What we did with a 10 Hour Layover in Iceland

Iceland may not sound like the most exciting place to have a layover, but in the last year it has become the “it” spot for layovers. Icelandair offers to have everything from a few hours to days of layover in Iceland. It’s a great way to explore a place you might have never otherwise visited. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Iceland myself with a 10 hour layover. I can tell you it wasn’t nearly enough time to explore this beautiful country, but it sure was the BEST layover I’ve ever had. Let me walk you through what my layover looked like. Granted we had already done some planning to enjoy the hours to the fullest.  Also, we had a schedule before arriving that was not followed at all due to unforeseen things, this is the accurate version of what happened.

6:30 – Landed in Iceland

After some moderate sleeping on the plane we arrived and were ready to make the most of our layover in Iceland.

TIP: Always be sure you’re ready to go as soon as you arrive. Also, early mornings in Iceland are cold, dress accordingly. 

 

7:30- Picked up rental car

Picking up our rental car took too long because it was two people taking care of several reservations. Be sure to allot a good amount of time, we definitely underestimated the wait time.

TIP: Our car rental place had free bottles of water that we kept and refilled for a good part of our trip.

 

8:00- Hit morning Traffic

While we were driving we forgot that not everyone is a tourist and that some people actually had to go to work. Not realizing that we would be hitting the morning commute we got stuck in traffic which threw back our whole schedule.

TIP: Don’t forget to plan for unexpected traffic.

 

8:30- Arrived in Reykjavik

Besides the traffic make sure you enjoy the views on the drive in. We drove around Reykjavik mostly to try and find where we were supposed to go, but it was nice to see the city from the warmth of our car.

TIP: Drive around a bit when you arrive in a new city. It helps you see more of the city and get acquainted with how things work.

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8:45- Found a parking garage on the corner of Hvertisgata St and Smidjustigur St. 

This parking garage is called Traoarkot, but really you can’t miss the huge blue ‘P’ sign. The first hour of parking is 80 ISK ($0.62 currently) and every hour after is 50 ISK ($0.39 currently).

TIP: Park your car and walk along Hvertisgata and the neighboring streets, because this is where all the cute stores and attractions are.

 

9:15- We had breakfast at Grey Cat Cafe (Grai Kotturinn)

While driving around to find where to park and eat, we saw this cute red door that was slightly underground. After we parked and walked a bit to check out the restaurants in the area we settled on the cute Grey Cat Cafe we had seen from the car. Make sure you don’t miss it, it’s a few steps down from the side walk. Red doors and green walls means you are in the right place. While there we had just your average breakfast of eggs, bacon and potatoes. Let me tell you , I have never had better bacon in my life. It might have been the hunger talking, but from what I remember it was pretty delicious bacon.  And the company was quite wonderful. We met some other American tourists who had actually been in town a few days so we asked what we should do, eat and try before leaving. Some of their recommendations: Blue Lagoon, Boli Beer, and Rye Bread Ice Cream.

TIP: When you are in a location with other travelers, never be afraid to talk to them and get recommendations from them. Travelers love to share stories.

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10:00 – Walked to Hallgrimskirkja while getting distracted by cute stores and colorful roads.

On our walk to this famous landmark in Reykjavik we made sure to enjoy our walk by stopping into a store that hadn’t been open yet, several souvenir shops one of which we purchased a shot glass made of lava rocks (I collect a shot glass from every place I visit), and a rainbow road. It was a lovely walk in a brisk fall morning.

TIP: When looking for a souvenir try to find things local to each place. Also stop into even the unlikeliest stores.

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10:30- Got to the top of Hallgrimskirkja.

After arriving and taking pictures outside we entered the beautiful church where the paying system is on an honor system. I was a bit shocked that they trusted tourists this much, but this is after all Iceland where the people are wonderfully kind and trusting. The view from above is just gorgeous. You get to see all of Reykjavik and beyond, it’s quite beautiful.

TIP: Take a minute to just look out at that view. It’s a beautiful peaceful moment when you’re on a crazy busy schedule.

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10:45- Walked back to car while trying Rye Bread Ice Cream

We decided to follow the recommendation of our fellow traveler and try the Rye Bread Ice Cream. It is not something that I would typically order, but it was actually pretty good. It was sweet and had a little bit of a grainy texture to it. I definitely recommend you at least taste it.

TIP: Always try something that was recommended to you by another traveler or local, even if it sounds totally bizarre. Also, walk into a store and ask the local for something that is native to the country or city you are in. (Example: My sister asked me to get candy from every country I visited, and the store workers with the help of other locals gave me recommendations on what to buy. It was fun and educational.)

 

11:00- Got lost on our way to the Blue Lagoon

In every trip, there is always a moment where we are totally lost in a country we don’t speak the language of and have to stop and ask for directions. In our case, we were already late for our Blue Lagoon ticket time so we stopped at a pizza shop for directions. I, literally, stumbled into the store because I didn’t see the bottom of the door frame to ask for directions. They were very nice and even showed on a map how to get there. Without their help, I’m not sure how we would’ve gotten there.

TIP: When you get lost, always remember to stay calm and reassure yourself that everything will work out. It is not the end of the world. It also makes for great stories!

 

11:30- Check in at Blue Lagoon

With every situation you get lost in, you always find kindness on the other side. For us, it was the amazing hostess at Blue Lagoon who not only allowed us in past our ticket time without a penalty but also helped us change our reservation at the restaurant.

TIP: Even when you’re stressed out, worried and behind schedule, always remember to be kind to those who you meet, they might just turn your day around. Also, always carry safety pins, you never know when your bathing suit will decide to break….

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11:45- Head to the bar in the Blue Lagoon

After arriving, getting our lovely bathrobe, flip flop and goody bag we headed to the locker rooms to change. We quickly changed and headed to the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon. It was a much needed relaxation. Our ticket offered a free drink from the bar. I had the rose wine cooler and it was  delicious! They also offer non-alcoholic drinks such as a slushie called Krap, which my friend had. The great thing is everything from your free drink, to lunch to extra drinks you might want to purchase are all go on your bracelet, so make sure you don’t lose it.  Grab your drink at the Lagoon Bar in the water then enjoy the steaming hot waters. Make sure to stop by the small waterfalls too.

TIP: Alcoholic or not, always try something local. The walls are all made with rocks so there are some places with natural seating if you just want to sit down and relax. Also buy a waterproof bag for your phone so that you can enjoy taking pictures.

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12:00- Do the Silica Mud Masks

I’ll let the description from the website do the talking: “The white face mask that you’ve probably seen in photos is the Silica Mud Mask. The mask is delivered at the Silica bar, located in the lagoon. You can apply as much as you want to your face and body, before leaving it on for at least 5 minutes. When you wash it off, you will feel a significant difference in the softness of your skin.”

This “Silica Bar” they refer to is a wooden box with slots just big enough to fit a hand through and grab a handful of it and spread it on your body. The great thing is everyone does it, so we all look ridiculous together.

TIP: Just do the mask. Trust me.

 

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13:00- Lunch At Lava

On site the Blue Lagoon, there is a wonderful restaurant called Lava. At first it feels extremely weird walking into a fancy restaurant in a bath robe, but soon enough you see a few other people in bathrobes and then you realize that you are too fancy to be wearing real clothes anyways. It was a strange but awesome transition of feelings. We had a wonderful lunch, where we did rush it a bit to get back to the water before leaving.

TIP: When you are allowed to go have lunch in your bathrobe, take advantage of it. How many people can say they’ve had lunch at a fancy restaurant in a bathrobe?

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13:45- Headed back to the water

We couldn’t leave without one last dip in the water.

TIP: It’s hard to leave the water, but keep track of time so you don’t miss your plane.

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14:45- Rushed out of the Blue Lagoon

Realizing we over stayed, we rushed out of the Blue Lagoon after showering and changing back to our travel clothes. When I say rush, I mean we ran to the car as fast as we could after paying.

TIP: Be prepared for situations that might make you uncomfortable like nudity and see-through showers or showers with no curtains. At the end of the day, we are all human beings. (PS- this was all in the a same sex locker room)

15:15- Arrived at Airport

It was a mad dash from dropping off the car to getting to the gate.

TIP: Having everything already packed and organized while driving over to the airport, made the car drop off a lot faster.

 

15:30- Waited in line to board with a Boli

While we were behind on our schedule, thankfully so was the airplane, giving us enough time to try one more recommendation, Boli. Boli is a very popular beer in Iceland and we couldn’t leave without trying it. It was very refreshing after a day of relaxation. It almost took us away from the craziness of an airport.

TIP: Remember the water bottle from the car rental we spoke about earlier? We asked around until we found water fountains to refill our bottles. Every airport should have something that can refill bottles, look for them.

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16:35- Take off

We were satisfied with how much we got to do and getting the chance to experience Iceland, even if it was just for a little bit.

TIP: If you can extend your layovers to explore some of this beautiful place, do it!

 

Like you see above, you can do a lot in a layover as long as you plan accordingly. If you’re planning on going to the Blue Lagoon, plan your tickets in advance they do sell out. If you plan for your layover at night you can drive out to see the Northern Lights. Also, car rentals aren’t necessary to get to Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon they do have buses available, we just preferred to have the freedom to be on our own schedule. Iceland is a beautiful place and I can’t wait to explore more of it!

 

Enjoy your adventure!

6 Valentine’s Day Dates in New England

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if you have yet to plan something to do with your significant other or your friends, let me help! New England around winter time can be equally as beautiful as it is bountiful of activities. Here are some ideas of places to go for this Valentine’s Weekend.

1. Fancy Resort

If sitting in a hot tub with mountain views sounds like the perfect day for you, I think I have exactly what you need. New England has many ski areas with several grand resorts, most of which also have spas.  Whether you’re out skiing all day or bumming out in a soft bathrobe and eating room service to your heart’s content, a weekend in these hotels should be the perfect romantic getaway. Here are a few recommendations of resorts in the New England: Mountain View Grand Resort (New Hampshire), Harbor View Hotel (Massachusetts), and Q Burke Mountain Resort (Vermont), Hidden Pond (Maine). You can never go wrong with a getaway relaxing in a resort with beautiful views.

2. Local Breweries & Distilleries

For beer lovers or spirit lovers, here’s a neat and unique option. You can spend the day learning how some local beers and spirits are made and then have a tasting at the end. New England is full of local breweries, but here are a few you can visit: Mooselick Brewery (New Hampshire), Allagash (Maine), Harpoon (Vermont), and Samuel Adams (Massachusetts). Click here for a few more options. And if you just want to go to a different bar, one with a lot of character and variety check out this list by Boston Magazine on what they consider to be the Top Breweries in New England. So why not make a day of tasteful drinking? And instead of driving around, you can Uber or even rent a limo for the day?

3. Vineyards

Going along with breweries and distilleries, vineyards are also a great romantic date. You might even want to look up any special events wineries are hosting. Or just grab your partner or friends and head down to winery and have your own little party. Dogs + wine = White Mountain Winery (New Hampshire). Enjoy!

4. Inns

If fancy resorts aren’t your thing and you prefer a small quaint room or cabin, then a small inns might be a better option. Still on ski grounds so that you can enjoy all the outdoor activities, an inn has the perfect home away from home feel. For a romantic sleigh ride in the snow, Franconia Inn (New Hampshire) has got you covered. A few more options to look into are  Red Lion Inn (Massachusetts), WilloughVale Inn (Vermont), Rendezvous Bed & Breakfast (Vermont) and Rabbit Hill Inn (Vermont).  Each inn offers a different perk or attraction so make sure to look into them before picking one, I guarantee you’ll have a hard time choosing one.

5. Food Tours

For the couples who love to eat, but most of all love to eat together without putting any work behind it, this option is for you! Food tours are available in several cities around the New England area. A few are: Savoring Rhode Island, Taste of New Haven and Boston Food Tours. For more options check out this website: Discover New England.

6. Chocolates

Yes, chocolates. They are every girl’s best friend and a tasty treat for all. So why not take your partner to a special evening in a chocolate maker? Fascia Chocolates in Connecticut offers a Valentine’s Day Dessert Night. So if you know of any chocolate stores in your area, check in and see if they’re offering any special events for Valentine’s Day.

 

Whatever you choose for this Valentine’s Day just remember the important thing is to try new things together, because that will always bring people even closer. Anything big or small can be turned into an adventure, it’s all up to you.

Enjoy your adventure!

 

PS- For more ideas on what to do in New England check out these articles I wrote: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

London Diaries – The Liz Chronicles- You’re a Wizard Harry

Waking up in London in itself was a dream come true. This was real, it wasn’t a dream, I was really in London. After more than 10 years of dreaming of this, it was truly happening. At the hostel, we get up excitedly and get ready for our very long day ahead of us. At the breakfast table, who do we find other than some of my people! We had breakfast with 3 Brazilians, two were leaving that day and one was trying to move to London. (Dude, same.)

Our first stop was the Sherlock Holmes House. And as silly as it is, I was just pumped to be getting on the “tube” to head over there. It really is the little things that make the trip memorable and exciting. Once we arrive, it’s no surprise we start with a photo shoot right outside 221B Baker St.

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Then, we go inside and the first thing we are met with is the souvenir shop. I didn’t know where to look or what to do with myself. They had stuff from the book version of Sherlock, which is what Liz loves, and they had from the show, which I love. Needless to say, I wanted to buy EVERYTHING! But rationale (aka Liz) kicked in and I held myself back from buying everything from sweaters to a pipe. I settled for a deck of cards with Benedict Cumberbatch’s face and a card holder with again Benedict Cumberbatch on them, the latter of which I of course used for the rest of my days in London!

After we had spent quite a bit of time at the store, we headed into the actual museum. And boy, was it awesome! We took tons of pictures in every corner of that house. What made it even more awesome was meeting Kait, a Canadian friend, who we spent the rest of the house touring with. Sherlock’s living room was basically our studio. They had hats, pipes, and a magnifying glass which of course called for an entire photo shoot. The funny part about this bit is as soon as we walked in Liz went for Sherlock’s stuff only telling me “You can be Watson.” And I of course followed her instruction only to remark how Watson of me to do it. And we ended our tour with a bathroom selfie in Sherlock’s bathroom.  But on the way back down, our first shoot wasn’t enough, we go back for more and find other props to use including the violin!  But when it was my turn with the violin I, of course, get caught and yelled at.

 

We, then. headed to the tube and carefully got on, as we had learned the day before that the doors did NOT open up again if you got stuck in them. (Liz’s leg got stuck and she pulled it out before the train started moving again.)

It was time to start our Harry Potter adventures and we were absolutely ecstatic. We had a rough start as we arrived at Leicester Square a bit confused as to where to go first. The great thing, is because we looked incredibly lost, we were immediately offered help by a passer by. But we soon got the hang of our walking tour map & papers. We hit a few different locations but mostly we were just happy to take in London. We saw our first red phone booth which called for pictures.

Next, came what ended up being one of my favorite spots on the tour, Hardys candy shop. It wasn’t my favorite because the walls were lined with candy from the ceiling to the floor. Or the fact that we were able to buy HP candies including chocolate frogs. No, all that was awesome but isn’t the reason I loved this place. I don’t think I have ever had this much fun at a candy store, and all thanks to Laurie. Laurie, happened to be the guy working behind the counter who provided me with all this sugary goodness. But Laurie was more than just a candy store sales man, he was a crumping genius, model extraordinaire, and fun loving man. As I took pictures with him, his poses blew me away, then we had a full blown dance party right there in the middle of this small candy store and it was epic. As we left this store, we promised Laurie we would tell his tale to all we knew so they would go visit him and have dance parties with him.

 

On our journey we encountered more Hogwarts students like us, Gringotts money, and an Aussie street performer. When we arrived at Trafalgar (a place we had to ask 3 different cute locals how to pronounce) Square, I was almost moved to tears. It’s true it’s a beautiful place, but that is not the reason I almost cried. I felt overwhelmed with emotion on the sheer fact that I was here. I wasn’t sitting at the office, I wasn’t at my house watching a movie, I was present in London and appreciating all it’s glory. When you dream about something for so long, it’s hard to explain how incredible it feels that this place not only measures up to your expectations but exceeds it. It was also strange to me how I didn’t feel like I was a tourist. I felt like I belonged, that I had finally found the city I was meant to live in. After moving around so many times, I had never felt so at home as I did in London. (Trust me, I don’t say this lightly.)

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At Trafalgar they had these lion statues and I saw so many kids on them that I was like “I WANT TO CLIMB TOO!” I should’ve definitely thought more carefully about my wish. Getting up there was such a struggle that Liz had to push my butt up, literally. The issue? We began laughing hysterically at the situation, which only made getting up that much harder. Oh did I mention I was in a dress and tights? Yeahhhhhh. You’re welcome Trafalgar Square visitors.

 

I would like to take a moment and dispel a common conception of Londoners. Most of the world has been told that Londoners are cold, rude and just unpleasant people. Within being there a day (and later on 4 more days) I can tell you with full confidence that, that statement is grossly untrue. Any local we stopped to ask for directions, help, information, to take a picture, guidance, opinion, or ask any question was incredibly graceful, kind and helpful. Even if they were in a rush they were never rude or talked down to us as if we were dumb tourists. So to anyone planning on visiting, I tell you the people were incredibly wonderful, and if you’ve had a bad experience I’m sorry.

Okay, back to the story. For lunch we headed to Sherlock Holmes Restaurant & Pub. Our goal this trip was to eat local and traditional plates and only drink local (or national) beers. The bar man’s sass was on point when he said

V:”Can we sit anywhere?”

Bar Man: “Oh you two? No I don’t think so.” With a straight face.

Liz began laughing and then the bar man couldn’t help but smile and reply “yeah, sit anywhere, but up here is where you order.”

Food wise we had bangers and mash (sausage and potatoes) and Liz had an English Ale called Old Speckled Hen while I had the Sherlock Holmes Ale (duh). Also the awesome thing was Liz taste tested a few of the beers before picking hers. And funny enough according to her “The Watson Wallop was Sherlock but less.” A fun fact about pubs in London, they’re all gorgeous! Most of them are black with gold lettering and have flowers all around the top and sometimes on the side. They look incredibly inviting and just beautiful.

 

After lunch came more walking and more filming locations. It was awesome to see first hand different locations and how they transformed those places into what we see in the movies. Then we were walking by the Thames river when our legs just couldn’t handle all the walking. It felt like we had walked all of London, which we pretty much had. And we sat on a bench, which was elevated (GENIUS) so that you get to see the actual Thames and not the barrier. Liz looked at me and asked me how I was feeling. The only word that came to my mind was Blessed. And not in the #blessed way people use it jokingly. It was real. I was blessed to be able to not only afford but be able to do this. So many people go through life unable to explore other parts of the world, or accomplishing life long dreams, and here I was doing one of mine. I was incredibly grateful to be able to do it. And regardless of how much I wanted to chop off my legs in pain, or how my shoulders hurt from my bag, or how cold I felt or anything else, I felt happy and calm. And that in itself was amazing to be able to feel that way. In that moment, nothing else mattered other than the happiness and peace I felt. (I’m getting sappy, I know, but just preaching the truth, that’s all.)

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The cool thing about this self-guided tour was that in it they had these awesome historical artifacts and locations that were off the beaten path and we were able to see those. As the sun began to set and the rain began to drizzle, we approached Borough Market. I had a change in hairstyle thanks to Liz and we looked around this awesome place. A place that definitely had the possibility of being the Leaky Cauldron location, but more importantly was filled with hoards of men spewing from the pubs. We looked at each other confused, it was only Wednesday after all. Why were all these men drinking at pubs on a Wednesday?

 

Well with that question still in our minds we headed to our last stop, Leadenhall. We had to ask for directions, of course, and this is where our lovely Liz becomes a heroine. This guy was actually walking us over to show us where to turn and he wasn’t paying attention to the traffic, so Liz had to pull him back so he wouldn’t get hit by a car. And Liz saves a life. No biggie. At this point exhaustion and hunger had gotten the best of us and we just couldn’t go on any longer. It was also 8pm, and we had started our day at 8am. 12 hours of walking is bound to make anyone quit. So we found Pizza Express and had a lovely pizza for dinner. Side note: this location also had pubs full of men.

After dinner Liz approached a group of guys our age to take a picture of us. We actually ended up pulling up a seat with them. Now, I don’t quite remember if they invited us to join or we invited ourselves, but regardless what I do remember is a lot of laughs. They asked us about our Americanness while we asked questions on their Britishness. It was a nice trade off. Liz and I got made fun of for ordering British Ales, that apparently are considered old men drinks, while we poked fun at their Gin & Tonics, an american older man’s drink of choice. After a few drinks and many jokes (that remained with Liz and I the rest of the trip) , one of our new friends had to leave so we wanted to capture this lovely group and took a picture with them. The other two stayed with us and we actually ended up hanging out for the rest of the evening. We headed to a martini bar after the pub where I learned that British boys are much more unafraid to dance than American boys, and that they were unafraid to order martinis, typically considered a girly drink in America! What we also learned from our new friends is the reason we saw hoards of men at pubs at 5pm is that it is very common for people after work to get together with their friends at pubs to socialize any day of the week. I absolutely loved that idea. It just fostered a more social environment that allows you to make new friends and create quality time with your friends that doesn’t have to mean you are all getting so hammered you don’t remember the previous night. All of this actually also meant that people are not in a rush to get married and that it allows them to actually enjoy their 20s and let things happen naturally.

 

All in all this very long day, was so incredibly fun and full with adventure. And also just full of appreciation for London, Londoners, my life and Liz. It was truly a wonderful day.

Much love always!

# of Miles Walked According to My Phone Step Counter: 12 miles