A 12th Stone travel post:
Hmm, maybe not. Perhaps I’ll write a travel/humor/birthday piece. Whatever, how can a retiree be too busy to blog? My first 12th Stone post featured a photo of a champagne toast to my 65th birthday. I blinked. Now I’m 70.
Celebrating my 70th birthday with a brewery tour in Reykjavik, Iceland:
My progressive reduction of blog posts certainly does not mean life has slowed down in retirement. When I stopped working nearly five years ago I was cautioned how fast time would fly now. The speed has been scary. But those years brought many blessings, for which I give thanks often. Good health, wonderful family, cherished friends, having enough … And, yes, finding love as a senior, unexpected and amazing. The blur has been a blast. Despite my pictures, not all the fun involved alcohol, honest.
My boyfriend enjoys surprising me with cruises and other trips—usually to the Caribbean or other hot spots because he knows how I dislike cold weather. Big reason why I live in Florida. So at Christmas I was surely surprised when he gave me an envelope that contained a picture of the Northern Lights and clever prose that included “we will be spending your 70th birthday in Iceland.” My February birthday.
Hey, I would be able to wear The Grape again, I rationalized, genuinely becoming more excited as our trip neared. I wore that beloved bulky coat only once—this Christmas in Pennsylvania—since I blogged about my inability to part with it in 2013. Two friends went with us to Iceland. The Grape made five travelers. They got to know her on the ride to the airport. She took jokes well. They loved her, too.
Grateful to have The Grape keeping me warm during this snowball fight in downtown Reykjavik.
During the seven-hour direct flight (cozy under The Grape) from Orlando I envisioned blinding blizzards and dark days, yet I knew I was in for a great time with that group. Iceland is fun, and much more. It would have been at the top of my bucket list had I known. Passing the word.
Largely, I was impressed by the friendliness of the people and their fabulous (sometimes outrageous) sense of humor—particularly our unforgettable tour guides. The country, about the size of Ohio, has a population of about 323,000 people, most of them descendants of the Vikings. One guide showed us a phone app that quickly can tell you if you are related to someone asking you out. Because it’s in the Gulf Stream, Iceland has tolerable winter temperatures. I remember learning in grade school that Iceland and Greenland are misnamed. True. Also impressive is how Icelanders harness geothermal power to save energy. Drinking water and fish and chips were the best we’ve ever tasted.
While we were there it snowed often, but not for long, so we were able to get around. We had about eight hours of daylight and heard stories about the 24-hour summer sunshine and midnight festivals and golf tournaments. Made me want to return and see more than the region around Reykjavik, the capital.
Highly recommended is the Reykjavik CityWalk, a two-hour downtown walking tour. Standing across a park from the Parliament building, our guide told us that nearly half the members are women and that women’s rights are important in Iceland. The exceptionally entertaining and educational tour ended in City Hall, where the guide passed a pouch for free-will donations and where artwork like this reflects the country’s gender equality:
City Hall vagina art, Reykjavik (Look it up if you don’t believe me.)
A nighttime bus tour away from the city lights to see the Northern Lights attracted my boyfriend to the trip he spotted on travelzoo.com. But the night we went the lights were faint. At times we thought the wispy white formations were clouds. Finally huge green and red streaks appeared across the sky and we were happy. My friend’s photos taken with a Northern Lights iphone app made them look more brilliant than they actually were then.
By contrast, our tour of the Olgerdin Brewery (first picture above) did not disappoint. It began with an orientation and beer tasting that included the hilarious story of Iceland’s attempt at prohibition and our even more hilarious attempts to pronounce its beer called Gull, which means gold in Icelandic. It’s like trying to say “guth” while spitting out the side of your mouth. We caught on fast to saying Skal!—pronounced scowl—meaning Cheers!
Besides being surrounded by glorious coastlines, the island of Iceland is full of natural wonders—like these we saw on the Golden Circle tour:
Gullfoss (golden falls) took our breath away. A friend saw the waterfalls in the summer and said they looked much different than my icy pictures. Their power and beauty rival Niagara.
The Geysir geothermal area has several steaming pools, one that bubbles and spouts nearly 100 feet every four to eight minutes.
Thingvillar National Park has historic and geographic significance. The oldest existing parliament in the world first assembled there in 930 AD, and it is at the junction of the American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
The dormant Kerid volcano is spectacular. Yes, those are people on the icy walkway surrounding the top. Not us.
If this trip is a preview, bring on the 70s. Skal!