A Year in Review: Best of 2019

2019 had it’s ups and downs for myself and my family. It certainly wasn’t the perfect year, but a few bucket list trips and memorable moments helped to outweigh the bad. While reflecting on the past year I came up with a few (well, maybe more than a few) moments that trumped all of the rest. My top-of-the-bucket-list trip to Iceland certainly added some unforgettable memories to that list.

My Best of 2019 list is comprised of the 13 best memories from this year, compiled chronologically and not from “best to the rest.”

1.) Getting a significant raise and more vacation time at work:

My 2019 started out with an increase in my salary and two more weeks vacation time than I was currently receiving. I don’t want to go into too many details on this one, but  I will mention that the increase in pay & vacation time certainly helped to make a lot of the other items on this list happen.

2.) Being the first person in our tour group to jump off of a cliff into the ocean at Malmok Beach in Aruba:58756899_10215004958531190_8532994763152949248_n

When I’m on vacation, the word “fear” doesn’t seem to exist in my vocabulary. Only a few people in my life have had the chance to see me at my most care-free and fun and those individuals will tell you how different I am in these rare moments. 2018 was the first year I traveled to Aruba and during one of our jeep tours we stopped at a hidden cenote near the Bushiribana Gold Mill ruins. During this tour I was the first one to climb down the very steep ladder to get to the top of the cenote but was beat out by a young kid who managed to jump in before me. This time around, when we arrived at the beautiful turquoise coast of Malmok Beach, I watched as the tour guide explained to some hesitant tour group members that the water was certainly deep enough to jump in from here. In their hesitation I took it upon myself to run past them and jump into the water below, not even bothering to stand on the edge and look down over the cliffs edge. My fellow tour group members reactions were priceless and I was once again in that rare moment where my giddiness projected a permanent smile onto my face.

3.) Traveling to my top-of-the-bucket-list location. Iceland:

Many, many years ago I saw a picture of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland in a travel magazine and was completely blown away by its beauty. At that time Iceland was a mystery to most and certainly wasn’t a top tourist destination by any standard. That picture stuck with me though and I silently told myself that I’d never be able to see it for myself because 1.) It’s probably way to difficult to travel to a place like Iceland since it’s so remote (wrong). and 2.) $$$$$$$$$ (well, sort of). Jump to a few years ago and I started planning my $$$$$$$$$ trip to Iceland, faced with a $3,000+ price tag for a week for one person. In 2018 I told myself to not look at the price tag and just do it, and so I did. Surprisingly the overall cost for the trip was a lot better than what I had quoted years before. I allocated only three days in the land of fire and ice and filled my itinerary with plenty of tours and, of course, a stop at the Blue Lagoon. Iceland was better than I ever expected, which came as a shock because I am a notorious researcher and planner.

4.) The plane rides to and from Iceland:

Boarding the plane to Iceland I was shocked to see that we would be traveling in rows that sat 9 across with two aisle splitting up the seats. The plane fit over 400 passengers and only 150 or so would be making this trip. “Everyone please choose your own row and enjoy the flight” was the unofficial announcement made by the flight attendants. I was glad to have gotten a row with a window until everyone decided to lower their shades to block out the incoming midnight sun we would be flying towards. After an hour or two of sleep I woke up to a plane full of sleeping tourists. In the pitch black cabin I was hesitant to open my shade but was so glad I did: Greenland sat outside of my window with the bright midnight sun shining over it. Seeing this incredible icy landscape from the air in mid July was incredible. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning with no one to share the excitement with.65719135_10215457299399429_3972629596708274176_n_10215457299359428

The plane ride back from Iceland turned out to be another great experience, this time because of the people I sat next to. It turns out the guy sitting next to me for the journey back to Toronto had also been on my same flight coming to Iceland. Unfortunately on the plane ride to Iceland he slept through our time above Greenland… The six hour flight was quick this time because of the constant conversation. The other gentleman in our row (who looked like a Russian spy) didn’t seem to particularly enjoy us talking because we did receive a few glares but this only made the situation funnier. I wish every flight I had was as fun as this one!

5.) Eating my way around Reykjavik:

Nobody ever told me that Reykjavik was a foodies paradise! Seriously, the food I had while in Iceland was fan-tas-tic. And, as mentioned in previous blog posts, I didn’t think the food was all that expensive which is something I was told to expect. So very quickly I’ll give you my run down on the best food in Reykjavik: 1.) Fish & chips with jalapeno tartar from Reykjavik Fish & Chips Co. This was the freshest, melt-in-your-mouth fish I’ve ever had! 2.) Icelandic hot dog with “the works.” Don’t worry about what they put on it, just eat it- it’s delicious. 3.) Hamburger with bacon jam (I can’t remember where I got this but it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had!) 4.) Waffle on a stick from the waffle food cart. 5.) Russet potatoes with spicy mayo and chorizo from Rok. Everything was delicious and I’d go back to Reykjavik just from the food.

6.) Quickly climbing my way to the top of Skogafoss:

Sorry, but I told you that a lot of my “best of 2019” happened in Iceland. Skogafoss was the waterfall I was most looking forward to seeing while in Iceland but even with my extensive research into this stop along the Southern Coast I had no idea you could hike to the top of the waterfall via 500 stairs built into the cliff side.

Given only 40 minutes at this stop, I booked it to the top, probably setting a record for how quickly I made the trek. At the top of the waterfall my legs were shaking from my ascent but I made it! This was a very proud moment for me since I’m probably the least likely candidate to scale 500 steps in under 5 minutes. FYI, the view from the top was totally worth it and a very nice grade school kid took my photo while at the top.

7.) Hiking to the edge of a glacier-topped volcano:

Boy, did I get a look from my parents after the New Zealand volcano erupted and they were reminded that I had ventured to the base of a very active due-to-erupt-any-day-now volcano in Iceland. Moving on… This quick hike to a glacier in Iceland was not on the tour itinerary which made it one of my favorite parts of the trip (I love these kind of surprises!). The blue sky and sheet of ice made for a breath-taking sight, one that I’ll never forget. One of my fellow tour group members so graciously snapped my photo while at the glacier and it turned out to be THE perfect picture. Unfortunately sitting next to a glacier when it’s 60 degrees outside makes for a global warming nightmare and I was witness to the loud cracking and popping of the melting ice. Who knows, I may one day only be able to tell stories and share photos of my time here because of vicious climate change and our leaders refusal to even acknowledge its existence.

8.) Standing in Seljalandsfoss: 

And so comes the “best of the best of 2019” right here. It is common knowledge to the aspiring Icelandic tourist that Seljalandsfoss has a walking trail that wraps 360 degrees around the waterfall with a steep, but hikable, cave behind it.

What I didn’t know was that there is also a trail that leads from the back of the waterfall down into the pool where the waterfall well, “falls.” I had my waterproof hiking boots and rain jacket with me so I thought, “Why not?” and ventured off the beaten path into the heart of the waterfall. If you thought standing behind a waterfall was cool then you should definitely stand directly beneath one! This was one of the best moments of my life! I love waterfalls that you can get up close and personal with, and I don’t think there’s any way to get closer to nature than standing here in Seljalandsfoss.

9.) Becoming a Disney World Annual Passholder:69651879_10215903171545954_1260487010620014592_n

Now we’re jumping a few months ahead to our September Disney trip where we literally got off the plane, took Magical Express to our resort, the Contemporary, walked over to Magic Kingdom, and upgraded our tickets to annual passes. Yay! It only made sense to get annual passes instead of paying $500 more per person to get only an 11 day pass but still, it’s nice to be able to say “I’M A DISNEY WORLD PASSHOLDER!” So Disney Vacation Club Member, Annual Passholder… only one thing left: Club 33 Member! 😉

10.) Getting marched into Galaxy’s Edge by storm troopers:

Sticking with our Disney trip, our journey to a galaxy far, far away was something that we had waited years for. Before the opening date of Galaxy’s Edge was announced we booked a trip for September and it just so happened to be during the first week that Galaxy’s Edge would be open.

So we woke up at 3:30 AM during our first day of the trip, rode the bus to Hollywood Studios, and waited until they opened the park at 5:30 AM. At 6:00 AM storm troopers appeared and marched us into the land with the Imperial March playing throughout the park. Once we got to Batuu, residents of the planet welcomed us with “Bright Suns” and led us to the stunning life size Millennium Falcon. It was an experience I’ll never forget and something that not too many guests can say they had the chance to see since this was a relatively short stunt that Disney pulled for the first few weeks of the lands opening. Thanks, Disney!

11.) Piloting the Millennium Falcon and jumping to light speed on Smuggler’s Run:

What’s the one thing better than flying in the Millennium Falcon? Piloting the ship, of course! Back when this ride was first announced I quickly called “dibs” on the pilot position, knowing if I didn’t my brother would try to steal the honor from me. Jump to the moment we enter the line for the ride and the anticipation of getting the coveted position may have caught up to me… While in line a little boy in front of us said to his mom, “Can I be the pilot?” Well I just wasn’t having that. “I’m the pilot, kid” was my quick response with a blank “so not kidding” expression. There, that put him in his place. Once at the front of the line where positions were given out I received… PILOT! Just as a heads up, this is the position you want if you get a choice. Sitting in the front, controlling the movements of the Falcon and yes, jumping to light speed, was the coolest experience for an avid Star Wars fan. I can’t wait to go back and do it all over again.

12.) Toasting to friendship at the Top of the Gate:

I love DC. I never, ever thought I could love this city but I do and my long time friend who has lived there her whole life sold me on DC when she took me to the Top of the Gate in October. Taking the elevator to the top of the Watergate Hotel and emerging onto a rooftop turned bar that overlooks Downtown DC, Virginia, and Georgetown was an “Oh-my-gosh I feel like a celebrity” moment. As expected with a place this swanky, the drinks were expensive but the VIP treatment we received while here made it all worth it.

13.) Seeing The Rise of Skywalker for the first (and second) time:

It’s no secret that I LOVE Star Wars. Two years ago when The Last Jedi came out I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it with the long wait for Episode IX, but the Solo movie, Galaxy’s Edge, and The Mandalorian certainly helped with the wait. I had an idea in mind for what I thought was going to happen in IX and I was very pleasantly surprised when my ending came true. I’m not going to give a full review of the movie but I am going to post some SPOILERS, so this is your warning.80396832_10216728148729868_5924898782012506112_n

The movie was fun from the start and, much like Rogue One and not at all like The Last Jedi, I thought every scene was important and intriguing. I loved the ever-growing force connection between Rey and Ren and silently cheered for his redemption and perhaps a bit of romance between the two while I watched the movie. Rey’s parentage was never a big concern of mine, but I did like the revelation of her lineage. One of my favorite parts of the whole trilogy was Rey’s character development and I loved the way they captured her struggle with herself in this movie. Lastly, Ben… The back and forth transfer of force life between our two protagonists was so good and, as I expected, the last scene between Ben and Rey in this movie ended with his sacrifice and me crying my eyes out. I just wish that in the very last scene of the movie Ben’s force ghost was next to Luke & Leia’s. I like to think that Rey is still able to see and talk with Ben…thumbnail






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