30th Birthday Celebrations in Copenhagen

Part 3 of “the best summer of my life” blog posts … featuring my 30th birthday trip to Copenhagen!

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I chose to celebrate my 30th with one of my closest friends, H. We’ve travelled together before: we visited her hometown together in Germany to visit the Christmas markets in December 2016 and we knew we were/are the perfect travel companions. We have exactly the same travel style and the same tastes and similar personalities. Befriending her and getting to know her is, to date, one of my greatest accomplishments in Dublin, so I knew I wanted to celebrate with her. She’s also an extraordinarily loyal friend, so she didn’t hesitate to say yes when I asked. I chose Copenhagen for a few reasons: 1) I’ve wanted to visit for many years 2) I’m the world’s greatest fan of “The Little Mermaid” and Hans Christian Andersen, so… enough said. I had to visit the little mermaid statue and my 30th seemed like the perfect occasion to do so. 3) My birthday is at the end of August, meaning it is quite hot across most of Europe… and, well, I hate the heat. Copenhagen’s weather turned out to be absolutely perfect when we were there (apart from the fact that it lashed rain pretty much non-stop on my actual birthday, but I am grateful that we had the most perfect weather imaginable the day before and we really made the most of it!).

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We stayed in this amazing Airbnb in central Copenhagen. It was perfect for us: it was spacious, modern, decorated beautifully, comfortable, in the perfect location (we were able to walk everywhere easily) and we were able to enjoy coffee and drinks on the adorable balcony in the mornings and evenings.

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Days 1 & 2

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Day 1 didn’t consist of much apart from a late lunch/early dinner at RizRaz (their salad bar is AMAZING!!!! and will forever be remembered as one of the happiest experiences H & I shared together); the weather wasn’t great and we were fairly tired from travelling. We took the time to get our bearings and plan the rest of our time in Copenhagen. On Day 2, we decided to stop for breakfast on our way to Nyhavn – Cafe Norden caught our eye and it really did not disappoint! Breakfast was as delicious as it was aesthetically pleasing. Their homemade rye bread was some of the tastiest bread I’ve ever had!

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Nyhavn did not disappoint – yes, it is touristy, but for a reason. It is incredibly charming and is a wonderful place to wander around.

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I’ve read a ton of reviews by people saying that they were disappointed in the little mermaid statue. I was NOT one of these people. Yes, it was overly crowded around the statue, but I still managed to feel like I had my “moment” with her… and it was worth it!

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Next, we walked through Freetown Christiania.

Christiania is a former military base that sat abandoned for many years before becoming the neighborhood we know today. In 1971, a group of hippies broke down the barricades and began squatting there. Nowadays, approximately 900 people live in the area, comprising a community that has its own rules and regulations completely independent of the Danish government. Source

I simply cannot describe the feeling of walking through bohemian Christiania other than… it is one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. We saw some very interesting sights, people and houses. If you visit Copenhagen, I would absolutely recommend visiting Christiania. It’s an experience unlike any other.

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We then visited Tivoli Gardens, but we only paid for entrance, not the rides. It was absolutely worth it – it’s an incredibly beautiful park with so much to see and do. We watched a ballet, played a couple arcade games, had lunch and watched a dog show. Tivoli is what inspired Walt Disney to create Disney World and, being from Florida, this was a pretty cool experience for me. If I lived in Copenhagen, I think it would be worth it to get an annual pass as they host so many different events year round. We noticed lots of locals hanging out, spending their Sunday with friends and family at Tivoli.

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Ice cream in Copenhagen is an absolute MUST!!! Iceland is also known for their ice cream, which I thought was good, but this is quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. Again, I don’t know how to describe it – it was unique in every way!

Day 3

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We began my birthday by eating one of the most incredible breakfasts I’ve ever had in my life – in one of the most beautiful cafes I’ve ever been to. Paludan Bogcafe… a stunning bookstore and cafe, all in one. The staff was very friendly, the space was so cozy and inspiring and their menu offered high quality food and drink for great value. I’m pretty sure breakfast took us over three hours to consume – it was the perfect way to begin my 30th year… a leisurely breakfast in a beautiful space with a dear friend. What more could I ask for?

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This is the “vegetarian brunch”: scrambled eggs with chives, hummus, yogurt with fresh berries and muesli, pancake with maple syrup, cheese and fresh fruit, served with either fresh orange juice or a small smoothie… all for only 109 kr (approximately $16 USD)!! INCREDIBLE value for money. Copenhagen is notoriously expensive, but I would consider this cafe to be so well priced. This meal literally kept me FULL until we had dinner at 8:30pm (and I am usually the type of person who requires more than three meals per day).

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Unfortunately, it rained all day on my actual birthday. However, the rain did not deter us. H surprised me by treating us to a “couple’s” (friends!) full body massage followed by champagne and relaxation in the spa, which was so appreciated. We didn’t book a couple’s massage, so that was a bit of a surprise; however, it ended up being that much more fun and enjoyable, because it was an experience we were able to share together. We also visited the Rosenborg Castle between rain showers.

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I chose Llama for my birthday dinner: a Latin American restaurant inspired by Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Mexico – AKA my dream come true. It was pricey, but worth it for a special experience. Not an obvious choice of food while in Denmark, but I have no regrets. We shared a variety of unique (seemingly my favourite word to describe our trip to Copenhagen!) dishes and enjoyed a smokey margarita to toast to our friendship.

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Llama’s bathroom floor

Day 4

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I had to visit Brødflov, mostly because of the name (bread love), but also because their cafes are beautiful and I read about their delicious pastries. We had so much to fit in on our last (half) day, so this was breakfast #1 for us.

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Breakfast #2 was enjoyed at Cafe Dyrehaven – a super cool spot with extra friendly staff. We went for the open-faced sandwiches, but unfortunately, due to our flight time, we were too early and chose a breakfast item instead. Avocado toast with beetroot cured salmon – absolutely amazing!

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HOT DOGS, glorious hot dogs – OMG. Shortly after breakfast #2, we had to fit in one last hot dog. Just like ice cream, Iceland is also known for their hot dogs… and they were truly amazing; however, I’ll go out on a limb and say the two hot dogs I had in Copenhagen were even better. For our last meal before heading to the airport, we opted for a spicy hot dog from a street vendor and it was, quite possibly, my favourite thing I ate all summer. Yep, I said it.

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Our trip to Copenhagen was perfect in every way and was everything I could have asked for my birthday. I wanted to be able to look back on my 30th birthday with a fond memory, despite going through a difficult time, and thanks to H, I will forever be able to do just that. Thank you to Copenhagen for being everything I needed at that time. H and I both agreed we could happily live there – it’s everything we love in a city: so friendly, clean and beautiful.

Insider’s Guide: Dublin

My dear friend Gigi kindly featured me on her blog, The Global Organizerhere. I am posting my featured post below, but I highly recommend checking it out on her blog – because the format is much better (and there are more photos!).

FROM CHELSEA

I’m Chelsea; my passport says I’m American but my heart will tell you I’m Irish. I grew up in Florida, but have known my entire life that I’m meant to live in Ireland. I moved to Ireland in September 2010 (Cork for 6 months, then Dublin) and I genuinely fall more in love with Dublin every single day. It is by far my favourite place in the world and even though my favourite hobby is travelling, I am always happy to come back to Dublin. Dublin has everything: the sea, mountains, beautiful parks and is a city that can either feel like a bustling capital city or a tranquil town, depending on where you are. I even like the Irish weather, which is especially funny coming from someone who is from Florida.

EAT

When people think of Ireland, they usually don’t think of food. Or if they do, they think of meat and potatoes and maybe Lucky Charms. This is changing hugely! When I first moved here in 2010, the foodie scene was non-existent. I am now convinced Dublin has one of the most amazing foodie scenes in the world: I actually think it’s even better than London’s, though I’m a bit biased. We have some incredible restaurants here and you can have top-notch cuisine from just about everywhere around the world. Dublin really knows how to do brunch! P.S. Lucky Charms do not exist here. Well, they do… you can buy a box for 10 euro from one specialityshop! I’d say Ireland produces the best beef, butter, milk and strawberries in the world.

  • Bunsen– Nothing compares to Irish beef. You must try a Bunsen burger: melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Bunsen has a cult following and luckily, there are four locations.
  • Full Irish breakfast – Surprise, potatoes are not generally part of a full Irish! A full Irish usually consists of eggs (usually fried, but you can request otherwise), rashers (bacon), sausages, baked beans, black and white pudding, fried tomato and toast. Make sure you try some incredible Irish butter on your toast… even better, if you have an option of having brown bread / brown soda bread, choose that!!
  • Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse or most pubs (it’s debatable who has the best Guinness!) My vote would be for a pint at the Cobblestone because of the atmosphere – you can listen to live traditional Irish music if you’re there in the evening.
  • Brunch is a way of life in Dublin. I have many favourite brunch places – one of them is Two Pups Coffee, in a great old neighborhood called The Liberties. They have great coffee, unique food (avocado toast with peanut butter!! Trust me, it’s fantastic) and the staff is super friendly.
  • Modern Irish (Whitefriar Grill and The Winding Stair) – Irish pub food (L. Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter / O’Neills / The Hairy Lemon) –Fish & Chips (Beshoff Bros or Leo Burdock) – Neapolitan pizza (Cirillo’s) – Sushi (Musashi and Kokoro) – Indian (Pickle) – TexMex (Boojum) – Ice cream (Murphy’s or a 99 cone from Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire) – Vegan (The Happy Pear and Cornucopia) – Salads (Sprout) – Lebanese (The Cedar Tree or Damascus Gate) – Vietnamese(Pho Ta and Aobaba) – Michelin Star (Chapter One) – Tapas (Las Tapas de Lola or PortHouse) – Pasta (DaMimmo and Rosa Madre) – Unique fine dining experience(Taste at Rustic – Peruvian and Japanese fusion) – Best Egg’s Benedict (Wuff) – Best scones (Emer’s Kitchen and Brother Hubbard) – Favourite newcomer(Nutbutter – healthy food) – Sandwich (Green Bench Café) – Amazing views (Sophie’s at The Dean) – Dessert (Nutella Cheesecake at either Taco Taco or San Lorenzo’s; though unfortunately, you cannot go only for dessert) – Donuts (Rolling Donut) – Coffee (Proper Order, Clement and Pekoe, Il Valentino, Butler’s)

PLAY

  • Cliff walk: Either Bray to Greystones and lunch at The Happy Pear if you feel like eating healthy or Howth cliff walk followed by fish and chips
  • Guinness Storehouse
  • On your way to Trinity College to see the Old Library and the Book of Kells, wander through St. Stephen’s Green park and then down Grafton Street, stopping to listen to various buskers.

STAY

This is something I can’t really comment on, seeing as I’ve only ever lived in Dublin. I’ve never been here as a tourist. However, I know if money were no object and I could stay anywhere in Dublin, I would choose either the Merrion or the Shelbourne. For someone on a major budget, I know the Generator hostel in Smithfield is great as far as hostels go.

The best areas in Dublin to stay in are: Dublin 2 (safest and nicest part of the city centre), Dublin 4 (just a bit outside the city centre and very posh), Dublin 6 (very local neighbourhood), Smithfield/Stoneybatter in Dublin 7, Dublin 8 if you want to be near the Guinness Storehouse and Phoenix Park. Stay away from Temple Bar in Dublin 2 if you want any peace and quiet.

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Ireland is the land of a hundred thousand welcomes (Céad Míle Fáilte) and is, in my humble opinion, the most magical place on earth.

“It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what that love is for; for some it’s the friendliness Irish people are famous for, or the beautiful landscapes or the incredible produce we are becoming renowned for. Or perhaps it’s something a little less tangible. Perhaps that love of Ireland is more an emotion, a moment, an elusive feeling that we know intimately well but might find hard to describe. It’s what makes us love this country no matter the weather, it’s how we feel landing in Dublin Airport after a stint away. It’s the taste of a proper strong cuppa, it’s the craic, the kindness and the bold humour. It’s the thought of holing up in a cosy pub with a creamy pint of Guinness and the deep conviction that when the sun shines there’s nowhere else you’d rather be. It’s the sight of the Phoenix Park in the autumn when the trees are molten amber and the deep, burgeoning pride when our county takes home the Sam Maguire cup.” ~Author Unknown

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FAVORITE TRAVEL HACK

  • Charles Schwab bank is my best discovery – they are my American bank of choice and I adore my Schwab debit card because they refund ALL ATM fees – local or international! Bonus: they have fabulous customer service.

Oxford Birthday

I had the pleasure of spending my birthday weekend in Oxford with my best friend/life wife/flatmate. She did her Master’s degree at Oxford and I’ve wanted to visit with her ever since we met. It was everything I imagined and more and I can certainly see why it is her favourite place in the world. I was really impressed with how friendly everyone was and not to mention the obvious: the gorgeous architecture!

Highlights:

  • Staying in Exeter College – our accommodation was a room where Fellows stay, absolutely STUNNING and massive! It was honestly the size of an apartment and we had 4 different rooms! The light was incredible and the room was so quiet.
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Entrance to Exeter College’s Dining Hall

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  • Fellows’ Garden at Exeter College – favourite spot in Oxford, you cannot beat the views! Not to mention the privacy and the beauty. There’s not a better spot when the sun is shining.
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The view from the Fellows’ Garden at Exeter

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  • Cream tea at Vaults and Garden (located in the garden of St. Mary’s) – we didn’t waste any time when I arrived, we pretty much went straight to V&G for tea and scones!! Their house blend is easily the best black tea I’ve ever tasted. I already miss clotted cream…

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Vaults and Garden

  • Climbed St. Mary’s – the views are incredible! Well worth the £4 and the 25 minute wait.
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View from the top of St. Mary’s

  • Iced dirty chai at the Missing Bean – my first dirty chai (chai latte with a shot of espresso) and I’m addicted! Not to mention I completely fell in love with the Missing Bean – it is definitely in my top 3 coffee shops I’ve ever visited!

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  • Pimm’s at The Bear – such a great pub! We didn’t eat there but I was very impressed with their menu. A big step up from normal pub food!
  • Blue cheese burger at Turf Tavern – some of the loveliest outdoor seating areas I’ve ever seen
  • Bagel (with a gorgeous amount of cream cheese) and iced latte to start my second day at the Missing Bean – this place knows how to do coffee. Easily the best iced latte I’ve ever had! So smooth.
  • Touring some of the other colleges: Christ Church (the dining hall is unbelievably impressive), Merton, Magdalen (the gardens!!! most impressive grounds)
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Christ Church Dining Hall

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Magdalen

 

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  • Exploring the Covered Market and buying 3 different cheeses (Oxford Blue!) and fruit for our light picnic-in-bed dinner that evening (the weather wasn’t great and our room was so comfortable!)
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Perk of being an adult:  being able to eat just this (+ a baguette and a nectarine) for dinner!

  • Champagne High Tea at the Old Parsonage Hotel – K surprised me with this for my birthday. This place is absolutely STUNNING and this was my first ever proper high tea!! I was so impressed with everything about this place: the interior, the exterior, the staff, the lovely royal blue ‘princess’ sofa I got to sit on, the champagne, the tea, the clotted cream and jam, all of the sweet and savoury foods (except for the macarons). We were sickeningly STUFFED afterwards, mostly from all of the liquid… we each had 2 pots of tea!! I physically couldn’t sit up towards the end of the experience but it was SO WORTH IT.
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The Old Parsonage Hotel

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  • Drinks at The Morse Bar (in the Randolph Hotel) – we originally went just for a glass of white wine (we are poor students + we were still full from high tea) but while we were drinking our wine, we were watching Jose the bartender/artiste make cocktails for other customers. I’ve never been SO impressed by a bartender’s care and passion for making cocktails. We were intrigued by a certain cocktail he made multiple times – he carefully peeled a lemon and daintily wrapped it around the outside of the glass and propped it inside the drink and for the grand finale, PERFUMED THE COCKTAIL!!!! We later found out he was perfuming it with vanilla, but oh my goodness did this blow our minds. We decided right then and there that we had to have whatever that drink was. Best £13 I’ve ever spent! It was the Morse Bar Champagne Cocktail and was invented by Jose and I’m convinced it’s my favourite and the most unique cocktail I’ve ever had. It was visually stunning as well – very fitting for a birthday girl! “An outstanding pre-dinner fizz – combines Calvados Apple Brandy with Champagne and a hint of lemon and vanilla”

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  • Breakfast at Turl Street Kitchen – my first time having ‘bubble and squeak’! I had never even heard of it before and absolutely adored it. Great inventive way to use the leftover veg and potatoes from the previous night’s roast dinner!

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  • Tour of the Bodleian Library– I did the 1 hour standard tour of the 15th-century Divinity School, Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court and Duke Humfrey’s medieval library. Absolutely stunning and well worth the £8 – our tour guide was fantastic. It seems like they limit the groups to 15 people. Be warned: these tours DO sell out, so get your tickets in advance!
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Divinity School

  • Exhibition at the Weston Library – we went to see one of their special collections and it was stunning! My favourite was Charlemagne’s purple and gold manuscript (mid-9th century)… so unique!

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  • Exploring various shops (Blackwell’s bookstore and Blackwell’s art & poster shop; Pod; leather shops)
  • Lunch at Vaults and Garden – veggie lasagne (exquisite!) with a salad
  • Cake (elderflower and poppyseed // avocado and lime) and iced dirty chai at the Handle Bar café (formerly known as Zappi’s) – absolutely loved this place!! It is located above a bike shop.

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It was really relaxing to not worry about anything other than my next meal and to explore a beautiful city with my best friend (except for the fact that I almost missed my flight back to Dublin – details in my next post). I cannot think of a better way to start my 28th year! On that note…

Is it just me or does the jump from 27 to 28 seem massive?! I feel like I just jumped from my mid-twenties to proper adulthood. This is probably because it coincides with finishing my Master’s degree but still. As sad as I am that today is the last day of August (WHAT!? Is it just me or did this summer fly by faster than usual?!), I have a fire in my belly and am so excited to begin my career and see what this next year holds for me. The next few months will very much be a transition period for me. I was hoping to submit my dissertation today but am (hopefully just) about a week and a half behind…nearly there!

I am going to enjoy my last few days/weeks of being a student and my very last month of student discounts. The next time I post, I won’t be a student anymore!

Iceland Road Trip: Days 3 (Höfn to Egilsstaðir) & 4 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri)

Here’s the link to my post about Days 1 & 2 in case you missed it!

Day 3 (Höfn to Egilsstaðir):

This day was our most uneventful day, which was good timing because day 2 was our longest, busiest day so we were quite tired. We were also happy there weren’t many sights along the way because this was the worst weather we had our whole trip. It was very rainy and terrifyingly foggy which made driving quite an experience! There were long gravel roads on this journey which certainly were an adventure in the rain.

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Photo courtesy of Courtney Allen of courtingadventure.com

Photo courtesy of Courtney Allen of courtingadventure.com

This drive takes approximately 3 hours (in good weather) and when we were about half way there, I REALLY needed to pee. It was raining quite hard so I kept holding it, but it got to a point where I simply could not wait anymore. Of course, the moment I got out of the car was when it rained the hardest. It was certainly a memorable experience to relieve myself behind a mound of dirt on the side of the road in the lashing rain and heavy fog in the middle of nowhere in Iceland.

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Our sweet Opel getting dirty!

Our sweet Opel getting dirty!

Egilsstaðir is a lovely town and there is a Bonus grocery store, FYI. This is where I first found Goldfish, which I was extremely excited about since they don’t have them in Ireland. Iceland has more American foods than Ireland does, which I certainly wasn’t expecting! We really wanted to buy some alcohol since we arrived early and had no plans for the evening, but we forgot it was Sunday and the liquor store closed at 4. I was craving vegetables, so I went to Subway and got the most amazing salad of my life. I love pickles more than anything and she literally gave me about 75 pickles. I made sure to tell her Subway is better in Iceland than in any other country.

Accommodation: (in Egilsstaðir)

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This was probably my favourite place we stayed, which says a lot because I loved our accommodation every night. The decor was beautiful and very modern. I would highly recommend this place.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4599984

Day 4 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri):

This was a very eventful day. This is approximately a 3 1/2 hour drive non-stop but there are many sights to see along the way, so prepare for a long day if you’re doing this drive!

Our first stop was Dettifoss – aka the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Wow. Its vastness and power is awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, the weather was bad when we were here. The small “trek” there is difficult when it’s raining hard because to get to the waterfall, you have to walk for awhile on lots of big stones, which are very slippery when wet. When we got to the waterfall, we didn’t want to stay long because the weather was so bad, but regardless, it is a must see. Before we left, I used the public toilet and laughed at the irony of the sign above the sink that said “There is a shortage of water in this area”.

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Dettifoss

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All of us soaked at Dettifoss

All of us soaked at Dettifoss

Our next stop was Námafjall, a high temperature geothermal area with mud pots in the Mývatn region. The temperature inside the mud pots reaches 200 degrees Celcius. The steam produces fumarole gas (hydrogen sulfide), which is where the horrific smell comes from. You (sort of) get used to smelling sulfur everywhere in Iceland, but I promise you could never get used to the extreme smell of this area. Revolting. No other word for it. At first, I thought it was bad, but then it got to the point where I was physically gagging and had to get out of there immediately. Having said that, I highly recommend visiting this area, just don’t expect to stay long. It’s a very interesting experience and I really did enjoy it despite what it may sound like! The surrounding area is also very colourful and beautiful.

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Next stop: Viti Crater, near Krafla volcano. We stumbled upon this stunningly vibrant turquoise-coloured crater on accident while searching for Krafla (we never found it, mostly because we didn’t have the patience due to hunger!).

Viti Crater - photo not edited at all!

Viti Crater – photo not edited at all!

Viti Crater - it was freezing!!

Viti Crater – it was freezing!!

Next stop: Godafoss, personally my favourite waterfall that we saw in Iceland. It’s extra impressive because it’s multiple waterfalls in one. There was only one disappointment for me: there was no sun. I’ve seen many photos of this waterfall with the most spectacular rainbows and was really hoping to see that, but we weren’t lucky in that department. Oh well! The 4 of us had the song “Waterfalls” by TLC (“Don’t go chasing waterfalls“) stuck in our heads for a lot of the trip, but we didn’t take that advice, especially not at Godafoss. In fact, we decided to go for a bit of a swim. We crossed a good bit of Godafoss to get closer to the edge and what an experience that was! We had quite an audience and a lot of laughs. We felt very victorious at the end and I still smile when I think of this memory. My hiking shoes took 4 days to dry and I was SO thankful I brought an extra pair of shoes!

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Godafoss

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Crossing Godafoss

Crossing Godafoss

I don’t have any photos, but when you are coming from Egilsstaðir and are nearing Akureyri, be prepared for the landscape to be absolutely stunning. Akureyri is set in a stunning setting with unbelievable landscape surrounding it. I wasn’t expecting to love the Northern capital city so much, but we all did!

Gravel road

Gravel road

Random sulfur spring we passed

Random sulfur spring we passed

Note: We also visited Lake Mývatn, which was, not surprisingly, a beautiful area.

We stayed in Akureyri for 2 nights, so in my next post, I will detail our accommodation (another Airbnb).

Still to come: Days 5-7 of our road trip plus 2 bonus days of adventure!