Last day in Iceland

On our last day we stayed in Reykjavik. During the entire week we drove past the magnificent Hallgrímskirkja church everyday. We finally had time to check it out and of course, it was closed the day we went! Even without going inside, it was remarkable. The door alone was rad. The church took 41 years to be completed. Inside the church is a gorgeous pipe organ. I have a DVD with my favorite singer Björk singing in this church but I hope to one day see her perform there live.

DSC_0411So photographers and bloggers, what’s your secret of taking photos of landmarks without all the tourists? Do you ask them to move? Photoshop magic? I get so frustrated that I had to crop out the bottom of the church because tour buses full of folks kept showing up.

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Ta-dah, no people (they are hiding behind Liv)

The church was built to mimic the basalt columns of Vik. It’s the second tallest building in Iceland.

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This statue is Leif Eriksson who was the first European explorer to “discover” North America 500 hundred years before that other guy. Hot ass Viking dude!

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Liv took this most perfect shot of Hallgrímskirkja with her camera and Antz took this epic shot of Liv holding her Instax photo.

It was time to say goodbye to our lovely cottage and we headed downtown for breakfast at The Laundromat Cafe.

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How cute is it that Icelandic people engrave their names on their front doors. I would love to do that on our door.

We stopped at the innocuous tie mural right next to the Chuck Norris Grill. Iceland has a pretty rad street art scene, although they don’t have any Banksy or Invaders.

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DSC_0699DSC_0701Most random thing we saw in Iceland.

I planned to have lunch at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (Iceland’s version of Pink’s) however we had hot dogs one night at another place and found them to be awful (they were served cold) so we passed on the steamed dogs. We happened to park nearby so I snapped a shot of this guy getting his breakfast.

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The food was great but this hot chocolate was the best I have ever had!

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You find the laundromat in the basement along with a room for kids to play and read in.

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After breakfast we had just enough time to visit the Viking World museum before turning in our car rental and heading to the airport in Keflavik.

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The museum was right next to the ocean and let me tell you it was freezing cold. I almost died in my dress just walked from the parking lot. Since the museum is on the way to the airport it’s not close to anything so we were the only patrons.

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DSC_0948These were real authentic, very heavy Viking weapons.

I was the only brave one to walk into the Viking ship. I was sure it would collapse. I didn’t even know if I was allowed to walk on it because no one was in the place.

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I hate to say it but the museum was a tourist trap. It was cool to see a real Viking ship but I was very annoyed that they didn’t have any Viking hats for sale (although I know they are cheesy) or more exhibits. We walked through in fifteen minutes and were like “Is that it?”

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We spent forever in the airport gift shop looking for last minute souvenirs. I really wanted to buy Liv a Viking hat but for some odd reason, there were none anywhere. She settled on some Icelandic candy which she ate on the plane.

I have inadvertently started a mini flag collection. My flag from France is getting pretty frayed so I’ll need to replace it. I also have been collecting pins from the countries we visit. I forgot to buy one in Amsterdam though.

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Once inside the airport, it was hot so we began to shed our heavy layers.

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I know, I’m the world’s greatest videographer. This was one of my scariest take-offs because there was zero visibility. I am not afraid to fly but the take-off and landing do freak me out.

Liv and I watched one of her favorite movies on the plane, Spirited Away.

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Can you see the tiny moon?

I love flights that land before dark at LAX, we rarely land during the day. Overall, I would strongly encourage everyone to book a flight on Wow Airlines and go to Iceland. It was our least expensive trip abroad and was the most memorable.

Smell ya later Iceland! Takk.

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The coolest restaurant in Iceland

My friend Christina gave me a list of recommendations for our trip. I was skeptical when she suggested visiting a tomato farm. Antz, Liv and I are not big fans of tomatoes but I knew if Christina says it’s good, it’s worth a visit. I called a couple of weeks in advance to make a reservation but my bad luck Liz curse struck again. The afternoon I wanted to go turned out to be the only day of the year they were closed for maintenance. I had to adjust our itinerary  to make a reservation. Luckily, we got the last available spot of the day!

We drove an hour and a half from Reykjavik to Friðheimar farm. The Ring Road is Iceland’s main road but it’s mostly a two lane road so they have this subtle reminder to not speed. Those cars are from an actual accident. The irony is I nearly had an accident trying to get a photo of this car wreck (just kidding, Antz took the photo). We passed this reminder several times while in Iceland which was helpful because I am usually a speed demon. I had to make a quick pitstop on the drive to snap this rad photo.

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I damn near lost my mind when I saw this sign. Björk actually translates to birch in Icelandic and there are birch trees everywhere. Too bad I didn’t see the real Björk.

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Antz had to convince me to not ask the owner if I could buy this flag to bring home to LA. Friðheimar is a working farm so during the summer months they put on a horse show. There are also ten hens that live on the property.
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I really didn’t understand what the hype was about a tomato farm but when we arrived it was impressive. The tomatoes are grown in a temperature controlled greenhouse so they grow year-round. The owners buy the cutest, fuzzy bumblebees from Belgium to aid with the fertilization of the plants. I think the key to making these tomatoes taste so good is the natural Icelandic geothermal water.

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Olivia was excited to cut her own fresh herbs to add to her food. When you arrive, you can check out the greenhouse and hit the all you can eat tomato soup bar. Everything has tomatoes, even the water! I tried my first blood Mary (sorry, I’ll stick to margaritas).

We met the owner Knútur, he was very kind and gave us a quick tour of the greenhouse. Liv was a little nervous around the bees but they are so fuzzy and cute.

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The food was amazing, I must have had three bowls of tomato soup. By the time my entree arrived, I was stuffed. The tomatoes were sweet and perfectly ripe. Not soft and mushy like  most restaurants in LA serve. The greenhouse was fascinating. We learned so much about horticulture. It wasn’t the smelly, traditional farm I envisioned.

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On the way out we stopped by the Little Tomato shop and taste-tested tomato preserves and jam.

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We bought a jar of green tomato jam and it’s still in our fridge at home!

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The Friðheimar Tomato Farm is a must-see/eat stop in Iceland. The staff is friendly and genuine and the food is exceptional. The owner takes pride in his farm and really connects with his customers. I wish that same warmness would happen in Los Angeles. Most restaurants are over-priced and I often feel like there is not a lot of quality put into the food and the waiters can be rude and pushy. Maybe I’m just over pretentious LA.

Friðheimar

Bláskógabyggð
IS-801 Selfoss
(+354) 486 8894
fridheimar@fridheimar.is

Open from noon – 4pm daily. I strongly recommend making a reservation.

Iceland Day Three

As much as I wanted to just sleep in the next day we had a prepaid tour that was FOURTEEN HOURS long! I was hoping to avoid booking any guided tours but I also wanted to see parts of Iceland I didn’t feel so confident driving to. Plus, this tour was highly rated and it was only a group of ten. The bad news was we had some lame people in our group. They were from Boston and incredibly annoying. They complained about missing some dumb football game and were always late returning to the bus because they had to smoke. They seemed bored during the tour and just plain rude. The good news was our tour guide made the day interesting and was a delight. Our tour guide/driver was named Good Jon but I accidentally kept calling him Lil’ Jon. He didn’t seem to mind. I know we were the only ones who tipped him when the tour was over. I booked our tour through Viator which I have used on past trips. I like that they pick you up from your house and drop you off. It was nice not having to drive all day. We saw so many amazing sites but I do wish we could have spent more time as some places. Unfortunately the dinner we had (at a gas station) wasn’t yummy.

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Here’s an interesting fact about the bridges in Iceland, due to budget, many were built with only ONE LANE!! This was particularly terrifying because there are no lights or signs warning the other cars when you are driving across. They simply play chicken with on-coming traffic and pray one of you make it to this tiny spot to pull over all while driving 70 km! Antz was grateful I wasn’t driving.

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Our first stop was Seljlandfoss which is the only waterfall you can walk behind without getting wet.

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Not too far away is Skógafoss. Not too shabby.

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We stopped at a gas station where Liv ogled the cheap souvenirs.

Our next destination was located in the village of Vík. There is Reynisfjara beach that has black sand and basalt columns. The beach is popular for viewing puffins however they weren’t in season when we visited. Boo. It is also a famously dangerous beach due to the strong current from the Atlantic ocean. We were told to stay far away from the water because some tourists were fatally swept away by the tide.

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This guy wins for most epic hair! And I thought my braids were long.

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Our next stop was Jökulsárlón lagoon for a boat ride. I met a cutie from Italy but he spoke Icelandic with an Italian accent.

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Our tour guide broke this ice into small pieces. As an avid ice eater, I am not exaggerating when I say it was the most crystal clear yummy ice I’ve ever had.

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We stopped by the beach to play in the sand. It was crazy seeing the ice get washed away by the tide.dsc_0156dsc_0189img_2289dsc_0150

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On the drive back to Reykjavik we passed one of the country’s oldest churches.

We stopped at another gas station for dinner. There aren’t many restaurants open late so most gas stations serve lamb. I ordered some sort of chicken stew. I was hoping to buy an authentic Icelandic wool blanket but the shop closed just as we arrived.

It was after 11pm by the time we made it home and I still felt like I haven’t had a full night’s sleep. ZZzzzzzz!

Iceland Day Two

You know those mornings when you wake up feeling like you only got fifteen minutes of sleep? Well, our day was packed so we got our bloodshot eyes up and checked out of the Ion hotel. We didn’t have a set schedule but I wanted to see as much as we could in the area before driving to our house rental in Reykjavik by 4pm.

Before we checked out I took a quick stroll outside for as long as my frozen fingers could bear the wind. I was planning to take a quick dip in the outdoor spa but hells no, I am not crazy. But how lovely is that pool and all the gorgeous moss?

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Since we were beat from the night before I didn’t get to the Northern Lights bar so we popped in to take a few photos of the space. I sat in silence and daydreamed that I was watching the Northern lights.

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Be lucky you don’t have smell-o-vision because Strokkur geyser smells like rotten eggs. However, it erupts every eight minutes and is quite majestic.

I dig this chicks braids! We arrived at Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls. Also the most touristy spot so our visit was quick.

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On our drive to Thingvellir national park I felt compelled to stop on the side of the road to say hello to these gorgeous horses. They were like, “Uh, we are camera ready lady, get shooting.” Iceland’s scenery feels like a movie set. I was so happy to have the rented wide angle lens, my regular lens would not have captured such beauty.

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Yep, unfriendliest animals in the world. That sky is totally unfiltered. We may have missed the Northern lights but those moody, blue skies almost made up for it.

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I am a great actress because I look relaxed and happy here but the reality was I was foolishly taking a sitting photo in the middle of the famous Ring Road which was terrifying. We were at the bottom of a hill so we had a three second window between cars and trucks hitting us. I tested my agility to get up from a sitting position in less than three seconds many times before we go these shots. I was literally jumping for joy when I got the last shot. So here’s my tip future travelers: Don’t get out of your car and stand in the middle of the busiest road in Iceland because it’s illegal and dangerous. But then again, YOLO!

Thingvellir is massive. We drove in from the back side of the park which was great because we missed most of the tourists and busses. There is so much to see and do you don’t have to visit the same spots that the travel companies go to. You do have to purchase a day pass which you buy from a kiosk and place it in your car. Bring cash for the day pass because the credit card option wasn’t working when we bought ours. We walked to Öxarárfoss and it was magnificent. Hardly anyone there and an easy hike. I found it funny that we would stop on the side of the road to explore empty spaces and several cars were following us to take the same photos we took. Like the horses, no one was there when we decided to stop but when we walked back to the car, there were about six cars pulling over as well as a bus full of people. Copycats!

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I wish we had more time to spend in the park (where Game of Thrones is filmed!)  but I wanted to get to the rental so we could shower and go to dinner. It is about an hour and a half drive to Reykjavik.

Liv was stoked to have her choice of two bedrooms and I was elated to have wifi and two bathrooms. We usually have to wait in line to get ready in the mornings so it was heaven to simultaneously get ready. Most Icelandic bathrooms have heated floors!

Our first stop was Kex Hostel which I heard about on Instagram. We had a cocktail and it was a cool place but we decided it was too noisy for dinner.

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Off to find some grub!

On the drive to downtown Reykjavik, we passed the lovely Harpa concert hall. My dream is to see Björk perform there one day.

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This is the Sun Voyager sculpture. It’s a sun dial that is commonly mistaken as a Viking ship that represents Iceland’s lengthy history. Close to the harbor we came across a restaurant that had a quote from Anthony Bourdain painted on it so that was a good enough reason to give it a try.

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I had lobster, of course, prepared four ways. I even tried a lobster shot!!

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Our waiter recommended we try the chef’s special dessert which was incredible. I wish waiters in LA were as friendly and helpful (but I understand, most Americans are assholes).

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Iceland Day One

I spent hours researching our trip to the land of fire and ice, one of my highest priorities was taking phenomenal photos. I signed up for a photography class and educated myself about my Nikon camera settings and lenses. I bought a new zoom lens but I needed something that would allow me a wider angle for close up shots. The problem was a $2,500 lens was not in my budget. I was so stoked to find out that Samy’s Camera rents Nikon lenses! I was able to try out different lenses for $25 bucks a day. I fell in love with a wide angle lens and bought a tripod because every person who has traveled to Iceland assured me I would need it to take photos of the Northern Lights. However the lens was large and heavy and along with two other lenses, the tripod, extra batteries, accessories and an external flash (that we never used) there was no way everything would fit into our camera bag. Antz somehow squeezed everything into his suitcase. I had to repack like ten times because my heavy boots didn’t fit and I kept going over the 44 lb weight maximum.

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This was just one of the ten outfits I packed. I bought thermal leggings from Amazon and wore layers everyday because even on windy rainy days, I was sweating from all the hiking. I had the hardest time finding the right coat to wear in Iceland. I did not want a puffy coat because they don’t look so great on me and they only come in boring colors. I ended up finding a fantastic white wool coat from Asos on sale for like $73! It was so warm and I was the brightest person in Reykjavik.

img_2977img_2583Making it rain in Icelandic Kronas! I found the best currency exchange place located in our new bank in Glendale.

The first day of our trip went surprisingly seamless. I may sound like a broken record but I strongly recommend flying with Wow Airlines. I will say, their gate at LAX was kinda lame and it felt like we walked for miles to get there. However they are a fairly new airline to LAX, so they don’t have a lounge area to wait in yet. Since we arrived so early and didn’t want to stand or sit on the floor for an hour, we waited in the nearby Virgin Atlantic area. Luckily, we saw the Wow crew walking by so we knew it was almost time to board. Other than that, everything was great. We had the sweetest flight attendants (ours looked like Margot Robbie) and the pilots invited Liv into the cockpit when we landed. The plane was clean and the seats had more room in coach than other airlines I’ve flown. There are only two seats for the window row so Antz had to sit across from us in the middle. All flights from Los Angeles arrive in Reykjavik at 4 am so that is something you need to plan for if you are checking into a hotel. We had a full day planned so it worked to our advantage.

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Our Uber driver was a little crazy, he followed the weirdest route to LAX which took us on a journey through the back alleys of downtown but we made it on time! LAX is one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. The TSA line is always miserable but there has been improvements on the design of the international terminal.

Once we made it through the lines of agony, we did some pre-flight shopping at Fred Segal. Then we picked up a light breakfast of pastries.

Can someone please buy these for my next trip??!!

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Most folks seem to have a problem when it comes to traveling with young kids but honestly, Liv has been our lucky rabbits foot. We get to board the plane first, the flight attendants absolutely love her which gets us perks and she’s a pleasure to travel with. It’s true, the earlier you travel with your kids, the more open-minded and exposed they become.

Fortunately no one sat next to Antz so he had plenty of room to spread out.

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I love that we can give our daughter the gift of travel and a proclivity for adventure. As we were flying over Canada, I felt so grateful that we could afford to take this trip instead of putting it off for “one day“.

dsc_1926Liv ate an entire box of rice crispy treats and a bag of trail mix. Don’t forget to pack plenty of snacks and water, nothing on this flight is free!

I waited my whole life to see the incredible Northern Lights. The week before we arrived in Iceland, they had the most vivid and clear Northern Lights in recent history. The government shut down all the lights in Reykjavik so people could view them better. I tracked the weather and the nightly skies on this website everyday until our trip. I slept during most of the flight but I did wake up and happened to look out the window. That sad green smear you see above is the Northern Lights. I tried and failed to take a photo with my rented lens because it was impossible to take a shot while we were moving and the glass from the window wasn’t allowing my camera to auto focus. When I took the photography class I specifically asked about taking photos at night and the key is to use a slow shutter speed, which means using a tripod. Every shot I have seen of the northern lights look like this…

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That early morning was the only Northern Lights we were able to see because clouds came in with our flight and obscured the sky for the whole week. The Liz curse strikes again!

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You wanna hear another great story? I booked our car rental back in July. I went ahead and splurged on an SUV with a snow package and all the extra insurance I could buy just in case. My friend Christina recommended getting a portable WiFi box so we will have coverage. I also got a navigation system even though the last time I rented a car in London, it didn’t work. So, I was pretty covered for our rental which totaled close to $800 for the week. I was promised to get a BMW X3 SUV or similar. This is what I got and believe me when I say, I acted like a disgusting, entitled American and threw a tantrum when I saw this Opal whatever it is. The chick at the rental place was like, “Bitch…you can walk.” So, here’s my Icelandic $800 pimped out ride. Well, at least it had a heated steering wheel.

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The only place to eat that was open at 6am was disappointing Subway. Yet, after a long flight, we were starving so it was good to have something familiar. I got the “Cool American” flavor Doritos. It was insane that the sun doesn’t rise until 9 am. It was pitch black at 8 in the morning.

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Guess those snow tires I paid for came in handy. They chilled in the trunk for the whole week. I think I could have been happier with the car if it was white. What color is this, depressing beige?

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It was freezing by the time we arrived at the Blue Lagoon. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the visit because of how cold it was outside.
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The Blue Lagoon was breath-taking. It was cold but once you’re in the water, it’s lovely. Now I was glad I paid for all of our extra luggage because I brought our aqua sock water shoes. Bare feet in public spaces is my phobia! There is an indoor entrance in the water so you don’t have to walk outside in the cold. Kids under 8 are required to wear floaties but the water level was shallow enough for Liv to stand on her tippy toes.

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Really, best day ever!! You must bring a GoPro to the lagoon. iPhones won’t cut it.

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So surreal, it was so warm and beautiful. And we only had been in Iceland for five hours.

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After a quick shower, we were back on the road, headed to our hotel for the first night. I booked the iconic Ion Luxury Hotel for our first night in Iceland because it is located in the middle of nowhere. Like, so much so that they don’t even have an traditional address. Of course, our rental’s navigation system took us an hour out of the way to get there. We were the only car driving on an endless stretch of road so I was pretty nervous we would get lost. Luckily, Iceland has awesome maps on the side of the roads for us clueless tourists. They are so thoughtful. I first read about the impressive hotel when it was featured in Afar magazine. It is known for being one of the best hotels for viewing the Northern Lights. Since it has the word luxury in the name, you know it’s expensive and also sold out even six months in advance. I must have called to make reservations every damn day until finally three weeks before our trip, they found a room for me. I was elated because this meant we could go to their beautiful Northern Lights bar and sit by the floor to ceiling windows to see the Northern Lights. It never occurred to me there would be a week of cloudy skies but we enjoyed our night at the hotel anyway.

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This river was boiling hot. Iceland, you so crazy! There is steam coming from power plants all over Iceland. People who live there never have to pay to heat their water. Energy is also dirt cheap because they power mostly everything from steam.

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Let me say, this hotel is unique and off the beaten track. It definitely had a James Bond sexy vibe to it. We were told that helicopter belonged to one of the guests, fancy! The Silfra restaurant is so reknown that tourists are bussed in from Reykjavik. We didn’t think to make a reservation since we were staying at the hotel and they almost couldn’t accommodate us.

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A cool thing about the water in Iceland, it’s 100% from the natural springs. Iceland has the purest water on the planet so you can actually drink from the shower, the faucets or even the ground. We went to a store and tried to buy bottled water and the woman was like “No, you go to the hotel and fill up your water bottle from the tap!” Honestly, the best water I have ever tasted. It felt nice to take a long hot shower and not feel guilty about a drought.

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We arrived at the hotel about noon but our room wasn’t ready yet so we hung out in the lobby. Our jet lag set in and we ended up falling asleep. I know I was snoring! When our room was ready, we had just enough time to change our clothes for our horseback riding tour. We booked a private tour through the hotel so a nice girl named Hannah picked us up and drove us to her family’s farm.

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dsc_0330The two hours was over in an instant. It rained lightly but the sun peeked out. The horses were incredible, I was Snapchatting and taking photos most of the time so my horse was like “Ok, lady I guess I’ll control myself.”

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When we got back to the hotel, we were starving. Silfra restaurant was packed. The hotel only has 24 rooms but they were fully booked for dinner. Iceland’s specialty is seafood and lamb but we had amazing sushi too. I used my charm to get us a table even though they require reservations. This was our most expensive meal during the trip.

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OMG! This langoustine was heaven. Antz loved his seafood soup. Liv’s burger was meh.

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After a quick FaceTime with my BFF, Aimee we went straight to bed. I’m actually relieved the Northern Lights weren’t out that night because it felt like we were awake for 24 hours straight so off to bed we went. It was incredibly hard to wake up early for our next long day.

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Wow! Our Trip to Iceland

I still can’t believe we went to the most beautiful country in the world. Last spring I heard of an airline called Wow Airlines. They were starting nonstop service from LAX to Reykjavik and there was a special sale in October for $99 one way fares. The dates happen to synch with Olivia’s school October break so it sounded too good to be true. At first I was skeptical. I read some horror stories on Facebook about Wow having issues with flights leaving on time but then again, at that low rate, it wouldn’t bother me. To be fair, those delays were due to weather and no airline can control bad flying conditions. Let me disclose, our fare was $99 per person flying to Reykjavik, but our return fare was $189. This didn’t include meals and if we wanted to bring additional luggage, it cost $58.99 per bag, per flight. I knew there was no way I could go anywhere with just a carry on with a maximum weight of 22 pounds so I would definitely have to pay for our luggage. If we wanted to pre-select our seats in advance, that cost $12.99 per person, per flight. So when I priced the entire fare with all those extras the cost for the three of us came to $1,300. That is still less than ONE  plane ticket we paid for our trip to Europe back in 2014. This was a deal I couldn’t resist.

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They don’t have any in-flight entertainment (TV Screens) but that helps keep costs low and there are plugs for your devices. They also rent out iPads with movies and games loaded on them. We bought a few sandwiches and of course we brought candy for our sweet flight attendants so we got unlimited free drinks! The flight was a short eight hours and I was surprised at how roomy the seats were. When I bought the tickets, it felt like a just say yes and figure out the rest later moment. I wasn’t even sure about our itinerary and was concerned with our lack of a warm wardrobe but I booked the flight nonetheless!

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I knew we didn’t have any warm clothes for the trip so I took advantage of the spring clearance sales and bought heavy coats and hiking boots for all three of us. Nordstrom Rack was the perfect source to find 70% off North Face boots and jackets. I also recommend picking up some Hot Hands from Amazon. I was so happy I had these during our long hikes in the rain.

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Here’s the best part…I didn’t have to pay for our accommodations. Last year I joined a house swap website called Love Home Swap. At first I wasn’t sure about having strangers stay in our house but after a few people stayed in our house while we were out of town for a weekend, I realized it wasn’t an issue. Since I listed our house, we have had over 50 requests to swap with people from all over the world. It’s such an easy process, you search for the city you want to swap in, then you can filter by neighborhood, the size of house and you look through who is available to swap on your dates. There are three different ways to swap. You can do a direct swap, which means you go to the person’s house and they come to yours. Or you can swap for points, which means you can go to the person’s house but you use your points so they don’t have to stay at your house. They can then use those points to stay in your house at a another time or use their points for another house. The last option is a traditional cash rental which is similar to Airbnb. We ended up using our points because the person who we swapped with owns a house in Reykjavik, but she lives in Portland, Oregon. I became friends with her on Facebook so we could get to know each other first.  I wanted a more authentic Icelandic experience so it was helpful to find a house. We saved so much money and stayed in a lovely three bedroom house in Reykjavik for a week!

I would say it’s definitely better to stay in a house than a hotel in Iceland. Let me also say that I didn’t find a diverse selection of rentals in Reykjavik on Airbnb. A majority of the rentals were small, Ikea furnished and looked like a typical Los Angeles boring apartment. Due to the surge in tourism (thanks to the cheap airfare) most hotels are booked up to a year in advance. Personally I don’t enjoy being around hordes of American tourists while I’m on vacation. I found it more pleasant to have a house with our own kitchen to cook in, we were able to wash our clothes and it was heaven sleeping in our own beds and having two bathrooms. Most Icelandic hotels are small and expensive but if you are looking for a hotel in Iceland, I do have an excellent recommendation but I’ll get into that later.

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So once I covered where we were staying, next I needed to figure out what to do. Lucky for me I have a few friends who have traveled to Iceland so it was easy to put together an itinerary. I also follow When in Iceland  on Instagram so their photos were a huge source of inspiration. I must say “Takk” (thank you in Icelandic) to my sweet friend Christina, who sent me her itinerary so I had an inside source of great places to stay, see and eat. Her photos are mesmerizing! I really crammed a lot of places into our six day trip.

Here is a list of my Must See & Do:

The Blue Lagoon

Admittedly this is Iceland’s biggest tourist attraction but a must see wonder. You must book tickets well in advance and I recommend going early or late due to the heavy crowds. We booked the Comfort Package for 9 am when they open. It wasn’t terribly crowded but the women’s changing room was packed. The best thing about the lagoon, once you get used to the smell of sulfur, the space is huge so you can swim away and have a whole section to yourself. Don’t worry about the weather. We went in October and even though it was forty degrees outside the water is set at 100 degrees year round.

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The shipwreck museum/Hopsnes Lighthouse in Grindavik

Our flight arrived at 4 am and if you are flying into Reykjavik on Wow airlines, so will yours. However, I was happy for the early start because by the time we took the shuttle to pick up our rental car and stopped for an early morning meal, it was already 7 am. We had some time to kill before the Blue Lagoon opened so we drove into the town of Grindavik. It is so surreal seeing the sheep everywhere you look. We were in awe watching the strong waves of the Atlantic ocean crash into the rocky beaches. There is a cute lighthouse that we stopped at for some photos and I gotta say it was worth the brutally cold winds to get the shots.

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Icelandic horseback riding

There is an interesting fact about Icelandic horses, they are the only breed of horse in the entire country. There is a law saying that if an Icelandic horse leaves the country it is not permitted to return. They are committed to keeping the Icelandic horse breed pure. We booked a private two hour tour and it was the highlight of our trip. I cannot emphasize enough that you have to ride an Icelandic horse during your stay.

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Þingvellir National Park

Thingvellir is an absolute must-see! The park is enormous so anywhere you choose to go, you will find waterfalls and endless nature hikes. The park is about five times the size of Griffith Park in Los Angles so it would take days to see everything. The most popular attractions are listed here. Most of the filming of Game of Thrones is located here. We would drive around and pull over every time we saw a picturesque spot. You can purchase day passes at the entrance.

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Southern Iceland/Vik

Iceland has an unique and diverse landscape. On the southern side of Iceland is a small town called Vik. It is home to the black sandy beach and a cliff called Reynisfjara/Reynisdrangar rock formations. This is the best viewing point during Puffin season. We just missed the puffins but it was still worth a visit because during low tide you can climb the incredible basalt columns. Be sure to hurry and book your trip because the town of Vik is endangered by local volcano Katla that is over due to erupt by ninety nine years!

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Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Not too far away from Vik is the magical glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón. Depending on the time of year you visit you will find the bluest icebergs you have ever seen. Be careful when driving on the Ring Road, there are one lane bridges that gave us a heart attack playing chicken with the on-coming traffic.

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Friðheimar Tomato Farm

It should be mandatory that if you are in Iceland you must dine at the Fridheimar tomato farm. You guys, I don’t even like tomatoes but it is sooooo good! Christina highly recommended it so I called to make a reservation. Turns out the day I wanted to go was the only day they closed the farm for annual maintenance. How is this my luck? Fortunately I was able to shift our schedule around so we could get a reservation (the last one of the day!) We devoured the endless tomato soup bar. Everything had tomatoes in it, even the water. Be sure to make reservations, it’s always booked!

We met the owner of the farm, Knútur. He was kind enough to explain how the farm operates and gave us a mini tour. We loved everything on the menu. I even brought home a jar of green tomato jam!

Downtown Reykjavik

The city of Reykjavik is similar to Los Angeles but more colorful. There are trendy restaurants, bars and coffeeshops. Alcohol is terribly expensive. Parking can be tricky but not as bad as a Saturday night in West Hollywood. A good place to begin a city tour is at Hallgrimskirkja Church which is in walking distance to Laugavegur street. There you will find gift shops, restaurants and the infamous (random) Chuck Norris Grill. It’s the Icelandic equivalent to the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. You keep walking and soon you will end up at the harbor where you will find the iconic Sólfar (Sun Voyager sculpture).

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So there you have it, my top must see locations in Iceland. Now, I have barely scratched the surface of this vast and unbelievable place. Thus I say, do your own research. There are some things we couldn’t do with the kid in tow that I would love to do on our next trip. For instance, scuba diving at the continental divide and riding a snowmobile. I suggest going during the fall. Prices are lower and you have a better chance of booking a cool rental in September or October. The summer months means 24 hours of sunlight and music festivals but also means you won’t have a true Iceland experience due to the crowds. The weather was cold enough to wear a coat but not miserably cold. I hope to catch some snow on our next trip.

Book your flight today before prices…gain altitude!!!