25 February 2014

The parallel adventures of Coughing Man

It has come to my attention that during the retelling of my trip to Iceland, I neglected to mention coughing man. It seems so trivial, but I don't know how I could have possibly forgotten. See, coughing man haunted us the entire trip. His and his wife's itinerary was essentially the exact same as ours. Same flight from Denver, same tours, same flight back. He wasn't stalking us or anything, but we surely noticed he was there. Because of the coughing.

On the flight from Denver, coughing man and his wife were behind us. And he coughed incessantly. I barely slept. I briefly worried that he had some communicable disease, and tried to take precautions. However, someone had already thought to ask him about his wracking cough and he'd assured everyone that it was just the remnants of a prior illness.

I know I mentioned that we got into the hotel very early. And that there wasn't a room ready at that time. Well, coughing man and his wife were in a similar predicament it seemed. And he coughed a whole lot in the lobby while we waited.

Luckily, they didn't end up in a room on our floor, otherwise it could have been ugly.

But that night, sure enough, coughing man and his wife climb onto the bus to go see the Northern Lights. He sat a few rows up and coughed.  

About this time I recalled that I'd had a terrible cough for a few weeks in December and wondered how anyone could have possibly handled being around me. Mostly, my boyfriend. And he had been a bit annoyed at times. I didn't understand until I met coughing man. And I thought his wife was taking quite well, then I noticed that she kept badgering him about cough drops under her breath.

We did get a couple of days respite from coughing man. We may have passed them in the hotel a time or two, but we were adventuring in a rental car and getting away from people.

But on the last day as we were waiting for the shuttle to the Blue Lagoon, there they were again: coughing man and his wife, all their luggage packed. And so we rode the shuttle with them. Bathed in the lagoon near them. And of course sat near them on the shuttle to the airport. All the while coughing man coughed and coughed. The intervening days seemed not to have helped him at all.

So coughing man haunted our trip. We'd be in quiet conversation and his raucous coughing would interrupt. We could hear him from a mile away (I don't think that was ever proven).

I feel as though I haven't described his coughing enough. That I've only mentioned coughing man and that he was around us often. But honestly, I don't know if I would have known he was around if he didn't have the cough. He'd have been just another tourist. I never even recognized him and his wife until I heard him cough. It was so distinctive. It just sounded painful and dry. I wanted to tell him to find an expectorant. I wanted to tell him to drink more water. Or to spend some time in a dry climate.

Coughing man was a part of our trip to Iceland. A small part to be sure, but a memorable one.

19 February 2014

How we almost moved

House hunting is extremely stressful. I wasn't stressed when I put in my 30 days notice. I wasn't stressed when I learned that there weren't many places available in my budget. I wasn't stressed until yesterday when we'd been rejected from one, hadn't heard back from about a dozen and only had a week to pack and move somewhere. The main issue has been Zorro. Which is terribly unfortunate. Apparently even such a dog-friendly city as Denver has weight and/or breed restrictions. There were some places willing to negotiate about him, but it was very hard to find those places. And it's dumb, because he's a lump. He hikes with us, but he'd really prefer to sleep all day. He actually goes into his crate to sleep even when we're home and the door is open. Quite simply, he's lazy. He's easy. Never loud. Never dangerous. Never messy. Just sleeps and eats and sheds and wants to please.

Anyhow, we decided to stay where we are, even lacking a yard, because it's more simple than wading through the ads. And they like us here. And the animals.

I just want to rearrange some furniture to make it seem like we've moved.

09 February 2014

Iceland in Actuality

It's been a long time since I've really traveled out of the country. I mean, a couple of years ago I camped a night in Canada, but before that it was Kenya/Qatar in 2007. So this trip was long overdue. And very much welcomed. Even it if was way too short.

I finally made it to Iceland. It's a place I've been yearning to visit for many years now. I don't know what the exact lure of it has been. The beautiful photos I've seen. The music that has come out of it. The history and lore. All of it I guess. I had three Icelandic words tattooed on my arms for several years.

The opportunity presented itself. Iceland in winter. A vacation package and airfare for a very reasonable price. And it wasn't even hard to talk my boyfriend into it.

We flew out of Denver shortly after 4pm. Six hours later arriving at Keflavik airport around 7am. It was a bit exhausting. We'd rented a car to get from the airport to our hotel in Reykjavik. It was a pitch black drive and we had a hard time finding out hotel due to strange street names that change after only a few blocks. Getting around Reykjavik proved very difficult indeed. The myriad of one way streets only added to the problem. We finally found our hotel, only to learn that our room was still occupied. We opted for a different room. One the woman at the front desk said would be loud at night because it faced the street. The narrow one way street. We assured her we were used to noise and just needed sleep. It did turn out to be very loud though. Icelanders know how to party on the weekends. Anyhow, we got a couple hours rest that first morning then headed toward the nearest national park: Þingvellir.

Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland, in Thingvellir.
 The days are terribly short this time of year (only 6 or 7 hours), so the sun looks like it's either always sunrise or sunset. We didn't spend a whole lot of time out and about that first day since we were still so exhausted from the flight and time difference. Also, we had to meet a tour at 8:30 that night. Northern Lights! We again missed the proper streets in Reykjavk and had a hard time getting back to where we needed to be. It's a small city, but it's nearly impossible to drive in. Walking proved much easier.

Our Northern Lights tour met at the Old Harbour. It was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel. On the way we stopped and bought some hot dogs from a stand that is the most popular restaurant in Iceland. The meal was quite good.

The tour was supposed to be a boat tour, taking us away from the city lights, but the wind was strong and they opted for buses instead so no one would get sick. It was pretty cloudy and the aurora forecast was low, but we did see some wavering strips of green for a few minutes. This night was when I learned that more layers were necessary. It wasn't particularly cold, but the wind was very strong from the ocean and it sliced through everything.

Sleeping as I said was actually a little difficult. I currently live on a very well-used two-lane one way street, but even on a Saturday evening it isn't so populated as the street in Reykjavik. Perhaps if I hadn't been so exhausted I'd have joined the rúntur. Then again, alcohol (and everything else) was far too expensive, so I guess it's good I didn't. We did finally sleep. In fact, we overslept. We'd planned to wake early and head to another national park about 3 hours drive away. Alas, the time change and general darkness confused us and we slept an extra 3 hours. 

We headed north anyhow, knowing we wouldn't make it the whole way.  We decided to go to Akranes, an hour or so up the coast from Reykjavik. It was a quaint little fishing town on a peninsula. The road getting there went through a tunnel underneath a fjord. The tunnel was several miles long. Akranes had a historic lighthouse and a very nice view of the sun coming up (or was it setting?) over some mountains and the sea. 

lighthouse at Akranes.


 We turned around and went south along the coast to Selfoss and up toward Thingvellir from the other direction.We know that 'foss' denoted a waterfall, and seemed to remember that Selfoss was some famous falls, but we couldn't seem to find a waterfall. Afterward, I learned that the waterfall Selfoss is in the north east of Iceland, rather than the south west like the town. So I guess we didn't miss much. 
Icelandic horses are short and fuzzy.

We returned the rental car and got a ride back into the city. Here is where I shall describe the street lights. Like ours, they have three colors. Unlike ours, they turn yellow before going green as well as before red. It's a neat idea I think. 

Dinner this day was rough. I decided I needed to try traditional Icelandic food. And I knew it was not so good. I had done some research. But I wasn't really ready for it. Everything is pickled or cured in lactic acid. It all has a very strong flavor that stays in ones mouth for far too long and turns the stomach. 

Pictured: vileness.
 After the "meal" we stepped outside Cafe Loki to see Hallgrímskirkja lit up for the evening with the statue of Leif Ericsson. And after the statue we went to the Burger Joint for some more familiar food.

The next morning we walked to the sea road to photograph Sólfar. It was a bit too early at the time so we ended up coming back later and I got this photo:
The Sun Voyager
This second-to-last day was spent wandering around Reykjavik and finding good food. We'd not been on a real eating schedule since arriving. The city is small and the streets are narrow. It's hard to navigate because the streets aren't straight for very long and they change names often. But as I said, it was easier to get around by foot than driving. We found a very nice seafood buffet for lunch and stayed away from anything that looked to be pickled or cured. The fish soup was beyond amazing, especially after trekking around the city in the wind all morning. We relaxed for the rest of the day, visited some shops. Had a beer in the hotel.

The last day was our tour to the Blue Lagoon. It is not something that I'd pay for, but it was nice as an addition. The water is supposed to have some healing properties. It's milky-blue and smells of sulfur and sea water. The water is wonderfully warm, but the weather was nasty that day. Cold and rainy and of course windy. After our dip in the geothermal pool, it was back to the airport and back home.

Bláa lónið
My trip was a dream come true, even if I didn't get to see much of the things I yearned to see. It was simply too short a trip. I will go back sometime in the summer for a week or so and enjoy camping in the extended days.