Iceland: Snorkeling and Other Water Sports

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Photo courtesy of Dive.IS

We went snorkeling in Iceland. In March.

If you did a double-take and thought, “Why the hell would you do that?”, that’s exactly why I did it. One of the many reasons for traveling is to brag to your friends and family that you went somewhere. But if everyone’s going somewhere, it makes it harder to brag about your special, very unique vacation. If we end up going to Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand later in the year, we’ll have to book a landmine-clearing excursion just to have something unique to write home about. Oh well. I guess we still have “Getting married at The Four Seasons in Bora Bora.”

(Previously: Day 1. Day 2. Day 3.)

At any rate, everyone’s going to Iceland these days. It used to be backpackers and Northeastern folks stopping on a layover to or from Europe. No longer. Everyone is there. EVERY. ONE. Northern Lights. Shrug. Glacier hiking. Yawn. Ate a horse? Pffft. Did you try the urine-soaked shark? (No.)

So I booked a snorkeling trip.

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Another Day in Iceland: Geysirs, Horses, Tourists

IMG_6293Our third day in Iceland got off to an inauspicious start. Where we’d had rather roomy mini-buses — and a few empty seats — for our excursions up until then, the one that picked us up on Sunday morning for a tour of The Golden Circle had been built for school children. I’m only 5’6″, so this typically isn’t the biggest issue for me. But Cara is a little taller. And everyone in this micro bus was wearing two or three additional layers of clothing and carrying a backpack of some sort. There were no empty seats.

(Day 1. Day 2. Day 4.)

I found this a little odd since The Golden Circle is the most touristy of the tours and a fairly long one. A roomy ride would have seemed in order. Then again, it didn’t require equipment like crampons or dry suits and fins (more on that in the next post). We ended up weaseling our way into the front seats with a little more leg room, but I did wonder if this was the one trip we could have gone with one of the bigger tour companies and just settled for a bus.

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Iceland: Toast, Sunglasses, Death by Glacier

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Toast. It’s likely the first word you think of when you think of Iceland.

No. That’s not right. I imagine ice is the first word, with volcano and Bjork tied for second.

Our second day in Iceland started with toast. I don’t eat toast much at home anymore. I’m either trying to do away with carbs or swinging wildly in the other direction and wrapping a buttery croissant around bacon, eggs and cheese.  (Check out Day 1 here. Day 3. Day 4.)

But in Iceland, we started our mornings with toast. IcelandAir Marina Reykjavik’s Slippbarinn does offer up a full breakfast and a breakfast buffet, but we didn’t pay the room rate that included breakfast and didn’t quite feel like shelling out $20-plus a person for eggs and the like. Besides, the hotel’s cafe, at the other end of the common area from Slippbarinn, had a view of the pickup location for excursions.

I’d forgotten how good toast could be, especially when made with good bread. (Boy, does that sound like something a wanky food-writer would type before going all-in on a 2,000 word piece about artisanal toast.) So toast with butter or cheese or avocado it was (pesto was also an option). We had yogurt, too. Iceland does yogurt right. In fact, you might as well start eating Icelandic yogurt now, because it’ll be the thing to dethrone Greek yogurt once Americans get bored with that.

So after loading up on toast and layering on the clothes, we climbed into an Extreme Iceland minibus for the Sensational Iceland tour. Of the tours we had scheduled, this was the one I looked forward to the most because it included a glacier hike.

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Before we’d get to any hiking, we had some driving to do. And it was during the drive that I discovered a new-found appreciation for my mirrored sun glasses. I’m not a huge fan of sun glasses. I like seeing the world as it is, not dimmed or color-corrected. But I was happy to have them. It wasn’t that the sun was too bright. It was that we’d been up until 2 in the morning looking at Northern Lights. And I was tired. And we were wrapped in all those warm layers and the bus rocked back and forth just so. And baby needed a nap.

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Iceland: Went There, Did Some Things

IMG_5987It was on the second day in Iceland that I realized I should have been careful about over-excursion. Oh, sure, there was a small element of over-exertion. But as our Extreme Iceland van was still half an hour from Reykjavik at 8:45 p.m. and most restaurants in town — particularly those around our hotel — closed at 10, I thought maybe I had over-scheduled us.

DAY TWO: Waterfalls, Glaciers and Black Sand Beaches

DAY THREE: The Golden Circle

DAY FOUR: Snorkeling and Other Water Sports.

We’d arrived at 7 a.m. the previous morning and blew through Customs (they’d get us on the way out), snagged an early check-in, went out for a two-hour walking tour of Reykjavik, then a couple more hours on our own. After dinner that evening, we went on a Northern Lights excursion that had us out until 1 in the morning (more on that later, or in a different post). And then we were up at 6:30 to grab breakfast and, at 9 a.m., head out for 11 hours of sight-seeing and something called a glacier hike. The next day, a tour of the Golden Circle. The day after that, Blue Lagoon and a snorkeling trip.

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Le Choo Choo: Cannes to Paris

CannesStreetSceneBonjour from France, yall.

I’m typing this post out while hauling ass through the South of France on a TGV train, the arid, hilly countryside and villages filled with sandy-colored houses topped with red-tile roofs. It’s the sort of region in which you could film Western movies and the audience wouldn’t know the difference. (Just ignore the fact that if you climb the next hill, you’ll be faced with the blue waters of the Mediterranean.)

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Barbecue: Seven Stops in Kansas City

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Nicholas and I have just wrapped up our barbecue tour of Kansas City. Between arriving Sunday evening and Wednesday, we hit the following seven places in this order: Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue (Freight House location), Arthur Bryant’s, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Danny Edwards BBQ, Q39, L.C.’s Bar-B-Q, B.B.’s Lawnside Blues & BBQ.

The Short Version
Before I get into the details, some of you might just want to know the answer to the following question: If I only have time to hit one place in Kansas City, what should it be? That’s an easy answer. Joe’s Kansas City. Some people might say it’s touristy or mainstream, but these are the sort of people who start hating a band simply because it becomes popular. Joe’s is popular for a reason. It’s got perhaps the best ribs I’ve ever eaten, the pulled pork was delicious and the beans weren’t sickly sweet like they were at a lot of places.

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