A month and a half in Iceland – part 1

Lindsay and I decided this past year to spend a summer somewhere new / interesting, and after some debate and consideration, we decided on Iceland.

The decision to spend (ha?) the summer in Iceland was, as is often the case with us, decided in large part (and semi-ironically) based on cost. In particular the cost of the flight through Wow Air. This is a fairly well known “deal” at this point but basically Wow Air had ~$300ish dollar flights out of Toronto direct to Reykjavik.  Lindsay and I had been talking about going to Iceland for a while, and when we saw the cheap-ish tickets within our reach we did a quick search on AirBnB to make sure that an apartment was somewhat affordable (we found a few single rooms for ~900-1000 for a month… which ended up all being “fake”, but more on that later) and just YOLOed and bought the ticket.

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Barbados

As you may recall (I’m actually not 100% sure we talked about this on the ol’ blog), the choice to come to Barbados was based on a few things.

First, we had expected that sometime in this year of travel we’d have had some opportunities to swim around in some beautiful water somewhere. India we figured that Goa would be this experience, but Goa was not exactly that experience, and we quickly ran into fall and winter in Asia and Europe without ever having any “go to the beach and go swimming” experiences. So, we figured on the way home we’d stop somewhere tropical.

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The rest of Portugal!

I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table in Michigan, Tristan and Izzy are to my left and right working on homework. We’ve been home for three weeks. I mention this because although I know it sort of ruins the whole “reading a travel blog real time” thing, I feel like my memory is already fading and so I’m going to write as I remember things, which may not be perfect. After we left the mountain home, we headed to Porto. The drive was somewhat long, but not particularly eventful. Porto was pretty great. I think it was probably all of our favorite city in Portugal. It felt touristy, but perhaps also a bit more casual and a bit more approachable then Lisbon.

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Fatima, Grândola + Covilha (Serra de Estrella).

When my parents first got to Lisbon, we really had very little in the way of concrete plans set for the next 2 weeks. Initially, my mom and I planned to take the brunt of it, and the she got really busy with school and passed the task to me, and then I, knowing my lovely mother would want more input than she cared to admit, decided we would just “play it by ear” and plan as we went. That turned out to be a great idea, as it was that mentality that led us here. Originally, in our basic sketch of the trip, the plan was to head north and then take on the south, lounging on the beaches just before they arrived back home. Thankfully, our lack of concrete planning gave us the mobility to look at the weather, head south first and on our way up to Porto, stop in Serra de Estrella. It was my mom’s suggestion, and it turned out to be a highlight of the trip for all of us.
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The Algarve.

After a few days in the country, we headed to the Algarve, specifically, Lagos + Sagres. The city of Lagos was quite small and it was great for easy exploring. My parents went to the fish market, my dad waking up around 6 am one day headed down to pick out some delicious tuna for us for dinner. We celebrated Easter (Kev and i standing the entire mass from the balcony, my parents sitting at the alter) and found about 15 items wrapped in tissue paper hiding in various places around the house. We had a gin + tonic tasting event, “sponsored” by Kevin, who claimed (and was correct, sadly!) that given the chance to have 4 drinks, we couldn’t tell the difference between them. We went sea kayaking and swam in the beach. We went hat hunting for my mom (which turned out to be quite a feat!), and ate a delicious Indian dinner. My dad tried gelato for the first time, and they ate their first salted sardines (another Portuguese specialty). We ran on the beach, looked at cool urchins, played paddle ball while Kev practiced his card trick. We went to Sagres and ultimately to “the end of the world!” aka, the south-eastern most tip of Europe. We geo-cached and ate egg salad sandwiches and chocolate seashells on the side of the road. Needless to say, we killed it.IMG_6123
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Foupana + Tavira (Ihla de Tavira).

So, we drove south. Our ultimate destination was a little city called Tavira, and more specially, a tiny island off the coast called Ihla de Tavira. The plan for my exhausted parents, after weeks of preparing for this trip, was to chill out on the coast for a while, run on the beach, read a book, and relax. Knowing that we were going to be on the beach for the next few days, we opted to check out the Portuguese countryside, and man, what a great decision that was. We literally were in the middle of NO WHERE, or at least it felt like it, and it was a total change of pace from the busy city. We stayed in this amazing log cabin, were greeted by the world’s biggest dogs, and chilled out on the giant porch overlooking the desert-esque landscape. It was pretty cool.

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Lisbon.

So, needless to say, we were pretty excited that my parents were coming to visit. We ended up coming in to Lisbon via bus around 11pm the night before their arrival, and were picked up by the world’s most hospitable host (yet another Airbnb success story). Right off the bat, we were feeling quite spoiled, as it has not been the norm for us to have someone PICK US UP from anywhere, let alone in a car. Normally we’d be dealing with following our GPS god-knows-where and walking normally 1-4ish km from our stop to our place with our packs in whatever city it was that we happened to land. The fact that we had a real, live person meeting us to ease our transition into Lisbon was pretty damn awesome to say the least, especially after the 8+ hour bus ride in the back of a giant, bumpy bus with no air. On top of him being just a really wonderfully warm person, he also bought us dinner after explaining that he remembered “how difficult it was, traveling in the past, when [you’d] get somewhere late, and were starving and everything was closed…. ” Honestly, if there could have been a more perfect way to enter a new city, bellies full, warmed with the kindness of this man who we were only paying $22 per night to stay with, well, I don’t know what it would have looked like other than this.

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Spain

Well, my last blog post left off with us on the train, on our way to Barcelona. It was an update-to-the-minute blog post. I don’t think this makes sense, but I think perhaps I got too close to the sun. My wax blogging wings fell apart. Also, I might mention that a certain somebody I may or may not be traveling with/married to hasn’t been pulling her blogging weight lately. Regardless, as I type this Spain blog post, I am nearly done with PORTUGAL. But, I want to write a few things about Spain before I forget them! So, here we go.

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Southern France.

Jean Jacques, Elsie, and Christoph

After the weather in Palermo, Lindsay and I were both really excited to be seeing and staying with a family once again. So after flying to Marseilles and taking a bus to Monasque, we were so thrilled to get out and see Jean Jacques waiting for us.

Jean Jacques (JJ) is my very, very dear friend Nicola’s father, and Elsie (who we would see in half an hour later) is his mother. I had the brief pleasure of meeting them in San Francisco last year when they came to visit Nicola, but it was only that once. They are, in short, incredibly enjoyable people to be around and Lindsay and I both agreed that not for a second did we feel uncomfortable, awkward, or anything but filled with warmth, and thrilled and lucky to be getting to know them better.

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Barcelona Marathon.

Today, I woke up and decided to run the Barcelona marathon.

I don’t say that to brag, but it did feel quite a bit like that, if I were to be honest. Last night at around 7pm, Kev and I saw a sign advertising the race. I was a bit bummed, as had I known, I might have trained (I’d like to think so anyway :)) or done something to prepare for it, but I didn’t, and it was starting in about 12 hours from the time I saw the sign.

I woke up this morning and thought, “what the hell. I’ll just go enjoy the crowds and run as far as I want, and then stop” assuming it was going to be a 12-15km kinda run, as the MOST I have run on this trip was 9km. So we got up, walked to the subway, gave my biggest supporter a kiss, and I squeezed my way through the crowds to the starting gates. I didn’t register (obviously, it was closed) and so I was quite self-conscious the entire time about getting booted off the course. Thankfully, there were close to 20,000 people there, so I was able to remain pretty inconspicuous.

As we were running, I settled myself behind the 4’30 min mile markers and kept a slow but steady pace. I had no idea how far I was going to run, and just wanted to keep a normalized pace for as long as I could.

I couldn’t help but feel floored as to what a BEAUTIFUL city Barcelona is. After minutes of arriving at the bus terminal, Kev and I felt that this city had an unbelievable energy and life to it, and we loved it immediately. Running by Gaudi’s cathedrals, seeing the futbol stadiums, the unbelievable coastline and enjoying the sun – truly the city could not have looked more perfect if it tried.

Every 5km there were “refueling” stands supplied with oranges, nuts and water for our disposal. There were bands (most playing old school American tunes, which was awesome) seriously at every turn, dancers, Spanish guitarists, and unbelievable crowds the ENTIRE way. I have never seen anything like it. It was amazing, and truly such a testament to the people of Barcelona.

At km 12 – I felt amazing. There was no question in my mind that I was going to keep running.
Km 15 – the same. I decided here that I was going to run a half marathon, and then probably call it quits.

Around kilometer 20, I started to get CRAZY sore. My knees felt like they were going to fall off, my hips were tight, and my (stupid) Merrel “minimalist” shoes (which are NOT the shoes you want for distance, pavement running) where making the tops of my feet ache. I decided, okay, 21km = half marathon, that’ll be it.

Well, I got to km 21 and thought, “well, I’m already this far…now I’m literally stepping closer to the finish line with every step…” so I kept going. I have to say that at this point my time was 1:54. Despite the cheering crowds, honestly from km 25-35, I was really in a ridiculously rough state. It was here, that I must mention a few things….when I ran my first marathon in Bangkok (under similar circumstances) my mind was CRYSTAL clear. My body (knees) was aching like crazy, but my mind was in this “you are accomplishing a life-long goal. Keep going. This is nothing…” state for almost the entire race. I was never so confident in the power of the mind, and how our body really will do anything if we tell ourselves we can. That was NOT the case today (at least not during this 10km stretch). Minute after minute, I contemplated stepping off the course, and simply walking back to where I was going to meet Kev – but for some reason, I didn’t. I felt grumpy, sore, and honestly kinda sad.

probably contemplating walking next to this guy at this time
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Around mile 21 though, my world started to change. First of all, one of the corner bands started playing “Proud Mary.” Instantly, I flew back to my time with my nearest and dearest friends, David, Maj, Jenn, Olga (and a couple other coworkers) who busted out some serious moves to this song for our talent show last year. My spirits began to rise as I smiled and laughed, and sang it word for word until I couldn’t hear any more.

Seconds later, I turned my playlist back on, only to find “Aint no Mountain High Enough” blaring from the speakers. This song always reminds me of my mom and brothers, as I have countless memories of singing at the top of our lungs in the living room, BLARING it from the speakers, Kyle running around looking for homemade microphones of candle sticks, forks, stirring spoons or whatever other object might be laying around for us to use. Again, I started laughing and my spirits lifted.

Next, “Aint too Proud to Beg” and right after “Dancing in the Moonlight,” Sean and my favorite songs. I have perfectly clear memories of picking him up when he was in middle school (and I was a big bad senior in my rinky-dink Ford Ranger truck (complete with red pleather seats, mind you) honking to the beat of the ENTIRE song in the line of parents picking up their kids, trying to embarrass him (which never worked, and he only would roll the windows down and sing as loud as he could as we drove away).

Next up? “Wannabe.” and BOOM. I was back at our Senior Night with my besties, Court, Les and Laura, dressed in ridiculous getups in front of a green screen, doing everything in our power to lighten a difficult time in one of friend’s lives by singing and being silly.

Next? Missy Elliott’s “Work it”. and BOOM! Again, instantly transported back to 14, with another one of my best friends at the time, rollerblading to boys’houses we had crushes on, and getting ice cream from our local ice cream parlor.

At this point, I was still in a LOT of pain, and while my spirits were MUCH brighter, I was still in a bit of a fog. Next on the song list, “Rather Be.” I just found out about this song, but could not get over how perfect the lyrics were for this time in my life,

“We’re a thousand miles from comforts. We have traveled land to sea, as long as we’re together, there’s no place I’d rather be.”

All of a sudden though, among the THRONGS of people, there was Kev. Just sitting there, cheering all of the runners on. And, I started crying. With a HUGE smile on his face, he jumped up and started running alongside me, lifting my spirits with every step. My biggest supporter and #1 fan. I could do this.

For the last 2 km, as I quite literally hobbled to the finish line, I was bombarded with memories of my Dad signing us up for the Bobby Crim when I was just 7 years old, and all of us running together as we crossed the finish line, or the countless XC races he cheered me through in the freezing rain, as he told me to “push the hill!”. I was reminded that the hat that I was currently wearing was one my mom gave me after she and her best friends (Jan and Kathie) completed the RIDICULOUS feat of walking a marathon one day and a half marathon the second day, for Breast Cancer, and how unbelievably proud I was of them. I remembered running through the streets of San Francisco, with one of my dearest friends, Emily dressed to the nines in whatever ridiculous outfit we could think of for Bay to Breakers. I remembered my dad preparing for his marathon which he ran for my grandma and her battle with Lupus. I remembered getting a call from my best friend (the non-runner!) after she finished her first half marathon in Colombia and how infinitely proud I was of her. It was minutes before I was about to cross that I truly reflected on all of the people who have helped me get here. Running this marathon, or not, these people and countless more helped me learn how to make small goals to accomplish even bigger ones. These people have given me the confidence to even CONTEMPLATE such a feat – and I realized and appreciated just.how.thankful. I truly was to them.

It was about here, 100 feet from the finish line, that I got yanked off the course for not having my bib (despite trying to tell the guy that it was “con mi esposo!” He didn’t buy it, but that was fine. Looking up at my time 4:20:25, I realized I had surpassed my initial goal of the 4:30 group and felt like gold.

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Minutes later, Kev caught up to me, armed with bags of ice, anti-inflammatory cream and H20. Again, my biggest supporter. As we sat on the steps talking about the run, I couldn’t help but to feel like “Damn, that was something, but this was nothing….” totally clear-headed, and feeling remarkably loved.

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