Our Recent Visit to Iceland

My apologies for the long post this time. They normally aren’t this bad, but I had a lot to share from our recent trip to Iceland!

 

Even as far back as the Fall of 2013, I began wondering “WHAT would be a cool thing to do for my 40th birthday?” (which wasn’t until that next March). Nothing really came to mind until I came across a deal on Living Social entitled “Reykjavik Nights: A 4-day, 3-night stay in Iceland.”

“That’s IT” I thought! How cool would Iceland be?! A quick whipping out of a credit card, a few clicks of the mouse later, and next thing you knew it; we were headed to Iceland. And we would be going just a week before my birthday. Perfect timing!

Andy and I were International travel newbies for sure. I had been to the Bahamas, but being a Floridian, that barely counts, so, needless to say, we were a little nervous when the travel day actually got here. We landed at Keyflavik International Airport on a Thursday morning and got on a couple of different buses, taking us to downtown Reykjavik and onto our hotel. After we checked in and dropped off our bags (the room wasn’t ready yet. It was, after all, only 9:00 in the morning and the people were still in their rooms!), we headed to the City Centre and did some sightseeing. The city sits right on the water, so it’s quite stunning. I also noticed a lot of murals and artistic drawings and graffiti (as you’ll see in the photo gallery). One thing I had heard about Iceland is that often times, and experienced it firsthand as we were sightseeing, is that Iceland can have all 4 seasons of the weather in one day. Man, that was definitely true! One minute the weather was quite pleasant and I could take some pictures, and then it was a full on, wind blowing sideways blizzard! After we did some more sightseeing and got some lunch, we headed back to the hotel; completely exhausted.

While we didn’t get to see the Northern Lights due to cloudiness (the only bummer of the trip), we did go on two very interesting tours over the next couple of days. One was the Reykjavik City tour and the other was called the “Golden Circle” tour.

The city tour was a nice way to learn about the history of Reykjavik and just to see the downtown and other nearby sites. We saw the President’s house, the “Pearl” (the highest point in the city- where the warm water from underground is pumped to, for distribution throughout the area), and the house where the 1986 Reagan/Gorbachev summit was held. It was a really nice tour.

The “Golden Circle” tour was billed as a “must see”, wonderful thing to do on your first visit to Iceland and wonderful it was. The tour consisted of seeing the following sites: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and the Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) waterfall.

Thingvellir is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters/year. That spot is the only place in the world where this separation happens above sea level. Having a minor degree in geology, Andy thought this was particularly cool (as did I). And I believe the tour guide had said that some of the HBO show “Game of Thrones” was filmed there as well. Thingvellir is also important historically, because it is where the parliament would meet during the long summer days. Their parliament is the oldest in the world; dating back to 930 AD.

The Gullfoss waterfall was socked in with fog when we first got there, but as I mentioned earlier, the weather changes very quickly there, and soon the fog lifted! The Geysir geothermal area was also quite lovely, and very similar to another favorite of mine: Yellowstone National Park.

One thing that I found so interesting, is that Icelanders pay almost nothing for heat. There is so much warm water from the geothermal activity below the surface of the whole island, that they just pump it into all buildings and houses (the Pearl mentioned above). Paying nothing for heat?! That’s just crazy to me! And it’s a great heating system. Many time we would have to open the window in our room it was so warm (a not uncommon thing to do there).

I have to say though, that my favorite part of the trip (and, unfortunately, what we spent the least amount of time at due to the schedule), was the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavik, west of Reykjavik. Listed by National Geographic as one of the 25 “wonders of the world”, it was truly spectacular. The water was a beautiful turquoise and it was so warm and re-energizing. It felt so amazing; like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. What was funny was that my hair felt so weird afterwards! Like pure straw! The mineral-rich water completely stripped everything out of my hair. It was so cool, and when we do go back there, Blue Lagoon is getting its own day for sure.

While relatively short, we packed a lot into those days, and were happy because we had a great time (and we felt it would be mostly a “reconnaissance” trip to kind of check things out and “get our toes wet” so to speak!). Iceland is a beautiful place, and one that we would definitely go back to. I have to see my Northern Lights after all and need my spa day at the Blue Lagoon! We felt so good to have had a successful first international trip, and we look forward to many more.

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Great Restaurants during “Dine Around Seattle”

The month of March in Seattle is a great one. It’s my birthday month, the weather is changing for the better, the days are getting longer, and it’s every foodie’s favorite annual event: “Dine Around Seattle”. With Dine Around Seattle, many local restaurants offer special dinner menus: 3 courses for $30. It’s a great way to try restaurants that you’ve always mean to try. The two restaurants I tried this past week were Olivar and Monsoon.

Olivar, Spanish for olive grove, is owned by Chef Philippe Thomelin. Chef Philippe grew up in France, and spent many years in Spain, where he became even more passionate about the Mediterranean-style cuisine. He has been in Seattle for over 10 years, and has been a wonderful culinary addition to the Seattle “foodie” community. The restaurant is in the old Loveless building, which is a Seattle icon. Loveless is a beautiful, Tudor-style building, built in 1930. It was originally a place for artists to live and work, and is currently the home to some apartments, and Olivar. One of the neatest things about the decor in Olivar is the large mural on the wall that dates back to the mid 1930s (done by the muralist Vladimir Shkurkin). It is just beautiful and I love that it’s still there.

Surprisingly, we ended up not going with the special menu and just got some stuff that looked especially tasty! We both started out with a lovely glass of Brut and a mixed green salad with Valdeon cheese, and candied walnuts. Mmmm mmm!

Susan had the Sunchoke soup that was de-lic-ious and I had the sautéed potato gnocchi with hedgehog mushrooms, caramelized onion, migas & Manchego. I had the chocolate creme brulee and a glass of Maderia for dessert. I was so full of great food!

Olivar is a wonderful restaurant with a very unique ambiance. Love it!

I also went to Monsoon on Capital Hill. I have meant to go there for years and finally made it this past week! Monsoon has been in Seattle since 1999 and, according to the website, “Monsoon marries traditional Vietnamese cuisine with Pacific Northwest innovation.”

I went with several of my friends, and we went with the special DAS menu. I had the pork ribs with hoisin & five spice sauce, the wild prawns with lemongrass, spicy yellow curry, and roasted peanuts, and for dessert, the banana cake with coconut sauce. I also tried some Karen’s first course: grilled squid stuffed with duck and basil and Jeri’s Bo La Lot (grilled beef wrapped in grape leaves). Holy BUCKETS! The food was amazing! So good and I’m glad I finally went. Looking forward to more jaunts to Monsoon in the future.

Vivian Maier Photography Exhibit

This past Thursday, I went to the Photo Center Northwest in Seattle, to see the “Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows” exhibit.

The more information and photographs come out about Vivian, the more and more fascinated I become. I absolutely love her work. So simple and yet, so raw at times.

I wanted to do a little something different with this blog post. I usually pre-write something out and then post, but this time I wanted to focus on comments I made while looking at the exhibit. Other than doing a spell check, these are my thoughts exactly as I jotted them down on my iPhone (pictures before my comments are pictures I took at the exhibit. Pictures after the comments are Vivian Maier’s that are some of the ones I love):


40 years; 100,000 photographs.

Got amazingly close in some shots. How did she get so close?!

A natural at street photography- that’s not an easy thing to do (to kind of invade someone’s space like that).
The most amazing things she finds photo-worthy. Worn out mannequins, trash cans, beat up old ladders. And she makes it work. I personally think it’s the black and white aspect. With b&w, you focus so much on the objects and I think that’s what she wants you to do.

The “Bobby Dies” picture. Beautiful.

Completely invisible to the world. And yet had so much to say. For her? Solely as a hobby?

She used her camera as a diary

On the one hand I feel bad because she would hate to know that these photos are out there, and yet I’m personally so glad they are because I think they are magnificent and the photography world is better for it.  I know I am.

The Center is showing a video and the speaker is saying showing not only individual pictures, but sequences of photos (off one roll, etc). You really see the sequence and flow and really see how it’s like a walk and a day through her eyes.

Took around 3 rolls a day. Wandering around…

It’s amazing how CLOSE she gets in some pictures!

Think I like her so much because I love b&w too. It’s so striking to me and is just as powerful, if not more do, than color.

Love the shadows, darkness, lines..