Iceland’s South Shore

September 9 – Back on the same road for the third day in a row. Next time I’m definitely going to need to go north instead. The “South Shore” tour was taking us to Vik and back with waterfalls, beaches, and glaciers along the way. It’s officially the last full day of my crazy European adventure, I wanted to make it count.

My friend, Carrie, happened to be in Iceland as well. She had arrived several days before me, rented a car, and had spent a fair amount of time at the north end of the island. Our hope was that our paths may cross in Vik.

Our first stop was at Skógafoss. You can walk right up to this immense waterfall and feel its power. There is a staircase that leads to the top of the falls that apparently includes 527 steps. Our stop was too short for me to attempt that climb. I’m sure the views are stunning on a clear day.

We caught glimpses of the Myrdalsjokull Glacier on the way to Reynisfjara Beach. The conditions weren’t safe and the road closed so we hope to get to the glacier on the way back.

Reynisfjara is a black pebble beach and features an amazing cliff of regular basalt columns resembling a rocky step pyramid, which is called Hálsanef. Out in the sea are the spectacularly shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. We had been warned that the waves at Reynisfjara are especially strong and unpredictable. The guide asked us to not go any closer to the water than he is. Of course some idiot went too far and nearly got dragged out to sea. Close call!

Just around the mountain sits the town of Vik where we stopped for a lunch break before turning back to Reykjavik. I grabbed a drink and sandwich then found myself a spot on the beach to eat.

I was standing outside of the gas station reading the tourist map when I heard a familiar voice call out my name. It was Carrie! It was so strange and fantastic to see her there. I was a bit surprised she found me with so little effort. Hooray! We visited briefly as it was nearly time for me to return to the bus. We talked about the rest of my tours itinerary and made a plan to meet up closer to Reykjavik. She still wanted to look around Vik, the beach, and be able to make photo stops along the way.

Back on the bus we learned the conditions had improved and we would be making stopping by Myrdalsjokull Glacier. Myrdalsjokull is the country’s fourth largest glacier and covers the volcano Katla. It was pissing rain and man it was cold. Still worth it. It was only about a 10 minute brisk walk from the parking lot. The pictures could easily be mistaken for a bad Photoshop job, but I swear I was there…lol.

From here we visited Skógar Folk Museum to get a taste how Icelanders lived in past centuries. They had a fascinating collection of tools, boats, leatherwork, and buildings. It was fascinating learning about how they survived such a harsh environment before the modern conveniences.

Having an uncanny sense of time I was walking from one building to the next as Carrie pulled into the parking lot. Another brief visit before it was time for the tour to move on. This time Carrie followed us to the next stop, Seljalandsfoss.

Once at the falls we made jokes about her stalking me as we admired the falls and took a short walk. There is no shortage of stunning waterfalls in Iceland. I fear I’ve only enjoyed a small percentage of them.

With the drivers blessing I left the tour and continued on with Carrie. We had reservations at the Blue Lagoon. I was so looking forward to warming up and relaxing.

We arrived before our scheduled time so we sat down for a nice dinner at the resort. It was delicious. Soon the time had come for us to hit the lagoon. It was sooo nice to be able to get into, and out of, the water without having to leave the building. The air was plenty chilly. It was an incredibly relaxing evening. I had 2 regrets. First, I’m sad we didn’t schedule an earlier time because I could have spent the day there. Second, I’m sad it wasn’t possible to schedule an in-pool massage. The Blue Lagoon is a must-do in my opinion. I was pleased to learn they are working on more hotel rooms at the resort. Something I’ll definitely keep in mind for future visits.

Carrie returned me safely to my airbnb and we said our goodbyes. I’ll see her in a week or so when we’re both back in the Seattle area.

Milan to St. Moritz – July 7

A nearly 6 hour train journey was in store and I needed to be back to civilization to work by 6pm. Despite the distance it was only going to be one train change. That’s always nice to see. The more trains there are, the more potential for issues or delays. The only issue on this train? My inattentiveness. As I went to sit my pants pocket caught on the armrest and ripped open. And no, it wasn’t just a little tear. Not what you want happening when your clothing options are already limited. Good thing I packed a sewing kit!

This has been my favorite train journey so far. I got some really incredible views of Lake Como, Italy as we traveled the length of the Eastern shore. The biggest challenge was to get pictures out the train window in the small breaks between trees and buildings.

Off the Italian train and on to the Swiss train where we climbed and climbed right up into the Alps. It was pure bliss! I could feel my blood pressure and body temperature decrease. This is my happy place.

The train was extra special too, it had these large windows you could open. OMG!! No more window glare! The cabin was fairly empty so I rushed from one side of the train to the other capturing pictures, occasionally taking a seat only to jump back up again. I’m sure the older couples on the train thought “stupid tourist” but who cares.

We made a lot of stops, picked up a lot of hikers, and again I found myself wishing I’d done more research. Guess its better to not know what I was missing. This is a destination I will definitely be revisiting some day.

Eventually we wound our way down the mountain and into St. Moritz. It is a stunning mountain town which looks just like what I’d imagined a Swiss town to be.

As I looked up the hill from the bottom where the train station was I decided a taxi was going to suit me just fine. I was a bit embarrassed with how far she actually drove me, but I was still relieved I didn’t have to climb that hill! I handed her Euros, she gave me back Swiss Francs. I wasn’t prepared for that, but apparently that’s what Swiss businesses do. It was a little odd to me because now I have to trust this person 1) knows the current value of the Euro against the Franc and 2)is honest. My next stop was an ATM where I withdrew Francs so I didn’t have to be all suspicious.

Got checked in to my Airbnb and got a recommendation from my host. The food was unpronounceable but really delicious. I sure did appreciate them providing an English description of the menu items.

Returned to my room to get back to work after a short few days off. Whee!