: How do you know if someone’s from Colorado? They carry an $8,000 bike on the roof of a $1,000 car.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen these pedestrian roads back home but Sigrun tells me it’s very common in Sweden and I’ve seen it in Denmark too. It seems simple enough; if we combined the widths of the current sidewalks into one wide pedestrian/bike road on either side of the automobile road it would save us so much grief. Less bicyclists would be killed or injured, drivers wouldn’t have to get frustrated with cyclists, and it would inevitably encourage people to travel via something other than gas-guzzling cars.

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I noticed both of my cameras were nearly drained of battery so I went back to the house to charge them while I took the forced downtime to nap and surf the web a bit. I made tentative plans with the group that I had met in Akureyri to meet for a beer at Micro Bar before they flew home. Chad and Mandi were heading back to Austin, Texas in the morning.

Sigrun arrived home and I told her about the plans for Micro Bar and she said Keir and Emily were cooking dinner that night and suggested we should all go together after we ate. I headed back out for a walk through the city since the weather was so beautiful. I didn’t want to miss a minute of non-rainy weather.

I ventured down the main shopping street and snapped photos of the colorful street art. I still find new pieces every time I walk down there. It’s incredible!

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I found a tiny little door that lead back to a small fashion shop. When I entered I found a spread of beautiful foods and another photographer who was carefully placing the food. I realized I maybe shouldn’t be there. I asked the man if he was working and he said he was the culinary photographer for a food magazine in Reykjavik and they were having a party for the publication. His name is AoThor (check out his food and people photography, it’s lovely!) and we chatted a little and traded cards before I boogied out of there because I felt like I was crashing a party I hadn’t been invited to.

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I headed South and then up the hill to the old wealthy neighborhoods on the East side of Reykjavik where the houses are grand with sprawling manicured gardens, and I even found the old cemetery. It was so beautiful and peaceful there, with trees growing up from many burial plots and stone walls cradling family burial plots. It’s exactly how I imagine a cemetery should be.

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I returned just before 8:00, and everyone eventually trickled back home and the dinner-making and the sharing of our respective days commenced. They made a delightful parmesan and broccoli pasta dish together and Keir brought out 5 Icelandic beers to share and sample. We all got a small jar to use as our beer sampling cup (mine was an olive jar. I love it!) and we worked through the brews while they thrilled me with their knowledge. Andy and Keir would be talking about something English and completely foreign to me and I’d have to stop them and request they explain it to me. I felt as if  I was a child hanging out with adults since I didn’t know half of the things they were laughing about. They were gracious though and happily explained things to me such as what a genuine  Cornish pasty is. I would very much like to try to make these!

Keir sliced up a little cake with marbled frosting and we shared it while enjoying a porter beer and then we headed out towards Micro Bar. I really enjoy all the walking I do in the city, though I’ve added it all up and I walked 4.5 hours this day alone. I think soreness is in my near future…

Andy decided to stay home since he had work in the morning. We were a bit late to Micro Bar and so we had missed Mandi and Chad, but I bought the 4 of us a round of beers and we talked until midnight and decided it was bedtime. I had worn my Loveland Aleworks t-shirt and had to get a photo of it while at Micro Bar! As we were taking the photos a few fairly intoxicated Americans started asking what all the photos were for and one of them was from Arvada, Colorado. I told them how fabulous Loveland Aleworks and all the microbreweries in Loveland are and he said he’ll have to make a point of heading up there next time he’s back home. I seem to become quite a braggart about my awesome little town when I’m away from it. 🙂

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Mission Ring Road: Completed

May 26

I’ve officially finished exploring the Ring Road around Iceland! I’m back in Reykjavik after nearly 4 weeks of traveling and living out of my car. I’m exhausted and filled to the brim with all the things I’ve seen and learned this month… and I’m already daydreaming about having another adventure even though this one isn’t quite over yet (anyone want to split a little cottage on Prince Edward Island next summer?).

Now that I know I have less ground to cover in my final days in Iceland, due to stormy weather cutting my Westfjords portion of the trip short, I have a new sense of relaxation and peacefulness. I’m not feeling like I have to go, go, go if I just want to enjoy staying wherever I am. I guess even though seven weeks sounded like ample time here I’ve still managed to pack enough into each day that I’ve left myself completely exhausted. Having these extra days to hang out in the city makes me feel “off the hook” for the week.

Expectations about adventures don’t always pan out and the delays and detours the weather has caused during this trip have been good reminders of that.  I’ve been emailing back and forth with a gal at the helicopter tour company about taking a flight to shoot arial photos. When I first checked into this a month ago the woman basically told me that the prices are per-person when three people take the flight at once (doh! Why don’t they mention this in the pricing on the website?). Unless I luck out and a couple wants to take a flight during the week I’ve requested, June 1st through 7th, I would have to pay for all three seats if I go by myself. I asked them to keep me posted just in case a couple contacts them but I haven’t heard anything yet and we’re getting down to the wire. At this point I’m not going to get my hopes up. Even if I luck out and they find a couple for me to fly with the weather is being so drippy that it might not be worth it to go on a gray, rainy day anyhow…. sigh… I keep trying to think on the bright side about not getting to do this incredible flight I’ve been so looking forward to…. but the only positive outcome I can come up with is that I can repurpose the helicopter funds and put it all towards a second photo adventure this fall to maybe give my amazing Trevolta backers (who graciously financially backed a piece of this adventure) even more bang for their buck.

I noticed Sigrun had replied to last night’s message and happily said I could stay with them but that she didn’t want any payment. They have other surfers staying with them right now too and so we’ll all be there together. She’s so generous and social! I have learned an important social lesson from her openness and generosity and I’m very excited to pay it forward and host my own surfers when I get home. It’s such a unique experience.

My calendar reminded me my niece Harlow’s birthday party was that afternoon and so decided I should find a cafe so we could Skype and I could virtually attend. I drove to Sigrun’s house and found the key she’d left me, showered, then packed a day bag and walked into the city. I have so much love for Reykjavik. It’s so bright and colorful and friendly. I’m grateful I got to experience it for the first time with Sigrun showing me around – maybe that’s why I feel it’s so friendly?

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I meant to try a new cafe but I was drawn to Babalu the moment I saw the bright orange building. It is so welcoming there. When it came into view I started hankerin’ for a hot latte and remembered I’d wanted to try their veggie chili. I sat upstairs this time by a small window that overlooked the rooftop patio. The upstairs is somehow even cozier than the downstairs. I set up my little workstation and leisurely wrote and edited all afternoon.

A small group of people and a man in a stylish suit came up from the first floor and went out to the rooftop patio. I noticed then that the sun had peeked through the clouds and it had stopped raining for a while! A few minutes later a bride with flowers in her hair came up the stairs and the man in the suit came back in to retrieve her and they kissed tenderly. My heart melted. I forgot myself for a moment and blurted out “You look so beautiful!” and asked if they were about to get married. They smiled said they had just done so down the street! I congratulated them and they were wonderfully friendly.

When the bride and groom and their small group of companions sat down at a table on the patio I asked if I could take their photo. We exchanged websites – the groom told me they are doing the ring road next and will be blogging about it too. He said they were from Germany and they had wanted a small wedding so no one back home was even savvy to what they’re doing on their “vacation”. I love that!

In all the excitement I forgot to ask their names. I wish I didn’t get so nervous talking to new people – I somehow manage to forget the most obvious details of talking to people. Someday I will finally be so good at this socializing thing that I will look back at the old awkward me and be sooo embarrassed. 😉 Or so I hope.

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A bit later, when the upstairs of Babalu’s had suddenly become busy and I was quietly enjoying listening to four distinct languages being spoken around me, Jason called on Skype so I could join in on my niece’s 4th birthday party back home. I told Harlow “Happy birthday!” and she said “Happy birthday to you!” so I laughed and thanked her and we talked for a bit. She was feeling ornery and didn’t understand why I wasn’t coming to her party. I told her I am at her party and she gave a look of confusion, blew me a kiss and waved goodbye. I had to laugh because I had waited all afternoon to chat with her and she was done in 2 minutes flat.

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Another latte later (do you like how that’s become a time signature for me?) Sigrun checked in via Facebook and said she was home now. I asked what they were all up to tonight and she said that it was one of her couch surfer’s birthday so she had baked him a cake. So thoughtful and fun! I headed back as soon as I fixed a weird error on my camera. Thank goodness for online manuals.

Walking back to Sigrun’s in the usual icy wind I felt like I was glowing. I felt like this city has become another home for me and I felt like I could belong here. I know a big portion of that feeling is due to Sigrun and Andy’s welcoming introduction to the city. I love the colorful hip vibe, the friendly people, the quirky mom & pop shops that close whenever they feel like it (even in the middle of the day), the positive attitude towards all forms of art and music. It seems to be a thriving and happy city. When I came here I wanted to bring a piece of my beloved Loveland to share with Iceland, and now I’m determined to bring a bit of Reykjavik back to Loveland when I go home.

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Back at Sigrun’s house we chatted about our future travel plans and what we’d each been up to the last 4 weeks. Sigrun told me that Joanna is heading back to New Zealand for good this week now that school’s done and it’s been a bittersweet time for them all. Joanna is such a sweetheart and they have become such good friends. It’s so sad losing someone you’ve gotten so close to like that. I guess it’s wonderful that we live in a world rich with technology and social media platforms so we never have to be too far away from our friends.

I helped make a sugar frosting and a make-shift pastry bag so we could write “happy birthday Keir” on the tasty looking cake. The cake was a Swedish recipe called Sticky Cake. It resembled what we’d call a brownie in the States and was as delicious as it looked!

Joanna and her two couch surfers from Greece came over around the time Andy got home from work. When Sigrun’s couch surfers arrived we all sang happy birthday to Keir and got to know one another. Keir and Emily are a recently wed (as in, last week!) couple from the UK and they’ve just spent three years teaching English in Korea and now they’re off to the States to work in the WWOOF program for a few months. WWOOF is an organic farming and teaching organization working towards spreading knowledge and practices of organic and sustainable food production. I’m so excited now that I know what this organization is! They will receive room and board in exchange for working on the farm while learning how to do amazing things like keeping bees, grafting trees, and organic farming. They leave Iceland in two days to go visit friends in DC and then they’ll head for Seattle for a month to work on a WWOOF farm, and followed by another farm-stay location after that somewhere else in the US. And then they’ll go to Australia and New Zealand (if I understood right) for another stint with the organization. What an adventure! They seem so easy going and able to take life as it comes. That seems to simply be the way of people interested in traveling the world; they’re calm, open to opportunities and to taking exciting leaps into the unknown, and the all seem incredibly friendly.

Emily, the lovely couch surfers from Greece (I apologize I can’t remember nor pronounce their names!), Joanna, yours truly, Sigrun and Andy. Photo courtesy of Keir Thomas

We all talked late into the evening before calling it quits around 11:30 since it was a week night. It felt so good to be around people again after being on the road alone for weeks. I bid everyone good night and headed out to my cozy car. The rain had stopped and it seemed warmer than it’s been since I arrived on the island. Jason and I tried a new free phone app he found called Viber (So far it’s better than Skype with less call drops) until I nearly fell asleep on him.

We said goodnight and the last thing I remember thinking before I closed my eyes was how this incredible journey of mine is quickly coming to an end. I looked back on all the things I’ve seen and gone through and still can’t believe I’m the one who had the pleasure of living it. It’s all been so out of character for me! I slept next to geysers and volcanoes, hiked waterfalls, I defied my social anxiety and met wonderful people from all over the world, explored an incredible and volatile island without any solid plan other than seeing as much as I can before making it back to Reykjavik no later than June 5th, all while living out of a car… and the most shocking one of all: I have managed to keep up with the blog the entire time! 😉

I still have a couple more weeks of memory-making and I plan to enjoy the heck out of it.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again; I am one seriously Lucky Brake.