When Cullen was 7 years old, he learned about the Northern Lights and asked if we could go see them for vacation. At that particular moment, we were in no position to head to the Arctic, so he thoughtfully asked if we could start saving up to go when he was 10. Impressed with his long-range planning, we opened a savings account that day and began putting a little money in week by week.
Then last Thursday night, three and a half years after that little conversation, Cullen, Kev and I boarded our plane for a 4 day adventure in Iceland.
But before we get into part one of the recap and a whole lot of pictures, two things:
1.We couldn’t have done it without the help of my in-laws who held down the fort with the other 3 while we were gone! Nana and Pop graciously took over on all the carpool lines, soccer practices, track meets and generally wear and tear of keeping little humans up and running. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Also a squeeze to my sister in law Beth who had the kids over on Sunday, and friends Bridget, Nikki and Liz who helped with some of the different kids at different places at the same time logistics. We are so indebted to our wonderful family and community!
2. While this was a trip of a lifetime to a country we’ve never experienced before, my absolute favorite part was getting the one on one time with Cullen. As a large family with kids so close in age, we definitely run in a pack and as the oldest, C is often the one who has to compromise when we travel to doing activities for all ages, lending a helping hand and being given extra responsibility to make sure we all stick together.
But not this trip.
We learned that 10 is such a magical age where he still has that childlike wonder, but is basically a mini-adult who can keep track of all his stuff. We let him lead the way on activities and hikes, watched some movies too old for his brothers, stayed up late, walked over 17,000 steps a day, tried all kinds of new foods at restaurants without kids menus and he even got to witness Kev and I with our “parent” guard down (Spoiler Alert: we are hilarious when not yelling at people to find their shoes.)
We laughed so much and got to know him a little better and I will forever and ever cherish getting to witness him witnessing a whole new world.
(Also, this trip set up the precedent that everyone will get their special “year of 10” trip and now I am even more excited to start planning those with each other boy.)
We took a red eye from 95 degree DC to arrive in Reykjavik at 2:30am our time (6:30 in Iceland) with a warning from the flight attendant to “Put your coats on, its a little windy” and stepped off the plan grabbing the back of Cullen’s jacket to keep him close as 50 mph winds whipped through the path to the terminal. Kev, wearing shorts and flipflops and having no coat on hand being totally judged by everyone else was the first of many giggle fits we would have on this trip.
We picked up our rental car (okay, okay, first we picked up wine and beer from duty free because I read it was cheaper) and climbed into our Suzuki Swift, “Swifty” as she would become named, and began driving to our first spot: Thingvellier National Park.
Cullen is currently learning about landforms at school, so it was really cool to hear him teach us what he knew about all the different areas we saw. Thingvellier is especially famous because it sits on the tectonic plates of the Atlantic Ocean and is the best place in the world to see it above sea level.
^^^Walking in between the rift between the North American and Eurasia plates, NBD.
^^^C loved pointing out the random plants growing out of the rocks
^^^Griff is moving out of dinosaurs and into dragons and we took this for him since we are pretty sure it was a dragon cave.
^^^The water all over Iceland is so clear
From there we drove to Geysir which, to be honest, was skippable. It was crawling with tour buses full of people to see some water shoot out of the ground, but it was on the way to our next stop so we got out and watched it once.
Another ten minutes down the road and we hit Gulfloss. So incredible.
We read that this waterfall is so powerful, infrastructure is currently being put in place to have it generate all the electricity for Southern Iceland.
Pro Tip: Avoid the overcrowded gift shop, but do not miss this magnificent wonder. Also, be weary of the fact that Iceland is not super concerned with safety barriers. The only thing keeping people from going over the edge was a low-place thin rope and some slippery rocks.
We left Gulfloss and took some back roads directly south to coast where our Airbnb was for the night and were amazing at how remote the majority of the island is. We drove almost 2 hours without a gas station, restaurant or grocery store in sight. Luckily we had stocked up on some granola bars at the USO in DC and it tied us over until we finally stumbled upon a “town” – with two closed restaurants and one open Quiznos at the gas station. It wasn’t our ideal first night in Iceland dinner, but we were tired and hungry and worried we wouldn’t see another spot, so Quiznos it was.
As we pulled out of the gas station, the wind started to pick up again and rain started to fall. An Arctic storm was coming across the Island for the next 24 hours and we slowly made our way in Swifty, Kev gripping the steering wheel so we wouldn’t fly off the two lane road, until we finally rolled up to our country apartment for the night. With the weather as it was, we knew it was no night to see the Northern Lights, so we poured a drink (good thinking on that duty free, Kate), had some more granola bars, played cards, watched a movie and went to bed after very few hours of sleep on the plane ride and a long day.
It was a very successful first day and there is lots more to come!