7.29.2015

Top 5 things to do in Iceland



After spending eleven days making my way around the Ring Road in Iceland I have come up with my Top 5 things from this trip in no particular order.

Disclaimer:  These might be off the beaten path.  There are things I will do next time I go to Iceland like go to the Blue Lagoon straight from the airport and probably spend a day or two in Reykjavik, but my Top 5 are things I will do EVERY time I visit Iceland in the future.  To me they were the highlights of my trip.

Drum roll please....

1. The Rift Zone in Pingvellir National Park.

The Rift Zone in Pingvellir National Park is where two continental plates are pulling apart from each other.  The North American Continental Plate and the Eurasian Continental Plate.  Now there isn't a deep crack where you can see the center of the earth, but there is a crack between the two plates and you can walk from one to the other.  Below are a few photos and then the Middle Sister and I made a short video before we crossed over.
Rift Zone Hike
 Walking down the rift.
People from our tour hiking the rift.  Can you see them in the middle of the photo?
People from our tour hiking the rift.  Can you see them in the middle of the photo?

Then we met a Viking!
Then we met a Viking!

North American Plate on the left, Eurasian on the right.
North American Plate on the left, Eurasian on the right.


Iceland Rift Zone - Pingvellir National Park from everyAugust on Vimeo.

2. Glaciers and Glacier Lagoons.

Glaciers and Glacier Lagoons were my FAVORITE thing about Iceland.  I even dedicated a whole Blog Post about them HERE.  Epic. Amazing. Breath taking.  Yes, yes, yes!  I took some black and white photos of these in Iceland and they are now hanging on my wall.  If you get a chance, I encourage you to visit a Glacier Lagoon!
On a boat in glacier lagoon

Iceland glacier

Iceberg in glacier lagoon

Glaciers of Iceland- June 2015 from everyAugust on Vimeo.

3. Husavik.

Husavik is a town in North Iceland that we stopped at when we stayed in Myvatn.  We arrived there later in the day on day seven of the trip and a lot of people had dinner in town.  I was needing some "mental health time" and ended up wondering the town and enjoying the weather and the light on my own.  Two days later some of the group went whale watching out of Husavik (the Middle Sister and Mo went horse back riding) and I decided to do neither of those options and instead stayed in Husavik at a cafe with Susan (the tour leader's wife) and later had my one and only real Icelandic meal (besides hot dogs) in Husavik.

There was something about this town that was peaceful and serene.  When I go back to Iceland I hope to stay here for a few days to ground myself as the tide goes in and out.

Husavik, Iceland harbor

Husavik is located at 66° North!
66 North Husavik, Iceland

Husavik, Iceland

hot chocolate


Beer in Husavik, Iceland

Arctic Char on barley risotto....
Arctic Char on barley risotto

Blueberry ice cream.
Blueberry ice cream

Us leaving Husavik.  We had just met some members of the USA Arctic Golf team.  You can see them in the upper right corner.  They had been playing in the Arctic Open until 5am!  As the sun wasn't setting, it never got dark!

4. Black Sand Beach and Volcanic Cliffs at Reynisdranger.

I can not wait to go back to the Black Sand Beach and Volcanic Cliffs at Reynisdranger.  I want to explore this area and maybe even camp here for a few days.  A sea-arch nearby is the Southern most point of Iceland and staying here would ensure access to this amazing place with minimal people.  I suspect I will return again in the summer and look forward to seeing the midnight sun reflecting off the black sand.

Iceland Black Sand Beach


Iceland Black Sand Beach at Reynisdranger from everyAugust on Vimeo.

5.  Hot Dogs and Donuts.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Hot Dogs and Donuts.  If you have been keeping up with my travels you might of realized I travel to eat.  I LOVE EATING.  This trip to Iceland, not about eating.  This trip was different than any trip I have done before.  It was a tour (not my favorite way to travel) and we stayed in a lot of guesthouses / hostels.  Some of them remote.  Before the trip we were told to bring food as
1) Iceland food can be expensive.
2) There would not be a lot of places to eat where we were staying.

We were also told of the places that would have kitchens and the Middle Sister, Mo, and I brought food as advised.  We coordinated and had food for happy hour, oatmeal breakfasts, dinner, and sandwich stuff.  We stopped at a few grocery stores (MY FAVORITE KIND OF STOPS) in Iceland and picked up a few things along the way as well.  So with all this food prep, I did not eat out very much.  As a matter of fact I only had three real meals out in Iceland.  At a French place in Reyjakavik, an Italian place in Akureyri, and the Arctic Char in Husavik.   All of those meals were excellent by the way.  But I did supplement the food we brought with some Iceland snacks; mostly hot dogs and donuts.

The "Icelandic Hot Dog" is the unofficial national food of Iceland and I highly recommend it.  Made mostly of lamb, get it with everything which includes raw and fried onions, sweet brown mustard (like a double honey mustard), ketchup, and remoulade.  Hot dogs are sold all over the country and I might of had one everyday.....

Hot dogs in Reykjavik

Hot dogs in Reykjavik

Hot dogs in Reykjavik

Waiting in line for a hot dog at the famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavik. 
Waiting in line at the famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavik.

The donuts were a happy accident.  On our first day in Reykjavik we walked by the Sandholt Bakari (Icelandic spelling) and made a note to stop there to pick up some bread for sandwiches before we left the next day.  Once inside the bakery (make sure you grab a number!) we decided to get more than just bread.  We got croissants and bread and some pastries and I asked for a donut!  All amazing, but that donut,  heaven.  Different.  Airy dough.  Not too sweet.  Delicious.  I was hooked.  I purchased a donut whenever I saw one.  Which, lucky for my waist line, was not as often as the hot dogs.  





And there you have it, my Top 5 Things to do in Iceland.  A very non traditional list.  But moments that MADE my trip.  All of Iceland was fantastic and I had to narrow it down to five things to stay focused.  My list was getting longer and longer....  I have already highlighted a few other adventures in Iceland and you can read more about it HERE.

Special thanks to my Middle Sister and Mo for being such excellent travel partners and to GeoTours for giving me my first adventure in Iceland.  I will be heading back there some day and look forward to visiting more of this amazing country!

-elizabeth

**This is part of my Iceland adventure in June 2015.  Read more about it HERE.**

7.17.2015

Clothes for Iceland



What should you wear in Iceland?

I asked myself this same question recently and, having returned from an eleven day trip there (during the summer), I thought I would share what I learned.

Now, I should mention that dressing for Reykjavik was a little different than dressing for the rest of the country, but a lot of the same suggestions apply.  I will add more details about the capital below.

So, what to pack for Iceland:

1. LAYERS!

Wear layers. Pack for layers.  Believe in layers!  Layers are the secret weapon of dressing in Iceland. As the temperatures rise and fall throughout the day, layers are what kept me warm and dry.  I had a backpack with me everyday I wasn't in Reykjavik and kept layers of clothing in it, putting them on and taking them off all day (and by layers on and off I mean a raincoat, gloves, beanie, and sometimes an additional SmartWool base layer).  Which leads us to....

2. SmartWool.  This goes with layers, but the SmartWool I (finally) purchased for this trip was A-MAZ-ING!  I have used patagonia capilene in the past for snowboarding and other times when it has been cold and I needed a long underwear base layer.  I was going to bring the same stuff with me to Iceland and was trying to figure out how much of it to pack.  The truth is that it is something that can... well... start to absorb body odor and I was trying to figure out how often I was going to have a chance to wash it and how much I needed to pack.  I was at REI looking for a pair of water-resistant pants and looking at my base layer / long underwear options when an employee sold me on Smartwool.  After wearing it everyday in Iceland, I can tell you it was worth the expense and that my patagonia capilene has been replaced.  I purchased two sets; a mid-weight layer and a light layer.  I wore them everyday and washed them once on the trip.  No absorbing of odor, very soft and comfortable under my clothes, and great at regulating the temperature.  I know they will last me for a very long time and am glad I made the investment.  And it was an investment, that stuff is not cheap.

3. Waterproof or resistant outer layer.  Even though I went to Iceland in the summer it can still be cold and wet. For this reason I purchased water resistant pants from REI and brought a borrowed (Thanks Jan!) rain jacket.  Both of these items were worn a lot.  The pants ended up being perfect and I wore them everyday we were not in a main city, which was 3/4th of the trip. On the city days I wore jeans. 


4. Beanies, gloves, and scarves.  This could be folded into layers, but I wanted to separate it out to highlight these.  Ever since the Paris trip in 2009 I have been an almost perfect packer.  I try to have only carry-on luggage (unless I am bringing wine like this trip and Russia!) and to make sure everything mixes and matches.  I keep track of items I didn't use or wear and evolve my packing for my next trip.  I pack perfectly about 98% of the time.  

Why do I bring this up now?  Because I struggled with what to bring when it came to beanies, gloves, and scarves.  The fashionable versus the practical I guess.  I ended up bringing two beanies, one hat, two pairs of gloves, three scarves, and one ear-warmer headband (for running).  One of the pair of gloves was fingerless and I shouldn't have brought those.  I only wore them once.  The other pair was texting gloves.  The day we landed in Reykjavik I couldn't find the texting gloves and wore my fingerless gloves for the only time during my trip.  I purchased another pair of gloves at 66° North on that first day and LOVED THEM. I call 66° North the Patagonia of Iceland and was happy to have a pair of warm gloves for the Iceland trip.  Most days I would wear one texting glove and one 66° North glove (both black) so I didn't have to take my gloves off to use my iPhone.  

I am on the fence on if I brought too many scarves..... I wore my funnel neck scarf A LOT.  More than I though I would, and hardly wore my pashmina scarf at all.  I think it had to do with being where I was most of the time (the great outdoors) and the clothing that worked for that day.  I wore my beanies A LOT! The grey one with the stripe was my pulled down over my eyes everyday in the bus as a sleep mask.  Score!

The napping position.  Sunglasses are over the beanie...Yoga was paying off... (photo by the Middle Sister).

5. Bathing suit and sunglasses.  Yep.  Bring your bathing suit and sunglasses to Iceland.  Why?  Geothermal features.  Blue Lagoons.  Etc.  You might even bring a towel like THIS one I brought that is quick dry so you don't have to rent one.

Note about shoes and socks: This is another area where I struggled.  Not with the socks.  I brought wool socks and even purchased some Smartwool running socks that have replaced my running socks at home.  I wasn't sure which shoes to bring.  I ended up bringing hiking boots, running shoes, and converse tennis shoes.  All of these were good choices and were in rotation on this trip.  If I had been spending more time in Reykjavik I would have liked to have had a pair of flats or black boots.  As it worked out, my converse were perfect for the time I got to spend there.

Which brings me to dressing for Reykjavik.  The rest of Iceland was covered with tourist wearing similar clothes to the ones I wore.  Locals wore the Icelandic sweater and casual clothes and even Reykjavik was pretty casual.  But Reykjavik was more fashionable.  Lots of black with tan or denim.  Black tights.  Black shoes or converse.  Dresses and skirts for women.  With black tights.  It was still chilly in the summer.  And a bike was a great accessory!

T and I are planning a trip to Iceland in the future and I know I will look back at this to remember what to pack for Iceland.  I always bring one running outfit and think I might pack a little less monochromaticly next time.  Maybe. I know we will be camping and hiking more than hanging out in Reykjavik, so my outfits from this trip will work again.

A quick note about laundry in Iceland.  There is usually not an option to use a clothes dryer so have a way to hang your clothes to dry.  This has been typical in the European countries I traveled to as well, but a fellow traveler was not prepared for it so I thought I would note it here.

Can you think of anything I missed? I am always trying to streamline my packing list and am open to suggestions.  Maybe I can graduate to 99% perfect packer with your help!

-elizabeth

**This is part of my Iceland adventure in June 2015.  Read more about it HERE.**

7.12.2015

About everyAUGUST

People ask me, Why everyAUGUST?

The idea came in spring 2007 when the Middle Sister was studying in Italy and T, the Little Sister, and I visited her.  We only had a week, but we flew over and went to the Cinque Terra for four days, visited Bologna (where she was studying) for a few hours and where I had one of the top five meals of my life at Osteria al 15, and then spent the night in Milan before flying home. On that trip I decided I needed to do something like this at least once a year.  That once a year turned into every August.  Eventually that led to the everyAUGUST blog to document some of those travels and other adventures along the way.

The reoccurring cast of characters includes me, my two younger sisters, and T my boyfriend / now husband.


The majority of this blog concentrates on local and international travel, and then food and farmer's markets if I can find them.  I used to say I travel to eat, but now I say I travel to explore (if the food is not that great...) :)

The theme to my travel usually has T and I traveling within the United States, and my sisters's and I traveling internationally.  Trips can include backpacking, camping, Airstream travel, hotels or rented homes.  If the opportunity presents itself, I usually say "YES!" and that has been wonderful.


I am so thankful to have steady travel buddies and to have new travel partners on other trips.  My sisters are the biggest gift and I am so grateful for them.


The idea of "every August" expanded a bit and now it is an international trip every other year and a Continental trip on the off years.  Weekend trips as often as possible and other local adventures as they present themselves.  I love being a "tourist" and that includes in my own town of Huntington Beach as well!  

So there you have it.  I hope it answered the question of Why everyAugust? and I hope you can get in an everyAUGUST frame of mind and plan future adventures and be open to the ones that walk right up to you.  I am looking forward to seeing more of the world each day and am grateful to have this blog to share those adventures with family, friends, and future friends.

I hope you enjoy the journey with me,

-elizabeth

7.10.2015

Waterfalls in Iceland

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland
Seljalandsfoss, Iceland
















**This is part of my Iceland adventure in June 2015.  Read more about it HERE.**

Waterfalls in Iceland.

There are over 5000 waterfalls in Iceland and on my recent adventure with GeoTours (geotours.us) it seemed like we might try to stop at all of them. Which is kind of a shame because after awhile I may or may not have gotten over stopping at waterfalls.  Even though they were beautiful, a girl can only take so much jumping on and off a bus to take a picture of a waterfall.

Lesson for next time: less waterfalls, or more time at waterfalls to be able to explore them.  The whole jump off, take a photo, jump on the bus thing was not my style.  But we did see a lot of waterfalls, as the Middle Sister and I highlight in the video below.

The "good news" is that most of the main touristy waterfalls are accessible by car with a short walk to the waterfall.  The bad news about this is that a lot of people are at the waterfalls and parking could take a little time.  Keep in mind that the tourist industry in Iceland has increased 100% in recent years, but compared to places like Paris and Florence it is not that crowded...until you get to a waterfall with a small parking lot.  Be warned.  But know parking opens up.

FYI:  Foss=waterfall in Icelandic.

Some of the waterfalls we stopped at included:

Gullfoss.  Described as the Niagara Falls of Iceland.  This is one of the stops on the Golden Circle of Iceland if you are doing that day trip out of Reykjavik.
Gullfoss, Iceland

Seljalandsfoss.  Famous because you can walk behind it. Notice the parking lot...
Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

Skogafoss.  I wish we had more time to explore this one...
Skogafoss, Iceland
Photo by Matt Ebiner
Surprise waterfall stop from Gisli the bus driver.  I think he called it Dead Body Waterfall.
Dead body waterfall? Iceland

Svartifoss in Vatnajokull National Park.  See the basalt columns?  They were everywhere in Iceland.

Another random waterfall stop.  I shot this from the bus.  It was cold out!
No name waterfall. Iceland

This waterfall was below Dettifoss and Selfoss.
Waterfall below Dettifoss. Iceland

Godsfalls in Northern Iceland.  I think I liked this one the most.


And the second Gisli (bus driver) surprise that also had a waterfall - Kolufossar.

The Middle Sister and I started calling these stops "Another Beautiful Waterfall" as a spin off of an ABC (another beautiful church) from my Russia trip.  So when someone told me Iceland has over 5000 waterfalls, I believe them!

The Middle Sister and I were making short videos we posted for our family during this trip and below I have put together all the videos we made when we stopped at a waterfall.  


Waterfalls in Iceland - June 2015 from everyAugust on Vimeo.

Can you tell we saw a lot of waterfalls.

Next time I go to Iceland I hope to find some of the waterfalls off the beaten path, to have more time to enjoy the waterfalls I visit, and to even camp near some of them.  What do you think of the waterfalls in Iceland?  Do you have a favorite or one you recommend?  Let me know so I can check it out next time I visit Iceland.

-elizabeth

7.06.2015

Remembering Spring 2014

EveryAUGUST blog header Spring 2015

Another spring come and gone.  Amazing.  I heard they just keep coming faster and faster now.  That is why I am living my life instead of waiting to be "older" and to "travel right".  I have mentioned this before, but my life happens because opportunities present themselves and I take them.  Life is short as the racing seasons are showing me, so I am happy to be able to live it.

That said, I still work and do all the things "grown ups" do.  I am just trying to find the adventure in my down time and make the most of every (almost every ...) situation I am in.  I think I am averaging about a B+ right now and I think that is pretty good.  Truth be told, I am mostly a B+ student anyway...  but I feel like I could be an A student and am going to start working on that in this subject at least.

Spring 2015 was interesting.  I just realized I didn't post about Remembering Winter 2015 and I think I can kind of combine those two post here.  I was on sabbatical in the Fall and back to work in January.  I don't write about work here, but let's just say there were a few people who I was not looking forward to seeing again.  So I decided to change my attitude and had these two things I said to myself over and over....

1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
2. I can not control things, but I can control my reaction to things happening around me.

These two sayings seeped into me and I find that they have surfaced in all parts of my life.  I kind of like that.  They have encouraged me to pause in my life before reacting to negative situations.  My life is getting a little (just a little) more zen like.  Yea for growing older I guess....

The spring seemed to be filled with little weekend trips or planning for the big Iceland trip.  I really like to travel locally and abroad so it was a good season.  I am hoping to get a few more local trips in this summer as well.  Maybe a Mammoth trip even!

The photo for the spring blog banner was taken on a morning run on the Santa Ana River Trail.  I run by this bridge at least three times a week.  During the winter I run in the dark and I can tell when spring is coming because I start catching sunrises.  So raise a glass to sunrises and another season gone by!  It was a nice spring...

-elizabeth

7.04.2015

Happy July 4th

July 4th deer 2015
Happy July 4th! It is good to be home. More Iceland posts are on their way! Stay tuned....

7.01.2015

Glaciers in Iceland

The glaciers were hands down my favorite thing in Iceland. Top of the list.  The thing I immediately say when people ask me what my favorite thing was.

Glaciers.  Hands down.
Iceberg in Jokulsarlon, Glacer Lagoon
Iceberg in Jokulsarlon, a Glacier Lagoon
Why?  Because they are ancient, majestic, and a little scary.  Because they were overwhelming.  And if you held your breath and there was a quiet moment, you could hear them thinking.  I swear.  There was something about them that was other-worldly.  I could of been on another planet or in another dimension.  I know, the cold might have gone to my brain, but there are moments where a place feels holy.  I hold onto those moments.  I had one of those moments at Svinafell Glacier. The world seemed to be holding it's breath....

Svinafellisjokull and Lagoon
Svinafellsjokull and Lagoon
On my recent trip to Iceland I had a chance to visit two glaciers and two glacier lagoons.  The glacier lagoons are at the snout (edge or end) of the glacier.  The melting glacier forms a lagoon and parts of the glacier break off forming icebergs that float and eventually melt in the lagoon.

**Fun fact:  Did you know you only see 1/8th of an iceberg above water?  That might of been why the Middle Sister was worried when we took a boat ride in a Glacier Lagoon (video below).

And to keep the educational part of the program going, here is a little more information about the glaciers I saw in Iceland:
  • All glaciers were part of the Vatnajokull ice cap and in Vatnajokull National Park. 
  • Vatnajokull is an ice cap that "feeds" outlet glaciers.
  • About 11% of Iceland is covered in ice caps and glaciers.
  • Glaciers need to be thick enough to sink and move under their own weight.  The glaciers in Iceland are receding and a glacier there recently lost it status as a glacier because it no longer fit this criteria (insert sad face here...).
Vatnajokull National Park and me; the Iceland Ninja!  Photo by Maureen
Vatnajokull National Park and me; the Iceland Ninja!  Photo by Maureen
I visited Iceland with a group called GeoTours (review coming soon) and we had two days where we explored glaciers. The weather on those days was wet, cold, and overcast.  It actually made for some beautiful photos.
GeoTours group at Svinafell Glacier.  Photo by Matt Ebner
GeoTours group at Svinafell Glacier.  Photo by Matt Ebner
The areas we visited were:
  • Svinafellsjokull (glacier)
  • Skaftafellsjokul (glacier)
  • Fjallasarlon (lagoon with icebergs)
  • Jokulsarlon (boat ride past icebergs in lagoon)
GeoTours group at Svinafell Glacier.  Photo by Matt Ebner
Selfie at Svinafellsjokul


















Mo at Svinafellsjokul
Mo at Svinafellsjokul
Tips for visiting glaciers:
  • Dress in layers.  It was cold, and it was summer.
  • The Svinafell Glacier had the shortest walk to access, but I would recommend taking a glacier hike with a guide if you want to WALK on the glacier.  Guided tours included everything you need to safety walk on the glacier.
  • Wearing hiking boots was a good idea when walking to Svinafell glacier. I wore them for all my trekking to view the glaciers and was glad.  Skaftafell glacier has a big black sand beach that you needed to trek to access it.
  • If possible, take a boat ride in Jokulsarlon at the Glacier Lagoon.  This was MY FAVORITE thing in Iceland.
  • The Jokulsarlon lagoon has an inlet at the ocean.  Check the black sand beach to see if any icebergs washed up there.  The tide was coming in when I was there, but next trip I plan on spending a lot of time in this area and am going to check the tides to see icebergs on the beach!
 The Middle Sister and I were making short videos we posted for our family during this trip and below I have put all the Glacier videos together.  If you have a chance, I highly recommend seeing the glaciers in Iceland.

Glaciers of Iceland- June 2015 from everyAugust on Vimeo.

Let me know if you have any Glacier tips or questions in the comments below.

Enjoy the journey!
-elizabeth

**This is part of my Iceland adventure in June 2015.  Read more about it HERE.**