Day One (July 29th):
Mom arrived early in the morning. I went to pick her up from the airport, and then we went back to the room and crashed for most of the day. Mom hadn't slept in over 48 hours, and though I didn't need it I just really like sleeping. Then we went out for dinner at Icelandic Fish & Chips. It was absolutely delicious! Mom got fried cod on a bed of mango salad, and I got baked pesto cod with fried potatoes. Since it had been a while since Mom had eaten an actual meal, we were both grateful that the restaurant served such amazing food! (The good food would become a trend over the week).
Day Two (July 30th):
Happy 50th Mom! We celebrated her birthday with a trip to the Blue Lagoon, a beautiful & relaxing spa just outside Reykjavik. The Lagoon is filled with the run-off of the geothermal plants in the area. Because of Iceland's high volume of volcanic activity, there are lots of underground steam and lava chambers that make Iceland a perfect location for geothermal energy. In fact, one statistic I read claimed that nearly 80% of Iceland's energy is geothermal.
So, while it may not seem like bathing in geothermal run-off is very exciting, it was awesome! We looked like fools at times, smearing silica mud and algae cream on our faces. We spent hours just relaxing in the warm, bright blue water—hopefully it was a relaxing day for Mom after her long, multiple-day journey getting to Iceland. We had some time when we returned from the Blue Lagoon, so we went to Mass. Even though it was in icelandic and we had no idea what he was saying, it was still really nice to get the chance to attend. After that we went to Sjavargrillid. I had made reservations weeks in advance, when I first heard Mom would be coming, and Dad and I carefully picked a restaurant based on the menu we thought Mom would most enjoy. We shared a bowl of seafood soup to start and ordered a bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner. Mom ordered a grilled white fish with whipped potatoes and yellow beets; I got pasta with lobster and shrimp. The amazing thing is that the seafood here doesn't taste fishy—it's probably the Midwestern in me that isn't used to good seafood, but the fish is unbelievably fresh here. After dinner we walked up to the famously towering Lutheran church and FaceTimed with the family. When we walked back to the room, the final surprise of the evening was my present for Mom: a scarf from India and chocolates from Iceland (the only sure gifts I know she wants). All in all, I think it was a successful day, and I hope my Mom enjoyed her milestone birthday!
We went glacier trekking! It was breathtakingly beautiful, but the pictures speak to that better than I can. Our guide was awesome, too. I kept thinking of my younger brothers and one of our favorite YouTube shows during the trek because our guide would say similar things (though much, much more competent). After the glacier trekking we got to visit two beautiful waterfalls, and even ran underneath one of them! It was a gorgeous day with beautiful weather—and of course we ended the day with great food. Surprisingly (or not), it came from a food truck ("The Lobster Hut"), and it was the best seafood soup I've ever had.
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Day Four (August 1st):
We basically just walked around Reykjavik looking at different shops and enjoying the fresh air. We found this cute store called Kaffi Klubber Floka (no idea what that translates to) where all the proceeds go to the local food pantry. We also tried our hand (or, stomachs) at a local food favorite: hotdogs. Yeah, both of us were fairly skeptical too, especially because I haven't thought a hotdog looked appetizing since I was five and roasted a cheese-filled Oscar Meyer over a bonfire. And even then, I'm pretty sure my mom just told me I needed to eat something that wasn't an ingredient in a s'more. The hotdogs here are, in a word, delicious. In more words, they practically melt in your mouth, and are a perfect combination of salty & sweet, soft & crunchy (the crispy onions, not the hotdog), surprising & awesome. For dinner we found a place with lobster pizza and asked if we could take it home with us unbaked. They let us (that would probably violate some health code in the US) and we baked the pizza at our place later to eat with some chic flick movies ("The Longest Ride" and "Labor Day"). We nailed it.
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Day Five (August 2nd):
HORSIES! Okay, so I'm not the most ~experience~ rider, but I do like going fast. So after the group split into a "faster" section and a "walking" section, I obviously chose the former. Despite the look one of our tour guides gave us, Mom and I had a lot of fun trotting around on Iceland's small but beautiful horses. There is only one breed in Iceland, and it is protected by strict laws. The horses here aren't vaccinated so there is no contact permitted with other horse breeds, and if a horse leaves Iceland it isn't allowed to return!
The craziest part of this day was that our primary tour guide, who is from Germany, actually spent a year in a high school exchange program in Illinois! Even more of a coincidence is that she lived in Peoria (my birthtown, my father's hometown, where my mom had her first teaching job), her host parents were both Bradley University professors (my dad and Aaron's alma matter), and she went to Illini Bluffs High School (where both my cousins and family friends go to school). The coincidence of meeting this girl in Iceland was pretty unbelievable, and Mom and I had a hard time wrapping our heads around it the rest of the day.
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Day Six (August 3rd):
Pretty chill day. Mom walked around, checked out a flea market, and found some neat shops to browse in while I got some work done. Then we went back to Fish & Chips because, well, deliciousness :) We also bought chocolate for pretty much the same reason. And we saw this giant, whole animal being roasted (exact species to be determined).
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Day Seven (August 4th):
Today we decided to have a picnic and enjoy the beautiful weather we'd been having. We found a really amazing park online and made plans to head out in the morning—after picking up some wine. So, of course, we showed up to the liquor store in the morning...but it wasn't open yet. So we went to the National Museum of Iceland, learned about the vikings, and then returned to the liquor store. Really, we're not boozies, we just wanted some wine. The park was absolutely gorgeous, too! We found a perfect picnic spot next to a waterfall, ate our make-shift picnic lunch, enjoyed some wine, and relaxed for a while. Then we explored the park, finding lots more waterfalls and beautiful scenery. We even splashed around in a waterfall for a while. At least, I played in the water, and Mom got two feet in long enough to take a photo before getting too cold (I love you Mom, but that was wimpy ;) ). The day was awesome, and we even got the chance to test out the public transportation here (not too shabby, Reykjavik). For her last meal in Iceland (for now) we went to Vegamot, the restaurant we ordered the Take & Bake lobster pizza from. Mom got a giant bowl of very delicious seafood soup, and I got lobster pasta. Seriously, it was so good. Definitely one of the better meals I've had here. To top off the evening, we got gelato and sorbet—overall, a very amazing last day and a wonderful way for Mom to say goodbye to Reykjavik.
It's always hard saying goodbye, but this time I know it won't be for too long. I had an incredible week with Mom, but it was even more special for another reason. This was a chance to spend a week with Michelle Ganson. As she put it, she got to take her "Mom Hat" off for a while and enjoy the trip. Not too many young women my age get to know their parents outside of the role they play as our parents. I feel incredibly blessed and grateful to have someone as incredible as Michelle Ganson as my mom, let alone as my friend. I look forward to getting to know her even better in the future!
So, see you in a few days, Mom, and thanks for an unforgettable week!