A Travellerspoint blog

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Nordic what?!

I've always been a believer in that which shouldn't be. I love bright storylines set far away with oversized trees and undersized people. I love perfect coincidences that align just right to make a beautiful mess. I like to let my imagination fly with the fairies and cling to the trolls' toes as they trod through grassy fields. I love it when that which shouldn't be... Simply IS.

And I suppose a story based on dreams is just the way I like it, so, here we go...

Luke and I were home together for a day in November looking at travel options. We had been saving (literally) every spare dollar bill we came across in preparation for buying plane tickets to somewhere. Anywhere. With so many gaps yet to fill on our world map and so little time left with both kids in the house, we knew we needed to spend some time away and cover some distance. Besides, J manages Snapchat streaks of 2 bajillion plus, Beau builds Legos in his sleep, Luke was to starting to despise street driving (not just highway driving!) and my patience has been evaporating (visibly!) by the hour. All of us were long overdue for a little time out of the country and a humble reminder of our size and place in this crazy world. It was time to buy some tickets.

Despite a deep desire for tropics (I think that's just what my regular heartbeat might sound like?), everything we'd seen told us that there is something "magical" about the North. As we were reading, it didn't take but a minute for us to figure out that we were far beyond "Santa Claus serious" if we were to nestle in around the Arctic Circle. This wasn't the kind of north with a dusting of puffy snow, a reindeer or two, and possibly some pretty lights in the sky. We were talking about the true North - and the people, food, history, and culture that come with the Scandinavian countries. The best part of it all? The land - untouched and unique! It is said to lay and feel different than anywhere it's visitors have been before. This was the one for us! A true fairytale experience! Of course, we couldn't forget that wild island country by the name of Iceland that seemed to have lava, lagoons, glaciers, and plenty of other mysteries of its own begging to be explored on an 8 day layover... so the trip got a little longer.

We counted days and dollars, ($1 bills included - "Every little bit counts said the old lady as she peed in the sea" - Life Lesson from my Granny Bear) and hit the purchase button so we could go play in the "Nordic nirvana" for a month and live amongst the remnants of the elves, trolls, giants, and gods of the ancient days. And with that came our traditional toast of tequila for travels! Time to purchase maps and mackerel and get the planning started!

Posted by akgearhard 13:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Appropriate Over-Use of Adjectives

View Iceland / Norway / Sweden on akgearhard's travel map.

I genuinely struggled when reading about Iceland because every other word was an adjective and those that weren't were something like 'Reykjarfjaròarlaug' which I can't pronounce - let alone remember the first 3 letters of to look up. We were trying to determine which region was the "best" and where we should spend our time and every description was so full of adjectives that it seemed next to impossible to separate any of them and find a favorite. One message was clear: Iceland was full of adjectives; it simply depended on your preference for the flavor. With that in mind, we figured we'd go the safe route: rent a car, and drive the ring of the entire island to ensure that we sampled all adjectives from A to Z so we could make a decision for ourselves!

I knew as soon as we stepped off the plane in Reykjavik at 635 am that the Icelanders didn't take their adjectives lightly. My senses went on overload. The early morning sky was still dark but there was a crack of light on the horizon thinking about joining the day. There was a familiar smell - almost Hawaii ish - wet greens and the sea air, but it was terribly mismatched with the temperature. I wear swim suits in this smell - not six layers of pants. A misty fog put an unexpected Harry Potter touch on all of it.

We rubbed our (seemingly) hallucinating eyes and got in a car with a nice Icelandic stranger holding a sign with our name on it. Don't panic, Mom. Spoiler Alert! I totally survive this story and besides, he runs a "certified" business. Now, the fact that this business happened to be operating out of his garage might have been coincidental. We all go through tough times. He had several rental cars up for grabs, a boat that he was working on fixing in the garage, and a nice seating area with some free coffee and cocoa to sip on and keep us good and distracted while we signed our paperwork. Out we went - easy enough - and Icelanders even drive on the same side of the road here!

The warm sun came beaming over the snow-covered mountains as we headed 6 hours north toward the small town of Akureyri. Our car windows were filled with adjectives of all sorts, many of which were Dr. Seuss in style. There were fields of "burnt broccoli" scattered about, which happened to be valleys of lava rock smothered in electric green moss. We went over high mountain passes on snow packed roads and stared up steep white slopes that disappeared into the clouds on one side of the car while we gazed at the deep blue waters of the Greenland Sea on the other. Strange combinations, but oh so beautiful!

We had rented a small cabin in Brimnes, a village on the coast and off the radar. Luke and I hadn't slept much on the plane so after a full day of driving we were ready to call it a night / day - although it wasn't quite bedtime yet. He managed a reasonable nap and I'm pretty sure I growled every time the alarm went off and kept on sleeping. One of the kids came in to tell me they were all getting ready to get out of the hot tub that was on our front porch and head to bed. That was enough to move me... I didn't want to miss that moment. I vaguely remember a brief soak, cool night air, and another 12 hours of good sleep for everyone!

Posted by akgearhard 11:24 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Von and the White Crayon

View Iceland / Norway / Sweden on akgearhard's travel map.

Holy snow, Batman! We had another good day of driving across the northern coast of Iceland today and the snow wasn't going to let us off easy! It put our Colorado (Idaho!) skills to the test! There was nothing to be seen but white - everywhere! The roads connected to the mountains which connected to the skies and it was all one gargantuan white crayon. Oddly enough, there were no towns to be found and on occasion we passed a village or two, but that simply meant that there was likely a harbor, a couple of boats, and a gas station. A supermarket and a coffee shop were asking a bit much. It was almost as if we'd gone on the other side of the wall in Game of Thrones... I could have told you by the color of the people's eyes - if we saw any - but we didn't! It was incredibly remote and very vast.

We went through a couple of long single-lane tunnels that blazed straight through our Matterhorn mountains and made for a Hollywood experience. They had pull-offs inside every quarter of a mile or so, you know, for that life or death moment when you come face-to-face with another car and need to make a decision. They were also well-equipped with phones and fire extinguishers at each stop, just in case. It felt like a James Bond movie... Luke racing through the inside of a mountain trying not to hit another car, me (his luscious Bond babe doing the babe thing which was) squealing with my eyes shut and telling him to slow down before he kills all his precious cargo (kids - not a million dollars or jewels). Look out, Hollywood, coming in hot!

If you've been with us on other trips and read our blogs, you know that our cars and their GPS systems develop personalities. Remember He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named from Italy that tried to kill Luke in Tuscany by taking him down the wrong way in a one way? We had been searching for a name for this GPS and Luke kept tossing out ideas, including 'Cynthia!' as he was scolding our naughty GPS for lying to him about directions. I scolded him right back for using my mother's name in vain and he quickly changed it to 'Synthia With an S' and the name was settled.

We booked a cottage at the Vogafjos Farmhouse where the kids met their friend Von, a large dairy cow, while we were out in the barn for milking time. I'll have to admit that the Boise boy (that I tease about being all city) could speak up, down, and sideways about how to milk a cow while it took me a minute to settle into the smell and sit amongst our mooing friends without throwing up in my mouth. I'm just a mountain girl - not a country girl!

We took off as the sun was disappearing and spent our night in the aqua blue waters and black lava rock of the natural Myvatn Baths tucked up against the crater. It was 30 degrees outside with one star in the sky and the water was like a cozy blanket. This is my happy place.

Posted by akgearhard 12:48 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Another Day in the Life

View Iceland / Norway / Sweden on akgearhard's travel map.

Our drive has taken us to Höfn, on the south coast, which is simply surreal. We are out of the snow (with the exception of the snow-capped mountains that tower in the background of every inland photo) and into black sand beaches, lava fields, waterfalls, and glaciers - everywhere. The combination of greens, blacks, blues, ocean, ice, and snow is brilliant. We've been able to hike into several waterfalls and photograph kooky mud pots as well.

We've got two nights to stay in a Guest House, which always makes for a fun adventure when sharing a kitchen, bathroom, and living room space. We go lightly on these as they can turn out a bit wild for the kids, but can also offer up some of the best memories and learning experiences that they get! Remember the Mad Hatter's house and his guests in Ireland? The pizza oven, the guitar, and his tales about being Ireland and rising out of the ashes each morning? Yes, yes, priceless education. We'll see what this turns up for us.

Oh, one last note. Quality car time. We forget how important it is for the kids to be able to entertain themselves and enjoy one another. No technology allowed. Let me share...

Jaden: "Let's play a game. Guess which glove doesn't have finger in it! Ready? Go!"
Justice: "Let's play a game. The silent game. Ready? Go!"

Posted by akgearhard 13:17 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Elsa & the Dark Haired Bar Wench

View Iceland / Norway / Sweden on akgearhard's travel map.

Ice Caves. After plane tickets, this is the first thing we booked on our trip and the rest of Iceland fell in line around it. We have our priorities straight for sure! Disclosure: I heavily dislike the movie Frozen. I don't think this happened immediately, but my sweet daughter asked me if I wanted to build a snowman repeatedly in a sing-song voice enough times that I started to want to drive over them in my Jeep just because I could (that's where the whole impatience thing comes in - time to put me on a plane and get me back to safe levels of sanity.) She was laying with me one night and kindly asked the hated question and I shouted my answers back louder to each verse ("NO!") and when she said something about how she "never sees me anymore" I told her it's because I don't like her or her dumb snowmen... Little did I know, my sweet girl had her phone on video so she could capture the precious non-snowman building moment in time. Back to Elsa...

We loaded up in a van and took a wild, bumpy ride to the glacier where we strapped on our helmets and crampons and went inside the gorgeous mouth of the cave to explore. I'm not sure what to say here other than you'll have to see the pictures, which will fall short of doing justice to the work of God's talented hand. The light blue ice was illuminated and filled with shapes and bubbles. There was ice cold water dripping down in various places that we could put our lips to for a sample. I credited Justice (Elsa) for her hard work in creating such a majestic kingdom and turned down her request to build a snowman, as I am simply the dark-haired sister, or bar wench in this story. Not sure how it all folds out, but bar wenches don't like to make snowmen either and it's my story, so I'm going with it.

Gnight Elsa. Gnight Dark-haired bar wench. Gnight Kristoff (ice cube maker). Gnight Olaf (overtalking snowman).

Posted by akgearhard 13:47 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

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