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

My Engagement Ring

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I don’t think I ever told you the funny story about my engagement ring.

After Adam and I decided together that we wanted to get married someday and spend forever with one another we went to a few jewelry stores around Charleston to find inspiration. One of our first stops was an over-stuffed antique jewelry shop with plenty of baubles to keep us busy for a while. What really stood out, however, was a ring that looked almost exactly like the one you see above. The one in the shop was much bigger though, too big for my slender fingers and we agreed it was over-the-top. But I loved the look and I couldn’t get the idea of a sapphire flanked with trillions out of my mind.

We perused other stores and ideas–I even entertained the thought of having a diamond as the center stone–but I kept coming back to my original idea. Adam and I talked about it a bit, but I was so preoccupied with finishing my master’s and studying for my comprehensive exam that it wasn’t something that dominated our conversations.

It was taking over Adam’s life, though. Rather than go back to the jewelry stores we had frequented in Charleston, Adam took to the internet and began ordering loose sapphires to his apartment for his inspection. Some were too dark and some were too light, some were not what they claimed to be, and others just weren’t the right fit. He ordered a healthy amount of sapphires, maxing out his credit card (imagine the miles he earned!) and worrying his roommate in the process (what are all these mysterious packages that keep showing up??). As he recalls, he was a mess.

I was oblivious to all of this.

Right before graduation and our scheduled trip to “Portland” we went back to a sweet jewelry shop on King Street and looked at rings yet again. This was about a week and a half before we were going on our trip so I was sure that we weren’t going to get engaged. But, we looked at rings, compared sapphire colors, and we left the store. I went back to finish a paper and Adam went back to the store to put together a custom ring with the jeweler. He received the completed ring the day before we flew to Zurich, two days before we actually got engaged. What a rush!

post celebratory champagne_2It’s funny looking back on it now, but Adam was feeling a lot of heat during those months. I was recently introduced to Invaluable, an online premier auction site for vintage goods and treasures. Their jewelry auction page is full of beautiful, one-of-a-kind jewels that are quick to become heirloom pieces. I imagine this would have been a great resource for Adam as he was looking for a special ring that spoke to our specific aesthetic. It certainly would have saved his sanity a bit.

I adore my engagement ring and know that it will be an heirloom that will be passed along through generations. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry but I like to know the pieces I do wear mean something to me. I’d encourage you to look through Invaluable’s auction jewelry page and see what lovely items you may find. They have bracelets, watches, rings, necklaces, pins, brooches, and even some loose stones for the cavalier among us ; )

What is your most special piece of jewelry? Does it have a great story?

Tuesday Book Club: Mid-Year Update

 

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How is your summer reading? Any books you’ve been flying through or can’t wait to start reading? Reading in the winter is always fun because you can get cozy under a blanket with a hot cup of tea, but reading in the summer is a blast because you can take your books outside and fall asleep under the giant tree in your front yard (this may have happened to me on Sunday…)

I thought it would be nice to share my progress so far this year since we’ve officially hit the halfway point today (what the?!). You might remember that I’m trying to read 40 new books this year and I am pretty close to staying on target. I’ve marked books I would highly recommend with an asterisk (*) and you can read more about my thoughts on each book by following the link:

  1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie*
  2. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  3. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
  4. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  5. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
  6. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
  7. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed *
  8. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
  9. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  10. The Innocents by Francesca Segal
  11. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  12. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
  13. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  14. Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
  15. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande *
  16. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra *
  17. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz *

Reread: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I just finished Oscar Wao last night and I loved it! I think I read the last one hundred pages yesterday alone. It’s rhythmic dialect and cadence were sharp and funny and the frightening and at-times terrifying history of the Dominican Republic made for a unique setting. My friend Claire recommended the book and I am ever grateful for her suggestion. It won the Pulitzer Prize several years ago so you might have heard of it before. It’s a heartbreaking story about a tragic boy, a family curse, and our universal desire to fit in.

What about you? What are some of your favorite books from 2015? I’d love to hear some of your suggestions. Right before bed I started Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. It should be a interesting flashback to our recent trip to Iceland. Otherwise, here are books that are currently sitting on my shelves at home, waiting to be read:

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  • The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (the sequel to Wolf Hall)

I certainly don’t have the problem of what to read next! I do like to keep a bunch of books around so I always have a book to read next or to take on vacation. And I really like to have books on the shelf; I love the look and I genuinely enjoy having the visual reminder of a specific story or character.

Happy reading!

(image via Covet Garden)

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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Tuesday Book Club: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

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IMG_3116Here I go again, bringing a book everywhere. Restaurants, rest stops, long walks, a book comes with me wherever I go.

Even books that are incredibly, impossibly upsetting.

I picked up A Constellation of Vital Phenomena when we were in the US this past spring and I was sort of waiting to take it on vacation because it seemed like the kind of book I could get lost in. It’s certainly that and more and I would recommend it as vacation reading as long as you aren’t on your honeymoon or any other strictly romantic getaway.

The novel takes place mostly in a bloody town in worn-torn Chechnya. Havaa, an eight-year-old girl, has just escaped from the Feds after they took her father to an almost certain death. She is taken under her neighbor’s wing and sent to the hospital to escape the Feds who want to finish the job and assure her silence. Hers is a bleak and hopeless future.

At the hospital Havaa mets Sonja, a relentless doctor who has rough calluses on her hands from countless amputations and is committed to keeping her scrubs a sparkling white. She’s lost her sister’s whereabouts and subsists mainly on amphetamines and adrenaline. Her future looks similarly bleak.

Indeed, the entire novel is discouraging and depressing in its descriptions of unspeakable torture and violence (a warning: there is a section about two-thirds of the way through that was truly unreadable for me). War’s ability to transform men and neighbors into faceless monsters is on full display. One can’t help but feel disgusted by what we are capable of.

But, Anthony Marra’s beautiful, extraordinary language is compelling and one can’t help but marvel at his deft hand. As Meg Wollitzer writes for NPR, the “brilliant writing…kept me committed to that world and the people in it. In fact, the people also kept me there. The main characters are vivid and real and stuck, and I guess I wanted to be stuck along with them.”

We care about Havaa and her father; we care about Akhmed and his dying wife; we care about Sonja and her missing sister; we care about all the nameless people that flow through the hospital and the streets, both in the novel and in our all-too-true lives. Marra’s writing makes clear what is all too evident in our more tenuous corners of the globe. He brings humanity to a scene that is woefully lacking any. While his timeline mainly stays between 1994 and 2004, the narrative at times swings wildly between flashbacks and flash forwards, dutifully ignoring linear progress much like war does. His blend of sincerity, humor, and the grotesque are simultaneously respectful and informative, making for a mesmerizing read.

I recently purchased All the Light We Cannot See but I’m going to wait a little bit before reading that. I can only handle so many war novels in a row. But, I’m curious to know if you’ve read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena or something similar: a book that makes you squirm with discomfort and cry with sympathy. Reading this novel was an incredibly moving experience.

 

On Fear

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I don’t consider myself someone to be overwhelmed with anxiety or a generally fearful person, but I do have some irrational fears than can feel suffocating at times. When we were in Iceland, one of my fears kept cropping up. It sounds so trivial that it’s almost not worth mentioning, but I am honestly really afraid of slipping and falling.

I’m not afraid of the embarrassing nature of slipping and falling, although I did have one of those traumatic moments in high school where I slipped on some ice on my way to the driveway to meet a car full of friends. Of course–everyone being seventeen and all–my friends (or should we say “friends”?) laughed hysterically and I was more or less shamed into the car. That’s the stuff high school is made of!

Anyway, it’s not the mortification that scares me, it’s the freak accident that I can’t get out of my head: what if I slip and fall and break my wrist? what if I slip and fall in front of a bus? what if I’m going down a hill and never stop slipping and falling? what if I slip and fall and go into the waterfall and then everyone else goes into the waterfall? It escalates into absurdity rather quickly, but like so many worries and concerns, it’s not the sensible we’re so often preoccupied with. My mind can go faster and further than I’d like into some pretty dark corners. My body tingles and sometimes I start shaking, or my body shuts down and I feel paralyzed. As you can imagine, it’s a rather uncomfortable situation to be in–and to explain.

In the above picture I was battling with those tense and anxious feelings. We had stopped at a scenic overpass and stumbled upon this waterfall while walking around. Adam wanted to get ever closer and walk around a narrow slope to get a better view of the falls. My instinct was to say “no” and keep saying it forever until we were back in the car, but I managed to get myself this close to the water’s edge. I didn’t follow Adam down the footpath but I felt brave for letting go of my insecurities.

It’s hard to tell Adam and others that I don’t want to or can’t do seemingly ordinary adventures. I know it has to be frustrating when I say no to seeing the extraordinary view or going on the big hike. I don’t like saying it any more than he probably likes hearing it. But that doesn’t override feelings of panic and often baseless anxiety.

I’m trying to work on being more confident in my decisions and beliefs. To be honest, it felt good to trust that I could walk up to the edge of a cliff and know that I was grounded enough to stay right there on the cliff’s edge; a freak wind wasn’t going to push my off, nor was the ground going spontaneously crumble beneath my feet. It can seem silly to feel brave at 28 years old or however old you are, but truthfully it’s just as exhilarating now as it was when I was 5.

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