Hot Springs, Northern Lights and a Neurotic Brit

Our dead of winter Iceland trip was kind of a spur of the moment decision. Travelzoo had a smokin’ deal that included non-stop flights from Denver, five nights’ hotel, and an excursion to Laugarvatn Fontana, a geothermal bath with a buffet dinner and northern lights hunt.

Normally big group tours aren’t our thing. We prefer small or private tours where we aren’t bound to a tight schedule, so we didn’t know how we’d feel about the group excursion that came with our trip.

Packing for the evening was interesting. We needed bathing suits and toiletries for the hot springs and our warmest gear for (hopefully!!) seeing the aurora borealis.

We had had a lovely day attending service at Hallgrímskirkja and exploring the town, and this would cap off Brett’s birthday.

A gigantic deluxe coach picked us up at our hotel and it was filled with people. We had a darling guide who told us stories of Iceland while we drove out to Laugarvatn Fontana. The only trouble was that so many people on the bus were talking while she was talking, which was very frustrating. I wanted to hear every word she said, but it was difficult. And unfortunately, we were sitting in front of an especially active, loud talker, who also happened to be neurotic. He was a Brit who was afraid of everything (except of boring strangers to death) and had settled on Iceland because his wife really wanted to take a trip and after extensive research he agreed to Iceland because terrorism was unknown there. The poor Japanese man next to him was trapped. It was quite telling that Mr. Neurotic’s wife was sitting elsewhere on the bus. I wished we were with her. Read More

Hallgrimskirkja – Say That Three Times Fast

The second tallest building in Iceland is the Lutheran church, Hallgrimskirkja. It sits in the center of Reykjavík and has become one of the city’s best known symbols. Brett’s birthday happened to fall on a Sunday and he was raised Lutheran, so what better way to end his 47th year, than attending service there.

The church is a tourist magnet. Going to the top of the bell tower and looking over the colorful roofs of downtown Reykjavík is quite a special experience. The narthex was crammed with people waiting to ascend the tower, which I found out, is very annoying to some of the church’s local members on a Sunday morning. As we were trying to enter the sanctuary, we were blocked by multitudes. Suddenly, I was firmly pushed from behind, and turned to see a tiny woman, easily in her 70s, making her way through the crowd in a very forceful way. I found it amusing, although it was clear that she did not. Read More

The Land of Fire and Ice

Winter in Iceland might seem like a really bad idea. And when I planned a trip to Reykjavik in January, I was a little concerned I was making a huge mistake. But we got a smokin’ deal through Travel Zoo and being winter people, we figured we’d have a good attitude no matter what happened. The only thing I really had my heart set on was seeing the Aurora Borealis. I knew I was setting myself up for disappointment, but I couldn’t help it.

A week before our trip we got an email from Icelandair saying we could make an offer on upgraded seats and they would let us know if our offer was accepted. I put in a pretty low amount for the next class up not expecting that it would be accepted, so I was ecstatic when it was! When we got our boarding passes, I noticed that we were in Row 2. What??? The First Class seats hadn’t sold, so they bumped us from Economy Comfort (which I had won in the bid) to First Class. Icelandair is awesome! Brett traveled First Class as a kid, but it was the first time I had ever turned left in the plane and not right. I felt like an impostor. Read More

Liebster Award

The Liebster Award is a blogging award which is peer given and a way to promote new blogs and connect people.

Thank you very much to Aixa (Mucho Spanish) for the nomination! Be sure to check out her amazing blog. She writes about travel experiences, adventures in her adopted hometown of NYC (she’s a Venezuelan native) and much more.

Being a relative newbie, I have been blown away by how supportive and encouraging the blogging community is.

“If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.”- Buddha Read More

2017: Books Read and When An Idol Comes Crashing Down

My goal each year is to read at least 24 books. Sometimes I do it and sometimes I don’t, but that’s okay. I am a sucker for classics. Reading something that millions of people have read over generations and sometimes centuries, makes me feel connected and part of something bigger. I get the same feeling singing old hymns.

I have always loved Charles Dickens. I have read many of his books, we see the performance of A Christmas Carol each year, and I dragged my family to see the only statue of him in the world in Philadelphia. When I found out how horrible he was to his wife, declaring her unfit for her duties as a wife and mother after she found out about his affair with a 19 year old actress, and threatening to have her admitted to an asylum, I actually felt betrayed. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true. I had put him on a pedestal and he came crashing down.

Boz and me in Philly

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A Stealthy Adrenaline Rush

It was a quiet, clear Sunday morning. We were up early and enjoying our coffee when a very strange sound broke the silence. We looked at each other. What in the world was that? A few seconds later we heard it again, a loud whooshing, then silence. It was coming from the backyard and as we went outside to investigate, a very surprising sight greeted us.

There about 100 feet up, a hot air balloon was floating above our yard headed towards the field behind our neighborhood. (Yes, the same field where we searched for our infamous neighbor Balloon Boy in 2009, but that’s another story.) We waved to the people in the basket and they waved back. The pilot used the burner to finesse his way onto the field, and it was the most peaceful, serene scene; the colors of the envelope bright in the morning sun, the whoosh and then silence, the smiling, waving people in the basket. Read More

Fear is Temporary, Regret is Forever

Hucking myself from a plane at 18,000 feet was never something that interested me. On the few occasions over the years that I had thought about what it would be like, I knew I could never do it. I imagined myself overcome with paralyzing terror and wondered how anyone could subject themselves to that. Then something happened…my mindset changed.

My family had gone indoor skydiving and it was a blast. Our instructor was a skydiver and we regaled him with questions. I had never met someone who was a solo skydiver with thousands of dives under his belt, and I found him intriguing. He didn’t seem to be someone with a death-wish and in fact, was just a really nice guy who happens to freefall from thousands of feet several times a week.

One of two things will happen when you indoor skydive; 1) you will want to do the real thing, or 2) you won’t. Brett and Holden were in the second category; Gray and I were in the first. My change in mindset had snuck up on me with no warning. It wasn’t even that I wanted to throw myself out of a plane, it was that I wanted to prove to myself that I could. Just like persevering after my first 14er debacle (see an earlier blog post about that here), I didn’t want fear to control me. I knew it was something I had to do or I would regret it, and regret is something I cannot live with. Read More

Indoor Skydiving: One of the Most Fun Things You’ll Do All Year

The days are getting shorter and the mercury is falling. If you’re not a fan of outdoor winter activities (or even if you are!) and are looking for a fun, exciting thing to do on a cold day, indoor skydiving might be just the ticket. I had been wanting to try it, and when Groupon offered a deal for iFLY, I jumped on it and bought four, hoping my family would be on board with the idea. Luckily they were.

After watching an instructional video and getting suited up and ear plugged, we headed over to the wind tunnel. We learned how to enter the tunnel and the correct body position for staying “afloat”. The instructor stays with you in case you lose altitude, go too high, or are going to bump into the glass.

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Nazca Lines, Sand Dunes, Pisco, and “The Final Countdown”

Driving in Peru is terrifying. And I’m not even talking about being the driver. Just being the passenger brings on cold sweats, elevated heart rate and even terror. Ricardo picked us up at 7:30 a.m. for our 4 hour drive down to Ica and we were looking forward to some down time. We were heading south to fly over the Nazca Lines and to dune buggy and sand board.   After hiking the Inca Trail we were ready to have an easy day and a relaxing car ride. It became clear from the get go that this was going to be anything but relaxing.

Horns in Peru are used as frequently as the gas and brake pedals. “I’m coming over so you’d better get out of my way” and “You may think you’re coming over but I’m not getting out of your way” seem to be the two main sentiments horn usage conveys. Lane lines are merely a suggestion and interestingly, there seems to be no road rage, although we could tell when he strongly exhaled, that Ricardo was miffed. It was impossible to discern what exactly had annoyed him though, when there was chaos constantly.

Once we got out of the city we relaxed. We were on a two lane highway that meandered along the coast and it was beautiful. Suddenly my heart was in my throat. Ricardo was passing into oncoming traffic. We were still parallel to the truck we were passing and Ricardo wasn’t even leaning forward, like I do when I’m passing and see an oncoming car. As a head on became more and more imminent, I began chanting, “oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” and squeezing Brett’s leg harder and harder. Read More

The Inca Trail: Nothing Worthwhile is Ever Easy

Fifty yards remained. As our guide, Fredy, gathered us around for one last talk on our trek to Machu Picchu, I found myself verklempt. It had been an absolutely incredible three days. We had seen some of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen and it also hadn’t been easy. We had hiked almost 28 miles over three mountain passes and there was one point on the assent of the second pass that I didn’t know how I was going to continue. My feet were so chewed up and I could feel a toenail coming off, but it’s amazing what you can do when you have no choice.

As we stood fifty yards away from the Sun Gate and our first view of Machu Picchu, I was overcome with gratitude. When Fredy had finished our last “family meeting”, I walked to the Sun Gate alone in my thoughts with tears streaming down my face. Gratitude is a very powerful and wonderful thing.

The Inca story is fascinating and incredible and ultimately, very sad. Their culture thrived for hundreds of years in the mountains around Cusco, until the Spanish Conquistadors came in the search of riches. And riches they found. The Incas had gold, a lot of it. It’s a story all too familiar in the annals of history, and while the Spanish destroyed the cities they found, they didn’t find them all.

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