In October, I took a break from the publishing world and traveled in Europe: Iceland, Copenhagen, and Barcelona – random but off the London, Paris, Rome circuit.
A lot is happening this month with the Rink book (see: FMichaelSheehan.com), and I will provide an update next week.
Here is a brief overview of our travels:
Iceland is a staggeringly beautiful country. Icelandic Air helps to bring over two million visitors per year to this small country by allowing a free stopover in Reykjavik for up to 30 days, something LeeAnn and I took advantage of with our Seattle to Copenhagen flight.
We rented a campervan for six nights and bravely took off into the wilds after our overnight flight. The van was excellent and helped us tour part of this wonderful but expensive nation at a reasonable cost – lodging, travel, and meals were incorporated into our well-used Renault van. We have our own Promaster campervan in Oregon, so the experience was comfortable and familiar. Van traveling in Iceland is not a unique concept, and there are literally thousands of rental vans across the Icelandic roads and their well-equipped campgrounds. Point of reference – the vast majority of the van-people were 40-50 years younger than us.
We like to travel in the off-season. We came to learn, after booking the trip, that October is the most rainy and windy month of the year in Iceland – wonderful! The weather was actually pretty good for our stay. There was only one day where we could not stand in the gale-force winds, reminding us of our trip to Patagonia years ago. The rest of the days, we could hike and soak in the beauty of this unique volcanic island where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. The whole experience can not be captured in words, nor with my cell phone camera, so let me leave you with one word – incredible.
It was my first time in Iceland, but I had been in Denmark and Spain years ago. I hope to capture my original European trip in my next book, a memoir:
Copenhagen is the most livable big city that I have ever been to. With its mass of bicycles, lovely canals, unique history, and an urban commune, it is easy to see why people want to live here. We loved walking for miles throughout the city, which is like a smaller and more accessible Amsterdam. We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in a quiet neighborhood next to the historic graveyard where Hans Christian Andersen is buried. Although we did not go to one of those greatest restaurants in the world that Copenhagen is known for, we did go to Europe’s second-highest-rated pizzerias three blocks from where we were staying. Yup – best pizza we ever had.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Denmark, and I loved being back. I worked on a farm in Hobro, three hours north of Copenhagen, for two months just as I turned 25 – lots of memories.
Barcelona’s breathtaking art and architecture is everywhere. At first, this large, bustling city can be overwhelming, but once you get used to the flow, its amazingness comes alive. The renowned architect Antoni Gaudi’s work can be seen all over town. His masterpiece, Sagrada Familia, is one of the most incredible buildings in the world, and they are still working on it, 141 years after construction began. One of the most interesting things we did was a Spanish Civil War walking tour, with tales of this dark and important slice of history. There is so much to learn.
Back in 1977, Bill Hamilton, Len Davidiuk, and I stayed with Fran Costello, who was playing professional basketball in Barcelona. He was a member of the Providence 1973 Final Four team that included All-Americans Marvin Barnes and Ernie DiGregorio. Fran was so generous and opened up his home to the vagabonds who had just left the beaches of Morocco. LeeAnn and I were able to meet up with Fran, who graciously spent the day showing us around Barcelona – lots of memories.
We ended our European journey north of Barcelona in the town of Cadaques, with its white buildings, red tile roofs, and stunning views of the Mediterranean. It was a great place to relax at the end of our European adventure.