Costa Rica, Tamarindo

Family Jumpy Pic (minus one)

As always, Miko creates the family a packing list for our adventures! She makes copies for everyone and places them on our beds to help us get our acts together! See below for her recommendations for this trip! We will unpack what we would have done differently later on in this post.

Costa Rica Packing List – Reef Safe Sunscreen

ROCKONLIVING TIP: Sunscreens can be super overpriced in certain countries and we rarely need an entire can of sunscreen for a week. We purchase travel sizes before leaving and always still have more than enough, for half the cost as well! Don’t forget if you will be in the ocean or waters that are a natural habitat to others, to pay a little more for the ocean/reef safe sunscreens!

We knew it was inevitable. But, as we were disembarking our plane upon arrival to Costa Rica we had a hiccup of time when we all were waiting for Quinn to take down our five suitcases from our overhead storage so we could begin our adventure…but there were only four. Insert sad face with tears.

Our oldest Rockonliving family member, Kayah is in college now and her spring break and the rest of our family’s spring break did not coincide. Leaving on an adventure without her felt off. Traveling with our family began as soon as our munchkins were placed in their newborn buckets for extended road trips and airplane travel. Although they do not recall most of their travels before the age of four, Quinn and I like to believe that one of the reasons they are all such good travelers now began with these earlier times of learning how to sit still, patience, waiting and adapting to new experiences at a squat tall age.

Recently, someone shared with Quinn and I a beautiful reel circulating on social media – perhaps you have seen it? It is a beautiful video of a dad outdoors in the woods and playing in streams with his young children.  There is nostalgic vibe music playing with his voice over saying, “you get four years…” he went on to reflect how OUR time with our children is brief, we will not get a do-over, a re-do or another opportunity when your smaller sacred circles of family is just yours…time…so fleeting and precious. If we could share any wisdom with anyone with small children, whatever your “thing” is (ours is travel) DO IT NOW as often as possible with your people. They will be young adults with their own lives, obligations, significant others and preferences on how they wish to spend their time. This is how we believe it should be. And, although we had so much time with Kayah, we wish had had more, no kidding.

Going from a family of five to four was a sad moment for our family but was also just one more first for a family with children transitioning into young adulthood and parents into middle age.

This trip was also different in a few other key areas. Normally, our adventures are a mix of chilling and experiences. With any of our trips, we always set intentions for our adventures. This trip the four of us had different goals. Quinn ad Miko wanted to surf. Kira wanted to chill, write music, journal and spend time on beach/ocean. I wanted to rest, read, reflect, dream and write. I also wanted some time to continue conversations with my man on our future. One thing our family loves to do on our trips, is have a nice place to gather to cook, eat slowly together and unpack our day with one another. Quinn took all our intentions into consideration when selecting our lodging and experiences and put together a week where everyone’s needs were met, and then some.

Another difference was we DID NOT DRIVE. If you followed our last trip to Costa Rica, we had a rental car and in the week there were involved in not one, but two car accidents. Costa Rica is a beautiful country but driving there requires some major adjustments in expectations and anticipation of what others will do. Rules truly seem like suggestions and there are mopeds, bikes and motorcycles everywhere following their own set of rules. Due to the fact we were staying in one location the entire time, we arranged a shuttle with a driver for our family to and from the airport. This was a nice change as it allowed my family not suffer my insane anxiety about driving in a foreign country at times and everyone could enjoy taking in the sites during the hour and half drive to Tamarindo, Costa Rica. This time, I was able to witness and take note of the driving customs and practices of Costa Rica which I believe will give me more confidence when we return here again.

Why Tamarindo? One word. Surfing. Okay, two words, surfing and scouting. Quinn and I are spending a lot of time right now dreaming and planning for the next half of our lives together. In many ways I have felt like our next half has been difficult for me to see. I used the metaphor of being out in the ocean when the water is cloudy and you cannot see the bottom. You may feel things with your feet, but unsure what these items are. Eventually, the water settles and the sand settles and you begin to see shapes and edges of distinct objects that once enough time has passed you can clearly make out as coral, shells, rocks or sea life.

In many ways our entry to midlife feels the same – cloudy but starting to take some shape and form. Quinn really loves the Pura Vida lifestyle and surfing so scouting out the surfing town of Tamarindo was also a constant backdrop to this visit.

Last year we visited Jaco and Arenal, Costa Rica. While there are some similarities between these two surf towns, we all agreed we would prefer a second home in Tamarindo. This town is more family friendly with larger/wider beaches. The sand in Tamarindo is not as dirty as Jaco which allows for more time enjoying the beach. This was the first real spring break for many countries since the easing up of Covid restrictions so the beach was busy as it was Spring break for many in the United States. As a matter of fact, there were no testing requirements to enter Costa Rica, but still mandatory to reenter USA. Face masks are still required for airports, shuttles and airplane. Like any place, there were seedy areas of the walk-to-anything-you-need town, I felt safe alone walking to grocery store, shopping or on beach. People were very friendly and generally bilingual-enough.

Our last trip was into to Jaco to the San Jose airport.   San Jose is the capital city and much larger than the small airport we arrived in this time. This trip left Raleigh to Miami to Liberia, Costa Rica. This airport is super small, clean and easy to navigate. The shuttle ride from the airport to Tamarindo was about 1.5 hours. The currency of Costa Rica is the colones. Aside from some beach vendors and some walk up restaurants, most places accepted credit cards, American dollars or colones for payment.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: We always bring some of a country’s currency with us when traveling. Go to your bank weeks before trip as sometimes the bank needs time to secure the currency of country you are traveling to. Also, let your credit card and bank know your travel plans so expenses are not flagged as potentially fraudulent or denied.

We stayed at the Sunrise Tamarindo Condominiums. These condos are in excellent condition, well maintained, have beautiful landscaping, and offers a relaxing pool with large rock featured waterfall. The condo is very family friendly and just a walk across a very small street to the beach. If you rent a condo on the third floor or above you will be able to see the ocean, too. There is 24-hour security and our unit had whole house AC, not easy to always find in Costa Rica. Our condo had a beautiful, private patio with a ceiling fan, grill and gorgeous table for eating overlooking the courtyard and pool. This condo has quiet hours from 10pm to 10am. Tamarindo faces West so 5:30 sunset is an event. Everyone packs up snacks, drinks, and heads down to the water for the show every single night. For the first time I can ever remember, we saw purple in the sunsets!

Waterfall Pool in Courtyard

ROCKONLIVING TIP: Use caution walking the streets of Tamarindo! They are very uneven and contain many small concrete drainage ditches that if you are not looking would be very easy to twist an ankle or fall.

Life in Costa Rica is stunning juxtaposition of extreme poverty and abundance. Poverty in money, abundance in simplicity and life. When you drive around Costa Rica you can see extreme poverty in the form of economic and by our Western standards, living. Many homes in Costa Rica are sparsely decorated, many do not have windows or door, some have dirt floors. However, at the same time, these homes are full of family, laundry hanging on clotheslines, abundant yards of fresh fruit and food. Although farms do exist, you see trees, plants and shrubs everywhere growing fresh, edible food in abundance. Many of the homes have barbwire or gates on the front. I am assuming this is for safety. Safety from whom, I am not sure.

Costa Rica does not have four seasons, they have two – summer and winter.  These seasons are not temperature dependent, but precipitation based. Summer is their rainy season.  Although we had no rain while we were there, the country was just entering Summer. Their Winter season is dry.

Quinn and Miko have surfed in number of places. This would be their second surfing experience in Costa Rica. Quinn hired a surfing instructor for the week and chose this particular company because of the philosophy they weaved into the surfing experience on their website. This experience was different from ones of the past as they really got more in-depth training in more technical aspects of surfing (turning, weight distribution, etc) and growing their understanding of the ocean, waves and currents. While all of this information is essential to grow to the next level of becoming a surfer, it seemed to weigh down on them a little more than past surfing experiences as you see them “thinking” much more in water. As with almost anything that requires skills to perform, there is a phase of learning that is more theory based, technique based that needs to occur before a much more intuitive based relationship can develop over time.

Leandro (way cool instructor originally from Argentina) reviewing video with Quinn

This surfing trip also included instruction out of water at a skateboard park and reviewing videoing their instructor Leandro from https://www.surfeverydayacademy.com and done of Quinn and Miko. He spent time with each of them individually reviewing what they were doing well and where they could improve. They both found these experiences helpful in growing their skills on their boards.

FUN FACT: like the saying in life, “things come in threes” waves are the same – most times surf waves come in sets of three and learning how to read them before they take form or shape is one skill that takes some time to develop.

If you follow the rockonliving IG account, you know I enjoy taking a daily morning walk and look to nature for answers, inspiration, insight and peace. Most days I post an image that catches my eye as a “morning walk delight.” I have an app that I use to help me identify plants, flowers, and trees. This app also has a fun feature I enjoy that includes folklore or symbolism associated with the particular species. So many times, the symbolism of a plant, flower or tree are a message I find myself in need of hearing or understanding. Nature has a way of providing context for life that way.

On our first day in Costa Rica, I awoke before others and made myself a big cup of coffee and sat on our patio. Costa Rica has the most diverse and unique sounding birds of any places we have visited. I quickly noticed several pots of healthy growing plants on our patio I had never seen before. I pulled out my app to identify the first plant and it was called “the Devil’s backbone.” Okay, interesting…it symbolized persistence.  Then, I scanned the other plant that was growing right next to the Devil and it had a very spiky stem and when its name appeared I felt an immediate sense of mystery and awe – it is known as “Christ’s Crown.” Scholars believe this is the plant that was used to make the thorny crown Christ wore on his head on the cross. Here these two plants were side-by-side in pots and in one pot the two were actually growing together. I should mention we are visiting the week of Easter. I listen deep when I experience something like this and am still unpacking what felt like a very personal, sacred experience.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: Costa Rica makes really good coffee. I think coffee creamer may be an insult to their beans. If you are a creamer kinda gal like myself, prepare to get creative. I found a vanilla flavored milk I used on this trip.

My goals of reading, resting and writing were accomplished. I finished a book called Church of the Wild by Victoria Loorz and when we left to return home I was more than half way through a new book by Kenneth Follett titled The Evening and the Morning – the prequel to one of my favorite trilogies ever (Pillars of Earth Saga.) The prequel takes place in 900’s CE and is just as engaging as Follett’s epic trilogy. This book, like the trilogy, is graphic, violent and contains foul language that at times can be hard to read. I think considering the time period and the violence of Viking raids Follett does an excellent job making the reader feel the brutality of living during those times, especially if you were a woman.

Every time we come home from one of our experiences, I try to bring pieces of our experience home to incorporate or add to our way of living or doing life. On this trip, I will bringing two souvenirs – one in spirit and the other more tangible.  

First, I hope to bring a little more Pura Vida, or the pure life (simple life, full life…) into our second half of life. In Costa Rica, Pura Vida isn’t just a cool slogan, but a spirit, a way of living, being. I am committed to honoring the gift of this life by tending to the simple pleasures and people in my little world, respecting all life around me and being a better steward of our resources.

Second, I will be buying a new broom. The broom we used in Costa Rica was the Bomb-Diggity-Bomb. It had a fat soft bristle head that did an excellent job capturing everything from fine sand to bigger messes. Every time I use the broom, I will think of our time in Costa Rica.

Every trip we share some of the things we maybe overpacked or would have done differently, kind of learn from our mistakes? For this trip, we each brought a carry-on suitcase and small under seat bag.

We all agreed we overpacked and brought too many warm items for evenings that were NOT necessary at all (ask Kira.)

Remember to reapply sunscreen every single place the sun touches often, the sun in Costa Rica is INTENSE (ask Miko).

 Bring smaller denominations of money for tipping/spending.

Never buy bottled water in airport in Costa Rica – ask for tap. A bottle of water cost $11 USA dollars (ask Vickie.) 

And, finally do not eat at a food truck the night before you have a long day of flying ahead of you (ask Quinn.)

Have gratitude for the fun little surprises in life. Due to the high number of flight cancellations on our way home, American Airlines upgraded us (no charge) to first class to accommodate more passengers on standby! We didn’t even ask, we were just randomly selected! How fun is that??

I have also committed to writing up our travel blogs much sooner (I am on airplane home right now) while our experiences are fresh in heart and mind. I am also in the beginning stages of toying with the idea of recording a podcast that reflects on the more philosophical aspects of travel and how our Rockonliving family uses this medium as a tool for connection and growth. Stay tuned…

Until then, Rock on LIVING friends, xxoo

Iceland – Day Four – Christmas Eve & Northern Lights

Christmas Eve!
Christmas Eve Lunch in Reykjavik – note the Christmas lights in window!

We woke up to the excitement of Christmas Eve bubbling in Reykjavik. Many families and people out and about in town celebrating, shopping and preparing for Christmas morning. We packed up our Airbnb, loaded up our vehicle, parked it on street and went and joined in the festivities! We had an awesome noodle lunch and then were on our way to another home we rented as an Airbnb in the middle of nowhere with all glass windows facing the North. While being outdoors to witness Northern Lights would be an awesome experience, watching them for hours in comfort of house was uber nice!

We would be staying here for four days. The drive was easy and the home was perfect! It was a two storied home with bedrooms for everyone, artistically decorated, yet cozy at the same time.

FUN FACT: most homes heat their water through ground fed hot springs. Our entire home’s water system was heated this way! The hot tub was drained after each use and fresh hot water from underground was used to fill – no heater needed. We took a look at that series of pipes and equipment in their crawl space to admire the engineering.

This was our family’s first time postponing our traditional Christmas traditions and experiencing something new. No Christmas tree, no presents (other than oranges that would arrive in stockings from the supermarket), extended family gatherings or gift giving. This year would be simple. Just the five of us. Christmas Eve dinner by candlelight gathered around a coffee table in hopes, like a child in bed anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus, for perhaps an appearance by the Northern Lights.

FUN FACT: Even in the middle of nowhere you could see either advent candles or the big white paper stars illuminated in windows and/or candles flickering in homes in the distance. You felt a separated yet connected cozy connection.

While waiting for darkness to completely fall, we enjoyed an evening of snacks, reading books (Icelandic tradition!) and card games. We had downloaded an app that gives Northern Light reports and updates and according to the app, there was a higher than usual chance the lights would come together tonight and we were so excited! Quinn and I poured a glass of wine and laid on the floor with our kids and waited…

…and then…

The white haze started to form on the horizon, and had we not had an in-service from our tour guide the night before we may have dismissed as cloud cover not realizing it was the beginning of a possible Northern Lights display! As they began to lift from horizon and take form “child-like wonder and delight” do not even come close to what we witnessed! Luckily, Quinn and forethought to set his phone behind us and just hit record to capture some of our family’s responses. I think they convey the magic displayed far better than the photos! Take a listen!!

Our family’s responses to see the Northern lights secretly captured by Quinn!

We found it challenging to capture and size of the lights on our phones but below are the best ones we collected between the five of us. If you have ever tried to snap a picture of a dazzling moon, it is a similar challenge photographically speaking. If you look closely you can even see the stars through the lights – in the bottom right image do you see the big dipper?

ROCKONLIVING TIP: If you plan on trying to capture the Northern Lights, take some time to learn your camera, phone or device before you arrival, you will be happy you did so!

We were changed forever by this experience – moments that remind of us and give us time to pause/reflect on the mystery of life. We finished the night off with a candlelight dinner and then all went to bed for a Christmas Eve slumber. I am not going to lie, I woke up several times that night and quietly walked upstairs to sit by windows in hopes of catching a few more sacred moments with the lights. Aside from still seeing some homes flickering candles in windows, it was dark and quiet and all was good.

Until tomorrow, Rock on LIVING, friends! xxoo

Iceland – Day Three

Vatnajokull Glacier, Iceland

After a cozy slumber in our Iceland hotel, we woke early to get on the road to the excursions planned for the day – hiking into a glacier cave and then a winter visit of Iceland’s Black Diamond Beach. We were able to keep our window slightly open all night and could hear the wind and sounds of Iceland outside all evening. It was one of the pleasant, enjoyable sleeps where you wake up, listen for a moment, reposition and doze back to sleep. Similar to traveling in Europe, very few places can accommodate five in a room, so this evening we also got to enjoy some time apart while the girls had a room of their own. Breakfast was provided in our hotel and then we loaded up in the van with our new friends and set off in the dark for the caves.

Once again, due to the limited hours of sunlight in the winter, our guide arranged our day to make the most of the sunlight. He planned to time our arrival to the Glacier before other tours arrived. This would allow our group more time to enjoy the magic of the hike into the caves and then experience the caves more privately.

Below are some Google images to orient you where exactly we are at this point and appreciate the size of the glacier we visited. This glacier, which is one of the largest in Iceland, is retreating and melting at an alarming rate to the Icelandic people (and should be to us as well.) I have circled the glacier in red and then zoomed the image in several times. I wrote in white the destinations of the locations on the final image to allow you to see the flow of the areas we visited that day.

To enter the glacier cave area required a pretty intense 20 minute drive in a sturdy, tall, Monster truck Hummer-like truck through many hills/rocky areas. Once at the base of the glacier, it required a hike through a rocky/hilly area where the glacier had been at one point in time. As the ice retreated, it left a wake of rough terrain.

At certain points in our tour, I questioned the irony of us touring a melting glacier in a Hummer. While that sounds and feels antithetical, I also understand how the impact of actually seeing and immersing oneself in nature fosters a closer relationship and love with the environment and thus a deeper desire to protect it from harm. But, in a Hummer? Hmmm…

We parked in a make-shift parking lot and met our ice cave guide for the day. The best way I can describe him was a tall, strong, proud Icelandic Viking. He was informative and eager to share his country with us. He wore one of those wool, well loved Icelandic sweaters with hiking pants/boots and a warm hat. His accent was divine and I stayed right behind him the entire hike in as to not make a misstep. Walking in the glacier’s wake was literally like walking on the surface of the moon! This would not be a hike for anyone with physical limitations or disabilities.

Listen to our Icelandic Glacier as we enter the glacier! And, note that is the MOON in video!

At one point, our guide stopped and pointed out to us where the edge of this glacier sat just ten years ago – it was stunning the amount of melting that has occurred. You could SEE it. Quinn asked, “what can we do about this?” He shared that in Iceland they have done all they can to help slow the melting of the glaciers and added “it is not us, we are not polluting the atmosphere, we listen to our scientists, it is frustrating.” He continued to share that while the glaciers normally do go through melting cycles they have never seen it this accelerated and the winters usually can create enough precipitation to replace what is melted but that is no longer the case.

Although Quinn was so excited to have to hike in area that would require wearing crampons (spikey boots to hike on ice) we were able to traverse the hike without them. Upon arrival, the sun still had not skimmed the surface and we were able to walk in this wide open glacier bed completely with only light from the moon – pure magic. As we hiked you could begin to see the glimmer and shine of the glacier and it was one of those moments where words fail to convey, so I will share some images below. Remember ~ what you are seeing is the MOON in these images~

When we got to the entrance of the glacier cave, we were overwhelmed by its size, shape, thickness and expansiveness! As we were preparing to enter the cave, the sun started to rise and added such a dazzling addition of light to the experience. Once inside the cave, we all were like kids again exploring and taking in all the physical properties of that much ice. Once you acclimate to the inside of the cave you are delighted by the hues of blue!! Tropical, vibrant blues and whites. And, if you look closely in some of the images you can see trapped volcanic ash from over 1000’s of years ago in the ice. So much geological history right in front of our faces.

FUN FACT: Iceland IS an active volcanic island! Around 18-20 million years ago, Iceland popped its head above water during a period of major volcanic eruptions. 18-20 million years ago – wrap your brain around that fun fact.

After our time in glacier ended, we hiked back to our monster truck to return to our van. There were no places to use restrooms out in the middle of nowhere so the females were starting to be very aware of a need of restrooms while our male counterparts were able to handle business behind rocks.

Our group reconvened and got on in our van and we started a short drive over to The Black Diamond Beach, but something very exciting had us pull over on the side of the road first! A herd of wild Reindeer!! On Christmas Eve, ya’ll!! They were so much bigger than I thought they would be and Kayah got some amazing video of them prancing and running across the road!

Santa’s Reindeer!

Before arriving at Black Diamond Beach we stopped at the Jokulsarion Lagoon to use the restrooms, have a snack from a food truck, warm up with some hot cocoa and spend some time taking in the sites of the lagoon. Jokulsarion (meaning glacial river lagoon) is full of huge chunks of ice that have broken away from the glacier and began their journey towards the Atlantic Ocean. In contrast to the insane currents on Black Diamond Beach (just outside the lagoon) the water in the lagoon is so still. We were delighted to see some seals at this time, too!

FUN FACT: Many of the Iceland’s volcanoes are under glaciers and therefore when they erupt they are referred to as subglacial eruptions and very often create massive glacial flooding also known as jokulhlaup.

This was by far the coldest day of our trip with some gusty winds at times. From what we have heard about the unpredictable and mighty winds in Iceland we were grateful for our cooperative weather.

Our final stop in this portion of our day was Black Diamond Beach. The sands, black from ground volcanic ash serve as a stunning contrast to the big chunks of ice that have washed on shore and were shimmering and glittering as the setting sun, acting as an expert lapidarist, illuminated them brilliantly! Never in my life have I witnessed such wild, chaotic rough currents! The tumultuous water assists in the breaking up of the icebergs as the exit the lagoon and depositing pieces ice chunks scattered on the beach.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: VEGAN FRIENDLY COUNTRY ALERT! We were shocked at the number of vegan options everywhere in Iceland (and Netherlands) on this trip. At the food truck in the middle of nowhere, they had a Vegan Chili dog and it was delicious!

On our drive back to Reykjavik we stopped to see some wild Icelandic horses and cool little church at dusk. I cannot recall all the information our guide shared, but if you are into horses, Iceland’s history with horses is an interesting one to check out!

FUN FACT: Icelandic horses are the only breed in the world that can perform five gaits, where other breeds usually can perform three or four. Icelandic laws prohibit horses being imported into their country and once exported, animals are not allowed to return.

As we got closer to the capital city, our driver got excited as he thought we might catch some Northern Lights! Everyone got so excited and we quickly grabbed our cameras and stood in a dark parking lot as he in-serviced us all on seeing how they begin. It took a moment, but we thought we were starting to see what he was describing. They begin as almost fuzzy white looking clouds on the horizon and as you watch them, he said it could take hours and if you are really lucky they will take shape and lift and do their thing!

A trip to Iceland does not guarantee viewing the Northern Lights. As a matter of fact, everyone and everybody prepared us to make peace with the fact it is more likely you will NOT see the lights than see them. After an hour or so in the parking lot, looking at fuzzy white light on the horizon, he felt it was going to be a few more hours if they were to “lift and take shape” so we moved on. We were grateful for his guidance at seeing the beginnings of the lights as our plans for the next day would be our travels to another Airbnb, booked in the middle of nowhere, with all glass windows facing North to hopefully see them. We would arrive for Christmas Eve and spend the holidays in that home.

After many of our new friends were dropped off at their various lodgings, we were returned to the mammoth cathedral in Rejkavik and much to my delight the Church was open. We were able to enter and sit inside and take in its beauty and music – lit only with candles. On our way out, Quinn and I lit a few in memory of loved ones and placed them in a huge metal structures. Such a beautiful moment of loud silent reverence.

We walked back to our Airbnb, had dinner at our house and then went to bed – excited for tomorrow – Christmas Eve- in the most magical sparkly Christmas country ever!

Until then, rockonLIVING friends! xxoo

Iceland – Day Two

Iceland is about 18-25 millions year old. Sounds pretty impressive, right? So you may be surprised to hear it is actually one of the youngest countries in the world! Iceland lies where the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean meet. Iceland is sparsely inhabited, with the majority of its 300,000ish Icelanders concentrated mostly in the capital city Reykavik. Now would be an awesome time to Google or take a look at a map to orient yourself to the location of Iceland on our globe.

After a long day of travel and knowing we had an early rise today, I fell asleep quick and hard the night before. I woke up at some point during the evening and found myself in an almost drunk stupor of confusion over what in the world time it was! I looked at my Fitbit and it glowed 05:27. I figured I might as well get up and moving as I knew we were going to need to find some coffee (remember, day one post about the mysterious coffee machine we had not mastered at this point?) and get packed and organized for our 2 day overnight bus tour of Iceland’s Golden Circle. However, when I walked into the kitchen, the clock displayed 22:27. I was so utterly confused…what time was it? I Googled “what time is in Iceland?” And sure enough, it was only 22:27 (10:27pm)! I could go back to sleep? Like for a long time…so weird.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: In Iceland & Amsterdam AirBnB’s offer much more privacy, space & flexibility in meals – less eating out/less expensive. During Covid (Amsterdam was under a lock down during this trip) they also offer less exposure to others and a place to eat comfortably while not allowed to eat inside restaurants. Our experience has also found that most AirBbB’s have more flexible check in and check out times. Many AirBnB’s also give you the opportunity to get a better “taste” or “flair” of what it is like to live in the place you are visiting. Some of our favorite new friends we have made during our travels are the homeowners of these places as you usually have direct contact with them during your stay.

Quinn and I let the girls sleep a little longer and we headed out to secure some coffee and sauntered the empty streets. Quiet. Peaceful. The aroma of a fresh baked pastry filling the silence, and soon our tummies.

The Hallgrimskirkja, the tall church that overlooks the city, has the most amazing bells that greet the hour – like an echo-vibrational hug, only with sound. We would be meeting our tour bus next to this church at 8am. As we begin our exploration of Iceland today, I want you to really take a good look at the architecture of this sanctuary in the photos below at sunset and see if you can spot the inspiration the architect, Gudjon Samuelsson, incorporated into its design.

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Iceland – Day One

hygge (n) a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture – and I would argue Icelandic.)

We chose to visit Iceland for Christmas and we are so glad we did! Iceland is Christmas. Reykjavik (the capital of Iceland) is beautiful, dripping in hygge, safe, quaint, and I will use the word – happy. The 4 hours of muted sunlight creates a dark backdrop for twinkle lights galore, candles, fireplaces and cozy spaces.

We could sense the differences immediately. This feeling began as early as our plane ride into Reykjavik, Iceland. Our plane, full, had many families traveling home for the holidays. There were at least 5 families traveling with children that were toddler aged – 4, 5, 6. We now travel with teenagers and one young adult and sometimes my heart wants to burst with nostalgia for those younger days…

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stratus

by vickie takei

The water is sparkly like diamonds

the wind supplies a constant source of playfulness on top of the water.

Birds are flitting and flirting among the trees

hobnobbing generous bird feeders full of easy snacking from homes of hibernating humans.

The Winter Rose dons her crown jewels of bloom in the sunshine in varying degrees of color.

I spot one bloom with a brave lone and hungry bee gathering food in the dead of winter.

Too slow to snap a photo of this little guy

he flies as if drunk or half-asleep

– able to get to another bloom before I am able.

The oak trees still hold onto their crispy light brown leaves

and there is a constant low rustling of a paper sound

they seem to be able to emit like rays of sunshine never end.

Where is that little bee’s hive?

How does he know to come out of its snowbird home to forge for food at this time of year?

Many trees are pure outlines of limbs against the Carolina-Blue sky

and there is layer of low white clouds that appear to have been chopped right across the top to create a flat

surface for the entire span of the horizon.

These clouds are so low and faraway the are actually below the tree line.

Squirrels continue to roam and scour ninja-like and are the epitome of tenacity,

never giving up.

 I witness their acts of flight more easily

now that the cover of the canopy of trees have disappeared.

There are red berries in patches in the woods.

 The glorious Golden Hour of Summer seems to linger all day long…

At 1pm the sun shines like an 8:30 sunset at the beach on an never-ending summer.

Shadows long.

Light spreads like a large homemade picnic blanket on a warm day.

The trees appear to be dancing, swaying, resting, prepping for the seasons that lies ahead.

150-200 feet high evergreens and pine trees.

They have done this song and dance for some many years

and hold wisdoms and history that allow them to appear

not to fret

about their past,

or their future, but

live in the moment and sway, not snap.