it’s only an hour flight

Still, the Iceland International airport can be daunting in distance and wait.

COVID-time can be similarly so. I woke up at 4am before the noon flight to the Faroe Islands, concerned I couldn’t prove I had purchased the required COVID test to be administered upon landing. Concerned, too, because since I had requested wheelchair assistance, I could no longer print my boarding pass.

And, too, there was a 15 minute walk to the airport from the hotel in the dark and in a blustery rainstorm.

Still everything fell into place and eventually the eight hours had passed.

Boarding Atlantic Airways for Faroe Islands was quickly accomplished.

Heavy rain when we took off.

Sunny skies as we climbed.

A quick check of weather in the Faroe Islands indicated fog around the time we were to land.

The flight crew made welcome and safety announcements first in Faroese, then English. Similarly, so did the captain.

Atlantic Airways offered free wi-fi for the short one hour flight. About all you could do was track the flight. Still, I love tracking flights.

It didn’t take long to descend – almost – all the way. Instead, the plane turned skyward and we took-off midair! Literally we changed from down to up, up, and away!

A burst of Faroese, then English, announcing we would be told more soon. I could see the flight attendant consult her notebook and nod.

Finally the captain advised us about the severe fog. He said we would circle for awhile, hoping for better landing conditions. Interspersed I heard “Sweden”, “Denmark”. We could check wi-fi and see circles.

We hung out in the blue skies for about 45 minutes. Then we could feel the change in the plane’s trajectory and soon images of green hills and colorful houses came into view.

With several loud thuds, we landed. I, alone, clapped exhuberently!

Traveling mercies.

welcome continued

Our destination for last night was Frost and Fire hotel in Hveragerði. Located southeast of the capitol, Reykjavik, and a few miles north of the North Atlantic Ocean coast, it’s an area abounding in thermal energy.

The road south from the airport took us near the Gerlingadalur Volcano. We had thought about taking the one-hour walk to glimpse the lava flow and glow, but it was raining and quite windy. The landscape was stark as expected. And stunning.

We had landed at 6am so as we drove south the need for coffee set in. Soon a coffee opportunity appeared. We happened upon a charming coffee and pastry shop in Þorlákshöfn.

Back on the road…

Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We retuned to a favorite from years past…

which gave us energy to drive down the road to Urrigafoss waterfall…

and visit with several Icelandic ponies.

At last… arrived at Frost and Fire Hotel! Time for relaxing on our deck alongside the Varga River

and an especially significant welcome… when we entered our room… not one, but two robes! I’m thinking we have full level luxury!

the welcome

Tuesday night we boarded our flight for Iceland around 9pm. This was after spending about seven hours laying-over in Newark. Yes, that Newark.

We had anticipated accessing the Polaris lounge for the long hours. Since all of these super fancy lounges are closed for now, we made the best of it. We accessed a couple of 2nd tier United lounges, but we found safe spacing was better outside the lounges. So we found an open seating area where we could hang out with all the people going to Mumbai.

It was fun listening to all the announced flights going to cities around the world.

Returning to the lounge, there was now space enough to stay for awhile as we continued to wait…

At last it was time to board. A wonderful welcome awaited. Our seats made into beds and all manner of bedding and other items to make us comfortable for the night flight were offered.

Including slippers which could be used to make a headphone fit properly.

On our way; the moon lighting the sky and the sea.

The “moon over sunrise” view early the next morning to begin the day. Another welcome. We are back!

At the Reykjavik airport there are no jetways, so you grab your carry on and bounce down the stairs. Hop on the waiting bus quickly!

A short ride and everyone clamors off to race up the stairs to the waiting line of people already standing in line to be processed into Iceland.

What awaited us was a wheelchair for me. Talk about priority seating! We were whisked off and away. Down corridors, up the elevator. Twists and turns, always taken to the front of each line. Suddenly we were at passport control. Documents at the ready, we were welcomed to Iceland with a big smile!

Next up Hertz. “Welcome back Ms. Heckel. Because you have rented from us before, we have upgraded you to a KIA hybrid.” A short walk to the car and we were off!

It was a blustery, rainy day. We didn’t care. Exiting the airport, we headed south to drive along the coast as we made our way to Hveragerði , about and hour’s drive away.

But wait. There’s even more welcome to follow. Stay tuned.

entry-level luxury

Several years ago, during our second trip to Iceland, my friend and I stayed in a wonderful hotel in Húsafell. As we drove the last thirty miles, we worried the hotel may be so luxurious that we might not fit in. And we wondered why in we had booked this hotel.

Our uncertainty was for naught. It was luxurious, but not ostentatious, and we fit right in. However, when we requested a second robe, as the room only had one, we learned our room did not include two robes. We dubbed it “entry-level luxury”.

The true luxury was seeing the super-wide waterfall just down the road!

This morning we presented ourselves at the Centurion Lounge at Houston Intercontinental Airport. We had entry because my friend has some upper level American Express credit card.

At the entrance to the lounge, live plants make up the design below.

We settled in, paying little notice to the small “reserved” sign on the table. We made ourselves comfortable with quite a repast for our pleasure. Make-your-own espresso drinks, and much more.

Then we were asked to move as that table and couch were reserved for a higher level card carrier. Yep. Entry-level luxury once again.

Now seated in seats 1F and one 1D on United Polaris air craft, I’m thinking whatever luxury level I have is way more than enough.

As some of you know, when I tuned 80 recently, I decided to use some of the settlement $$ I received from my 2019 car accident, to give $100 to 80 helping organizations.

This morning I received an email from Mary’s Meals in the U.K. I learned of this group years ago during travel to the isle of Iona. They are this morning’s recipient of the 80×100 project. I have abundant luxury to share.

After a few hours layover in Newark, it’s on to Iceland. We’ll take off today and land tomorrow. Registration to enter The country is complete.

Traveling mercies.

you can’t get there from here

Have you ever heard this saying? It refers to an old expression used in the New England area, most frequently in Maine, by persons being asked for directions to a far distant location that cannot be accessed without extensive, complicated directions.

That’s how I feel about getting to the Faroe Islands. A self-governing archipelago and part of the Kingdom of Denmark, Faroe Islands comprises 18 rocky, volcanic islands located between Iceland and Norway in the Norwegian Sea.

My travel begins with a half-hour drive south where I will take a COVID-19 test for entry into Iceland. Assuming it is negative, I will board a flight the next day to Houston, with an overnight stay with my best friend. The next morning we’ll fly two legs (one an overnight flight) to Reyjkavic, Iceland, where we’ll spend a couple of nights. Then it’s on to Faroe Islands. A short one-hour flight takes use to Vágar Island. After picking up a rent car, we’ll have a 45 minute drive to Torshavn on the island of Streymoy, via a three mile tunnel under Vestmannasund strait.

Finally we’ll arrive in Tórshavn for a week’s stay at Havgrim Seaside Hotel!

You really have to want to get to this place. And I DO want to get there! This trip has had to be canceled twice over the past two years. It’s time.

Come along!

Oh, about that test….

Traveling mercies.

awe – awed by – in awe of – awesome

This is a word with shades of color and meaning. I’ve been thinking about awe for awhile now, having read a recent article that touched on the benefits of recognizing and experiencing awe.

I thought about it early this morning. I was sitting in my son’s backyard watching the geese do a fly-by, and a short time later arrive on foot as they walked up the alley. They were here for the daily scoops of corn my son or my daughter-in-law toss their way.

These stunning birds have been daily visitors, when they are in town, for years. I thought about the promise of food in this place, and of the geese memory that guides them here.

I thought about awe as I spent some time with the tree in the backyard. It suffered during the extraordinary freeze across Texas earlier this year. Its trunk split and has been slow to repair itself. On the other hand the tree has branched out along the trunk, instead of along the arms as one would expect. There is hope in the novel way the tree has chosen to heal.

“Trees pro­voke awe—that emo­tional re­sponse to some­thing vast that ex­pands and chal­lenges the way we see the world”, according to Dacher Kelt­ner, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, who studies awe. Re­search also shows that awe de­creases stress and anxiety. It can quiet our men­tal chat­ter,

Of course I thought about being in awe of my grandson, Jack, as he set a goal and worked toward it for a number of years. He was then tested on his ability, strength, perseverance and courage. He succeeded and now has his 2nd Degree Black Belt.

I will say, too, that I also needed strength and courage to sit through the six hours of testing.

And how can I not be awed by God and God’s presence in our lives? God has brought together my Keller family’s church parish and their new rector. A wonderful man of God now serves the church where my family worships. I have known Alan for many years and now here he is with my family. Today was his first day, and here I was in town. It was a wonderful reunion!

And lest I forget the reality of travel by air. I’m awed by how planes accomplish takeoff, landing and all the time in-between. I’m in awe of myself for having the ability to fly – and do so with ease. I’m flying as I write this. The scenery is awesome. Just look outside my window.

God’s palette. I’m in awe.

Look around. Find your awe.

But wait, there’s more…

I flew to Texas today. My son met me and had some surprises for me in the car.

I cut quite a festive figure as I walked into Starbucks on the drive home. Everyone wished me a happy birthday and then comped my drink!

But wait there’s even more.

Another peppermint chip chiffon cake! And this one was gluten free no less. It was delicious.

Now, as I “lay me down to sleep…“, this is my view as I turn off the light.

The Lord almighty grant each of us a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.

80 and on my way

Well that was fun! Turning 80 didn’t hurt at all.

There was joy in one fashion or another all day. The word “ joy” popped in cards

and conversations. In faces and voices. In smiles and glorious laughter. In balloons and flowers.

Donations were made in my name. Breast health and basketball; protection and promise for God’s people.

I was somewhat surprised by the multitude of my healthcare providers who sent emails and texts to wish me a happy birthday.

I was gifted in so many different ways, most especially by having my sister by my side.

And of course, the Peppermint Cake.

It was as good as I remembered. Newbies to the peppermint cake, along with seasoned tasters, enjoyed this wondrous treat.

This morning this sight caught my eye, and I began to sing, “the party’s over, the party over…”

But not really. It’s just begun.

I’m currently in my air-chair, headed to be with the Keller Heckels. My grandson will test for his 2nd degree Black Belt. I was there for the first level years ago. I wouldn’t want to miss being there for this one.

God willing – and those previously mentioned healthcare providers, I’ll have more joyous milestones.

Traveling mercies.

joining the 8’s

I have a significant birth milestone coming up in a few days. It’s what I call “joining the 8’s.

I’ll be 80 years young. My good friend, Nannette, did this about four years ago. At that time it seemed remarkable to me that she was 80, and that I had a friend that age!

I have a few family members and several friends in my church parish that have accomplished this milestone. I feel I’ll be in good company.

One of my dearest friends made the transition just two weeks ago. A few days before her birthday we Face-timed at the end of one of our monthly calls. We had not seen each other for about 15 years. We declared one another pretty. That was a smile moment.

Now my turn to join the 8’s is fast approaching.

A bouquet sent from my best friend arrived today from Farmqirl Flowers. Its description is Sunset. The accompanying note from her said “Looking forward to sunsets in Faroes and Iceland”, a reference to our long awaited, upcoming trip to celebrate our milestone birthdays. I’m so ready!

The past several years I have referred to myself as “oldering”. I wonder if I have drifted into old age. And just as with other times and events in my life, I will need to take time to grow into this particular era of my life.

I’m reading May Sarton’s Coming into Eighty. It’s a collection of poems written in her seventy-ninth and eightieth years, declaring herself “a foreigner in the land of old age”.

In Coming into Eighty, she writes:

Glancing through the poems before I settle into a rhythm of reading, I note there are often lines about pain. Perhaps this is just the book to accompany me for the 8’s journey. With one of my favorite writers along, I’m in good company.

My sister arrives tomorrow. I’m SO glad she is coming! At the top of our to-do list is bake the cake my mom made for each of my birthdays. A Peppermint Chip Chiffon Cake.

The recipe appeared in a 1941 issue of Lady’s Home Journal. It was a Gold Medal Flour advertisement, and bakers are advised not to risk failure by using any other brand of flour.

This cake is a big deal to make. It takes some skill to bake an old-fashioned chiffon cake (which incidentally must hang upside down on a glass milk bottle to cool.) The Candy Mountain Icing takes some skill to pull off as well. I’m pretty sure these two sisters have got this.

I’ll be thrilled when I slice the cake, which I just may do BEFORE dinner! After all, this cake represents my Joining the 8’s.

I look forward to astonishment during my 8’s.