Spring Break in Polaroids

    I thought, now that one of my essays is done, that it was about time to post the first fruits of film from our travels. It's too expensive here to develop all the rolls of 35mm film I used, but maybe this week I'll get one done, you know, just to make sure they worked. Without further ado, then, 20 Polaroids in chronological order (click to expand):

    | left: literary walk--near Charles Dickens' house (and T.S. Eliot's office and Virginia Woolf's house, etc.)
    | right: St. Paul's Cathedral, looking foreboding

    | left: sleet in Paris, in front of this tower thing
    | right: Glamour Portrait #1: musical in front of some important building

    | left: Glamour Portrait #2: John and Mallarmé at the book vendors along the Seine
    | right: Glamour Portrait #3: Melody doing it Italian style

    | left: group performance art at Centre Pompidou (choreography by Jenn and Mel)
    | right: letter-writing and book-reading in Hotel Altona

    | left: Glamour Portrait #4: Brad at Versailles
    | right: last night in Paris: bad hotel, sleep deprivation, poor humour

    | left: Hans-Morten's miniature guest loft in Sandefjord
    | right: group shot in Bergen with Trine, Anne-Marte, and part of a stone admiral

    | left: mid-hike, cold hands, overlooking foggy/rainy Bergen
    | right: first morning in Reykjavik: ducks, ducks, ducks!

    | left: Glamour Portrait #5: Sean, John, and Leif Ericson in front of Hallgrimskirkja ("Hallgrimur's Church")
    | right: wind in the bell-tower of Hallgrimskirkja (I look like a troll from Norway) with Ana's apartment in the background

    | left: John at Geysir hot springs
    | right: my personal favorite--lounging in the moss beside boiling springs

    | left: Sean peering over the ledge at Gullfoss
    | right: first annual rock toss at a random crater


    Goodbye Lava Fields, Hello Minster Bells

    It feels strange that a few hours ago (I guess 14 is more like it), John and I were wandering the pre-dawn streets of Reykjavik, lost on our quest to find the bus terminal and somehow led astray into some sort of shipyard. As the time of our flight drew nearer and we only seemed to be getting loster and loster, I flagged down a car for directions. In a wonderful turn of events, the driver of this car, a bouncer at a local club who was just getting off work, offered to give us a ride to the airport. He was very friendly, spoke excellent English, and even has a friend from Michigan. Without him, who knows where we'd be right now...

    Our last two days in Iceland were tip-top, and progressed a little bit as follows: we ended up borrowing Sean's neighbors car for a trip through... the countryside? Well, whatever you call the brown grass and dramatic mountains with intermittent lava fields and craters, that's what we drove through. Our first stop was *ingvellir (I'm not sure how to make my Latin type the write characters), the site of Iceland's first legal and government meetings around 900 AD. There we walked through a rift valley along the mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates converge. It was interesting to stand in a no-man's-land, not technically on either, or any, continent. After that it was off for Geysir and its surrounding field of boiling hot springs and bubbling cave-pools. Geysir itself, the second highest geyser and the namesake of all geysers, only actually functions during or immediately after volcanic eruptions, and so we had to settle for its smaller sibling, Strokkur.

    After that, Sean let me take over driving for a while, and I had the pleasure of cruising past mountains and lava fields and farm houses in a snazzy little European auto. Or maybe it was an American model? I wasn't really paying attention to that, I guess; I just got a rush from driving for the first time since January. Our next stop was Gullfoss ("Golden Falls") on the river Hvit√°. The falls are actually at a right angle from the turn of the river and disappear behind the cliff walls (especially with banks of snow and ice jutting out over the edges of the rock), making it seem as if the river simply disappears into a crack. But when we got up close, it felt a bit dizzying to be literally face-to-face with such a huge torrent of water. Away from the coast in Reykjavik, winter was still just beginning to recede, and so the mist and spray from the falls were a bit freezing. We scrambled around on some rocks and grass to take pictures, and then headed back to the car for our ride home. However, we passed a crater on the way--a collapsed magma chamber, as the sign explained it--and we felt compelled to stop and toss some igneous rocks towards the pond at the bottom of the pit. On the ride home, we listened to various Icelandic music to match the scenery and I balanced on the edge between rapt appreciation of the landscape and napping.

    For our last day with Sean and Reykjavik, we took things easy, strolling around town, visiting shops but not buying things, and chatting in coffeeshops and restaurants. At one especially hip coffee shop, the ladies from the musical group Amiina stopped by. But they didn't seem to recognize us. I guess that's okay. We spent the majority of the evening post-dinner at another public pool, relaxing in the seawater pool or spring water or the steam room or the graduated hot tubs or the plain ol'... pool--whatever we fancied. After a few days of such leisurely evenings, I can see why a lot of Iceland people seem healthy and fresh, and why the city feels so safe. Maybe hot tubs are the best deterrents of violence? At any rate, I wouldn't mind if these sorts of public pools caught on in York or Grand Rapids.

    I'll admit, I've done a little bit of splurging on food since getting back into the UK. I never thought England would feel cheap, but it's nice to buy a sandwich or a coffee without guilt (with less guilt, at least...). After nearly a month of being away from York, it was familiar but strange to return. We navigated around town effortlessly for a change, with the church bells ringing in our arrival. It felt, of course, like we had just left the day before, but I could see the passage of time in the daffodils blooming along the city walls or the progress of construction sites around the college here. It's nice to feel a little permanence and security again, and although I'm exhausted I got motivated with the help of a little coffee, unpacked my luggage, rearranged my room, and nested myself in for the next 5 weeks or so. Life would be great if it were not for the surplus of academic work waiting for me here. I calculated the amount of words I need to write in the next month but stopped from fear and anxiety at about 10,000. For now though, sleep-sleep-sleep.


    Reykjavik, Clear and Blue

    After withering away for two days in a horrible but cheap hostel in London, John and I discovered (really, it was my fault) a ridiculous and by far the most expensive mistake of our travel experiences thus far. We showed up at the airport a day after our scheduled flight, and had to pay a small fortune to make it to our rendezvous with Sean. But, we're here, and we are enjoying the city, the language, the people, but not so much the high prices. Thankfully, it's a bit more affordable than Norway, but that's not saying much. We've been eating cheap food from 7-11, 10-11, and 11-11, and Sean's been getting us cheap Skyr and bread from his friends that work at bakeries. We try to enjoy the free and affordable experiences, like browsing the records at 12 Tonar, sitting on coffee shop porches, and looking through galleries, boutiques, and of course, tourist shops.

    We've spent our first two days here wandering the shops of Laugavegur, the pedestrian paths around city hall and the University of Iceland, and the walkways along the harbor. Yesterday, we climbed the windy bell tower of Hallgrimskirkja, the highest man-made point in Iceland, and looked out over the city and ocean and natural scenery, and then at night went out to watch the drunk people wandering out of the clubs and bars just before sunrise. We've been trying to keep up our authentic Icelandic experience by spending substantial amounts of each day in the hot-spring heated public pools. Tonight, we progressed through the graduated hot tubs and ended up soaking in a small pool of sea water until the sun had set and the pool closed (around 10:OO PM now that spring is under way here). On the walk home, the Northern Lights were especially visible, and I had a bit of a stumbly walk home looking up at the sky and still feeling light-headed from our time at the pool.

    Tomorrow, we're borrowing Sean's neighbors car and doing a driving tour to see a waterfall, the Geysir, the Blue Lagoon, the Continental Rift, etc. etc. Hopefully, there will be some lava fields and bubbling mud puddles along the way. The weather so far has been uncannily beautiful: relatively warm and sunny, sunny, sunny. Sean says the wind has even taken a break since we arrived. We've probably gotten more sun the past few days then the entire semester in England. Maybe this won't be the coldest, grayest, and rainiest spring break ever after all.