Viking Tombs and Blue Lagoons – Iceland Part 3

Here we arrive at part 3, the final contribution to my Iceland saga! If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, check them out!

On the 7th day of our trip, we woke up in our favourite campsite, Kirkjubæjarklaustur to the sounds of sheep bleeting and children yelling to their parents about how high up they’ve climbed the mountain behind us. And the craziest thing happened. I listened for rain and I didn’t hear it. I felt for the howling wind pushing our van around and I didn’t feel it. For the first morning since we arrived, I opened the van door to shining sun! This made for a good morning as we ate our Skyr and granola and set out to find our free coffee at the gas station down to the road.

We were heading west this morning, on our way to The Blue Lagoon which we would be visiting later in the afternoon. We planned to stop at a few places on the way back, the first of which was Hjörleifshöfði, a supposedly haunted hill just east of Vik. The legend goes that the hill’s namesake, Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson was a Nordic viking who settled on the hill, building a farm, during the winter of 874 with his Irish slaves. Within a year, the slaves had killed the Viking. His brother, Ingólfur Arnarson, (who because of Hróðmarsson’s death became known as the first Nordic settler in Iceland), sought revenge on the slaves and killed them one by one. Ever since, this hill is said to be haunted, the tomb of Hjörleifur sitting at the very top, overlooking the Ocean.

After climbing the hill, visiting the tomb, signing the guestbook (weird…), and walking through some farm ruins (not the original farm…a more recent farm), we got in the van and drove towards Vik to fill up on gas and chocolate.

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Driving to Hjörleifshöfði
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Driving to Hjörleifshöfði
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Driving to Hjörleifshöfði
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So much time was spent in this van…
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This happened all the time…
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Starting the trek up the haunted hill.
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At the top of Hjörleifshöfði.
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The Viking tomb and guestbook.
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Hjörleifshöfði

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These are the graves of a family who built a farm on this hill a very long time ago.
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Together at the top.
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Overlooking the black sand beaches.
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On our way down.
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The remains of the stone farmhouse.
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nestled between hills.
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Hjörleifshöfði
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At the bottom of Hjörleifshöfði
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Jamie in the flowers

After surviving the insanity of a rare gas station on a lonely road on a Sunday afternoon, we drove to Reynisfjara Beach to check out the basalt columns (the black rock that looks like cubes stacked on top of each other), the big cave and of course, the black sand. This is the most famous of Iceland’s black sand beaches, and it’s got the tourists to prove it.This was a beautiful spot and the islands jutting out of the ocean are cool to see in person. If we had more time, I would have liked to hang out more here, but we had a plan! There’s a restaurant called Black Beach restaurant which we considered eating at, but instead decided we would hit up the Fish and Chips truck we saw earlier in the trip at Skogafoss.

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Reynisfjara Beach
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Reynisfjara Beach
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Reynisfjara Beach
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Reynisfjara Beach basalt columns
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Reynisfjara Beach basalt columns
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Cute church at Reynisfjara Beach
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Fish and Chips truck at Skogafoss
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Fish and Chips truck at Skogafoss

So back we drove to the Fish and Chips truck. Let me tell you, on a long, mostly desolate road, seeing this bright red, adorable Fish and Chips shack seems like a gift from the heavens. But in all honesty, although the owners were lovely and there was nothing really wrong with our meals, I was hoping to get a bit more out of this. Back home, chip trucks are where you get the most delicious, fresh french fries. These fries were very clearly frozen McCain or similar. The battered fish was yummy and filled us up. But for both of our baskets which each contained 1 small piece of fish and a handful of fries, the $40 didn’t seem worth it. I would recommend trying out the Skogafoss restaurant or the Black Beach restaurant instead.

Then it was my turn in the driver’s seat, taking us the rest of the way to The Blue Lagoon. This was by far the most recommended experience in Iceland – everyone asked if we were going, everyone wanted to make sure we had booked in advance (we booked a spot in the pool a week in advance but were too late to book massages – some people book 6 months in advance for this). I had a perception of this place before we went that it would be a very serene, spa like experience. And to a certain extent it was – there were luxurious change rooms to get into your bathing suits (with futuristic lockers that were hard to figure out), then you go through a door to the indoor co-ed hot tub entrance. Once you decide it’s time to venture outside, theres a half-underwater door that takes you through an “informational cave” that has a recording of the facts about the Blue Lagoon (it’s man made lagoon that’s full of natural mineral-rich water that comes from underground – the minerals in the water are said to have many health benefits). And then you just float around in the warm water! You’re also encouraged to get a free mud mask, so when you look around it’s just a sea of people with white goo on their faces. There’s a nice section that has a dry sauna, a wet sauna and a steam room like other spas I’ve been to. But unlike other spas I’ve been to, this one also had large groups of tourist children on school trips. Because although this is spa-like it’s also a very popular tour destination. So while I might have expected a quiet, float around the pool, I didn’t expect there to be several 15 year old Scottish boys on a field trip doing pull-up competitions on the wooden archs. I also didn’t expect there to be a swim up bar either, but that was more of a happy surprise. All in all, it was gorgeous and I loved it. Floating in warm water can do no wrong.

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At The Blue Lagoon…In the information cave
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At The Blue Lagoon…In the information cave
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Out in the foggy mist at The Blue Lagoon
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Jamie also thinks this is a romantic place.
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The hoards lining up for free face mud masks
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mud masks acquired.
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Mud monster in the mist…

That night, we had our one and only restaurant dinner in Iceland at Snaps Bistro. I had mussels and frites and a pistachio, goat cheese, honey concoction for dessert. It was delicious. Slightly better than hot dogs and Sidekicks, I will admit. The next morning was our last in Iceland and we spent it roaming around Reykjavik looking for souvenirs and taking in the city. It was so charming and there were so many lovely shops with lots of unique stuff.

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Delicious…and yes the French Onion Soup is 2.300 Icelandic Krona. Or $23 Canadian dollars… This is why we only ate out once.
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cheeyaws!
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Americans at the bar drinking $25 Long Island Iced Teas.
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Reykjavik
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Rooster in Reykjavik
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The Always Christmas store!
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Such nostalgia for childhood here
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Fancy stores selling fancy designer stuff
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lots of yummy smelling things
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Just the kind of random cute shops I love
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Love all the paintings on the wall
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The famous Hallgrímskirkja Church
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HOT BUNS
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Pretty red door
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Reykjavik street art
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More Reykjavik street art

We had breakfast at one of the most delightful cafes I’ve ever seen, called Stofan Cafe. If you’re in Iceland looking for Hipsters, go here. They’re all here drinking coffee out of adorable tea cups and eating pastries on varying, eclectic antique chairs. Jamie had a healthy granola and berries while I dampened my sadness at this being our last day by eating a piece of chocolate cake. We strolled around until we caught our bus to Kaflavik to catch our flight home.

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Stofan Cafe – best for Icelandic hipsters
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Love the eclectic feel of this place
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In love with the retro antiques
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Healthy breakfast for Jamie
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Chocolate Cake for me.

Ugly: In Iceland, we could only afford dinner at one restaurant, the Fish and Chips truck was too expensive, and I found myself craving hot dogs and sidekicks for months afterwards. I did this to myself.

Awesome: I loved that for the last couple days of our trip, the sun came out to put a positive spin on everything we did. It’s crazy how much the sun/ weather colours our memories in a certain way. I loved walking around the city with our coffee in the sun, the fresh breeze feeling like fall. I love that it’s my last memory of Iceland.

Well, that concludes the Iceland saga! I hope I’ve provided some info for those making the trek seeing as EVERYONE I KNOW seems to be travelling there. And I couldn’t be happier – if you have the opportunity, don’t miss it. And tell me all about it when you get back.

 

 

 

 

1 Thousand Sheep – Iceland Part 2

Welcome to Iceland – Part 2. If you missed part 1, check it out!

My 30th birthday! On May 26th we woke up (to rain of course) at the Reykjavik Campsite. I liked this campsite because it kind of embodies a sense of community and sharing. There are places to camp in tents, camper vans and RVs, but there’s also a hostel attached for people who want to sleep in actual rooms. The bathrooms, while kind of industrial were ok (Jamie didn’t like them, he said the boys one was gross) but the kitchen area had probably 12 separate cooking stations, each with its own sink, stove top and prep area. There was a shelf full of communal cooking utensils and pots and pans and even a shelf of non-perishable food that people had left there during their travels. There was also a dining/ hang out room next door which had good wifi and outlets at all the tables. This was definitely geared towards the young backpacker audience. It was weird though…for the amount of people there, there were strict no noisiness rules in place so this cool room full of interesting people was completely silent….Very The Island.

After breakfast, Jamie and I retreated to our Camper van to escape the mole people. And also because shortly, a very handsome 24 year old Icelandic surfer named Antone from Arctic Surfers would be coming to pick us up for surfing!! Antone had blue eyes, fair skin and red curly hair. Love you, Antone.

When we got in the car, Antone had already picked up the other couple doing the day trip with us. They were a German couple, both around 30 years old; the boy was an experienced surfer and the girl had opted out of participating. She offered to use my camera to take some action shots for us (thanks)! This would be my second time surfing (the first was in Hawaii and did not require a wetsuit…) and Jamie has recently become very interested in surfing and by this time he’d surfed several times in various places. Antone drove us all to get a quick lunch and then to Thorlakshofn where we got into our wetsuits out on the black sand.

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Thorlakshofn
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Antone helping us with our wetsuits

The beach was beautiful and foggy and once the wetsuit was on, I was warm as an Icelandic bug in a sheep’s wool rug. I should say though, that while I was already worried about my upper body strength being an obstacle in my surfing endeavours, it never occurred to me that the act of putting on the wetsuit would be, in fact, what drained me of all my strength. Once we actually got into the water, I literally swam for about 10 minutes and realized it was futile for me to try to swim out against the current to the place where you’re supposed to catch the waves. (I have since integrated free weights into my gym routine…). So while the stronger boys went deeper into the Ocean, I found myself content staying where my toes could touch the bottom, practising my basics (spotting the right waves, swimming with them and pushing myself up on the board). And while I didn’t look as glamorous as the boys did, I was proud of the few times I stood up on the board for more than 2 seconds and when we were all finished, I pat myself on the back. A for effort. Didn’t drown. Success.

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Icelandic surfing in Thorlakshofn
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Into the Ocean
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Jamie giving me surfing tips
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Jamie and the waves
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Surfboart
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Horses on the beach!
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Viking beach
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Icelandic Surfer Dude
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Icelandic Surfer Dudette

Next we all piled into the car in our wetsuits and Antone drove us to the town’s Rec Centre. Because Icelanders are very proud of all the geothermal activity there, every town seems to have a community recreation centre, focused on swimming and lounging in man-made hot springs. This one had fantastic facilities, a giant gymnasium for community events, a large outdoor pool and several hot tubs of varying temperatures. I got the impression that after school, this is where families go to spend time together. There were so many people there, kids were playing and neighbours were catching up. It was cool. By that point we were all a little chilled so finishing the day with a luxurious soak in the hot tub was heavenly. Antone dropped us off at the campsite an hour later and after the simplest meal possible, we fell asleep absolutely exhausted. Best 30th birthday I ever had.

The next morning, we began our journey east along the southern coast of the island. Our first stop was to the same bakery Antone had taken us to the day before because I suddenly realized I hadn’t eaten any birthday cake and this was a problem. After that necessary trip was complete, we hit the state-run Vinbudin to stock up on exorbitantly priced alcohol (I drank the cheapest cider I could find, the whole trip).

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Delicious baked goods for my birthday cake

Next up was Seljalandsfoss (If you haven’t figured it out yet, everything that ends in “foss” is a waterfall…) It was raining that day (a big shock to both of us) and one thing we noticed while visiting Seljalandsfoss was so many people were ill-equipped for the weather. I saw women wearing garbage bags in heels for Pete’s sake. People. Bring your hiking boots. Or at least some water proof shoes. And a jacket. It’s Iceland!

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Seljalandsfoss’s hidden neighbour, Gljúfurárfoss
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Gljúfurárfoss
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Seljalandsfoss
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Seljalandsfoss
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Seljalandsfoss
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Seljalandsfoss

This was a pretty waterfall, a little touristy for my taste, but it was nice. There’s a path for you to walk around behind the water and if you follow the little path to the west of the main waterfall, there’s a more interesting hidden one that looks a little magical.

Back in the car, on our way to Skogafoss for yet another un-missable, tourist-heavy waterfall. Once we got there, we noticed a little fish and chips shack on the side of the road, but we decided we would save it for our way back to Reykjavik in a couple days. By now it was raining pretty hard, and while the normal thing to do at these falls is to climb the 382 step staircase along the hill, it looked pretty slippery and we were unmotivated to do the trek in the rain. Instead, after walking around the base of the falls for a bit, we went to the visitor’s centre and asked if they had any recommendations for what to do instead of the stairs. The gentleman there gave us step by step instructions on how to reach a hidden waterfall about a 20 minute walk away. So we drove to the Skogar Museum (1 minute away), parked at the back, went through a farmer’s gate and started walking east along the curve of a hill. About 15 minutes later after walking in what we hoped was the right direction, we discovered the most beautiful, hidden waterfall. Only 3 other people were there and it seemed to us like we had discovered it all on our own. Romance falls, I’ll call it (but I think it might actually be called Selvaosfoss?).

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Skogafoss
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Skogafoss
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Skogafoss
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Walking to the secret Romance Falls
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Selvaosfoss? First peek at Romance Falls
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Selvaosfoss
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Selvaosfoss
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Can you find Jamie in this photo?
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Selvaosfoss love
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Selvaosfoss
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Selvaosfoss
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so many sheep always

Our last stop of the day before finding a campsite to stay at was Vik. We had heard a lot about Vik because it serves as a kind of hub along the Southern coast. It’s a fishing town with a school, a rec centre, restaurants and a grocery store. There’s a large gas station there that’s attached to a diner that serves seemingly delicious burgers and fries (we didn’t feel like spending $75 on burgers, so we ate our grocery lunch instead). Because these amenities are few and far between in Iceland, this place gets very busy, especially on the weekends. A lot of people see Vik at the same time as visiting Reynisfjara Beach (the most famous black sand beach) but we decided to save that for the ride back. So instead, we hit up the trusted Vistor’s centre and asked them what we should do there (this became a trend for us because they were always super helpful). The lovely man at the centre directed us to a hike that goes straight up 1,092 ft to the top of Reynisfjall mountain, overlooking Vik and if you walk west enough, you can also look right over Reynisfjara Beach. Again, this was such a nice, secluded hike away from the more touristy areas, and it was such a gorgeous view. It took us about 2.5 hours to do the whole thing, the perfect end to the day.

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Driving to Vik
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On Reynisfjall Mountain overlooking Reynisfjara Beach
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Overlooking Vik
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Overlooking Vik on Reynisfjall Mountain
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Reynisfjall Mountain
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Reynisfjall Mountain
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Reynisfjall Mountain

We set off to find our next campsite, which we came across by accident, and it turned out to be our favourite campsite of the trip. On the way, though we ended up stopping at two hotels to ask for campsite tips and one day when I’m a millionaire, I want to come back and stay at them. Attention Millionaires: please, so I can live vicariously through you, stay at either the Icelandair Hotel Vik or the Hotel Katla which reminded me of The Shining. When we arrived at the Kirkjubæjarklaustur campsite (Yes, that’s the name) we loved the tiny cottages that surrounded the perimeter of the site, there were showers (which cost 6 dollars to use, but hey) and warm, clean washrooms and the view from the camper van was beautiful.

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Kirkjubæjarklaustur campsite
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Kirkjubæjarklaustur campsite

The next morning, we had our Skyr, berries and granola and set off for Jokulsarlon Lagoon to see weird little ice bergs floating around a glacial lake.

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Eating Skyr in the camper van

Jokulsarlon is a glacial lake in front of a massive glacier. Bits of the glacier break off and float around in this lake before funnelling into the Atlantic ocean. It was pretty cool to see, and it is very beautiful but researching online gave us the impression there was a bit more to do here. Sure, you can pay to go on boat tours to see the seals and icebergs up close, but the lake isn’t that big. You’d be spending almost an hour on a very slow boat ride around a fairly small area. It could be very relaxing for some people, but I think we would have become restless and would rather spend our time moving around. There was a small cafe and gift shop here, which was convenient but made for a very busy place. I would definitely recommend stopping here, but while we thought we would spend a few hours here, I would suggest stopping for half an hour to an hour.

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Driving to Jokulsarlon
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Driving to Jokulsarlon
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Driving to Jokulsarlon
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Driving to Jokulsarlon
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Jokulsarlon
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Jokulsarlon
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Jokulsarlon
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Jokulsarlon
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Jokulsarlon – Jamie looking at the seals

At this point, since we thought we would have spent more time at the lake, we set off back in the direction we came from, knowing we had to start our journey back to Reykjavik and that there were a few things we had passed on the way that looked interesting. One such place was Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park. We hadn’t planned on stopping here, but when we found ourselves with extra time, it was the perfect solution. I’m so happy we ended up here as it became one of the my favourite parts of the trip (maybe it had to do with the fact that the sun was out for some of the visit…) Again, after speaking with the Visitor Centre folks, we had a plan. We hiked up to Sjonarnipa viewpoint to look out over the Skaftafellsjokull glacier. Then we walked over the top of the mountain to the Svartifoss waterfall, took some pictures and began our descent down the mountain.

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Hiking to Sjonarnipa viewpoint
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Hiking to Sjonarnipa viewpoint
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Sjonarnipa viewpoint overlooking the Skaftafellsjokull glacier
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Sjonarnipa viewpoint overlooking the Skaftafellsjokull glacier
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Sjonarnipa viewpoint overlooking the Skaftafellsjokull glacier
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Sjonarnipa viewpoint overlooking the Skaftafellsjokull glacier
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Sjonarnipa viewpoint overlooking the Skaftafellsjokull glacier
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Svartifoss waterfall

We stayed at the Kirkjubæjarklaustur campsite again that night because we loved it so much the night before and the next morning we woke up to a bit of sun and the sounds of millions of sheep bleeting on the hill.

Ugly: My upper body strength. Forget looking good, my new gym goal is to turn these pythons into surfing machines.

Awesome: Surprises! On paper, Skaftafell didn’t really seem like the most exciting place, but I’m so happy we made it there. It was a challenging hike with a really rewarding view at the end and it turned our spirits right around after a slightly disappointing morning.

Tune in next time to hear all about Viking Tombs and Gas Station etiquette!

P.S. If you liked this, check out Part 1 and Part 3!

Where the Trolls are – Iceland Part 1

Hi friends!!

So many people I know are going to Iceland. Back in November when Jamie and I booked this trip for my 30th birthday, I though we were cool, hip adventurers going where no hipster had gone before. Turns out everyone and their spray tan technician are going to Iceland, so I thought I should post a bit about it for people who are planning a trip!

First thing: Jamie and I went at the end of May. Which can be a blessing and a curse. It’s between seasons so there are a bunch of tours that don’t run because Winter is over but the Summer season tours haven’t begun yet. There are also a few roads you can’t access because the thawing snow and ice make the roads too muddy. So while you may be limited in your activity options somewhat, it’s also much less busy during this time of year than the summer and a little bit cheaper too. Speaking of which, you know how they say Iceland is Greener than Greenland? That’s because there’s SO MUCH CASH MONEY COMING INTO THIS PLACE. Iceland is the most expensive place I’ve ever visited. It’s worth it and I loved it, but be prepared to spend some money, even doing it the cheap way like we did.

So because I took 1 thousand pictures, I’ve split this post into parts. This is part 1. How many parts will there be? I have no idea. Also, sorry for all the landscapes but this is my post, not yours so just deal with it.

As Jamie and I were flying above Reykjavik, we watched the sun shining over the clouds at 4am. It was exciting to see we might get some sun on our first day! However, as the plane started its decent, we broke through a thick shelf of clouds and all of a sudden the sun was gone. We wouldn’t see it again for another 3 days. Iceland!

Our first morning we landed in Keflavik, took a shuttle to the downtown Reykjavik bus station, took a cab to get breakfast at the only hotel that had breakfast that early then went to pick up our camper van. We used CampEasy and while there were a few hiccups at the start (did you know it’s not legally necessary to have a rearview mirror in Iceland?), ultimately they were great and even came to us to replace to our tiny fridge later on the trip when it conked out. Note: Standard vehicles in Iceland are always cheaper and more easily available. If you can’t drive a stick like us, make sure to book well in advance and be prepared to pay a little more.

Then we went to the Bonus supermarket to pick up groceries for our trip. This is where we discovered Iceland’s answer to the greek yogurt craze “Skyr”. Looks like President’s choice has recently released a “Skyr – style yogurt” of their own, but honestly it’s not like the real thing. It’s just yummy. And it’s everywhere in Iceland. And we ate it for breakfast every day.

So, by the time we started to head out of the city towards Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we were pretty tired as we had been up for 30 something hours, so at one point we pulled over to the side of the road on a cliff face and had a nap in our van. Waking up and looking out your window at the Icelandic scenery never got old. Every 10 minutes you’re driving through a completely different type of landscape that varies from “looks like the moon” to “looks like a a giant moss monster lay down on everything”. We drove a couple of hours through super windy mountainous roads and legit creepy fog to reach our first campsite, Olafsvik.

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Driving to Snæfellsnes Peninsula
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Driving to Snæfellsnes Peninsula
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Driving to Snæfellsnes Peninsula
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Stopping for a break in our Camper Van
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Our first campsite: Ólafsvík

The campsite was lovely – it had nice heated washrooms and showers and a kitchen room that everyone could share. We met some cool people from around the world and ended up chatting through dinner and getting some ideas for the rest of trip.

The next day, we woke up to pouring rain and howling wind (that day would end up being a high of 10° and a low of 4°) and started driving west along the northern edge of the peninsula to Skorosvik. There’s a place you can park your car to lookout over a beautiful beach. We thought it would be a nice place for our first hike of the trip, so we started walking along the cliffs towards the Ondveroarnes lighthouse. This hike was super windy and a little rainy but it really felt like we were walking along the edge of the Earth. There was no one else hiking there so we had it all to ourselves. We walked for about an hour and a half to the lighthouse, had some snacks and walked back to the car.

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Waking up the next morning
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Skarosvik
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Skarosvik
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Skarosvik
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Skarosvik
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Skarosvik
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Skarosvik
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Skarosvik
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Ondveroarnes lighthouse
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Cool Truck

Then we drove about 20 minutes along the coast to Dritvik where there was a beautiful black sand beach with crazy gigantic waves. We only stayed there for a short time because the rain was starting to come down harder, so we drove to Hellnar for lunch at Primus Cafe . Sitting in the cafe eating lamb stew watching the rain on the Ocean from the floor to ceiling windows I remember it being half cozy and gorgeous, half dreary and desolate. Iceland for me fits this description a lot of the time. Eerily beautiful minimalism can also sometimes feel like bleak isolation. It’s so gorgeous and it’s not Mexico. Remember that.

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Dritvik
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Dritvik
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Dritvik
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Dritvik
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Lamb stew at Primus Cafe in Hellnar

We kept driving to our next campsite, which turned out to be the cutest working sheep farm where they also let travellers set up tents and campervans on their front lawn. They had a little cafe for food, warm washrooms and a food prep area for visitors. We met a couple from Ontario who were touring Iceland, sleeping in their tent…brave souls. That night was just as rainy and windy as all the rest of our nights had been and it caused us to sleep in a little later the next day.  The Bjarteyjarsandur Family Farm also gives school tours. So imagine our surprise when we woke up the next morning and walked out of our van in our PJs to a group of 30 adorable Icelandic kindergarten students staring at us while eating their morning snack. Góðan daginn!

While we were packing up to head out, a couple of the resident goats broke the rules and made their way into the cafe, standing on the tables and chairs, causing quite the ruckus. They were super cute and everyone wanted to take them home with them.

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Driving to Bjarteyjarsandur Farm
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Driving to Bjarteyjarsandur Farm
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Driving to Bjarteyjarsandur Farm
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Driving to Bjarteyjarsandur Farm
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Arrived at Hvalfjörður Bay
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Bjarteyjarsandur Farm
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Bjarteyjarsandur Farm
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Bjarteyjarsandur Farm Piano
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Bjarteyjarsandur Farm Taxidermy
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Bjarteyjarsandur Farm Sweaters
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In our camper van, writing in my Journal at Bjarteyjarsandur Farm
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Bjarteyjarsandur Farm goats on the tables!
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Bjarteyjarsandur Farm chair goat
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Bjarteyjarsandur Farm blanket goat

We stopped at a gas station for our free coffee (pro tip: all the gas stations have a sketchy pot of coffee that is free for anyone who wants it. Don’t ask questions…just take the coffee. It’s allowed) and started driving towards Glymur, my favourite of all the waterfalls we saw in Iceland (and there were a lot). This was my favourite day in Iceland. The sun was shining a little bit off and on, and while the Glymur hike is not for everyone (the beginning is easy but the higher you get, the harder the hike and people afraid of heights may not enjoy it so much), I loved it. The views from the top of our hike were amazing and the challenge is so worth it when you get to the top. You can actually hike much farther than we did, going around to the other side of the falls, but we did about a 4 hour hike up one side to the top and back down.

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Driving to Glymur
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Glymur warnings!
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Hiking up Glymur
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Hiking up Glymur
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Hiking up Glymur
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Hiking up Glymur
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Hiking up Glymur – crossing the river
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Hiking up Glymur – crossing the river
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Hiking up Glymur
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Hiking up Glymur – whoa blue skies!!
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Hiking up Glymur
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Hiking up Glymur
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Hiking up Glymur
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Hiking up Glymur
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Hiking up Glymur
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Crossing the river again!

Then it was time for the Golden Circle. In my opinion, this Golden Circle is the most overrated, over-publicized part of Iceland. Or maybe we didn’t do it right? I dunno, but in comparison to the other things we saw and did, it makes me think this part of Iceland is so popular because it provides a few different types of things to see (a couple geysers, a waterfall, some National Park land), it’s relatively close to Reykjavik and you can do the whole thing in a few hours. This is the perfect tour for a 82 year old who is very into turbines, tourist families and waterfalls covered in safety warnings. Skip it.

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Gulfoss in the Golden Circle
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I think I look like the elf grandma from The Neverending Story here.
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Gulfoss in the Golden Circle

 

Ugly: As I’m remembering these days, I think of them so fondly but I also remember how dark and dreary these days were. I know during other seasons, the weather is a bit sunnier and warmer but I would caution anyone thinking of going: It can get a little depressing. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world and I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to experience it, but I think I learned how much I appreciate the sun on this trip and how much a lack of sun affects my personality. Sun worshipers beware.

Awesome: I will always remember our camper van with love. It was such a cozy retreat from the wind and rain and Jamie and I got into such a comfortable routine every morning and night. To find out if you really love someone: Spend 8 days together cooking, changing and sleeping in a 17 ft by 7 ft van. Also these first few days really felt like we were exploring new terrain. Every hour seeing new landscapes that I had never known about let alone seen before made the long drives seem more like discoveries.

And thus concludes part 1 of the Iceland series! Come back next time for harrowing tales of black sand beach surfing, $40 fish and chips and what happens when you get in a hot spring with a thousand British children!

P.S. If you liked this, check out Part 2 and Part 3!

Happy Mother's Day!

*Whispers like in the movie* MAMA

Happy Mother’s Day, moms everywhere (especially my mom because she’s the best)!

Early in the week, I had a quick visit with awesome new mom, Kari and my new baby best friend, Anna. I’m so proud of Kari and I love seeing her get more comfortable as a mom, and all of a sudden totally knowing what to do all the time (or so it seems to me during my brief visit). When presented with baby Anna, I’m still deer in the headlights terrified of breaking her, so I lean over shoulders, wave from behind door frames and otherwise keep my distance from the fragile missy so as not to accidentally injure her or cause her irreparable emotional trauma somehow. I assume at some point, I will get more comfortable and less afraid but for now, baby steps.

This week, I’ve also been preparing for our hiking trip to Iceland at the end of May for my 30th birthday. I used a Christmas gift card at Atmosphere (Thanks Grandma!) to purchase some very flattering thermal underwear (tops and bottoms…for wearing under the wet suit whilst Arctic Surfing) and then was so excited about them, I decided to take them out for a spin. It looked gloomy outside and the weather’s been fairly chilly so I threw on my hiking boots and sweater over the long johns and set off for a nice walk. It was 10 minutes later that I decided to check the actual temperature and was not surprised to find it was almost 17 degrees out and wearing long johns had been a terrible error in judgement. To make matters worse, my phone died half way through the journey. This was annoying because:

  • Walking is incredibly boring without the aid of aural assistance such as This American Life, Radio Lab or the Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone audiobook.
  • Of course as soon as my phone dies, I decide that everything around me is potential art and that if ONLY my phone were alive, I could be taking the photos that would launch my Instagram stardom.
  • When your phone dies and you’re walking alone along the Don Valley River, only THEN do you realize how creepy all the trees look and how every piece of garbage in the woods is actually probably a sleeping serial killer just waiting for his next victim with no cell reception.
  • It caused me to worry slightly, which turned my walk into more of a jog, and I hate accidentally tricking myself into more exercise than is warranted.

But the best part of today was picking Jamie up from the Airport! He’s been gone for 3 weeks shooting a commercial in Budapest and while my best lady friends have been keeping me company (we watched SO MUCH Charmed on Netflix), I’m very happy he’s home. Even if it is only for a short stint before he’s off again to LA for work.

UGLY: Sweating in a full long john suit, walking next to The Don Valley River during a Thunderstorm. I smelled great, though.

Also the mug I made my mom shattered in the mail….very thankful for backup Starbucks e-gift cards. LOVE YOU MOM!

AWESOME: Getting psyched about Iceland! And I get to make a new mug to replace the shattered one! ART!

 

 

 

 

8 Years and Lots of Wine

Last Weekend, Jamie and I celebrated our 8th Anniversary! It’s hard to believe it’s been so long. When people ask me how old we were when we met, I think about it in my head and then immediately discredit my memory, because clearly it’s not possible that we were THAT young when we met. But it’s true, it just surprises me every time. We met while we were both going to school for Film Production at York University in Toronto. Even though we had known OF each other since the first year of the program, we only really started talking in 3rd year. Which means that I was 19. This baffles me because I remember our relationship starting while we were mature, responsible adults, but that’s impossible if I was 19.

Jamie has been extremely busy lately so we thought the perfect getaway would be one with as little stress as possible. So, we made a simple plan which we could execute fairly close to home to reduce travel time. We found the perfect place in Niagara on the Lake called The Pillar and Post. It’s a very picturesque hotel and spa. It’s got a fantastic restaurant inside the hotel and a dreamy spa underground – it feels like you’re in a very fashionable cave.

When we arrived, the entire hotel was covered in Christmas decorations, all the fireplaces were lit, and it immediately stole my heart. The space is quaint and rustic but also kind of grand in a way. Our room was lovely and we had our own fireplace and every night, we found a new rose on our pillows.

On Saturday, we had a Charles Dickensian breakfast (I can’t explain this – it’s just how I felt about our breakfast), and I went to get a massage in the spa. The spa is all natural browns and beiges and dim lightening and tiny Christmas trees. It was heaven. I’ve also never drank so much free peppermint tea in my life. Jamie met me after my massage so we could go for a dip in the Hot Springs – it was this outdoor hot tub that’s made to look like a natural waterfall in a tropical paradise. It was probably my favourite part of the weekend. It was very private and serene and it was just so relaxing.

That afternoon, we took a trip to Megalomaniac Winery, did some tastings and then went across the street to our old favourites, Tawse Winery. Back on our 5th anniversary, we visited Tawse and I ended up loving the Tawse Riesling so much, we bought a case. This time, we did not get so carried away, but still left with some great wine. We went to dinner at The Cannery restaurant in the hotel that night – It wasn’t the 5 star food I was hoping for, but the atmosphere and service was great and I loved dressing up for a quick trip down the stairs.

Our last day there, we had another great breakfast, did a late check out, threw our bags in the car and went back in to spend another few hours lazing about the Hot Springs and the various pools and indoor hot tubs. This was nice because most people had checked out and left so we practically had the place to ourselves. On the way home, we drove through the largest full Rainbow I’ve ever seen.

UGLY: The Yorkshire pudding. This was my only complaint of the entire weekend. You can’t get a lady excited about Yorkshire pudding and then deliver a sub-par, gravy-skint hockey puck. Everything else was delicious – it will always be a mystery to me why the Yorkshire pudding was so bad.

AWESOME: Christmas festiveness, alone time with Jamie, relaxing, reading books, seeing a rainbow that obviously represents the power of our love.

What Happens in Vegas Clearly Ends Up on This Blog. Sorry.

Last weekend, I participated in a time honoured rite of passage for modern women – a ladies weekend in Vegas.

I put on the heels, I squeezed into outfits too tight and my friends showed me how to do makeup properly (actually they just did my makeup for me…this man still can’t fish).

For one weekend, I transformed into “Toni with an I”. I was classy, put together and I liked to party. A lot. I learned so much about the underbelly of the Las Vegas club scene – for example, did you know that if you have breasts and know how to talk politely to strangers on the street, you can get into to all the clubs for free and also mostly drink for free too?! CRAZY, I KNOW! It all sounds very shady, but my lady friends were Grade A negotiators and knew how to make deals with the club promoters. The deal being, we show up – we get in for free. I bet you thought we’d have to do more, didn’t you? Nope. This is why I loved going with these girls – they knew the way. If I had been there alone, I would have payed full price for a “ticket to the club” like a chump, not knowing any better. (This reminds me of the time someone called in to my friend who works at TIFF and asked for “One ticket to Yorkville, please!”) Well, now I am experienced – a lady of the land, if you will. Let me take you through a brief (I’ll really try hard…) account of how I came to be such a wise and tenured Vegas soul.

On Halloween day, we arrived in beautiful Las Vegas, and we head over to our hotel, The Aria. I’ve stayed here before for work, so I feel like I’m getting to know my way around this part of the hood. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the pizza restaurant where we did an official Vegas cheers and Monica ate a pizza with clams on it. Then we set out to the strip to stock up on necessary items for the weekend: wine, pre-mixed margaritas, hard iced tea, bottle opener, cashews and gatorade. And a toothbrush. Back at the hotel, we twerked around to hip hop and started getting ready for what would be the first of many late night excursions to “the clubs”. Halloween night, donned in our costumes (my “Sexy Pizza” dress) we went to Hakkasan at the MGM Grand where Calvin Harris was playing. We also witnessed a costume contest with a $10,000 grand prize. This was my first time in a club of this epic-ness. It was big and crazy and the lighting was awesome and there were SO many people there, I felt like I was in a sardine can full of sardines at a costume party. We danced and danced and then cried cuz our feet hurt (or was that just me…) and then we stumbled back to the hotel for sleeps. By that time, with the time difference it would have been about 6am Toronto time. It’s a miracle I’m still alive. (Also, in my mind, I’m 90 years old).

The next day, we explored the Las Vegas strip – we walked up and down, stopping in to various fancy hotels (and not so fancy hotels…Pink Flamingo) and basically just took in all the giganticness and impressiveness that is Las Vegas. I think my favourite indoor parts of the strip are The Venetian for all it’s fun indoor gondola rides, etc. and the Bellagio fall display which had a talking tree for goodness sakes. That night, we had DJ’s Taco’s for dinner – a favourite of mine from the ole working days. Consistently delicious. We then prepared our faces and feet for another amazing evening. First we went to a Cirque Du Soleil show, “O” at the Bellagio. It was awesome, but (and I feel like a terrible person saying it) I was not as impressed as I was with KA. But people tell me it’s because Ka was my first Cirque show ever. Could be true. One of the promoters we met earlier in the day, got us into a club, “Surrender” at Encore for free and also set us up with a booth, bottle service and open bar for a couple hours. It was my favourite because there was sitting (I am 90). It was my favourite though, I think because it was easier to talk to each other and have fun with each other. There was a costume contest here as well, although I think the prize was a measly $5,000. Hardly even worth it. By this time, however, we were sick of Halloween and were dressed like normal night people, not zombie night people. That night was my most memorable and my favourite of the trip – We danced, we befriended a group of 21 year old cats, we met the Spice girls, I sat on a piano while a lounge singer serenaded a room. All in all, top Vegas memories all around.

Saturday – This day was reserved for shopping. We went to the Fashion Show mall and perused the sparkly things until I found the one and only souvenir I bought for myself – a pair of Kate Spade sparkly, gold Keds. I love them. When I look at them, they cry Vegas. And my feet cry with happiness because they’re super comfy too. That night was all about STK. It’s a steakhouse at The Cosmopolitan hotel. We had read really things about it, and we were not disappointed. It has a very young vibe – a DJ was playing and everyone was kind of half sitting/half dancing at their tables. The atmosphere was great and the service was great. Especially one very attractive employee in particular who had no real reason for coming to our table so many times except to flirt with everybody and dance to N Sync. But none of that compared to the food which was heavenly. I got the beef carpaccio, skirt steak with truffle butter and a side of carrots which I could only eat 4 of because everything was GIGANTIC. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. I definitely want to go back there again. At 10:30, the DJ announced that since it was 10:30, that meant free shots for everyone at the restaurant! The girls and I think this should be implemented at all restaurants and will now be celebrating “10:30” on a regular basis. And then it was off for our last night of rambunctiousness at Marquee at the Cosmopolitan. This club had kind of an indoor/outdoor thing going on. There were heaters outside by the pools so you could hang out there, or you could go inside to dance and generally get pushed around by all the people who are bigger than you (I stayed outside most of the evening). On our way there, a guy on the street had told us DJ Pauly D from The Jersey Shore would be at our hotel that night, so we left Marquee early to fist pump and get spray tans. The spray tans was a lie, but we did fist pump to DJ Pauly D like a true Italian American. And to be honest, I really liked the set he played – it was diverse and I had a great time there. Although, that also could have been my delusional euphoria after having removed my heels in favour of flats I hid in my purse, but who’s qualifying?

On our very last day, we took advantage of our hotels’ gorgeous spa, complete with outdoor hot tub overlooking the “common people” pools, indoor hot tubs plus a “cold dip” pool to refresh yourself. It had a steam room, a sauna, a hot stone room and a Himalayan salt room. I really have no idea what most of it’s supposed to do for you, but it doesn’t really matter – we stayed there most of the day and became utterly relaxed. Then we hopped on a red-eye to return to chilly Canadia. I slept most of the morning we returned, worked from home for a bit in the afternoon and then did what all people must do when they belatedly appear in Canada after November 1st – I went to Starbucks to order a Cranberry Bliss bar and a Peppermint Mocha in a red cup …WINTER IS COMING.

Ugly: My feet look like someone stabbed them several times and then sewed them back together only to slowly crush them in a pasta maker.

Awesome: This weekend fulfilled my annual quota for partying. It was exhausting, but it was so much fun. It was such rare treat that I could only have done with these special ladies who lead me through the looking glass to a strange world of House Beats and Body Shots. Thanks girls.

P.S. There are 4 galleries below, plus videos! Don’t accidentally get to the end of the first Gallery and stop. That would be a mistake.



I made this GIF to share my feelings:


And now, for the out of order Daytime photos!

FORT FRIGHTENING TIMES OF SCARY THINGS!

When I went home for Thanksgiving last weekend, my family and I embarked on what has become a hilarious annual tradition. We attend Fort Fright at Fort Henry, where my Dad and I enjoy being mildly startled and amused and my mom practices deep breathing so as not to have a panic attack. Great fun for the whole family!

Fort Henry on a normal day is a pretty cool place where you can walk around the fort and dress up in guard’s costumes and watch the pretend soldiers re-enact the Sunset Ceremonies (where they fire rifles and cannons and march and play drums and flutes and whatnot). Educational and amusing. Good times. Anyone born in Kingston has been there at least once, most likely on a school field trip. But the BEST time of year at Fort Henry is October when they put on the best “Haunted…Fort?” I’ve ever been to. You walk around the grounds and inside the old rooms, exploring the already creepy fort, walking through scary displays with scary sounds, etc. But the scariest part is the actors walking around that stare at you or scream really loud when you walk by. Sometimes, they’ll be hiding around dark corners waiting for you so they can move in an ominous manner. For most people, this is creepy and startling and fun. For my mom, it is the worst invention of all time. She comes with us because she wants to make us happy, but truly, this is not her scene. This year, a zombie scared her so bad, she ran into a wall and lost her shoe. That is le fact.

So, if you’re looking for a super fun night time family outing, head on over to Fort Fright. And just remember: they’re not allowed to touch you.

UGLY: The clown zombie.

AWESOME: The father/daughter zombie team. She was 8. It was adorable and terrifying all at the same time.