joyeux anniversaire | two years

Today is the two year anniversary of our arrival in Brussels.

It’s been silent on the blog front lately.  I’d like to say it is because I’ve been so incredibly busy that I’d fall in bed at the end of the day unable to keep my eyes open a minute longer – forget blogging, this girl needed sleep. And that wouldn’t be totally untrue. Life has been real busy.

It’s always a struggle to balance work and life and the last six months have been heavily weighted towards work. What time hasn’t been spent working has been spent doing what we love most – traveling. Work and travel, travel and work. Pretty much everything else has fallen by the wayside, including this blog. So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s return to our semi-regular blogging ways with a recap of what we’ve been up to this past year.

We (or me in some cases) visited 8 new countries this year. We:

  • tasted Guinness from the source in Ireland (tastes just the same to me),
  • ate pho for breakfast in Vietnam,
  • visited the night zoo in Singapore,
  • discovered the magic that is pasteis de nata in Portugal,
  • sipped black balsam in Latvia,
  • hiked in Switzerland (and battled some serious altitude sickness),
  • drank Mikkheller in Denmark and then drank some more, and
  • devoured the most delicious food in Czech Republic.

We celebrated our first Christmas in Brussels and first Christmas away from family. We decided to overcompensate by buying twice as many presents.

We rang in New Year’s with our friend Ben, a lot of Berliners, and David Hasselhoff (and we remember most of it). Those Germans love them some Hoff.

We spent a long weekend meandering along the Mosel Valley touring old castles and sipping wine.

We revisited some of our favorite spots (Paris is always a good idea).

We spent almost three weeks back in California this fall catching up with friends and family, eating two years’ worth of tacos, and watching some of our best friends tie the knot. It was amazing being back home and made us very excited about all the wonderful things that await us when we return.

Plus so much more.

We are now into Year Three. Our last and final year in Brussels. Cue panic.

One more year to travel (well, at least while living in Europe). So many places we still want to visit and not enough time to see them all. And so we’ve been working on narrowing our list down and prioritizing. Places we know we’ll come back and do in the future have been pushed farther down the list (i.e. Greece, Israel).  Places which we know we are unlikely to visit  once we leave have been pushed up the list (i.e. Romania, Slovakia). I’m trying to not stress.

One more Christmas season. Christmas is by far our favorite time of year and we love hitting up the Christmas markets. Drinking glühwein from tiny boot mugs. Eating sausages, pretzels, and all sorts of tasty treats. We’ll revisit some of our favorites and seek out some new ones (London, Dresden).

One more summer enjoying long days. I love that at the height of summer it stays light out until almost midnight – no matter how late we’ve had to work there is still “day” available to play.  It more than compensates for the short, dark days of winter.

One Oktoberfest. We’ve been trying to get some of our friends over to Europe for two years now, and (knock on wood) it looks like it’ll finally be happening. Oktoberfest will be our final hurrah before we head back to the states and an epic friends gathering.

The last two years have been nothing short of amazing. I have no doubt this last year will be the best yet.

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Reims • France | Pop-Fizz-Clink aka The Champagne Tour

reims trenches-40Now, I have to admit that we are not really Valentine’s Day people. There are no cards exchanged, no chocolates or flowers gifted, and definitely no fancy overpriced dinner reservations. It’s usually like any other day around here. Last year though we changed our minds – we decided to head on down to Reims (pronounced “Rance” – don’t ask me why) to get our bubbly on. You see, Reims is the capital of the Champagne region and you can’t throw a stone without hitting a well-known champagne house. After a quick search, we settled on two houses: Martel, and Mumm.

If you haven’t done a champagne tour before, then here’s the deal. If you are planning to visit during the heavier tourist season (May through August), you will typically want to reserve a spot ahead of time, especially if you are planning to visit one of the well-known houses like Moet & Chandon. Although it depends on the house, you’ll pay somewhere between 9 and 20+ euro for a visit down to the caves and a champagne tasting. The number of tastings varies and some houses will give you the option to “upgrade” your tasting to include additional champagnes or step-up the swank level and go for the really good stuff.

The first stop of the day was G.H. Martel & Co.reims trenches-1G.H. Martel 17 Rue des Créneaux, Reims  email: boutique@champagnemartel.com

11am tour. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this champagne house. This one was definitely the best bang for the buck: for only 9 euro we got the cave tour as well as three champagne tastings. The best kind of breakfast is a champagne breakfast!reims trenches-2 reims trenches-3 reims trenches-6 reims trenches-7 reims trenches-8

Before heading on to our next stop, we made a detour to the Reims Cathedral.

reims trenches-21The Cathedral of Reims holds an important spot in French history – this church held the coronation of at least 25 French kings and queens. You wouldn’t know it now, but Reims was almost completely destroyed during World War I, including this cathedral. It’s a beautiful church. The best part for me were the gorgeous Marc Chagall stained glass windows.reims trenches-10reims trenches-11 reims trenches-26

After the Cathedral, we headed on to our final champagne stop: Mumm!

reims trenches-30G.H. Mumm & Co. 34 rue du Champs de Mars, Reims email: guides@mumm.com

When I was in Paris with my mom and sister a few years back this was my favorite of the houses we visited on our champagne tour. This is one of the classic houses – a worldwide name – and a reservation is definitely recommended here. This one is pricier than Martel (I believe it came in around 20 euro) and you only get one tasting. If you’re looking for the classic champagne tour/tasting that isn’t super corporate (yet) – this is your spot. reims trenches-33 reims trenches-37

Honest thoughts? I think champagne tours are a bit overrated. The tours are pretty standard across all champagne houses, so if you’ve done one you’ve pretty much done them all. They can also be quite pricey. For the top-name champagne houses (Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot) – you’ll likely pay upwards of 20 euro for a single tasting of their standard champagne. Me? Having now done a few of these, I’d rather take that money I’d spend for a couple of tours and glasses of champagne and buy myself a WHOLE bottle of the good stuff.

After a day out exploring, we settled into our airbnb with a bottle of wine we picked up along the way. Or attempted to at least. Without any luck locating a wine opener, we decided to take matters into our own hands. Or shoe in this case:reims trenches-48 reims trenches-47 reims trenches-45 reims trenches-49We did successfully get it open, but we’ll need a bit more practice to get this trick perfected. And wouldn’t you know it – later that evening we finally located the wine opener.

 

Ireland | Cliffs of Moher

DSC06594 Very few things in life make me feel small. And not just small – inconsequential. It is hard to stand at the edge of these cliffs and not be completely in awe. From the unpredictable weather to the 214 meter (750 ft) drop to the ocean below – these cliffs are a mother nature power trip.

The morning started early in Dublin. After dropping the in-laws off at the airport, Jared and I headed to pick up something which was the biggest source of anxiety in the weeks leading up to our trip – the rental car. As you’re probably aware, the Irish sit on the wrong side of the car and drive on the wrong side of the road. Jared and I developed a couple of rules of the road: (1) every time Jared made a turn I would yell “left”, and (2) if Jared veered too far left I would yell “curb check”. I’m pleased to say it was a success: we arrived in one piece.

The weather was misty and a bit windy. With scarves wrapped tight and hoods pulled down, we made our way up and out to the cliff path. On this day, we had the paths mostly to ourselves. A few groups of people would occasionally pass by, but once we got far enough away from the entry point, it was silent with the exception of the wind. We spent a couple of hours walking up and down the paths, marveling at the height of the cliffs and the sneaky pull of the wind. Over time, the rain started to fall a little heavier and the wind blow even stronger. The camera lenses took on a perpetual cloud that became harder and harder to wipe away. Soaked to the bones, we trekked back up the path to the safety and warmth of our car.DSC06519 DSC06541 DSC06522 DSC06589 DSC06553 DSC06605

Amsterdam • Netherlands | Bakers & Roasters

Breakfast may quite possibly be my favorite meal of the day. Eggs Benedict. Dutch Baby. Chilaquiles. Hash. French Toast. One of each please! Makes me hungry just thinking about it. It’s the only meal where it is 100% acceptable (in public) to eat dessert as your meal. In the US, brunch is something we take very seriously. It is the perfect way to refuel (and recover) after a late Friday or Saturday night, and it is essential in kicking off a Sunday Funday.

In our previous lives in San Diego and Los Angeles, brunch was a fairly regular part of our weekend routine – mornings spent lingering in the sun, mimosa in hand, catching up with friends. Weekend mornings out here appear to follow a bit of a different beat with most folks grabbing a quick café and croissant; however, the number of places catering to the brunch crowd are continuing to grow.  It may be the promise of good weather to come, but I find myself yearning for those lazy Sunday brunches.

Last Saturday, we headed up to Amsterdam to get a much-needed break from work. Needing some fuel before we tackled the Rijksmuseum, I insisted that brunch be part of the day’s plan and Jared delivered.

Bakers & Roasters 1Bakers & Roasters                            Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 54, 1072 BH Amsterdam

It’s a New Zealand style cafe just a stone’s throw from the Heineken brewery (for those looking to fill-up before the “Heineken Experience”) or a quick jaunt from both the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.  The menu isn’t exhaustive, but it is sure to please everyone. Unable to decide between sweet or savory, I went for the B&R Special which gives a taste of both. Jared opted for the Kiwi Brekkie. The food was delicious and the help friendly. We both left with very full bellies. I definitely recommend giving this place a visit if you find yourself in Amsterdam.

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Mont-Saint-Michel • France | The “Wonder of the West”

Mon-Saint-MichelWe lucked out with the weather. The forecasted gloom would have certainly added a bit of atmosphere on our visit to this medieval city, but it was nice to be able to leave the umbrellas behind and turn our faces up to the sun. In the bay where Normandy and Brittany merge, you can find the tiny island of Mont-Saint-Michel (population of 30). In the early 8th century, Aubert, the bishop of Avranches, claimed that he was visited by the Archangel Michael who told him to build a church on the rock island. Aubert dismissed the vision, until Michael, who appeared to him two more times, drove his finger into Aubert’s skull and ordered him to build. And build he did. The Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel, which was built between the 11th and 16th century, is the crown jewel of this island. It has inspired millions of pilgrims throughout the ages, and when you get your first glance of the abbey looming in the distance it is easy to why.

Long ago, the pilgrims would have braved the quicksand and infamous tides to pray at the abbey. Present day pilgrims can traverse the causeway connecting the island to the mainland. They recently built a new visitor parking lot a mile and a half inland, and they have shuttles going between the parking lot and the Mont. If you’re up to it though, I’d recommend you do as we did and leg it out to the island to really get the full experience.

Mont-Saint-MichelOnce on Mont-Saint-Michel, wander through the cobble-stoned streets and alleyways. There is a decidedly tourist feel to this island, but given it’s history, it’s purpose has always been to cater to the pilgrims that traveled so far. Embrace it. Once you’ve had your fill of the town, head up to the abbey, grab one of the brochures and do a self-guided tour (or join one of the guided tours instead if you prefer). Walking through the grounds you can almost imagine how peaceful and serene a life out here could have been back in the day. After spending some time taking in the views of the bay from the abbey terraces, we left Mont-Saint-Michel behind and make it back to the car just in time – the rain had finally arrived.

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Rouen ⋅ France

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Rouen was our introduction to Normandy – the first of many stops on that trip – and we were bowled over by this charming town with its half-timbered homes and beautiful churches and cathedrals. Art fans kind can find the largest collection of impressionist art outside Paris at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Claimed by some to be the birthplace of impressionism, Rouen was a favorite of painters such as Gaugin, Pissarro, and especially Monet, whose series of 30+ painting of Rouen’s cathedral is well-known and praised. For those looking for some historical importance, Rouen has got you covered. Joan of Arc was only 13 when she received her first visions of the saints who told her to drive the English out of France. She was victorious in many battles until finally captured at the age of 19. She was brought to Rouen to stand trial and was subsequently burned at the stake.

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The Cathedral of Monet’s paintings is the famous for its butter tower (Tour de Beurre) which was financed by the sale of indulgences to consume butter during Lent.

Rouen Cathedral

The beauty of this cathedral continues to inspire today – we spent a few minutes chatting with and watching an artist paint the cathedral. Wish I had this hanging in my living room.

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The Normandy region is well-known for their half-timbered houses – buildings with exposed wood framing – a style which dates back to the Middle Ages. I personally could not get enough of them. I mean, come on. It feels like my fairy tale stories come to life.

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I promise that we did actually take photos of non-timbered things. The Church of St. Ouen may have been my favorite of Rouen’s four churches we visited. They started building the church in 1318, but the building was halted by the Hundred Year War during which it suffered significant damage. The church was eventually finished in the 15th century, with further additions in the 19th century. It had a small little park dusted with pink petals – perfectly coordinating with my ballet shoes.

normandy-23 normandy-24 normandy-27 normandy-29 normandy-31And among all the churches in Rouen, one of these things is not like the others. The Church of St. Joan of Arc is vastly different from the other churches in this city. Built in 1979, this modern church stands in the center of the ancient market square – right next to the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, which is simply and unceremoniously marked with a plain cross. The structure of the church is meant to evoke the flames that brought Joan of Arc’s life to an early end.

normandy-37 normandy-38 normandy-39My parents are coming out to visit this coming May and a trip to Normandy is on the books. As this is a city which should be experienced by anyone visiting the Normandy region, you can bet that a stop in Rouen in on the itinerary.

Doel • Belgium | The Abandoned City

IMG_0079You might already be aware, but I have a massive love affair with street art (Ghent and Bosnia would be just a couple of examples). On our travels I always keep an eye out to see if I can find great street art to photograph.

Cut to a couple of weekends ago. We had plans to head to the Christmas Beer Festival in Essen, but had a few hours to kill before we wanted to arrive. It had been awhile since our last adventure, so Jared did a quick search to see what was nearby and happened to find an entry on Atlas Obscura about the doomed city of Doel. It promised to provide a bit of adventure for Jared and a lot of great street art for me. This city definitely delivered.

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Doel is a modern-day city which evokes the emptiness of a city abandoned – like the mining and railroad towns which shuttered up seemingly overnight leaving the bones of the city behind. Doel has existed for almost 750 years – having first been mentioned in 1267 as The Doolen. The town is located near the Antwerp ports, and thus as the city looked to expand the ports Doel became a target and victim of that expansion. During the 1970s-1990s, Doel citizens and fellow protesters were able to successfully stave off demolition. However, in 1999 the city was officially scheduled for demolition.

In 2007, a campaign was started called “Doel 2020” to turn the town into an artists’ haven – numerous street artists from not only Belgium (like ROA) but all over Europe have added their touch to this town. However, in 2008 100 riot police were sent in to help carryout the eviction orders. Once a town of 1,000, most of the residents have now left Doel – there are about 20-30 residents remaining in the town and about 200 homes which remain intact. Its been more than a few years that residents received their orders to vacate their homes in Doel – the destruction of this town is imminent. I’m glad we were able to document what we saw there – who knows how much longer it will be around to see.

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Normandy • France | The Route du Cidre

Route du CidreFrance is famous for its wine. It has long been a standard against which other wines are compared (I highly recommend watching Bottle Shock if you haven’t already seen it). So when we began planning our trip to the Normandy region, I was surprised to see that the French in the Normandy region prefer to cheers with a glass of cider instead of wine.

I like to consider myself a bit of a cider connoisseur. While most college-aged kids were developing a sophisticated palate for Bud Light and those other award-winning beers that poor college kids and frat boys would buy, I was instead exploring the world of cider.

A little more research and I discovered that there is actually a Cider Route (Route du Cidre) in the Normandy region, which is a 40km circular route through the Pays d’Auge countryside. Similar to wine tasting, you can stop at the producers to taste their various ciders, pommeau, or calvados. And, if you want to turn it into an educational experience and learn a little about the cider, pommeau, or calvados making process, some of the producers offer tours although the English tour options are limited.

normandy-49Despite a very packed Normandy itinerary, we were able to squeeze in stops at three producers: Pierre Huet, Domaine Dupont, and Manoir de Grandouet.

First stop was Pierre Huet.normandy-50 normandy-51Pierre Huet was offering a tour in English when we arrived, so we decided to join in. While it’s always interesting to hear about the history of the companies, I think Jared and I have both come to the conclusion that one wine/champagne/cider tour is much the same as any other. If you haven’t done one, then definitely have at it. Jared and I were not familiar with pommeau or calvados so it was great to actually hear how you go from an apple to apple brandy. After our brief tour, we headed back to the main building for the big finale: the tastings. normandy-53As part of our tour fee, you get to taste quite a few of their offerings. First up were the ciders, and as you see above there are three types of ciders that they produce . We both got a little taster of both the brut apple cider and the demi-sec pear cider. I favored the pear cider (blame it on the sweet tooth) while Jared preferred the brut (less sweet). But both were quite tasty.  normandy-54Next up was pommeau. Pommeau is essentially a mix of calvados and pure apple juice, and is typically drank as an aperitif. It was, well, I think my tiny taster is all I think I’ll ever feel the need to drink.

And last, we got to try two vintages of calvados (apple brandy) – one was aged 8 years and one was aged 15 years.  Much like the pommeau, I am not sure I’d be able to sip this without grimacing. However, I have seen quite a few tasty cocktails where calvados is the star like these, which have me wishing we’d picked up a bottle or two. Alas, we grabbed a few bottles of cider and then moved on to the next place: Domaine Dupont.normandy-59Domaine Dupont is on some truly beautiful grounds (as the entry above surely shows). Through the windows of the tasting room you can see the seemingly endless rows of apple trees. True artisan cider. And so of course, I so desperately wanted to love their cider. Ultimately Jared and I agreed that the earthiness of the ciders was just a bit too much for us. I do appreciate that they are trying to do something a little different, but I don’t like funk with my cider (just my lambics and guezes thank you very much). They do have quite the impressive selection of calvados though.normandy-57It was late in the afternoon, but we made one final stop at Manoir de Grandouet. This one may have been my favorite (my 12 bottles purchased being no indication…). We pulled off the road towards some nondescript buildings.normandy-61 normandy-60Lucky for us that another person was just loading up their cider haul, otherwise we may have assumed that it was closed it was so quiet and peaceful. The woman running the tastings was incredibly helpful and was willing to give us as many tasters as we wanted. Ultimately, we ended up trying 5 different ciders here – all solid – and actually had a tough time figuring out which ones to buy because we liked them all so much. Lucky for us, cider tasting is a much cheaper affair compared to wine tasting: the typical 75ml cider costs just about EUR 3.normandy-63You know what else the region is well-known for? Camembert. If you have a little more time and want do a real gastronomy tour of the Pays d’Auge region plan to make a stop in Camembert to see how this cheese is made. While you’re there, grab a few goodies to pair with your new ciders.

Iceland | Floating in the Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

I can’t think of a better way to while away a lazy day than soaking in the famed Blue Lagoon. And so that’s what we did for our final day in Iceland.

After a few crazy long work weeks and two busy days exploring Iceland, we were looking forward to some serious relaxation. We caught an early shuttle from our hotel to the Iceland airport, checked in our bags, and then grabbed the shuttle from the airport to the Blue Lagoon.

The day was cold, overcast, and rainy, but that just provided a nice contrast to the warm, milky blue lagoon. We hurriedly hung up our robes, and slipped into the water.

 Oh man. Heaven.

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If I asked you what color the water is, I expect you’d say blue. And you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. The sun reflects off the silica in the water and the water appears blue; however, the water is actually a milky white color. There is more than 6 million liters of water in the lagoon. And don’t worry about sharing that same bath water with thousands of other folks – the water renews itself every 40 hours.

 In all, we spent about three hours in the lagoon. We grabbed some drinks, did some face masks, explored the perimeter, and sought out the warmest spots.

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With our departure time fast approaching, we finally forced ourselves to exit the lagoon. [My pruned fingers and toes took hours to recover.] After a quick rinse off, we had a few moments to spare so we went up to get a better look at the lagoon:

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I wish we had more time to explore the grounds and take a tour of the premises. I guess it’s an excuse to go back again in the future. Ah, shucks…

A few tips for enjoying the Blue Lagoon:

  • Purchase your entry online in advance, especially if you are planning to be there during the peak times. When we were leaving to go, the lagoon was at capacity so anyone trying to get in had to wait until someone departed. If you book online, you are guaranteed priority access. You can also add in a shuttle to and from the airport. It’s one-stop service.
  • Purchase the Comfort package (or Premium if you are feeling a little extra fancy). You may be tempted to save a few bucks and go for the Standard package, but splurge a little and you won’t have to worry about tacking on any additional add-ons (towels, slippers, robes, etc.).
  • If you’re looking for the warmest water, plant yourself right by the wooden boxes around the perimeter of the lagoon. This is where the hot water gets pumped in and it’s where I spent a good portion of my time.
  • For all the ladies – if you have long hair I highly recommend giving your hair a good coat of conditioner before heading into the lagoon and keeping your hair out of the water as much as possible. It took a couple of weeks of deep conditioning treatments to make my hair feel anything like normal.

And with that, we were off again and on our way to Boston. The stopover was an absolute success, and we are already talking about when we will be able to do it again.

One more Iceland fact for you. Iceland is expecting 1,000,000 tourists in 2015. Are you going to be one of them? We sure hope to be!

Iceland | The Golden Circle

DSC05456-118Our second day found us on the Golden Circle tour which hits three of Iceland’s biggest natural attractions: Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfalls, and Geysir. A bit of a highlight tour if you will. We did the slightly shortened afternoon tour, but I’d recommend doing the full day tour to ensure you have adequate time to walk around at each of the sights.

First stop: Þingvellir National ParkÞingvellir National Park

Þingvellir means “Parliament Plains” and that is the most accurate description of the importance of this location. Þingvellir is where the Icelandic parliament was created in 930 and where it continued to hold its assemblies until 1798. In 1930, the national park was created in order to protect this important historical site, and in 2004 it was deemed a UNESCO world heritage site.Þingvellir National Park Þingvellir National Park Þingvellir National Park Þingvellir National Park Þingvellir National Park

What’s even cooler? It’s also the rift of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which separates the Eurasian and North American Plates. The plates have been shifting about 2.5 cm per year, so there is a very clear gap between the two tectonic plates. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can actually go diving here. It is supposed to be home to some of the clearest water in the world, and at some of the more narrow points  you can actually touch both the plates at the same time. We didn’t get a chance to do the dive this go around, but I would love to do this in the future.

Given that we only had limited time here, we didn’t get a chance to actually walk down to the actual parliament site. We definitely would have loved to explore the area more and hence the recommendation for the slightly longer tour.

Second stop: Gullfoss waterfalls

Gullfoss means “Golden Falls” and it is said that on a sunny day the water takes on a golden hue.Gullfoss waterfalls Gullfoss waterfalls Gullfoss waterfalls

Apparently at one point some foreign investors had plans to rent Gullfoss and build a hydroelectric powerplant, which would have obviously destroyed the falls. The story goes that Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who was the daughter of Gullfoss’s owner loved the falls so much that she threatened to throw herself into the falls in protest against the plan. To show that her threat was in earnest, she walked barefoot from Gullfoss to Reykjavík (about 120 km). She was successful in her bid, and we have her to thanks for preserving the beauty of the falls for the enjoyment of all future generations.

If you’re lucky enough, the sun will catch the mist from the falls just perfectly to create a nice little rainbow. We had plenty of mist although not much sun, but we were able to get a little glimpse of a rainbow (squint and you can see it).Gullfoss waterfalls

Third and final stop: GeysirGeysir - Iceland

It was interesting to learn that the English word geyser derives from Geysir, which itself comes from the Icelandic word geysa (to gush). Geysir is said to have been active for 10,000 years and in the mid-1800’s the eruption was said to have reached a height of 170 meters. It’s currently inactive and in a dormant state, so do not expect to see any eruptions from this geyser.

Don’t fret though. Just a short walk away is Strokkur Geysir. Although not as impressive as Geysir, this one erupts about every 5-10 minutes, and the eruptions reaching a height of up to 30 meters. Geysir - Iceland Geysir - Iceland Geysir - IcelandGeysir - Iceland

Some adventurous souls decide to stand downwind from Strokkur and are rewarded with a blast of warm sulphuric steam/rain when the geyser erupts. Although the brief moment of warm water was tempting, in our older age we are smart enough to know that the warmth is fleeting and all you are left with is damp clothes in the cold air. And so naturally, we positioned ourselves upwind and played the waiting game.Geysir - Iceland Geysir - Iceland Geysir - Iceland Geysir - Iceland Geysir - Iceland

And thar she blows!

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Packed back into the bus, we settled in to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes as we began the drive back to Reykjavík. Did you know that Iceland has more than 600 types of moss? Or that the white substance on the rocks is actually lichen (essentially the pre-moss phase) and not bird poop? Me neither. All the random tidbits of information are what I love most about doing tours, and our tour guide was excellent.

If you’re visiting Iceland and have only limited time to view the sites, I would definitely recommend doing one of the Golden Circle tours as it is the easiest way to see some of Iceland’s most popular spots. Having tackled these, next time we plan to rent a car and head to some of the spots a little more off the beaten (tourist) path.