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!

Iceland_20140529_Reykjavik-2_WEB

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!

10407234_654726344583063_822114915626428293_n

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.

Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-191_WEB

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!

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.