Honeymoon, Days 4 & 5 – North Iceland & Westfjords

I didn’t get a chance to blog yesterday because we were busy having the best time ever. I am sure everyone has been sitting in suspense wondering what we have been up to. Sorry to leave you all hanging like that. ¬† ūüėČ

Akureyri has been our favorite place so far. Yesterday started with a dip in a hot pot thanks to a tip from Alex… Which reminds me, we haven’t even mentioned all the incredible people we have met. I won’t list everyone in detail, don’t worry, but here are a few highlights. While exploring¬†M√Ĺvatn we met a couple from¬†Chicago who were also on their honeymoon. They were driving the ring road the opposite direction as us, so it was just a quick chat at lunch and an exchange of tips for the journeys ahead. So thanks to directions from Alex and Jenny we were able to find the hot pot.¬†And while we were there, we met Phil and Jenny, who live in Switzerland (where Phil is from, Jenny is from Minnesota). And Phil¬†gave us a tip for another hot pot we are going to try to find tomorrow night. Also, last night we met Mike and Aimee from Ireland and had a fantastic time. We will definitely need to visit Ireland now. Also, they had some authentic Irish whiskey and it was so good (and I don’t even like whiskey). Side note, they said Jameson is not real Irish whiskey and they hate it. She also got my address and said she was mailing me a bottle of real whiskey, fingers’ crossed that wasn’t the drinks talking.

I digress. Back to yesterday.

Yesterday was the first day that wasn’t freezing cold and raining. In fact, it was gorgeous out so we took full advantage and explored¬†the Hjaltadalur peninsula. We hiked around a waterfall, went in the hot pot and stopped by the¬†town of H√≥lar and checked out the church, built in 1763 (the town has historical/religious ties, more on that here if you are interested), and also walked around the college there. It was the smallest college I have ever seen.

Oh, and yesterday wasn’t even supposed to happen. We were supposed to stay in another town but Saturday night we really wanted to try this restaurant call Rub 23, however, without a reservation we were unable to get a table. And since we loved Akureyri so much, we stayed another night. And it was definitely worth it, dinner was fantastic. As soon as we sat down I was trying to decide on a wine and Dave noticed there was a six-course tasting menu (with wine) so we went for it. The first course was three different kinds of sushi, second was three kinds of nigiri, third was reindeer tartare, fourth was a seafood sampler (salmon, shrimp and scallops), fifth was a perfect cut of lamb and then dessert was a whole platter of like seven different things. Each was perfectly paired with a different wine. I fear I lack the ability to accurately portray how incredible it was, but just know it was indescribably delicious. Dave even put his phone away for the entire meal. When we were leaving we asked to meet the chef and this 20-something kid came out. We can’t decide if he is actually the chef, or if the chef left and one of the kitchen staff members was all “i’ll go meet them.” I kind of hope it is the latter.

Today was a day of driving. It was only about five hours but that is the longest we have spent in a car and it felt like forever (the hangover probably didn’t help). The drive was gorgeous but slow as a lot of the highway was not paved and very steep (with huge cliffs and no guard rail). We stopped at the Museum for Sorcery and Witchcraft and had a little history lesson. It was interesting, sad and a bit¬†weird.¬†Then we continued¬†our way around the eastern Westfjords to Drangsnes, which is a tiny fishing village, and checked in to the cutest inn¬†yet. It is owned by an older couple that barely speak English and is the only business in town (aside from a very tiny gas station that is only open for like six hours each day). We are in a cabin again and have a fantastic ocean view. I would include a picture but it is dark and raining. Again. We thought the bad weather was over but apparently not. We are supposed to be in the ocean side hot tubs right now but have decided to wait and go at sunrise, hopefully it won’t be raining still. Oh, and there is a troll right outside our room. And not just any troll, a famous one, Kerling (more on that here).

Tomorrow we are headed to stay at a horse farm on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and hopefully see some northern lights (it has been too cloudy the whole trip).

Honeymoon, Day 3 – Southeast & Eastern Iceland

If yesterday was the day of waterfalls and black sand beaches, today was the day of glaciers! (And waterfalls and black sand beaches. So many waterfalls, we have probably seen 100.) We continued along the southern coast and stopped at the most amazing place so far, Jökulsárlón. It was a lagoon of glaciers that were both larger, and more colorful, than we imagined.

I am not sure if Dave mentioned yesterday how varied the landscapes are, but they continue to amaze us. We started on what felt like the moon, then hit green farming areas, followed by large lava rocks covered in moss and then headed to a mountainous region with glaciers (the glaciers were so crazy to see, it looked like someone hit “pause” on a wave of water running down the mountains). Then, to our amazement, we drove through¬†Skeidararsandur, which gave a whole new meaning to “desolate.”

We did a little more off-roading in our little Yaris and found our way to a beautiful beach where we were the only people for kilometers.¬†After the glaciers and black sand beaches, we rounded the coast¬†and started heading north,¬†which was yet another world. We hugged mountain cliffs as we wove in-and-out of the eastern¬†fjords and made our way to¬†Eskifjor√įur, where we stopped for the night.

As we were approaching another little cottage for the night, conversing about how it was the cutest one yet, we saw a dog. This might not seem this exciting, but it gets better. Aside from being only the third dog we have seen in all of Iceland, as we drove up Dave noticed it was playing with a puppy. We both jumped out of the car to go pet them and as we approached we noticed it wasn’t a puppy, but a fox. Yep, a fox. We had read they were numerous on the south part of the country but had yet to see one. Until now. We actually were able to get close enough to touch it. This was before we were informed it was basically a tame pet of the inn and later were able to hold it. Also, Dave went to scope out the dog and noticed it was eating a lamb leg. Like, a fresh one. The skin and and meat were still on it, probably only hacked off an hour or two earlier.

Then we were let in to the cutest place with the most incredible views. We had a fantastic dinner in town (best meal yet) and now are about to head to the hot tub, which is built into an old boat and overlooks the ocean. The innkeeper said she just filled it up thinking we would be able to sit in it tonight and watch the northern lights… Fingers’ crossed!

Our ocean front cottage at Fer√įa√ĺj√≥nustan Mj√≥eyri in east Iceland.
Our ocean front cottage at Fer√įa√ĺj√≥nustan Mj√≥eyri in east Iceland.

The weather tomorrow should be interesting. Also, tomorrow we will be reenacting a little GoT. You know nothing, Jon Snow Dave Schneider. Can’t wait!

-Shannon

 

Honeymoon Time!

Dave and I are husband and wife. (We will properly document that in another blog post.) But right now, it’s time for the grand finale: Iceland!

We are currently at JFK waiting for the 5.5 hour flight to Reykjavik. If you want to follow along on our adventure, stay tuned here. And if you want a little preview of our trip, take a look at this map to see some of the attractions we plan on visiting.

Take care!
-Shannon

Ahhh. Home.

Naturally, leaving camp wasn’t easy. The feeling there is so peaceful and we were overwhelmed by the hospitality and love Serena and David shared. But rather than feeling sad at the departure, I left feeling fulfilled as I know camp will always hold a special place in my heart.

I spoke too soon last entry when I said the weather had been perfect and it rained the entire day Friday. We decided to forego the Kancamagus Highway despite it being toward the top of my to-do list (and finally learning how to properly pronounce it) as the grey haze from the rain severely limited visibility. Instead, we swung by ‚ÄúTHE‚ÄĚ Whoopie Pie Caf√© in Bangor. As a whoopie pie connoisseur I can say they were above average but still nothing compared to Shipshewana. Everyone always talks about how well the Amish make dining room chairs and mantels but their whoopie pies are really where it’s at.

We barely made it to Hill Farmstead Brewing in northern Vermont before it closed as we were delayed by the rain. Oh, and the fact that it was in the middle of nowhere. No joke, it was about an hour from the nearest town and 25+ minutes of the drive was dirt roads. The beer was good but the atmosphere was less than expected. We just had a quick pint before continuing to Lost Nation for another beer and dinner‚ÄĒboth exceptional‚ÄĒand then stayed in Burlington overnight.

Saturday was an uneventful drive. We were stopped in traffic for two hours near Toronto but still made it home at a decent hour allowing us Chinese takeout and last week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead. Ahhh. Home.

Friday ‚Äď 470 miles
Saturday ‚Äď 780 miles
Grand Total ‚Äď 2,631 (that‚Äôs gonna hurt the lease, lol)

For those of you following along on this adventure, we hope you enjoyed the blog series! (Hi Jackie!)

Best. Sunrise. Ever.

We are in love with Blue Loon!

That is the name of Serena and David‚Äôs camp. And for you non-Mainers, everyone calls their cabin or cottage ‚Äúcamp‚ÄĚ here. Fun, right? David and Serena have a beautiful camp; we even have our own cabin and the entire place¬†is majestic. As Dave mentioned, we arrived Tuesday afternoon after driving up from the coast. After a tour we relaxed, enjoyed a fantastic meal and chatted with Serena and David until we could barely keep our eyes open‚ÄĒwhich was only like 9:00 p.m. as we were exhausted from all of the adventures.

Wednesday we went sailing!!! Dave was skipper for a while¬†that afternoon¬†and I manned the helm all day Thursday. After a beginner’s lesson from Serena and David we are in love with sailing and right now Dave is¬†searching for used sail boats on Craigslist. Lol. The feeling of the wind in our¬†sails¬†was indescribable.

Wednesday evening we drove to Bangor to meet up with Dave’s long-time friend, Kourtney and her husband, Patrick. We were invited to their lovely home and then they took us to two micro-breweries in Orono (also where the University of Maine is). It was a jolly evening despite the flat tire we had on the way down to see them. (Everything is fine now, Dad. It was a perfect little hole we were able to get filled at the tire shop after Dave changed the tire with ease in a random driveway.)

And on to the good part… Thursday morning we went for a sunrise paddle on the canoe. About three-quarters across the lake there is a little island composed of large rocks and apparently enough land for a cluster of trees to grow. We found a huge, flat rock and set up a little spot to watch the sun come up, complete with blankets and a thermos of coffee that Serena had packed on the canoe for us. Then out of nowhere Dave pulled out this beautiful wooden box that he had turned on his lathe and explained to me that it wasn’t just a box, but a jewelry box. I opened the box expecting to see another plastic lobster, a mood ring or some random trinket. (Have I mentioned Dave has been gleefully fake proposing for almost a year now?). This time to my delight I revealed an actual engagement ring and asked me to marry him. It was the most incredible setting for a proposal and now he is stuck with me forever and ever. We returned to find that Serena and David had champagne waiting and we all celebrated over blueberry pancakes. Best. Sunrise. Ever.

I am actually writing this on Thursday despite not posting it until Friday as we need some time to get a hold of our families to share the news. Right now we are probably traveling through Vermont, which we will write about when we get home (most likely late Saturday night).

We haven’t driven much up here but a quick glance at the odometer shows we covered about 160 miles on Tuesday, 122 miles on Wednesday and 27 miles on Thursday. And the weather has been perfect. Everything has been perfect.

The Exploitation of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls wasn‚Äôt what I expected. We had a specific destination of Niagara Brewing Company and I was excited to add that glass to our collection (we get a pint glass at all the breweries we visit). However, after four-plus hours in a car without stopping (despite the need for a restroom pit stop about three hours in) we arrived… only to find out it was rented for a private event and closed to the public all night. *sad trombone* We ended up eating at the Hard Rock Niagara, which was high on price and low on flavor. Meh.

But that wasn’t even the disappointing part. The whole Niagara Falls area was just so commercialized. I honestly felt like I was back in Vegas, only this time it was targeted toward 10-year old children. And not that I have anything against family fun, but it was extremely over-the-top, especially considering the town exists thanks to a natural landmark. The sidewalks were lit-up with neon signs from haunted houses and theme-park styles attractions and the streets were littered with wrappers from all the bulk candy, popcorn and pizza for sale. Music was booming from every possible location and parking was limited an over-priced. It just felt like the falls were being… exploited.

Then we went to the falls. (To add to the story I feel I should mention that I have never seen them before.) We walked a block or two to the lookout area, bobbing and weaving around the designated tourist paths. And then I saw them. The Niagara Falls. They were INCREDIBLE. I mean, HUGE. Way more massive than I anticipated. Oh, and did you know‚Ķ There are TWO¬†of them?! I mean, I guess that is why ‚ÄúNiagara Falls‚ÄĚ is plural, but no one really mentions the fact that it isn‚Äôt just one waterfall. I had to take a moment and absorb the massive greatness around me.

But only for a second because it was cold and late and we really just wanted to get to our hotel in Buffalo. Also, our phones weren’t able to capture the beauty of the falls accurately, and again, we were freezing and didn’t want to walk all the way back to the car to get the good camera, so the only picture we have is the iffy one below.

Selfie at Niagara Falls

Any-who, we checked in to our hotel to find out we were upgraded to a suite due to my points (thanks, MSU). We are at the Hyatt and it is gorgeous. After dropping our bags off, it was 10:30 and we headed to the closest micro-brewery. After the last brewery was a bust I was looking forward to chalkboard-wall menus and chatting up the bartenders about IPAs. However, the brewery was far from that. It was packed with this very odd crowd of young professionals, perfectly dressed in muted tones with clean cut appearances. I felt like we were on a movie set. The beer was great and we chatted up a few locals that happened to be UM fans and at the game last weened before retreating for the night. (Don’t worry, we got a pint glass for the collection.)

I forgot to note the miles driven today and I am not going to the parking garage to check it out at this point, so I will leave you all in suspense until I update this post later.

Update: we drove 303 miles.

Tomorrow: hiking and photographing the Adirondack Mountains in upstate NY and then a few micro-brews before staying north of Saratoga Springs (for free on more of my points). Yessss.

 

Ready to Peep Some Leaves

We head out tomorrow in 15 hours on our trip and we are both totally ready. All packed, house is clean, work is set and car is prepped.

Just kidding. None of that is true.

One thing I have done to prepare for the trip was create a custom map (thanks, Google). As much as we wanted to be whimsical about the plans, we still wanted to see as much as possible so a basic route seemed logical. Therefore, I created a map with a general outline of the trip, although it is fully anticipated we will deviate along the way.

I separated all the places we wanted to visit into three categories‚ÄĒviews, brews and chews‚ÄĒeach color-coded accordingly. (See what I did there? They all end in “ews.” Eh? Eh? Cute, right?) There is also a rough schedule of our drive. If you see anything that is a must-see or must-do that I have neglected to include, be sure to let us know. I also plan to update it along the way as we stop at more places and I hope to add a photo for each place as well (full photo collections from the trip will live in albums elsewhere on the site).

I‚Äôd love to keep ranting about our trip and my love of color-coding maps, but I had better go pack. Dave is currently in the garage building something for his camera to slide on… less packed than I am.

Tomorrow’s adventure: surviving what will undoubtedly be the longest day ever at work and then Niagara Falls!

This just in: Hurricane Joaquin might be coming. Awesome.