Planning for Paris: Lessons From Iceland (Part 2)

Paisley the Viking at the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavík . Pretty sure the Louvre in Paris doesn't let kids dress up in their exhibits... More's the pity.

The then-9yo, aka Paisley the Viking, having fun (fun, I tell you!) at the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavík. I wonder: do you think the Louvre in Paris will let her play dress-up with their exhibits??

Lesson One: Context is Critical Everything

One of the more important lessons Bill learned about traveling with kids (or at least traveling with our kids, or maybe just traveling with our ONE kid, but it seems like a good lesson for any young person with an attention span that can barely last through an episode of Phineas and Ferb without taking a break to beg for more goldfish crackers, visit the bathroom, or whack a sibling upside the head just to see the reaction): give them as much knowledge, background information and context about what they’re going to see or do BEFORE they actually see or do it – and not DURING and not AFTER.

How did Bill learn such a valuable lesson, you ask? Well, a little backstory first:

As a family, we we have decided that these global escapades of ours, though meant to be fun, are also very much meant to be educational – as compared to, say, our past trips to Hawaii, which were solely dedicated to frivolity and absorbing as much Vitamin D as possible, a vitamin, it turns out, that is quite important for pasty-fleshed Seattleites (okay, I’m only speaking for myself, but seriously, the pasty-tones get BAD come early spring) who can only go so long without sun before turning translucent (like those icky looking fish who dwell in cave lakes – honestly, it’s not a good look for me or anyone), and I therefore whole-heartedly appreciate every trip to a sunny paradise I’ve ever taken (truly!). However, these international trips with the kids are not about devouring as many beach reads as we can stuff in the suitcase and sipping fruity drinks with paper umbrellas in them poolside (though maybe I can work this in during a future trip to say, oh I don’t know, Bali? There has to be some GREAT educational stuff going on in Bali!!). Of course, just being immersed in a new culture is mind-opening and enlightening, but in attempts to ensure the whippersnappers learn something a tad more concrete about the country they are visiting than “Hey! Like, wow! They speak a foreign language in this foreign country!” we decided to ask the kiddos (in this case, just Paisley, since she was the only young‘un going this round) to write a report about something – the culture, the history, the social expectations, etc. – they’d be seeing and encountering while visiting the destination country.

So about two weeks before Bill and Paisley left for Iceland, I asked Bill when he was going to have Paisley do her report on Iceland; wasn’t he running out of time? And he was all, “Huh! I thought we were doing these reports after they got back from the trip…” And I was all, “Huh! I guess that makes sense… Write up what they just learned…” Turns out, I was thinking the report would serve as a way of providing information (you know… that whole context thing?) about what they’d see while they were there, and Bill was thinking the report would serve as a way of synthesizing and summarizing what they learned while they were there, after the fact. (Which really does make sense, but you see where this is going, right?)

Okay, so I agreed that Bill’s plan to wait until after the trip to have Paisley write her report on Iceland had merit, and two weeks later they abandoned me and the boys, and headed off into the great unknown…

Being very conscious of traveling with a young child, and considerate of her feelings and that whole relatively short attention span thing (recall the whole Phineas and Ferb episode above: I wasn’t making that up…), before they left he worked hard (like the good Papa he is) to create an agenda that would be educational, but enjoyable, too. For instance, he planned that they’d spend the first two days in Reykjavík touring the must-see sites like Hallgrímskirkja (a tower-like Lutheran church that is probably the most distinct landmark in the city),

Jet lag? Or just in awe of the grandeur that is Hallgrímskirkja (or Hallgríms Church) in Reykjavík, Iceland?

Jet lag? Or just in awe of the grandeur that is Hallgrímskirkja (or Hallgríms Church) in Reykjavík, Iceland?

Solfar (the Sun Voyager sculpture that sits majestically in the center of Reykjavík, on the waterfront),

Please notice that I'm posting the picture of Solfar with awesome views of Videy Island, Old Harbour, and Snæfellsnes Peninsula (upon which is found Snæfellsjökull, the setting of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth), rather than the photo of my daughter, in typical American fashion, climbing on stuff that they generally shouldn't!

Please notice that I’m posting the picture of Solfar with awesome views of Videy Island, Old Harbour, and Snæfellsnes Peninsula (upon which is found Snæfellsjökull, the setting of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth), rather than the photo of my daughter climbing on it, and – in typical American fashion – generally acting like the world is her playground…

and Tjörnin (called “The Pond,” this lake in the center of the city fronts Reykjavík City Hall),

Visiting the swans and ducks at Tjörnin, enjoying the sunshine, and trying to stay warm (it's August, by the way!), by drinking some hot cocoa...

Visiting the swans and ducks at Tjörnin, enjoying the sunshine, and trying to stay warm (it’s August, by the way!), by drinking some hot cocoa…

but he also planned on them spending several (very happy) hours a day (both morning and evening!) in the more kid-friendly pursuit of swimming and splashing about in several local geothermal pools (Laugardalslaug, the city’s largest hot pot and host to an 86 meter long water slide – 86 meters long!! – was their favorite).

Though Bill and Paisley visited several local hot pots, or geothermally heated swimming pools, they're still talking about Laugardalslaug. Sadly, we have no pictures of the epic slide inside because, as it turns out, it's rather difficult to swim with an iPhone...

Though Bill and Paisley visited several local hot pots, or geothermally heated swimming pools, they’re still talking about Laugardalslaug. Sadly, we have no pictures of the epic slide inside because, as it turns out, you can’t really take your iPhone swimming… Apple really needs to get on that…

And instead of spending all day driving the 190 mile loop that comprises the three different sites of the famous and touristy Golden Circle (Bill didn’t think our 9yo would much appreciate spending that much time in the car), he planned for their third day to visit only one of the sites, Þingvellir (where the continents of North America and Europe actually meet, the first national park in Iceland, and the original location for the founding of the country’s parliament way way way back in 930 AD),

Bill and Paisley - with Paisley's new "friend" and souvenir from her trip, a stuffed puffin (turns out, Iceland is home to one of the largest colonies of puffins in the world, and this makes my daughter very happy, as our kids are rather bird crazy) - enjoying the beautiful views at Þingvellir.

Bill and Paisley – with Paisley’s new “friend” and souvenir from her trip, a stuffed puffin (turns out, Iceland is home to one of the largest colonies of puffins in the world, and this makes my daughter very happy, as our kids are rather bird crazy) – enjoying the beautiful views at Þingvellir.

where they could spend a few quality hours (rather than just the quick, cursory visit most tourists make when trying to see all three sites in one day) exploring the church and the remains of the Assembly (talk about an educational experience!),

This picturesque cluster of buildings located in Þingvellir - also called Thingvellir - National Park is the Þingvallakirkja on the far left, a church built in the 1850s on the site of the original church built there to commemorate the adoption of Christianity in 1000 AD, and the five-gable Thingvallabær farmhouse on the right, now the summer home of Iceland's prime minister (currently Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who is, by the way, the first female prime minister of Iceland AND the first openly lesbian head of state in the world - GO ICELAND!!)

This picturesque cluster of buildings located in Þingvellir – or Thingvellir – National Park is the Þingvallakirkja on the far left, a church built in 1859 on the site of the original church built there to commemorate the adoption of Christianity in 1000 AD, and the five-gable Thingvallabær farmhouse on the right, now the summer home of the country’s sitting prime minister (currently Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who is, by the way, the first female prime minister of Iceland AND the first openly lesbian head of state in the world – GO ICELAND!!)

hiking around,

As seen from the national cemetery  (the final resting place for such country notables as poets Jónas Hallgrímsson and Einar Benediktsson), the Icelandic flag flies over the löberg, or the "law rock" - the long, low-lying rock wall under the cliff face and above the Öxará River and lava field  - where Iceland's parliament, called the Althing, met for six weeks every June and July since it's creation until 1874, when it moved to Reykjavík.

As seen from the national cemetery (the final resting place for such country notables as poets Jónas Hallgrímsson and Einar Benediktsson), the Icelandic flag flies over the löberg, or the “law rock” – the long, low-lying rock wall under the cliff face and above the Öxará River – where Iceland’s parliament, called the Althing, met for six weeks every June and July since it’s creation in 930 until it moved in 1874 to it’s new home in Reykjavík.

and just playing outside at a more leisurely pace – after, of course, spending the morning at a hot pot!

All was going well, everything was going according to plan, and Bill was looking forward to what Paisley would choose to write about in her report, when… on DAY TWO:

Bill, being a history buff as well as a diligent visitor who genuinely wished to know more about the foreign country he was in, naturally took our daughter to the National Museum of Iceland. The museum has an impressive exhibit, with about 2,000 objects and 1,000 photographs dedicated to telling the story of Iceland from the Settlement in the 9th Century to modern day. Bill planned on a lovely morning spent taking it all in… Maybe a couple of hours, say, followed by some lunch and a cup of hot coffee for himself (did I mention that he said the coffee in Iceland was out-of-this-world good?) and some hot cocoa for the kiddo…

Yeah… it took our daughter exactly ten minutes to go through the ENTIRE exhibit, covering approximately 1,100 years of history.

TEN MINUTES.

She even wore the little headphones and followed the special audio guide for children. To give her CONTEXT about what she was learning about… To give her a general awareness of what she was seeing and why it was important…

TEN.

MINUTES.

At which point, Bill started worrying about my upcoming trip to Paris…

He knew for me, who loves art, who studied art history in college, who can’t WAIT to meander, browse, slowly absorb and just BREATHE IN the art and history and culture of all of Paris… Well, yeah, ten minutes wasn’t exactly going to cut it.

He emailed me that night, and reiterated his point when he got back home, saying that, um, yeah, he thought maybe the kids should go ahead and do those reports BEFORE we left for foreign lands… I believe his exact words were: “Make sure she has LOTS of context when you go to Paris; otherwise you will go NUTS!! I really think she was bored today.” And then he recommended I have Paisley read everything she could about everything that was Paris before we left.

Great. So, I had a little less than a year to introduce her to all of art history?!

Yes, yes, I know I’m rather melodramatic (you’re not really surprised, are you?!), but, as you might be aware, the Louvre is just a WEE bit larger than Iceland’s National Museum, and it’ll take more than ten minutes just to GET to the Mona Lisa, let alone spend any time with her small bad self… At least seeing Leonardo’s masterpiece – if you recall – is one of the primary reasons Paisley chose Paris for her second international trip (left to my own devices, I probably would’ve picked somewhere they serve those fruity drinks with paper umbrellas with a healthy dose of Vitamin D on the side, waiting to visit Paris when Paisley had several years of world history under her teen-aged and undoubtedly hipster-styled belt), so I can at least feel confident that she’ll want to GO to the Louvre… But will she want to STAY there long enough to see and learn about (this isn’t supposed to be torture – I want it to be fun! – but it is supposed to be educational…) some of the most significant and iconic art pieces in the world?? (Like, did you know that the Louvre houses not only some of the most impressive works of the Renaissance, but is also home to the Law Code of Hammurabi, an ancient Babylonian stele dating from 1772 BC, one of the earliest known law codes in human history, and the origin of that whole “an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth” concept?? Yeah, kind of a big dealio…)

And then, of course, there’s still the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Rodin, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée de l’Orangerie… For crying out loud, do you have ANY idea how many of the world’s GREATEST museums there are in PARIS?!?! Well, let’s just say… there are a few

And she might get BORED?! Well! I don’t think so…

So as soon as Paisley returned from Iceland I took Bill’s advice and I brought home approximately 20,000 books from the library (okay, okay, more like 20 books) for her to start reading… and I must confess, my indoctrination plans (pardonnez moi, my plans to gently and supportively create CONTEXT!) for my 10yo are, so far, going quite well… In all seriousness (don’t snort; that’s rude… I can be serious if I really really try!), we have found many delightful books which I think, or at least hope, will help her (or, to tell the truth, help both of us, as I’m learning stuff I never knew about the City of Lights as well…) more thoroughly enjoy our upcoming trip (and avoid that dreadful boredom that comes with being forced to look at art or, are you kidding me?!, another church, that just looks old-fashioned and has no relevance to her modern-day life): books about kids going to Paris (for instance, we both chortled and snickered while reading Eloise in Paris, in which Paisley learned several invaluable French phrases, her absolute favorite being “tout de suite” – meaning “immediately” or “right away” – which she uses quite often here at home, now, with much Eloise-style flair, as in: “Mama, please do have Papa come upstairs and say good-night to me… and make sure you tell him tout de suite!”); books about kids living in Paris (outstanding reads in this category include the impressive and captivating The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a novel worth owning whether you plan on visiting Paris or not… the very enjoyable Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles, though I seriously doubt even this cute book will be enough to encourage Paisley to try either foie gras or paté… and the adorable Adèle & Simon, about a sister who walks her brother – who loses a mitten, a scarf, a crayon and other precious childhood items while visiting the dinosaurs at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, watching a puppet show at the Jardin du Luxembourg, eating sweets at a patisserie and visiting several other essential Paris destinations we’ll be visiting ourselves – home from school… Paisley and I liked the story so much we plotted out Adèle and Simon’s address on the Cour de Rohan on our map of Paris and plan on walking by!); books kids in Paris themselves read and love (the standout in this category is, hands down, the English translations of the wildly popular Astérix comic books, about a village of wily Gauls who fight off Roman occupation, which have also been made into several films starring none other than Gérard Depardieu – though Paisley hasn’t seen the movies yet, she did get an Astérix t-shirt for Christmas, which she plans on proudly sporting on the streets of Paris… unless, because it’s quite a favorite of hers, she wears it out from overuse before we ever leave!); and books about kids meeting artists whose paintings and sculptures are on display in the various museums (MUSEUMS!!) of Paris (there are literally hundreds of kids’ books about famous artists like Degas, Rousseau, Matisse, Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso – some of the better ones are the handful of books by Laurence Anholt, and the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by Mike Venezia, the Da Vinci one being a beloved gift to Paisley from her grandmother who visited Paris a few years back and is most likely the reason Paisley knew enough about the Mona Lisa to declare she’d be going to Paris to see said painting for her second big trip abroad). And when we were done with those first 20,000 books, I went and got 20,000 more books… and 20,000 more after that… I will confess: for the most part, I’ve deliberately chosen picture books for her to read – books well below her reading level, I suppose, but books that are fun to read and full of stories about kids just like her and, I think most importantly, books full of colorful pages exhibiting the very paintings and sculptures and cathedrals she’ll get to see (and dare I hope… want to see?) in Paris – art work and buildings that she’ll be able to recognize when we visit all those (hopefully now interesting and not boring) museums and tourist attractions in Paris.

The latest pile o' books from the library...

The latest pile o’ books from the library…

Of course, this “lesson” is currently more of a “theory” at this point… and I have no idea if all this reading will pay off; after all, the museums we visit are still MUSEUMS, and she’s still only ten years old with the attention span of any 10yo: roughly somewhere between ten minutes and the length of that ridiculous episode of Phineas and Ferb (and that’s approximately 22 minutes, for those of you whose children don’t demand a little cartoon action in their day)…  Nor am I sure that having her write a report for me before we go will help, either (though I’m thinking of having her write something about Versailles, as it’s going to be infinitely BORING for her there if she doesn’t understand who the Sun King was and why he was so important, or who Marie Antoinette was and why she got her head cut off for simply offering to feed everybody cake – because, let’s admit it, without a modicum of historical context, any modern-day 10yo in her right mind would throw a parade for someone, anyone!, who offered them CAKE; I mean, it’s CAKE!). But, for me, I think it’s worth trying to follow Bill’s advice to provide as much knowledge, background information and context as I can, in attempts to hold off the boredom as long as possible for that 10-22 minute stretch of time, so that our visit to the Louvre or any given museum in Paris will be educational, but will also be just that much more interesting

And don’t worry! Even with having learned all this “context” BEFORE we go, I know I’m not going to get more than an hour at any given tourist attraction. So what to do with the rest of the 23 hours of the day (well, minus at least eight hours of beauty sleep – we ARE in Paris, after all, and must look our best!)? Well, we might not be able to go splash around in any geothermally heated hot pots (sadly, I don’t think the Seine is very warm, or even very clean, and I’m pretty sure we’d be arrested if we tried taking a swim… and being arrested in a foreign country isn’t exactly the kind of educational experience I was hoping for), but there’s gotta be some serious giggles to be had in counting how many couples we see kissing as we walk along the Seine on our way to the nearest metro station, and some great times to be had while trying desperately not to accidentally order frog legs or snails at the fantastic sidewalk café we just stumbled upon, and, if all else fails, some deliciously smile-inducing moments to be had while devouring all the macaroons and pain au chocolat we can lay our greedy little hands on, right?? Because we WILL have fun… after all, c’mon! As Eloise just might say, c’est impossible – and that means rawther impossible – to NOT have fun when one is on vacation in PARIS.

And if things go really well, and we’re not in a total sugar-induced coma from all those macaroons? I’ll have Paisley send you a postcard telling you all about everything she learned at the museum that day…

***

This blog post is the second in a series. If you missed it, feel free to read the Introduction: Planning For Paris, Lessons From Paris (Part 1)

And still to come (if I could ever stop pinning Paris pictures on Pinterest long enough to write):
Lesson Two: Wherever You Go, There They Are
Lesson Three: Scale Back, Stay Longer
Lesson Four: Make Time for Playtime

Planning For Paris: Lessons From Iceland (Part 1)

Herein, find several tips for traveling internationally with kids - kids who may or may not like extra long flights or eating anything other than pizza once they arrive in those horizon-expanding destinations...

My daughter, at the airport, on her way to Iceland. She didn’t sleep a wink on the 7 1/2 hour red-eye flight… Because sleep is totally overrated for pint-sized international travelers… Right?!

Holy WOW. I did it. Last week I booked two round-trip tickets for Paris! In slightly less than three months my 10yo daughter and I are leaving for Paris. Yes, PARIS. Paris, FRANCE.

!!!!!

(Ooh, sorry… that high-pitched sound you just heard through your computer screen? That was me squealing. With glee. GLEE I tell you!! Wheeeee!!!!!)

Seriously, I am almost vibrating with excitement. I honestly can’t get my brain to concentrate on anything else (I mean, c’mon! Do you really expect me to remember to pick up my kids from school, on time, or, and it gives me a headache just thinking about, do my taxes when there are photos of Paris to pin on Pinterest or style blogs to read about what is – and perhaps more importantly, what is not – acceptable to wear in Paris??). So far I have checked off the three biggest items on my planning to-do list: I found an AMAZING apartment for us to rent for our visit, and have even paid the down deposit; I woke up in the middle of the night the week before last to go online and nab (just barely, too!) our fancy-schmancy tickets to the Paris Opera Ballet, which, as a huge ballet fan, I actually built our entire trip around attending; and now I have two non-stop tickets (non-stop!! I’m sooooo in love with non-stop flights…), with confirmed seats and everything. The only thing left to do, now, is plot out the smaller, day-to-day details, like exactly what Paisley and I will be doing while we’re there… Maybe we’ll spend a delightful afternoon at, gasp!, the Louis Vuitton flagship store on the Champs-Elysees! And maybe we’ll take three whole days to explore the Louvre!! And maybe we’ll dine at Le Jules Verne, the legendary restaurant at the Eiffel Tower!!!

I’m sorry, but did you just SNORT with laughter?! You did!! Well. That’s not very nice of you… Honestly, can’t you just let me have my dreams for FIVE MINUTES?! I mean… I know. I do! I KNOW: I’m traveling to Paris, one of the most important and significant cities in the world, a veritable treasure trove of history and culture, the capital of Romance with a capital R, THE City of Lights… with my TEN YEAR OLD.

Not exactly a second honeymoon (or even a first honeymoon, for that matter, since Bill and I decided to move across the country from Seattle to North Carolina instead of booking a romantic getaway to Paris, or anywhere else for that matter; ahhh… someday)… I know, I know

Which leads me back to my husband’s trip with Paisley, to Iceland this last summer: the inaugural expedition in our family’s plan to travel with our three children around the world, once each of them becomes old enough to a) travel long distances comfortably (and without making me or Bill – or everyone else on the plane – want to commit ritual suicide; honestly, I don’t care how many times I hear or read about people who travel around the world with their youngest munchkins and have the absolute greatest time – bully for them, I say – I personally think traveling 12+ hours on a plane with a 2yo toddler sounds like a circle of Hell straight out of Dante’s Inferno) and b) to actually remember all, or most of all, the horizon-expanding adventures we wish them to experience (and just spent a whole lotta cash on procuring). Being the first international trip for both of them (Canada doesn’t count – sorry, Canada), we knew there would be quite the learning curve with this trip; and indeed, Bill was a wonderful guinea pig (or should I say canary in a coal mine?!), bringing back a wealth of fabulous lessons learned from his one week stay in Iceland – and which I have taken to heart while planning my upcoming trip to Paris.

As I don’t want to make you feel like I’m forcing you through one of those slide-shows old Aunt Edna and Uncle Chester made you endure when you were in middle school and would rather be doing ollies on your skateboard or cruising the mall for the perfect pair of neon-colored hoop earrings to match your very trendy neon-colored jelly shoes rather than hearing about what kind of birds nest on the top of Teddy Roosevelt’s moustache on Mount Rushmore, I’ve broken this blog post up into several parts, or “lessons” if you will, which you can read at your leisure… say, in between Instagramming – is that even a word?! I’m making it one if it isn’t already; feel free to alert the OED – pictures of your adorable kids doing ollies (because, let’s admit it, when you do ollies anymore your knees kill and you can’t walk up the stairs for a week… unless you’re Tony Hawk, in which case your ollies, and knees, are just as fine and Instagrammable – another new word! – as your adorable kids’ ollies and knees…), or internet shopping for the perfect neon-colored clutch to match your very trendy neon-colored strappy platform sandals (so very retro, and absolutely necessary for the spring cocktail party to which you’ve just been invited!). Granted, these are lessons for my family, and we’re a bit crazier than most, so some – or possibly all! In which case I humbly apologize for taking up your time which could have been better spent reading about Taylor Swift’s latest conquest and/or breakup – of these “lessons” might not apply to you and your precious little angels… But, in the belief that a few of you have angels who sometimes occasionally act like MONSTERS normal old kids, over the next few days, or possibly weeks – I do actually have to pick up the kids, on time, from school (they’re so demanding!), and my taxes, as much as I’ve beseeched the folders of paperwork sitting on my desk to do themselves, are stubbornly not complying with my wishes (how very rude!) – feel free to peruse, adopt, and/or adapt for your own family vacation planning, Bill’s top four lessons about traveling with kids…

Spoiler alert: yeah, it’s looking pretty doubtful that three whole days blissfully meandering through the rooms of the Louvre is in my near future… And Louis Vuitton and Le Jules Verne?? C’est impossible, aussie.

Le sigh…

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at the next few blog posts:

Lesson One: Context is Critical Everything
Lesson Two: Wherever You Go, There They Are
Lesson Three: Scale Back, Stay Longer
Lesson Four: Make Time for Playtime

And here’s a mini-slide show that would do old Aunt Edna and Uncle Chester proud:

What do you do when you get off the plane at 6 a.m., and your rental apartment won't be available for several hours, and neither you nor your kiddo has slept at all on the plane so you're both a little punchy from lack of sleep? Why, you make sure your first stop is at the local "hot pot," of course! Iceland is a geothermal wonderland, with an abundance of natural hot springs in which to soak away the afternoons; when in Rome, do as the Romans do, when in Iceland, do as the Icelanders do... and splash for hours in your favorite hot pot (Bill and Paisley recommend Laugardalslaug)!

What do you do when you get off the plane at 6 a.m., and your rental apartment won’t be available for several hours, and neither you nor your kiddo have slept at all on the plane so you’re both so punchy from lack of sleep you can barely see straight? Why, you make sure your first stop is at the local “hot pot,” of course! Iceland is a geothermal wonderland, with an abundance of natural hot springs in which to soak away the afternoons; when in Rome, do as the Romans do, when in Iceland, splash for hours in your favorite hot pot (Bill and Paisley recommend Laugardalslaug)!

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church and is one of the most impressive landmarks in Reykjavík; it can be seen from most places in the city. In front of the church is a statue of Iceland-born Leif Eriksson, who is considered to be the first European to discover America (sorry, Chris Columbus!) around 1000 AD. The steeple at the top offers an impressive view (there's even an elevator, so you don't have to worry about your kid whining on the way up)!

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church and is one of the most impressive landmarks in Reykjavík; it can be seen from most places in the city. In front of the church is a statue of Iceland-born Leif Eriksson, who is considered to be the first European to discover America (sorry, Chris Columbus!) around 1000 AD. The steeple at the top offers an impressive view (there’s even an elevator, so you don’t have to worry about your kid whining on the way up)!

For the most part, our family prefers vacation rentals, like this adorable second floor apartment where they stayed in Reykjavík, to hotels... For WAY less than a boring old hotel room, Bill got this flat where he and Paisley had their own bedrooms (meaning, Bill didn't have to turn the lights out when Paisley did; he could stay up and read and enjoy all the benefits of jet lag on his own), plus a kitchen where he could stock up on cereal (and other kid-friendly necessities) and his beloved coffee beans (and other parent-friendly necessities), and a dining table - with a chandelier! - at which to enjoy it all.

For the most part, our family prefers vacation rentals, like this adorable second floor apartment where they stayed in Reykjavík, to hotels… For WAY less than a boring old hotel room, Bill got this flat where he and Paisley had their own bedrooms (meaning, Bill didn’t have to turn the lights out when Paisley did; he could stay up and read and enjoy all the benefits of jet lag on his own), plus a kitchen where he could stock up on cereal (and other kid-friendly necessities) and his beloved coffee beans (and other parent-friendly necessities), and a dining table – with a chandelier! – at which to enjoy it all.

Þingvellir, or Thingvellir, National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of three major tourist attractions right outside Reykjavík called the Golden Circle. The tectonic plates that form North America and Europe actually meet here (and if you're not like Bill - visiting as a single parent with a non-PADI certified child who you don't feel comfortable dropping off with a complete stranger - you can actually scuba dive BETWEEN the two continents, if you're so inclined!), and Iceland's parliament was founded in Þingvellir back in 930 AD.

Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of three major tourist attractions right outside Reykjavík called the Golden Circle. The tectonic plates that form North America and Europe actually meet here (and if you’re not like Bill – visiting as a single parent with a non-PADI certified child who you don’t feel comfortable dropping off with a complete stranger – you can actually scuba dive BETWEEN the two continents, if you’re so inclined!), and Iceland’s parliament was founded in Þingvellir back in 930 AD.

After a few days in Reykjavík, Bill and Paisley drove to the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur where they rented a cabin for a couple of nights to explore Vatnajökull National Park (Europe’s second largest national park, covering approximately 13% of Iceland). Paisley loved her sleeping loft: if you look closely, you'll see her HUGE grin!

After a few days in Reykjavík, Bill and Paisley drove to the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur where they rented a cabin for a couple of nights to explore Vatnajökull National Park (Europe’s second largest national park, covering approximately 13% of Iceland). Paisley loved her sleeping loft: if you look closely, you’ll see her HUGE grin!

Jökulsárlón,  the glacial river lagoon found on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park, has to be one of the most majestic sights in the world. This photo doesn't do justice to the scale of this glacier-fed lake: a tourist boat (which you can take if you visit), literally looks like bath toys when compared to the size of the icebergs. Jökulsárlón is a 3-7 hour trip from Reykjavík, depending on how often you and/or your kiddo(s) need to stop for potty breaks!

Jökulsárlón, the glacial river lagoon found on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park, is truly one of the most majestic sights in the world. This photo doesn’t do justice to the scale of this glacier-fed lake: a tourist boat (which you can take if you visit), literally looks like a bath toy when compared to the size of the icebergs. Jökulsárlón is a 3-7 hour trip from Reykjavík, depending on how often you and/or your kiddo(s) need to stop for potty breaks – or just to see all the pretty waterfalls along the way!

With all the waterfalls, you might think Iceland is a tropical paradise... Paradise? Yes. Tropical? Not so much! Bill and Paisley visited at the end of August; while the kids and I were happily splashing in the kiddie pool on the deck in the sun, Bill was wishing he'd brought their winter jackets instead of their light weight rain coats, and I don't think Paisley took her fleece hat off the entire time they were in Iceland. If you go, dress warm! (Here, Paisley and her hat are at Skógafoss, a beautiful waterfall carved out of a cliff which was once located on the coastline, but is now about 3 miles away from the sea!)

With all the waterfalls, you might think Iceland is a tropical paradise… Paradise? Yes. Tropical? Not so much! Bill and Paisley visited at the end of August; while the boys and I were happily splashing in the kiddie pool on the deck in the sun, Bill was wishing he’d brought their winter jackets instead of their lightweight rain coats, and I don’t think Paisley took her fleece hat off the entire time they were in Iceland. If you go, dress warm! (Here, Paisley and her hat are at Skógafoss, a beautiful waterfall carved out of a cliff which was once located on the coastline, but is now about 3 miles from the sea!)

The Blue Lagoon (and no, I'm not talking about the 1980 Brooke Shields/Christopher Atkins movie!) has to be one of the most amazing "hot tubs" in the world - an industrial accident that has become the country's most popular tourist destination. In 1976, while searching for a new, reliable, geothermal energy source, a local heating co-op drilled deep wells in a lava field for a new power plant, and let the factory excess runoff back into the ground. But, surprise!, the runoff had a super high silica content, which sealed up the rocks with a slippery white coating and created a natural reservoir of 104˚F water, just perfect for soaking in... even with your kiddos!

The Blue Lagoon (and no, I’m not talking about the 1980 Brooke Shields/Christopher Atkins movie!) has to be one of the most amazing “hot tubs” in the world – an industrial accident that has become the country’s most popular tourist destination. In 1976, while searching for a new, reliable, geothermal energy source, a local heating co-op drilled deep wells in a lava field for a new power plant, and let the factory excess run off back into the ground. But, surprise!, the runoff had a high silica content, which sealed up the rocks with a slippery white coating and created a natural reservoir of 104˚F water, just perfect for soaking in… even with your kiddos!

It was hard to leave, but a long soak in the Blue Lagoon before boarding the plane for the 8 hour flight home was a pretty great way to say good-bye. Both Bill and Paisley are planning on going back... I just hope they'll bring me and the boys with them!!

It was hard to leave Iceland, but a long soak in the Blue Lagoon before boarding the plane for the 7 1/2 hour flight home was a pretty great way to say good-bye. Both Bill and Paisley are planning on going back as soon as they can… I just hope they’ll bring me and the boys with them!!