I purchased my second Oak & Oscar to mark my wife and I’s ten year anniversary. For this momentous occasion we chose to celebrate by going on a once in a lifetime, no expense spared vacation to Iceland.
The idea came to me a few years ago sitting in a good friend's living room enjoying morning coffee. You see, my friend and his wife had visited Iceland a year prior and created a beautiful coffee table book with photos from their trip. As I sat sipping coffee, the book caught my eye. I was blown away—every single page was filled with rich imagery. My buddy goes on to tell me how much he and his wife enjoyed not only the scenery of Iceland but also the food and culture. Up to this point, my wife and I had been in discussions of where we wanted to go to celebrate but nothing was set in stone. After showing her the stunning landscape and waterfall photography, we quickly decided that Iceland would be the perfect destination for us.
Leading up to the trip, we were both super nervous. This was my first time traveling internationally and of course I'm doing it during a global health crisis. Add to that, both my wife and I are planners at heart—like, plan everything down to the last little detail type of people. We couldn't plan all the activities for this trip beforehand due to COVID precautions and had to wing it. I think that may have been the most stressful part of the trip!
We planned everything we could, said our goodbyes to friends and family and off we went. I remember sitting in my seat on the Boeing 747, taxing to the runway on our way to Reykjavik, and looking down at my watch—I immediately felt a wave of relaxation come over me. Watching the second hand slowly but surely ticking, it was calming. Here we go!
Fast forward to landing and I got to do what every respectable watch lover that owns a GMT function watch gets to do: I was finally able to set home and local timezones! But this time was different. This time, I was finally able to not just practice how, but was actually overseas, about to explore a new country! We picked up the rental car and drove to our first hotel. I stepped out of the vehicle and was taken back by how fresh everything smelled. There is something special about being in an area so remote that all you smell is nature. Add to that the sounds of sea gulls by the water and it was truly serene.
After getting checked into the hotel, Susanne and I went out to explore! The few days we stayed in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland and the most “city” Iceland gets. There was so much to see and do! One true gem of Iceland is their street art; the graffiti scene is bonkers, covering easily 40% of the buildings and alleyways of the city. There is also lots of good espresso shops. I must have drank three double shots to combat jet lag. We did a lot of walking, going to see Rainbow Street, and the Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church. We also made time to squeeze in an ATV tour along the way. I was thankful to have my Oak & Oscar Humboldt GMT with me, with its superior shock resistance.
From here, we traveled to Vik, stopping to see the Skogafoss Waterfall, crashed DC3 plane, and Black Sand Beach. All were amazing in their own respects. The waterfall was spectacular—the history, size and sheer amount of water flow running off the mountain was breathtaking. The crashed DC3 was wild. Legend has it that a pilot back in the 1960's ran out of gas mid-flight and had to crash land in Iceland. The plane stayed where it crashed and has been a tourist attraction since. Black Sand Beach was something I’d been looking forward to since we talked about Iceland. As a hobbyist photographer, I knew the potential for memorable pictures would be huge, and boy it didn’t disappoint. The contrast between the black pebbles and white dial of the Humboldt GMT was a watch photographer's dream! It truly made for some awesome photos. But it wasn’t just about the imagery; the soothing sounds of water slapping against rocks rhythmically was extremely soothing.
Leaving Vik, we headed towards Hofn. Along the way, we did a glacier tour which was remarkable. The ability to hike on something so unique while learning about the surrounding history was one of the highlights of the trip. And don’t get me started on the glacier water, so cold and refreshing!
From here we traveled to Hofn, a fishing village in the Southeast region. Unfortunately we encountered rain so we didn’t get to do much exploring. But, for dinner I was able to try a new dish. Being a foodie, I appreciate eating my way through new areas as well. Taboo for some, but I had my first reindeer burger that night, and I must say it was delicious.
Day 6, we started one of our longest travel days. We drove the distance of the entire island—two days of exploring the country by car eight hours at a time. But, we made the best of it taking in the coastline views, seeing a hot spring and the Godofos waterfall en route to Varmahlid. Certainly a lot of travel, but absolutely worth it!
The Airbnb we stayed in in Grundarfjordur was super rad. The cottage sat at the base of a mountain near the bay. For all of you Game of Thrones nerds reading this, the mountain was featured in season 6 when Bran meets the Night Knight and his army. We were fortunate to talk with the owner who gave Susanne and I a map and circled the must see’s for the next portion of our trip.
Night of Day 6 into Day 7 was magical as we woke up to snow, which for this southern boy is always a treat! The downside, however, was that visibility is near zero which made traveling in a foreign country with little to no cell service made that much more stressful! Thankfully, nothing happened and we were able to stop along the way to grab some truly gorgeous photos.
Day 8, we left Grundarfjordur and headed towards Borgarnes. This was one of my favorite travel days. Going off tips from the prior Airbnb host, we stopped on our way at a beach that the locals called “The Golden Beach.” Most of the beaches in Iceland have black sand/rocks but the golden beach has a unique mixture of a special yellowish sand and black sand, giving the appearance of a glittery golden beach. Just another reminder that Iceland is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.
We also hiked into and saw an inactive volcano, which was rad. The weather on Day 8 was perfect, so it gave me an opportunity to bring out my drone, the DJI Mavic. I was on the fence with bringing my drone prior to travel as I was worried I wouldn’t use it, but Chase convinced me otherwise. He gave me a pro-tip; better to have it and not use than want to use and not have it. And boy was I glad I listened to him. I was able to capture some truly stunning shots of the countryside, mountains, and ocean.
Our last day in Iceland ended with a bang. Susanne and I went to the Golden Circle to see the tectonic plates, got to see an active geyser, and then traveled back to Reykjavik. Remember the friends in the beginning that turned us on to Iceland? Well, they’d been talking about wanting to go back ever since that first trip. Knowing we were going, they took advantage and booked a long weekend for themselves that overlapped with our anniversary trip. We met up with them to explore the streets and take in more of the Icelandic culture. Before dinner, my buddy and I got together for a drink. Being both watch nerds, we both talked about how cool it was to both have our Oak & Oscar GMT’s with us at the same time in another country traveling together. We joined the wives after drinks for a remarkable tapas dinner. If in Iceland, you must must must try a local favorite restaurant, Rok.
We left our hotel and headed towards the airport for a long day of flying. This gave me plenty of time to think back on the trip. From four wheeling on the coast line, to hiking a glacier, to exploring new sights with my wife, my Oak & Oscar GMT was with me the entire way. Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything about the trip, or the watch I chose to accompany me along my journey. Hopefully one day we'll make our own coffee table book of photographs from Iceland!