Whitewalkers and the Elusive Lights

“I must be kind to them,” thought Alice, “or perhaps they won’t walk the way I want them to go! Let me see: I’ll give them a new pair of boots every Christmas.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I am back on the road again!!!  After a month long break for our family Thanksgiving Cruise and the Holiday season, I grabbed my boots and hit the air.   My boots and I had taken a short break while I was in Asia so I was quite happy to be reunited.  Next to my Kitchenaid and my camera, they are some of my favorite belongings.  And so began the European portion of my trip.

First stop- Iceland.  And I had friends join me on this portion!  As fools never differ, we all arrived at Reykjavik airport from different origins at nearly the exact same time.  Clearing customs in Iceland is about as difficult as purchasing a pack of gum so it was off to the Blue Lagoon.  This was supposed to be closed for renovation so it was a very pleasant surprise to find it open and that my dear friend Samantha had upgraded our tickets.  Anyone traveling to Iceland must go directly to the Blue Lagoon from the airport.  It is the ideal way to recover after an overnight flight.  As it is winter here, the country experiences about 18 hours of darkness a day so our 8:30 AM ticket included the sunrise.  It also included a silica cleansing mask (nice), sauna, steam cave and massage waterfall.  But the highlight for me was the algae mask.  Pretty certain I want to marry this mask.  At $90 a bottle though, I did not bring back any souvenir packets!  I thought long and hard about how I could sneak handfuls into my swimsuit and then out of Iceland with me!

The next day was spent exploring Reykjavik.  It was a bit chilly but not unbearable so 8 miles just about did the trick.  Most of the area we were in were shops and restaurants, attributed mostly to the crazy influx of tourists coming in waves to this country.  And the next few days would certainly demonstrate why.  A couple of interesting notes about Reykjavik- 1) they pump geothermal water under the sidewalks to melt the ice and snow 2) it is 40K from the Arctic Circle 3) as they don’t have an army, they have a statue of a businessman with a box on his head titled “Statue of the Unknown Bureaucrat” 4) they have as many Ruby Tuesday restaurants as Melbourne has Subways (exaggeration by a little) 5) they have the most Nobel Prize Winners per capita (at one) and 6) liquor stores open for only 1-2 hours per day (WHAT?????)

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Enough of the city, it was time to hit the countryside.  Iceland it would seem, has one of the most diverse landscapes I have seen.  The winter has been particularly rough for them, lots of rain and fog but we seemed to be the harbingers of good weather.  As soon as we left the city, the sky became the most beautiful pink, blue and lavender I have seen.  We traveled all through the Golden Circle today, visiting waterfalls, geysers and the meeting of the teutonic plates.  Every site looked like Game of Thrones could have been filmed there (more to come on that one!).  That night, we stayed in the shadow of the Hekla volcano, which last erupted in 2000.  The beauty of this volcano is that is gives absolutely no warning before it erupts.  Much like the Northern Lights on this trip, an eruption was elusive.  I had acquired a nasty little cold by this point, so I taught my friends Banangrams and then skipped out on my Northern Lights Shift.  All that taking care of my feet and boots- I had not taken care of my lungs!

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One of the really cool things about Iceland is its folklore.  They have stories for everything, usually involving giants or trolls.  My favorite was the Twelve Yule Lads, mischievous boys that visit the days leading up to Christmas.  If you have been a bad kid, they take you to their mother who will cook you!  They also leave individually after Christmas so Icelanders leave up their decorations until January 6.  As it was January 12, it is apparently a universal issue with lazy neighbors taking down decorations!

Our drive today took us to more waterfalls, a really cool lava field (which I observed from the car as my cold was not improving- I looked pathetic curled up in the van coughing like Typhoid Mary) and a glacier lagoon (where Game of Thrones was filmed- again- more to come!).  I managed to make it outside for about three minutes at the Lagoon before my lungs froze solid and I crawled back to the van).  At least my feet were warm!  Tonight, we slept at the base of a mountain, not far from a glacier.  I managed to do my small part of the Northern Lights watch by staring out of my window for a few hours !img_1124

Words and photos could never actually describe the beauty of Iceland.  I have written and deleted my description so many times that I have declared it futile.  The landscape is everything from beaches to volcanos to glaciers to mountains to streams and on and on.  And each is more beautiful than the one before.  And more unique.  We stopped at a black sand beach with notorious sneaker waves.  This beach, while beautiful, is deadly.  The sneaker waves have taken several lives.  Respect for Mother Nature is paramount in this country.  Both in her beauty and her strength.

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Everyone goes to Iceland to see the Northern Lights.  Many are disappointed as were we.  But a different treat was to be bestowed upon us.  We woke before the sunrise (this sounds early, but the sun doesn’t come up until 10AM!) for our glacier walk.   Word on the street was that Kit Harrington and Game of Thrones were in town but we did not have confirmation on location.  We would very soon get that confirmation.  Just as we arrived at our glacier guide’s office to grab our gear, the road was closed……by the GoT crew!!  We quickly told ourselves all of the appropriate stories- that Kit Harrington had been in the same building getting coffee and that he was filming a scene just 300 yards away.  In truth, we don’t know who and what was being filmed.  Only time will tell when the next season is released.  Since Jon Snow and the Whitewalkers had cancelled our glacier walk, the best we could do was a walk by of a glacier tongue.

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And so we headed back to Reykjavik for one last day of Bananagrams and Phase 10.  I packed up my boots and parka and sent them back to the States with friends.  I miss those boots.  Until we are reunited in South America….

Next stop- Amsterdam.

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