Hey cuties! Glad to have you here, and happy November to you!
At risk of being cliche, might I ask, can any of you believe it’s already November again!?
Literally, I still feel like it should be July (though the cold weather this past week has firmly informed me that it is Fall, edging on Winter!).
Even with the excitement of the holiday season coming up, this month always gets to me a little bit. I don’t like seeing things die, and I loooove plants and gardening, so although I love the cold weather, it makes me a little sad and nostalgic (Literally, until last week, I’d been covering my little outside plants over with blankets on the nights that there was a freeze so that they didn’t die yet…).
In another capacity, all of those nostalgia-feels are even more true this year, especially because November is when I left Ireland… so there’s added boohoos for me this time around.
It doesn’t feel like a year has passed, although I have accomplished a good number of things in that time. I still find myself much more attached to Ireland than I had thought I’d be a year removed from leaving.
Rather than dwell on that, though, I’ve been trying to remind myself of the good things that came in November last year. One of those good-thing-memories is a little “last-hurrah” trip Patrick and I took to Iceland.
It wasn’t a long trip, only 3-nights/3-days. We went in with no expectations, and really chose the location purely because of my life-goal/desire to see the Northern Lights (Spoiler alert: We did not, in fact, see the lights).
Traveling to Iceland was extremely easy. We took a bus from Cork up to Dublin and flew a straight shot to Reykjavik. The only interesting part was getting on the plane–we arrived a little late to the airport and rolled-up at our gate just before they closed the doors, buts it’s cool. No harm, no foul. We made the flight and got a little cardio in, too. So, win, win.
Once in the Reykjavik airport, we were able to easily exchange currency onto prepaid cards while at there. Win, win. 👌🏼Then, we went to pick up our car. After searching around for several minutes, the guy helping us realized that we had reserved the car at the wrong airport… 😬 so we had to cancel that vehicle and pay again for a new reservation. After that little hiccup, though, it was smooth-sailing.
The first night we were there, Patrick and I went to two local “Irish” pubs. [Anywhere we travel, Patrick likes to check out that area’s take on what an “Irish” pub is.] The best of the two pubs had the classic fish n’chips, the stout beers, the Jameson, etc., but it’s real winning quality was the name: The Drunk Rabbit.
The next day, we went out to drive to the Golden Circle. It’s a day-trip , theoretically, which includes some of the most famous and most scenic spots in the southern parts of Iceland. If you’re ever in Iceland, I would recommend doing day trips like these on your own and not with a tour (The blog I linked to above gives tips on how to drive the circle, and it was one of resources I consulted as we planned what we’d like to do). I can’t speak from experience about what a tour would be like, but Patrick and I so enjoyed being able to spend longer at some spots and to skip others that weren’t as important to us.
At the first stop on the circle, Þingvellir National Park, you’ll be introduced to some really cool, and some really morbid, history of the country. It is Iceland’s first National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, too. In Icelandic history, it was home to a government/parliament-ish, which literally means the “assembly plains.” It dates back to Viking/tribal times, as early as the 900s. The last time it was used was in 1798.
There are several spots around the site that convey both a mystical beauty in its history and a macabre connotation, such as the Drekkingarhylur (Drowning Pool). Supposedly, as many as 18 women, lost their lives in these cold waters.
Another impressive, and much less daunting, fact about Þingvellir is that the North American plate surfaces there at its eastern border! You can actually see the divide!
Then, on from Þingvellir, we headed on toward the famous, and smelly, geysers of the region. When we got to the Geyser Geothermal Area, we ended up being much more excited about the gift-shop and cafe than we were by walking all the way out to the largest gyser, called “the Great Geyser” or simply “Geyser” or the highly active Strokkur. So, we walked around the smaller areas of geothermal activity in Haukadalur Valley and spent a solid hour, at least, messing about in the gift shop. As an unexpected and added bonus, though we didn’t walk out to see it, Patrick and I still got to view Strokkur erupting as we left the visitor center in our car!
[If geysers are your thing, you might note that the Great Geyser, while the oldest documented geyser in European literature, is mostly dormant these days. Strokkur, though, is still very impressive. It erupts about every 5-10 minutes and shoots up 130 feet in the air. So, nothing to thumb your nose at.]
Our third stop was at the famous and oh-so-beautiful Gullfoss Waterfall. Like, really, really, beautiful. Stunning. Ethereal.
In the summer, I’m sure it’s even more magnificent, but I especially loved the way the ice and frost looked next to the spray created by the falls as the water made its 100-foot drop.
Another interesting point to note, the Gullfoss is preserved today thanks to the efforts one national hero: Sigridur Tómasdóttir. She is known as Iceland’s first environmentalist and passionately campaigned to protect the falls from development. Look her up! She was a wonder, truly.
The last stop we did on the Golden Circle route, though there are several more, was at Skálholt. The remains of this little village are considered by some as Iceland’s first town. Regardless of township, it was home to the country’s first bishop and school. We stopped by to see the old church building and take a tour of the ruins around, and under, the new church there.
And, of course, we wouldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t get a *tad* silly while taking picture to document the stop:
Our last day there, we puttered around Rykjevick, mostly. We stopped for breakfast at a local cafe with some fellow Airbnb-ers and went to a hot-springs bath in the city, as well. The water was delightful. It’s hard not to spend the whole day lounging in the shallow, heated pools.
And, yes, it’s true. They do make you shower naked before getting into the pools. What’s more, they even have an attendant in the changing rooms to make sure you follow the rules… But, hey, when in Rome, right?
Another great part of the day, after we finally abandoned the pools, was the food in Rykjevick. We ate/drank some adventurous things, but my favourites were a reindeer burger and a hazelnut lager. Really, wow. Call me some kind of foodie, but wooowwww. Delicious. I would definitely recommend.
The food/drink that didn’t go over so well? Well, let’s just say Fjallagrasa schnapps should not be on anyone’s wish-list this Christmas…
P.S. Those Northern Lights I was so keen to see? Yeah. We went out looking for them every night we were there, but no such luck. We did, however, have the pure pleasure of freezing our bums off in the middle of nowhere while drinking hot apple-cider, huddling together for warmth, and doing mildly-ridicoulous things, like singing pub songs in our loudest and most obnoxious voices… well, at least I did obnoxious voices. I think Patrick has too much self respect to be that weird…
Moral of the story, make sure to check the Aurora forecast before getting your hopes up, and even if you don’t see those elusive, dancing lights, or if you don’t know much about Iceland itself, it’s still so worth the trip. We had an incredible time ❤
Thanks for joining for this story-time adventure. As always, if you’re planning a trip to this area and have questions, I’m happy to give out some advice based on my experiences!