Iceland; stunning beauty & lots of people

Last week, my family and I went to Iceland for a week long adventure. We’ve been thinking about going to Iceland for a few years, and when we lived in London we never managed to make the trip.

So a trip involving an 8 hour time difference seemed like the perfect time right?

Right.

Iceland is very, very beautiful. When you arrive in the heart of winter everything is covered in snow {often including yourself as well}. There is something about the pure whiteness of snow that seems to be magical. It is pure and to me, has a quiet reverence.

{I could be feeling this way because I went to mass this morning, something I haven’t done on my own, voluntarily, without a family member or holiday involved in probably 15-16 years?? There is an ‘afterglow’ after church. I always felt that way as a kid, likening it to simply being released from sitting still, but I found it this morning as well, awkward as it was to be in a church I’d never been to before, with people I’d never met.}

Here are the things i knew about Iceland before we traveled.

It’s cold. No, really cold. (and it did not disappoint in this area, though being in 3 layers top and bottom plus coat, hat, gloves and waterproof boots, I was toasty warm.)

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Iceland is expensive. No. SERIOUSLY FREAKING EXPENSIVE.

We ate lunch one day at a tomato farm, and while you think okay, upticked prices for the scenery (which was cool, eating lunch right next to the tomatoes that were in the soup I was eating was cool). But a bowl of soup (unlimited) and bread was 2400 kroner, which is roughly $24. We had breakfast at a cafe around the corner from our AirBNB and bowl of porridge was 1900 kroner = $19. For oatmeal. It was fabulous but…

Be prepared if you go. I’ve lived in central London. I’ve been to Norway. They’ve got nothin’ on Icelandic prices.

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Iceland is crowded. I’d read that it is becoming one of the hottest (unfortunately, not literally) places to visit. I’d read there are crowds. But nothing really prepares you for the HORDES of people everywhere, even the ‘out of the way’ places our guide took us on day 2. People everywhere.

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These are with severe editing to try to take the people out of my pictures. Maybe it was the week we went being a holiday for most US schools, and Chinese New Year, I don’t know, but if you are looking for a remote, lonely vacation, Iceland is not the way to go.

While I am still glad we went, it did diminish the experience for me a bit.

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Shoe Crampons for the win

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The other things I learned about Iceland: In Reykjavik they do not shovel the sidewalks. No, they really don’t. Whenever we walked anywhere (which was all the time) you just slug along through the snow/slush/ice. It seems to be a regular thing. The only places that had cleared sidewalks were those in the very heart of the city who had the benefit of the underwater hot spring which they use under the sidewalks to melt the snow in certain areas. {I have pictures of sidewalks and the city etc on my Instagram. Phone shots were easier in the city than large camera shots.} So when you are out on tour, Crampons (little spikes you put on over your shoes) are your friend. Your best friend.

We spent several days at the beginning of our trip in Reykjavik and then we went on a 3 day tour with Goecco. Our guide, Gunni, was really interesting and very friendly. He previously was a movie scout in Iceland. Small little movies like Interstellar. To say he knows Iceland, is saying something. He had some great stories in the evenings at the guest house.

While the tour itself definitely was great – and I say that even though we had rain/hurricane winds most of the time, and I unfortunately learned the difference between waterproof and water resistant – I wasn’t as huge of a fan of the ‘living’ part of the tour. Me and 15 other people sharing a guest house. It is definitely a dorm situation with shared showers (welcome to college life kids!).

Food is another area to keep in mind. If you are at all a person who doesn’t eat fish (that’d be me and one of my kids), you are kind of out of luck. Fish will be the only thing on the menu, and unfortunately, our microwave macaroni cups did not come in handy. As the guest house had no microwave. Lunch one day was whatever chips/cookies you could find at the convenience store.

All I’m saying is be prepared if you don’t eat fish, or you enjoy regular meals. I ate a heck of a lot of Kind bars and fruit strips.

It was a successful trip; the husband finally saw the Northern Lights after 10 years of trying, those pictures are somewhere on another SD card, though I will say I never saw any of the green in the pictures. That is actually a product of leaving the camera shutter open. The green isn’t often visible to the naked eye. It really does require the miraculous set of perfect conditions to see them like that, or really see them at all.

Would I go back? That seems to be the ultimate judge of a vacation for me. Scotland, Ireland, Hawaii, all unequivocally YES.

Iceland gets a maybe. I’d like to see it in the summertime. Gunni says it’s a complete different world, all the colors and pearls hiding under the snow. The popularity, and expense, definitely give me pause. But if you get the chance to go, GO. It’s a beautiful place with friendly people, and a real look at how people survive in a pretty harsh climate.

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Alaska

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I struggled over a title for this post because (as you will see), how on earth do you describe a trip to Alaska? There are hardly words to set the scene for the beauty and amazing display of nature every time you open your eyes. In fact, I only went through pictures up to the morning of day 3 because I had already marked 20 to share.

Of all the places I’ve traveled, and there have been MANY, a few take top marks like the incredible stark colors of the Scottish Highlands, or the lush greens of the Ireland countryside. Alaska might have top billing. Maybe because it’s fresh in my mind (even though it was already a month ago), I’ve never seen anything so pure and beautiful.

How do you describe that?? We hadn’t even gotten off the ship yet, these were all just things we went by on the our way to our first port stop in Skagway. It’s kind of mind-boggling to see glaciers and icebergs and the stunning colors.

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Chick giving her dad the helicopter front seat side-eye

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Thank you Temsco Helicopter Tours for helping me conquer some fears. Helicopter: check. Done IT. Walked on a glacier: Done THAT. Seriously one of the best days ever, and 100% worth every penny. (Thanks to The Husband for making me do it.)

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Love you Pluto, but wow was it COLD!

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That only takes us to our first stop. Two more to come (a cute little town, big fishing vessels, and SEAPLANES!)

Weekend in Oslo

It’s funny how for as much as I travel and see all these places, I don’t seem to blog about them. We were away 3 of the last 4 weekends. Glasgow, Ireland (from Dublin to Galway), and last weekend Oslo. I love traveling. I think it was the main reason I wanted to move to Europe again, so we could see so many different cities. When we were in Germany for four years, I don’t think we traveled as much as we have the last two years living in London. Part of that is because it was The Husband’s job to {literally} travel the world every week for work. By the time the weekend came, he just wanted to be a homebody and maybe wander as far Cologne (25 minutes). We also had 1, then 2 children, 5 and under. Traveling with that set is not exactly the easiest. I really like the fact that I’m no longer the one schlepping their stuff in my bag.

If they want to bring it, they’re carrying it.

Nordic countries have always interested me. Initially, I thought we’d go to Sweden. I’m a big fan of several Swedish things – Wallander, and Volvo – but we ended up choosing Norway instead.

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If I’m honest, Norway looks a lot like the Pacific Northwest/Puget Sound. We went on a cruise of the fjords, and all I kept thinking of was how much it looks like driving from our house in Snoqualmie to downtown Seattle (25 minutes). You cross by the water at Mercer Island, and across the floating bridge. It looks extremely similar.

Either way, no matter where it is or what it looks like, it’s beautiful. We could not have had better weather, 77 F and sunny. We even broke out the sunblock. I continued my love of boats {that would be boats that aren’t ferries on the ocean making me seasick} and pretty much filled the camera with sailboat pictures.

I’ve been sailing exactly twice in my life, when I was about 10, and my best friends dad took us out on his boat.

Loved. It.

And I also have been reading the Wynns blog, Gone With The Wynns, for years. Since they recently completed their first year living full time on their catamaran, I’m obsessed with sailboats {just ask the husband who has caught me numerous times trolling ‘boats for sale’ websites.}

We aren’t getting a sailboat. Kayaks, YES. Sailboats, NO. {MEGA SAD FACE} I have pointed out to the husband many times we live very, very close to the water, and boats aren’t that expensive, and I basically grew up on the water in my parents powerboat.

He then points out how many ferries I’ve turned green on/throwing-up-while-riding-on. Point taken, but yes, crush a girls dreams, ya know? {maybe a boat is my mid-life crisis?}

Anyway, Norway, is beautiful. These little houses are called bath houses and were originally placed at the water so people could swim etc without being seen. They were super cute.

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One of the things I couldn’t stop admiring is the architecture of Norwegian homes. I love the sloped roofs, the colors, there’s just something wonderful about them.

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There are also plenty of modern buildings in Oslo, like the opera house (where you can literally walk all over it, the roof, the sides, etc.).

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We also went to the Fram Arctic Exploration Museum, Maritime Museum, and Folk Museum (I can’t remember the actual name but they had buildings from the 1300-1990 – some recreated, some original, and told the story of Norway’s people, which was interesting even if a lot of the buildings were closed for repair).

On Saturday we had the chance to see a lot of people dressed in traditional folk dress {this is commonly done for ceremonies; which I think is wonderful}. I only managed phone pictures because I didn’t want to be obvious about it, but seeing everyone from little babies to adults in folk dress was beautiful.

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At the Oslo city hall they were having a Humanistik Navnefest {a Humanist naming ceremony, you can read more about Humanisism here.  I find it really interesting, and took the ‘are you humanist quiz’ and scored 100%!} so there were many, many people dressed this same way. It made me wish America had something similar.

If you ever get the chance to visit Norway, and specifically Oslo, you definitely should. Just pack for every kind of weather and be prepared for the cost. It is exceedingly expensive (2 coffees and 2 slices of cake and 2 ice creams one afternoon was the equivalent of £68), but it is well worth it for the friendliness of the people and the beauty of the place. It is potentially on my top 5 places I’ve ever been, even if I was there for my 40th birthday.

A Monday Wishlist

I can’t believe my kids go back to school in one week. In one week it’ll be me and the dog, hanging about! {well, technically, I won’t be home as I have a ticket to visit Clarence House for next Monday}. Time does indeed fly by.

This post is about the wishlist, the items I’d love to have added to my life. The first one I’ve searched for for well over a year, trying to find it second hand. I might just have to pay up for one. The Tweed Blazer:

I seem to only love it in a multi-colorway. The ones that are all one solid color like blue or green, just don’t seem to give me that -heck ya! – feeling. I am a preppy gal, and I’m not afraid to admit it. tweed blazer + trousers + penny loafers = my ideal fall outfit

So the next item is no surprise (though it’s surprising that I don’t actually own pair of loafers)

Totally in love. The.End. {I also love these, and these. And these.}

I find myself swaying towards the cliche ‘it’ bag – the saddle bag {though I suppose that was a spring/summer fad fad last fall. I tend to be behind when something is super trendy because I usually don’t like it until I’ve seen it ten thousand times.)

For obvious reasons – like 485 of them – I’m not buying a Chloe bag anytime soon; or even anytime far away.  This bag would not hold an umbrella – a prerequisite to living in London – and I doubt it would fit my wallet, and the other myriad of items I carry. But it is very nice. {similar & more affordable options here, here, and here.)

This next item is maybe a bit weird, but if I could find a place to store it until next year, I’d love this rug for my dining area:

Actually, the whole room. All of it. Please and thank you. {I actually do have two chairs in a similar color to the dining chairs that I thrifted awhile back.}

I’d also like to get rid of the sectional couch we bought a few years ago {which has not held up despite the price and ‘quality’ of the brand}. This one is rather ingenious and simple.

 

I’m also dreaming of going back here; swimming in the lagoon with the turtles, kayaking, listening to the waves…pure bliss.

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Are you coveting anything beautiful for the coming season? Dreaming of any magical destinations?

 

 

Inspiration: Holiday

We are going on holiday. Yes. hOliDAy. I can’t wait. Less than 18 hours and we will be on the {not fun} ten hour journey to Seattle.

{insert happy dance}

And we will spend five days on the lake. That means beach vacation.

{insert extra big happy dance plus kayaks}

So today’s inspiration post is all about the h o l i d a y .

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And the things we might wear on holiday.

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And the joy that comes from ten days of rest and relaxation.

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Happy Holiday everyone.

Photo credits on my Pinterest board

Last minute summer shopping

Good news! Our household goods shipment arrives in 13 days! Bad news! That’s the day after we get back from holiday in Prague where it’s going to be 90+ degrees all week.

Of course all my summer dresses are in there. See, in Seattle it doesn’t *normally* get hot above an occasional 80 degree day. So I own two pairs of shorts. No, I literally own three but only two actually fit (no idea why I’m keeping that other pair…) I have tons of lovely dresses for just such hot weather as we are to experience in Prague next week. Floaty, nice dresses. And they are all locked up in a sea container in port waiting to be passed through customs and delivered to me.

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Normally, having to go shopping would be music to my ears (if not to The Husbands). But I am not finding much that really seems to fit correctly here except at Gap. Which makes me feel defeated because the fun of living in another country for me is to experience the brands and things I can’t get easily (or at all) in the US. I’ve been to Zara (which you can buy in the US as I said in my last post) but things just don’t seem to fit right. It’s all off somehow. A pair of pants I tried in a UK 6 (which is what I used to order from the UK store Boden, and which fit fine), I couldn’t even zip them up.

None of my other clothes are tight so I know I’ve not gained weight in the six weeks we’ve been here. If anything I would think I’m losing weight based on the 4-6 miles a day I’m averaging walking. (I checked. I’m actually the same weight I’ve been for nearly ten years now. Don’t hate me, my metabolism is just awesome that way.)

The thought of having to battle it out in the clearance section at Primark is not thrilling. For those that don’t know, Primark is like a very cheap, more teen fan based clothing store. It’s known as disposable clothing. But the key word is cheap, and I need cheap because I have great summer clothes, they are just locked away at the mercy of the British government.

So, the Chick and I will head off to Oxford Street today and battle the nightmare that will be of tourists and people and we will see what we find. I would much rather be doing laundry.

And that’s saying something…

Have Suitcase, Will Travel

I remember way, way, way back when blogging was still an relatively unknown thing. I am not saying I started a trend or anything close to that, but many incarnations ago, back in 2005 (okay, wow, that was ten years ago. Where.Does.The.Time.Go?) I started a blog to capture daily life as we moved to Germany, adopted a baby, traveled a lot, spoke a little, and basically discovered the absolute joy that comes from living in another culture. There have been many versions, and names, and stops and starts, and it has all come full circle to this blog. Which I started because we are about to move to London. In case you haven’t been reading along this whole time, and don’t already know that.

In SIX days I leave to fly to London and see The Husband (and his temporary digs), eat fish and chips, find a flat to live in, drink beer, take a tour of the kids kick-ass international school, and maybe pick up a souvenir or two or three. I only have 7 very short days to basically discover why I am so excited to move to London.

My motto at birth should have been Have Suitcase; Will Travel.

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Tommy HIlfiger Signature Weekend Tote

What I am trying to do this week (in addition to readying the house top to bottom for a rental showing on Friday, and my mil ‘s arrival), is pick out a wardrobe for London. I was there in July 2007 for a weekend.  All I remember is it was hot, and it rained, but I loved it. There’s a tricky side to packing for this trip; I want to look sophisticated and put together but also realistic as my mode of transportation will be the tube and my own two feet. The problem is I want to pack more than 7 days worth of clothes, because I have more than 7 days worth of things I want to wear.

There will likely be rain, and stairs. There will definitely be several days with a letting agent/relocation specialist, and an afternoon with the assistant headmaster of the school.

I must look put-the-heck-together. Not my usual casual jeans and cute sweater routine. I’ve been told London can be dressier than Seattle.

Everything is dressier than Seattle which I’ve lamented on before (somewhere). So nice shoes, a dress, maybe a skirt or two for the days when I am not just trying to stay awake and un-jetlagged at The Husband’s apartment. Or in the pub.

I’ve been promised The Pub. And I want to be awake to see The Pub. I’m sure I’ll be geekily Instagraming the entire trip.

The children will not be accompanying me (thanks to grandma for the assist!), and I definitely think something a little bit nicer is in order. Let’s hope The Husband is up for wearing his nice jeans. Since he gets to wear jeans everyday at work (talk about his dream job), I’m thinking he should pull out his ‘school interview’ pants* this week.

Who knows? We might end up in front of the queen (as The Husband did this past weekend as the queen drove right by him, and waved.) The royal baby might arrive while I’m there. And who knows? The Duchess of Cambridge would certainly deserve the (almost temporary) citizens of the country to be wearing lovely clothes to celebrate her child’s arrival.

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I’ll do anything to justify packing heels and a dress. Or two. Or maybe some wedges and a skirt. Definitely a blazer. Or two.

Maybe I need more than one handbag?! And something to put my huge camera in while out and about?!

Maybe I need more than one suitcase while I’m at it.

*pants literally bought for when he went round to look at schools in January. Considering the schools he looked at are chock full of parents driving Volvo’s and Range Rover’s we figured a nicer than jeans pair of pants were in order. We were right.

City List

I recently read a post over at Flying House about Paris, or rather cute Parisian style clothes. We’ve been to Paris, numerous times while we lived in Germany, and I had visited when I was in high school with my French class.

J’adore Paris!

Times about ten billion.

I love the French. I know a lot of people think they are snobbish (my husband is not a big fan of the French), and it’s possible they are, but I’ve always had a such a lovely time in France. Je parle francias un petite peu. If you try to speak French, that snobbish thing eases up immeasurably. How can you not love sitting on the sidewalk at a cafe, sipping espresso, eating a croissant, and watching the world go by?

To me that is a dream come true. I would, and could do that every.single.day. and never get tired of it. My bank account would get tired long before I would.

As I was reading today, I started thinking about where I’ve been, and where I still want to go. We’ve been working on a list of places we want to visit during our two years in London. Some are repeats. They say the majority of people vacation someplace they’ve already been. And that’s incredibly sad, but if you think about someplace you’d want to go for a relaxing vacation, you do tend to think about a place where you’ve already had that experience. I know I’d go back to Paris, back to Maui, back to Milan.

When you list out the places you’ve been, and the places you want to go, it gives you a goal to strive towards. My goals include a lot of frequent flier miles.

Have Been:

Paris, Milan, Venice, Nice, Monaco, Arles, London, Brussels, Lisse, Taipei, Berlin, Bonn and surrounding areas (obviously since I lived there for nearly 4 years), Aachen, Bermuda, Mexico, Luxembourg, Kerry, Dingle (and others around Ireland)

I know there are more but I can’t seem to remember them (it is a Monday…)

Have To:

Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Sydney, Pisa, Tuscany, Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh, various locations around the English countryside and sea, Portugal, Barcelona, Prague, Tokyo, Rome, Tahiti

There are other places, but I think that covers my bucket list. I’ve been asked, as we are about to begin living in our third country, if I would live somewhere else abroad after London. I’d have to say yes, I would. There’s so much to see and do, and so much adventure out there. If you don’t do it now, then when? There will always be something that stops you if you spend to long thinking about it.

So, don’t think! Just do!

The joy’s of a public bathroom and a four year old

If you’ve read here for any length of time, you’ll know I don’t tell bathroom stories.  That’s not my thing.  But today I just can’t help talking about bathrooms and a certain four year old princess named Chick.  Sunday during our trek back from New York we stopped at a rather nice restaurant (actually by accident, we went in the wrong door.  Instead of the Italian pizza place we ended up at 3rd West, which was excellent.) 

Of course after hours in the car, we all needed to use the facilities.  Since Chick is glued to my hip these days we ventured into the Ladies Bathroom together.  The conversation went something like this…

Me: Chick, do you really need to go potty?
Chick: Yes, mommy (fiddles with shorts, shirt, hair etc.)
Me: Okay, well, hurry cause mommy has to go too.
Chick: Mommy pee-pee?
Me: Yes, mommy needs to pee-pee very badly. (an entire bottle of Coke and a coffee, may perhaps have been a bit ambitious for a car ride.)  So hurry please!
Chick: Okay mommy. (silence, no pee, no nothing)
Me:  Do you really need to go or can mommy just go really, really quick?
Chick: Okay, mommy go.

Removal of child from potty.  Switch positions.  Sweet mercy never again will I drink so much and get in a car.  Bathroom door opens and the stall next to us is occupied.

Chick: Mommy, you make pee-pee! 
Me: Yes, Chick, shhh!
Chick (top of her lungs which are quite good btw): Mommy make lots and lots o’pee-pee!  (giggle giggle, fade to red faced embarrassment as laughter erupts from next stall)

Needless to say I waited until the other woman left before emerging.  Seriously!  Instead of teaching preschoolers to count and color in the lines they need to teach them bathroom etiquette!  Something along the lines of not embarrassing the crap out of their mothers when all they really wanted to do was pee.

What’s your most horrifying experience in a bathroom with a child?  Please tell me someone else has a child who likes to announce what they are doing as they are doing it!

Travel Friday : Friday the 13th

I’m traveling today! No, not real travel, cyberspace blog travel. I’m talking about traveling over at my sis’s new blog Two Spud Mama’s. Stop by and offer up your own travel tips just in time for the holidays!
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Then…Be sure to head back on Monday when I am going to be reviewing a wonderful new iPhone/iTouch application called Family Matters. I’m even going to give away this app to one lucky reader!

Today is the final day to enter my Punkin Chunkin t-shirt giveaway. Go here for the details!

I’m also hanging out over at Cajoh’s for his Friday’s Feast so swing by for some great recipes and foodie tips.

And now I think I’ll go take nap.