Summer Road Trips

Part 2 of my “photo diary of the best summer of my life” … featuring four different road trips!

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Went on a road trip with my friend I to Wexford to meet his beautiful horse Rueben!

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Basically a horse whisperer

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Went to Wicklow with my friend G to attempt to find Lough Ouler – no such luck! We were convinced the lake dried up in the drought. Beautiful hike anyway

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Road trip with I and Mommy Z to Mayo and Achill Island

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Keem Beach, Achill

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Watermelon ice lollies and singing the Greatest Showman soundtrack as loud as possible

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Clew Bay, Mayo

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View of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain

I hired a car and drove for the first time ever in Ireland (properly – I tried when I first arrived in 2010). I can’t believe it took me five years. I drove from Dublin to Dingle and then around the Dingle Peninsula, which was exhilarating… especially driving Conor Pass!!!

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Solo road trip to Dingle – Conor Pass

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Conor Pass

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Dingle town

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Boat trip to Great Blasket Island – view of Dingle

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Beach on Great Blasket Island

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Incredibly clear water

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Hanging out with about a hundred seals on the beach!

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Inquisitive sheep on the Great Blasket Island

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My hired car

My trip to the Great Blasket Island was truly incredible, but was not without its consequences. As you can see, I had the best weather imaginable, which I am still so grateful for. Unfortunately, after 7 hours on and off a small boat, I got reverse sea sickness and ‘wanted’ to go to a hospital in the middle of the night due to dehydration and how sick I was. I resisted, simply because the nearest hospital was a fair distance away. Regardless, I can’t recommend this magnificent island enough. I would have loved to stay overnight – I can’t think of a better, more remote place to escape the madness of this world! This is the company I booked for the boat trip and they truly were one of the best small companies I have ever dealt with.

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Dingle town

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Dún Chaoin

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The stunning Dún Chaoin

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Dingle town

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Views along the Slea Head drive

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Foxy John’s pub in Dingle – doubles as a hardware shop

Summer on/in the Sea

Ireland isn’t known for good summers or hot weather, but summer 2018 was an exception. Ireland experienced the longest stretch of heat (and sun) since 1976. After the extreme winter we had (blizzards in March!) – it was that much more enjoyable. I remember the joy of looking out the window every morning and seeing the sun and knowing that the sun would last and be consistent throughout the day (not needing to bring a jumper or a rain jacket – whaaaaaat?!).

I found out on the 30th of May that I had to leave Ireland on 1st September. This was completely devastating news for me, but I knew I had to make Summer 2018 the best of my life… and that is exactly what I did.

Part 1 of my “Photo diary of the best summer of my life” – sea swims, walks near the water and sea adventures

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Vico Baths – my most favourite swim spot

Prior to summer 2018, I swam in the sea in Ireland just once – in Galway in October 2016. However, I had never been swimming in Dublin and I was determined to not only do it, but to enjoy it. I loved cold water when I was a small child, but from pre-adolescence until the age of 29, I absolutely despised swimming in cold water. The sea in Ireland never gets warmer than about 56F/13C, so it isn’t exactly an easy feat for someone who hates being in cold water. I can officially say Summer 2018 is the summer that I became completely addicted to sea swimming in Ireland. It is invigorating, refreshing and makes you feel so alive.

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Me with my arms up

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Sunrise swim at 6am in Greystones – no sunrise that morning, but still a beautiful experience

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Sandycove

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SUPing in Dún Laoghaire

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Kayaking in the River Liffey

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When the sun shines in Ireland – EVERYONE is outside / Sandycove

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First time jumping off the Forty Foot

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Magical day facing our fears and soaking up the sun

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Howth cliff walk (after taking a cruise from Dún Laoghaire)

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My favourite view in the world – the Poolbeg Chimneys

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Great South Wall walk – Poolbeg Lighthouse

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Sandymount / the beginning of the Great South Wall walk

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Howth

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Sandymount beach sunset walk

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Sandymount Beach

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Kite Fest at North Bull Island

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Grand Canal Dock

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Bray to Greystones cliff walk

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Epic sunsets on the piers of Dún Laoghaire

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Brown grass in St. Stephen’s Green – something I have NEVER seen before! The downside to the heatwave – severe drought and water restrictions

Under the Tuscan Sun

In April of this year, my parents and my sister flew to Dublin for my Master’s graduation.  From previous blog posts, you already know my sister and I travelled to Prague, Ljubljana and Bled before I graduated. My parents arrived the morning after we returned to Dublin, I graduated the following day, and then my parents went off to Italy, on a trip that I planned for them. I was lucky enough to be able to join them for 4.5 days (3 nights in Quercegrossa [in the Chianti region], Tuscany and 1 night in Florence). We spent most of our time relaxing in the countryside surrounding our beautiful Tuscan home and then one day in Siena and one day in Florence.

I had to wake up at 3:15am on the Friday in order to make my flight to Rome at 6:20am. I then jumped on a train at Fiumicino airport to Florence, where I met my parents at the train station. We took the bus to Siena and then took a taxi to the car rental place (I’m exhausted just typing this), where we hired our Audi for the long weekend. I then attempted to drive us to our Tuscan home (an Airbnb), but Google Maps did not recognise the address, since it is in the middle of nowhere, not close to any major towns.

At this stage, I hadn’t eaten in hours and was purely exhausted from being awake since 3:15. I developed a bad migraine and we were stressed about finding our place before dark, which was fast approaching. We stopped and asked numerous people for directions, but they either had no idea how to help us or did not want to help us. We finally knocked on a random person’s door and they were so kind and knew exactly where to direct us. We arrived hours after we were supposed to, and were so relieved to finally be home.

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View from our Tuscan home

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The only restaurant nearby, where we had three meals (Il Mulino di Quercegrossa)

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The local grocery shop

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Quercegrossa town

After checking in, we immediately drove to the only restaurant in town, Il Mulino di Quercegrossa, and finally sat down to eat at 10pm. I hadn’t eaten anything since that morning, and I am the type of person who needs to eat every couple of hours, so you can imagine how I was feeling. My parents were just as bad. We couldn’t even talk, we were desperate for food and water. Luckily, the meal was divine.

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Our first (and in my opinion, best) meal – pici with black pepper and pecorino cheese

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We ate our breakfast and drank our coffee on our lovely terrace under the Tuscan sun and it was our favourite activity of the trip.

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San Quirico d’Orcia

We drove around the Val d’Orcia region on our first full day in Tuscany. We unfortunately got lost trying to find a certain restaurant, and ended up arriving just after they closed between lunch and dinner. Needless to say, we spent a silly amount of time being hungry on our trip, which is something I never thought could or would happen in Italy!

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San Quirico d’Orcia

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Val d’Orcia

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My favourite trees

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Views from our Tuscan home

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Views from our Tuscan home

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The beautiful Il Mulino di Quercegrossa restaurant

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I love the gorgeous light in these photos – the Tuscan sun beginning to set

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On one of our evenings in Quercegrossa, we heard a distant sound of bells. I ran outside to see what was happening and saw that a heard of sheep was coming up towards our home. I screamed for my Mum to come out and see what was occurring. We realised the sheep had bells around their necks and it was the most magical thing to witness. The sound was absolutely beautiful, not to mention the scenery of the sunset in the background of the rolling Tuscan hills.

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I am so grateful for the beautiful time spent with my parents in Italy. Tuscany is magical, and I cannot wait to go back and explore more. In my next post, I’ll talk about our time in Siena and Florence.

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The Magic of Lake Bled

Bled is an overwhelmingly beautiful place. So much so that it took me five months to write this blog post. Every time I sat down to try to choose photos to feature, I got so overwhelmed because I have thousands of beautiful options. I decided to just sit down on this beautiful Sunday, in my new apartment – sitting in the sun by the window next to a bunch of yellow roses that my friend brought me this morning, and randomly choose some photos to showcase how gorgeous Bled is.

My sister and I took the bus from Ljubljana to Bled, which was approximately a 1 hour and 15 minute journey. Since it was Easter weekend and shops would be closed for a couple days, we quickly checked into our Airbnb (15 minute walk from the lake) and rushed to the nearest supermarket, Mercado, to stock up on food. Afterwards, we ran down for our first sighting of the lake.

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It was foggy, eerie and honestly so breathtakingly beautiful. The weather forecast for the four nights we were staying in Bled was not looking good and we were worried because we wanted to see the lake in the sun, but we quickly learned there is no such thing as a proper weather forecast in Bled. We were awoken the next morning at 6am by the sun and we were SO excited, we didn’t even have breakfast, which was stupid because we rushed to the lake and ended up hiking to the Ojstrica viewpoint (views fueled and sponsored by a single banana).

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Our first sighting of Lake Bled in the sun – honestly just as magical in the fog!

The early morning hike up to Ojstrica was the best way to spend Easter Sunday morning and was easily one of the main highlights of our time in Bled.

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Spectacular views from Ojstrica

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We could have stayed up there all day but unfortunately didn’t have any food and not enough water with us, so we headed back down for some breakfast. Be prepared, you will want to stay up there for hours!

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Other random highlights:

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Kremna rezina / Kremsnita (Bled cream cake) was definitely a highlight and we shared a piece every day we were there. Such a nice treat with coffee!

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Vintgar Gorge was beautiful as well and we have a lot of memories attached to that trip. It’s quite a long walk there, so we decided to hire a van to take us there and then we were going to walk back. There were a few other passengers and I was the last person to get out of the van when we arrived. Just as my sister was getting out (I was next), the van started to roll forward and my feet hit the ground just as half of the van went down into a ditch. We have no idea how it happened, but thank goodness no one was injured. On our walk back, we had continuous views like this (we felt like we were in the Sound of Music):

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View from Bled Castle

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Summer tobagganing on the Straža ski slope – quite an experience!

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We took a Pletna boat out to the island which is something I do highly recommend. If you visit Bled, please make it more than a day trip! There is so much to see and do.

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Lots of orange in our adorable Airbnb apartment – bonus: we loved getting freshly squeezed OJ every morning!

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The temperatures plummeted, as evidenced by the increase of snow in the mountains!

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Above all, it was the perfect place to both relax and adventure with my sister. Bled is quite magical and I would love to see it in all seasons. It is quite touristy, so it was nice to visit during shoulder season.

15th – 19th April 2017

 

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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 8 (Reykjavik) & 9 (Inside the Volcano)

I am FINALLY publishing my final “Iceland Road Trip” post, exactly 1 year after booking my flight to Iceland. I sincerely apologise for taking so long to complete this series of blog posts!

Day 8: Reykjavik

C left very early in the morning. J and I checked out of our Airbnb and made our separate ways as we were staying in separate places that night. I chose Konrad’s Guesthouse and was very happy with it. I was delighted to have a private room and the location was fantastic; the only downside was no private bathroom (typical in Iceland), which was only unfortunate because my stomach was upset from overdosing on hotdogs and unhealthy foods for a solid week. As much as I really wanted to enjoy another hot dog from Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (the best hot dogs), I physically could not bring myself to do it.

I enjoyed a leisurely day in Reykjavik mostly alone (though I did run into J in town!) and what a beautiful day it was. I went to the top of Hallgrímskirkja (church) for 800kr (approximately $6USD) and I would recommend doing this on a nice day for a picture-perfect view of beautiful Reykjavik if you have spare time.

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Hallgrimskirkja

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View from top of Hallgrimskirkja

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I had Icelandic salmon for lunch (major yum) and Skyr afterward (my absolute favourite Icelandic snack – I ate it every single day!). I then went to Stofan café – an adorable, cozy place that is very popular with locals and tourists alike. I sat by the open door and happily listened to locals speaking Icelandic for a couple hours. Afterward, I went for my second ice cream cone (this time just vanilla, my first one was dipped in chocolate – I recommend trying both!).

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Skyr – my FAVOURITE! I got so excited looking at all of the flavours every day

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Stofan cafe

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If I had to describe Reykjavik in one word, it would be “trendy”. It’s also beautiful and so relaxed.

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Day 9: Inside the Volcano

After agonising over whether or not to do this half-day tour (due to the high cost – 42,000kr/ approximately $335USD), I decided to do it because 1) hey, I’m in Iceland and 2) what else would I do? The main activity I wanted to do whilst in Iceland other than whale watching was a glacier hike and I wasn’t there during the right season for it. I had seen all of Reykjavik so I needed something epic to do on my last day. Plus, I got the last spot on the tour so it was meant to be! I was collected at 12noon, we hiked for one hour to base camp with our guide Sveinn. We saw part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge on our hike, which was fascinating. When we were relaxing at base camp, we got to play with a 9-week old orphaned Arctic fox.

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Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the distance

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Arctic fox

5 people went down into the volcano at a time. We descended in an open cable lift, which was so exciting and pretty surreal. It takes 6-7 minutes to get to the bottom, and we had 40 minutes inside (including the time it gets to get in and out, unfortunately!). The Thrihnukagigur volcano erupted 4,000 years ago and is now dormant, of course. I could not believe how beautiful it was inside. The COLOURS!!!! Absolutely unreal. The promo photos and videos do not lie.

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View from the top of the volcano

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Open cable lift – how we got inside

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Going down!

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Looking up – goodbye light!

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Looking down

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Looking up

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Inside the volcano!

Time flew by much faster than I thought it would. I really enjoyed being in the volcano and for what we pay, I do think we should get an hour. I was nowhere near ready to leave. Afterwards, we were fed lamb and rutabaga soup (delicious!) and hiked back to the vehicle. We were gone for 5 ½ hours in total. I am happy to say I was very glad I did this activity.

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Made me feel so small

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Open cable lift coming down to bring us back up

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It wasn’t this bright – that’s from the flash

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It was shocking to see daylight again!

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I had noodles from Núðluskálin for dinner again, and then decided to stay in a guesthouse (GG Guesthouse) in Keflavik near the airport since my flight departed at 06:20 a.m. The host, Erikur, told me I have smiling Irish eyes, which made my day! I had to wake up at 03:45 the next morning to head to the airport. Erikur pre-booked a taxi for me the night before, and the drive to the airport was only 5 minutes with no traffic. THE TAXI COST ME $19USD. NINETEEN DOLLARS FOR A FIVE MINUTE JOURNEY! I couldn’t believe it, but what could I do? My final expense in Iceland. I flew Wow Air and actually really enjoyed them, with the exception of the LARGEST queue for check-in I’ve ever seen in my life and the fact that they are beyond strict with luggage. As long as you get to the airport with plenty of time to spare, have patience and play by the rules when it comes to packing, you’ll be grand.

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Pylsusinnep – Icelandic brown mustard – I bought a bottle and took it home!

My last random tip for Iceland: there is no need for any cash. With the exception of some B&Bs (and tipping tour guides), every place takes credit cards, even for tiny purchases.

Wherever you go in Iceland and whatever activities you partake in, you’ll have a brilliant time. Definitely do a road trip though – some of my best memories were in the car!

In case you missed my previous posts:

Days 1 (Reykjavík to Vík) & 2 (Vík to Höfn)

Days 3 (Höfn to Egilsstaðir) & 4 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri)

Days 5 (Akureyri & Mývatn), 6 (Akureyri to Staður/Borgir) & 7 (Staður to Reykjavik)

Iceland Road Trip: Days 5 (Akureyri & Mývatn), 6 (Akureyri to Staður/Borgir) & 7 (Staður to Reykjavik)

In case you missed them, here are links to my posts about days 1 (Reykjavík to Vík) & 2 (Vík to Höfn) and days 3 (Höfn to Egilsstaðir) & 4 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri).

My apologies for taking a ridiculously long time to publish this post. I’ve been working on it for awhile and the past few months have been hectic for me. Without further ado…

Day 5 (Akureyri & Mývatn)

Akureyri, the capital of Northern Iceland, is the only place we stayed for more than one night. We planned it this way due to the activities we wanted to do, plus we figured we’d need a bit of a break by then (and we were right).

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Akureyri

On our first morning in Akureyri, we woke up early to make it to Húsavík for whale watching with North Sailing at 11:00. I read that North Sailing is the best company to go with and even though you can whale watch from Akureyri, I read great things about Húsavík and wanted to give it a try since it was only an hour and a half drive from where we were staying. Well, we got stuck behind a few extremely slow trucks and since it was an excessively foggy day, we really were stuck behind them for some time. We ended up having to run to the boat and jumped on it at exactly 11:00 – they nearly left without us.

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Let me start by saying that before going whale watching, I read many reviews that explicitly said “IF YOU GET SEA SICK, DO NOT GO WHALE WATCHING IN ICELAND”. If you don’t want to listen to those reviews, please listen to me. If you’ve ever gotten sea sick, it’s a guarantee you’ll get sea sick on the seas surrounding Iceland. I have a funny history with sea sickness. I suffer from vertigo and have gotten sea sick multiple times, but I’ve also survived very rough seas (the Great Barrier Reef on an extremely stormy day, even the boat staff were sea sick!) without feeling sea sick at all. Whale watching in Iceland has always been on my list and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. If I was going to feel sea sick, then I wouldn’t complain about it because it would have been my fault for getting on that traditional Icelandic wooden fishing boat in the first place.

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North Sailing is a fantastic company and I would recommend them if only for their wonderful customer service. They were very helpful to me in the days leading up to our time to whale watch. I contacted them online to ask about their cancellation policy in case the weather was very bad, and they said we could cancel or reschedule without any problem. They also recommended calling them the day before and the morning of sailing to check on more precise weather conditions out on the sea. Please be mindful that the word “calm” when referring to the Icelandic seas is not calm. We were told our time slot shouldn’t be particularly rough, but would not be calm by any means. We decided to take a chance and in the end, I am glad we did.

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Whale tail

The only very unfortunate thing about our timing was the extreme fog. It was so foggy that it was impossible to see the horizon, which is not good for someone who gets sea sick. I was grand for most of the 3 hour trip; however, there were moments that I didn’t feel so great but am luckily very good at distracting myself so I was okay. We purposely did not choose the 4 hour trip (which includes a visit to puffin island) because, as much as I would have loved to see puffins, I didn’t want to risk being on the boat for an extra hour.

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Humpback Whale

We ended up seeing white beaked dolphins and a humpback whale (and a couple puffins!), so it wasn’t a super successful whale watching trip (my only disappointment was not getting to see a blue whale) but I was delighted because we did get to see a whale (multiple times!), so no complaints from me. And I can say I went whale watching in Iceland, which will forever be a very cool memory.

Afterwards, we stopped to buy some Icelandic craft beer to enjoy that evening and we drove back to Mývatn (45 minute drive) to go to the Mývatn Public Baths! Best. Decision. Ever. The baths in Mývatn are very similar to the Blue Lagoon and look the same but are much less crowded (and much cheaper – 3,700kr/€26 [adults] / 2,400kr/€17 [students] vs. €50 for the Blue Lagoon). We had the best time here, what an experience! It was much needed after we froze our hands and faces off while whale watching … not to mention spending long hours in the car! If you’ve never been to a public bath in Iceland, keep in mind it is a requirement to shower with soap and hot water whilst completely naked before getting into the water (indoors, don’t worry!). They have lockers and everything so the experience is enjoyable all around… except when it’s time to get out of the warm water!! We stayed in for over an hour and a half and only got out because we were hungry and completely pruned. The only downside to these baths is there is a very strong smell of sulfur but as long as you breathe through your mouth, you get used to it.

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Myvatn Public Baths – photo from here

We drove back to Akureyri (1 hour and 15 minutes) and indulged in burritos at a burrito bar in town called Serrano. We were beyond starving and the burrito was exactly what we all needed. We relaxed that night with a movie.

Accommodation

We stayed here for 2 nights and adored this place (and the owners)!

This Airbnb

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View from the apartment

Day 6 (Akureyri to Staður/Borgir)

We left Akureyri in the late morning and drove through the stunning (obviously) scenery onwards to Staður (in the North West of Iceland) – approximately a 3 ½ hour drive nonstop. We arrived at our Airbnb home around 5pm and were stunned when we “checked in”. Our nearest neighbours were seals and we had a private beach. The house was gorgeous and even had a steam room that we took advantage of. We went for a (very cold) walk on “our” beach and I discovered an entire sheep’s skeleton – creepy! We had a relaxing night cooking pasta together, drinking and enjoying each other’s company since it was our last night all together.

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Iceland has the coolest churches

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Pretending to be the Little Mermaid on our private beach

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Creepy full sheep skeleton

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Our last night together

Accommodation

This Airbnb

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Thickest mattress I’ve ever seen!

Day 7 (Staður to Reykjavík)

The drive from Staður to Keflavík International Airport is 2 and a half hours, but we gave ourselves plenty of time because we had to drop off one of our crew for his flight home. Plus, we made a few photo stops along the way. After dropping K off, it was time to return the car. I did not expect to be so emotional. I really became attached to Opel on our trip and I still loved her even though she was filthy! It took an absurdly long time to return the car due to long queues, but all was well in the end. The guy inspecting our car was very impressed with how much we drove in 7 days and said that’s very difficult to do. Other than being (understandably) filthy, Opel was in good condition and it was now time for us to navigate without a car. The 3 of us took the Flybus to Reykjavík, took a taxi to our Airbnb, arrived around 5pm and went out to explore Reykjavík properly for the first time.

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I made them take a car selfie

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We loved the marshmallow-looking bags of grass

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Not wanting to say goodbye to Opel

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Yet another hot dog from N1

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Beloved N1 petrol station aka our second home on the trip

We did a bit of tourist shopping and got a hot dog at the best hotdog place in Iceland. Trust me when I say the queues are worth it. Their menu is literally hotdogs and sodas. I couldn’t pinpoint what was so special about these hot dogs, but they were unreal. I was sad I wasn’t able to have another as, after this one, my stomach wasn’t able to handle anymore hot dogs.

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Best hot dog in Iceland – there is always a queue!

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It was divine

We then visited Harpa, a stunning concert hall. The architecture and decor is incredible. We ate incredible Asian-Mexican noodle soup for dinner, and went to Lebowski bar for a beer (1100 krona – keep in mind, only 500 kr during happy hour which we just missed!). An American at the bar thought I was Icelandic which was hilarious, even though I am tall and blonde, because I was very much dressed like a tourist. He asked me how to say “cheers” in my language and luckily I knew – Skál! On our walk home, we found a pinball arcade and witnessed an amazing sun”set” (it never fully set, of course). We definitely made the most of our evening in Reykjavík and quickly fell in love with this trendy city.

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Beautiful Reykjavik

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Harpa

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Inside Harpa

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Delicious Fideos de Mexico noodle soup from Nudluskalin – highly recommended

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I’m not going to link to our accommodation in Reykjavík because I wouldn’t particularly recommend it. There was nothing wrong with it other than the fact that it was presented to be much newer than it was, but it was my least favourite place we stayed on our trip. Here’s some photos of the gorgeous view from our place, though!

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Still to come: Days 8 (Reykjavík) & 9 (Into the Volcano adventure)