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Manarola.

I slept through most of our relatively short train ride to the Cinque Terre, missing what my husband later reported was a great, if fleeting, view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. With his seat facing backwards, his view was of what the train had already passed, and he couldn’t wake me in time to see it so he decided not to. I was excessively disappointed, and I asked all about it and why not wake me, but I could tell he felt bad about it and I was just making it worse. It was a good moment early in our marriage — he repeatedly said he was sorry, but in the end, I realized I was the one who needed to apologize.

The five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso comprise the Cinque Terre, from south to north. Each is impossibly built into the craggy coastline where the top of the boot curves west toward the south of France. The region is both a national park and a Unesco World Heritage site, and because vehicle access is either limited or nonexistent, most visitors access the area and move between villages by train, ferry, or walking trail. Read the rest of this entry »

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Höfn to Mývatn

A replacement SUV rental arrived mid-morning, shortly after we finished our complimentary breakfast in the Höfn Inn’s charming dining room across the street from the guesthouse. We loaded up the car and were soon on our way to the resort area of Lake Mývatn, where we would be staying at a guesthouse with a working dairy farm. I booked it before we’d even bought our flights.

We had every reason to be optimistic about the day’s drive, for a change. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hella to Klaustur

The view out the bedroom window in the morning startled me. In the morning sunlight, in what I would find out was about an hour’s drive east, I saw a long line of snow-capped peaks along the horizon. The evening prior, the visibility wasn’t that good, and the eastward view just looked like farmland. But that morning, Read the rest of this entry »

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Reykjavik

Iceland didn’t feel exciting to me at first. Disembarking to a wet runway at Keflavik International Airport not long after sunrise, at what felt like 11:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, I thought it was flat, barren, and colorless. I worried I was at the southwest corner of a small and uninteresting island, adrift between continents.

But after spending almost two weeks circling the perimeter of the country, I’m grateful for my uninspiring introduction to the country. Iceland is a cold bath and a hot tub all at once, both alarming and comforting, best eased into slowly. Only hours after that initial misreading, everything about Iceland was surprising to me, and to extents that I’d never experienced in my life before then.

Turns out, Iceland is pretty exciting.

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