Penny Jane

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young

(click the first image to start slideshow) 

Iceland Road Trip

Day 0: Travel

Left New York City at 9pm for our overnight flight to Iceland. Pro: the flight was only 4 and a half hours. Con: the flight was only four and a half hours and we anticipated sleeping on the plane to prepare for a full day ahead. I think we slept like 30 minutes. 

Day 1: Golden Circle and Reykjavik

  • Landed. Got through the speediest customs ever around 6:30am. Thank goodness for Dunkin' Donuts and their giant iced coffees at Keflavik International Airport!
  • Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a smooth and scenic 190-mile drive round trip that can be done (with sight-seeing stops) in three to five hours. Our time was more like seven or eight hours because we lingered at the sights and took several car naps. We are officially too old to hit the ground running after a red-eye. Luckily we could park our car in random parking lots and sleep for a few minutes because Iceland is chill like that. 
    • Thingvellier National Park. Where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.
    • Geysir Hot Spring Area. The geysers erupt every 7-10 minutes and the rest stop area across the street has delicious soup. 
    • Gulfoss Waterfall. You get wet but it’s so worth it. 
  • Reykjavik. We stayed at the sweetest AirBnb apartment in the heart of Reykjavik. We were too tired to get dressed up for dinner, so we got bread, smoked fish, cheese, spectacular tomatoes (Iceland is known for them), and black salted liquorice at a local grocery store. Since it’s July, the sun never really sets - it gets a little dusky around 11pm and then back at it at 3am. 

Day 2: Reykjavik To Vik

  • Reykjavik. Spent the better part of the morning wandering around Reykjavik, which is cute, clean, artsy, and has great shops! The views of the water are spectacular. Since Lorenzo declared that he was tired of shopping after like seven minutes, we went and got a hot dog. It was 10am, but Bill Clinton apparently likes the hot dogs from this particular stand and Huffington Post posed the possibility that they are the best in the world. 
  • Seljalandsfoss. Foss means waterfall. You can walk behind this one! Iceland is not a nanny state, as in they don’t like to clutter up the natural landscape with many warning signs and handrails. Guidance is kept to a minimal, because they assume people won’t be dumb. If you see a warning sign, take it serious, cause it’s forrealz.
  • Gljúfrabúi Waterfall. (Why is there no foss? I hate inconsistencies.) A short walk from Seljalandsfoss and super cool because you hop on stones through a river and into a cave and come out in this cavern with the waterfall. Like a natural cathedral. 
  • South Iceland Guesthouse. A guesthouse is pretty much a bed and breakfast, with private rooms, shared bathrooms, and free breakfast. We went ahead and checked in because it was close by and we were wet and cold from climbing around in waterfall caves. This place is surrounded by nothing but cows and sheep and stunning cliffs and rolling green fields. 
  • Dryholaey. Sweeping views. Ocean. Black sand. Cliffs. I could stay here for hours just staring out into the landscape and reflecting on what an incredible and glorious world we live in. Beautiful meditation session here. 
  • Back to the South Iceland Guesthouse. We tried to pet the cows that wandered around the meadow but they wouldn’t come over. Then we went to dinner at the restaurant across the street (also owned by the guesthouse owners and also the only one in the area) where we ate said cows in burger form. I felt bad about this until I remembered that these are probably the happiest cows in the world and if you can’t acknowledge/accept where your meat comes from then you probably shouldn’t be eating meat at all. The guesthouse was clean and comfortable but spartan. 

Day 3: Vik to Hofn

  • Skogafoss. Maybe not the most spectacular waterfall, but it was my favorite. You hike all the way to the top and are met with miles of incredible views of the countryside and ocean. Plus there are ponies nearby. 
  • Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck. Worst hike but I would probably say worth it. Maybe not if you really don’t like walking. You walk for two miles down a flat stretch of otherworldly black stones that is the exact same thing for the entire two miles, climb around in a military airplane that wrecked there in the 70s (everyone survived which makes it much less awkward), and then turn around and walk two miles back. It’s a long, flat hike where you can see your car in the distance and it gets slowly closer and slowly drives you crazy. 
  • Vik Black Sand Beach. Not swimmable but very pretty. Black sand is awesome. We got sandwiches from the local grocery store and soup from a little soup shack (so cute that I wanted to hug it) and ate in the car parked in front of the beach because it’s too windy and cold on the beach. Lorenzo tried to get in, but failed.
  • Skaftafell National Park. Another incredible, “holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-I’m-here” place. I won’t even try to describe seeing a glacier glazed over the mountains and oozing into a lake with chunks of ice floating in it, so just see the pictures. 
  • Guesthouse Skalafell. On a sheep farm and absolutely adorable. Our bedroom was very nice with a big cushy bed. We had our favorite meal in Iceland at the adjoined restaurant. There were only two options - lamb and salmon - and we each got one and shared. Omgggg sooo good. So good. Then we made friends with the owner (Icelandic) and the mother and son staffers (Czech) and drank Woodford Reserve Bourbon (our contribution), Becherovka (Czech contribution), and Ölvisholt Vatnajökull Frozen In Time Beer (Icelandic contribution) till all hours. 

Day 4: Hofn back to Reykjavik

A five hour drive with more time added for stops. I felt great waking up after drinking all that Becherovka. No really. My Czechoslovakian heritage knows what’s up. 

  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. It was rainy and misty which added to the mystic of this place. Right across the road is a black sand beach where huge chunks of ice line the shore. I was hit for the thousandth time of the incredibleness of our planet and the divine beauty everywhere. 
  • Reynishverfi Basalt Column Beach. We almost didn’t do this because we hadn’t heard too much about it, but holy shiitteee I am glad we did. Really stunning beach with caves and climbable rocks and black sand and huge crashing waves. Some of the waves are called “sneaker waves” because they sneak up without warning and pull you under. A few tourists in recent years have been pulled off the beach and into the freezing sea by these waves. Iceland requires vigilance. We saw puffins here! 
  • Blue Lagoon. Swanky relaxation - expensive but so luxurious and special. If I was rich I would end every day in Iceland this way. No pictures because we wanted to enjoy the water without our phones. Misty and quiet and sexy and luscious. And warm - finally! 
  • Guesthouse 1x6. Run by a very cool couple from Switzerland and Japan, respectively, who just fell in love with Iceland and bought a house here. They had a garden with a hot tub for guests. I would have liked to hang out here longer. 

Day 5: Homeward bound

  • Breakfast. Lorenzo got another hotdog. At 9am. I got Skyr because I’m obsessed. 
  • Flight home. Except for the one hour holding pattern over New York, really nice flight where we got to watch Beauty and the Beast. I cried then took a nap. 

Iceland  ProTips:

  • Alcohol. Is very expensive and limited. There are only a few liquor stores in the country and they are usually open for two hours each day. A beer will run you $10-$12 dollars at a bar. Stock up at the duty free store at the airport!
  • Sun. Does not really set in the summer. Bring sleep masks and melatonin. Close the blinds around 10pm so you don’t get confused.
  • Weather. We visited in July and the warmest it got was maybe 50 degrees. The wind from the ocean adds an extra chill. We did NOT pack enough warm clothes so ended up wearing the same things most of the trip. It would also rain one minute and be sunny the next and be foggy the next and be cloudy and pleasant the next. Just roll with it and bring dry socks. 
  • Language. Everyone speaks English. And is soooo freaking nice. 
  • Guide Book. I rarely use a guide book when I travel, but we got the Lonely Planet Iceland Guide and I’m glad we did. Mainly for the fun historic and cultural information. 

Bottom line: If you like hiking, incredible scenery, cozy quaint places, and a deep sense of peace and connection, go to Iceland. It will remind you of how truly amazing our planet is and how much beauty this world holds. 

The Daymude Family

It was pure joy to take maternity pictures for some of my dearest friends and favorite people in the world, Chip and Kelly. Baby Daymude is the luckiest little kiddo to have such a beautiful, loving family. And Pongo is definitely excited to be a big brother! (Click on the first picture to scroll through.) 

Yoga Retreat in Tulum, Mexico

Tulum is a laid-back town with a hippy, backpacker vibe. There are adorable restaurants and bars with outdoor seating located feet away from the bustling roads. Signs advertise wheatgrass shots and snorkeling excursions. Most tourists are on bikes, and when we arrived last Tuesday at the lofts below the yoga studio where we were staying for the week, we got two of our own. 

A yoga class was starting soon, so we changed and went upstairs to the studio. I’d never been in a studio more peaceful. The floors were sturdy hardwood and the panoramic windows provided a view of the treetops and let sunlight and fresh air stream in. Every ounce of the space begged you to just chill out. It said, “Here’s a safe place for you. Here, you can let go.” 

During savasana, with my legs propped up on a chair, I sent up a prayer of gratitude for the airy studio, the mindfulness of the practice, the beauty of Mexico, and this adventure with my mom. 

Below is a snapshot itinerary of our week in Tulum: 

Day 1: We landed in Cancun and took a shuttle (USA Transfers - reliable and comfortable) to Aquatic Lofts, the home base of our retreat. We ate lunch at Malevo next door, which had great prices, fresh ceviche, and quiona salads. Then we took a challenging Iyengar yoga class at Tribal Tulum. The studio was directly above our room, so the travel time was less than a minute. Later, we went to Mezzanine for incredible Thai food and ocean views, and finished the night with stargazing on the beach while the Milky Way sliced through the sky. 

Day 2: After a morning yin yoga class (super releasing!), we biked down to the restaurants and shops by the beach. We swam in a little cove off one of the beach clubs and ate lunch at Charly's Vegan Tacos (I highly recommend the nachos). We were feeling ambitious, so we took an evening vinyasa class, and then went to dinner at Co. ConAmor, an earthy outdoor vegetarian cafe. 

Day 3: Mama and I woke up early for snorkeling in the Dos Ojos Cenote with Aquatic Dives, where we swam between stalagmites and stalactites and into a bat cave where hundreds of sleeping bats hung from the ceiling. This experience made me want to get scuba-certified! Later that day, I biked to Santa Fe Beach where I bathed in the sun and swam in the clear ocean. We took Iyengar yoga that evening, followed by dinner at Co.ConAmor again, because it's close and cheap and so good.

Day 4: Free diving at Casa Cenote with Free Dive Origins (through Acuatic Dive). This was one of the most magical experiences of my life. The mind-body connection the sport requires is the perfect combo of challenging and zenful, plus this cenote is gorgeous. Afterwards, we had lunch at Casa Juana Gallo (brand-new) with fresh and authentic Mexican food, and then lots of much-needed rest time. Since we were physically wiped from free diving, we took a taxi to Las Palmas public beach to watch the sun set, and then had dinner again at Mezzanine again because it was right there and I was craving their tom yum soup. 

Day 5: Mama and I woke up at 6am for a guided hike in the Sian Kaan bio reserve with Osprey Tours. We watched the sun rise over the water, and then hiked through the jungle looking for birds and monkeys. Sadly we didn't see any monkeys, but were joined by the cutest father-son bird watching duo from Minnesota. After the five mile hike, we had breakfast at a little cafe nearby (I can't remember the name but our guide took us there). Our tour guide was super cool, very knowledgeable, and clearly loved his job. After a crucial nap, we took a taxi (never more than 5 bucks for any place in the area) to the Tulum ruins, and then swam at the beach below the ruins. That evening's yoga was restorative, which was a much-needed leisurely massage. We played around with a few dinner options, but ended up back at Co.ConAmor since it was 9pm and we wanted something close and healthy and delicious. And last but not least a deep night's sleep! 

Day 6: We lounged around and drank the best coffee ever, and then took that morning's "Sunday Funday" yoga class. Our last lunch was at Malevo again, which we had to get to go since the service is chill (gotta plan for at least an hour and a half) and our shuttle had arrived. Then it was back to the Cancun airport to catch our flights home. We left Tulum feeling lighter and stronger, and eager to return. Namaste! 

Colorado

August 2016: Denver, Boulder, Chautauqua State Park, St. Mary's Glacier, Arapaho, and Mt. Evans.

Summary: Rowdy looking cute on mountains. 

Oslo, Norway

As our plane descended into Norway on a clear July night, Lorenzo and I were struck by 1) how damn beautiful the landscape was and 2) how damn light out it was at 10pm. 

During our short time in Oslo, we were surprised by a few more things (full disclosure: we did pretty much no research before coming): the number of 7-Elevens, how expensive everything was, and modernness of the city. In all honesty, we didn't fall in love with Oslo. However, the opera house was really cool and the local IPAs were awesome. I think if we had more time to explore beyond the city, it would have been a different experience. 

A bonus was flying over Iceland on the trip home! Next adventure? 

Amsterdam

On our second visit to Amsterdam, the city won our hearts. Maybe it was because our previous trip was a whirlwind, touristy day that included a sketchy dungeon tour, no sleep, and getting accosted by a coked-out man at 6am. Maybe it was because during this trip we stayed with dear friends and their adorable baby. Maybe it was because this trip was about charming streets, pizza, Dutch pancakes, boat rides, long runs through the park, art, and great shopping. Whatever it was that sealed the deal, Amsterdam has become one of our favorite cities. 

Albania

When I told people I was going to Albania, the common response was, "Really? What for?" Totally understandable; Albania doesn't get nearly as much love and attention from the hoi polloi as its more popular neighbors. 

But now I can say that Albania is one of the most stunning and interesting places I have ever traveled. The beautiful beaches with crystal clear water and the delicious fresh food that costs next to nothing completely ruined me - why vacation anywhere else?? The friendly people and pristine landscapes completed the package. A major highlight for me was the night sky that swept over the sea and mountain range with a bazillion stars. 

Our travels through Albania included the beach towns of Saranda and Dhermi and the posh capital Tirana. While we felt safe and cared for the entire time, it definitely helped that there were several people in our group native to Albania and fluent in the language. I left a piece of my heart in this amazing place.  

Busing the Balkans

The adage "getting there is half the fun" has never been more applicable than our bus trip from Bulgaria to Albania with a stop in Thessaloniki, Greece. The generous libations, 30+ amazing people, breathtaking scenery, and bumping music made the 10 hour trip one of the most fun travel experiences of my life. Though this song is forever stuck in my head....

 

 

Bulgaria

We rarely went to bed before 4am and missed the hotel's free breakfast almost every morning, but I wouldn't trade the late nights of dancing, music, food, and friends for anything. Sofia is a modern city with plenty of history around every corner (hello, Roman ruins!), and the Soviet influence is apparent in a lot of its structures and architecture. Our favorite part was the downtown area - an expansive pedestrian walkway with outdoor bars and cafes. Truly the best people watching! 

The man handing out free promotional beers in the street told us to "please enjoy this moment of pleasure." We definitely enjoyed lots of them. 

London's Calling

One day and one night in any new place isn't nearly enough time, but with careful planning and strong coffee you can certainly experience its highlights. 

We took the red-eye from New York to Gatswick, and learned that a dinner of ZzzQuil and water is not a strong enough strategy to get a good night's sleep on a plane. But because we couldn't check into our hotel until later in the afternoon, we did an airport restroom clean-up, paid way too much to store our bags, and headed to London. 

We did almost everything we wanted: saw Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, experienced cute local pubs, wandered old neighborhoods, walked through St. James's Park to the Buckingham Palace, and ate meat pies (Lorenzo's wish ever since he saw Sweeney Todd). As a die-hard Beatles fan I was bummed we missed Abbey Road, but that's reason enough to return someday! 

London was a lot quieter and cleaner than I was expecting. Maybe it was just the area we were in, or the fact that in my mind I was imagining a city like NYC blended with scenes from Oliver Twist and Mary Poppins. Regardless, it's a lovely place and we can't wait to visit again.