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!

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August Thoughts

Dearest blog, we meet again… at the time we usually meet:  when I am struggling to write my dissertation.  I find blogging and writing creatively often helps me to write academically, so here I am.

I simply cannot accept the fact that it is the 1st of August. How did this happen?! Time is flying faster than usual and if it’s true that time flies quicker the older you get, I cannot imagine what life is going to be like when I’m a whole lot older.

I’m not ready for it to be August for a few major reasons:

  • This is my last official month of being a student and therefore, life as I know it will never be the same once August is over.  As much as I am ready to be rid of the stress that comes with being a student, I am not ready for such a big change and will never be ready to give up my ever-changing, flexible schedule that is always full of variety.
  • My dissertation is officially due this month, need I say more?   This is the most terrifying sentence I have ever typed! It is going well but is naturally causing me lots of stress and is eating up all of my energy. Summer college classes are not a thing here in Ireland and it’s getting old trying to explain to people how this summer is the most stressful time of my student life. “But aren’t you supposed to be on holidays?” NO! “Well, you deserve a holiday when you finish!” … If only I could afford one!
  • I am not ready to be 28.  I am very, very excited (and blessed) to be celebrating my birthday in Oxford with my life wife at the end of this month, but I am not ready to say goodbye to 27, my golden year. Twenty-eight just seems so much older. I still feel like a 14 year old a lot of the time. I am currently reading the book “The Defining Decade:  Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now” by Dr. Meg Jay and, while it is incredibly insightful and parts of it make me feel so much better about myself, I do wish I had discovered this book in my younger twenties and find myself wondering and worrying about the state of my life. Having said this, if you are a twenty-something, read this book now!! I cannot recommend it enough.
  • When August is over, I am officially facing the dreaded unknown. I will be in a major transition period and, while I know I will still be living in Dublin, I have no idea what I’ll be doing for work next month and if I’ll even have a job.
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Procrastinating going to the library to work on my dissertation by colouring

I must say, one positive thing about being a Master’s student trying to finish her dissertation is the ability and excuse to justify anything. Even though I’m as poor as they come, I can easily justify a take-away coffee every day and the occasional (but more occasional than normal) treat… because I’m finishing my dissertation and will do whatever it takes. Whatever gets me through!

Who knows where I’ll be in a month’s time. It’s terrifying but also a bit exciting. We all go through these major transition periods and I do have faith that whatever is meant to happen, will.

Are you going through a transition period right now? Tell me about it in a comment!

Checklist of Things to Do in my 20’s & 30’s

The following is a list of things I must do (if I haven’t already) in my 20’s or 30’s:

1) Eat healthy foods – This is actually a change that has happened to me already, and I am so grateful for it. I actually want to eat healthy meals (almost) all of the time because, unlike in my adolescence and younger 20’s, I do not want to feel gross after a meal… ever! I think twice about what I’m going to eat before I eat it. I am not saying I never treat myself to cake, a burger, pizza or fish and chips… I most certainly do, but in moderation and I dread the after effects of eating this stuff. This is one way I know I’m growing up.

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Must eat less full Irish breakfasts, as much as I adore them!

2) Drink less alcohol – This is another change that has already happened to me and happened to me at a younger age than most people. I have absolutely no desire to ever get drunk again and I mean that 100%. I never want to get drunk again. I didn’t start drinking until the age of 22, but spent that year of my life very much enjoying alcohol. I simply cannot imagine drinking that much these days and I now limit myself to 2 drinks on a night out. At age 27 (nearly 28), a night out for me now is much different than a night out when I was 22. My ideal night out now is a nice meal with a glass of wine followed by a cocktail and in bed by 11 p.m. (at the latest)!

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3) Settle in a home – This is how I know I am really growing up, because I didn’t even feel this way 6-8 months ago. I still do not have a desire to buy a home, but I want to rent a home. I want to settle in a place I can call my own. Six to eight months ago, the idea of settling down in one place was the most awful sounding thing in the world. I am quite tired of not knowing where I’ll be living after my lease ends and I want to be able to buy things for my home (like kitchen gadgets, my favourite!) without thinking twice about possibly transporting them across the Atlantic Ocean. I also really want to live in a house, not an apartment. I am the lightest sleeper in the world and am tired of constantly worrying what noises I’ll hear from my neighbours.

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It would be nice to have a permanent home for me and all of my stuff!

4) Apply for my dream job – I will be completing my Master’s degree at the end of this summer (how did time fly so fast?!) and will therefore be qualified to work as a guidance counsellor. I am so excited at the prospect of finally having a career and one that I really think I am going to love. I never thought this would happen to me! It’s definitely one of the most exciting things about becoming an adult.

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Time to be a professional!

5) Think about and plan for retirement – I will be honest and admit, this is something that crosses my mind fairly often lately, but I have done nothing about it. I have not had a stable enough job as of yet and certainly have not had a job that pays me enough to save anything (with the exception of the money I saved for my round the world trip). I am very close to being qualified to work in my field (a career! Me?!) and when I finally do, planning for retirement will begin. 40% of millennials don’t have current plans for retirement… that’s a pretty scary statistic! It’s a major goal of mine to no longer be part of that statistic, I’d rather be with the 60%!

6) Travel the world – I’ve done it once and thought once I completed a round the world trip, that might satisfy my wanderlust for such a big trip, but instead, it did the opposite… I want to go on endless round the world trips!! I want to keep going. At the top of my list: Japan, New Zealand & Mexico. I also want to see more of my country (the U.S.), especially the National Parks! Really, I just want to travel more often.

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7) Manage my finances – Ugh, this is definitely one of the biggest downsides of adulthood, but it has to be done. Since I am getting ready to finish my Master’s degree and just finished Exit Counselling for my loans, paying off my student loans crosses my mind a lot. It is a terrifying, daunting thing that constantly makes me wonder if doing this Master’s was worth it, but then I remember, without it, I would not be able to work in my field. I am very blessed to not have any loans from my undergraduate degree.

Personal Capital has a great Wealth Management Tool, which can assist you in managing your finances and planning for retirement!

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8) Become best friends with my parents – I am happy to say this has already happened to me and we’ve always been close, but me moving abroad brought us even closer. At my age now, I can say that I really and truly appreciate everything my parents have done for me, and I think it’s very important to reach that stage.

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9) Rekindle my interest in fitness – Something I have achieved in the past but not currently. The stress of my Master’s degree (and let’s face it, life in general) has caused me to stop going to the gym when in reality, I know it would only help relieve stress. I used to love going to the gym and need to find that motivation again.

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10) Achieve happiness – I think the trick to this is achieving everything else on the list first, then true happiness will follow (and will hopefully accompany me on the journey).

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)

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”.

Dettifoss

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!

Iceland Road Trip: Days 1 (Reykjavík to Vík) & 2 (Vík to Höfn)

They say Iceland is the land of fire & ice. This is the truth. I found, in general, the south is the land of ice and the north is the land of fire.

First day in Iceland

I landed in Iceland in the afternoon on a Thursday and we collected our rental car from Sixt at the airport. We were very lucky – we originally booked one of their cheaper cars (Chevy Cruze) but since they didn’t have it when we arrived, they upgraded us to an Opel Insignia for free. That car literally costs twice as much per day as what we paid!! I do recommend booking your car online in advance like we did – it should save you quite a bit of money. Don’t worry about purchasing insurance in advance – we were able to add it on when we were there collecting the car.

We made our way from Keflavík to Reykjavík (45 minute drive). We didn’t have much planned for today, we just wanted to load up our car with groceries and supplies and get organised for our road trip, which would start tomorrow. We read Bónus is the cheapest grocery store in Iceland but we got there just as they closed at 6pm. We saw a 10-11 but knew this was the most expensive grocery store in the country, so we kept driving and found a Krónan shop. We bought apples, 3 bags of pasta, pasta sauce, nutella, rice cakes, bananas, peanut butter, chickpeas, rice, crackers, TONS of granola bars, protein bars, tea, gum, fig newtons and TP. We ended up eating almost all of the food and the supply lasted for the trip.

We went for a rest before driving into Reykjavík to see the Hallgrímskirkja church for the first time. I’ve seen a LOT of churches around the world and this is by far the coolest-looking one I’ve ever seen.

Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja

Something to keep in mind, before I get into details, for those of you planning to do a road trip around Iceland (and I will reiterate this over and over): You cannot possibly do the full Ring Road (Route 1) in less than 7 full days (if you want to see most of the sights), but I would highly recommend a minimum of 10. We did it in 7 but everyone we talked to was very impressed by this and said that is hard to do. It did seem rushed at times and we had very long days (easy to do with the midnight sun!). If you have more time, definitely make sure to rent a 4×4 vehicle because there is so much more to see off the Ring Road!

Day 1 (of our road trip) – Reykjavík to Vík

Before we got on the road, I went to Vodafone to buy an Icelandic SIM card. We went to the headquarters and oh my GOSH. I highly recommend going here just to see how impressive this place is. 1) Easily the largest phone store I have ever been in 2) Most gorgeous employees on the planet 3) Immaculate, impressive place and 4) If you make any purchase, you can get as much coffee and/or tea as you want. SAY WHAT?! I had the BEST cappuccino I’ve EVER had at Vodafone in Reykjavík. She put amaretto syrup in it and it was truly unbeatable.

We accidentally missed the Golden Circle, but I wasn’t too disappointed because it’s very touristy and crowded (especially in summer) and I knew we would be seeing plenty of incredible sights on our trip. I do wish we could have seen Geysir and the Kerið crater, though – next time!

When you are doing the drive from Reykjavík to Vík, do not be concerned. We drove for 1 hour and 40 minutes until we saw our first sight. Before coming to Iceland, I read so many blogs saying “you’ll be stopping your car every 5 minutes” because of the beauty, and I felt like we were on the wrong road because we hadn’t stopped AT ALL. When in Iceland, if you also find yourself in this position at this point of the trip, do not worry. Things will change.

I was also slightly panicked in the beginning because unless you know the names of the sights you want to see, it’s not always obvious where you should stop or when you should turn and go down a long gravel road.

Our first stop: Seljalandsfoss (waterfall). It took us approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes to get here.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

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Today was a day for chasing waterfalls. The sun was shining and it was beautiful outside (54F, 12C). We saw a rainbow close to the waterfall, which I sadly do not have any photos of. The mist was too strong to use my camera and I forgot my GoPro in the car. By the time I went back to the car to get my GoPro, the rainbow was gone.

Next stop: Skógafoss (waterfall). We hiked to the top and stayed up there for quite awhile while the guys went for an adventurous walk.

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

We made it to Vík, ate dinner and checked into our guesthouse at 9pm.

Accommodation: Skammidalur Guesthouse

This guesthouse is in a lovely location, not far from Vík at all. I was mostly impressed with this place except for the bathroom situation. Only one toilet, one sink and one shower for the entire ground floor to share. At least the shower is separate from the toilet. Keep in mind: the majority of guesthouses in Iceland have shared bathrooms, which is fine, but only one is not okay.

Day 2 – Katla Super Jeep trip; Vík to Höfn – our busiest day!

We started our day bright and early with a Mountain Excursion Super Jeep trip to Katla with our guide, Aron. This trip was 4 hours and I HIGHLY recommend it. I originally really wanted to go with Katla Track, but they were fully booked well in advance. Luckily, I found Mountain Excursion because seeing Katla was very important to me. It ended up being one of the most beautiful places I saw in Iceland.

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6 passengers fit in the Jeep (my group + 2 others) and the trip was good fun. If you go on a Super Jeep tour, please be smart and wear your seatbelt. We nearly got thrown around with our seatbelts on (I’m exaggerating, but the terrain is extremely rough!!). Katla is one of the most powerful, active and dangerous volcanoes in Iceland and is due to erupt. It last erupted in 1918 and usually erupts every 50-100 years. Katla is underneath the Myrdalsjökull glacier.

I matched Katla (not on purpose)

I matched Katla (not on purpose)

The area surrounding Katla is simply breathtaking. There are stunning mountains covered in the greenest moss you’ve ever seen, contrasted with beautiful black shimmery sand. The Myrdalsjökull glacier looks a bit like a zebra and its colouring is truly gorgeous. All of this with no other people in sight (you cannot get to Katla without a Super Jeep). We ate 800 year old ice from the glacier and it was so unbelievably fresh. I saw a mountain completely covered in green moss with the exception of one area not covered in moss in the perfect shape of a heart. It made my day and I only wish I could have gotten a photo of it! But my lens probably would have smashed against the window of the Jeep.

Aron going to collect ice from the glacier for us

Aron going to collect ice from the glacier for us

Ice from the glacier (we ate the inside - very clean)

Ice from the glacier (we ate the inside – very clean)

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Haunted house near Katla

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Taken from inside a cave near Katla – raven-shaped cut out above the entrance to the cave

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Driving through a river in the Super Jeep

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Stunning black beach

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The most eastern point of Iceland

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Remember when Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 and caused a massive ash cloud and disruptions to many flights? Aron told us after Eyjafjallajökull erupted, the Icelandic president went on television and said “You’ve seen nothing yet. Wait until Katla erupts”. The entire world will likely see effects of this eruption and since I’m in Ireland, I am sure my world will go completely black. Aron is also on the emergency rescue team and it was interesting hearing his stories about his experiences when Eyjafjallajökull erupted. He said Iceland has no idea how to prepare for a Katla eruption.

After the tour, we went to the Vík i Myrdal Church (aka the cutest church in the world), followed by a black sand beach near Vík.

Vík i Myrdal Church

Vík i Myrdal Church

Vik

Vik

Black sand beach

Black sand beach

We made a quick stop at Laufskalavarda to see the stone piles.

“Laufskálavarða is a lava ridge, surrounded by stone cairns, between the Hólmsá and Skálmá Rivers, close to the road north of Álftaver. Travellers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones up to make a cairn, which was supposed to bring them good fortune on the journey.” Source

Laufskalavarda

Laufskalavarda

We then made a quick stop to see the ruins of the Gigjukvisl Bridge. This bridge was destroyed in 1996 when “the volcano under the Grímsvötn lakes belonging to the Vatnajökull glacier erupted, and the river Skeiðará flooded the land” – a glacial lake outburst flood. Source

Gigjukvisl Bridge

Gigjukvisl Bridge

Our next major stop was Fjallsárlón – a glacial lagoon, which is less crowded and lesser known than our next stop, Jökulsárlón. These 2 sights are the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my life. For some reason, I never thought I’d see icebergs and during the time we spent there, I didn’t feel like I was on Earth. My excitement was unbounded at both of these locations.

Fjallsárlón

Fjallsárlón

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I have a thing for ice.

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We got lucky and literally had Jökulsárlón to ourselves, even though we’ve heard it can get very crowded, especially in summer. They do boat rides at both locations (I think), but not on weekends, which is sadly when we were there. I would have loved to get even closer to the glaciers. Fjallsárlón was absolutely freezing and the arctic winds were hard to handle. Jökulsárlón was eerily warm and any wind was completely blocked. It was amazing (and a bit sad) to see icebergs at Jökulsárlón breaking and falling over. The sound was extremely loud, like a gunshot. In a funnier moment, we witnessed a massive iceberg fall over and then right itself again a few minutes later. There were a few icebergs at Jökulsárlón that were such a beautiful deep blue. Right before we left Jökulsárlón, we witnessed a large flock of arctic birds make their way across the land and go for a swim in a line. I am not sure what type of birds they were – they definitely weren’t puffins. It was very difficult to leave, especially since even while at the glaciers, I knew without a doubt that this would be the highlight of the trip for me. There were so many more amazing sights to come, of course, but this was number one for me. And it was only day 2!

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

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Arctic birds

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I didn’t want to leave, but we had passed the point of starvation and snacks weren’t doing it anymore. We were desperate for an N1 or any source of real food but, alas, no such luck. We still had an hour to drive before we made it to Hofn and found our trusty N1 and bought “appetisers” to hold us over until we found our accommodation for the night. We were lost. We called our host and his directions didn’t make sense to us so we ended up driving back and forth until he came to rescue us and we followed him to our gorgeous accommodation that night.

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I had intentions of being able to describe exactly how to get to this place, but I forgot to write these directions down and they are long gone in my memory now, so for this I apologise. Just know that if you decide to stay here, it is worth the search! Just make sure you have a working mobile phone to call the host because you WILL get lost. It is not on Google Earth and cannot be found on any GPS.

Accommodation: Guesthouse Birkifell

Our accommodation in Höfn

Our accommodation in Höfn

We finally arrived at 10:30pm and decided to boil water to make pasta. The water LITERALLY took 1 hour and 45 minutes to boil – so we ate dinner at 12:30am!! But it was really nice to finally have a home-cooked meal together.

Our slightly full trunk/boot, strategically packed every morning!

Our slightly full trunk/boot, strategically packed every morning!

Still to come: days 3-7 of our road trip + 2 bonus days full of adventure!

Days 3 & 4