Agnes is the owner of Egilsstaðir Campground, my favourite campsite from our 14-day Icelandic excursion. One of the most exciting surprises at the campground was the sparkly clean, warm porcelain seats that greeted our bottoms in the chilly morning. It’s the tiny simple pleasures that make your day while living on the road sometimes. There was also oodles of practical information for travellers covering the walls in the laundry room. The posters covered everything you could possibly want and need to know about when driving the Ring Road, from how to avoid terrifying Icelandic speeding fines and where to find Game of Thrones locations, to daily weather forecasts (windy and rainy, if you were wondering). The lounge was comfortably decorated with couches, tables, and a plethora of charging stations, perfect for our electronically-saturated luggage.
We settled into the reception area with our cardboard box kitchen to a scrumptious breakfast of PB&J with a side of oranges and bananas after another night cocooned in our car. Agnes greeted everyone who passed through with a kind smile, helping with directions, purchases, and general questions. We spent most of the day hunkered down, fixing a broken drone and chatting with her. I told her how we had found her campground online and of the glowing reviews people wrote about her. We gabbed about the campground, Iceland, and our quest for the Northern Lights before saying goodbye. Agnes welcomed us into her country with such warmth and genuine happiness. She is one of those individuals who made our day, even in the short amount of time our paths crossed. We may not ever meet again but staying at her campsite was definitely a treat we’ll remember!
*This is the first in a collection of stories I’m looking forward to sharing with you about friendly faces, tasty places, and snazzy businesses from around the world. This is not a sponsored post.
Sveinn – Owner of Cafe Berlin Akureyri
After a rejuvenating swim and shower at the local pool in Akureyri, we decided to splurge and treat ourselves to brunch at Cafe Berlin. Fresh smoked salmon, creamy brie, buttery mushrooms, spicy avocado, tangy pineapple…it was pure tastebud bliss after consuming dozens of gas station hot dogs and boxes of Ritz crackers, even if we did share a single plate. To top it off, we drooled over a waffle drizzled with caramel sauce and a side of whipped cream. Mmmm-mmm! Between the refreshing morning swim and the celebratory tastebud dance, you couldn’t wipe the grins off our faces if you tried. Somehow though, the day got better.
Belly full and ready to work, I added Cafe Berlin to my travel feed on Instagram (@travelwithtmc). Shortly after, the café’s feed returned the follow. I asked the server we ordered from if he was running the account, to which he responded yes. He turned out to be the café’s owner and a wealth of insight into all things Iceland. Fellow foodie, Sveinn, shared with us his upcoming journey to Sweden to visit a Michelin-star restaurant. Enthusiastically, we swapped binge-worthy Netflix morsels to devour. Over the next couple of hours the cafe emptied. Conversation filled the space, a recipe of Iceland’s history, politics, environment and social landscape. Entertaining anecdotes of people frequenting his café, from the country’s witty finance minister, to a whisky-loving friend (and the reason alcohol is stocked at the cafe) peppered his stories. We shared our travel story thus far and the wonder with which we experienced his country. If you’re ever in Iceland and hungry for a treat, be sure to feast on both the food and the gab at Cafe Berlin!
I got naked in Iceland…in public…multiple times…and it was fantastic.
Canadians Don’t Get Naked
If you grew up in Canada you know what I mean when I say, Canadians don’t get naked in public. We are naked in public as babies or toddlers and then never again. We get naked in the shower or bathtub. We may get naked around our homes (depending on who we live with these days). We get naked if we’re dared to skinny dip, or inebriated and less inhibited. And “risqué” folk get naked at that beach on Toronto Island or with other naturists. But we don’t really get naked in public in Canada.
Canadians hear of the beaches in Europe and think, with varying degrees of excitement, “SEX!”, “EW!”, “uhhh public nudity? No thanks,”. In the Brady Bunch movie, their neighbour walks nude in her living room every Saturday morning. As a kid, all I could think was, “How mortifying – what if someone saw?!”. Then there’s Naked Man from Friends – the gang’s gawking took the term “neighbourhood watch” to a whole other level. And now there’s the possibility that someone will film you if you’re naked somewhere and put the video up online. Of course, not all Canadians (born or naturalized – we’re quite the wide range of folk after all!) react this way to seeing more than a coyly flashed ankle. I do think it’s fair though to say Canadian culture is nudity-adverse. There’s something about it that makes the country squirm underneath layers upon layers of clothing.
Our “Ick” to the “Ude”
In North America, nudity typically equates to sex, pornography, prostitution, and other shocking subjects. From a young age, Canadians are taught that baring your bits around others leads to shame-filled experiences. Ever been pants’d around your peers? It’s not usually remembered as your finest moment. Public nudity is for “bad people” with unspeakable jobs and morals or “weird people” leading hippie lifestyles. In fact, some might claim Canada’s prudish perspective is delayed for a “progressive” first world country. Over the last couple of years, Ontario has only just introduced teaching correct anatomical terminology to young students, and look at the backlash it’s receiving!
The history behind the “why” to our “ick” is one we could undress here further, but I think it’s safe to say the impact of our Anglosaxon/Catholic/Protestant settlers has a continued presence that is long overdue for a wardrobe change.
Enter the rest of the world. Nudity in other countries doesn’t, or seems not to, warrant conversation. Beaches, swimming pool showers, and public baths are all locations where it is normal to be stark-naked. In many countries it’s even mandatory to shower nude pre-swim – and there aren’t always partitions to hide behind.
Why Was I Nude in Iceland?
So why was I in the buff, in public, several times recently? I’ve been living out of a car for the past 2 weeks in Iceland, which begs the question – how do you take care of personal hygiene? There are two options I researched before our trip and have accessed while in Iceland: campsites and community swimming pools. Swimming pools have been my favourite option so far. In Iceland it is mandatory to shower nude before entering the pool. Kids, grandmas, moms, teens, and babies, in separate male and female areas, all share an open space to rinse off before a dip. And so, when in Rome, I followed along in my own fabulous birthday suit!
What are your nude-tastic experiences? Add your story below in the comment section!
I’m thousands of feet up in the air as I write this, gliding in a perky purple WOWair plane towards Iceland, and I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet the adventure that’s begun. I can’t help but think a few thoughts over and over – the purple librarian in the basement at UW’s Dana Porter library would be in heaven on this plane, as would my cousin. No one owns more purple items than them and I’m shocked they aren’t already WOW shareholders. There are purple carpets, purple chairs, purple lights, and the outside is rocking that royal color vibe too. The second thought is that people in Iceland must be tiny because I’m eating my knees and praying the girl in front of me doesn’t put her seat back any further. Six feet tall in the middle seat is no bueno with WOWair. Fellow giants and leggy folk, book that purple aisle seat.
The weeks leading up to today were a lesson in preparation; specifically that I don’t do enough and that it’s definitely time to pick up the slack! This was most apparent when getting vaccinated. I made two rookie mistakes – not budgeting enough money (my pocket hurts more than my overly-pricked arm!) or time (each has a different schedule to follow and some require more than one dose). Luckily all superhuman injections penetrated my flesh just in time; the last one this morning. Bring it on mosquitoes and germy food!
Packing, as always, was superb. It’s by far my favorite travel activity…ahem… My “what if” instinct kicked in full blast for this trip, particularly the rainy, chilly Iceland portion. In fact, I am now the well-stocked owner of foldable rain boots, thermal undies, a toque (I don’t wear hats), a fleece sweater, and one of those puffy jackets that can double as a pillow. “She must be an expert camper with all that gear”, people will say. We won’t tell them the truth. The best part though, is that, somehow, my thousand-tonne bag waltzed through the dreaded weigh-in without a second look. Pro after all.
*Which item below did I not buy?
The Best Part of Iceland So Far
I’ll leave you with a pretty awesome tidbit I learned about Iceland reading the WOW magazine: there are no, I repeat, zero McDonalds joints on the island. Unreal. I’m as excited as the time I ate chocolate for breakfast in Belgium. I have dreams about fast food joints (minus pita, poutine, and pizza places, and Harvey’s) being eradicated from the world. Iceland might be a new favourite country and I haven’t even landed!
What is your packing style? Are you as excited as I am about a country’s complete absence of McDonalds?
Life rarely goes as planned, and the same applies to travel. Day one was the perfect example. Our flight landed 25 minutes early in Reykjavik at 4:20am. After kissing a puffin armed with surveillance eyes and collecting our luggage, we exited the airport, fully stocked with Duty Free wine and giant Milka chocolate bars. The first brisk breath of morning air was sharp and fresh, smelling raw and rough, a sign we’d left home behind. Coupled with the pink glow of the sunrise, it was a perfect “good morning” from the island.
Travel Mishap: #1 – Ace Car Rental
And then life knocked on the door and said “let’s stir the pot”. The games began at Ace Car Rental’s office. While checking in we learned that as of a couple weeks ago, they no longer take AMEX. This was not posted on Expedia, the site we reserved on, or on Ace’s site. Later on the phone with Expedia, who called Ace for clarification, the Ace phone rep insisted we could pay with AMEX. Not the case as was evident in our and a few other disgruntled patrons experience. Usually when businesses don’t accept golden plastic there’s no problem switching to Mastercard or Visa. However, we had booked with AMEX to use its insurance and avoid unnecessarily high rental prices.
The Ace employees were less than helpful, repeating that they didn’t care (to help) either way or what we did. Peculiar method of assisting the customer, I thought. Having worked a fair bit in customer service, you try anything you can to provide solutions and remedy situations. Not at Ace Rental! They did, however, pitch us their insurance, which would effectively double the cost of our car. “Heck no”, we responded. We asked to use their company phone to call Expedia. Unfortunately it was their only phone and the one customers use for emergencies. Reluctantly they lent it to us, with exasperated looks and motions to hurry up. Expedia’s customer service wasn’t much better and a few hours later we gave up and turned to a neighbouring rental company that accepted AMEX. In the end, we ended up paying $200 more than what we had booked for online, with no action from Expedia or Ace for the inconvenience (we missed our tour in Reykjavik). The car is now manual (thank you USIT!) but we have internet which is a plus.
Travel Mishap: #2 – Parking Ticket
The plot twisted further once in town. Still morning and too early to check in at the hostel, we found a parking space to close our eyes for a bit. When we woke up a tiny white slip danced on the windshield; a $50 parking ticket greeting our fuzzy eyes. Luckily we only paid $34 since we paid it immediately. Everyone said Iceland was expensive!
Travel Mishap: #3 – Angry Taxi Man
Bad things come in threes and day one didn’t stray from tradition. Heading to dinner we were unaware we were in the wrong lane until a taxi sped up behind us, brights blasting, and followed us as we pulled over to let him pass. Confusion collided with bewilderment as he rolled down his window and proceeded to yell, eyes wide as saucers, finger angrily gesturing, that we were in the bus and taxi lane. Oops, note taken. Don’t drive in the S lane if you’re in Iceland!
Light at the End of the Tunnel
There was light at the end of the tunnel. Day one ended on a high note. The Blue Lagoon did not disappoint and we spent a few relaxing hours soaking in the geothermal waters. Back in Reykjavik we stumbled upon a gem of a restaurant, opened just a month, called Icelandic Street Food. The three people working there were friendly, offering us samples and answering questions. One delicious traditional lamb soup and a shellfish soup in a bread bowl later, our smiles were back. We topped off the tasty meal with the owner’s grandmother’s homemade Happy Marriage Cake and an Icelandic donut. Mmmm!!! The young owner invited us back for free breakfast the next morning, a new promotion he’s testing out, and we happily accepted. Bellies full, we fell asleep two happy travellers after all.
What travel detours and bumps have you experienced? Leave your comments below!
In less than a month I’m about to embark on a completely different kind of overseas adventure than I have in the past. Am I nervous? Yup. Am I ready? Nope. Am I psyched? HECK YES!!!
What is this adventure you ask? Three letters: RTW
I have been researching these letters and how to make them a reality since first year university. If you’re unfamiliar with this trio, they stand for Round The World (trip or travel). The number of hours I’ve spent scouring blogs and travel hacking sites or talking to people about these 3 little letters is too high to count. That I get the opportunity to experience this and not just read about it is still slightly surreal. I’m equally as excited to share this with my boyfriend, another avid world adventurer.
Where to you ask?
To begin, we’ll embrace the elements in the land of fire and ice, officially known as Iceland. From there we will soak up the sun and tickle our tastebuds in Croatia. Chasing the summer we’ll jetset across the globe to Southeast Asia, to fill our brains with history, politics, and more incredible food. The last leg of our plan (thus far) will be Australia and New Zealand for lavish landscapes, sun and surf, allll the wine, and who knows what other goodies. Yahoo!
How do you prepare for this you ask?
By travelling to Ontario gems first and pushing my procrastination skills to new limits, of course. This weekend it’s back to Prince Edward County, the tastiest county of them all, for a second visit this summer (/ever – it’s unreal and you must go). And now, I must pack because tomorrow will come quickly!
WORD NERD CORNER
“Ants in my pants”
Origin – American, 1930s
Meaning – “To be so excited or worried about something, you cannot sit still.”