Reykjavik: Sore Feet & Domestic Fun

May 28

Andy and Sigrun had already left for work, and I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee while Emily and Keir packed their bags.  They had to leave for the airport that afternoon and thought they’d take a dip in the hot-pots before they go. I think that’s the perfect thing to do before taking a long flight!

I loaded up my day bag and the three of us walked down to the pool and said our goodbyes. I wish those two the best of luck in all their amazing adventures. I can’t wait to hear about their WWOOF experiences.

Iceland_20140528_Reykjavik-2_WEB

I continued on towards downtown and realized the blister I’d earned yesterday on the ball of my foot was becoming fairly painful. I perused a few chic stores and then stopped in Eymundsson bookstore to give my foot a break and try a latte and a chocolate muffin. The store is 3 stories tall and resides in a beautiful building with a glass-roofed cafe inside on the 3rd floor. You can sit at a bar along the front windows and watch all the people below while you sip your caffeine. I enjoyed my muffin and hunkered down to write.

Iceland_20140528_Reykjavik-3_WEB Iceland_20140528_Reykjavik-7_WEB Iceland_20140528_Reykjavik-9_WEB Iceland_20140528_Reykjavik-12_WEB Iceland_20140528_Reykjavik-21_WEB

For whatever reason I had trouble focusing on writing. My calves were sore from walking too much yesterday and my foot was stinging quite a bit. Ouch! I kept finding myself daydreaming while staring at the building across from me. I wonder if the people inside thought I was trying to stare into their souls.

The sun peaked out and warmed the city street below me. The buildings and art here during the cloudy days are already colorful and beautiful but then the sun comes out and the city just glows under the bright blue sky.

I eventually gave up on writing and convinced myself to make the journey back to the house and planned to lay down for a just bit because I just wasn’t feeling 100%. I awoke much later and both Sigrun and Andy were home from work already. Sigrun said she had also felt unwell during the day and we all agreed it’d be nice to have a quiet night staying in even though tomorrow would be a holiday. The night before a holiday in Reykjavik is usually a busy time for downtown and it’s popular for young folks to go out and pub crawl until the wee hours of the morning since everyone will have the next day off.  I was happy they were also wanting to stay in so I offered to get us a sixer of beer to enjoy while we relax.

Sigrun and I drove to the closest Vinbudin, which is the only kind of liquor store in the country and is government run. We thought it’d be fun to try more new beers so we picked 4 different brews and then got two of the ones we had loved the most from the night before.

When we got home I remembered I had a packet of an Italian pasta meal mix that I had bought when I first left Reykjavik. I had figured I might cook it on my little camp stove (you know, the one I never opened and need to return?) so we cooked it up and added some extra noodles to stretch it further. It was pretty darn good!

We hung out and tried the different beers, and Andy taught me that Puffins don’t always have a fancy colorful beak like the ones you see in all the photos. In the summer they look like this:

Iceland_20140515_Egilsstadir to Bakkagerdi Puffins-159_WEB-2But then in the winter they look more like this:

Juvenile-puffin-portrait

Sigrun continued to feel worse and worse with a stuffed head and sore throat so I drove her to the pharmacy to get some medicine. Poor thing. Being ill is just no fun.

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!:

Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-22_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-79_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-96_WEBIceland_20140527_Reykjavik-82_WEBIceland_20140527_Reykjavik-104_WEB

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!

Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-130_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-126_WEB

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. 😉

Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-122_WEB

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.

Lanna_iPhone-219_WEB

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!

Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-44_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-54_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-159_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-150_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-142_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-164_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-190_WEB

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.

Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-157_WEBIceland_20140527_Reykjavik-155_WEB

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.

Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-172_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-57_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-59_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-65_WEB

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. 🙂

Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-205_WEB Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-213_WEB

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?

Iceland_20140526_Reykjavik-1_WEB Iceland_20140526_Reykjavik-4_WEB

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.

Iceland_20140526_Reykjavik-9_WEB Iceland_20140526_Reykjavik-12_WEB

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.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 6.40.02 PM

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.

Iceland_20140526_Reykjavik-19_WEB

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.