Wednesday, September 27, 2017

World tour: Iceland

After our last minute pivot to Boston, we left for our first destination abroad: Iceland.  When scheduling flights from the US to Europe, Icelandair had some of the least expensive flights.  They also let us stopover in Iceland for up to 7 days for the same cost as flying directly to Europe.  Since we wanted to see Iceland anyway, the stopover worked great.  They turned out to be a really comfortable airline too; more pleasant than others I've tried.

We rented a small house on the south coast near Strandarkirkja.  It's about an hour's drive south of Reykjavik (which we didn't visit).  We loved the rural feel in this area.  The closest town was about 15 minutes away.  There were only about 5-10 houses near us.  Everything else was open fields, lava rocks, ocean and the occasional rainbow:


During the five days we were here, the sun shined for about 12 hours total.  It rained the rest of the time.  I thought that was pretty good weather for autumn in the north Atlantic. The kids enjoyed walking along the rocky beach near the house on one sunny day.  The water was too cold for swimming, but they enjoyed throwing rocks and watching sea critters:


When we travel, we try to live like the locals and to avoid the most popular destinations for foreign visitors.  So instead of eating at restaurants, we buy groceries at a local store and cook our meals at home.  Instead of visiting Blue Lagoon, we went to a small community pool in Hverager├░i, etc.  A slow pace in small venues suits us well.  Anyway, as you can imagine, seven Americans wandering around a small town grocery store in Iceland draws plenty of attention.  Our meager attempts at Icelandic were laughable, but everyone we encountered spoke excellent English.  Iceland is roughly the same size and population as Wyoming and they speak their own language so very few goods are manufactured specifically for the Icelandic market. That meant that their grocery store is an amalgamation of items imported from UK, Norway, Sweden and Denmark with labels in the same assortment of languages.  It was fun to decipher all the languages.  We ate horse sausage with dinner one night and had Icelandic lamb another night.  We also enjoyed the name of local milk brand:

Iceland is a remarkably beautiful place.  It reminds me a lot of Wyoming: open, windy, treeless expanses in a harsh climate.  The barren landscape that we saw may not be for everyone, but we really liked it.  Other areas, like Hverager├░i were gorgeous in a more traditional way:



Our only regret about Iceland is that the stopover prevented us from spending more time here.  We enjoyed the country so much that we think we'll stay in Iceland again on our way home in the spring.

After Iceland we had planned to stay in London for a few days before flying to Madrid.  However, three days before departing Iceland, Ryanair canceled our flight to Madrid so we had a quick, overnight turnaround in London instead (the only flight remaining).  We should be able to see London in the spring when we return to the UK.  We did enjoy seeing London at night as the plane landed:


Next stop: Spain

Thursday, September 21, 2017

World tour: Boston

First step in the world tour: pack our bags.  With the many planes, trains and buses we'll use over the next year, there's not much room for luggage.  Each person gets a carry-on and a laptop bag.  Brigham helped me load it all up:

And Gideon created a small token of our departure:


To kick things off, we had planned to surprise the kids with a trip to Orlando.  The ever thoughtful Hurricane Irma had her own surprise in mind: cancel our flights three days before departure.  Since we couldn't reach Orlando, we did a quick pivot to spend the week in Boston (from which our Europe flights departed anyway).  It all worked out surprisingly well.  We found a small house near Revere Beach.  Haven and Jericho insisted that the water was warm enough for swimming:


Wonderland station on the Blue Line was only a 20-minute walk from our house, so we used the T most days to travel into the city.  Our daily walks near the ocean to and from the subway became a pleasant feature of the trip.  On one walk, Brigham got bored and decided to use a small shell to collect sand from the beach and construct his own private sandbox in the shade of a gazebo.  As you can imagine, this was a very slow process:

In the city, we visited the New England Aquarium, some historic sites and Boston Common.  Walking through Boston Common one evening after dinner, we were 150 ft away from a shooting.  We heard the shots being fired and saw some of the participants dive to the ground.  The crowd scattered and we followed suit.  We joked later that we dodged a hurricane and bullets within a few days and that this trip was turning out to be more exciting than we'd expected.

We also toured Plimouth Plantation to learn about Pilgrims and contemporary natives.  The Plantation is probably the best living museum I've ever been to.  There's a lot to explore and the staff is all very knowledgeable and glad to answer questions.

On our last day in Boston, we tried to attend a local ward's Sunday meetings.  It turned out that they had stake conference that day so nobody was at the meetinghouse.  Two other groups of travelers showed up with the same plans.  After they all left, we stood outside the locked building in the shade and sang primary songs and had our own little Sunday school lesson as a family.  It was a pretty great way to spend a Sunday:

Next stop: Iceland