And like that it was time to head home. We said goodbye to the horses, another local amazing waterfall, another cute little church, some more lava fields, and chased the sunset flying home. What an amazing planet we have. What a divine manifestation of awesome power and beauty. Thank you, Iceland.
Out early, we took our time driving to sites on the golden circle route. Some of them were off the traditional path which made it exciting when we were looking for things like ladders over fences and dirt roads. Every stop this day was a freezing windy stop, most close gazes at waterfalls were met with icy spray back in our faces. I think we were lucky to have not hit miserable cold earlier in this trip. There were also a lot more crowds at the main stops such as Geysir and Thingvellir and Gulfoss.
Jessica does a fabulous little dance at first sight of something amazing.
Gotta have a band shot with the troll statue...
We came back to the church in Selfoss for an 8:00 Good Friday service. There were about a dozen people in the pews and the whole thing was in Icelandic, but we were able to follow along in the program/hymnal some and I recognized the tune of one of the songs. It was amazing when we heard the choir for the first time...we didn't even know a choir was there until a blend of angel voices resonated above us in a really beautiful song. It was memorable for sure.
To top it all off on our last night in Iceland we saw the Aurora Borealis. They were not bright green and blue dancing across the sky as we expected, but started as a thin line of white stretching across the whole sky. Only on my camera did the colors show up (with the longer exposure). Still, it was awesome (and freezing cold out there in the wind!).
And on the fifth day we rested. Our only goal for the day was a trip to town. We restocked groceries with all the locals hitting the pre-Easter rush. Many of the stores have limited hours or even close these days around Easter.
Our airbnb is out in the middle of a wide plain with mountain ranges (volcanoes?) in the distance. There are very few trees and the wind whipping across the fields was fierce and shook our house!
We had spotted a river in a deep gorge just on the other side of the road from our place, Google satellite showed a possible waterfall so we finally decided to brave the wind and try to find it. What fun! This unmarked falls was beautiful! This country has no shortage of water attractions, such a contrast to our dry Bay Area climate. There is so much to discover here!
It was another hopeful northern light night with no sightings. But having buffet breakfast - a smyrlabjorg smorgasbord, if you will - set the morning off right. We gave Icelandic horses some scratches on the neck, and drove back to the glacier lagoon. Stunning! Glacier chunks like crystals floating on glassy water. A few times we hear a loud crash as a chunk broke off into the water. Some were carried downstream and off to sea. We walked along the black beach where tons of glacier pieces were washed ashore.
In the early afternoon we met up with a tour and hiked across a glacier to an ice cave formed earlier this year from water runoff that created a river between two glaciers that are pushing together. This cave is slowly closing in on itself and will be gone in a month or two. Crazy! We got to gear up for our adventure with crampons and ice axe which was a bonus.
During our long drive toward our new airbnb cabin we stopped in Vik at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. The sun was setting and the basalt columns and rocks were breathtaking.
We also stopped to see a waterfall we missed yesterday, easy to miss since it's hiding behind a rock.
By the time we made it to where our cottage is it was completely dark and hard to see signs, we drove back and forth across gravel roads past farms trying to follow the directions for more than an hour with no luck. Not all who wander are lost...but we sure were. It took turning on our cellular data and searching Google satellite map view to find the place, and it was nearly midnight! Phew! Amazing but exhausting day. We all agreed a slower pace is needed for tomorrow.
Tuesday. We squeezed adventure out of the whole day, and crossed as much of the island as we will this trip. Fueled with instant chicken curry meals and BRAUD bread we set our faces Eastward. We pulled off for a gorgeous view into a valley where we could see our first geothermal vents steaming on a hillside. The terrain through the south coast was constantly changing from black ashy to mossy hills, to snow.
We could see waterfalls coming off the cliffs, and birds venturing out from the cliff line. We went in front of and around Seljalandsfoss, up a million stairs to the top of Skogafoss, and along the river up to and behind Kvernufoss (which is a lesser known one that we had to ourselves!). We found the end of rainbow at that last one, which inspired happy dances and laying down in sun kissed hobbit moss listening to water rush by.
From there we pulled out into the ashen wasteland and joined a hundred or so other pilgrims marching a great distance to see the skeletal remains of an airplane on the black sands of Solheimasandur beach.
At this point our adventures and taken up most of the day and we realized we had hours more to drive to our hotel. Tired and satisfied we pressed on into a long sunset and full moonrise to Hotel Smyrlabjorg out in the middle of nowhere. We made a quick stop at the glacier lagoon (Jokulsarlon) because we couldn't handle how amazing it looked.
A night walk in Reykjavik convinced us it was not the night for the auroras - cloudy and COLD! Also, it stays light a lot later than sundown than we thought.
Day 1. We slept a full night and then some, got some grocerie$, delicious coffee and pastries, and headed toward the Snaefellsnes peninsula North of Reykjavik. It was a day of driving, little churches, marshmallow haystacks, all sizes of waterfalls, troll country, and fluffy snow falling.
Tyler collected Viking chains, icycle tusks and mountaintops. Jess was feeling the magic of the perfect snowflake, and I enjoyed photographing all the angles until my fingers were freezing.
We're here! Gentle snowflakes welcomed us to this tiny Iceland island. Our bodies seem to be surviving from the contorted sleeping positions we were attempting on our blessed hot pink budget airplane. We caught a beautiful first day and walked around town, we're in the little red back house just blocks from the famous church. We ducked in and out of shops this afternoon pricing out souvenirs and food. As wonderful as sleep sounds we are anticipating a reasonably clear night and it might be our best chance to see The Aurora so we are keeping up at least a bit longer.
Tyler went for a brisk sunset run (8:30pm) while Jess and I relaxed in our house. Tyler's cookies have been perfect pick-me-ups. From our beds we have heard occasional cars passing by, birds chirping and cats meowing. The water from the tap smells of sulfur.
A few months ago we decided to make this weekend an adventure, I scoured for deals and booked a hotel..and then life happened and neither of us gave it much thought. We've traveled together enough to trust each other in the undefined, and so far, this getaway has been just right.
Of course our first stop was a blood sugar boost at 85C - warm drinks made the traffic a little more bearable. At Tyler's suggestion we avoided insane parking fees, saving at least $50 by taking BART in from Millbrae. The train pulled up as we walked to the platform, and the parking at the station was free. Boom! A short walk to an Indian restaurant and we were doing the happy food dance. What joy to walk the city with Christmas lights warming the streets. I'm feeling grateful.
While tempted to run in the morning to Regent's Park for one last peak of the London skyline, instead I found myself hitting snooze, taking my time showering and packing, and enjoying one last breakfast bread, butter, and jam in the Executive Lounge. I did make a special stop at Paddington Station to take a selfie with the bear per special request from fans at home. The flights were amazingly not crowded, and I watched four movies with a whole row to myself on the 10.5 hour trip to LAX. It was SO great to be reunited with my family. I had a wonderful trip but I missed them dearly - I want to adventure with Tyler! I came home to a clean house (!) and reports of lots of fun times and mostly good behavior. Did I mention my husband is amazing? Hooray.
Tuesday was my last day in London. It was a beautiful (warm!) spring day. We started off downtown at the parliament and Westminster Abbey.
We had lunch at St. Martin-in-the-Field's "Cafe in the Crypt."
Went to the Leadenhall Market.
Found St. Dunsten's Church - bombed in WWII and then the shell was left to become a garden. Plants grow up around these window holes...it's a mysteriously beauiful place!
I came out of the train station and turned around to find this. The clouds were so perfect that day it looks to me like he's painting the sky.
We perused the Treasured Collection in the Library which had gems such as - oh you know, the Magna Carta, a 4th Century Bible, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I Love Thee," Jane Austen's Persuasion, hand-written music for Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus", Beatles lyrics to "Michelle" scribbled on scratch paper...and so many other fascinating works. We got our afternoon tea/snack in front of the King's Collection, which is multiple stories high. It was a geeky stop that I thoroughly enjoyed and reminded me of my book-loving husband.
We stopped to cross Abbey Road on our way home - my mom switched into teeny-bopper fan mode at this stop - Jess and I had to talk her down from crossing the road multiple times to get all the possible angles to match the record cover. It could have been the caffeine, but more likely just her undying love for the Fab Four.
We walked from our hotel past Regent's Park for a lovely last supper together that included lots of laughter, dreaming, and gratefulness.