Looking for Puffins

iceland lumix reykjavikpuffin-tour-watching-puffinsiceland reykjavikWhale watching was on our to-do list in Reykjavík, but we didn’t plan ahead for it. We also figured that it would be wrong to leave Iceland without seeing any puffins, as colorful, goofy, and famous as they are. On our second to last day in Iceland, Cooper, Emma, and I drove the southern coast of Iceland, from Grindavík all the way to the town of Vík, near the island’s southern extremity. I had intended for us to catch the ferry to the Westman Islands off the coast, where we were sure to see puffins, but time was short, so we focused on the mainland instead. One beautiful spot was the Dyrhólaey nature reserve, where many puffins nest in the spring and summer. I wasn’t sure if we’d actually find a puffin, since we weren’t sure exactly where to look, but it was exciting when we did! So exciting, in fact, that we decided to go on a puffin boat tour in Rekyavík the next day, instead of whale watching.

Dyrhólaey Nature Reserve

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Looking east toward Reynisfjara beach; the town of Vík is just over the ridge.

Continue reading “Looking for Puffins”

Reykjavík Does It Right

Day one, we wandered from our apartment by the old harbor, heading down any street that struck our fancy. We met a friendly, giant calico cat near houses with inviting gardens. It was bright and sunny, and I could instantly imagine spending long afternoons and late nights here, grilling dinner and chatting outside until the sun got to setting.

On the way back to our apartment later, we saw two probable tourists greeting an even bigger animal. The next day, he was out again, and so we got acquainted with the giant feline we thought could have been a dog, christening him Huge Haroun. Same colors, same fur—but his head was at least twice as big as our spunky Haroun’s. We pet Huge Haroun until he caught sight of another cat and bounded off in pursuit. We felt sorry for his target, whether he or she was enemy or reluctant paramour (we suspected the latter).

We passed some churches and wandered through a pretty, green park, also populated by friendly cats, along with some relaxing Icelanders and their little dogs.

From my repertoire of weird Icelandic facts: Dogs were made illegal in Reykjavík in the 1920s, due to a tapeworm that they passed on to humans, often fatally. I think it was in the 1980s that the city started allowing exemptions to the law: if you paid an annual fee, and your neighbors consented, you could have a dog. Dog ownership is on the rise in the city, but Reykjavík remains a city of cats, and friendly ones at that. Most of them have homes: cats are required to be microchipped in Iceland, and a study I read about somewhere found that almost all of the cats they met on the street belonged to someone. What lucky cats they are, free to roam this pretty city and make friends all around. One of the apartments we tried to rent required guests to keep a window open, so their cat could come and go, and Cats of Reykjavík posted a funny story from someone who woke up with a strange cat in their bed. There’s approximately one cat for every ten people in Reykjavík—it’s my kind of place.

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Jane, Cooper, and Huge Haroun, with his massive head and mane.

Before we wound our way down to the city center, we found ourselves in a neighborhood of impressive houses, still mostly made of corrugated metal painted pretty colors, and also surrounded by lovely gardens. We were on a little hill, and looked across to see famous Hallgrímskirkja (Hallgrím’s church) in the distance. We headed vaguely in that direction and explored the charming city center, talking for a while by Tjörnin, the small lake behind the parliament building, and mysteriously passing up a waffle cart opportunity in favor of (quite good) vegetarian dinner, like responsible adults. (We got rave reviews of the waffle cart from my friend Carolyn when we met up with her on our final day, but failed to track it down. Do better than us!)

The waterfront beckoned, so we walked along it, before eating dessert al fresco at Café Paris on Austurvöllur square. On our way home, we watched the sun set over the harbor, Snæfellsjökull (snow mountain glacier) far off in the distance. Continue reading “Reykjavík Does It Right”

What Do You Want for Your Next Home?

I know what I want next. In fact, I want so many things for my next home that it’s impossible to reconcile them.

There are the bare necessities: a dishwasher, on-site laundry, a bathroom guests can use without having to walk through our bedroom. A bedroom big enough for a queen-size bed complete with headboard and footboard. Enough space for my desk and papers and Cooper’s desk and papers to coexist comfortably along with a living room and a dining table that fits more than four people.

Whoa now, that’s already asking a lot, especially considering that we’ll still be renting at our next place, and it will most likely be an apartment. Let me make it more fantastical for you, though.

pinterest-2pinterest-1I dream of a guest bedroom/office, with a beautiful iron bed, an extra sofa or at least a pretty bench at the foot of the bed, a wall of bookshelves. I want a restful place for my friends to sleep when they visit, safe from cat fur and early wakers rumbling in the kitchen. I want doors that really close, sometimes, for the guests and for me.

I imagine a kitchen that can be clean. Fresh paint, truly flat and smooth surfaces, no weird grime. I think we might need a hood over the stove because of all the grease our current kitchen collects, but maybe cabinets without sticky paint and grooves in all the surfaces, without a forced air vent on the floor directly next to the stove, would be easy enough to clean. There’s a big table in the new kitchen, so we can cook dinners to share, with a bench or maybe a corner banquette on one or two sides.

(A home built with right angles, perhaps, although I plan on it predating World War II, and so maybe it’s too much to ask for straight floors.)

I hope for a real porch, if not at least a weird fire escape like we have now. I want to eat outside and each year, grow a few more plants than I did the year before. (All I really added to last year’s garden were prettier pots and some geraniums.)

And then sometimes, I dream really big. I see us buying a house that would be a lot more work, but probably also a lot of fun. We plant trees and fill our yard with flowers and herbs and vegetables and put solar panels on the roof. We try having our own chickens, like Ali and Drew, so we know the eggs we eat every day come from animals who are healthy and appreciated. We could host our parents for weeks at a time and give a dog a home and throw big parties.

laundry cat.jpgBut that’s a completely different life from the one we’re living now, and it’s not a life I’m really ready for. I want a little more space, and a different layout; I’m sick of coming up against the same limitations every time I try to make our home work better or look different. Mostly, I want to be able to better accommodate friends and family, and ease some burdens in our daily life (laundromat trips!!)—but without spending a whole lot more money, or widening our carbon footprint. I don’t want to upsize just because we can. I don’t want to accumulate anything we don’t need or truly want. I get frustrated now sometimes because we have too much furniture, not enough space for our things to breathe, no room to pull out couches to clean under them. It’s so easy for the cats to run from one piece of furniture to the next as they chase each other wildly in the evening, following the furniture packed into the perimeter and endangering the plants, the lamps, the external hard drives I haven’t put away because I’m not done with them yet. It’s only a matter of time before they cause a cataclysm.

But, you know, I really don’t know where I’ll be living next year. Anything could happen, be it a real bed or a laundry closet next to the bedroom or three bedrooms, a garage, and a chicken coop.

What else? What do you plan on changing when, or if, you move again?