Thursday, March 19, 2015

icelandia.

Guess what?! Ben and I are engaged! We are beyond thrilled and happy. And on top of just the awesome part of being engaged, Ben pulled off the proposal in spectaculor fashion that not only took me by surprise (which is hard to do) but overwhelmed me. I am still amazed by it all. The story is long and involved and exciting and beautiful - but you have to hear it in person for the full effect. So, for now, the short of it is that Ben surprised me on a Tuesday and kidnapped me to Iceland. We have been talking about going to Iceland for a long time now, and he apparently started planning this trip back in December. There were only two people in the world that knew about it all - his best friend, Peter - who is a walking black box where secrets go to die, and his Mom. And at some point about a month out, my Chief of Staff who blessed the plan for me to disappear from my office for 3 days! I can tell you that I had absolutely no idea and that we are now the ultimate evangelists for Iceland tourism.

We landed in Iceland on Wednesday morning after an overnight trip and it is just breathtakingly beautiful. Ben had given me a full planned itinerary for our five days when we got on the plane. I should add that yes, Ben also succeeded in packing a huge suitcase, two carry-on suitcases, and two backpacks with everything I could have wanted...including nail polish! He had been watching what I wore for a couple weeks and even observing my make-up routine to make sure he brought everything!

When we landed, we picked up the rental car he had reserved and we started driving south. Ben had rented this perfectly picturesque house in southern Iceland. It was small and charming and gorgeous. Here is the airbnb link if ever you are headed to Iceland - we highly recommend it! It stands alone in the middle of a field, with bluffs on one side and spectacular 360 degree views.
To give you an idea, here is part of the long road that leads up to the house....

That first day, by the time we got to the house, we were exhausted and the gale force winds were at 40 mph. The house was engulfed in fog and snow and hail and rain. The wind was so strong we had to hold the car doors from snapping back when we got out of the car! So, we decided just to hunker down and relax. We had actually planned to go for dinner that night and while we had gone to the grocery store on our way, we hadn't bought anything for dinner. We scavenged the kitchen and went Top Chef style...and Ben made a surprisingly great pasta with sunflower oil and red pepper flakes!

We woke up the next day ready to get on with the planned itinerary and we headed out. The wind, hail, snow and rain came in waves. So, it might go 20-30 minutes in white out conditions and then suddenly the clouds part and blue sky would open up. Our first stop was this waterfall, Skogarfoss, which also happened to have a rainbow coming out of it when we arrived.

We also hiked to the top overlooking the waterfall, with this view....

From here, we headed east to Vik. Vik is the southern most point in Iceland and might just be one of the most beautiful places I have seen. On our way there, a snowstorm rolled in and when we pulled up to the edge of the bluff, the wind was shaking the car. We were surrounded in fog and couldn't see the view in front of us. Nonetheless, we sat in the car and ate our lunch. Whenever we go on a trip, we tend to just pack PB&J and picnic in the car, and we continued the tradition here. On that note, it turns out Iceland is dominating the bread scene. This loaf of sandwich bread we bought at the grocery store is the best wheat bread we have ever had. We went back and bought two loafs and brought them back with us!
Anyway, the storm eventually passed, and this is what we had in front of us....

I'll stop with the pictures now, you get the idea! We spent a while here taking way too many photos and in awe of it. It is hard to describe how beautiful this black beach is with the white crush of waves flooding up on it. But a storm eventually rolled in and we decided it was time to go. We made a pit-stop in the town of Vik with this beautiful church...

And then we started the drive back to the house. The day had been wonderful...one of our best and on our way back, Ben proposed in this beautiful, wide open field just as it had started snowing again on the road back to the house. There was a gate that has to be unlatched and when I got out of the car to open it, he followed me out of the car and surrounded by the bluffs and wide open sky he asked. It wasn't quite here - I had taken this picture earlier in the day - but close by...

And to celebrate, we went to dinner at Hotel Ranga. It is this awesome hotel where a lot of people go to see the northern lights. Our dinner turned out to be great and we were obviously in big celebration mode!

We woke up the next morning, had a lazy morning, and then headed to Reykjavik. Initially, the plan was to go for the day and then drive back that night after dinner. Ben had made a reservation at Dill Restaurant, arguably the best restaurant in the country. So the night before, after Hotel Ranga, when after we had come back to the house, we made a last minute call and decided to book an airbnb for the next night in Rejkavik so that we could enjoy the dinner to its fullest and not worry about a late night drive back. Here is the airbnb we got in Reykjavik and again we would highly recommend it!

Turns out Reykjavik is not all that I had thought it was. In my head and from pictures, I thought it would be this charming, quaint little Amsterdam. Our advice to you would be to spend a couple hours and move on. Or do what we did and come in for an afternoon and dinner, spend the night, and then get outside the city. Nonetheless, we went to see the Hallgrimskirkja Church which is the main landmark.
And the views from the top are worth a quick visit...

Iceland also has a strong coffee culture, so we stopped into Reykjavik Roasters for some energy...

We also brought home a couple boxes of Icelandic salt with us too!

We checked into our airbnb, got ready for dinner and headed off to Dill Restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was designed beautifully and the service was fantastic. Much like the famous Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Dill is serving up interesting plates sourced from local ingredients and sources. We had a fantastic meal...including this first bottle of wine which was impressively on point!
We also started off with this bread (which again, Iceland and their bread - amazing!) - and I loved the presentation in this glass bowl!
And after dinner, we went upstairs to the bar which we would also recommend for a drink. And then we walked back to the apartment, in yes you guessed it, another snowstorm...
We woke up and headed to this awesome little spot for breakfast, Bergsson Mathus. We again would definitely recommend it!
From Reykjavik we jumped in the car and headed off to the Golden Circle.  The Golden Circle is a famous tourist route that includes the geysir and strokkur, the ├×ingvellir national park where the Vikings parliament was and finally the Gullfoss waterfall. Pictures won't do justice to the landscape we drove through, but we were basically living in Game of Thrones. The whiteness was just astounding. And it just goes on and on and on.

And Gullfoss was gorgeous. Though, it was very very very cold!
We also stopped to pet and nuzzle Icelandic horses along the road. I fell in love with Icelandic horses, they are unbelievable animals. They are huge - the biggest in the world and they are everywhere. You can't drive more than two miles without seeing groupings of them. And they are stunning, all different colors. But most importantly, as big as they are, they love cuddling and people. We pulled off the road and we stood by the fence crinkling papers in our hand and they came running to greet us! We fed them some bread and I can't tell you how gentle and amazing they are!

We ended this day stopping at the hot springs at the Fontana Wellness spa. It was gorgeous and awesome.
And on our drive back home, we stopped for a lovely dinner in Selfoss at Tryggvaskali Restaurant. We loved it. It had so much character and the food was great. We spent our last night at the house and woke up the next morning heading back to the airport with a quick stop at the Blue Lagoon as well!
Iceland obviously holds a very special place for both of us now. Ben's engagement adventure was pulled off without a single bump. From our house, to the restaurants and sites, to the landscapes and people - we had five of the most incredible days...and we came back engaged! Woohoo! And now we are just celebrating a lot and basking in that amazing time before wedding madness and pressure sets in!

1 comment:

  1. Oh I just can't get enough of this! I love you both so much!!

    ReplyDelete