Day 4: London

Day 4 started on a somber note. While I was making my morning tea, James shared with me that my beloved Squeaky had passed away. I had expected this to happen – I knew there was no way she was going to survive my honeymoon – but I was still devastated. Day 4 has been a lot of off and on tears through London. Thank god for sunglasses folks. Who knew a tiny little critter could move you this much?

Let’s move on from the really sad thought to the specifics of the day. Keep in mind that I was an emotional mess throughout most of it. To the point that by 10 pm I was walking around our rented flat, drinking wine out of the bottle and talking to my mom on Google Voice. That’s how it was going to roll, and I’m not going to fight that feeling. But I am going to need to buy another bottle of wine.

James and I had planned absolutely nothing. We left the day open to do whatever we fancied and honestly, it was a lot like any other day in Boston, but in a new city. Prior to heading into the city center, we explored Fulham by doing a three mile run. Every morning there’s a farmer market outside – including every type of egg you could ever want to buy.

I’m pretty sure this is my mom’s heaven.

We wrapped up our morning with breakfast on the back patio, which this flat has access to and is my favorite part about it. I’m planning to take every meal out here weather permitting.

After figuring out that the Tube didn’t take our credit cards, we forked over half our cash to buy Oyster cards to get around. There was no one working at the station to help us but two separate men came up and asked if we needed any assistance. Oh the English, always helpful!

We headed to Kings Cross Station. I had a mission to check out Platform 9 3/4. Guys, Platform 9 3/4 is a sellout. There’s a line, a bunch of “professionals” working the line and they charge you for the picture they took! I was in no mood to stand in a 25+ person line, have my picture taken after I spent the morning crying and have someone put a scarf around my neck that probably thousands maybe millions of other people have wrapped around theres. Ew. So we left, but I creepily took a picture of this kid being roped in to commemorate the journey.

By now it was noon and James was ravenous. Sadness does a lot to suppress the appetite, but I finally saw something that I had not seen since arriving in Europe: Gluten Free Options. At Hummus Brothers. James is not a fan of hummus, but too bad! The place was clean, based almost entirely on chickpeas and would probably do quite well in the US (hint hint). I cried into my plate of hummus, but was still able to shovel in a good portion of the chicken and avocado they mixed in it, with gluten free bread that is.

We started to make our way towards Picadilly Circus and I spotted a record store (these don’t seem to be in the US much  these days – but the British must love themselves some hard copy CDs and DVDs – the place was packed). I was sent with one mission: find the Mooshi Monster movie for Natalie. Oh and find that movie I did. I was SO excited (it was the last copy) and it was the first time I felt happiness that day, that I wasn’t even bothered by the judgmental stares of the sales clerk. Yes I’m buying a children’s anime movie. It’s not available in the US. No I have no DVD player to play it but I will figure this out!

We continued on and did the usual sight seeing routine. We were mistaken for locals and asked directions (when one uses a map, one uses it secretly).

In an effort to cheer my up, James mimicked a pose of the girl next to us who was doing this. She sadly didn’t notice.


What’s up blue chicken?
Big Ben is not as big as I remember. I guess I grew an inch.

If I can overcome my fear of the droppy feeling and heights I will go on you London Eye.
Obligatory selfie.

We had one last required stop for the day – Whole Foods – in which my aunt suggested and heavily recommended I visit. While I realize that the purpose of going to a Whole Foods in London is for access to some amazing cheeses, I was over the moon with their gluten free options. I had to refrain from buying every type of biscuit. Did you know that they make pumpkin almond GLUTEN FREE biscuits here? Or butter crunch? Or candied ginger? They make glorious GF blueberry lemon cupcakes with Swiss meringue buttercream. They have a wide variety of coconut water, such as CHAI TEA FLAVORED. I may or may not need to go back dependent on my consumption of said items.

We dragged our tired feet back to the flat (and have figured out the Tube quite well I must add) to rest up a bit before dinner. We had reservations at Pizzarro which was the only restaurant that we were going to that I had not had on my bucket list for a few years. This however was a result of some productive Googling – apparently the food at Pizzarro was to die for. The meal itself was not nearly as good as Sjavargrillid and I’m not sure if anything can top that (but we have three more places to try before I give final verdict!), but the food was incredible and the wait staff knowledgable about allergies and what is permitted. The service however… was just plain strange. No one asked if I wanted a refill on my glass of wine (and didn’t come within earshot to call them over). They took a good 20 minutes to get our check while a huge line was building up outside. It was like going to the Friendly Toast in London.

These little guys were amazing.

But I digress. Before Pizzarro we decided to check out the London Bridge and London Tower (which we will return to, to go inside!). In the hour we were home resting I drank a lot of water. This was now a pressing manner, and we had 50 minutes before our reservation. This led James and I on a wild hunt for a bathroom. There was none in the mall. Pubs were MOBBED because it was a Friday night, and so sneaking in was just not going to happen because you couldn’t even get through the doorway. I scared a monk changing in a Pret a Manger restroom (so clearly left without going) and made nasty remarks to people who wouldn’t let me use the restroom (remember, I am emotionally unstable at this point, hungry and really needing to pee). James spotted some porta-potties across a park and bless him, ran across to see if they were open. They weren’t, but a family bathroom next to them was.

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about European toilets. None of them have sensical flushing devices. What happened to automatic or a handle? Everything here is a button – one for liquid, one for solid; or a rope; or a single door bell button; etc. I thought nothing of it when I pulled the red rope hanging in the middle of this stall – until an alarm started blaring. Oh, the panic rope. Crap. There was also real handle to flush. And so I left and briskly walked away. Hopefully pressing a reset button 10 times did the trick – otherwise I’m sorry to whomever had to check that on a Friday night!

James would like to be known as the person who can always find the restroom.

Day 3: Iceland to London!

Yesterday was a travel day, but James and I intended to make the most of it, with what time we had in both Iceland and in London. We woke up early to tackle a run to a lighthouse outside of the city sprawl of Reykjavik – Grotta.

There she is!

Grotta had been a fixation for  James the moment we arrived (most likely due to his watching a what to do in Reykjavik video on Icelandaire). There was apparently a hot spring there, its the only place in the city you can see the Northern Lights from and its just a cool lighthouse in general (all according to James).

Grotta was 5 kilometers from our hotel. Being the crazy people that we are, and because we are training for a 10k at the end of the month, James and I decided that running to Grotta was the right decision. So we donned our running gear, rain jackets and welcomed the brisk air with open arms (does it ever go above 54F?).

En route to Grotta. Can’t argue that this is one of the prettier runs I’ve been on.
Had to stop to take pictures. Sorry 10k training, gotta do this.

When we arrived at the end of the path, where Grotta lies, I asked James exactly how does one get there. Well in the video, they simply walked across. During high tide, one does not simply walk across. Rather you stand on shore and look at the ocean covered pathway that leads to this mystical structure – or as James calls it “candy mountain.”

See those rocks that lead out into the ocean? The one’s covered by water? Yep.
He was so sad.
View on our run back.

We left Grotta, ran back to the city, and enjoyed nice hot beverages from what I took to be the Starbucks equivalent of Iceland (Te & Kaffi). We bummed around the hotel until our ride picked us up and returned us to the airport.

A note about the airport – though I took no pictures of it – it’s beautiful. It’s like walking into an expensive Ikea. The number of times you have to have your passport reviewed and scanned is ridiculous, but I guess that’s what you get for traveling internationally.

We ended up boarding our plane on the tarmac, which I’ve never done before. In case you’re wondering, you feel almost presidential as you walk up a massive set of stairs to your seat.

Hello there London

The flat we are staying in is cute, and close to a wide variety of shops and pubs. Once we dropped off our luggage, we booked it to the nearest grocery store for dinner which resulted in me buying wine, fresh farm eggs, stinky cheeses, cured meats, milk, vegetables, the largest loaf of gluten free bread ever (praise the London grocery gods) and some soup. What can I say? I love grocery stores.

Day 2: Iceland

Yesterday, James and I booked the Black & Blue tour through Arctic Adventures. What is the Black & Blue tour you ask? The first half of the trip includes caving through a lava tube, the second half of the trip includes snorkeling in Silfra fissure. Let’s start from the beginning.

James and I have noticed that Icelandics are on time to a T. As in, if you aren’ in the hotel lobby when they say they’ll pick you up, you’re probably going to miss them. There was a little confusion as to which hotel we were staying at, but finally after a 30 minute wait, a six foot something, blonde Icelandic man named Andre picked us up. We were loaded into a Mercedes van with four other folks (in fact, another couple from Boston also on their honeymoon!) and drove off through Thingvellir National Park. Something about these buses in Iceland make us fall asleep, but if you can manage to stay awake, the views are breathtaking.

Rainbows are plentiful and constant. This is the first time I’ve seen a beginning to end and sadly, there is no pot of gold on either side.

Our tour guide veered off the main road after about 45 minutes and drove down a bumpy path, threw the E-break on and we were suddenly there. James and I donned hiking books, rubber pants and awesome helmets with headlights. I’m not gonna lie, it was like being in the Princess and the Goblin (although in Iceland, I’m sure they’d call it the Princess and the Troll).

Our tour guide was awesome. He was funny, knowledgeable and by the end, had everyone participating.

Entrance to the lava cave.
Officially caving. Hi James!
The Icelandic word for Speleothems roughly translates to “Lava Titties.”

James emerges from the cave!
These are pretty rad helmets, am I right?

Afterwards, we piled back into our little bus/van and drove to a service station for a quick bathroom break and lunch. Then it was on to the Blue part of the tour – diving.

For those of you who know me well, you know that I like to be perfect at everything I do and try. What I am going to write next is a big dose of humble pie, but in hindsight, is pretty hilarious given my personality and love for the water. We drove up the road to Silfra fissure and were greeted by our diving instructors, Richard and Juan.  Everyone was handed a “teddy bear suit” which is essentially a giant insulated jump suit. We were then given “the golden rule.” Do not, under any circumstances, pee while on this tour. Noted. (Don’t worry, I held it in)

The dry suit was a ridiculous mix of latex and another waterproof material. Everyone was wearing yellow and blue except for me. I had a red suit. After being the first person to successfully suit up (and was even given a winner hurrah by the instructor), I made a joke about being red shirted. If you do not understand this joke, let’s move along and you will never know how dorky I really am.

Finally, we were ready to hit the water. Each person in front of me gasped when they were submerged, but I thought, of course it’s cold – it’s 2 degrees Celsius! (Note – this is about the coldest water can be without freezing). I made my way down some steps and was hit with the most uncomfortable cold feeling. I thrive in warm environments. I love bikram yoga. I love summer. I love layers and cozy things. I dislike cold feet and hands (yet I live in Boston…). I didn’t realize that I also deeply disliked a very cold face, ears, nose, mouth as well. The instructor pushed me into the water and I bobbed around for a bit. I was beginning to panic.

Everyone was in the water, and I was stuck against a rock, unable to breathe and having a full on panic attack, which caused my goggles to fog up which caused more anxiety. I’m not sure I made any sounds other than some small gasps and moans. The group was a good twenty feet in front of me when Juan realized I had not made it much further than where I was released. All my pride was gone. And… I had to be rescued. Yes, Juan the instructor had to paddle his way back to me, talk me through this panic attack, and then instead of letting me return to the dry land, proceeded to drag me through the fissure.

Thanks for the help James.

Silfra fissure is incredible. I didn’t have an underwater camera (though someone in our group brought a GoPro and promised to send the video, which we will post if we do ever receive it). The water is CRYSTAL clear. You can see everything – every detail, every rock, every piece of algae and plant. Parts are sunny and sparkling, parts are dark and deep. If water gets in your mouth piece, you can drink it.

When I saw the stairs again (I did not come out of the water for fear I would not be able to make myself go back under), I felt immense relief. This was hands down the most uncomfortable activity I have ever partaken and no, I will never do that again, but I am glad that I was convinced to stay until the end.

Once we climbed out, the feeling started to return to my face and hands. It was magical. Everyone but me chose to jump off a little cliff back into the fissure and I explained to the other instructor (Richard) that I am more of a hot yoga person.

As we walked back to the van, the instructors pointed out “The Wall” in the background. Yes, here is The Wall, guarded by Castle Black, in its unsnowed sprayed glory.

Dear Icelandic Nature, thank you for that. It was just what I needed!

When we returned to Reykjavik, we had a few hours to kill before dinner, and continued to explore the city. We enjoyed chai lattes, finally found some gluten free bread (which I no longer needed) and James took about 50 pictures of ducks. I don’t know what it is about ducks and James, but whenever we travel and he has his camera, they are his muse.

Our evening ended at Sjavargrillid – a seafood grill. This has been on my list of places to try for at least three years. It lived up to the anticipation. James ordered the Lobster Feast, which is a lot of lobster. I ordered scallops with haddock foam, salted cod with beef cheek and vanilla icecream and strawberry sorbet for dessert. Each bite was incredible and we powered through our capacity to ensure that we could enjoy every last morsel.

Thanks Iceland – you’ve done us well!

Day 1: Iceland

After a whirlwind of a travel day, James and I woke up at 9 am in Reykjavik (5 am for all you folks back at home). Having no time to research breakfast options, we opted for the hotel’s traditional Iceland breakfast buffet. Upon walking in, I was greeted with a massive 8-foot table filled with different types of bread. This should have been the first sign that eating here would be difficult, but fear not, the other staple in this country seems to be meat, cheese and pickled things.


Our first planned activity wasn’t until later in the afternoon, so we took the opportunity to explore the city. In the few hours we were walking around, it rained, was cloudy, was sunny, comfortable and cold.

Awesome view of mountains, right outside of the hotel.
This city is filled with ridiculous graffiti.

My priority was to find a grocery store and hopefully some gluten free food options. GF bread is pretty much non existent, grocery stores are small and selection is limited. So my staples included rice cakes, very expensive peanut butter (do Icelandics eat peanut butter? something to Google later on!), marmalade, apples, bananas and yogurt. I opted to pass on the dried fish and paprika flavored potato chips. Perhaps next time…

By 1:30, James and I were waiting in our hotel lobby for our first Icelandic excursion – Blue Lagoon – a geothermal spa recommended to me by multiple folks.

Blue Lagoon was amazing. After a bit of confusion with how to use the lockers, losing James briefly (not having the ability to call one another when separated is sometimes stressful) we were both ready to enjoy the geothermal spa. The website can probably tell you much more, but essentially, this place is a naturally heated pool of water – 1/3 fresh and 2/3 salt. It smells slightly of sulfur but not too over powering. There’s fresh silica to rub on your face (although I had a brief moment of going almost blind when it clouded my contact lenses), and a bar in the middle. Yes, you swim up to the bar, order a drink and then float around in complete bliss.

Oh, and it’s beautiful. And yes we opted for the package with the spa robes because why not?

After two hours, we reluctantly crawled out to make our dinner reservation at Lava. Also a place that loves its bread, bread crumbs, bread chips and crispy crackers. I survived (and had plenty of lobster to make up for this) and we left relaxed and refreshed.

We ended the evenings with a stroll through Reykjavik and some amazing ice cream. Oh and a power outage in our hotel room!