Thursday, June 30, 2011

When You're Tired of London, You're Tired of Life

There are places in the world more different than Reykjavik than London, but at the moment, it hardly feels like two places could be more different. I got my first London wake-up call when I went to watch the changing of the guard yesterday morning only to discover I was too frustrated with the crowds to stay until the end and escaped instead to Green Park to sit under a tree and read. Vowing to avoid all places touristy, I started ambling along only to break my vow when I stumbled on Westminster Abbey.

Traveling in London has given me a bit of a traveler's epiphany: I want to see a place for what it is, not what the postcards and travel books make it out to be. In London, that means accepting the fact that a million tourists are going to get in your attempted shots of Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, so understand that is part of the package and photograph accordingly. It also helped me get through today, when a massive strike/demonstration meant the tour bus I was on got utterly off-track. I decided to hop off the tour bus and just walk, ending up seeing a side of London you don't see every day: the London filled with Police everywhere and the London street full of people picketing and marching for whatever justice they are demanding. The Julie that would have been eager to check sites off a tour list would have been frustrated at the inconvenience, but with this new travel paradigm (which I started to develop in China) of just wandering to see what you see, I must say I ended up enjoying the day.

Of course, it can't hurt that in two days in London, I haven't felt a drop of rain. (it was threatening while I was on my river cruise today, but I missed the rain ducking into a Starbucks for a reading break)

So the pictures I share of London are less focused on all the famous sites (though I did get a nice photo of the parliament buildings and Big Ben) and more on the things I found interesting along the way. Google images, I'm sure, will provide much better pictures of the famous buildings and parks, though sadly, they won't have my face in them. ;-)

A butler out walking dogs in Green Park near Buckingham Palace.

Tourists clamor to take pictures with the guards.

Possibly the most useful signage in all of London, "look right" reminds you which way the cars are coming from on this side of the pond so you don't inadvertently walk in front of one!

Police walk with the peaceful strikers.

A group of teenagers (I think? My age radar has been way off lately) also demonstrates. I find it kind of ironic seeing as how I think the strike was somehow related to pensions, but it's nice to see they are thinking of their future.

One of only two photos of famous sites I'll post, we saw the bridge go up on the Tower Bridge during our river cruise. The guide seemed to imply it was some sort of treat, but also said it happens 500 times a year... Don't know that I'd call that a rare occurrence.

And finally, the Parliament buildings and Big Ben.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Today, I booked a last minute tour to Landmannalauger. I haven't figured out exactly what the name refers to, but my day involved another waterfall, multi-colored mountains, swimming in a natural hot spring stream, hiking through a lava field and driving the 4x4 tour bus through some fairly barren landscape.

It's my last night in Reykjavik. Tomorrow, I'm hoping to get in a run along the harbor before I fly off to London. I'm a little worried because the luggage weight limit is lower than it was flying out here... And lower than my bag weighed in at... So I guess I'll have to wear a few more layers to fly into Britain!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Golden Circle (Iceland Part Three)

Iceland is growing on me very quickly, though it's hard to say whether that can be attributed to it's sheer beauty and the amazing people and how much of that is due to my need for "nesting" and the fact that I have been here long enough to know my way around my little corner of Reykjavik.

Yesterday, I had the funnest time I've ever had doing laundry. There is a little cafe called the Laundromat Cafe, and in addition to having a great conversation with the girl seated next to me at the bar after dinner, I met a couple from Edmonton (my home town) and had a glass of wine with them as we all waited for our laundry to dry.

Here are a few pics from biking around yesterday and climbing up the eight-storey, tallest tower in Reykjavik.

Today was an absolute highlight. My aunt had a connection with a tour guide from her recent trip to Iceland, and I joined him and a nice family from Norway to tour Iceland's Golden Circle and snowmobile across a glacier. The tour was given from a luxury 4x4 and included off-roading up crazy hills and driving through glacial rivers. Thanks Svenni!

View at Thingvellir National Park, site of the Icelandic Assembly.

Gullfoss Waterfall

View from my snowmobile

On the middle of a glacier

Strokkur, the geyser, goes off every five to seven minutes

Hot pots in a meadow

Crater lake

Saturday, June 25, 2011

More from the Other-World (or Iceland Part 2)

The wonders of Iceland have been keeping me busy and active, but with D leaving today and a nasty cold slowing me down, I've finally gotten an afternoon to explore Reykjavik and sit in a coffee shop and back up some pictures. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to upload the pictures from today's excursions, but I'll post a few from Thursday and Friday - busy days spent horse back riding, lounging in the Blue Lagoon and hiking through Thorsmork.

Icelanders are weird. I say that somewhat hesitantly, being of Icelandic heritage myself, but as I've walked around and observed, I've seen a variety of people in homemade bunny costumes, in whale costumes, and most recently some sort of oddly dressed bachelorette party (I can only assume) in which one girl actually had cups in her hair. Of course, the highlight from my colorful characters of Iceland tour was the young man being towed behind a truck on a platform playing drums... Shirtless with the tan line from a bikini top (I can only imagine it was a spray-on tan). To top off all of these interesting observations, I heard a statistic on a tour the other day that 70% of Icelanders won't deny the existence of the "hidden people" (trolls, dwarves and elves... There are three kinds.).

Of course, they are also very endearing, and I haven't met one yet who wasn't friendly and accommodating. When my tour bus driver forgot to pick me up on Wednesday, one of the staff from the tour company ran from his office to collect me at my guesthouse and walk me over to the harbor for my whale watching tour.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In a Word - Wow! (or Iceland Part 1)

Iceland has a beauty that is haunting, surreal and volatile. As one of my professors told me before I left, Iceland is different than anywhere else in the world... This was reinforced as my tour guide pointed out some "fake crater" formations and mentioned that this is the only place you can find them on earth... But you can find them in Mars!

I could wax poetic forever about Iceland, but instead I'll post some pics from my trip yesterday out to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

Monday, June 13, 2011

There's No Need to Panic

On Thursday, I leave Charlottesville.

While I am sure that everything will be fine, my apartment is currently in a state of almost-complete disarray and I worry simultaneously that I won't get everything out of my apartment and that what I want to take to Boston with me will not fit in my car.

It should all be fine, but these are the things you think about when you can literally count in hours the time you have to get everything done.

But it will all be fine.

Someone recently posted a comment asking what I've been up to... well... since I finished my last exam over a month ago, I've somehow managed to keep myself busy with things as random as strawberry picking and roller coasting riding (twice!), have taken many, many trips (to the Outer Banks, DC, Boston for an apartment, Louisville for my roommate's wedding), did two consulting mini-projects, said "see you later" to a lot of friends, and slept in many, many times. The past few weeks have seemed like "filler" weeks while I wait for the highlight of the summer - Thursday's "move" (aka transfer of stuff to storage to Boston) and subsequent Europe trip. In exactly a week, I will be in Iceland.

So now you know what life is like for a post-graduate, pre-work Dardenite. I think my experiences have been pretty typical, judging from conversations around C'ville and pics on Facebook. Stay tuned for pics from my summer travels!