Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We had another long drive across the northern part of Iceland, so we were up and on our way toward the Snaefellsnes Peninsula right as the sun was coming up. About 30 minutes outside Akureyri, it started snowing! We were still in the mountains, so this made me a little nervous but it wasn’t a heavy snow and there were other vehicles out, so the road cleared pretty quickly.

A couple hours into the five hour drive, we stopped to see some traditional Icelandic turf houses in the tiny town of Glaumbaer.  People to lived in the Glaumbaer turf houses up until the late 1940s and the farm they sit on has been there since the year 874. There’s also a church on the grounds. It does cost to go in the turf houses, but you can still walk around the grounds for free. Tourist season runs through the end of October but you have to make a request in advance to tour them at that time of year, so no one was available to give us a tour. It was still worth a stop just to see a piece of Iceland’s history.

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The next stretch of road was pretty long but took us to the western part of Iceland, through more snow, mountains and even past a couple active volcanoes. We left the Ring Road for a bit to get to Grundarfjordur, our stop for the night.

The town itself doesn’t have much to offer as far as amenities but it’s only two hours from Reyjkavik so if you don’t do the entire Ring Road like we did, its definitely worth a day trip to see Kirkjufellsfoss, the most photographed sight in Iceland.

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Although you can’t tell from this picture, there were lots of people at this site and we had trouble finding a place to park along the side of the road. Huge bus loads of people were arriving the next day too, so if you want it to yourself, you might try to get there early. Game of Thrones fans will definitely want to visit Kirkjufellsfoss  – several scenes from “beyond the wall” were shot here.

We spent the night in  at a hostel and ended up cooking our dinner that night because food options are almost non-existent with the exception of the grocery store and a pizza place. The plan was to eat at a food truck but after being unable to locate it and finally asking about it, we were told the owner had already packed up for the season.

The next day, we headed back toward Reyjkavik, stopping at the Little Black Church and to snuggle up to some friendly Icelandic horses.

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A word of warning – our GPS tried to take us on a sketchy road to get to the Little Black Church. It was unpaved – at least the part we could see – and went up into the mountains. We were both uncertain about taking that way because neither of us wanted to have a flat, so we backtracked a little bit and went back the way we came into Grundarfjordur instead. It added a little bit of time, but not much and it just felt safer to us. Always trust your gut!

There’s a path from the Little Black Church that leads down to the sea and through a lava field. Short and unique hike and well worth an extra few minutes at the church if you need to stretch your legs.

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There are quite a few other things you can do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but due to time constraints, we had to skip them. If you’re thinking of going, definitely look into Snæfellsjökull glacier, which is featured in the movie Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Here’s a map of our stops, including the Little Black Church, which we actually did on a different day but I included since it’s so close to Grundarfjordur.

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Exploring South Iceland

Exploring South Iceland

Iceland has been on my bucket list for quite some time and when WOW Airlines started flying there for cheap (round trip was just over $400) a few years ago, I’d always kept it in the back of my mind that I should take advantage of their deeply discounted flights.

Sometime in August, my brother-in-law mentioned he might want to go to Norway and I said, “have you ever thought about Iceland?” Shortly after that, we decided to make it a reality and booked our flights. Iceland definitely wasn’t in the plan for 2018 but the opportunity fell in my lap, so I took it and I’m so glad I did!

The flight over was 6 hours and they are 4 hours ahead of us. We picked our rental car up and stayed in Kopavogur the first night in a lovely Air Bnb. The next morning, we set out for the southern portion of the Ring Road, which is the main highway that goes all around the country.

Leaving the city and driving into the moss covered lava fields was unreal. It looked like scenery straight out of The Land Before Time. Smoke was coming out of the ground in geothermal hot spots and mountains jutted against the skyline. Pictures really don’t do the country justice at all.

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Our first stop was at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, which you can walk behind. You will get wet! So make sure to bring a waterproof jacket and shoes. There’s another small water fall a few meters away that’s semi hidden and you’ll need pretty tall boots to wade through to see. It’s worth it though.

From there, we went to Skogafoss Waterfall, which is much more impressive and you can walk up a steep hill to view from the top. It was raining, very cold and the wind threw chilly water at our faces which felt like ice pellets. Not for the faint of heart!

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From there, we drove to Vik to visit the Black Sand Beach. Game of Thrones fans may remember the basalt caves and column from scenes where dragon glass was discovered. This was by far one of the most unique and beautiful places in all of Iceland. Do obey the warning signs about the waves – they were massively forceful and would sweep you out to sea in an instant.

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Our next stop was the breathtaking Fjardrargljufur, a massive canyon that looks like the entrance to Middle Earth. It’s not a very well known spot but I read about it on another blog and we felt it was well worth stopping at. I read that during the summer months, you can kayak down the river, which would be really fun!

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Total driving time for the first day was about 4 hours, but we spent quite a bit of time at each place so by the time we got to our hostel (Hvoll Guesthouse), it was dark. Also worth noting, if you do stay at Hvoll, there is nothing around for food, so make sure you eat before you check in or you will end up back tracking about 15 miles like we had to do.

This was also one place where we had to share a bathroom/shower with about 35 other guests who all came on one bus together, so that wasn’t ideal but definitely out of our control. Here’s a map of our first day and the main stops in south Iceland.

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Kelly’s Top 10 Favorite TV Shows of All-Time

I’m a huge TV fan. Given the choice between staying in and watching a show on Netflix or going to the movies, I’ll pick a TV show nearly every time. It wasn’t always this way though – growing up on a farm without cable, we were limited to whatever the antenna on the roof was able to pick up. TV watching was strictly a weekend activity and our choices were very slim. Saturday nights were spent watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Touched by an Angel, Walker Texas Ranger, and the occasional X-files or Outer Limits episode after dad had gone off to work. Occasionally the WB would come in, often extremely fuzzy, but not too fuzzy to keep me from trying to watch Tia and Tamara in Sister, Sister.

Grandma’s house was TV heaven – it was there I experienced 90s TV at its finest – Clarissa Explains it All, Full House, Saved by the Bell, Home Improvement and TRL. It wasn’t until college though that I really, truly began my love affair with television. Our on-campus apartment had tons of channels to choose from and the library had TV shows on DVD. When I wasn’t doing homework or hanging out with friends, I was binge-watching shows before binge-watching was even a catchy phrase.

And while we’re currently living in what many are saying is the “Golden Age of Television,” most of my favorite shows are from an earlier era. Current favorites like Nashville, Big Bang Theory and Breaking Bad might someday end up on this list, but for now, they don’t come close to these ten shows I call my all-time favorites.

Number 10: Game of Thrones

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Game of  Thrones is a fantasy drama currently on HBO and in my opinion, the best show on TV right now. Based on the book series of the same name, the show follows a cast of characters who live in the fictional continent of Westeros. There are many families and kings and only one rightful heir to the iron throne. It’s everything you could hope for in a epic fantasy, plus dragons! There are a few snoozy characters (also snoozy in the books) but everything else more than makes up for a couple of boring plot lines here and there. Since the show is still being filmed, it remains at #10 on my list but could potentially climb higher depending on the how the final season ends.

 

Number 9: Veronica Mars

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A modern day Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars developed a cult-like following after premiering on the UPN in 2005. It ran two seasons on UPN and then a third and final season after the WB merged with UPN to form The CW. The fans didn’t forget about Veronica though, they funded big screen movie adaptation through Kickstarter and 2014, Veronica Mars opened in theaters everywhere.  The show was smartly written, Kristen Bell was wonderful as Veronica and it got high praise from Joss Whedon who called it the “best show ever.” What more could you ask for in a teenage high school crime drama?


Number 8: 24

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One of television’s biggest thrill rides, 24 literally had people on the edge of their couch cushions for 8 seasons. Debuting shortly after the September 11th attacks on the United States, 24‘s timing couldn’t have been better – the show followed CTU agent Jack Bauer and his efforts to protect America from terrorism plots. Each episode was 1 hour out of a day and events took place in real time, adding to the suspense of the show. It was gritty, violent and at times, controversial. Sadly, 2014’s mini-series reboot didn’t have the same magic as the original show, but Jack Bauer will always have a place in my top 10. Sometimes I even wish he was real – he could teach those ISIS terrorists a thing or two about messing with America.

Number 7: Supernatural

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One part Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one part The X-Files, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester hunt demons, vampires and other things that go bump in the night.  Sam and Dean road-trip across America in a vintage Impala, jamming to classic rock and are armed with holy water, salt, crossbows, shotguns and an angel named Castiel to fight the forces of evil. The show started out as a monster of the week  mystery adventure but since then has moved on to more complicated story arcs involving the apocalypse, fallen angels and some nasty creatures called Leviathan. Supernatural is now in it’s 10th season on The CW and continues to do well for the network and with fans. I HIGHLY recommend watching if you enjoy a dynamic cast and a show that has a horror movie feel to it.

 

Number 6: The O.C.

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Searching for a good ‘ole soapy teenage drama? Look no further than The O.C. Set in sunny Newport Beach California, the show revolved around Ryan Atwood, a troubled kid from Chino who’s taken in by the ultra wealthy Cohen family. The Cohen’s already have a son of their own – socially awkward Seth who’s been in love with Summer Roberts since the 3rd grade. Ryan eventually falls for the rich girl-next-door, Marissa Cooper and the four teens become  inseparable. The parents also play a major role in the series, which is unusual for teenage dramas.

The music was great, the cast was perfect and even though it was considered a “teen” drama, the show touched on some heavy topics of social class, environmentalism, drug addiction and death. Season 1 was definitely the best, but the entire series has a special place in my heart since it was really, truly the first show I watched and loved during my college years.

Number 5: ER

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One of the longest running shows of all time, ER might seem like just another medical drama, but what really made it great was the cast and characters that came and went during its 15 seasons on NBC. My mom and I watched this together in the 90s. I most definitely was not their target audience but I loved it anyway, especially in the early years with Dr. Greene, Nurse Hathaway, Dr. Carter and Dr. Ross. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much over a television character’s death than I did when Dr. Greene died in season 8. This is the only series that I can think of where I truly love every single main character. It was good to the end.

Number 4: Lost

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In 2004, Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. For the next six seasons, the survivors of the plane crash would try to figure out a way off the island, battling The Others, a Smoke Monster, and a mysterious keeper of the island named Jacob. The show wasn’t just about survival though –  it mixed in philosophical quandaries, good vs. evil, life, love and destiny.

Lost was incredibly smart and complex and many of the characters were named after famous scientists, philosophers and authors. There was a lot of time travel and sci-fi elements involved – it was not a show you could causally watch or you’d miss something important. Falling in love with the characters was unavoidable and more than once your heart would be broken. It’s also a great show to re-watch because you discover something new each time. Although the finale was polarizing for many fans, I actually liked it and thought it was a fitting end for a show filled with so much mystery. There won’t ever be another show like it.

 

Number 3: The X-Files

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For more than 10 years, The X-files was my all time favorite show. What’s not to love about a show that revolves around government conspiracies, extraterrestrials, and things that go bump in the night? Mulder and Scully were a great team – a believer in all things supernatural paired with the ultimate  skeptic who thought everything could be explained by science.

Many of the episodes were incredibly creepy, controversial and all of them would leave you thinking “I Want to Believe.”  The movies have been disappointing, but I still get excited when rumors fly that a 3rd big screen adaptation could be in the works.

It was a tough show to replace, but two shows came along during my post college years and knocked it down to third, where I firmly believe it will stay permanently.

 

Number 2: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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Hands down, the greatest TV show of the 90s! I didn’t discover this gem until after it had gone off the air, but once I did, I was instantly sucked in (<—– see what I did there?)  Buffy Sommers and her Scooby Gang fight vampires and whatever kind of evil Big Bad that’s always rearing its ugly head in Sunnydale, California. Living on a hellmouth isn’t easy, but when you’ve got a witch as a best friend, an awesome librarian as your watcher and a vengeance demon in your court, stopping the apocalypse is a whole lot easier.

BTVS boasted strong female characters who kicked butt, quirky dialog and AWESOME musical episodes. It’s heroine was classically tragic – the burden of saving the world was always on her shoulders and even though she knew her life would be short, she accepted her chosen path. It opened doors for other shows with strong female leads and will always remain a pop culture phenomenon.

In my opinion, it was Joss Whedon’s finest show.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this show (and Joss Whedon). Seriously, if I didn’t believe in having a strict order, it would just tie with my #1 show of all time.

 

Number 1: Gilmore Girls

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The story of a single mom and her teenage daughter who live in the tiny, quirky town of Stars Hollow, CT, Gilmore Girls premiered on the WB in 2000 and ran for seven seasons. It’s full of quick, clever dialog, pop-culture references, and Melissa McCarthy before she was famous. The dynamics between Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are not only fun to watch but incredibly believable and you’ll forget they’re not actually mother and daughter.

Gilmore Girls is my favorite show for many reasons. I think it’s brilliant, funny and I relate to Rory on so many levels. We were the same age as it was airing, share the same love of books, writing and some people even say we kind of look alike. I applaud many of the values the show paid homage to:  close knit communities who help each other out, hard work, friendship, learning from mistakes (and their consequences). Even though Loreli got pregnant and ran away from home at the age of 16, she kept the baby, raised her on her own with no help from her rich parents and eventually became a successful business owner of her own, proving that relying on yourself, a good work ethic and persistence pay off.

The final season is somewhat frustrating due to the creator/showrunner Amy Sherman Palladino’s departure, but the six seasons leading up to the final season are wonderful and worth watching repeatedly. I seriously doubt another show will come along and replace Gilmore Girls as my favorite show of all time…it’s just that good.