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Mývatn to Akureyri

Rarely had I seen a bluer sky or whiter snow than the landscape I woke up to. We got our first view of Mývatn that morning in daylight, no snowstorm or winds, and we observed that the lake itself is only part of the draw of the region — huge volcanoes with deep snow-filled craters circle the lake at a distance, making for a dramatic landscape in the winter and, inevitably, an inviting hiking destination in the summer.

The complimentary breakfast at Vogafjós Guesthouse was the best of our trip. We helped ourselves to 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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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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Not just any beach day.

My mom has been bringing home an interesting flower bud or two from her morning walks each day and placing them in water in a shallow palm-sized dish shaped and painted like a flower, provided by the condo. Neither plumeria nor hibiscis nor something yellow and pretty has survived until morning. The petals turn brown or the whole flower drinks up so much water it shrinks into a wet little ball. The flowers, the cats, the locals–no one wants to be indoors in Hawaii.

Today, we are going to the beach with the paved road, north of the “lava road” beach and farther from the airport. It’s also part of Kekaha Kai State Park, with its many little bays with difficult-to-pronounce names, and we hope this bay makes for a good beach. But we worry a little–if you don’t almost destroy your rental car getting to the beach, how great can it be?

It could be the best beach in Hawaii.  Read the rest of this entry »

Why can’t I be as brave as this wee wahine?

Today, I need to grow a pair of kahunas. We’re going snorkeling, and I want to be brave enough to float 15 feet above a lot of tiny little vegan fish, and potentially a 50-foot starfish that can suck my eyeballs out of their sockets and then smother me to death.

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I do the math in my head a couple of times, and it seems that I have more time left in Hawaii than I’ve spent here. It feels weird. Usually, this many days into a vacation, I went home yesterday. The last time I went somewhere fun on vacation for a whole week was four years ago.

I have somehow become the official sandwich-maker of the trip (and by “somehow” I mean “voluntarily,” and “without asking if anyone else wants to do it”). I love it. I eat salad every day for lunch and then whatever I want on the weekends, and “whatever I want” come Saturday usually involves meat and cheese on bread, and also french fries, a bloody mary, and an aspiring actor who brings these things to me on a sunny patio. I almost never make sandwiches for myself, because I cook only healthy food, and a healthy sandwich sounds terrible to me.

Regardless, calling upon my high school lunch-packing, I think I make a good beach-ready vacation sandwich that is only sort of healthy: two slices of Hawaiian bread slathered with honey mustard all the way to the crust, an almost inch-thick layer of deli turkey and ham, and an oversized slice of cheese, all sliced down the middle or on the diagonal, depending on what you like, wrapped up in paper towels and plastic grocery bags. My mom has picked up a ton of fresh lychees for beach snacking, and we’re sneaking beers in the cooler, too.

Today, we are going to a beach that is literally off the beaten path.

Waipi’o Valley overlook.

Today, we are taking a day trip to the Waipi’o Valley. I spent some time researching the hike before coming to Hawaii and read several blog posts saying it’s beautiful and interesting and strenuous, and there’s a great restaurant nearby in Honokaa. I’m sufficiently convinced to go–but no one actually says how to get there, how you’ll know when you’re there, or how to find the trail. I make a mental note to blog about the Waipi’o Valley day trip later and actually include directions–assuming we ever find it today.

I’m not the only one who’s frustrated. My parents return from a sales pitch for condo ownership looking like they could use a vacation.

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Spring in NYC

My mom’s the kind of person who feels like she’s receiving a gift when she gives one, so all she wanted for her birthday was for our family to be there for her present to her mom, a New Yorker inspired weekend of opera and fine dining in New York City. They both celebrate important birthdays this spring, the kind that end on a “0” or “5” and deserve great parties, so we were thrilled to oblige. She — some might say wisely — turned over a lot of the planning to an event planner who already lives in the city and does pro bono work. (I was thrilled just to be asked.) Here’s my story of the experience.

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