The Open Book

by Colleen Morrow in ,


Yes, Monday did end up drier and it was a busier day, with lots of people through and some excellent sales but the real interesting part of the day came when Renita came in and asked us if we knew Princess Anne was going to be in town later.

We did not.

She encouraged us to come down to the church to be part of the welcoming committee and shortly before 2, we put a sign on the door that we were hanging out with the princess and locked up the shop. She was, of course, late but the local school children had all been brought out of school to meet her so they kept us entertained with their antics and we chatted with an older couple from New Zealand who were also visiting Wigtown. Renita, who does storytelling herself, did a wonderful rendition of the Three Little Pigs that was worth the delay. Soon, Anne did arrive with much security but was whisked fairly quickly inside the church. We weren't sure if we had gotten a good photo or not. But we were told she would be saying hello on her way out and we were encouraged to wait so we did. And after some time inside and a tour of the cemetery, she said hello to quite a few people. She was very focused on the person she was speaking to at any time and spent a fair amount of time making her way back to her car. I had really hoped for a good royal wave from her but if she did one, I missed it. Then we were back to the shop and closed up for the day. Dinner was at a new place this time, Cobwebs, where mac & cheese and a steak & ale pie filled us up before heading back to the flat. Our internet connection hasn't been the most stable, we've had to only connect iPads and keep to the lightest of browsing - any kind of video will cut it right off and the router is down in the shop so it's a pain to reset in the evenings. Good thing we have our books. While hunkered down with said books, there was a knock on our door and the infamous Nanette was there with shortbread she had made us. She normally comes in the shop on Tuesdays but she was going to be away so she dropped it off Monday night to us instead. And it was amazing. Very similar to my family's shortbread recipe and we enjoyed it thoroughly!!

Tuesday came soon enough and I wasn't feeling great in the morning so I got some extra sleep while my sister manned the shop on her own. When I got down a bit later, we had a steady stream of customers and a steady stream of reading before closing up and talking a walk that led us out of Wigtown to a lovely treed path before wandering around the main road into town and then onto a side road. All the cows and sheep we saw turned to look at us but none were overly interested in chatting so we just kept going, eventually getting to the martyr's stone where two women were drowned for sympathizing with Covenanters.  The path took us along the old Wigtown harbor, which now is mostly just marshland. Then, it was back up to the flat, where I promptly went to bed since I was feeling poorly again. I can only presume that my sister hit up all the late night hot spots in the town and generally caused a ruckus.

Wednesday, I was back on my feet (butt? I did a lot of sitting) and with the sun shining, we opened the shop and kept the door open all day to enjoy the warmth of the sun.  We met Joyce, one of the local book sellers, who is also active in the festival organizing committee. She was excited about our Canada jigsaw puzzle that we had out as her daughter is a bit puzzle fan. We've also had some lovely chats with customers over our few days in the shop - some knew that the book shop was an Airbnb (one had been trying to book for some time) and others didn't but were delighted to discover how we came to be at the shop. Of course, all our customers through out the week wanted to know where in Canada we were from since it was pretty clear we had a connection to the country somehow. After closing, we hit up the bookshops we hadn't seen yet, including The Book Shop, which is the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland. It also felt like it continued for miles. It's so big, they've built a little loft bed in one of the rooms, in case you need a nap. We also checked out Curly Tale Books, the children's bookshop and a couple of non-bookshop shops - they do exist!

Thursday was our last day in the shop. It was hard to believe it had flown by so quickly and we were nearing the end. We met Rosemary, who owns the building, and Jessica, who was the one who thought up the idea of turning the shop into the Airbnb. Rosemary was by in the morning for the flower boxes and told us a bit about the Bride of Lammermoor.She was from the late 1600s and had to marry someone she didn't want to. Shortly after the wedding night, her groom was stabbed in the groin in their room while she cowered in the unlit fireplace. He recovered but never said who stabbed him. She refused to eat and died a short time later. Rosemary researched the story and wrote a book about it so was excited to tell us all about it. Jessica is from the States but has adopted Rosemary as her Scotland mother. While we were chatting with Jessica, Rosemary returned and kidnapped us. Don't worry, all is well now. But the castle from the story she told us is not far from Wigtown so we jumped in her car (there's an exception for the rule about not getting in a stranger's car if they are Scottish, right?) and she took us off to see what's left of the castle from the story. It sits on a private farm but Rosemary has some connections so we were able to see the old gate and the back wall of the castle, which is all that is left now. Luckily for us, Andrew, the farmer was also there and he took us on the other side of the wall, where his lambs are penned so we got to see some lambs up close and personal. Some got quite close but none would actually come up to me. I think it's because they recognized my sweater as cashmere. 

After our adventure, we headed back to the shop to do our final tally and tidy. It was sad to close up shop but it was a great week. I feel like we were just getting into the swing of things when it was all over, though. We boxed up the jigsaw to take to Joyce's daughter and then locked the door one last time. Then, it was off to one last fish & chips dinner before turning in for the night.  

Friday ended up coming with an unwelcome surprise. We had a fairly lazy morning as our flight to Rome wasn't until 4 so we got up and packed and tidied and then headed off. About 1/3 of the way to Edinburgh, we got a flat. We had no spare. So we settled in to wait for roadside assistance, because of course, we were in the middle of nowhere. Despite our best efforts, we just missed our Rome flight so had to reschedule and ended up in Rome about an hour later than expected. We were certainly happy to see our hotel and get some sleep before our big Saturday plans - the Vatican and Borghese Gallery!   

In all, our week at The Open Book was a delight. We met some great people and had a lovely time minding "our" shop. I know they are booked up until 2020 but it's really worth it, if you can hold out that long!

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From the Big City to the Book Town

by Colleen Morrow in ,


We spent one last morning in Edinburgh on Saturday, visiting Craigmillar Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots went when she was depressed and where the plot to kill her husband was hatched. So you know, a very cheery place.   

The castle was left to fall into ruins in the 1700s but the ruins have now been restored and it's a lovely site to tour around. Much of the tower house is open to the elements so there were a lot of nesting birds and roofless rooms as we explored. It was also quite maze-like, it was hard to tell sometimes if we had seen a section or not, with the multiple staircases running through it. It drizzled for most of our touring time, turning to rain near the end and navigating with an umbrella was tricky at points. On more than one occasion, my umbrella was too wide for a passageway and I had to turn it to the side to get through. 

After heading back into the city centre, we picked up our bags and headed back to the airport to pick up our car and make the drive to Wigtown. The drive was on the rainy side, as expected in Scotland, and we were mostly on highways, instead of the motorway.  It was easy enough to adapt to driving on the left - though it took a while to adapt to the rear view mirror on the left. Aside from that, driving was smooth sailing, until I tried parking and ran into the curb. But that happens enough when I drive in Canada that I'm still calling the whole thing a win. 

When we arrived in Wigtown and found our bookshop (The Open Book), we met George, who showed us around the flat and the bookshp. It was late enough in the day that we didn't open but rather wandered around the little village. After an early dinner at the infamous Craft (fish & chips, obviously) we picked up a few necessities at the local co-op and settled in for an early night. 

Sunday morning rolled around soon enough and we got the bookshop open around 9, adding our Canada paraphernalia around the shop. It was a slow day, with only five customers and two sales - though we exceeded last Sunday's sales. We also met Renita and her lab, Bonnie. Renita is part of the organizing team for the annual book festival and runs the event in The Open Book during festival time. She and Bonnie were an excellent welcoming committee, with stories about The Open Book and some of the other bookshops and people in the village. Bonnie spent most of the visit looking for crumbs or leaning against us, demanding pets, which reminded me of someone else I know back in Canada (Penelope, I mean you...)

We closed up shop around 3 so that we could check out some of our competition (Byre Books, Reading Lasses, The Old Bank Bookshop, and Beltie Books.) Reading Lasses and Beltie Books had lovely little cafes as part of their shops and Reading Lasses had a room dedicated to female authors, which was lovely. The Old Bank went on for ages, I was beginning to think it was the never-ending bookshop!! They also made really good use of their high ceiling with bookshelves towering over us. And Byre Books was hidden in a back garden, making it such a delight to find.  

Then it was back home for some snacks before heading back to Craft for their Sunday Roast dinner, featuring turkey roast, so it felt like Thanksgiving. I left feeling like I had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner, too.  

Today, we're back in the shop and it seems like the rain may have let up for the day already. We'll see if it stays dry - I think we'll have more customers if it isn't raining! 

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Edinburgh

by Colleen Morrow in


Hello from Edinburgh! Or, as the Scots would say... Hello from Edinburgh! 

We've arrived, albeit later than anticipated. After a flight straight from hell (Newark wouldn't let us leave Toronto, our flight from Newark to Edinburgh had a total of 9 delays & left over 5 hours late, and my bag was one of 25 that the Edinburgh luggage people said hadn't been put on the plane) we dropped the stuff we did have with us at our hotel and headed up the Royal Mile to see Edinburgh Castle. It looks pretty much the same as it did the last time I saw it (in 2001) but I'd forgotten so much, it might as well have been my first visit. After that, it was back to the hotel to get checked in and changed for dinner and our whisky tour. Happily, my bag that was supposed to still be in Newark for another 12 hours had been delivered and I was reunited with my toothbrush.  

Dinner was at the Witchery, which was such a delightful little spot, it felt like we were in Harry Potter. It was also very busy and we barely had time for our pudding selection before going next door for our tour at the Scotch Whisky Experience. Our tour started with a barrel ride, which explained the whisky process and then we learned about the five whisky regions in Scotland, complete with a scratch & sniff card. Then, it was on to tasting. We started with three whiskys - Lowlands, Highlands and Speyside - learning about legs and finish and why a Glencairn glass is the best for drinking from (hint: it's very hard to spill anything out of one.) Then it was on to the world's largest private whisky collection and a taste of a whisky from Campbeltown before finishing up with an Islay and a parting gift (a Glencairn glass!) Then, we headed off down the Mile to a whisky bar recommended by the front desk clerk where I had a Taste of Scotland flight to end the night.

That, of course, led to a slow start for me today. But, soon enough, we were heading down the mile to the Scottish Parliament for a tour. It was a really interesting building, with themes of openness and transparency running throughout and symbols of Scotland everywhere you turned. The architect designed everything himself, including the carpets. You'd think he'd have delegated some of that stuff away but nope, he did it all. After a stop for a snack in the cafe, we strained for a glimpse of Hollyrood, which is closed right now because Princess Anne is arriving for a stay tomorrow. Then, it was up to the top of Carlton Hill for the best views in the city. And they were excellent! The hill is the highest point in the city so you could see everything for miles. After that, it was off to the National Museum to take in their Scottish History galleries, which were packed with everything you could possibly think of from coins from when Romans lived here to clips of KT Tunstall singing. That worked up our appetites so we had an early dinner, followed by some time with our feet up before heading back out to get some takeaway dessert (yum, strawberry tart!) and now it's time for bed.

Tomorrow, we're visiting Craigmillar Castle before picking up our car and making the drive down to Wigtown. Let the bookish adventure begin!! 

 

 The Witchery - so pretty!! 

The Witchery - so pretty!! 

 No blend for us, just the first five.  

No blend for us, just the first five.  

 Yeah, we get it, Edinburgh, you're gorgeous. You can stop showing off now.  

Yeah, we get it, Edinburgh, you're gorgeous. You can stop showing off now.  


Fulfilling my life-long dream of running a bookshop...

by Colleen Morrow in


Yep.  For a week in May, I'm going to be running a bookshop with my sister in Scotland.  Back in 2015, we both heard of this cool Airbnb in Wigtown, where you get to run The Open Book, a bookshop in Scotland's National Book Town where there are 10 bookshops and 1000 people.  And since that's pretty much the most Morrow Sister-y thing that could possibly exist, we booked ourselves a week. (I think the only more Morrow Sister-y thing that could exist is an Airbnb where you run your own winery for a week.  If anyone knows of one of those, kindly let me know.)

We're flying in a few days early to spend a bit of time in Edinburgh before renting a car and driving down to Wigtown.  Once at our bookshop, we'll get to make our own displays, set our bookshop's hours, and meet all the locals that come to check us out.  We stay in the flat above the shop and have lots of time to check out the local pubs and other bookshops.  After our week at The Open Book, we're going to spend a couple of days in Rome, which should be very tasty as I think we'll be spending ~50% of our time eating & drinking.  Then, it's back home to Canada to resume our boring regular lives in financial services & healthcare.  

We've been waiting for this trip for a long time now but I think the next two months will go pretty quickly.  We've acquired some fine bookish apparel and a couple of bookish flasks so we're pretty well-prepared for running a bookshop.  We're also getting into the details of what we'll see in Edinburgh & Rome - we're definitely going to the Vatican (that has been booked for a while already) and we're making our list of castles, museums & gelaterias to hit up.  It's shaping up to be a pretty awesome trip.

(If you're interested in doing this yourself, better hurry - they are booking into 2020 already.)


Copenhagen

by Colleen Morrow in


So technically, we didn't go to Iceland. Technically, we went for a weekend to Copenhagen and had a 7-day layover in Iceland. We chose Copenhagen cause there was a really good seat sale and we got the tickets for next to nothing.

And I'm so glad we did.  It was a great couple of days in a beautiful city.

We arrived very early on Friday morning and after dropping bags off at our hotel, we found a coffee shop for some breakfast (and I may have had a little snooze) before heading up to Copenhagen's Torvehallerne market for our food tour. The tour was great - we stopped in a number of places, trying cheeses and juices and wines and beers and sandwiches and hot dogs and chocolates and candies and caramels. Our guide was a Montreal native but has been in Copenhagen since the late 80's and was full of really interesting stories about the city. It was a great way to tour around the city, we've become big fans of the food tour and this one didn't disappoint.

From there, we went to Rosenborg, one of the many castles in the city and the home of the crown jewels. The castle was modest compared to some we've seen so it didn't take long to tour through it. The throne room was beautiful. Hilariously, the king's throne is made of narwal tusks but he told everyone that it was made from unicorn horns. And they didn't have Google back then so they just took his word for it. There are also these three amazing silver lions that are in front of the thrones to guard the monarchs. Also hilariously, 12 were ordered but they were so expensive, they could only get three. Both of these hilarious stories were told to us by the security person in the room, who was so delightful to talk to. Then it was down to see the crown jewels. The crowns of the King and Queen were impressive but the Queen's jewels were really, really impressive. Only the Queen is allowed to wear them and she can only wear them in Denmark so they don't get out much. 

After that, we went back to Torvehallerne and picked up some crackers and cheese and meat and wine and dessert for a little smorgasbord dinner of our own creation, which was delicious.

Our Saturday was jam-packed. We were going to take in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale house until we realized it was a Ripley's museum with a light show, not a preservation of a home he lived in. So we walked down one of the pedestrian streets over to Nyhavn, where the most famous views of Copenhagen are and caught a canal tour instead. The canal tour was a great way to see a lot of the city in a short amount of time, seeing the old stock exchange, parliament, the opera house, and the Little Mermaid's back side, among other things. Once back on land, we walked down to see the Little Mermaid's front side, which was one of the things I was most excited for. 

Then, it was on to Paper Island, an old paper warehouse that has been converted into a street food market. Think food trucks but inside and a bunch of them. It was crazy busy and nearly impossible to find anywhere to sit down once you had something to eat. We ended up stuffing ourselves with duck-fat fries, falafel, carbonara, fresh juice, creme brûlée donuts (they brûléed the donuts!) and a traditional apple cake. SO DELICIOUS. Good thing the next thing on our list was a walk through Christiania, the anarchist community of Copenhagen. They've proclaimed themselves as autonomous from the city and the EU. It's a very popular tourist destination now, though they frown on photographs, probably because they are pretty open about cannabis in the neighbourhood.

Then, it was back to the hotel before one last dinner (delicious! Seriously, the food in Copenhagen is amazing) and a short sleep before a very early flight back to Toronto. It was just long enough in Copenhagen to whet my Scandinavian appetite and now I'm really eager to go back to Denmark for a longer visit :)

 


Southeast and Southwest Iceland

by Colleen Morrow in


Yeah, that was a long day in the car.  Even though we were on the ring road, parts of it were still gravel and there were some pretty steep climbs and descents through a couple of mountains.  But we got to see some incredible sights so I think the driving was worth it. 

After somewhere around 4 hours in the car, we reached Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon, which was amazing.  It's this huge lake, somewhere around 25 square kilometres where chunks break off of Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull (Iceland's largest glacier and the largest ice cap not on one of the poles.) They move through through the lagoon down to the ocean.  Sadly, the lagoon is growing rather rapidly as the glacier recedes at a rate of nearly 500m per year. But it is really beautiful with all the icebergs floating around in this lake and hanging out. It can take them up to 5 years to make their way from the glacier to the ocean so there's not a whole lot of action going on.  But we did get to see one break up and shift around before the pieces settled again, though, one drifted out to the ocean. We also took some time to wander on the beach, where icebergs are hanging out on the shore, walking amongst them. It is one of the most unique things I've ever seen. Also, it turns out that at least part of Die Another Day takes places there so now I'm interested in seeing my first Bond movie.  

From there, it was over to Skaftafell for a bit of a hike. The day was starting to wind down and the weather wasn't looking awesome so we opted for a 3.7km walk to Skaftafellsjökull, another part of Vatnajökull. This part of the glacier is really dirty from volcanic ash and it just felt so desolate. We also got caught in a downpour in which there was either really painful rain or hail hitting us. It was a good thing it was our last stop for the day because we were so soaked, we couldn't have the heat on in the car because the water just accumulated on the windows and we couldn't see where we were going. Luckily, we found our hotel and got into some warm, dry clothes and then had a glass of wine to make sure everything was okay. 

The next morning, it was off for more beaches and waterfalls. Which makes it sound like a beautiful day but it was really cold and windy. We started at Reynisfjara, which is one of the top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world. The waves were massive, crashing onto the black pebble beach and it felt so gloomy and moody with the dark sky and all the wind. I can't decide if I would rather have seen it on a calm, sunny day because it really was spectacular as we saw it.

From there, we headed on to Skógafoss, a rather high waterfall, whose spray stopped us from getting too close to the foot of the falls, though some brave souls went very close.  There was also a set of stairs that you could climb up to the top of the falls so we took all 450-ish steps to the top and wandered along the river for a short distance until we came to another smaller set of falls that I thought were more beautiful but were definitely smaller.  Then it was off to Seljalandsfoss, another falls that had a path that went in behind it.  Again, the wind was in full force so the spray was going everywhere. But the view from behind the falls was beautiful. We also took the time to wander over to Gljúfrabúi, which is this little waterfall that tumbles into a hidden canyon that you can make your way into. And OMG, it was amazing. This may have actually been my favourite few moments of the trip, which is too bad because with all the spray, it was impossible to get a photo that does it justice. 

From there, we made our way to our last stop for the day, Raufarhólshellir. It's a lava tube that's about 1.3km long. I don't know how far we made it it - we had to turn back because it was getting too steep for me to climb. But what we did see was really cool. The entry is fairly big with a lot of light and it's fairly easy to navigate. There's a "skylight" not too far in, letting lots of light in. And then you start going deeper in and it gets dark very quick. It was really rocky, which wasn't what I expected. I was surprised at how varied the rocks were in colour and how different the walls of the tube could be from one spot to the next. We had headlamps, which was good because I don't know how you'd hold a flashlight and clamour over some of the rocks. 

From there, it was on to our last hotel of the night to get a good night's sleep before heading out to the Golden Circle on our last day in Iceland. The Golden Circle is what most people do if they only do a two or three days in the country. It consists of Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir.

We started at Gullfoss, which is a double cascade and Iceland's most famous waterfall. It was quite sunny when we arrived, which made it a rather warm walk down to the falls and back. It wasn't sunny enough for rainbows to appear but it was still very impressive. Then it was on to Geysir. Or, more specifically Strokkur. Geysir doesn't erupt much anymore - I overhead a guide tell a group that it's only erupted once this year. But Strokkur is very active. It goes every 10 minutes or so. We didn't have to wait long to see it. Interestingly, you can see the steam coming up from the geyser and you can see which way the steam is blowing. And you can see how wet the ground is on one side of the geyser. Yet people still seemed surprised when they got drenched during an eruption. We stood far away from that particular spot and enjoyed two eruptions before wandering on to take a look at Geysir before driving off.

Þingvellir was our last stop for the day. It's the site of the world's first democratic parliament, and it's also on a tectonic plate boundary, so it was a double-whammy of cool stuff. They have a  good guess at the exact spot where the parliament was, which isn't far from a pool they used to drown women found guilty of adultery or infanticide. Our guidebook didn't tell us where they used to drown men guilty of the same crimes and I didn't get a chance to google it before we went so that pool will remain a mystery to me. 

From there, we headed back to the airport for our weekend in Copenhagen. Sadly, the cloudy weather made it impossible to see the Northern Lights again after our night in Mývatn. But we did get to see them once plus Iceland was absolutely beautiful so I think the trip was a success. It was a really wonderful week and I highly recommend it to anyone but strongly encourage you to pack a hat and a good windbreaker. 

 Glacier lagoon.  Awesome!

Glacier lagoon.  Awesome!

 One of the top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world.  GORGEOUS.

One of the top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world.  GORGEOUS.

 It was so windy, the wind literally blew this little waterfall away. 

It was so windy, the wind literally blew this little waterfall away. 

 Gljúfrabúi, possibly my favourite thing of the week

Gljúfrabúi, possibly my favourite thing of the week

 Gullfoss is so pretty.

Gullfoss is so pretty.


North and East Iceland

by Colleen Morrow in


We packed up and left Stykkishólmur very early to get a jump on our long day of driving. After getting back to the ring road, we spent several hours in the car heading to Goðafoss, a stunning waterfall. We could see the spray from the waterfall from quite a distance and were able to get very close to the falls for a very good look at them. Despite it being rather dull for most of the drive, once we got to Goðafoss, the sun peaked out through the clouds and we seemed to leave the rain behind us. 

After Goðafoss, headed to Mývatn. As we got closer to the lake - and closer to the volcano - the landscape changed to crazy lava formations, which were really something to see. After checking in to our remote hotel (so remote, they don't need to put a password on their wifi) we wandered around some psuedocraters, which were created when lava flowed into the lake and set off a series of gas explosions, leading to the water under the surface boiled and popped. They were very interesting but the fun part for me was that sheep were sharingo the area and we got to get very close to a few. From there, we went to the Mývatn Nature Baths where we relaxed in the hot water, excellent after a long day of driving.  Then, after some dinner, we hunkered down at our remote hotel to see if the Northern Lights would show themselves.

And they did.

They weren't very bright but it was cool to see them get stronger and then fade, moving across the sky. We went back out for a second look but they seemed weaker so I headed back in for some sleep. But EDP stayed out quite a while and said they got quite strong for a while and he managed to get some red in his photos, whereas before, we were just getting green. 

Today was a bit less driving but we stopped at Dettifoss and Selfoss. Dettifoss is the waterfall with the most volume in Europe and given how much that water thundered over the falls, I don't doubt it. Because it was a sunny but very windy day, we saw several rainbows over the base of the falls as the spray came up the canyon. We then made our way to Selfoss, which we both thought was much better than Dettifoss. Yes, it wasn't as big but it was almost v-shaped so the water tumbled over the edge and into itself. Plus, we could get incredibly close, which was awesome. 

Then, it was on to Seyðisfjörður, driving through mountains to get here. Seyðisfjörður is right at the base of one of the fjords and is a darling little town. Our guesthouse is beautiful with a great view of the bay. Sadly, the wind has kept us off the balcony but we have nice big windows to enjoy the view from. The drive down into the town had amazing views and little waterfalls all over the place. The town has pretty much closed up for winter, though, so there's not much happening but it's been nice to have a little break and just wander and relax. It's off to dinner soon before heading off for a really full day tomorrow - with a hike, checking out a glacier lagoon and nearly 7 hours of driving. Yikes. 

 Goðafoss. Not half bad, eh?

Goðafoss. Not half bad, eh?

 Selfoss.  Even better, right? 

Selfoss.  Even better, right? 

 And this one was just on the side of the road! 

And this one was just on the side of the road! 

 And this one was on our way to our final destination for the day

And this one was on our way to our final destination for the day


Reykjavik and West Iceland

by Colleen Morrow in


Iceland is gorgeous.  

After a mostly uneventful flight to Reykjavik (I was just filling out forms for a lost bag when EDP found our second bag on the wrong baggage carousel) we arrived at our hotel very, very late into the night and settled down to sleep right away.

In the morning, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast (I assume the pineapple and cantaloupe were local?) and then headed off to explore the city. We wandered for a while, enjoying the ducks and swans in the Tjörnin before heading up to Hallgrímskirkja, with its gorgeous organ. From there, we headed to the National Gallery before it was time for hot chocolate and a cookie (sandwich, if you're EDP) and a stroll up the main shopping street in Reykjavik. 

After dinner, we tried to catch the Northern Lights.  They had been so active the day of our arrival, they shut the lights off in the city so people could see them better. Sadly for us, we arrived well after that and on our hunting expedition, despite being active, the cloud cover and light pollution in the city made them impossible to find.  

This morning, we headed out for the first day of our ring road trip. We started in West Iceland, stopping only a few times for photos, though the scenery is positively breathtaking at times. The lava fields are incredible and the mountains are beautiful. Our first stop was at Lóndrangar in Snæefellsjökull National Park. There are two enormous rock pillars that are what's left from an enormous crater made out of basalt. Locals say elves use the lava formations as a church. We didn't see any elves but the pillars were stunning. 

From there, we continued driving to Kirkjufell, a mountain that is one of the most photographed spots in Iceland. We followed some sheep on the way there for a bit before they veered off the road for a snack, we thought maybe they were on vacation and heading there, too, but alas, we must have departed before they arrived. The mountain is very different than what you'd expect.  It's a light brown colour and very steep with many small cliff faces as you ascend. The waterfalls by the mountain were also very beautiful, falling over rocks onto black sand. 

From there, we headed into Stykkishólmur, a charming fishing village. We wandered up to Súgandisy, a basalt island with dramatic views of Breiðafjörður, the bay. It's amazing how the quickly the landscape changes, we could see lots of islands and fjords and they all seemed to be different. 

Tomorrow, we head towards Mývatn. It's a long driving day so we'll be at it early. Sadly, the cloud cover tonight is worse than last night so there's pretty much no chance of seeing the Northern Lights tonight. Cross your fingers for us that tomorrow is better! 

 Sólvar sculpture, along the waterfront in Reykjavik

Sólvar sculpture, along the waterfront in Reykjavik

 Somewhere along our drive today. I think maybe just outside of Borgarnes? 

Somewhere along our drive today. I think maybe just outside of Borgarnes? 

 The pillars at Lóndrangar  

The pillars at Lóndrangar  

 The waterfall at Kirkjufell

The waterfall at Kirkjufell


Ice Ice Baby

by Colleen Morrow in


Yep, we're heading to Iceland! Cause, you know...  It's not cold enough in Canada, we need to head to a country where Canadians buy hats in the summer to stay warm (true story - a friend was there earlier this year and needed buy a hat cause the wind was so cold!)

Technically, we're going to Copenhagen for a weekend with a one week stopover in Iceland. Icelandair offers this AMAZING option where you can do a stopover of up to 7 days in Reykjavik for no additional cost. A couple of days after we got back from Bavaria, we found a super cheap flight from Toronto to Copenhagen on Icelandair. And we booked it. So now, we're heading to Copenhagen for a weekend with a really long stopover in Reykjavik. We do not plan to stay in the airport the entire time we're there, though.

Like our Bavaria trip, we're renting a car and heading out to travel Iceland's ring road. If you aren't familiar with Iceland, it's a pretty small country and it has this one highway that runs around the entire country. It's the ring road. And it's pretty popular as a road trip. 

We're starting in Reykjavik, where we're taking a day to check out the city before picking up a car and heading off on an adventure filled with waterfalls and lava tubes and volcanoes and fjords and black beaches and caves and lighthouses and geysers and national parks and more.  We're crossing our fingers that we'll get a chance to see the Northern Lights but it may be a bit early in the season for it.  It's not uncommon for hotels for have Aurora alarms to wake you up if the lights are out and we do have one hotel that's quite a bit out of the way so it wouldn't be affected by light pollution.  Keep your fingers crossed!

After our road trip in Iceland, we're popping over to Copenhagen for two days.  Copenhagen is known for their food scene so I think it'll be a tasty couple of days. We have a food tour booked that takes us through one of the food markets so it's a pretty safe bet that it will be.

A lot of the planning is already done, which is good because the trip is just around the corner.  All of the hotels are booked, the car is rented, the itinerary is in good shape.  Now it's just the last minute details like laundry and picking up headlamps and learning Icelandic.  Can't be too much trouble, can it?


Bout of Books

by Colleen Morrow


You know how sometimes, you're reading a book and it just reminds you of a particular song so much that you have to stop, put your book down and choreograph an interpretive dance reflecting your book's plot to that song?  No?  Yeah, me neither...

Anyway...  

Seriously, though - sometimes, you can't help but connect a book and a song in some way.  After listening to Goo Goo Dolls on the bus in high school while doing my reading for English class, I can never hear Black Balloon without thinking of Orwell's 1984 (it's a good thingYouTube didn't exist when I was in high school - that video is TERRIFYING.  And very late 90s) .  And even though Anne's Theme was composed for the mini-series, whenever I see my set of Anne of Green Gables books, the song floats into my head (p.s. who else is SUPER excited to see what happens in the CBC/Netflix adaptation?!)

So, you tell me what connections you have between a book and some music.  Anything goes, really.  Some suggestions to get you thinking:

  • Rename your book with a song
  • Give a lyric that sums up the plot of your book
  • A song or album that is forever associated with a particular books in your mind

Post your song connection anywhere you are talking about Bout of Books and post the link here.  Please remember that I have to be able to see your post so make sure your account isn't private.

 

Really, anything goes...  If you can find a connection between a book and a song, as long as you say what the connection it, you're good.  Post the link and be eligible to win a book of your choosing, up to $10 USD from Book Depository (which is a just under $13 CDN right now!) 

Just remember that you need to be an official Bout of Books participant, having previously signed up earlier this week and limited to one entry per person.  This challenge will be open for 24 hours only and is open to anyone who has an address that Book Depository ships to.  The winner will be chosen randomly using a random number generator and will be verified and contacted on Saturday morning.  The winner will have 24 hours to respond, at which point, a new winner will be drawn.  

UPDATE:  Congrats to Darcus @ Rainy Days and Pajamas for her winning entry.  Hope you enjoy your book!