Hunting the Hummingbird - by David C Hoffman

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Iceland!

So we went to Iceland!

Over a year ago!

I'm pretty behind on blogging! 

I don't really know where to begin so I'm just gonna kinda clumsily jump right back in.

When Dave and I were planning our trip home from Kuwait, we realized we could save like $1100 if we had a long layover in Iceland. 
The flight from Amsterdam to PDX is approximately 10 and a half hours, and I had really felt like we'd be DONE with airports by that point in our journey and maybe spending the cash to take a direct flight would be worth it?
Also, what were we gonna do in Iceland for an 18 hour layover?
It seemed at first like the best choice for our family would be to just to a direct flight, but at root we're just too frugal for that...I mean, $1100 is a lot of money!
Then it was like a switch flipped, and we started thinking that 18 hours in Iceland could be pretty cool...I mean, we would be in Keflavik, not Reykjavik, but maybe we could still find some stuff to do? 
We worried a bit that we were gonna be pushing our kids (and ourselves) a tad with this addition...after packing up and leaving Kuwait, and then planes, trains and automobiles through Paris and Amsterdam, maybe an add on less-than-24-hours in a new country would be too much?
But would we ever have an opportunity to see Iceland again?
Likely not - so we went for it =). 


Our plane would land in Iceland shortly before midnight, and then we'd have until the following evening to play around. 
We booked a room at the Alex Guesthouse close to the airport with free airport pick-up so that we could get a little sleep and have a place to store our luggage. 

Everything is crazy expensive in Iceland.
 But, even with the $264 we spent for a tiny room with two double beds and a desk (shared bathrooms), plus the money we spent on food and activity, we still saved money by having this layover, and, WE GOT TO SEE A BIT OF ICELAND!

Super cool.


In the air again...


Waiting for our luggage again...
(The airline gave the kids those cute little travel packs)

The sun was setting as we landed (again, in the middle of the night!) and then rose again about 40 minutes later. 
It was trippy.



We took a cab the short ride to our guesthouse, quickly got checked in, and the kids crashed in the tiny beds...


Over a year later, and I still remember taking that picture above.

I remember that moment feeling noteworthy, as our kids had easily fallen asleep in this completely foreign environment. 

Those same kids who had been the world's worst sleepers as infants. 

A lot of things were hard about the entire process of moving overseas and living abroad for two years, and one of those things was the flexibility continually required of all of us. 
But some good fruit from that is our kids learned how to settle in and sleep pretty much anywhere =).
 

Various converters and plugs required to charge our cell phones...
 


 David snapped this pic out our window before he and I went to sleep. This is about 1:30am.


With both kids out already, we took turns heading down to the bathroom to get ready for bed, then set our alarms for 7am, and then crawled into bed ourselves.



When the alarm went off I considered just bailing on seeing Iceland because SLEEEEEEEEEEP.

Dave and the kids went to the cafeteria and had a traditional Icelandic continental breakfast of multiple yogurt and cheese mixed spreads, thin meat slices, and tasteless wafer crackers while I slept another 20 minutes and then ate a protein bar.
Clearly, I was winning the morning.

 

We had planned to go to Blue Lagoon, as it was near enough to the airport that we could go and still be on time for our evening flight. It was going to take our entire time in country, but we thought it looked too cool to miss.
Apparently everyone else agreed, because when we went to set up our ride at the front desk of the guesthouse, they informed us tickets had been needed to be purchased in advance, and unfortunately the Blue Lagoon was full that day. 
Oops.
Dave and I just kinda blinked at each other.

It was such a rookie mistake, and we totally should have known better. 
OF COURSE a large tourist spot like that is going to offer pre-booking, and even though it's for a random weekday morning we should never assume availability. 
We took a minute to regroup.
We asked if there were any other geothermal areas we could go swim in, and she directed us to one a little over a mile away.
We decided to pack up our suits and walk over, so we could experience the area a bit more and also soak up the freshest air any of us had ever felt!
 

It was a bit chilly - both because we'd spent the last two years living in the dessert, and also because of the cold ocean air - but that wind felt and smelled and tasted SO CLEAN and pure and like just the freshest air we've ever experienced. 




I kept taking big, deep breaths =) 
 


We walked to the pool nice and slow, trying to take note of the neighborhoods...the way the houses and yards and gas stations were.

 


 


 


 


 



 We arrived at Vatnaverold! ("Water World")




 

I was pretty thrilled we were still getting to experience the thermal pools of Iceland even without the Blue Lagoon! 
 

There is an entire inside area with slides and kid play areas that I didn't get any pictures of. Oops again.
We played in there a bit, and then came to the outside pools where the twins made some friends...
 


 There were multiple pools of differing temps all around. Here the kids were seeing who could stay in that ice bucket the longest...


Meanwhile, Dave and I enjoyed different hot tubs and soaks...

 

 ...it was pretty cool.

We spent the entire morning and middle part of the day there, and then it was time to change and walk back to the guesthouse.

We tried to be intentional about taking in the fresh Iceland air on our way back.








To be sure, we were tired.
But we were also so happy to be experiencing this taste of a new country.  
It was so green!


Such beautiful, fresh air to go exploring in =)


















Back at the guesthouse, we grabbed our luggage and took a taxi back to the airport...



We paid an absurd amount of money for dinner at the airport, where David had Viking beer, because When In Iceland...



The kids liked this particular airport a lot!



Thus ending the quickest little pop in to a country we've ever made =). We all agreed that we wished we'd had more time! Even a few days... Iceland seemed so beautiful. 
But, a peak was better than nothing, and we were also very ready to be back in the good old USA.  


When we walked through our gate at PDX we were greeted by a bunch of our friends and family, all wearing red t-shirts that said our last name with "Making America Great Again" underneath it....I laughed SO HARD. 

It was good to be home =). 
 






Sunday, January 14, 2018

Amsterdam - last day

 Our last morning in Amsterdam, we had planned on having a slow, lazy morning and then seeing some sights. Our flight didn't leave until 10:00pm, so we had like ten hours to kill before we needed to even check in.

Instead, that very morning our Airbnb host finally replied to our text inquiry we'd sent the day prior (we'd also discussed the possibility upon first reserving the place) about late check-out by replying "sorry, someone else is checking in!" 

Not cool, man.

So we had an hour to figure out what to do with all our luggage. 
We knew we could rent a locker at the airport or even the nearby train station, but we had A LOT of luggage to move and would need a van -not just a standard taxi - just to facilitate getting our stuff to a storage space.
We'd already arranged van transportation to the airport with the driver who'd brought us to our place from the train station when we'd first arrived, but we weren't expecting him until 6:00pm.
 
We talked out our options, and decided on moving our stuff to near a park bench out front, and just trading off being the adult staying with the stuff or being the adult taking the kids around town.
It wasn't ideal, but it would work.

We were piling our stuff out front when the sweet man who lived in the very next row house asked if we were headed to the airport. 
His name was Rijn, and we'd made small talk with him and his wife several times throughout our stay there. They had a little patio set out front and would often eat their breakfast out there and read the paper.

When we explained that yes we were checking out but no we weren't heading to the airport until much later, he offered up their home to hold our stuff in.

So nice, right?

We were grateful for their kind offer, but when he said they'd be leaving that afternoon until much later in the night, we said no thanks, as we'd need to get our bags again around 6:00pm. 
That's when Rijn said "no worries, we'll just give you our key and you can let yourselves in to get your bags."

I mean, WHAT?!? This man was willing to give his house key to strangers, while also offering up that they would be GONE for several hours. Who does that?!?

David and I were both so touched by his generosity and trust.  
May we be able to pay it forward someday.


The kids played out front for a bit...




...and then we started off to enjoy our last day in Amsterdam.


 
 Amsterdam, you are beautiful...






I'd read on TripAdvisor that "Pancakes Amsterdam" was a must-visit place for breakfast, so we walked there that last day for brunch... 



Dave ordered a hashbrown-type crepe with bacon on top...yuuummmmm...

We LOVED our food there and all four of us declared the restaurant a hit!






The kids and I had some selfie fun while David was taking care of the bill...
 







Love those two so very much.

 
 We were thrilled the weather was so great for our last day there. We decided to just walk around and enjoy the sites.
I tried my hardest to soak up all of it! I just could not get enough of these gorgeous row houses...







We just walked around with no real destination in mind, stopping along the way at whatever drew our interest.






We stumbled upon a fun park we decided to play at for awhile...












This fountain area looked so fun, but we didn't have dry clothes with us nor a place to change, so we couldn't jump in, but we still enjoyed walking around and taking in another cool Amsterdam park.
 


Later in the afternoon we headed back to the house and played in the front playground one last time...



We walked to dinner nearby, then it was time for our taxi to pick us up. 
We used the key to get into the neighbors house, grabbed our luggage and left a quick thank you note with our email address on it in case they were ever in Oregon, and loaded our massive amounts of luggage up, said goodbye to our cute place, and headed to the airport.

Man was I sad to be leaving Amsterdam! I kept saying that we should have planned a longer stay. The canals, the houseboats, the people, the architecture, the food, the shops, the museums...gah. I just loved it all.

But I couldn't let the blues last too long, because next up was Iceland!