Charming Towns and Seafood

Our third day in Iceland was another long one! After grabbing our donuts and coffee from Dunkin’, we headed northwest for some more exploring.

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We started by driving north of Reykjavik, which took us through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel. This tunnel was completed in 1998, and ended up saving us close to an hour of driving while heading northwest. The tunnel is over 3.5 miles long and roughly 550 feet below the sea. There was one toll to enter, but only cost us a dollar. The time and milage we saved made it worth it.

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Since Iceland is one giant Island, there are tons of different lighthouses to see. As we came out of the tunnel, we drove through a small town where we stopped to look at one! We got there just in time to see the sun rising.

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The lighthouse had these adorably painted rocks all over the place.

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We wanted to go inside, but it was locked. In order to climb to the top, you had to call the number listed. We wanted to go inside, but we didn’t have the time to call nor a phone that would have worked. So, we just roamed around outside and enjoyed all the little rock paintings.

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Once we all loaded back into the car, we drove around the small town and stopped to take some incredible shots of the boats out on the water.

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We spent a ton of time in the car on this day. Most of the places we wanted to see, were farther away from our apartment in the city . However, the views were so stunning that the distance flew by quickly. I made Taylor pull over several times just to take some pictures. These pictures don’t even do it justice!

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About two hours away from Reykjavik, we stopped at another beautiful waterfall called Barnafossar! This one was wider than the one from the previous day, and it had an amazing turquoise color.

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Since this waterfall is a lot further away from the capital than most of the others, not as many tourists get the chance to visit it. However, it’s so different from all the others and it turned out to be one of our favorites!

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There’s a neat bridge that you can use to cross over the river and look down at the water. There used to be a natural bridge in this spot, but it caved long ago.

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All of the water is this pretty blue color because it emerges from a nearby lava field. Most of the surrounding rock is pillow lava from a past eruption.

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This was one of the most beautiful waterfalls we’ve ever seen before. It may take longer to get to, but we highly recommend seeing it if you find yourself in Iceland!

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When we were finished taking in the beauty of the waterfall, we drove to a nearby geothermal heating plant.

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The water bubbling out from under the earth’s surface is about 200 degrees and is collected and piped all around the country. It’s then used for geothermal energy.

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After we were done staring at the bubbling water, we drove an hour to Leif Erickson’s home.

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While we were driving, we saw a group of horses hanging out near the fence. They were eating, so of course we stopped to pet them!

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Horses can be spotted all over Iceland, and they’re super friendly. As soon as they saw us stand by the fence, they came up to say hello!

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We hated to say goodbye, but we were on a mission to see Lief Erickson’s home before the sun went down.

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It was such a nice day outside, which made the next part of our adventure possible.

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When driving to Lief Erickson’s home, you have to go through the mountains. They were covered in fresh white snow, so it was breathtaking!

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but then…

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it started to blizzard while we were halfway up the mountain. This is when I thought we were going to die. We slipped and slid up this mountain road, all while it was snowing heavily. Thank goodness it only lasted for about 20 minutes, because I was not thinking that we were going to make it off that mountain in one piece!

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As Taylor was driving, Grandma and I were in the back begging him to turn around. However, Taylor is a very stubborn person. Thankfully, we made it safely down the mountain. We ended up getting fantastic pictures and a good laugh out of it, so I’ll count that as a win.

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We finally made it to Leif Erickson’s home where he was supposedly born and lived while he was younger, before moving to Greenland and discovering North America.

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I’m so glad we decided to venture all the way to his home, because it was so neat to see it in person!

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Once we were done touring his home, we drove to the town of Stykkishólmur for dinner.

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This was a fishing town, and it was so unique. There was a peaceful harbor area that we enjoyed walking around.

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We hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, so we were starving! We chose to eat at the most amazing restaurant right on the harbor. It was called Sjávarpakkhúsiö, and they served fresh seafood that the fisherman had caught that day. We selected a table right beside the window so we could watch the boats.

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The restaurant is open all year round, so there is plenty of seating inside and outside.

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The restaurant was so cozy and welcoming. It was the perfect place to end our long and adventurous day.

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I got the fresh seafood soup, which was a creamy soup with white fish and scallops!

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Taylor and Grandma ordered the fish sandwich, which they say tasted incredible.

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Our friend Waite ordered the lamb! He practically licked the plate clean, so you know that was yummy as well!

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The food and service was impeccable. We dream about coming back to this restaurant one day! We didn’t want to leave this charming town, so we walked around after dinner before heading back to Reykjavik.

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It took us about two hours to get back to the city. As soon as we got back to the apartment, we each showered and fell asleep. We were exhausted from the long day!

Waterfalls and Glaciers

On our second day in Iceland, we were headed south! We started our day at 9am. You’ll notice in our pictures that it’s still very dark outside, which did nothing to help our jet lag.

Once the snow was dusted off the car, we drove a few blocks down the street to Dunkin’ Donuts. We could’ve easily walked, but it was cold and windy so we opted not to. While on vacation, we try very hard to only eat food that we can’t get at home. However, every once and a while you need something familiar and comforting. Dunkin’ was perfect!

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Taylor did all the driving during the trip. From what he’s said, driving in Iceland isn’t as intimidating as it looks. With all the geothermal heating underground, the snow very rarely sticks and freezes to the roads.

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While we were driving to our first destination, we stopped at a small church because we noticed that all of their gravestones were lit up with crosses!

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Every Christmas, family members will visit their loved one’s graves and decorate it with lights or candles. This is their way of showing those that have passed that they’re missed.

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We made it to Seljalandsfoss about an hour later! This is a breathtaking waterfall that is commonly visited by tourists who visit Iceland. Mostly because it’s so close to Reykjavik and you can walk behind it. No matter where you’re standing, it’s an amazing view!

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We suggest wearing waterproof attire, because when you’re behind the falls you’ll feel the mist. You can tell from the photos that it’s very wet.

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This is a great place to start when visiting Iceland! It’s easy to get to and won’t disappoint! Legend has it, that rainbows commonly form over the falls as well. I’m sure that would be incredible to see!

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Afterwards, we drove an hour to the small town of Vik. This small town is known for it’s black sand beaches. We were excited to see the beach, but we were starving and wanted to eat lunch first. Taylor found a small, cozy restaurant in town.

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We could go on and on about how adorable this restaurant was!

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While we were waiting for our food, a mini snow stormed passed through! Throughout our trip, these snowstorms would come randomly, but they would only last about 15 minutes.

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Taylor discovered this restaurant on Trip Advisor and we’re so thankful that he did! The service was wonderful and the food was even better.

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If you ever find yourself here one day, you MUST try the endless tomato soup and homemade bread. It was phenomenal and I really regret not ordering it myself. Taylor and I each got BBQ burgers and Waite ordered the lamb sandwich, both delicious as well.

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Once the stormed passed, we took a short drive to the beach.

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This was a very interesting experience for us. Everything started out fine and dandy, until…

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the wind came. Each time the wind would pick up, it would whip the sand into our faces and it stung SO BAD.

Thankfully, we were able to snap some pictures during the moments when the wind wasn’t throwing sand in our faces. The black volcanic sand makes the coast of Vik one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.

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Seriously, the views were amazing!

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We were tired of the wind, so we drove up to the town’s church to get a better view of the beach and the town.

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Vik was so small and unique! You have to check it out if you’re in the area!

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Also within Vik, there is a natural arch on the other side of the mountain that we wanted to see.

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The sun was beginning to set and it made all the surrounding mountains looks beautiful.

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In order to see the arch, we parked the car and hiked up a small hill to the overlook area.

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We were literally on the other side of the mountain we were just on. You’ll notice the same stone stacks off in the distance.

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Once again, everything started out fine, until…

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the wind started up again. This time, we were standing at a higher elevation, so the wind was even stronger than before. Thankfully, there was no sand to be thrown around. However, the wind was so strong that we could hardly walk straight.

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At one point, the sky became very dark and we were all being blown around the cliff. It was almost impossible to stand! Grandma grounded herself with a rope, while Taylor literally tackled me to the ground because the wind kept picking me up. This is a story you don’t tell your mother… sorry mom! 🙂

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These pictures make us laugh because obviously you can’t see wind, so we just look ridiculous being blown around!

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Once the wind died down, we got to witness the natural arch we came to see!

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We ran back to our car before the wind could pick up again. As soon as we made it inside, a huge blizzard came through. Just to give you a reference at how strong the wind was, the signs outside were ripping out of the ground and our car was shaking with four bodies inside! A very neat experience, but we were thankful to get off that mountain.

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On our way back to Reykjavik, we stopped to see a glacier before the sun set.

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There are tons of glaciers all over Iceland, so pick one and go look at it! If you’re looking for more adventure, you can sign up for tours that let you climb and enter the glacier.

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Afterwards, we drove back to the city to get dinner! We found a great restaurant called Vitabar, which we were able to walk to from our apartment. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our camera on us, so we couldn’t take any pictures. It was a very small bar/burger place. The cheeseburgers and fries were delicious. Once we were done eating, we walked back the apartment and prepared for the next day.

First Day in Iceland

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Our journey to Iceland began on December 17 when we started driving from South Carolina to Baltimore. We found reasonably priced airline tickets that were leaving out of the Baltimore International Airpot, so the 6 hour drive was worth it (and way cheaper). After a few pit stops, we made it to the airport around 4pm because our plane was scheduled to depart at 6.

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The Baltimore airport was very calm, so we checked our bags and passed through security with ease. We purchased our tickets with WOW Air. This was our first time flying with this airline and our overall thoughts were average. Our plane tickets were reasonably priced (for a flight to Europe), but we didn’t recieve any amenities. There were no TVS on the plane and they didn’t serve any food or drinks without a charge. We also left about 30 minutes late for no apparent reason. However, it was clean and the staff was very friendly. We sat next to another screaming toddler who never stop crying for the entire 6 hour flight. This was a HUGE bummer because we never slept.

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We arrived in Iceland at 6am local time and it was pouring rain. We de-boarded the plane on the runway and caught a shuttle to the luggage terminal. Before arriving, we assumed that we’d need to stand in a huge customs and border control line in order to enter the country. However, they simply checked our passports and let us walk right in!

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As soon as we collected all of our bags, we picked up our rental car through ProCar. It was a dark, cold, and rainy morning with little to no sleep (thank’s to that screaming child). Once we packed everything into our tiny rental car, we drove 40 minutes to the town of Reykjavik. Not much was open, so we went to a local juice shop to refuel before starting our first day.

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The town of Reykjavik was so cute and quaint! There were so many Christmas lights and decorations for the holidays.

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We didn’t wear all of our layers during our day of travel, so as you can imagine, we were freezing while walking around outside. At 9am we went to a small cafe for breakfast. This place was known for their famous waffles, so of course that’s what we ordered! They did not disappoint!

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I’m fighting to stay awake! At this point, it was 10 in the morning and it was still pitch dark outside. We asked a local what time the sun would rise, and they told us that it typically rises around 11am during the winter.

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Our first stop in the city was the Hallgrimskirkja church. This church was built starting in 1945 and was finished in 1986. They still hold church services here today. In fact, we only had about 15 minutes to take our photos because they had a service scheduled.

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Most buildings within Reykjavic are low to the ground, so you can notice this church almost anywhere.

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This is a massive pipe organ that weighs 25 tons! This specific piece was finalized in 1992.

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Out front, there is a statue of Leif Erickson. They believe that Erickson was the very first European to discover America. There are records that suggest he found America in 1,000 A.D., which is way before Christopher Columbus.

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We stumbled upon an Islandic history museum and walked around.

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Once we were finished, we found the best hotdog stand to eat at for lunch! As you can see by the line, everyone else seems to enjoy their hotdogs as well!

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It’s located downtown across from the harbor and has been open for 80 years!

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We LOVED our hotdogs! They were so yummy, and it was a simple and easy meal to eat while exploring on our very first day.

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Throughout Iceland, you will notice churches scattered throughout. They all have white bodies with red roofs and are practically identical. The only thing that varies is the size of the building.

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We couldn’t check into our airbnb until 5pm. We killed time by driving around the city and walking in and out of shops.

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We ended our extremely long day by eating pizza in the city. Of course we had to fit pizza into our trip at least once! 🙂 None of us had slept for at least 30 hours, so we wanted something simple and comforting.

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The pizza was great and exactly what we needed!

AIRBNB REVIEW: 

We rented an apartment that was located downtown and above some of the shops. While we were searching for a place to stay, airbnb offered the best deals and had exactly what we were looking for. We didn’t want to spend too much money on a hotel that we’d essentially only be sleeping in.

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This apartment was recently renovated and very clean. It had everything that we needed! There were heated floors in the kitchen, amazing views, a heated towel rack in the bathroom, and super cozy beds.

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We wouldn’t have gotten anything as nice as this if we’d opted to stay in a hotel. If you ever find yourself in Iceland, we’d highly recommend staying here. The only downfall, was that we couldn’t check in until 5pm and the owner was very strict about this. Also, there was no parking spot included, but we never had any problems finding a spot along the street right outside.

You can find the link to this apartment by clicking HERE.

Arches National Park

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We had a really difficult time leaving the Grand Canyon Lodge after the perfect day we had before, but we needed to continue our trip by heading to another park. Due to the time difference, we woke up early and walked over to the “Saloon” to grab breakfast and coffee.

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This adorable cafe was filled with yummy coffee, tea, and pastries! Taylor ordered a huge homemade cinnamon roll and I got an iced vanilla latte. YUM!

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Back in the day, they used mules like this to carry everything up and down the canyon.

We took our breakfast to the back porch of the lodge and sat in the rocking chairs overlooking the canyon. It was still fairly early, so everything was calm and peaceful. This was one of my favorite moments during the entire trip.

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After we were done eating and rocking, we reluctantly packed up our bags and headed towards Arches National Park. We had to leave early because Taylor wanted to take the scenic route. This was the longest drive we took during the entire trip, but it was easily the most beautiful. The views were so stunning that we had to stop several times alongside the road to take pictures.

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Leaving with a new rock! 😉

 

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To pass time during our long ride, we turned on some comedy podcasts and started dreaming of ideas for the wedding!

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It’s easy to feel small driving through mountains like this for several hours.

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After 8 hours of driving, we finally made it to Arches National Park!! As soon as we arrived, we headed straight for the visitor center so we could fill up on water and find a map. Out of all the trails, we decided that we wanted to hike the Delicate Arch and pack our dinner for the sunset. Before we could start hiking anywhere, we had to find somewhere to set up our tent.

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We chose to stay at the Moab Valley RV Resort and Campground for $33. It was located right outside the park, and was a great place to stay!

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They have RV hookups, cabins, and tent spots along with an in-ground pool, WIFI, and a nice bath house! And, if you’re looking to spend a few nights in Arches, they also have premium sites for tents that have a huge tent shading you! This way, your belongings don’t bake in the desert sun all day long. We were only going to be here one night and it was already late afternoon, so we didn’t need a premium spot.

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Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at this campground! The staff was super helpful and friendly! They even had complimentary coffee. 🙂 Once we set everything up, we packed our dinner and headed to the Delicate Arch trail.

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The trail is 3.0 miles round trip and they recommend giving yourself 2-3 hours to complete it. It’s also rated as a “strenuous” hike, but after our hike in Zion the day before, this was a walk in the park.

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Most of the hike is on slick rock and you really have to watch your footing. Since there is no shade in the desert, starting this hike in the evening was perfect!  We began around 5:30 as the sun was beginning to set. One of the biggest mistakes we made the day before was starting the hike at noon!

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It was so windy when we made it to the top that we were afraid we would blow over if we stood for too long!

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After enjoying the view for awhile, we began our hike back to the bottom.

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When we made it to the car, we drove to another trail so we could eat our sandwiches while watching the sunset.

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We hiked to the perfect overlook!

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As soon as we were done eating, we headed back to the car. Now, here’s where things get interesting. While we were walking back, a small rabbit moved to the right of me and it scared the daylights out of me! A few minutes later, I spotted several deer in some bushes directly in front of us and I was completely terrified! Taylor just laughed at me, but I think it was because my heart was still pounding from the rabbit incident.

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Once we made it back safely to the car, Taylor really wanted to park the car and look at the stars. Arches is one of the best places to do this because it is so far away from any light pollution. I wish we could’ve captured it on our camera, but you’ll have to take my word for it. There were several other cars stopped alongside the road, just so they could look up.

Next up in the Mighty 5, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef!!

Thank’s for following along! 🙂

Magnolia Plantation

My family drove all the way down from Pennsylvania to spend a week exploring Charleston.

Before they came, they knew they really wanted to visit Magnolia Plantation, America’s oldest public garden and Charleston’s most visited plantation. It’s been open to the public since 1870 and filled with blooming romantic-style gardens. Thankfully, Groupon was offering discounted general admission tickets! They were originally $15 a piece and we got 2 for $24 and 4 for $48, which is a 20% discount.

We started by watching a 20 minute video on the history of the plantation. Then, we walked through their petting zoo. We had 2 hours to kill until we were scheduled to tour the house.

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The weather was perfect and we were able to roam around all afternoon. Around every corner was something even more beautiful.

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Romper and Sandels: Dottie Couture

We saw a handful of birds and even an alligator!

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This bridge was the most beautiful spot on the entire plantation. Mom and I could not stop taking pictures and fantasizing about how it was straight out of a fairy tale.

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There is a really old wooden tower (that kinda shakes when you stand on it…it’s THAT old). When you climb the three flights of stairs to the top, you get this breathtaking view! You can see different wildlife from a distance and just soak it all in.

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The house tour was very informative and our tour guide did a great job. We couldn’t take any pictures inside, but I made sure to capture the huge wrap-around porch. You can kinda notice in the picture how the porch is slanted and that’s because it’s made to let the rain drain off.

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We had a blast walking around for several hours and we didn’t even cover everything! Looking back at all my pictures, I slightly regret not taking more! I will definitely be back to spend another day exploring.

 

 

 

International Safety

With graduation and summer quickly approaching here in the U.S., people are dreaming about trading those long hours at the office or all of the late night studying sessions in for their next summer getaway. For some, this may mean a short trip to the beach. For others, they are packing their bags and writing their itineraries for an international adventure.

Traveling internationally with your best friends is an incredible experience to get excited about, but it’s also something to take very seriously. In the months before your departure you may hear your parents nag you about being safe. You can roll your eyes and ignore them all you want, but their concerns definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. We’ve all seen the movies or read the news stories about a spring breaker or college graduate that decides to take a trip internationally and never returns home because they’ve vanished with no trace.

While this is not an everyday occurrence and plenty of people travel abroad with no problems, these horrific stories DO happen. Nobody is invincible and when you start believing you are, this is where things can go wrong.

If you’re traveling abroad or thinking about it, here are our suggestions for staying safe:

First, research the country you plan on visiting. By visiting the Travel.State.Gov. website, you can click on your destination and it will tell you the exact conditions abroad that may affect your safety and security. They will give you important information such as crime rates, security, health and medical considerations, and where you can find your embassy if needed. This site will let you know the level of risk foreign travelers are taking by visiting.

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This next suggestion is important, but is surprisingly ignored: NEVER ever give out personal information like where you’re staying or where your itinerary is taking you (have you seen Taken???). One of the best parts about international travel is the people you’ll meet, but no matter how trustworthy your new friend may seem, the most untrustworthy people know exactly what to say and do to gain your trust. It’s a huge red flag if you’ve met someone who keeps asking where you’re staying or specific dates and times. We’ve had people ask us details about where we’re staying or where we’re going next and Taylor will smoothly lie and we’ll move on to another topic. Let’s be real, there’s absolutely no reason for someone we’ve just met to know where we’re staying.

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If you’re traveling alone, make sure someone from home knows your exact itinerary. Plans change, so keep them updated about where you’ve been and where you’re going. You don’t need to tell them your every move, but just check in every once in a while.

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There’s something exciting about traveling to a new place and making friends from all over the globe. If you do decide to meet up with other travelers or local people, make sure you meet in a populated area and avoid traveling alone at night. Don’t arrange to meet at a hotel (see point above) or in a private location.

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Depending where you’re traveling to, you will probably stand out as a tourist or foreigner. In some countries, tourists are welcomed and treated like royalty because their economy relies on the tourist income. On the other hand, there’s places where it’s best to lay low and draw the least amount of attention to yourself possible. Leave the flashy expensive jewelry and clothing at home. You’ll notice in most of our pictures abroad that we wear very neutral and basic pieces. Not only does this make it easier to pack, but it keeps us from obnoxiously standing out. If you stand out as a tourist, you can draw negative attention to yourself. This leads us to our next point.

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When traveling to a country that requires a passport or visa, it’s important to carry these documents with you.We like to make photo copies of our documents to carry with us and leave with family members for emergencies. In some countries you are expected to carry your real documents around with you for questioning. For example, when in China, we were expected to have our documents on us at all times incase we were stopped by any government official for questioning.

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When carrying your important documents and other personal items, don’t stick these in your pockets or in open bags and purses. Pitpocketers will try to take whatever they can. If you are carrying a bag, keep it in front and close to your body and never leave your belongings unattended. Notice the backpack on the back of the man in the picture below: With so many zippers to access the inside, it’s easy for someone in a crowded environment to take something. With Taylor’s bag in front of him, nobody will try and take anything. These pitpocketers are trained and do this for a living (especially in high tourist areas) so don’t let your ego convince you that you’ll “feel it” if someone tries to take something.

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When traveling internationally, chances are you’ll need to use a different currency. For your safety, never flash your money around and it is best to keep it separated. Whether you get money from an ATM or Transfer center, collect your money, put it away, and count it later. Personally, we prefer to use a credit card (with no fees or exchange rates) because it’s quick and we don’t have to worry about carrying cash around. It’s best to keep your cash and cards separated so if one does fall into the wrong hands, you’ll always have the other.

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Please ignore that I’m blatantly doing what I suggest you not to do. LOL

Chances are you wont have a car when you’re traveling abroad. Yes, you can rent a car, but most people take public transportation. If you are taking a taxi, don’t get into a car that’s unmarked or looks suspicious. If your ride comes to get you and something seems “off,” kindly decline and wait for another. Just because the car stopped for you, doesn’t mean you’re obligated to take it.

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Don’t pet stray animals. No matter how cute and fluffy they may be. For example, dogs in America are pets, but in some foreign countries they are wild and don’t know how to interact with people.

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Although these safety tips are highly suggested when traveling internationally, it all comes down to common sense. Always be alert and aware of your surroundings. Use your best judgement and enjoy the experience!

Thank’s for reading and stay safe!! 🙂