April 6, 2016 – Reykjavik

Dear world,

We left Paris this morning and our cramped little apartment there already seems like something out of another lifetime.

After I last wrote we headed out to meet with Madi and her partner for an evening drink in the 6th arrondissement. We had planned to split a couple large hot chocolates at a swanky location where Hemmingway used to spend time, but when the manager turned his nose up and insisted it was a one-drink-per-person establishment we opted to move onto a small bar down the street and drink wine instead.

We had a lovely evening chatting about life and travel and even journalism, until Madi had to head to bed before her morning class. Dario and I walked back to our side of the Seine, stopping for a couple Nutella and banana crepes at a nearby stand.

In sharp contrast to the snooty manager at the earlier café, the friendly crepe-maker here chatted us up, asking where we were from and teaming up with Dario to laugh at my poor attempts at French. He invited me behind the counter and let me try my hand at flipping a crepe, and then insisted Dario join me back there for a photo.

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We left him a tip and walked away laughing and cradling our warm crepes in our hands, happy for the reminder that most people we’ve met on this trip have been warm and kind and welcoming.

On our last day in Paris we took the metro to the Père Lachaise cemetery, where Oscar Wilde is buried alongside a number of other famous names, including Jim Morrison and Eugene Delacroix.

It was surprisingly beautiful there. After our initial days of rain, spring seemed to have truly arrived in Paris by our final day there, and the sun was warm and gentle.

We strolled along cobblestone streets through a maze of crumbling headstones and sepulchres. Birds sang. Buds hung from the trees, looking ready to flower or burst into leaves at any moment. It was all much more picturesque than it was morbid.

We found Oscar Wilde’s tomb, which was once decorated in red-lipstick prints from his many admirers, but is now surrounded by plexi glass and a notice from the City of Paris asking visitors not to mark or damage the tomb.

From the cemetery we took the metro back to Montmatre for another walk around one of our favourite neighbourhoods in the city. We were tired when we first visited the area, but this time we took our time seeking out scenes to photograph and ducking into little shops.

We stumbled across the Moulin Rouge in Pigalle, then doubled back and allowed ourselves to be lured into a boulangerie with a sign on the window claiming it had won an award for baking Paris’ best baguette in 2016.

We stood on a street corner and each ate half a baguette topped with cheese and tomato and herbs before continuing our wandering.

Eventually we headed back to the area around the Assemblée Nationale. From there we walked along the river, taking more photos and browsing the outdoor stalls selling a combination of vintage books, prints, and cheesy souvenirs.

We took a short rest at the apartment before gathering the strength and appetite to head back out to L’Oie qui Fume, the little restaurant Mum and Dad had recommended.

On our way we stopped into Shakespeare and Company, a famous English language bookshop near the river. Realizing we hadn’t gotten ourselves any Paris souvenirs, we decided to pick up one of the bookshop’s mystery boxes.

For a 7 euro donation to charity, the store offers sealed boxes containing one book, a postcard and a bookmark. We purchased one and then sat on a bench to open it up and pour over the aged red volume inside: Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.

From there, we walked to the restaurant feeling a little giddy over our spontaneous purchase, the romantic Seine and the perfect golden-hour lighting. I grabbed Dario’s hand and said “Something about this evening feels kind of…magical.”

At the restaurant I enjoyed one last bowl of French onion soup, a decadent baked tartiflette — basically potatoes, cream sauce, onion and bacon — and chocolate mousse for dessert. And a one more glass of red wine.

We took the long way back, overshooting our apartment and doubling back by the river. Then it was upstairs to pack and clean up the apartment, feeling a little nostalgic about it all.

This morning we woke up at about 9 a.m. and went out in search of breakfast before heading to the airport. We grabbed quiche and a pain au chocolat and sat out in the sun to eat our final Paris meal.

Then it was back to the apartment and underground to catch a train out to the airport.

After about a three-hour flight, we landed in Iceland.

We picked up our bags and walked out into the fresh, crisp air. When we passed through here a week and a half ago there was snow on the tarmac, but by today the ground was clear and the temperature about 7 degrees Celsius.

It was about an hour-long shuttle bus ride to get from the airport to Reykjavik, and we pressed our noses to the windows the entire way, taking in the lava fields dotted with ash-green moss clinging to black volcanic rock, the grey North Atlantic and the glacier-topped mountains.

By the time we pulled into the bus terminal in the city, Dario had figured out that it would only be a two kilometre walk to get to our Airbnb, so we headed out into the drizzle in search of our accommodations.

A few impossible-to-pronounce Icelandic streets later, we turned up a side street and I patted Dario’s arm and said “Oh, look how adorable that little green house with the white fence is!” And then, to my delight, he said “I think this is it!”

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We were told that our keys would be waiting in a green mailbox, but since we didn’t see one of those, Dario tried the door. It was unlocked — a sure sign of just how friendly and trusting Icelanders are. He backed out when he realized he’d walked into somebody’s kitchen, but we soon located the mailbox around the back of the house and easily entered our charming Reykjavik apartment.

We are so in love with this little city and our temporary home here. Despite being partially underground, our apartment is big and bright with white walls and simple, tasteful furniture. Our host, Bjorn, is a local radio journalist who lives with his family upstairs. The ocean is half a block away and downtown is only a ten minute walk.

We went into the city briefly to find an ATM and wonder at the stunning views from the old harbour, the adorable coloured homes and winding cobblestone roads, and to gasp in slight dismay at just how much everything costs. Even simple restaurants here seem to charge the equivalent of at least $30 for a meal here, and we saw a number advertising what worked out to be $80 specials.

Luckily there is a grocery store nearby and our kitchen here is well equipped, so we picked up some supplies and headed back for a cozy night in. Dario cooked up some pasta and we split a couple of beers and talked about how much we love this place already.

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It is just so different from Paris in every way – climate, culture, architecture, landscape, language and people, and I feel so lucky to be able to experience both amazing places, and to have Dario here with me.

He is fast asleep beside me though and I think it’s just about time for me to follow suit.

Good night,

Emily

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