Iceland’s Ring Road: A Winter Drive From Skaftafell to Selfoss

Iceland has a main road that stretches all the way around the outer rim of the country. It was completed in 1974, and the last section of it featured heavily in our drive back from three nights in the middle of nowhere. The road is remarkably well-maintained and easy to travel even in the dead of winter, and you can even check the conditions in real time online.

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After our amazing trip to the ice caves and a stop-off to walk toward glaciers in the nearby national park, we had to head back toward civilisation. We began the trip in mild weather, which changed to gale force winds around the village of Vik, and calmed again on our way to the western part of the country. One of the most peculiar things about the Ring Road is that there are marked picnic areas every kilometre or so. Everywhere. Even on the sand flats, where the wind never seems to stop.

They must really love their picnics in Iceland.

Up to the glacier

Up to the glacier

Skaftafell, Iceland

Skaftafell, Iceland

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Car Advert.

Car Advert.

The drive was intense; at times the road was covered in more than two inches of ice. At times, the sun was strong and beautiful, shining off the road with moss-covered, other-worldly lava fields flying by at 80 kph.

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Russell took the opportunity to shake his fist at a giant rock. Geology. Reminding us how tiny and flash-in-the-pan-y we puny humans are since the beginning of time. The road turned even more icy shortly after this, as if the fist shaking had brought down a bit more challenge for us as we hurtled toward Vik. IMG_6724 IMG_6722 IMG_6715 IMG_6720

When we pulled up to the village, the wind was howling intermittently. We tried to get out and walk up the black sand dunes, but we were immediately turned back by the blowing sand. It was like a hurricane, but with tiny black pieces of rock being thrown everywhere. It was exhilarating.

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Picnic in the gale!

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Gale-force winds in Vik covered us in loose volcanic sand. It was black in our teeth!

Gale-force winds in Vik covered us in loose volcanic sand. It was black in our teeth!

We had opted out of the package tours that take people around the island, creating our own Russleen tour. We didn’t mis out on much of anything on our drive, including a visit to Skógafoss. This is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, and flows heavily even in winter. It’s not particularly well-marked. There is a tiny village built up around it, and several horse farms. IMG_6808 IMG_6751

There is a stairwell-hiking path up the side of the waterfall. It’s not far, but the wind was coming and going like a breathing giant and the snow was stinging our faces.  IMG_6753 IMG_6756 IMG_6757 IMG_6758

From the top

From the top

Skogarfoss Waterfall

Skogarfoss Waterfall

The mini-hike in the howling wind and rainsnow was worth it. We vowed to come back in the summertime to do the trek that begins here and leads to some volcanic areas. When we came down, we ventured closer to the fall itself and ended up in a colossal amount of water.

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I was wearing GorTex and my slightly ripped underlayer. Russell was dressed in Death Pants (cotton jeans). He was drenched!

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So. Cold. Can’t. Face. Waterfall.

A quick change in the back of the car and we were back on our way, coming closer and closer to the ‘big city’ of Selfoss, where we would be staying the night. We pulled up to our brand-spanking-new hotel, which was geothermally heated from top to toe! It’s not uncommon for showers to smell of eggy farts in Iceland, because you are usually bathing in hot spring water. So good for the skin. So bad for the nostrils.

Geothermal heated!

Geothermal heated!

At Hotel Selfoss, we managed to glimpse the Northern Lights. We had been peeking out windows for days, with the weather not cooperating. Late at night, between snow squalls, I spotted something out our window.

Selfoss

Selfoss

“Hey, that’s a weird cloud…”

“Oh….it’s a bit green!”

“YAY”

And we tried to put on our shoes to go outside, but the Icelandic weather had changed yet again and two-inch wide snowflakes were blowing by in blizzard conditions by the time we tied our laces. But we saw them. Iceland’s little gift for us.

Next time: The City 

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Iceland: Part One

Not much time to write now, on a honeymoon in Iceland. But here are some of the amazing shots!

DIY: Wedding Veil

Putting the veil on.

Putting the veil on.

Wedding veils are a special piece of clothing. Patriarchal connotations aside, it is one of the things that marked me as a bride in my mind when I got married. I love the pictures of me putting it on before the ceremony.

Veils are horrifically overpriced. The ones I was offered while trying on my dress were all over $120. A quick scan of the major outlets that I considered, and these two come into (pricey) focus.

Courtesy of David's Bridal

Courtesy of David’s Bridal

The most affordable one, at 66 GBP ($100). Others that were similar to mine come in at nearly $200, inexplicably.

Courtesy of David's Bridal

Courtesy of David’s Bridal

You might think, as I did, that going the Etsy route might be a cost-saver. You would be mostly wrong.

How is this 81 GBP, exactly? Courtesy of gebridal.

How is this 81 GBP, exactly? Courtesy of gebridal.

I dreamed of making my own wedding veil for years. I used to wrap myself in my great-grandmothers’ table cloths, imagining how cool they would look as a homemade cathedral veil. I wanted to make my own, and this is how I went about it.

To Make Your Own Wedding Veil

  1. Decide what length you would like, and the style. My veil is a fingertip veil with a blusher to go over the face.
  2. Research your fabric options. Keep in mind that vintage fabrics will cost more. ALWAYS check the measurements with a measuring tape at home before ordering. Order a comb of a medium size as well.
  3. When your fabric arrives, play with it. For several days/weeks. Don’t cut it until you are sure of what style you’d like.
  4. Lace is hard. I originally wanted a mantilla-like veil. I decided the lace weighed it down too much and skipped it. If you want a mantilla-veil DIY tutorial, check out this one!
  5. Decide how to attach the veil. I used metal wire and wrapped it around the comb with freshwater pearls and beads, but plain string could work just as well. Make certain that the attachment will be strong.
  6. Sit down in the afternoon and attach the veil. Try it one with the comb and make sure you like the placement.
    Close up of the attachment.

    Close up of the attachment.

     

  7. If you’re happy with it, reinforce the attachment site with another round of wire/string.
  8. Be happy with your wedding veil!
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Playing with the veil in late October.

My whole veil cost less than 20 GBP to make, and it was exactly what I wanted. If you only do one DIY project, let this be it!

 

This is What a Feminist Wedding Looks Like…Or: Just Do What *You* Want

Revelling in Being MARRIED

Revelling in Being MARRIED

We started this year boyfriend and girlfriend. We’re ending it husband and wife. 2014 has been a ride!

Getting married is so fulfilling to me. I have spent so much time and effort in my life imagining the day, the dress, the man, the veil…and two Saturdays ago I got to have the very best day of my life (so far!). I still feel charged up with the amazing love and warmth that permeated that day, and we haven’t even been able to take a honeymoon yet.

But there is another side to weddings that isn’t always obvious to guests, but which comes all too clearly into focus the moment a woman gets engaged. Traditions. Etiquette to be considered. Opinions. Opinions. Opinions. I was only engaged for four months, but that was PLENTY for me, thank you very much. If you’ve recently gotten engaged, I feel for you. Especially if you happen to be a woman. Especially especially if you happen to identify as a feminist.

People you don’t even really know will volunteer their opinions of everything from flowers to name-changing, often with the very worst of timing. The Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC) is far more real than I would have ever believed before I got engaged. There are enough ‘rules’ about weddings to make you truly worry that your marriage might be doomed before it even begins if even one DIY mason jar or totally-sustainable vegan flower petal is out of place. I mean, your Beloved totally cares who sits next to whom and will totally not love you if the cake doesn’t have the most perfect, personalised, DIY topper. Not to mention that you should totally listen to people like the Duggars and believe you’re doomed to impure wedded corruption if you live together before marriage. Duh.

Ugh. I admit, I fell prey to some of the toxic thinking that floats around in the wedding ether. Little girls imagine their weddings for years and are encouraged to buy into the WIC from a very young age. In my community in Colorado, ‘purity’ before marriage was taught in schools from a very young age. Sometimes, I felt like I didn’t have a good grip on what being a wife is…so I started to fall into long-out-of-date traditions and ideologies. Never in my life have I been so conscious of my gender and how it is perceived by others.

I know that patriarchy plays a big role in weddings, around the world and throughout time. At other times, I felt like rebelling completely and refusing to be traditional. I read articles like this that made me question the very traditions I was seeking to incorporate. I’ve identified as a feminist ever since I knew the word, as far back as second grade. All these contradictory feelings and ideologies made for a lot of headaches and more than one smudgy makeup teary day (thank you for always being there, Russ!). I wanted to live up to my promise that I would not marry until the GBLTQ community was free to do so in my own country. That got a big boost in the form of the Supreme Court decision that led to a majority of US states now proceeding with same-sex marriages. But so many still cannot marry the partner they’ve chosen. I felt conflicted.

So what’s a feminist bride to do on her wedding day? Whatever the hell she wants. And whatever the hell her partner wants. Together, we made decisions about the ceremony and shared the load of planning.

Veil over the face. A 'bad feminist' move.

Veil over the face. A ‘bad feminist’ move.

Feminism is the ability to make choices, and do what you like as a woman or a man, or any other gender identity. I like a veil over my face. I like a long white dress. I like my rings. I like changing my name to a double-barrelled one (a surprise to me!). I decided to keep some traditions. I decided to bin others. I felt ‘meh’ about some, and they happened or didn’t happen without me desiring to control every single detail of the day.

Like a set, drawn from two centuries

Like a set, drawn from two centuries

Having a feminist wedding is as simple as doing it the way you want, resisting the WIC and all its crap-infused gender bullshit. This is part of why I wanted to DIY much of the wedding, to claw back from the industry the things I was able to make with my own hands. But we also had a packaged wedding at a hotel. I wanted to make sure that we did not include ‘obey’ in the vows or have a true ‘giving away’ at the end of the aisle. We made this explicit with the wording of the ceremony:

“In many cultures, including our own, it has long been a tradition for the father of the bride to ‘give away’ his daughter, but I know that Coleen’s father, Mark, is not here today to relinquish any form of ownership and nor is the groom here to claim any!  But I know that  Mark was delighted to walk Coleen down the aisle today and that both families were delighted when Russell and Coleen announced their engagement.”

But I wore my veil over my face, only removing it when I reached my husband at the ceremony table.

Veil at the ceremony!

Veil at the ceremony!

We spent the night together before our wedding, against traditions in many countries including both of our own. It was a night like almost any other in our life together, a bit of assurance that we had already made the choice to live in a relationship long before, and that no ceremony could cement what more than two years together already had.

The most important part of a feminist wedding? A caring, equal partnership that is already established. The rest is just the celebration!

Much of our wedding was traditional. Much of it wasn’t. The most important part was that it was what we wanted to do. Our love will keep growing, and we’ll keep changing as our lives together go on. The celebration was important, but more important was the established, equal, loving partnership that it sealed. I love being a wife, and I can’t wait to find out more about marriage!