Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Charming Gardens of Iceland and Norway


black petuniasI finally remembered that I told you I was going to do an entire post about the beautiful gardens that we saw on our trip to Norway and Iceland. I have to admit, I thought you might need a plan for getting through this election more. Looking at pictures of sweet Nordic gardens can't hurt either.

 In all the places we visited both homes and businesses had cheery plants at the doorway. These black petunias in Norway were stunning.

And you know how I feel about post boxes...


...and bees.

bee and flower

When we got to Iceland I wasn't expecting the lush gardens we found there. Plants were thriving in the cool summer temps. I loved the charming little compost bin complete with the cutest little red shovel ever. 

garden tools

This pic of some cabbage is the only photo I didn't edit at all. It didn't get any more perfect no matter what I did.


The buildings in Isafjordur were sweetly stark. It showcased the beauty of even the simplest flowers to perfection.

garden in iceland

It's traditional in the Faroe Islands to grow grass on your roof. Even on the garden shed. It's an indication of just how much rain they get.

grass on roof

In the city of Lerwick, Shetland Islands it was all about the fences and gates...

iron fence



Do you look for gardens when you are traveling? I also love to garden hunt in my hometown. It's always fun and interesting to see what other gardeners are creating around them!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Visiting the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, Iceland

things to do in iceland

The highlight of our trip to Iceland was visiting The Blue Lagoon on my husband's birthday. It was something we were especially looking forward to. Our daughter, who can't imagine why anyone would take a vacation at a place with "ice" in the name, called one night to ask if we were watching The Kardashians.

I looked at my husband across the room on the sofa and stifled a laugh. "Um no..."

"Turn it on! They are in Iceland!"

I hung up and told my husband he had to stop watching whatever he was watching because we had to watch The Kardashinas.

Are you picturing it? 

I explained why and we eventually found it in time to see them at The Blue Lagoon doing what else--taking selfies. Turns out it was Courtney Kardashian's birthday and I immediately imagined taking pictures of my husband who would be turning 61 the day we would be there and using the hashtag chasingthekardashians or something equally amusing. To me and my daughter anyway. 

in and around reykjavik

You must buy your tickets online before arriving because they limit the number of people at any one time inside. It seems like a hassle but once you are there you can see why. It would be a totally different experience if the space was overcrowded. From Reykavik you can take a bus across the moon like landscape for the 45 minute ride. The lava rock and thick moss keep you mesmerized until you see the steam rising in the distance.

reykjavik iceland

 Upon arrival you check in and receive a bracelet that acts as your locker key and billing device during your stay. From there you head to the locker to strip down and put your clothes and shoes away and shower before putting on your bathing suit. There are large signs with instructions. The main thing to remember is not to drip on the locker room floor. Seriously, someone will yell at you. 

After that you can enter the water.  This is my husband's official birthday photo. #chasingthekardashians #perryandcourtneysbirthdayadventure Remember my other Kardashian experience? The Painful Kardashian Marathon.

silica mask at blue lagoon

We tried some Kardahian-like selfies but with a severe lack of cleavage.

where is the blue lagoon
 Which brings me to body image. While I was looking for a place to change and shower where I wouldn't be standing around in all my glory I felt a little silly. That's because the Japanese women and European woman were standing around having entire conversations or digging in their purses while nude. I felt a little jealous. Not because they had perfect bodies to show off but because they didn't and they seemed completely unconcerned about it. Having that kind of casual acceptance of one's self is something American women don't do very well. I tried to figure out if it's our perfection obsessed culture or our Puritan inheritance. Whatever it was the answer to it was wine. Did I mention the "swim" up bar?

day at the blue lagoon
Part of the Blue Lagoon ritual is wearing a mask made of silica, one of the main minerals found in the water. Everyone does it and no one fells silly at all. Again...wine.

reykjavik iceland

This was definitely my husband's most memorable birthday to date. All of our favorite gifts involve experiences instead of material things and Iceland on your birthday is just about as spectacular as it gets. Just ask my husband.

Or a Kardashian.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Day in Bergen, Norway


Since visiting Sweden, Finland, and Denmark 4 years ago we've been hoping to complete our tour of Scandinavian/Nordic countries by traveling to Norway and Iceland. Timing it during the two weeks when we could miss the conventions of both political parties was pure happenstance but made us feel like travel geniuses anyway.

bergen norway

During this trip there was much less rushing around large cities and more taking in magnificent vistas and mystical landscapes. This trip was all about the views. Our first stop was Bergen, Norway and our first priority was obtaining tickets to ride the Funicular to the top of Mount Floyen.

funicular in bergen norway

If you are headed to Bergen and want to do this (it's a must, really) you buy your tickets at the visitor center. And do it first thing in the morning. Race there, in fact. We arrived very early and didn't have to wait at all. When we came back down the line was out the door and down the street quite a long way. Given that proposition it is also walkable and would definitely be worth the effort. You don't want to spend your day in this charming town waiting in line.


When you get to the top the views are breathtaking. There are some shops, bathrooms, and a restaurant. There is even a playground  with a troll.


There are trolls everywhere in Norway.

holland america cruise to norway

We got some beautiful photos before a fog rolled in and completely caused this beautiful sight to disappear in a haunting mist.

bergen norway

After you take in the spectacular scenery meander around a bit. We happened upon a magical wood.

norwegian wood

If you are an adult and your faith in fairies and elves is flagging, Norway is the cure for that.

norwegian forest

Just when you are sure magical forests only exist in storybooks...

and trolls aren't real...

forest in norway

stepping into a mystical forest will make you rethink your cynicism.

forest in bergen norway

Surely there is a hobbit or two here somewhere.

The trees towered overhead in a thick mist and a carpet of moss absorbed our voices. We spoke in hushed tones though no other travelers had followed us here.

forest in norway

So often, just steps away from a busy tourist attraction, there is an unexplored gem that most people miss. Take time to wander away from the crowds. Walk around the corner. Follow a hidden path just to see where it goes. You may just find magic

funicular in bergen norway

Monday, August 1, 2016

10 Reasons for Visiting Scandinavia in Summer

travel journal

It's summer which is all about palm trees, bikinis, and tropical drinks with umbrellas. Unless you aren't a real fan. Since I'm a gardener and beekeeper the season certainly has advantages but secretly I find myself longing for chilly nights by the fire with an Irish coffee. So while lots of folks head to the beach for their summer vacation my husband and I headed to Copenhagen and from there to Norway and Iceland with a couple of friends.

Here's a list of reasons why it's a fantastic travel option in summer:

danish boats

1. Charming scenery and quaint vignettes. In case you don't want one more travel photo of palm trees and sand.

2. Gardens and flowers that thrive in a cool rainy climate. I'll be doing a whole post about gardens later but while things at home are wilting in triple digit heat it was refreshing to stumble upon sweet  flowers and delicate plants.

3. The quality of the fruit.  These rasberries and blackberries were massive. In Europe you can be pretty sure your food hasn't been tampered with in that all American GMO Frankenberry way that our FDA approves of.

moss and trees

4. Mystical forests. In the Southeastern US a summer walk in the woods is fraught with real dangers and minor annoyances. From poisonous snakes to ticks and mosquitoes there are a lot of things to ruin a lovely walk including sweltering heat. We found this forest at the top of a mountain in Norway and I don't think any natural place has ever enchanted me more. Okay except for the inside of a bee hive.

traveling norway

5. The seafood. It's everywhere and in all forms from fresh lobsters to crab paste in a can to caviar in a tube.

norwegian fish market

6. The friendliness of the people.  The backstory to this photo is that as we were walking around this fish market in Bergen, Norway the song from the speakers providing the soundtrack was Song of the South by Alabama. That's right--as in

                                                             Song, Song of the south
                                                 Sweet potato pie, and I shut my mouth
                                                             Gone, gone with the wind
                                                 There aint no body looking back again

When we asked this guy about it he said that everyone in Norway loves country music. My favorite thing about travel is always a broken stereotype. 

arctic summer midnight sun

7. You can wear your sunglasses at night. Literally. As our cruise ship left Copenhagen we had our last dark night for the next 10 days. It was cloudy during this entire trip so while it never got dark we also never saw any actual sunshine. It's a bit disorienting but you get used to it.  This picture was taken at midnight after crossing the Arctic Circle off the northern coast of Iceland.

cruising iceland

 8. You can give your winter clothes a vacation. Your sweaters and scarves will be so happy to get out of storage for a few days! And when you get home you don't have to rush to do the laundry. You won't be wearing these cloths again until fall.

9. Everyone--and I mean everyone-- speaks English. You won't find signs or printed materials in English for the most part in Norway and Iceland, but you won't have any trouble communicating. No one is really dressing like this but the people of Renavik, Faroe Islands put on a street show with music and traditional folk music and dancing. See No. 6.


 10. You can take a break from sunscreen.  You won't be needing it. You can leave the insect repellent home too. You'll need that room in your suitcase for an extra hat and a pair of gloves for chilly July days.

Remember the Bizarro episode of Seinfield? This is the vacation version. And it was fantastic!

Happy travels! 
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