Hi! My name is Brian!

Grip. Cameraman. Adventurist…

Oh 2013.  What a year you were.  So many adventures.  So few blogs.  So much catching up to do.

But where to begin?  Not where I left off, In Iceland.  For the first blog of the New Year we will jump ahead, to the fall…My fall…out of a plane.

Skydive into the new year! from Brian Browitt on Vimeo.

October of 2013 was a month of transition.  I had just moved to Portland, just started a new job, and I was still settling into the wonderful adventure that is my girlfriend, Erica.  Joseph Campbell would tell me I’d reached a metaphorical jumping off point.  So I thought, to hell with the metaphors.

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The things we do for love…

Skydiving has always been something I’ve dreamed of doing, despite my crippling fear of high places with discernible edges.  Erica had gone before, so I felt less crazy and more excited about it.  It’s one of those things.  Once you’ve decided that you’re going to do it, you really can’t think too much about it. Or you won’t do it. And so we will use my experience to discuss the pros and cons of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

I recommend it…

So we drove out to Skydive Kapowsin on the Olympic peninsula.  It was Erica’s birthday present and it was either going to be the best present ever, or the last. Erica had used this company before, and if I’m gonna strap myself to someone and fall to our deaths, they better be an expert at it. Damn it.

Pro: Nothing says I love you like spitting in death’s face together.  Though spitting while skydiving isn’t recommended.  Or possible.

Con: You will scream and flail like a manic child in front of said loved one.  Put the ego in check.

The morning had been rainy, and as we arrived at the misty airfield there was some doubt as to if we would be able to jump at all.  I would have taken it as a sign from God.  But apparently, God wanted me to jump.  There was a break in the clouds headed our way.

The first step in the process is the paperwork.  Several pages of “Hey, you’re jumping out of a plane.  Don’t get mad at us if you hurt yourself. Or Die.  Sign here please.”

At this point I had my first real doubts.  Maybe…I should stay on the ground? Watch my girlfriend slowly turn from a falling speck to a disappointed lonely parachute? Drive home in shamed silence?

(sigh)

Pro: Written proof of your bad-assery.

Con: You sign your life away.  Literally. No lawyer in the world can save your paralyzed butt should something go wrong.

We were on a bit of a schedule, as the hole in the clouds could pass us by at any moment.  Two gentlemen strapped us into our very fashionable jumpsuits and led us out to the airfield.  These guys would be doing the hard work of actually jumping while we were strapped to them as close as politely possible. I was in a jumpsuit and goggles; my pilot was in jeans and a hoodie.  Nice. Just to reassure myself, we made small talk about his experience skydiving.  He counted in his head for a moment, then estimated he’d jumped roughly 18,000 times. That’s 18…with a thousand.

Pro: That’s pretty good odds right? I mean, if he sucked at it, he’d be in a body cast or a coffin by now.  Expert Skydiver!

Con: This guy jumped out of a plane 18,000 separate times?! You’re crazy for jumping out once! 18,000?! Expert Crazy Person!

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Soon to be on the cover of GQ…

The cozy little prop plane buzzed up to meet us and we hopped inside.  Once in, we got strapped up with our pilots.  It’s a strange sensation to watch your girlfriend get strapped to another man who will soon propel them both toward the ground.

The plane sputtered toward the runway.  We had reached the point of no return.  I mean, I guess I could just wimp out and stay in the plane after watching Erica do it.  But that still leaves the silent shamed drive home.

GOPR2860.MP4.Still004Outside the window the ground slowly receded beneath us.  Through the clouds I could see the beautiful Olympic forest, glittering lakes, and jagged mountain peaks poking through swirling mists.  I always love flying for this reason.  It allows for a truly awe inspiring perspective, and somehow flying lower in a smaller plane made it feel more intimate.

Pro: Fantastic scenery that few people can truly experience. Heavenly Peace.

Con: Oh good! You get to slowly watch the stable earth fall away as you contemplate the inevitable plunge back toward it.  Bet the scenery looks great at terminal velocity! Hellish Torture.

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Its like the insidious opposite of a ticking time bomb…

My jumper’s altimeter read 13,000 feet.  We had reached the zenith of our journey. With a rusty squelch the metal door was slid open.  Erica and her jumper slid out to the edge, their feet dangling over the abyss.  The wind grasped at our faces and tugged on our limbs. Here’s where it gets fun.

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She looks so happy!

And in an instant, they were gone.  An Indiscernible speck beneath us. My jumper and I slid toward the door, and I grasped my camera with all my strength. We dangled over the edge for a moment, and then it was over. We fell.

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Free fall is one of those things that’s hard to describe.  I knew I would be airborne for about a minute, so I was thinking it would be over quick.  It felt like an eternity.  I was plummeting, swirling, tumbling helplessly to the ground.  The cold air yanked the water from my eyes and crystallized the saliva in my frozen grimace. It was a terrifying rush, a nightmarish thrill.  It lasted forever and was over in an instant. Remember all those horrible thoughts I told you not to think earlier? You were actually saving them.  For this moment.

Con: You’ve just jumped out of a plane. 13,000 feet in the air. Your life flashes before your eyes.  All your regrets, sins, joys and accomplishments zoom by you like the flocking geese you just passed.  Every possible horrible thing that could happen is playing out in your head.  In this moment, you know your tombstone will say “Jumped out of a plane and expected to live. Loving Son. Dutiful Boyfriend. Idiot. ”

Pro: You will never forget this moment.  It is indescribable, blissful, terrible, painful, and incredible.  Your death was before you, and rather than stay safe, you leapt toward it and laughed in its face.  Well…you didn’t laugh because little sound comes from you as you fall.  Laughing would probably just make you choke in free fall.

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And it didn’t hurt! I continue to have the capacity to have children!!

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Then there was a quick tug, a whoosh of fabric, and the fall was over.  The parachute deployed and we sailed through the clouds.  The change could not have been more drastic.  The wind that was screaming in my ears a moment earlier was now a quiet whisper.  The world drifted below and I had no concept of gravity or distance to the ground.  The world was beautiful, peaceful, and silent.  I was an eagle, an angel, a god. I laughed in the face of death and gravity. And I was small, so small above the impossibly huge earth.  It was perfect. This is the moment that makes it all worth it.

Pro: Never again will you feel so empowered and so humbled by the world you live in.

Con: …I got nothing.  It was awesome.

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OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD…oh…that was easy…

The ground was fast approaching, and the bliss was starting to wear off.  I remembered “oh right, I’m actually falling through the sky.” The landing was much easier than I imagined.  I was thinking I might skip on the ground, maybe have to land on my rump.  I landed like a flitting feather.

Verdict? Go skydiving. Do it.  I mean please god do your research and book with the expert insane people. But do it.  You might die when you jump out of the plane, but you’re probably more likely to die on the drive over.  Especially if you’re driving from Seattle.

But really, do it.  And don’t think too hard about it once you’ve signed that dotted line.

Will I do it again? Oh no.  No way.  No need to cross that bucket list twice. I’m good.

Thanks for reading! Till our next adventure!

Onward to Glory!

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Explore meeeeeeee……….

When I remember my brief time in Iceland, many things come to mind.  I remember the nation’s interesting history, it’s friendly people and it’s tasty cuisine   But most of all, I remember the land itself.  Never before had I laid eyes on such a stark, strange and beautiful place.  After two days exploring the capital, Reykjavik, I felt positively teased by it’s gorgeous skyline.  The barren slopes and frothing rivers beckoned to me from my hostel window.  So, on the third day, I got on a bus.  My first day of exploring beyond the city would bring me volcanic vents, frozen waterfalls and one last little dose of history.

Now being that I had arrived in shoulder season, I knew much of the country wouldn’t be accessible without renting a car.  And with barely a week to explore, I decided I’d like to avoid getting lost in the icy wilderness.  Also death.  I’d like to avoid death in a frozen ditch somewhere. My insurance just wouldn’t cover that.  So I booked the Golden Circle tour through Reykjavik Excursions.

The Golden Circle is a 300 km loop that encompasses some of the most famous sights that this corner of Iceland has to offer.  Postcard stuff.  It’s a convenient trip for travelers that are a) Limited on time and b) don’t like driving.  We’d be staying within the general area of Reykjavik, in the south west corner of the country.  There were Ten hour tours available, but instead of taking the entire day in a bus I opted for the six hour option.  This tour would focus on three famous sights:  Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and the Geyser Strokkur in Haukadalur.

Did you try to say it? Right?! I told you.  This language, holy crap man.  I couldn’t even type the first letter in Þingvellir I had to copy and paste.

After a nice breakfast at my hostel, I was picked up by a shuttle bus which dropped me off at the ticket office down town.  There I was mushed along into a small throng of tourists to the cavernous  cozy coaches. As tour buses go, they were warm, well-lit and even had wi-fi.

The drive to Þingvellir took us through some awe-inspiring spaces.  I went to school in Montana so I’m accustomed to “big-sky” landscape but to me, this place made Montana feel like a kiddie pool.  No offence intended.  The towering slopes beyond the capital opened up on wide valleys layered in lava and lichen.  Spring had barely lifted her head from sleep, so there was plenty of snow lying about and not a hint of life yet.  All the postcards show Iceland in the two or three month period where it’s florescent green, which I think is a shame, and a bit of false advertising.  With the right coat, I find dead winter beauty to be just as nice as living spring beauty.  But then I’ve been told I have strange taste in landscape.

That’s Þingvellir national park in the distance, plus Iceland’s largest lake Þingvallavatn.

Our fist stop, Þingvellir has a ton of natural and historical significance for the island nation.  Not only is it the ancient site of viking parliament, it’s also the spot where the continental plates separate.

First the history bit:  Remember how in the last blog post I talked about how the vikings who settled Iceland had the first functional parliament in Europe? Well it happened here.  From about 930 A.D. to 1798.  It was here that all the regional chieftains would meet to discuss law, dole out punishments and mass convert their nation to Christianity.  For two weeks every year during this period, thousands of people would flock to this area, not only for official business but also for trade, entertainment, games and feasts.  It was the Superbowl of ancient Iceland!  The area was even used in recent times to celebrate gaining independence in the 19th and 20th century.  It became Iceland’s first national park in 1928.

Postcard #1

Looking at the landscape you can see why this place was chosen for such a meeting.  There is a perfect storm of geological activity here.  Natural stone amphitheaters and winding corridor-canyons were carved by retreating glaciers, volcanic eruptions and continental drift.  You can literally see this land being stretched between two separating tectonic plates, little by little, year by year.  Standing here, you stand not quite in Europe, not quite in America, but somewhere in-between. Here, the country is growing before your eyes.

It is a place of danger too, being in such a hot zone.  Earthquakes and eruptions are common as you are literally walking through a fault line.   For this particular tour we only had about twenty minutes to explore the area, but I felt like I could have used a whole day out there. I’d never seen anyplace quite like it before.  Startin to think this is the theme of the trip.

Hustling back onto the bus, we took off towards our next destination, Gullfoss waterfall.  On the way I got my first glimpse of the famous Icelandic horses! So small even I might be able to ride them unmolested. Apparently these little guys are one of Iceland’s most famous exports.

Don’t call them ponies. They’re not.

We followed the glacier-fed river Hvitá to reach the golden waterfall, Gullfoss.  I’d seen pictures of this roaring monstrosity, but I was not prepared to see it in the flesh, er, froth.

Holy crap….Is it wrong that I’m thinking of Skyrim right now?

 Again, it was the combination of elements that made this sight so incredible.  The deafening roar of the water as it plummeted into the 70 meter high canyon below, the sculpted walls and columns of ice, the freezing mist blasting my face, the too-blue color of the water.  You could feel the incredible power, the sheer force of the water as it thundered past.  It was like staring into the earth’s open veins.

In the early 20th century they wanted to dam this up. Thank god they didn’t.

Thank God my camera is weather sealed…

Whew…well after that blast of fresh air, there was only one stop left on our Golden Circle tour.  We were headed further into the Haukadalur Valley, to visit the Geysir that gave geysers their name!

I love the scent of sulfur the in the evening…

So the Geysir of Iceland is the first of it’s kind to have been described in European history(first described in 1294), though it’s not the biggest of its kind.  The word means “To Gush” in ancient norse.  When it’s active, it spews boiling hot water over 70 meters in the air.  However, this particular geyser isn’t what we would call faithful.  It didn’t erupt while we were there. However it’s little brother Strokkur erupts every few minutes, so we were treated to three separate blasts of varying height and soak-age.

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This was my first geyser and It was fun to sit at the edge waiting for the blast.  You came to recongize the warning signs: a slow ripple, a bubble, then a bursting forth into the air.  I’m really excited to check out Yellowstone Park’s offerings after this introduction.  Beyond the geysers themselves it was fun to just walk around the little paths, past bubbling pools and steaming rivers filled with bright blue water.  You should hold your breath while walking by though, unless you really enjoy the smell of rotten eggs.

That was it for my Golden Circle tour.  We had a quick bite to eat and then were shuttled back to the capital.  It was a fun little tour, I do recommend it.  Though in retrospect maybe I should have taken the ten hour version just for the sake of having more time to look around.  Pictures are past me face! Enjoy!

But hey! Wait! They day was over but the night had just begun.  One reason I was really excited to be visiting Iceland in the off season was the chance to see the Aurora Borealis…the Northern Lights. A thing I had heard about, and seen in pictures, but never experienced.  Soon after my golden circle tour ended, I booked yet another tour.  A late-night excursion to chase this elusive phenomenon.

We set out at about 9 p.m., a few dozen tourists spread out across three buses.  Our guide was a native elderly gentleman, a bit of a Northern Lights enthusiast.  He recalled to us the first time he saw them, back in the old days before electricity was common here.  He was a young child helping his father tend the cattle in the wee hours of the morning, when he was startled by a dancing green glow that filled the sky.  Since then It had been a fascination for him and he had tried to wrangle up every bit of ancient lore and legend he could about the lights.  Some thought they were elf sign, some thought they were the paths of Valkyries riding through the sky, some thought they were the souls of the departed flying to heaven.  Our guide hadn’t been able to find much, seems like the ancient locals just accepted them as a natural part of their sky.  We now know them to be the visible sign of collision between the earth’s magnetic field and solar flares emitted by the sun.

This is us driving under the harbor next to Reykjavik…

We would have to drive for a couple hours to get away from the city lights and find a break in the clouds.  It was not a perfect night for the lights, but I was limited on time.  It was still light out when we arrived at our site, a small restaurant and hill next to a lonely road.

I lumbered up to the top of the hill with my trusty monopod and about thirty other tourists.  We set up and waited.  And waited.  I took many pictures hoping my camera would see something that I could not.  For hours nothing beyond the stars and a deep blue sky could be seen.  Then…the ghosts began to appear.

A slight green glow, barley noticeable at first.  It came and went.  One picture caught it, the next five had nothing.  I still couldn’t see anything with my naked eye.  I felt like a ghost hunter or something.  The hours passed, and the light never rose above the neon presence in my camera.

I admired the dedication of my fellow tourists, but as midnight rolled around I gave up.  I was tired, my battery was almost dead and it was so cold my shaking hands couldn’t hold the monopod steady enough to get a decent shot.  I got back into the bus and tried to sleep.  I knew I wouldn’t get another chance to see them, but as the clouds covered the sky, I knew my chances of seeing anything were about as low as my battery.  Even our enthusiastic guide was shrugging and staring at his watch. At about 1:00 am, we set off back toward the city.  I finally got some shut eye after thirty minutes on the road.

At 2:00 am the bus suddenly lurched and I was awakened with a start.  Our guide was nearly in tears.  He shoved us out the door and pointed frantically at the horizon.

Ribbons of blue and bright green light waltzed across the sky, they shimmered, they cracked like the whips of celestial horsemen.  My fingers were numb, and my camera was barley squeezing past two percent battery life, but I knew I wouldn’t have to settle for a postcard anymore.  It was the most eerie, strange thing I’ve ever seen grace the sky. Impossible to describe, impossible to fathom until you’ve seen it yourself.

My face hurt from smiling so much and as my camera finally died, I was content to just sit on the ground and watch.  The clouds swept over again; the show was over, but as we got back into our buses  no one felt like sleeping.

The Golden Circle was cool.  This…was incredible.  If you have to choose when to see Iceland, there is no choice.  Go before April.  You can’t chase these ghosts in summertime.

Click me face for the pics.  Sorry there aren’t more.

My next day in Iceland was spent careening down the south shore, from Reykjavik to Vik.  Glaciers, volcanoes, black beaches, and more waterfalls! And even more names you can’t pronounce!!!

Thanks for reading! Onward to Glory!

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An illustration of the blind Höðr killing Bald...

An illustration of the blind Höðr killing Baldr, from an Icelandic 18th century manuscript. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re a history-nut, which I can proudly proclaim I am, the first thing you might do when traveling to a new place is check out its museums, investigate it’s history. Iceland interested me because of its weird geography, but also because of its interesting past. Having an affinity for Viking/Scandinavian folklore, I was drawn to it’s roots. So on my second day in Reykjavik I journeyed forth to explore the local lore. After some styr(Icelandic yogurt) salami and coffee, I set out towards the Perlan or Pearl, home of the Saga Museum. It sits easily within view, high on a hill above Rekjavik proper.

In case you were wondering…here’s the correct way to do it.

It was a pleasant twenty minute walk to said hill. Along the way I enjoyed some interesting streets and odd advertisements. Foreign adverts are one of my favorite things about traveling. My favorite Icelandic ad so far was for their national coat company of choice, 66 north.

“Because Sometimes a Gentleman needs to hold a business meeting in the morning and climb a mountain in the afternoon.”….Its funnier because that is the actual tagline.

The Pearl is an interesting building, a glinting glass dome atop four of the city’s main water tanks. Apparently it has an awesome revolving restaurant upstairs during the high season. The prices also make your head spin.

How…cheery…

Just inside I was greeted by a grimacing Viking. I guessed I was in the right place. The Saga museum focuses on key characters and events outlined in the country’s history and legends, told for hundreds of years before they were written down. Kind of like a eerie silicon figure time-line from the first settlement to christian reformation. I’ve read(or tried to read) a couple of the Sagas and was interested to see how much actual history is woven into the fiction. Where that line should be drawn is debateable, but the sagas provide an excellent historical framework where written records can’t be found.  I did the audio guide, it proved worth it to get the extra info. Here’s the essentials you need to know:

  • Iceland is supposed to have been originally colonized by Irish monks.  Not a lot of archaeological evidence for it besides place names.  Apparently they got out when the heathens showed up.
  • Vikings from modern Norway were the first permanent settlers.  They were organized in chieftain/family groups until it was necessary to set up some provisional government.  This would grow to be the Althingi, the first European parliament where chieftains met and discussed laws, disputes, etc.
  • The Althingi made the decision to convert the entire island to Christianity around the year 1000. Though the old Norse gods would remain for centuries to come as the culture shifted.

Some highlights:

A viking named Floki sailed to Iceland with some cattle, cohorts and slaves. Didn’t end well. All his cattle died in the harsh winter, so he cursed the land and called it Iceland thereafter. Here he is releasing a raven to lead him to the isle.

Ingólfur Arnarson, a Viking from present day Norway, supposed founder of Reykjavik. After a blood-feud in his homeland, this viking set out towards a land his cohorts had found in the west to colonize. From his ship he threw his high pillared seat overboard, declaring that where it landed was where the gods wanted them to settle. It landed in modern day Reykjavik, and there ya go.

Melkorka Mýrkjartansdóttir, a princess of Irish origin, taken captive by the settling Vikings. Though the overwhelming majority of males in Iceland at this time were of Norwegian origin, the majority of females were of Celtic origin, taken as slaves during their journey.

This is Leifur Eiríksson, son of Eric the Red. His father discovered/settled Greenland, Leifur discovered/settled America. Called it Vinland because of all the grapes! Suck it Columbus!

It was a very visceral introduction to Icelandic history.  A crude, but effective reminder that these aren’t just stories on rags and bones in the dust.  There are real people and real struggles at the heart of these tales.  I was struck by how bleak of an existence living in ancient Iceland must have been. Yet this was(and still is) a land famous for its artists, poets and craftsmen.   I was also impressed, if a little freaked out, by how life-like some of the figures were.  This is no Madame Tussaud’s  but you can tell a ton of care went into making everything feel accurate and lived in.  Check out the gallery at the end of the blog for more scary wax viking goodness.

Overall I found the Saga Museum very interesting, if a little bit brief.  The figures lead you in a circle in a small room(ending in a gift shop of course) that would have been very disappointing had I not purchased the audio guide.  However if you find yourself in need of a pleasant walk, a little history and some breathtaking views, the Pearl is worth a Trip.

Best skyline in the city…

As my first museum of the day, It did serve as an excellent prologue to the day’s main attraction, The National Museum of Iceland.

After a quick bite to eat I set out across town, along the winding highway.  My destination was about a half-hour walk from the Pearl, and with my trusty android phone and my backup fold-up paper map I was a master navigator, like the Norse boatmen of old! Right?

What happened next shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody who knows me.  I got lost.  Leave it to me, in the smallest capital city in Europe.

I blame it on the local language.  Its beautiful to listen to and, aesthetically, I can appreciate its long, nonsensical words.  I had even written down the long trains of symbols that I was looking for on my map.  With circles.  And arrows.  And red ink.  But when it came down to it the only word I could recognize was the name of the damn country, “Island”.

I knew the sign in front of the museum would be something like “Visiknigcigign Neshviskd des Island” or Something something something of Iceland.  To my joy, after following the directions I found myself in a circle of official looking buildings, each supporting signs fitting that very description!  They even had studious looking people coming and going! Surely this was the place.  I put away my map and walked straight into the lobby of the first building, one happy camera toting, backpack wearing tourist.  Strange that a museum would have armed guards.  Or a buzz through lobby protected by bulletproof glass.

University of Iceland, Árnagarður, Reykjavik, ...

Oh crap.

I had wandered into a high security section of the University of Iceland.  Specifically a building reserved for high-tech genetic research.  I was promptly escorted out.  In a nice way.

But all was well. Turns out I was just on the wrong end of campus.  I turned the corner and there it stood like a longboat in the harbor.

The big hint was the hung banners of swords and helmets. Should have been looking for that….

I opted to go without the audio guide for this museum.  I wanted to take my time with the bones, the wood, the iron. No more facsimiles, this was the real thing.  These were the real artifacts, crafted by the same hard hands that forged this land out of fire, ice and steel.  And it was worth getting lost to end up here.

Solfatara near the volcano Krafla in Iceland

Solfatara near the volcano Krafla in Iceland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The layout made it easy.  You ascend a series of steps and arrive amid the remains of ancient Iceland. It was a little overwhelming at first as there was so much to take in.  But focusing on the path laid out before me led me through the ages, beginning with the country’s volcanic history.  Layers of sediment behind glass tell the tale of volcanoes erupting 20 million years ago, thrusting up this young nation from the Mid-Atlantic ridge.  It is the continued broiling of this hot-spot that provides the geothermal energy to heat the city.  And the country continues to grow, as the continental plates drift apart at a rate of 2cm per year.

Next I was led to dwell on the buried remains of early settlers; an infant and it’s mother, a warrior buried with his horse.  Along with them were combs, jewelry, even game pieces.  All the diversion a corpse could ask for on the journey to Paradise.

Paradise in this case was Valhalla, a land of eternal battle and feasting.  If you died with a sword in your hand, you were honored by Odin, Thor and all the Norse gods in this grand hall.  If you died in bed, it was off to Hel.  Hel’s a she.  Daughter of Loki.  She’s not pleasant.

Continuing, I was led down rows of lit drawers filled with artifacts.  There were many shiny bits of treasure, jewelry, coin and woven finery, but also many common place items as well.  I really enjoyed looking at the common man’s tools, what he used to till the ground and feed his family.  Some tools and jewelry could easily be in use today.  In fact they’d look damn fashionable.

You know you want a stylish Norse hairpin.

Or a fancy brooch…

Next we moved into ecclesiastical territory as the country transitioned from pagan to christian theology.  As time passed the technology improved and I became astounded by the detail, the artistry at work in the woven fabric, the wrought metal and carved wood.  I feel like any metal smith or carpenter today would be proud to call this their work, and I don’t even want to think about how much they would charge for it’s production.

I love the way this museum was laid out. I was never at a loss for information.  Alongside every artifact and display was a brief written explanation along with many interactive video displays, speaking in several languages.  Every effort was made to humanize the subject, to see from their perspective.  Skeletons were laid in the ground beneath your feet.  Ornately carved wooden beams encircled tiny enclosures where sacred objects sat in dim light.  The only downside was the sheer amount of things to look at.  Some parts of the museum feel cluttered, but its not a big place and I can understand.  There’s not a single item I saw that didn’t deserve it’s place on the floor.

The second floor was interesting as well, displaying life in Iceland as it was up until the mid-twentieth century.  I’m more of an ancient history kind of guy, but it was fascinating how little life changed for the common man in that span of time.

Overall this museum was the highlight of my day, an excellent tour of Icelandic history.  A trip to Reykjavik isn’t complete without it.

After a quick bite to eat and a coffee, I was ready to leave, when I saw that I had missed something.  Something small, but important.  An imprint of old ideas onto the new.

This tiny statue might be the Norse god Thor, lord of the thunder.  Or it might be an early representation of the christian God.  It might have been used as both.  We’ll probably never know, but It could easily go either way.  Whenever I read about this process of conversion, this is the artifact I see featured the most, and I almost missed him.  Seeing him at the end served to remind me of the impact our first stories have on us, even in modern times.  Worshiped or not, the old gods and the old ways are still here. You can’t separate them from the culture any more than you can it’s modern christian values.  Maybe the best beliefs come from blending local traditions with imported revelations.

Like good coffee. Or scotch.

As I dodged raindrops back to my hostel, I saw one more museum.  Amid the shops and restaurants of downtown sits the Settlement Exhibition, an underground exploration of an ancient longhouse buried beneath the city.  Dated at around 871 AD, it represents the earliest known settlers on the island.

Primarily it served to show what the area would have been like for those first settlers.  And though the house itself is little more than a circle of stones, the museum fills in the gaps with interactive videos and projected table displays that allow you to explore the house.  IN 3D! Well in projected 2-d on a table 3-d.  The best part for me was the panorama around the site, which tried to show what the natural environment of the bay would have been like before human habitation.

It was interesting, but not worth twenty dollars.  Probably the least inspired of the things I saw that day.  If you’re really bored and you’ve seen everything else, I suppose.  The museum has a tie-in with a recreated village on the other side of town that I would have liked to see…but it wasn’t open while I was there. Damn it shoulder season…

That about does it for my history day.  After that I jumped outside and grabbed a hot dog.  This stand was much ballyhooed by many to be the most popular food stop in the whole city.  I have to admit, they were tasty.  Worth the line.

Then I hung out in the huge Opera House/Borg Cube to wait out the rain.  Why hasn’t this place been used in a star trek movie yet?

Thanks for reading! Click on me face for the photos!

Next up I see some killer landmarks and chase some green ghosts in the sky! The Golden Circle awaits!!

Onward to glory!

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The pressurized door opens with a hiss and a rush of frosty air. The scent of seawater fills my nose, with hints of sulfur and a few other scents I don’t recognize. The sky is blinding. Glasses on, pack strapped, I get on my way to the transport.

The horizon is stark and bizarre  High sloping hills and piercing snow-capped peaks stretch across my view. Before me an endless expanse of black lava fields dotted with brown and green lichen, behind me muddy plains fall to black-sand beaches.

I can see my destination gleaming in the distance, spires of blue-green steel shining like lighthouses on a distant shore. The natives scamper all around me. They whisper to each other in an ancient tongue, incomprehensible to my ears.

I haven’t arrived on some other planet. I’ve traveled to the edge of this one. This is Iceland. A place of opposites and extremes. Blazing hot and searing cold. Old language and hip culture. An island that is young, yet seems primordial. After a week seeing as much as I could, I’ve come to believe its the most wonderfully strange, bizarrely beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to come back.

I arrived in the skies of Iceland early Monday morning, the 25th of march. Before I even touched down, I was greeted by the famous Icelandic hospitality. Even in economy class, the cabin of the plane was spacious and comfortable, and the sharply dressed attendants were at our beck and call if we needed anything at all. Nearly every surface had simple words in Icelandic with their English equivalent; a cool idea that I think more airlines should follow through with.

They really try hard to make sure you have a pleasant journey to their homeland. Like ridiculously. Icelandic lullabys were stitched on the pillows for gods sake.

I caught my first glances of the country though the clouds. I was immediately struck by how different it looked. The beaches were flat, black and muddy brown; a dark bleak moonscape. No sign of green in sight, but not as much snow as I was anticipating either.

Once off the plane, I grabbed the shuttle to the capital city, Reyajkavik. We were about an hour or so away, in the middle of an endless lava-field. If you’ve never seen one before, it’s weird.

Black volcanic stone rising in mounds across the plain under a thin layer of brown/green lichen. The lack of snow was accompanied by warmer temperatures then I expected. Like 40 f. Tropical. Roslyn had just gotten a fresh coat of snow a week earlier…

On the bus I sat next to a friendly young Canadian student named Penelope. After watching lava fields for an hour we turned out to be headed to the same hostel, KEX, near the city center.

cozy

A sidebar about KEX: I’d never done the hostel thing before. Before my solo adventures had been confined to b&bs and bargain hotels. But when I stayed in Edinburgh a couple years ago, I ended up feeling like I was missing out not hanging with all the trendy young travelers in the hostels there. Apparently Kex isn’t a good example of a hostel. Its too nice.

The place is set up in a remodeled biscuit factory. Its all newspaper walls and well lived in furniture with book shelves covering a third of all available wall space. Its also clean, cheap and has a bar in lobby. With free music most nights too.

Some languages are universal. Like jazz.

Spoilage.

The desk workers were all incredibly helpful with everything we needed, but we couldn’t get into our rooms until 2pm. It was 8am. So, tired as we were, we decided to venture into the sleeping city.

The capital was eerily silent, practically every door was locked, every shutter closed. Apparently Icelanders open up late and stay open even later. My kinda people. The first street we happened down was a sketch introduction to the city. Long lines of graffiti-ed concrete buildings, empty streets, two erotic stores and one strip club. Nice. In Soviet Iceland the land Ices YOU!

One street up and things got much nicer. Apparently the main street was right next to the skuzy street. The buildings cleaned up, the road widened and there were shops and cafes a plenty. They were mostly closed of course but it was a nice preview of places to check out later.

Penelope and I finally found a small coffee house to perk ourselves up. We pulled out a map and decided to try and track down a couple museums to pass the time. First in line was the Reykjavik museum of Photography that was a couple blocks away. However after getting confused by that damn viking writing they use, we decided to try our next destination rather then end up in the Icelandic welfare department. I think thats what it said.

Next door was the modern Reykjavik Art Museum. A bit artsy fartsy for my taste. Not really my thing but there were a couple interesting exhibits, like this thing on drops of paint as art. Kinda cool. Reminded me of “The Fountain.” Cool movie, you should check it out. Shut up Nathan Wright.

The men at the front desk gave us the low down on a couple more museums, including the one we had just spent fifteen minutes trying to get in. Some cool photography comparing the city now and twenty-five years ago(more commercial, less stark) and a cool art-show in another national art museum. They basically emptied out their storerooms and showed off all the paintings that don’t usually see the light of day. Kind of overwhelming.

Back on the main drag. Reykjavik’s character was revealing itself to me as the doors started to open and the people came out into the sun. It’s rough around the edges, but there’s a warmth here that made me feel at ease. The look of the city was starting to grow on me too. What at first had seemed like simple concrete square houses slowly grew into a pastel rainbow. Shops and houses were plastered in red, blue and yellow paint. Roofs of tin and tile followed suit.

There is an emphasis on function here. Concrete and steel cubes fair much better against the wide range of natural forces these people have to contend with. Like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, blizzards and a raging sea. All in a days work. That’s why there are so few skyscrapers in the city as well.

As we reached the top of the street, one of the city’s crown jewels issued forth like a frost giant on the horizon. Hallgrímskirkja, the largest cathedral in the country. This monolithic structure definitely puts it’s Nordic roots on display. Strange, elegant, beautiful. I’m seeing a pattern here. Penelope called it a lego rocket ship.

The cathedral’s interior was much like its outside; large, impressive but not extravagant. A stark beauty, much like the country itself.

There was another spaceship present in the massive organ, being played by a gentleman rehearsing for a concert. Very foreboding. It was a fitting background as we two travelers ascended to the top of the clock tower. After a brief elevator ride, the skyline of Reykjavik opened up to us. I’ve been in some scary church towers in my time, but this one was tame. Good views and steady stairs. A great way to get our bearings on the city at large.

The two of us were feeling quite peckish by this point. As we walked back in the direction of our hostel, I noticed a cafe I had heard of before. Cafe Loki, known for traditional Icelandic food. We jumped in and found a seat upstairs. The cafe was noisy, but the food was excellent. We decided to play it safe and have lamb on flatbread with traditional meat soup.Almost tried the rotted shark…maybe another day. The owner of the cafe was a woman I had seen on one of the travel videos on the plane ride over! A kindly Icelandic grandma! Should have asked for her autograph!

After that good meal, a wave of fatigue hit us both. In the face. Luckily it was nearly two by this point. We staggered back to our hostel. I fell asleep on the couch while waiting to check in, then got to my six bed dorm room and conked out. Blissful rest at last.

Click me face for pics!

That does it for my first day in Iceland. Next I wander the city some more, get lost a little bit and explore Iceland’s epic past!

Thanks for reading!

Onward to sleep…I mean glory!!!

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A short post on our return journey to Washington from Napa valley.

Aside from arriving at our hotel in one piece, my sister and I had two goals for our return trip.

1-See some big trees
2-See the California coast

Experiencing the Redwoods was a gradual thing. As we re-entered the conifer forests I am familiar with along windy roads north, we would occasionally see a tree that stuck out from the rest. We would say “Wow, thats a big tree.”

That’s a big tree

Soon that mantra became insufficient to describe these entish beasts. Driving through groves of redwoods is like walking down the isles of some grand green cathedral. Huge, sculpted columns reached beyond sight to support a tiered, leafy roof, while windows of woven branch and needle guided sunbeams like stained glass, softly warming the deep darkness within.

I was really surprised by how dense and dark these woods were. It was very different from anything I had seen in my home “evergreen” state.

We skipped most the touristy stuff. We didn’t drive through a tree(wahoo?) and we didn’t gondola through the canopy. Mostly it was because we were crunched on time, also it was because the giant wooden sculptures freaked us out a little. I’ve never wanted to see a life sized paul bunyan and I still don’t. Never again.

We did stop at a place called confusion hill. I needed to answer a call of nature but

I am confused. Mission accomplished.

Lizzi wasn’t too keen on stopping there. It was a weird little shop surrounded by wooden kids play structure and eerie totems of smiling animals. A giant hand pointed at the redwood trees from above the shack. Very monty pythonesque. But creepier. Made weirder by the fact that it was empty. Still It was nice to walk around a bit after driving for so long. We stayed as long as we could stand it. Wasn’t very long.

The next highlight came just before our arrival in crescent city. The ocean had been our driving companion for a while now and we had been wanting to find a good place to pull over and walk the rocky beaches for a couple hours. Then, just as we passed out of a grove of redwoods, we happened upon this awesome little beach right alongside the road.

Jagged rocks, crashing shoals, the smell of salt and seaweed. It was beautiful.

Thats about all there is to our return trip. We made the dark drive to our hotel in Grant’s Pass and drove back up through Portland to Roslyn the next day. I wish I could have had a whole other week to explore the coast as we drove through it. More time tends to be my common request on any trip I take.

I want to give a shout out to my awesome sister Lizzie. You were a great travel companion and I look forward to our next adventure. We should fly next time. And bring my brothers too. They’re starting to feel left out.

For Pics click me face:

Thanks for reading! Next time you hear from me I’ll be blogging from the Land of Ice and Fire! Iceland awaits!

Onward to glory!

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The Napa Valley is one the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my travels. It’s the Ideal vision of California almost everyone has in their head. Endless rolling green hills covered in a greener canopy of lurking deciduous trees. Miles of grape vines and quaint wineries nestled cosy in green valleys. Misty, snow-capped mountains above a sea of ocean-swept fog. And happy cows wandering freely down the verdant hills. Sooo many cows. Its no wonder the hills are so green.

I’d never visited in the spring before, and I have to say I think I prefer it. I’m not a guy who loves hot weather, in fact if I have a choice I’ll often take rain and wind over sun and burn. This trip had the most perfect weather. A couple days of sunny, puffy-clouded skies and a couple days of warm, misty downpours. Never above 70 F, never below 55 F. Yes please sir I’d like some more.

On our third day in Fairfield we had decided to sojurn out to a winery or two, mostly so Liz could get a taste of the local scenery. After a decidedly Irish corned beef hash breakfast, we set out to visit a place that had been the highlight of my last trip down here.

In 2005, I traveled to Napa with my uncle and father. One of the first wineries we visited was owned by a certain filmmaker who made a certain gangster movie. You may have seen it once or twice.

An offer I couldn’t refuse. Huh? Get it? The Godfather? sigh…

The Niebaum Coppola winery was the one of the most beautiful buildings I’d ever seen. We had visited mid-summer, so everything was extra green, flowering and full of tourists. I was too young to try the wine, but I was busy enough enjoying the little golden statues in the display cases. Revisiting the winery, I found it to be the same, but different. First off Coppola had restored it’s original name, Inglenook, after the sailor family that originally owned it.

founder von serious face

This time we were visiting it in spring, so the vines covering the house had not yet bloomed. Amid the fog and mist the house had a completely different character now. It was mysterious, majestic and seemed even more ancient. It was also almost completely empty this time around, which helped too.

If only there were grapes on the vine…

We got to explore the grounds and walk the cellars almost unmolested. Even though I was old enough now to enjoy some wine, I didn’t feel like dropping 50 bucks for a tasting and tour. So I accompanied my family to the waterlogged town of St. Helena for some lunch and shopping.

St. Helena is a lovely little tourist town, sporting a nice main street full of little wine shops and trendy clothing offerings. It was also very wet. I like me some rain, but we were getting completely drenched. Hence the lack of photos. We stopped here primarily to grab some grub. A little hole in the wall restaurant called “Cook” provided us with an excellent meal, some good wines and a nice dry place to rest for a bit. It was Ken’s favorite place to eat in town and I can see why.

This is the the clearest picture i could snap as Ken zoomed through napa.

After a nice meal we got to have a little change of pace. Instead of visiting a couple winerys, Ken took us on a rip-roaring car tour of his favorite back-roads in Napa. For about an hour he zipped down switchbacks and launched up mountain sides, leading us to some truly inspired views. Ken loves those sharp corners. Lizzie not so much. I wanted to stop and take pictures so many times but before I could get the lens up the moment would be gone.

not a happy clam.

After that exhilarating speed run, Lizzie opted to stay at the house and rest her guts for a while. I was raring to go, so I decided to hike a local park in the hills above Eileens house. I took my car and went to Rockville Park.

The hike began with a slow climb through the dampened woods and above a rock quarry. The first leg ambled alongside the highway, so at first I felt like the park was kinda dinky. As I reached higher up the trail, I realized the gravity of my misconception. This park was huge. There was a lake, a cave trail, a massive rock garden and tons of other unmarked trails to explore.

I scrambled up to one of the summits in the park, getting one of my favorite shots of this whole trip. The valley stretched out beneath me, opening toward the bay amid the clouds beyond.

Getting down was a fun challenge. I may have fallen down a part of that hill. Not too far. But far enough to get lost.

at least its honest

I had unwittingly ended up on the wrong side of the hill, deeper in the park than I thought. But there was no hurry. I explored some more, venturing through rock garden and finding a route to the local cave. Though the shelter was inviting, climbing the slippery sand stone went against my better judgment. A helpful hiker pointed me back in the direction of the road. Just follow the power-lines. I felt more than heard the sound of rain hitting the wires. Like bacon being cooked in heaven. God I hope they have bacon in heaven.

I made it back and found Eileen’s spaghetti and meatballs waiting. I was soaked to the bone, and my camera was terrifyingly damp as well, but I couldn’t have been more content.

Only when I’ve a camera in my hand will I even consider getting up this early.

The next morning I awoke early to shoot a time-lapse of the Napa Valley sunrise. Then my sister and I piled into the car and set off. As we waved good-bye, I felt overcome by how awesome my family is and how lucky I am to have them. We Browitts can be a stubborn, sarcastic bunch. But we’re also a stalwart adventurous folk, and I’ve never known more courteous hosts than my own relatives. Must be the Croatian in us.

For pictures click me face:

Filmfacelogosmall

And heres the link for some more pics:

https://plus.google.com/photos/111666587547992981761/albums/5857661298453983985?authkey=CMvoy8z5xYuW-gE

Thanks for reading!

Onward to Glory!

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Sunrise in Napa Valley

It is an interesting feeling, returning to a place you visited years ago.  Familiar scents, sounds and sights restore memories that we might have thought lost.  Its like finding a box of photos gathering dust in an attic.  Time may have changed this place, but it remains in your mind as it was before.  This is a chronicle of my second trip to San Francisco.  Hopefully not my last.

It was in the summer of 2005 that I stayed with my aunt in Fairfield for the first time.  Travelling back allowed me to pick up many things I’d forgotten.  Rediscovering old memories is best done while making new ones.  Allows you to see everything from a new angle.  I recommend it.

The first morning in Napa was wonderfully chill.  I slept in and had a leisurely breakfast with Aunt Eileen and Uncle Ken, discussing sight-seeing-strategies over eggs and toast.  We only had two full days to travel together, so we couldn’t waste too much time.  The first day would be spent exploring a couple corners of San Francisco.  The Second would send us out to St. Helena and Inglenook, a fantastic little winery with an even better film-making connection.

Now I was pretty stoked about San Fran, mostly because the last time we were there, we barely spent any time at all.  In 2005, we jumped into the city, had lunch at a cool Croatian Seafood Restaurant, and jumped out.  This time we would have a few hours at our disposal between ferries, giving us plenty of time to look around.

Driving to the nearby town of Vallejo, we grabbed a ferry ticket and found a window seat as the ferry started to fill.  A few short minutes later we were scooting across the bay past little Islands and under one massive double-decker bridge.

I didn’t even know such bridges existed.  I’m such a country bumpkin.

I kept my eyes fixed on the horizon.  It was a nice day, just a little of that famous bay fog diluted my vision.  Suddenly it appeared like a ghost from out the waves.  The city emerged from the fog.

I much preferred this approach to driving across the bridge.  We also passed by Alcatraz, but I was so fixed on the city that I completely missed it.  Sorry.  Ten points from RavenClaw.
Once on the pier, our first bit of business was to get a lunch reservation at a certain restaurant, The Slanted Door.  My brother and father had raved about it during their last San Fran Adventure a couple years ago.  Best lunch ever by the way.  We’ll get to that later.

With our reservation locked and some time before lunch, we plunged into the bay marketplace. Holy crap this is why I need to move to a big city.  The market was a long, trendy, busy bustle of wine shops, bakeries, fresh produce and seafood stalls and even a few dessert boutiques.  It was all organic, local, and incredibly awesome.  It was incredibly over-priced too, but given what I’ve heard about this city I wasn’t too surprised.  Many free samples were enjoyed though.

I don’t even like mushrooms and I was tempted!

After perusing most of the shops in the market, we jumped over to join the quickly swelling line forming in front of the Slanted Door.  A couple years earlier my brother and father had happened upon this little gem while exploring the city.  They had raved about it.  They didn’t do it justice.

Lizzie had never had shrimp before! I know right?!

mmm…springroll…

The lemon scented steamed towels were a necessity with these spare ribs.

The Slanted Door is a Vietnamese restaurant that prides itself on showcasing local produce in traditional Vietnamese style.  The place was hopping, but the service was great and the food was amazing.  Everything is served family style and shared among everyone at the table.  We started with spring rolls and spare ribs, then moved on to jalapeno chicken and grilled shrimp with lavender rice.  Lizzie also had this bizarre tea that was just hot water and a lotus blossom.  As the lotus bloomed in the glass, the tea slowly gained flavor.

Uncle and Aunt Eileen toast to a fun day out.Great stuff! I recommend this place from the bottom of my stomach!

Next we flagged a taxi and floored it to Japanese Town.  Lizzi is a little bit obsessed with Japanese culture so she couldn’t miss this opportunity to dip her toes in a little bit of that world.  The moment the taxi stopped it felt like we had stepped into a different city.   Tiny little shops lined  the streets and unfamiliar scents wafted from little eateries sprinkled here and there.

Each little shop had a cool alien character to it.  Granted most of it felt pretty touristy but it was a different type of touristy that I hadn’t seen before.  We spent most of our time in one of the larger malls, going from toy shop to bookstore to stationary store.  Lizzi found a Japanese symbol dictionary she was looking for…thing was a tome the size of my head.  The price was fittingly large as well.  I think she’ll kindle it later.

As our taxi pulled up, Lizzi and I both whimpered. There was so much to see and we’d seen so little.  But what can you see in a few hours? In that short time we explored the huge bay market, had an unforgettable lunch, and ventured into a new world tucked down the alleys and side streets of San Fran.  I know I’ll be back here again.

San Francisco seems like the kind of city I’d love to visit over and over again, maybe even the kind I’d like to live in.  Of all the cities I’ve visited in Cali, It is my favorite hands down.

For photos click me face:

Filmfacelogosmall

Next up, I explore a couple corners of the Napa Valley proper!

Onward to Glory!

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Yesterday, as my sister and I pulled away from my driveway, I looked at her and said, “You know, I don’t mind driving.  If you have the right person with you and something good to listen to, its not a bad way to get around.”

Cut to Today:

Not so much.  After 14 hours in the car, running out of cds and nearly falling asleep at the wheel, I’m done.  Glad to be in Fairfield and out of the car for a couple days.

Roslyn was getting a fresh spring coat of snow, so we decided to skip taking the route south through Snoqualmie pass to Portland.  Good thing too since we had no snow tires and the pass closed that day for avalanche control.  To the encouraging sounds of Imogen Heap, we sped southeast through Ellensburg and Yakima to the dalles where we crossed the border and headed into downtown Portland.  The dalles in particular were striking to me.  Steep misty cliffs, long wispy waterfalls against deep, thick forested hills.  I would have taken pictures if I wasn’t dodging semis the whole time.   4 hours in.

Portland was just awesome as usual.  Met up with buddies Lauren, Anna and Sarah.  Got a new pair of shoes(thanks Sarah) and had a great time having burgers and catching up with old friends.  I love this city.  Even finding parking wasn’t too stressful.  Whereas in Seattle I’d be breathing through a paper bag by the time my car was in park.  Every time I visit its like another nail in the coffin.  I must live here. I will live here. Soon.

After a relaxing lunch/dinner we set out to our first overnight stop in Roseberg, OR. Much to my dismay my monster was not keeping me awake sufficiently.  I had to surrender the wheel to Lizzi to prevent a cold, sad death with the racoons on the side of the highway.  An hour or so later we arrived at our stop.  A nice hotel, a soft bed.  I was out in record time. 7 hours in.

 The next morning, after a fox-news filled continental breakfast, we set out once more.  Florence and the machine sped us on our way.  Serpentine roads sent us across the California border feeling a little bit dizzy.  We still passed border inspection though.  They didn’t see the cocaine powder on Lizzie’s lap.  It was yogurt pretzels.

By the time we reached Mount Shasta, we had switched to the Skyrim soundtrack.    It was pretty damn appropriate.

I mean wow, that was pretty epic.  We found lots of little interesting things along the way.  Mostly we entertained ourselves with town names.  The town of Weed provided some good ol’ sixth grade fun.  Also there was Troutdale, and Butteville.  You get the picture.  We’re pretty high class.

We decided to rough it, not stopping for anything but gas, so we arrived about an hour ahead of schedule.  The beautiful rolling dales of Napa Valley never looked so good.  In Fairfield, my aunt and uncle were waiting with wine, pork and potatoes.  Oh and spice cake.  And 70 degree weather!!! Holy crap I almost forgot.  I can’t remember the last time I got to be outside without a parka!

That’s another 7 hours, so 14 total, but probably closer to 15.  Eeesh. I will sleep like a sloth tonight.  Maybe I can leave the Prius here and take a plane home.

I’m joking Midas, I’d never leave you!

Tomorrow we’re driving ‘sigh’ to the ferry so we can explore San Francisco! I’m stoked! The last time I was there I had some fish and left.  Didn’t really get to experience the city much.  We’re going to be focusing on JapanTown for my sister’s sake, but I’m sure we’ll get around enough in a day.

Thanks for reading! See you all soon!

Onward to Glory!

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The bags are packed, the snacks are loaded.  The camera is charged, the Prius is started. My sister sits in the car, her face alight with anxious excitement.  Our quest for diversion has begun.

Once a year, my spirit can no longer stand the doldrums of my daily life.  The rinse-repeat cycle of work-sleep-eat must end and my wanderlust kicks my butt out the door.  Where will the road take us this time?

Here’s a snapshot of what to expect in the next month:

CALIFORNIA HERE I COME!!!

  • English: Picture of San Francisco at Sunset. F...

    English: Picture of San Francisco at Sunset. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    My sister and I will take the road south to Fairfield California.  Oh and we have to stop in Portland to meet some old friends. Non-negotiable.  I’m driving so I make the calls. 

  • In Fairfield we’ll meet up with my aunt and uncle, explore the alleys of San Francisco and do some “research” for my day job at the winery. 🙂  I’ve made the trip once before but last time I was only 18 and therefore unable to truly enjoy all aspects of the trip.  Huh.  Lizzi’s 18 now.  Guess its an excuse to make the trip again in a few years.  Or maybe Vegas instead.
  • After three days with my family, we’ll drive north, heading back home.  For the sake of adventure we’ll look for ents in the Redwood National Park during our drive.  If we choose to return to the land of men, we’ll drive back up through Portland and to Roslyn, Wa, home sweet home.  I’d take my sister on the rest of my journey but she has this thing.  She has to study japanese and business for her future.  Pfft.  Whatever.  I’m going to iceland!!!

THE LAND OF ICE AND FIRE!!!

I know random right? Here’s the thing.  I’ve always been into Vikings, good food, strange languages, and weird landscape….

English: Reykjavik, Iceland. View from the top...

English: Reykjavik, Iceland. View from the top of Perlan showing the spire of Hallgrímskirkja. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Iceland has all those things apparently!  Also lots of beautiful women.  In hot springs.  So I’ve been told. It’s just icing on the cake.

  • I leave Seattle for Reykjavik, Iceland on Sunday the 24th, arriving at 6am the next morning.
  • Over the next couple days, I’ll explore the city of Reykjavik.  We’ll delve into its viking past, learn some traditional Iceland stories, and party with whoever happens to be in my hostel.  If they’re not too sketchy.  I can deal with a little sketch…but there’s a line.
  • Next we’ll hit some of the touristy spots in the western/south shore of the country.  I won’t give away too much but expect waterfalls, glaciers and adorably short horses.
  • Reykjavik-localisation

    Reykjavik-localisation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    After a total of 5 days, I will depart these icy shores to my next destination.  A land of ancient wonder, fantastic cuisine and pristine beaches.  Greece, the birthplace of the west!

HELLAS!!!

Now the fun stuff.  I’ve always wanted to check out the birthplace of strong Hercules and

English: Acropolis of Athens panorama (panoram...

English: Acropolis of Athens panorama (panoramic view from Areopagus hill), Athens, Greece.

Zeus who loves the thunder.  When dawn with her rose-red fingers rises on Athens, we’ll tell stories of old gods, explore ancient ruined temples, and journey through the Greek islands islands like Odysseus himself.  Hopefully with fewer distractions.  I mean If I have to be holed up on an island with a nymph for 7 years I guess I could deal with it.  For science.

  • After arriving on the 30th, We’ll spend the first couple days exploring Athens.  Avoiding riots and hitting all the required spots; the Parthenon, the Agora, some museums, etc.
  • Now at this point my itinerary isn’t completely locked down.  Here are some things that perk my interest that I might take some day trips from Athens to see:
  1. The Oracle at Delphi: An ancient site where king and peasant would ascend the mountain to talk to the gods and learn their fates.

    delphi 1

    delphi 1 (Photo credit: James Macdonald)

  2. Meteora: A collection of eastern orthodox monasteries sitting on fingers or rock jutting hundreds of feet into the air.  Talk about isolation!
  3. Mycenae: The fabled city ruled by Agamemnon, the king that would fight against Troy in The Iliad.  Whether he really did any of that is up for debate but the city is real.  It looks creepy as all hell and I can’t wait to see it.
  • After that We’ll take the winged beast and fly to the island of Crete.  We’ll spend a few days Lara Crofting in Minoan palaces, traversing rocky canyons, and swimming in the Mediterranean
    Greek Islands 2010

    Greek Islands 2010 (Photo credit: Samuel Lavoie)

    sea.

  • Our final stop will be the fabled Isle of Thira, better known as Santorini.  We’ll explore it’s volcano crater, relax in it’s cliff-side city of Oia, and spend our last few days exploring the unseen corners of this classic Greek isle.
  • Then at long last we shall return to Athens, board a plane and fly back to the grand o’l U S of A.  Here’s hoping I’ve mastered the art of sleeping on planes by then.

I will be doing much of this by the seat of my pants.  I’m not gonna lie I’m as nervous as I am stoked.  I’ve never done the single-person-backpacking-hostel thing before.

It’ll be a grand adventure! Come with me! You know you want to!

Onward to Glory!!!

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Well…here we are…

Welcome to my new site.  Here I will share with you my travels, video and photo work plus general life thoughts and events.

I’m excited to finally have a way to get all of my life recorded in one place! Don’t know what I’m doing here…need some tech support…

Many changes are to come, bear with me as I learn how to use this clumsy thing.

Onward to Glory!!

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