One Week in Provence

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You may have remembered that I mentioned earlier in the spring that my sister and brother-in-law would be living in Geneva for the summer while she finished up her master’s degree. I’m happy, so pleased really, to report that her master’s is completely finished, which comes as a tremendous relief, I know. But, it’s also such a shame because it means she and her husband are no longer in Switzerland and I’m left moping about wondering what in the world we are going to do on the weekends now that they’re no longer here. Honestly, it’s not that bad, but saying goodbye to them a couple of weeks ago sure wasn’t pretty.

To cap off our summer together, and to truly celebrate both Courtney and Jared graduating from their master’s programs, we decided to go to Provence for a week with our parents.  The theme for the week was “relaxation” and we made sure to find an Airbnb with a big pool and lots of areas in which to lounge and nap. We liked that the location was quiet and removed from a big city center. But it was still easy to plan day trips to nearby hill towns and even the sea.

Overall it was a really, really lovely week. We read books, swam in the pool (my dad is the biggest water baby!), played Uno, cooked dinner, went out to eat, shared breakfast in the mornings on the patio, explored and relaxed. We talked about the babies and wondered aloud what it will be like when they arrive, everyone excited for two new family members with which to share all this fun and love. Thinking about that week makes me a bit weepy (not a challenge at all these days) because I love and miss my family so much. Spending such quality time with them was priceless.

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For every nice picture of Courtney and me there are always three that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Adam calls them “outtakes” but we call them “magic.”

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After a long drive from Geneva we decided we wanted our first full day to be spent at the house enjoying the amenities. We slept in and had a long breakfast on the terrace before parking it poolside for the rest of the day. We did venture out that evening for dinner at La Table d’Yves, a fancy restaurant on a vineyard that sits right next to Fayence’s famous aerodrome. You can sip a glass of wine on their beautiful covered patio and watch the gliders land. The food was delicious even if the staff were a bit stuffy.

The next day we drove about 45 minutes to Saint-Raphaël, a beachside town in between Cannes and Saint-Tropez. It was too hot to explore the old town so we spent most of our time at the family-friendly beach. There is a good stretch of public beach—and nearby Frejus has a lot of open sand as well—but we opted for an organized beach with loungers and umbrellas. The staff was very accommodating and we had one of the best beach lunches I can remember. The water was perfect for frequent dips and it proved to be a relaxing day at the beach, ending with a ferris wheel ride!

A quick note: cars proved essential for this trip. We rented them in Geneva and drove the whole way instead of taking a train there and picking up the car in Cannes or Nice. Public transportation among the small towns is unpredictable and infrequent and you’ll be limited to bigger tourist hubs if you opt for this option. I’d recommend renting a car instead and tailoring your countryside trip to include exactly what you want to see and allow for last-minute changes and additions. Just make sure you have navigation or google maps handy on your phone!

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Um, matching hats?? Yes, please!

The next day we went to Fayence, which was a ten-minute drive from our place, for their weekly market–a recommendation from our Airbnb host. We got there early not only to beat the heat but also the crowds and we all left with lots of local treasures and gifts. It’s a really sweet town and I’d recommend stopping there for a visit if you’re in the area.

We had our best meal at Le 8 and I urge you to stop there as much for the fun and gracious company of the hosts as the French food. The menu is limited to five or six dishes but they are all fantastic and the location is charming, to boot.

That afternoon we were all pooped from walking around so we relaxed–where else?–by the pool before grilling that night for dinner. In case you’re wondering, I read Among the Ten Thousand Things while we were there and really enjoyed it. A good, if slightly bleak, summer read.

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We spent a full day in Cannes and had fun trolling the old town and sipping very swanky cocktails (or, er, alcohol-free beer) at a ritzy hotel when the heat became too much. We wanted to go out on a boat this day but it was too breezy and they canceled all the trips. I’d recommend exploring Le Suquet for beautiful views of the sea and harbor and admiring the high-end shops, at least from the street. Before heading back we took a walk to check out the yachts and each picked out our favorite–maybe for Christmas this year!

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Our last full day was spent close to home. Courtney, Jared, and Dad explored a nearby hill town for lunch, while Adam, Mom, and I stayed back to read and swim. Of course, once everyone got back it was time for a little burst mode action by the pool. I need to find a way to get all the images into gifs because scrolling through them is one of my new favorite pastimes. I love the energy!

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That night we drove back to Fayence for dinner at Restaurant Le France, how typical! We had an excellent dinner here and celebrated our parent’s 35th wedding anniversary exactly one month early. It was fun to hear them talk about their wedding day and some of their favorite moments throughout their marriage. We also talked a lot about our childhood and it is so funny to hear what everyone remembers–it’s often so different from what is crystalized in your own memory. I would highly recommend this place for dinner, and snag a table outside if you can.

That was Bastille day, July 14th, and we purposely stayed close to home that day and night to avoid crowds and traffic. We woke up early the next morning to hit the road and were devastated by the news that 84 people had been killed in Nice the night before. It was heartbreaking and incredibly sobering after an idyllic week spent together. The world is a very scary and confusing place right now and it’s hard to imagine a time when we won’t be bracing for the next tragedy. It was a chilling reminder to hold your loved ones close and not take for granted all that we’ve been given.

Italy: Pienza, Montechiello, and Montalcino

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IMG_0418This whole post could be pictures of sunsets and vineyards and it would accurately describe these couple of days in Tuscany. As we looked out the car window we kept saying, Wow, and, Man, that is beautiful! Tuscany was not short on stunning views, yet we never felt immune to its charms and beauty. The golden hour and sunsets? Simply stunning.

One thing I really liked about this trip was our relatively loose itinerary. I knew there were a couple of hill towns I wanted to see in the area and we all knew we never wanted to feel rushed, so visiting one or two towns a day felt very reasonable. We would sleep in, make scrambled eggs and coffee, ease into the day and pick a spot to visit over breakfast and reading. It felt spontaneous and relaxed but still productive. Of course we wanted to “see the sights” but taking our time and indulging in quiet mornings was just as much of a priority on this vacation.

Pienza was recommended to us and lucky for us it was only 20 minutes away from Montepulciano by car. It’s a very small town that is overrun with tourists on the weekend so we were happy to find it only partially full on a Tuesday afternoon. Pienza is home to pecorino tuscano cheese so be sure to set aside some time for tasting in the local cheese shops.

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IMG_0216The alleys and streets are picturesque and dotted with novelty shops and cafes. We opted to walk around the little cathedral and grab a couple beers at the Tabacchi in the main square and people watch. We also had some really delicious gelato here…

After buying cheese and salami we got back in the car and headed to Montechiello, which is about 30-40 minutes away from Pienza. I know measuring distance in time sounds a bit obtuse, but those roads! They’re so windy and there are so many little routes you could take that I could never keep track of it all. If you tend to get carsick, as I do, keep a steady constitution and your eyes on the road.

I had read somewhere that Montechiello had beautiful sunsets and it certainly did not disappoint. We walked around the teeny village, bought a little souvenir, and grabbed an aperitivo from a wine shop outside the city walls for the sunset.

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IMG_0243Right inside the walls is a well-known restaurant called La Porta (by the way, I noticed that almost every town has a restaurant called either La Porta or La Grotta; sometimes both). We were unable to get reservations the night before but snuck in this night and boy am I grateful. It was our favorite meal of the trip and a very memorable night. The service at the restaurant is wonderful and we felt very well taken care of. They have a phenomenal wine list, and might I suggest treating yourself to something special and unique? I’d highly recommend making the sunset and dinner a part of your itinerary. Booking essential.

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IMG_0268Attenzione, ladies! Phil likes running, skiing, cool music, good food and wine, and the Kansas City Royals, among other notable pastimes : )

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IMG_0294^^La Porta (you could snag those outdoor seats if you’re lucky!)IMG_0280

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IMG_0315Wednesday was our major chill day. We slept in blissfully late, cooked breakfast, wandered around Montepulciano, and then when the rain got too bad, grabbed groceries and came back to the house. I think we were all back in our jammies by 3:00 p.m. The rest of the day was a blend of napping, reading, cards, and snacking. We went to bed early and indulged in the rainy day.

Before the week started we each decided on something that was essential for our trip. I really wanted to revisit Orvieto, Phil wanted a massage (they are prohibitively expensive here in Switzerland), and Adam wanted to taste wine in Montalcino, which is known for their world class wine. So we dedicated Thursday to all things Brunello di Montalcino.

A note on visiting tasting rooms and vineyards: We were in Italy during the harvest time, which meant that the wineries were busier than usual, but no less willing to entertain visitors. That said, it’s important to check out each winery you wish to go to so you know if they are by appointment only, or if they have set visiting hours. We had to book some appointments at least a day or two in advance so it’s helpful if you know a couple places you’d like to go. We also got ideas from locals and other tourists so be open to trying new places if you aren’t too picky. We did, however, get very lucky on Friday when we were driving around Montepulciano and stopped into three different wineries without making appointments and were able to taste at all three. When in doubt, call ahead! (this post was helpful)

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IMG_0401We scheduled an afternoon visit to Molino di Sant’Antimo and were lucky enough to be the only guests. It’s a family-run establishment and Valeria, the winemaker pictured above, gave us a tour of each part of their operation. It’s incredible to hear how much work goes into making wine each year and how much is totally out of their control. Brunello di Montalcino is some of the highest valued and most prized wine in the world and there are a lot of rules that winemakers must adhere to in order to be classified as true Brunello DOCG. This summer was hot and dry–perfect for making wine–so we are looking forward to trying the 2015 vintage, which we won’t be able to do until 2020. The 2011 will be released in February of next year but we were able to try a glass in their tasting room, which also doubles as the family’s dining room. A true family operation! It was a fantastic visit and we look forward to trying more of their wines in the future.

Afterward we went to Poggio Antico, a large winery on the other side of Montalcino. We had had a bottle of their 2007 Brunello Riserva at La Porta in Montechiello so we were eager to see where it came from. Again, we scheduled an appointment and showed up with several other tourists. The property is immense and gorgeous. The wines were delicious—and we brought several home as souvenirs for the future—but the real treat here was the sunset.

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IMG_4463It could have been the wine talking, but this was one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. We debated which is the better sunset, beach or mountain/hill, and mountain/hill might win out. Thoughts? (p.s. having to decide on the winner in this debate is firmly classified under “not a real problem”.)

I can’t speak to the actual town of Montalcino because we only showed up for dinner but based on our cursory glance I would say it’s definitely worth a stop on your trip. It looks like a lot of other towns, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. We had dinner at San Giorgio (and picked up yet more wine at their wine shop across the street), but Il Giglio also came recommended. Had we time enough I would have liked to stop in the fortress where there also happens to be a nice wine bar–ask for Jo.

I’m beginning to cringe slightly at how many times the word “wine” appears in this post, but we wholly embraced the “when in Rome” ethos on this trip. We were surrounded by world class wines and it was fun to feel a part of that world for a while. And, to be honest, we also just like wine : )

The last bits of Italy coming next week!

Italy: Montepulciano and Orvieto (and Radicofani)

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IMG_0093If you are planning a trip through central Tuscany, might I politely suggest finding a nice farmhouse or villa for your stay? And might I further suggest Montepulciano as your base? Because it is perfect and wonderful.

Adam was tasked with finding our lodging for the week and he did such a terrific job picking this spot that it might be his job forever! Really, though, it was in a great location, just outside of town but close enough to a supermarket where we could pick up ingredients for breakfasts and dinners at home. He found it through the Agriturismo website and we’d recommend checking there if you’re planning a similar trip, anywhere in Italy.

We liked Montepulciano, perhaps one of the bigger Tuscan hill towns. There are lots of shops and wine bars, not to mention exceptional views from the fortress tower within the city walls.

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IMG_0103It is hilly! Our guidebook said it would “push our quads to their failure point”, but I’m proud to say that we’re all in good enough shape that that wasn’t an issue. But stops at the city’s numerous wine bars helped break up all that trekking. As I said, there are many, but we would highly recommend La Bottega del Nobile. They carry over 300 labels of Tuscan wine, along with other Italian varieties. Over 60 of these are on tap and you can taste as many as you’d like. You’re given a card with whatever euro amount you choose and simply insert it when you’d like a try— the amount will automatically be deducted. Samples are offered in three different sizes so you can have just a taste of something new or a glass of an old favorite. You’ll find Paolo working the rooms, offering suggestions and little-known facts.

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IMG_0356We had one meal here, which really wasn’t that good, unfortunately, but otherwise took our meals either at home or at other cities. So I can’t really say much about the dining in Montepulciano. If I ever have the chance to go back I’d love to try out a few like La Grotta and Osteria Acquacheta.

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IMG_0152On Monday we visited Orvieto, which is an hour’s drive from Montepulciano, and actually located in Umbria. It’s another beautiful hill town that was originally founded by the Etruscans, well before those pesky Romans showed up. You’ll spot it immediately from the highway, as the volcanic cliff it sits on is quite dramatic. I visited this city with my family eight years ago and it was a treat to revisit it. It’s very busy during the day, but I’d love to stay overnight sometime to see the city in all its charm.

We visited the cathedral, which is a must. It’s probably one of my favorite churches. The striped travertine is stunning and the carvings on the facade are exceptional. They were created in the 14th century and tell almost the entire biblical story over four panels. Unfortunately the mosaics were covered by scaffolding, but they are striking as well. It’s a beautiful space.

Afterward we went for lunch. I had picked two restaurants (Trattoria del Moro Aronne and Osteria Numero Uno) and both were closed! Typical Monday in Europe, especially in tourist towns where restaurants will stay open on Sunday to accommodate additional crowds. So, do your research beforehand. We ended up a Restaurant Le Duca by chance and it was fantastic. Porcini mushrooms are a local seasonal favorite and they were so good along with the regional pasta, pici. When you’re in Orvieto it behooves you to try the local white wine.

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There are hundreds of caves that lie below the city, but most are private cellars and basements. You can take a tour of the larger public caves, which we did in the afternoon. Otherwise we spent the day walking and walking, pausing for gelato and cathedral views.

That evening we planned to go to Montechiello for sunset views and dinner in town. Instead, we were forced to take a detour on one of the area’s long, windy roads and found ourselves in Radicofani. One of my favorite things about Phil is that when he sees a tower, or any tall structure, he has to find a way to get to the top. So you can imagine how our plans changed upon seeing this from miles and miles away:

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The fortress in Radicofani sits atop a hill so high that on a clear day you can see it from Siena, 60 kilometers, or 37 miles, away. It dates back to the 10th century and offers some of the best views of the Val d’Orcia. It costs a few euros to enter and the grounds are well maintained and really, the view is stunning. We explored the area for a bit before heading into down to find dinner. I’ve never seen a ghost town quite like this, but it was charming and idyllic all the same. There was only one restaurant, La Grotta, and though we were initially the only diners, the place filled up with locals and other random tourists. In fact, it was one of our favorite meals of the week—authentic, delicious and simple flavors.

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IMG_4390My biggest takeaway from this day is that it’s important to remain open to new agendas and destinations. We had never planned on going to Radicofani, much less even heard of it, yet we had a lovely afternoon and evening there. Having a week to explore a region allows for a looser itinerary, which can be such a luxury. It’s more about the journey than the destination sometimes, though it’s hard to imagine going wrong in Tuscany.

More photos and highlights to come!

Iceland: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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IMG_8955I had been looking forward to exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula the entire trip for reasons I am not entirely sure I can articulate. The limited images I had seen looked unreal (even more unreal than anything we’d seen previously) and I was sure that it would be a place I’d never forget. Sometimes it’s dangerous to put such high expectations on a location, but in this case they were well warranted.

The coastline of the peninsula is dotted with fishing villages and the area as a whole is dominated by the Snæfellsnes mountain, which is further topped by a massive glacier. On a clear day you can even see it from Reykjavik. And although you certainly will pass the wandering tourist, it’s much quieter than the other places we visited in Iceland. We loved the solitude.IMG_8965

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We stayed at The Old Post Office Guesthouse in Grundarfjörður, which is on the north side of the peninsula. It was a comfortable place to stay but it’s important to note that there is no organized breakfast. There’s a grocery store a short walk down the street where you can pick up provisions, which we would recommend. The local cafe doesn’t open until later in the day so you’ll want to fix something yourself. There’s a saga museum close by where you can enjoy a small breakfast and good coffee; it opens at 9:00.

After hunting down our own morning meal we hit the road to explore the area. We had plans to go whale-watching in the afternoon but when we arrived in Ólafsvík where the boat was set to depart the captain told us that the weather would not be great and we’d probably only see a few dolphins and maybe a whale. Four hours on a rocky boat in the rain sounded less than ideal so we took a hard pass. I was disappointed because it was something I was really looking forward to, but it became clear very quickly that the weather would be perfect on land as opposed to out at sea.

From Ólafsvík we headed west toward the very end of the peninsula. Our guesthouse proprietress told us about a few sights that we should see, the first of which was a lighthouse.

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IMG_9052It was at this point that I felt the furthest removed from anything and everything. It was just us out there for a while and we felt so isolated. It’s hard to visualize because there are no trees or shrubs or tall grasses so you can’t see the effects of how windy it was, but the wind was positively howling. Standing there bearing the winds (I can’t imagine if it had been raining…), you can almost grasp how hardy Icelanders are. The landscape is so desolate and barren and inhospitable. It’s really incredible.

I do want to note how rocky and rugged the road is out to the very tip of the peninsula. Our car, which you can see up there, did just fine, but you’ll want to take it slow and pay careful attention to the turns and drops. The view is definitely worth the drive.

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IMG_9064From here we drove south and slightly east to get to Hellnar, which had also been recommended to us. We stopped for a coffee and cake and listened to the sea. I would have loved to spend the night here, as it’s so quiet and remote, but it was completely booked by the time we made reservations. You feel like you’re at the end of the earth.

There’s a footpath that connects Hellnar and Arnarstapi that’s especially beautiful in the summertime. We drove to Arnarstapi instead (it’s less than ten minutes by car) and walked along the coast there. We watched the seabirds nestle into the cliff sides and were mesmerized by the waves.

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IMG_9070There’s a nice cafe here where you could have lunch or a snack and there’s even a guesthouse should you want to spend the night. we decided to head back toward the hotel since we had been on the road for almost 7 hours at this point. I know that sounds wild since the peninsula is so small but we really tried to cover it all and take our time. Adam made a good point earlier in the day when we were trying to force a few things (breakfast at the cafe, whale watching) that we should let the day come to us and I think it’s a great way to travel. We may start the day or the trip with an itinerary and some points of interest, but it’s important to let activities unfold as they may and be flexible to spontaneity. Once we let the day come to us we had the best time.

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IMG_9099We found out shortly after we arrived in Iceland that hitchhiking is a popular way to get around the country. The people are friendly and the distances not too terribly far, so it seems like a natural option for the budget traveler. We agreed that while that may be good for them it was not for us and we would not be picking up any hitchhikers.

On our way back to Grundarfjörður from Arnarstapi we took the mountain pass that we had driven over earlier in the day. It’s a beautiful route that offers a gorgeous view from the top. Just as we started up we saw a girl standing on the side of the road waving her arms obviously looking for a lift. We drove right by, remembering our rule from above. But as we passed her we realized that she had no pack or gear and that this road is a long way up and over. We were worried that she was in trouble and needed help. We pulled over and stopped the car and she began excitedly jumping up and down and waved over her friend who was in a ditch with their packs. We had been duped! She and her friend were Slovenian college students on a shoestring budget, planning to hitchhike around the entire country in just under a month. We broke our own rule and gave them a ride over the pass, dropping them off about five kilometers from their final destination, which was in the opposite direction of where we were going. After telling this story to a friend who is well versed in the art of hitching a ride, apparently that’s Hitchhiking 101: look slightly helpless and alone, ensuring you pull on a few heartstrings.

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IMG_9144That evening we had dinner at the local restaurant and ended the night playing cards and drinking wine in our room. There was a beautiful sun-shower that we ran outside for, but otherwise it was an uneventful evening. We stayed awake until the sunset at 12:14 and called it a night.

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IMG_9161On Friday we left Grundarfjörður and made our way back toward Reykjavik. We stopped by Álafoss Wool Store in Mofellsbær to buy a wool blanket like we had seen at The Old Post Office Guesthouse. It’s a beautiful and cozy reminder of our time in Iceland and I love having the visual in our room of one of our favorite trips.

We then headed to the Blue Lagoon for the remainder of the afternoon. It was the perfect way to end the trip and we left there completely exhausted. It’s touristy and overpriced, sure, but it was a fun way to spend the day. We’d recommend getting there earlier in the afternoon and booking ahead of time so you are guaranteed admission.

We stayed at a hotel by the airport since our flight was so early on Saturday morning, but we drove back into Reykjavik for one last meal. We ate dinner at Matur og Drykkur and it was outstanding. Adam had an entire cod’s head and I had Arctic char for the millionth time. We loved it and would highly recommend a special dinner here.

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IMG_9171Oh, Iceland, we love you! You are so beautiful and ethereal, kind and generous. We will be singing your praises for years and years to come.

If you’re interested in visiting Iceland (which you should be!) you can include it as a layover on your trip to Europe. If you fly over on Icelandic Air, you can include an up-to seven-day layover at no extra cost. Getting to and from Iceland, and then of course staying on the island, is very expensive so this is a cost-effective way to include it into your larger itinerary. Definitely worth a look if you’re considering a visit!

Have you been to Iceland? What did you think? It’s such a magical place, I hope you get a chance to see it for yourself someday. In case you’re interested here are the other days of our trip:

Reykjavik and the Golden Circle

Hella to Vík to Jökusárlón

Jökusárlón to Snæfellsnes Peninsula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iceland: Jökusárlón to Snæfellsnes Peninsula

IMG_8653 IMG_8784 Looking through the pictures from Iceland this week has been so refreshing. Switzerland is experiencing a freak heat wave this week and remembering these cool days is a good reminder that things won’t always be this sweaty.

We woke up early for our third full day of the road trip to drive 10 minutes on Highway 1 to Jökusárlón. It’s an ice lagoon that began formed as the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier started receding from the ocean. As of today the glacier has receded 7 kilometers and it’s only moving further away. In another fifty years, they expect the glacier to have completely eroded. It’s incredible to think we are seeing something that our children’s children may never have a chance to see. It made our visit feel sacred. IMG_8652 IMG_8643 IMG_8647We booked a tour through Zodiac Boat Tours and I would highly recommend it. We left on the first tour of the day (8:45 arrival, 9:15 departure) and we would also recommend that, if you can, you go as early as possible. We were the only people out on the lagoon and it was truly magnificent. The water was so calm and the feeling of isolation really complemented the whole experience. This boat tour was our favorite part of the whole trip (I really mean it this time!) IMG_8666 IMG_8660 IMG_8682 IMG_8700 IMG_8708 IMG_8731The blue color is the most recently exposed ice, meaning that all the icebergs you see with blue have fallen from the glacier (or broken off from an even larger iceberg) in the last 24 hours. As we sat out by the edge of the glacier we could hear what sounded like thunder but what was really icebergs breaking apart and crashing into the water. Furthermore, when we got closer to some of the larger icebergs we could hear the frantic drip-drip-drip of the icebergs melting. It sounded like rain! We didn’t see anything major but we heard the transformations happening all around us. The black is of course ash from the surrounding volcanoes. The layers and striations tell of a volatile and storied history.

In the picture directly above you can see where the ice changes from an icy blue into white. This berg had just flipped and was now exposing it’s underbelly more or less. The bergs are regularly breaking apart and shifting their center of gravity. It’s a very cool sight.

There were only 6 of us in the boat and we were allowed to walk around a bit (though the boats are really pretty small) and take as many pictures as we liked. Our driver was so knowledgeable and talked to us about the history of not only the lagoon, but of Iceland as a whole. Again, I cannot recommend this tour highly enough. IMG_8721 IMG_8744 IMG_8757 IMG_8759 IMG_8765We were out on the water for just over an hour and it was truly magical. Because of the shifting tide, many of the icebergs had clumped together at the mouth of the lagoon and were making their way out under the bridge. We went over to the beach to check out the remains of the icebergs that had recently made it out. IMG_8770 IMG_3325 IMG_3319What a morning! It was so invigorating to be out on the water and see such beauty. It was unlike anything we’d ever seen or done before. Isn’t that the best part about travel? Being exposed to so many extraordinary sights and experiences. It’s one of the best feelings. It was about 11:30 when we hit the road again, this time heading west. Unfortunately, unless you take the ring road around the entirety of the island, there’s no way to get back west without retracing your steps. So we covered much of the same ground that we had the day before, but we didn’t really mind. It’s about the journey, not just the destination.

We were headed to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, located just south of the Western Fjords and north of Reykjavik. I got the idea to visit this area based on this blog and I am so happy we did. It was beautiful and desolate and really made us feel like we were in another world. I loved it. IMG_8786 IMG_8813 IMG_8819 IMG_8821 IMG_8825 IMG_8832 IMG_8795More hot dogs for lunch and playlists on the go. We ran into some rain on this day, but nothing terrible. The drive from Jökusárlón to the peninsula took about 7 hours, and that includes a couple breaks for stretching our legs and taking pictures of sheep and waterfalls. It sounds like a long time and it did feel long at some points, but it was totally doable and especially pleasant after we passed Reykjavik and began seeing new scenery. IMG_8838 IMG_8841 IMG_8844 IMG_8853 IMG_8859 IMG_8863 IMG_8882 Once you get onto the peninsula you can take a surrounding ring road, Highway 54, or take some mountain passes to cut across. These are relatively short, maybe a 10 minute drive, but they are wonderful! Glacial lakes, hidden waterfalls, gloomy clouds–take the mountain pass. IMG_8893 IMG_8905 IMG_3334We stayed at The Old Post Office Guesthouse in Grundarfjörður, which is a fishing village situated on the north side of the peninsula. It was a nice little town with one hotel, one guesthouse, one restaurant, one grocery store, you get the idea. We stayed there mostly because it was one of the only towns with any availability, and while sharing a bathroom with four other rooms (dorm style!) isn’t our first choice, it ended up being a nice place to stay. The local restaurant, which is right across the street from the hotel, served really good food. We ate their both nights and tried meat stew, fish pasta, fish and chips, and one more thing I can’t recall. It was filled with locals and tourists alike and made for a nice place to wind down after a long day of travel. IMG_8928 IMG_8942 IMG_8937I’ll share the final part of the road trip, exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, later next week. If you’d like to see more of our trip to Iceland here are a few links:

Reykjavik and the Golden Circle

Hella to Vík to Jökusárlón

On Fear

Iceland: Hella to Vík to Jökusárlón

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IMG_8523This day was arguably the most tiring of the trip. We had a long day on the road and had a lot of sights we wanted to see along the way. One might think that getting out every half hour or hour to stretch ones legs and breathe in some fresh air might be rejuvenating, but anyone who has ever done the slow saunter through a city for hours on end knows that the stop-and-go method of travel is truly the most taxing.

That said, it was an incredible day! What began as a very misty, foggy, rainy day turned into a gorgeous day for a drive with bursts of sun coming out in the late afternoon. This post is bursting with pictures so follow after the jump if you’d like to see and read more about our second full day on the road.

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Back from Iceland

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IMG_9045We’re back from our week in Iceland and I can hardly get my head on straight, not that it was on too tight before we left. I definitely thought that yesterday was Father’s Day, hence this post last Thursday. We had friends over for burgers after the big run and I wished one of them a Happy Father’s Day and he and his wife looked at me like I was nuts, which I am sometimes, yesterday included. Anyway, gratitude is good any day of the week and we should all be thanking the fathers in our life all the time : )

So, back to Iceland: it was amazing. I mean, otherwordly. There was so much beauty everywhere, it was almost overwhelming at times. It was cold, windy, rainy, sunny, slightly warm-ish, breezy, cool, and light all the time. We watched the sun set one night at 12:14 in the morning and knew that it would rise again only 2 hours later. It was so disorienting and made for the most magical lighting.

We drove over 1800 kilometers in 5 days. We listened to countless albums and playlists, plus a little of my own inventive singing and sometimes just silence. We took over 1200 pictures, which I will somehow consolidate into a few impactful travelogues for you. (How?!?) We rode horses and cooed over the sweetest lambs and sheep. We ate buckets of seafood: arctic char, scallops, shrimp, and an entire cod’s head. We walked on the beach, stood on cliffs, and took a boat ride in an iceberg lagoon.

It was the craziest week of travel. There were so many highlights and moments where I thought, “I will remember this forever.” If Iceland isn’t on your travel list, I would highly suggest adding it and moving it as close to the top as you can stand. It’s incredible. And this is coming from a girl whose ideal locale is a warm, sunny beach.

How are you? How was your week? I hope it was lovely, considering that this is one the nicest times of the year. It’s just warm enough for good fun and the days are their longest. I love it.

I’m in and out this week so posting will be spotty, but I’d love to think I’ll get my act together. As I mentioned last week our friends are in town and we will be joining them on a little tour de Suisse. Wishing you and yours a happy summer season.