Our last few days in Iceland

We finally made it to Reykjavik. It’s been a long week driving around Iceland’s ring road. For the most part, it has been cold and rainy. Not your ideal honeymoon conditions, but it was definitely an adventure.

When last Shannon left off, we had visited the tiny town of Dragsnes in the eastern Westfjords. The rain did not stop following us there. We drove south towards the Snæfellsnes peninsula to stay on a horse farm. The drive was both wet and windy, but we made it while stopping at a few more hot pots on the way. The first we visited is the oldest known spring in Iceland and is called Guðrúnarlaug. Don’t get me started on pronunciation. I didn’t even try over here. Our fave however, was a well-hidden pot about 8 kilometers up a rocky dirt road on the side of a mountain.

We ended up on the horse farm later that day after more than five hours on the road. It was raining when we arrived and continued through the night, so the northern lights evaded us again.

The following morning we cruised around the Snæfellsnes peninsula and checked out Snæfellsjoekull National Park. It’s one of the more picturesque parts of Iceland. The middle is made up of Snæfellsjökull, a large volcano of which the park is named after. It’s the same volcano they go down into in Journey to the Center of the Earth. We also stumbled across a volcanic beach with some pretty cool rock pillars.

On the road to Reykjavik, we came across some very tame wild goats that enjoyed some carrots and as always, I had to pick one up.

On our final full day in Iceland, we checked out Reykjavik, did a bit of shopping and got some Icelandic tattoos to commemorate the trip. Shannon got a scene of trees and mountains, while I got a raven, which we saw a ton of along our trip. Ravens are super smart birds and have a large part in the Norse culture and history. They symbolize wisdom and knowledge, which are both things I’m trying to cultivate in my own life. Also, this thing just looks badass.

We’ve loved nearly every second of our trip here in Iceland. If we could go back and change anything, honestly, we’d come when it wasn’t raining the entire time. And maybe do a bit less driving. But all in all, this has been a pretty incredible adventure, and a great way to celebrate the beginning of our married life together. Thanks for following along!

Until next time, Dave

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.   😉

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 Mývatn 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 Hólar 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 4 – Getting into Iceland (What does the fox say)

I feel like I’m starting to get a feel for Iceland and the people here. Everyone we have met has been so nice to us so far. I have also started to see how different America is from the rest of the world (or Iceland at least). In America we live a life of excess, here they live a life of simplicity and necessity.

We have been driving East from the airport in Keflavik and are making our way counter-clockwise around the country, mostly along the ring road, or highway 1. We have yet to see a billboard or highway advertisement. We haven’t come across a single strip mall, McDonalds, Wal-Mart or Starbucks. We haven’t seen one commercial, ad or sign promoting the latest pharmaceutical. They just don’t have the type of commercialism here that I am so used to in the states. Granted, the entire population of the country only makes up around 300k people. Still, it’s a welcome change.

We spent yesterday driving from Mjóeyri to Akureyri. Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland after the capital, Reykjavik. I’d say Akureyri is about half the size of Royal Oak, and is isolated along the middle of the Northern Atlantic shore. The city is set in one of the  Fjords, which are a long, narrow inlets of water, surrounded by steep cliffs on all sides. (Basically the opposite of a peninsula) It is truly awe-inspiring.

akureyri3
(Not my photo) It was a bit too dark when we got into town. Found it here: http://www.avidcruiser.com/port-profiles/north-altantic/iceland/akureyri/

Along our drive here, we stopped at quite a few natural attractions. The area between the two cities is very geothermally active. We saw boiling mud pots, steam vents, fissures, volcanic caves and even hiked to the top of a Tuff Ring Volcano called Hverfjall.

We got into Akureyri in the evening and headed out for dinner. Long story short, we ate both Puffin and Reindeer. It turns out Puffin is one of the most delicate and sweet meats we’ve tried. It may be the best thing I’ve ever tasted. When we got back to our room, the staff at the hotel left us a bottle of Moscato to toast our marriage to. How nice.

The highlight of the day however, was the fox I got to hold that morning. His name is Rasmus.

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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 Eskifjorður, 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 Ferðaþjónustan Mjóeyri in east Iceland.
Our ocean front cottage at Ferðaþjónustan Mjóeyri 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 – Day 1 & 2

Hi Family & Friends,

As you all know, Shannon and I were married this last Monday in Frisco, Colorado. We left the following day on our honeymoon to Iceland! Well, it turns out Iceland is cold, wet and windy. I was wondering for a long time yesterday evening why we didn’t go to Punta Cana. Probably because Punta Cana doesn’t have the Blue Lagoon!

Silica mud masks at the Blue Lagoon
Silica mud masks at the Blue Lagoon

 

After leaving the warm waters of Grindavík, we set off for our first night’s stay near Sulfoss. There wasn’t much going on in town, so after a quick meal we headed to our cabin in the middle of nowhere.

img_1582The last couple of days had been quite long, with the wedding and the full day of travel, so when we finally did get to sleep last night, I slept for 11 hours. Shannon slept for 14.

Today was a bit more eventful. We drove along the ring road through Southeast Iceland. The highway took us past waterfalls, black sand beaches, basalt pillars  and a volcano.

Tonight, we ended up near Meðallandsvegur and are once again staying in a small cabin. So far Icelandic food has been pretty similar to American food. However, they know how to do pizza and hot dogs here. America, take a lesson.

 

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 “THE” Whoopie Pie Café 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—both exceptional—and 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 – 470 miles
Saturday – 780 miles
Grand Total – 2,631 (that’s 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’s camp. And for you non-Mainers, everyone calls their cabin or cottage “camp” 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—which 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.

A Great Place To Visit, Monhegan Maine

McDonald’s Cafe, Lincoln, ME
4:28pm
Day 6

It has been a couple of days since Shannon and I have had the time and internet access to fill you in about our adventure, and I do apologize. The last three days have been the best of our trip so far.

We left Freeport, Maine on Tuesday morning and stopped at the desert of Maine on our way to catch our boat in Port Clyde. For those of you who are not aware, the desert of Maine is the Eastern-most desert in the United States. It is quite small and is made up of mounds of glacial silt. It was quite beautiful at dawn, and was definitely worth the five minutes we had to check it out. Are you sick of the fish-eye yet?

We then left for Port Clyde and enjoyed another nice ride through coastal Maine. Arriving at the docks seemed to take nearly no time at all after the relatively short hour and a half drive from Freeport. It was nice not to have to sit in the car for five hours.

We departed on the Elizabeth Ann for Monhegan. We rode at the bow and enjoyed the salty breeze. It is safe to say that neither Shannon or I get seasick, as it was quite choppy up there.

About an hour later, we arrived at the island. As we were pulling up to the docks, our captain came out on deck and was overheard saying that someone had fallen in. As it turned out, he wasn’t referring to anyone aboard our craft, but instead a local fishing boat that was not too far from where we were floating. Lo and behold, we could see a man in the water. Our boat scooted over to the fishing vessel but the rest of their crew had no problem helping the cold fisherman out of the water. Our boat did however wait as the fishing boat took the soaking fellow over to the docks so he could get a hot shower and a cup of hot tea whiskey.

After disembarking, we had finally made it to Monhegan Island. What a place. I read online that the locals have a slogan for the island. It goes ‘Welcome to Monhegan Island, now leave.’ The place did a pretty good job of living up to that mantra. There is one public bathroom on the entire island and it closes at 4pm. If you are on the island after four, you have to walk back to your inn to use the facilities. The island is only a couple of square miles, but your own two feet are the sole form of transportation. So after drinking at the brewery for an hour or two, walking a mile round trip just to use the bathroom can get annoying. We deposited our bags at our hotel and started exploring.

We found a cool lighthouse, scrambled down to the rocks to photograph the beach, and eventually ended up at the brewery. Yes, Monhegan Island has a brewery. That may or may not be the reason we had picked it as a travel destination in the first place. Not surprisingly, they had excellent beer. Only four drafts on tap, but what can you expect on an island of sixty or so. The place had a small indoor area where beer was poured, but out front on the lawn was the spot where the beer was drank. We were there for no less than three hours, which was enough to get me ‘cut off’ after a mere three beverages. Granted two of them were 9.2% alcohol, but even so, I wasn’t driving anywhere and was still very coherent. Their explanation was they didn’t actually want tourists getting drunk on their lawn. Strange for a brewery if you ask me, but it definitely fit with the island spirit. They were happy to sell me a growler of their pale ale, which I proceeded to drink on their lawn.

We chatted up two college aged girls who were on the island to work for a couple of months. (Hi Milka and Bianca!) Drunken plans were made to hike to the Northeast side of the island to see the sun rise in the morning, and we left for dinner. That night we enjoyed some delicious seafood and called it a night.

The next morning we somehow managed to wake up at 5am. A few excedrin later, we were on the street ready for our foray into the wild side of the island. Upon waiting a few minutes, we realized we were going to be alone on the hike, so we started off. (We later found out that the girls were simply running late and we did not wait long enough. Oh well.)

Our morning hike ended up being quite a lot more than either of us expected. It was like a hike hike. We scrambled through overgrown thickets and across rocky outcroppings. All in all, we hiked for nearly an hour before arriving at our destination, blackhead. As we learned from conversation with the girls the previous day, and firsthand the morning after, Monhegan Island is having a real problem maintaining their hiking trails. I read online there are approximately seventeen miles of hiking trails. Much of the trail we hiked was eroded and in varying stages of collapse.

Shannon enjoying the sun rise.
Shannon enjoying the sun rise.

The sunrise was spectacular. Everything we could have hoped for. We snapped photos until the sun was up a ways and headed back to clean up and leave the island. We were exhausted, starving and thirsty as ever by the time we arrived back at the Shining Sails. They were kind enough to serve us fresh baked zucchini muffins and coffee, and we were on our way. We rode the Laura B back to Port Clyde and headed for camp.

Our drive up to camp was quite nice. We had the chance to stop at a seaside lobster hut and stuff our faces with lobster, crab and clam chowder. It made for a delicious lunch break. A couple of hours later we arrived at Blue Loon. Shannon wants to take over from here, so this is where I end.

Our delicious lobster lunch.
Our delicious lobster lunch.

Cheers!
Dave

Made it to Maine!

Bed in our hotel room
10:49pm
Day 2
Miles driven: ~320 (about 1000 overall)

I am going to keep this short as we have a lot of things planned for tomorrow and I am already pretty tired. Today we found ourselves back on the leaf-peeping highway along with a few dozen other peepers looking to get in on the fall action.

We set out from Saratoga Springs and made our way through New York to Vermont, New Hampshire and eventually Maine. We only stopped at three breweries today, my favorite being a locals-only speakeasy type of place with the only entrance being around back. It was fittingly called ‘Some Brewing Company.’ The most interesting drink I tasted today however, was had at Portsmouth Brewery. It was a hard cider brewed with habañero.

As we drove up the coast of Maine, we couldn’t avoid an obligatory stop for lobster from a seaside window. It happened to be within view of a nice looking lighthouse, so we peeped on that as well. The night was capped off with dinner with my cousin Andrew and his wife Christine and their new baby boy, Aiden. What a cute and very happy little guy! Without further ado, here are some photos from the day. Tomorrow, it’s off to Monhegan Island.