Iceland and the Best (Air Travel) Decision I Ever Made

Here’s a tip for all you travelers: when flying to or from Europe, try Iceland Air. It’s cheaper than most other airlines, let’s you have two free checked bags, and always has a layover in Reykjavik, Iceland. No free meals, but with all you get, bringing your own sandwich isn’t a big deal.

On my way to the US from England, I flew Iceland Air and booked myself a nice long layover. With the money I saved by flying Iceland Air, I booked a hotel room for the night and an entire day at the famous hot springs (and still saved over $100). It was more than worth it.

So, on that note, welcome to Iceland!

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We arrived at night, and unfortunately my camera wasn’t sharp enough to pick up the faint northern lights we saw. It was a great way to start the experience, though–definitely brought home that I was somewhere new.

The next day we got up and took a bus to the Blue Lagoon hot springs. On the way we got to see the beautiful Icelandic landscape. Blue skies, snow-topped mountains, and lichen-covered black rock. I’ve never seen anything like it. I just wish I’d gotten more of a chance to walk around outside and explore.

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On our way we passed what we were told was “downtown” Reykjavik. I honestly expected it to be bigger.


But it was certainly cute and quaint, in a short and stumpy kind of way.

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The rest of the ride to the hot springs was uneventful, but very pretty.

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When we arrived, we got right to the main event. Which meant, of course, checking in, figuring out the locker system, putting our bathing suits on, taking our bathing suits back off to shower, putting our now wet bathing suits back on, running outside in below-freezing temperatures, hopping around while we looked for an open hook for our bathrobes, and then, finally, boiling our frozen toes in the very hot water.

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After about five hours at the hotsprings, we got back on a bus and headed to the airport.

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And then we said goodbye to Iceland…

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…for now.

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Salisbury Cathedral, The Magna Carta, and my Favorite Picture Ever

On our way back from Stonehenge we stopped at the Salisbury Cathedral, which houses one copy of the Magna Carta. It was just as magnificent as you’ve been led to believe.

…if you’ve never heard of it, then, well, that’s what my pictures are for!

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Inside the main sanctuary (Nave? Guys I don’t know the names for rooms in churches.) was a miniature replica of the cathedral being built.

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We got a free tour of the Cethedral to the sound of the children’s choir practicing. It was really nice.

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People are prohibited from taking photos inside the room housing the Magna Carta, but I snuck this picture of the ceiling. It’s a really pretty ceiling. If you want to look at the Magna Carta go google it or something. There were guards.

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The Cathedral has helpfully installed skylights so that you can see the magnificence from all angles. This one is in a nook in the hallway.

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Back in the big room (Someone tell me what it’s called, please. Is it the Nave?) I found a few more angles to capture, myself.

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I believe this is the North Transept.

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In the center aisle of the main room is a fountain. It’s very pretty on its own; all smooth stone, hidden drains, and perfectly flat surface. But when you get up close, you realize that the true beauty of the fountain is not the structure, but what it shows.

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And here, finally, is my absolute favorite picture of this blog:

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P.S. — Woodhenge

This is not a joke. Woodhenge is right down the road from Stonehenge. There’s nothing actually left of the original structure except for holes in the ground, which have been helpfully filled with concrete columns to represent the original wooden poles that would have stood there. It seems to have followed a similar pattern to Stonehenge but is not very well known (probably because there’s not much left). It took us less than half an hour to stop, read the signs, and look around, and it made a very cool addition to the trip.

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Stonehenge (It rocks!)

After London (jeez, finally, amiright?) we went to Stonehenge. Unbeknownst to me, the Stonehenge visitor’s center has a whole lot more than just a bunch of big rocks. It begins with a nice-sized museum, which empties out into an outdoor section of experiential learning. There’s a replica of one of the sarsen stones (a particular type of standing stone) that would have taken one hundred strong men to transport. You can pull on it yourself to see how many ancient rock-pullers you count as. My dad counted as five. I barely counted as one, so I’m not showing you that picture.

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Just past the rock-pulling monument to my physical ineptitude are some recreations of the types of dwellings that those rock-pullers and their associates would have lived in. Also everyone else at the time.

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(The monkey is not historically correct. It does, however, have it’s own travel blog.)

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 After the museum, we hopped on the tram over to Stonehenge. No, you can’t walk right up to the stones, but you can get pretty close. And it was a beautiful day, perfect for taking all the pictures my photo-happy heart desired.

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I’ll leave you with this beauty: it’s one of the remaining standing stones that marked the entrance to Stonehenge, back when it was being used for events other than tours.

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London: The Ultimate Drawn-Out Adventure (Part 5)

The day after the market we went to the British Museum.

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There’s not much I can say about this; it’s a museum. It’s pretty good, as museums go–pretty much on par with a Smithsonian (for all you DC people). And it has the Rosetta Stone, which is really what I wanted to see anyway.

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We also saw some other cool exhibits, like this Easter Island statue,

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And some Egyptian mummies!

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However, out of everything, this was by far the best room. It was like stepping into a time capsule. The walls were lined in bookshelves and mini-exhibits, and by the exit was a replica of the Rosetta Stone. I may have hugged it. (Ok, I definitely hugged it.)

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After the British Museum we took a wee trek around the city and found these cool places: (don’t ask me what or where they are.I have no idea.)

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Finally, we ended up in Trafalgar Square, of the famous fountain and big blue chicken.


In an odd turn of events, all of the statues in the fountain, mer-children included, are spitting up water. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this.

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The blue chicken (which is actually called Hahn/Cock, and was created by Katharina Fritsch) is very impressive and totally random and looks very good in front of the giant blue Canada sign which has absolutely nothing to do with it but matches nicely.

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London: The Ultimate Drawn-Out Adventure (Part 4)

We met up with the ‘rents in London (yep, still in London) and went to Borough Market. It had a lot of great food to buy, stalls to wander through, and weird vegetables to look at. Some of them, like this fractal-y cauliflower thing, were just too cool not to take pictures of.

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And then there was the food, most beautiful of which was the German sausage and Indian food.

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London: The Ultimate Drawn-Out Adventure (Part 3)

Next up in my London adventure was a day with my sister, seeing all the Big Famous Things. First stop? Big Ben of course!

Between the buildings we could even see the London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel. The giant Ferris wheel looks cool, but was just too expensive and far away to be worth the time.


For those who don’t really know anything about those big famous buildings in London (besides, of course, that they’re big and famous), Big Ben is the clock tower attached to the Parliament buildings: the House of Commons, and the House of Lords. IMG_0751

I hadn’t realized how beautiful and ornate the clock on Big Ben really is — probably because it’s so hard to see all that gold detailing in photographs. Lucky for you, I got a zoomed-in picture, which does a slightly better job.


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Next to Big Ben is, of course, Westminster Abbey.


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After taking out pictures, we strolled over to the Churchill War Rooms, which has a really wonderful and slightly interactive walk-through of the underground bunkers where Churchill and other leaders strategized and lived during the war, as well as a museum of Winston Churchill’s life. The museum really creates a whole experience out of learning, and I definitely recommend it. Even the cafe serves WWII era foods, which are “rationed” throughout the day if the kitchen runs out of ingredients.


If you go, however, keep in mind that most of the entrance fee is actually a “voluntary donation” and you don’t have to pay as much as they’re asking for.

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Across the street from the Churchill War Rooms was a cute little park, with an even cuter cottage.


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After the Churchill War Rooms we made the long walk over to Buckingham Palace. Now, to be perfectly honest, I expected to a lot more “wow”ed by this famous building than I actually was. It’s gorgeous, to be sure. But it looks a lot like the government buildings in Washington, D.C., and isn’t quite as impressive as the Palace of Versailles, which I had visited just a few weeks prior.


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London: The Ultimate Drawn-Out Adventure (part 2)

After touring the Tower of London, we took a walk along the River Thames (pronounced “tems”).

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We passed a lot of pretty cool things, like this “hovering” statue street performer:


And this fountain, which raises and lowers it’s water “walls” so that you can stand inside without getting wet:


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Then we went mud-larking. That is, of course, the entirely professional, technical name for the activity. The banks of the Thames are home to tons of interesting finds, including tons of pottery fragments from even a few centuries ago. People in London used to use the Thames as a kind of ultimate trash pile for roof tiles, dishes, and other odds and ends that weren’t useful anymore. Today you can distinguish a piece of pottery’s age by the color of its glaze. Most recent is red, then blue, and then green.


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London: The Ultimate Drawn-Out Adventure (part 1)

You may have noticed that I never actually posted my pictures from London. I went three different times, and kept thinking that I’d post them all together… later. Well, now it’s later. So get ready for all the London stuff you never knew you wanted to see. First up is the Tower of London, circa September 2014. IMG_0633

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Pretty, right? Well it gets better. At that point the grounds crew and a whole load of other people (volunteers?) had just started setting everything up for the massive art installation to mark the first day of British involvement in World War I. IMG_0618

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One ceramic poppy was “planted” for each British military fatality during the war. And outside of being a hugely visible way to mark the date and number deaths, it was also an absolutely beautiful means of remembrance. IMG_0625

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The inside of the Tower of London was also pretty neat. We jumped in line to see the crown jewels right away, before all the midday crowds swamped the place, and it was a very good decision to do so. Afterwards, we snuck into the tail end of a tour group that was just starting out, and got to hear about almost everything. IMG_0627

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Happy Holidays to One and All!

My blog posts may be way behind, but I did actually look at a calendar (or maybe someone mentioned it) and noticed the rapidly approaching winter holidays. So I’d like to wish you all a very merry whatever-you’re-celebrating. I, for one, will be lighting Hanukkah candles and exchanging presents beginning tomorrow night — and maybe y’all will get a post about the perfect fried potato pancake recipe (my dad’s, duh) later on.

In related news, there’s a great new blog that I’m very excited about called A Home for the Holidays which collects and posts anonymous letters for people without welcoming families. Christmas time has the highest rate of suicide out of the whole year, and I think if everyone knew just how much they’re wanted on this earth, we could change those numbers. I encourage all of you to write a short letter and welcome a stranger into your hearts this year. After all, what else are the holidays really about, if not spreading the love around a little?

P.S. – If you don’t have a tumblr to submit with, you can send me a message and I’ll get it posted for you.

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