Saturday, August 12, 2017

That's a Wrap

Pride-themed coffee cups
Reykjavik, Iceland

Outdoor photo exhibition at Skólavördustígur Street
Reykjavik, Iceland

Old Harbor
Reykjavik, Iceland 

Laugavegur Pedestrian Area
Reykjavik, Iceland  

Sunset at Newark Liberty International Airport
Newark, NJ

I've traveled from a country of 330,000 people back home to my country of ~330 million. Yes, that means my seven week trip has concluded, and I'm back in New Jersey. My 28-hour day was epic because it was Pride in Reykjavik. (Ironically, it was Pride in NYC when I departed on this adventure). We missed the afternoon Pride parade due to our flight, but I imagine it was still gorgeous day to celebrate "pride in feeling different," as the Icelandic term literally translates. In the morning, the sun was shining, the air felt fresh with a light breeze, and rainbows (the flags) were everywhere. My Mom and I sauntered along the main streets of Reykjavik's center and the old harbor, did the souvenir search, and had coffee and lunch to commemorate an incredible week. Today brought our time in Iceland full circle as we admired the beauty and creativity that is Reykjavik yet which felt so blatantly odd and strange to us a week ago. The people, the places, and everything Iceland made this week extraordinary, a trip of a lifetime. ...and a trip that brought my country count up to 47!

We returned our rental car at the airport after a lovely ride with many more forms of rock in the landscapes than I'd wish to count. At check-in, my Mom and I landed the last two seats on our flight after the plane was downsized. I guess, the early bird catches the worm, or in this case, the transatlantic flight back home. With that said, there is a lot left for me to process from this adventure. It was an incredible whirlwind that I'm grateful to call my summer vacation.  I have a few thousand pictures to process, and I still have to figure out the logistical (places, transportation, etc.) and financial totals. Like I said, lots to reflect upon. Expect me to write in the near future (reflecting on this trip and reporting on others, too!). Until then, thank you for following my travel chronicles. :-)

Un abrazo,
Matt

Friday, August 11, 2017

Iceland Forever


Glanni Falls
Bifröst, Iceland


Grábok Volcano
Bifröst, Iceland 


Deildartunguhver: Europe's largest geothermal hot spring 
Deildartunguhver, Iceland 


Hraunfossar Falls
Highway 50, Iceland


View from Fossatún Hotel
Fossatún, Iceland


Last sunset in Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland

It's hard to put in words how great this day was, or more so, how unforgettable this this trip has been. Today was my last full day in Iceland. My Mom and I road-tripped from Borgarnes to Bifröst then to Reykholt and lastly back to Reykjavik. Sounds straightforward? Like every other day, Iceland provided us with marvelous sights and interesting weather. Some of the stops in between climbing and walking around a volcano, visiting Europe's largest geothermal hot spring, admiring some astonishing waterfalls (there is a plethora of those here), and soaking up the landscapes during every moment of this picturesque drive. The sky felt infinite as the horizon overpowers that massive mountains in the distance and dances with the wind. Iceland is a very special place, and I count myself as very lucky to visit here with "good" weather and to have my Mom as a stupendous travel partner. (You rock, Mom!) We enjoyed our favorite Icelandic dish (mashed potatoes and fish with melted cheese on top) in Reykjavik for our last night here. It has been a glorious stay, and Iceland has been a trip unlike any other. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Snæfellsnes Peninsula


Arnarstapi, Iceland


Black pebble beach
Snæfellsnes National Park, Iceland


Kirkjufell Mountain and Falls
Grundarfjördur, Iceland 


Highway 56 at 10pm Sunset
Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland 

Fourteen hours. Two adventurers. One rental car. One Snæfellsnes Peninsula. That was the objective for today, and it was Iceland in her glory. My Mom and I spent the day driving around, hiking, and exploring the many popular and secret gems of this part of Iceland. While the photos may seem lovely, I'd like to add that there was so much wind, I had to dress for a blizzard to retain any warmth while outside the car. (Slightly dramatic but still today's wind made Chicago seem stagnant.) Throughout the peninsula and the National Park, there were charming seaside villages, a one (called Budir) was only a church and a hotel. The waterfalls were plentiful and all jaw-dropping. And the mountains were marvelous - colorful and wondrous from every angle. I felt like a kid in a landscape candy store. If you come to Iceland, add the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to your plans. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

It's Not about the Destination


Urridafoss Falls
Off Highway 1, Iceland


Reykjadalur Hike
Hveragerdi, Iceland 


Highway 39
Southwest Iceland 


Highway 47
Hvalfjördur, Iceland 


Hvalfjördur Fjord
Hvalfjördur, Iceland

The wind here brings many surprises. Sometimes it's rain or clear skies, but it may also be rogue sheep in the middle of the street. Today was full of many surprises that reminded me that it's important to embrace the journey, at times even more than the destination. It took a few tries to find a hidden waterfall, a closed road prevented cave explorations, and a there was more hiking (several hours each way) involved that time-wise did not fit in the itinerary. While this may sound disappointing, it led to explorations and moments of observation that blew my mind. The roads and landscapes were so captivating, it was hard to focus on the road. With countless blind turns, you never know what is around the corner in Iceland. That is the beauty of Iceland, and I'm learning to go with the flow of the wind. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hella to Vík


Seljalandfoss Falls
Eyrafjöll, Iceland 


Skógafoss Falls
Skógar, Iceland


Reynisfjara black sand beach 
Katla Geopark, Iceland


Sólheimajökull Glacier
Skógar, Iceland

From Hella to Vík, my Mom and I had a "hella" good time exploring the hotspots of natural beauty in South Iceland. We were windswept and soaked by waterfalls (as to be expected when you walk around them), greeted by curious puffins at the black sand beaches, and drenched around the Sólheimajökull Glacier. It was all amazing to experience in the varied overcast, rainy, and intermittent sunshine of this Tuesday. The storm driving home also taught us of the power that Mother Nature exemplifies here rather frequently. Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice, is giving us a crash course in these extremes.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Golden Circle


Thingvellir National Park
Golden Circle, Iceland


Öxarárfoss Waterfall
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland 


Gullfoss Waterfalls
Golden Circle, Iceland 


Kerid Crater
Golden Circle, Iceland 

Iceland is a masterpiece of water, rock, and weather. Today's adventure with Mom and Britta was the Golden Circle: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Hot Springs Area, and Gullfoss Falls. We drove through jaw-dropping, out of this world landscapes under the sunniest of days. At the national park, we traversed the American and European tectonic plates. The geysirs  were mind-blowing. And the waterfalls at Gullfoss roared with majestic beauty (rainbows included) and more power than Niagara Falls. To conclude the trip, we made a quick stop to Kerid Crater. The Golden Circle was extraordinary. Iceland is spectacular. I needed to use GPS coordinates to find our Airbnb in the Icelandic countryside tonight. It too is stupendous. And the sun has yet to fully set at 11:00pm, just thought I'd mention that whole midnight sun concept. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Puffins and Blue Lagoon


Harpa Opera House
Reykjavik, Iceland


Sun Voyager
Reykjavik, Iceland


Seltun Geothermal Area
Seltún, Iceland


Blue Lagoon, Iceland

This place is surreal. Did I board an airplane or a rocket ship from Norway two days ago? Everything done today was literally out of this world. I observed the most incredibly adorable creature on Earth on a boat tour: the Puffin. Although difficult to photograph, it was unbelievable to witness such a versatile, little bird thrive in a climate like Iceland's. My Mom and I meandered more through the creative and witty Reykjavik streets and opera house before heading out of town. Our two stops were the Seltun Geothermal Springs and the Blue Lagoon. The ride to Seltun was a nerve-wracking adventure to see boiling water sizzle out of the Earth. At the Blue Lagoon, my Mom and I soaked, relaxed, and loved every moment in these warm, frosty mineral waters in the midst of a breathtaking crater-like landscape that is unlike any other on this planet. A perfect Sunday in my opinion.