Parlez-vous anglais?

I returned last night from a fun weekend in Vegas– details to come in an upcoming update post– and am already counting down to my next trip, which is in a couple of weeks, to Montreal and Quebec City.

Megan and I will be spending a few days in the province of Quebec, and I am so excited for everything that we have planned. I’ve been to other parts of Canada before, but I’ve heard that both of these cities have a lot of charm and fun things to see, and they’re supposed to have a very European feel to them.

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from Pinterest via flickr

I’m hoping to have time to buy a guidebook this week (I still prefer them to any smartphone app or website) and have been pinning pretty sights on Pinterest for a few weeks now. You can see my board by clicking here. I’m imagining there will be a lot of exploring with frequent stops at outdoor cafes, as a lot of the pictures I’ve seen show colorful umbrellas and happy people eating and drinking beneath them. Sounds great to me!

If you have any recommendations or helpful links, please share!

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Iceland: En Route and Day 1

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Everything about our departure was very easy. That’s one of the nice things about a medium-sized airport like Denver. There isn’t an international terminal or anything crazy that you have to do, so we were through security in about 10 minutes and waiting at our gate. I was surprised that Icelandair doesn’t offer complimentary meals; I’ve never been on an international flight that doesn’t. The flight was about 7 hours and went by extremely quickly. They had a lot of good entertainment options on the TV’s, so I was able to watch a couple of things and then tried to nap for maybe an hour. Like most people, I hate airline seats, so I didn’t get any actual sleep.

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Arriving at the airport was very exciting. I always love checking out all of the other destinations at airports that are big on connections to see where people are going. When we arrived at 6:30am we saw flights departing for Sweden and London Gatwick. We had no issues with our bags or immigration or customs, and were walking outside to meet our transfer at about 6:50am. Someone (me) forgot to print out our itinerary, and it was emailed a few months ago so I couldn’t find it in my inbox. Both Kristin and I thought there would be someone waiting for us with one of those little signs. We walked through the group of probably 20 drivers holding signs, and didn’t see one for us. It was one of those not trying to feel rejected moments, where we didn’t make it obvious we were looking for the signs in fear that there wouldn’t be one for us. And, of course, there wasn’t.

Luckily the airport had free wifi, so I was able to get on my email and see that we had to go to a ticket window to get vouchers for the coach bus that would take us into town. Major sigh. It all worked out.

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About an hour after getting on the bus, we arrived at our hotel. We paid 30 Euro to check-in then, at about 8am, and the rate included breakfast for each of us. We decided a quick nap before our city tour would be a good idea, and it really was.

 When we later made friends who were also traveling on the Groupon, we found out how lucky we were to be assigned to this particular hotel. It is right in the middle of Reykjavik and we were able to walk everywhere. Most of the other Denver Grouponers were at a hotel outside of the city center, and though they were provided with a bus pass, it still wasn’t as convenient as where we stayed. The picture of the exterior of our hotel was actually taken on our last night, but that is what it looks like. You can also see the beautiful view from our hotel room above.

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Stop one on the city tour was Bessastaoir. This is a compound visible from much of the city, but isolated to get to. We were very surprised to learn that this is the vacation home for the Iceland’s presidents, and since the flag was up, he and his family were in residence. We were able to walk around most of the compound, and even right up to the front door.

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We also saw a few of the neighboring port cities where high-tech fancy condos are placed next to fish refineries. Supposedly these are very hip areas to live.

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Our next stop was the Perlan, a cool circular building that is tourist attraction as well an event center. Our guide told us that it’s a very popular place to ring in the New Year, and we could see why.

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After driving around the Laugardalur sports and recreation area which has one of the cities most popular geothermal pools, we visited the Hofoi house, where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had a summit in 1986. From the way the guide talked, it seems like this is a very proud part of Iceland’s history, having two leaders meet here during the Cold War.

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The final stop on the city tour was at the Hallgrimskirkja church and the old town center where the Iceland parliament and town hall are located. The church was a very unique design and we enjoyed walking around the grounds.

After returning to the hotel, we went for an early dinner and then relaxed in the hotel room and went to bed early to catch up on sleep.

Struggle City

Happy Monday! Is getting back from vacation not the worst thing ever? I have been feeling completely out of it since returning on Thursday. Lots of eating, lots of resting, mixed with events that require alcohol has me feeling sluggish and unmotivated. I think the fact that I drank soda with abandon from the moment we took off until returning also played into it, since I haven’t had any soda since January. I went to the gym on Saturday and forced myself to do a good bit of cardio, but napped yesterday instead of going. After work I’m off to do some cardio and a Pilates class. Hopefully that will help me feel back on track. Might also be a cereal for dinner kind of night.

Enough with the complaining, the Iceland trip was amazing! Kristin and I are very good travel companions so we saw everything we wanted to see and did everything we wanted to do, with one exception. I’m going to start working on the Iceland posts and will probably do one for each day, so there will be more details to come.

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Day one, looking slightly delirious and crazy after having been up for 36 hours

Up Next

After taking an unplanned hiatus from travel during the early months of 2014, I will be embarking on my next adventure in less than a month. Kristin and I are off on another trip, but this time it’s not a roadtrip. We’re off to:

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Iceland!

I blogged about wanting to go there back in 2010, and right after Christmas it became a reality! Denver recently got a direct flight to Keflavik on Icelandair, and as a result I came across a Groupon deal for a flight, 3 nights hotel, and 3 tours for a very reasonable price.  It seemed too good to pass up, and luckily Kristin agreed with me. The weather will be very cold when we go in April, but there is still a chance we may be able to see the Northern Lights. The more people I talk to about Iceland, the more excited I get. Every person who has been raves about it, in particular a very well-traveled couple I know who did a 2-week Scandinavian cruise stopping in almost every port city in the Finland, Norway, Sweden, etc. They said Reykjavik was their favorite, hands down. If you have any recommendations or information about the island, please share!

images via visitreykjavik.is, goiceland.is, biskvitka.net

Canceled

Flight cancelations happen all of the time, but somehow I have been fortunate enough to have never been affected, at least that I can remember. A few weekends ago I was supposed to be on the East Coast, visiting Washington D.C for one night and then heading up to Baltimore for Friday night and Saturday and Sunday.

I arrived at the airport for my 7am flight, and discovered that my flight was canceled. Through the process of figuring out the next step and consequently having to cancel the trip, I learned a very important lesson.

Don’t be the obnoxious, screaming person, but don’t be the easy going, too understanding person either.

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While I was waiting in the 20-plus person line to learn about my options and hopefully rebook, I was surrounded by people of all different levels of upset. After one of the ticket agents made an announcement that the next available seats were for Saturday, two days later, there was the guy who screamed “f*** you, I’m finding a different airline” and jumped the line rope and ran off. There was the guy in front of me who was going to miss his sister’s wedding and was brainstorming all kinds of rental car and train options with his girlfriend. The couple behind me was due in the Caribbean for their honeymoon and would lose out on a $700/night suite. And then there was me. I was very frustrated and disappointed, but by the time it was my turn at the counter, I’d gotten a big dose of perspective from the predicaments of my fellow travelers.

I of course wanted to see my friends in DC and my family in Baltimore, and this is a very important time of year for us, but I wasn’t missing a once in a lifetime event like a wedding, I wasn’t going to lose a huge amount of money on the hotel and I thought about how many times I’ve traveled with few or no issues. So when it was my turn, I was calm and nice to the ticket agent (like an adult should be) and listened as she once again confirmed that the earliest I could get to my destination would be Saturday afternoon. I was due to return to Denver almost exactly 24 hours later.

She then proceeded to say that the weather was supposed to stay bad and that there is a huge backlog of passengers so it was uncertain how the rest of the weekend would play out for traveling– implying that I might have some issues returning home on Sunday. Logically of course, going for 24 hours didn’t make sense. But I do wonder whether being a little bit more visibly angry or clearly frustrated would have helped my case in some way. Here’s hoping I’ll never have to try it out, but I’d love to hear the experiences of others and dealing with extreme delays and cancelations. Has keeping your cool helped you get to your destination, or did making your frustrations known get you better options?

30 Before 30 List: Checking In

The panic is beginning to set in a bit. Last Saturday, my mom’s birthday, was also my half birthday. Which means I have 2.5 years until I turn 30 (scary!) and 2.5 years until my 30 Before 30 list needs to be completed. If you’ve been following along, you can see I haven’t made very much progress.

I do have a few things in the works to check off, which I am very excited about, but I’m beginning to worry about how I’m going to fit in four big international trips in 2.5 years. Especially when the places I want to go are a little bit off the beaten path, but I have faith I will be able to find friends to accompany me on some of these adventures. (Megan, I’m looking at you!)

In related news, I’m happy to report that I have inspired three other people to create their own lists. My friend Kristin created her list this summer and has made progress on reaching her goals, and Megan and Katherine created theirs in January. Another blogger liked the idea, and you can find her list here. They all have lots of fun things on theirs, so I’m hoping we’ll work on our lists together and get things checked off and make fun memories.

On March 15th I will be running my first 5k and I am so excited! I’ve never been a runner, so it’s very exciting to see the distance and time go by when I’m on the treadmill. The next two weeks will be very intense trying to prepare, but I’m confident I’ll be able to fully run the race and enjoy it. After the race, I will have to elaborate on why running any amount of distance is a pretty big deal for me.

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In the meantime, I will continue reading this monstrosity. I wish I could count it’s 700+ pages as more than one classic, but that would be cheating.

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This Month

June has been one of the craziest months in recent memory. From starting it on the beach in North Carolina with old friends, to ending it in Santa Barbara wine tasting with my best friend from college, there hasn’t been a dull moment.

Despite these two trips, I actually had a few consecutive weekends at home, which hasn’t happened since 2012. It was nice to have time to enjoy visits from family and focus on the packing, moving and unpacking that have been seemingly endless.

The month has flown by, but it’s been a great one.

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Identity

Oh, the blog. I’ve struggled with exactly what I’ve wanted this blog to be, content wise. At first, I thought it would be a travel and interior design blog, but then I started posting on a wide variety of things. Next I thought it might be a lifestyle blog, like so many out there (I’m sure you could quickly name 5 or 10), but lately I’ve been realizing I want it to be what it is, unlabeled. That means there will be times of lots of posting, and sporadic posting, posts on recipes, trips, dreams, hardships, design, books, family, everything.

I would guess that blogs that stick to specific topics are most appealing, as readers know exactly what they are going to get, but there is also something about the randomness. Thinking of my favorite blogs, they don’t have an outfit post on Monday, tutorial on Tuesday, etc. The writer lets it flow and mixes it up.

So that’s what you can expect to see here, the unexpected.

5 U.S. Cities to Visit

I’ve been to a fair amount of places in the U.S., but there are still a few cities I’ve never visited that I would like to. I’m hoping that in the next few years I will be able to check some of these off.

San Francisco

Everyone I know loves San Francisco. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything bad about it. I love the idea of a booming metropolis right along the water, and I think I would fall in love with the cable cars, different neighborhoods and of course views of the bay. This is also on my 30 Before 30 list, so hopefully I will be visiting soon!

Seattle

I’ve always heard great things about the Pacific Northwest, and loved Vancouver when I visited in Fall 2010. With lots of well known spots, like Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and all of the places you can visit via the ferries, I think this would be a perfect spot for a weekend visit. (Update since I originally started writing this post: I am visiting Seattle this weekend!)

Portland

I’ve heard that Portland is a food lovers paradise. Enough said.

Newport

After watching the old movie “High Society” when I was younger, I’ve always wanted to visit Newport. With the sailboats dotting the ocean, a nice beach and beautiful homes and museums to tour, it seems like a great spot to visit in the summer.

Santa Fe

I love the Southwest. With lots of family in Arizona, I’ve spent a lot of time in both Phoenix and Tucson, and love the art, jewelry and history. Santa Fe has perhaps “more” of all of these things. Ranked 3rd in the U.S. for museums, behind New York and Boston (wow!!), there is a lot to see and learn there. In my mind a perfect trip would also include an afternoon at one of the gorgeous spas in the area, as well as delicious southwestern food!

Do you have any U.S. cities you’ve been wanting to visit?

(images via wikipediaseattle.gov, tripadvisor.com, cityofnewport.com, wikipedia)