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Sarah Gerrity

When we got off of the plane in Reykjavik, I had no idea we’d be spending so much time in Iceland’s hot springs. Before my first trip, friends and acquaintances had mentioned hitting up every swimming hole possible, but we just didn’t have the time in November — five hours of daylight isn’t a lot! So in March, after spending one morning at the Blue Lagoon, and another evening at Fludir, we decided we’d be in hot springs every damn day. And for the next day, I had my heart set on Seljavallalaug.

Note: yes, I can pronounce that word. It took lots of practice, but I’m now confident that I’ll make a great Scandinavian some day.

Anyhow, Seljavallalaug is one of Iceland’s oldest swimming pools — built in 1923 to teach locals how to swim — and it’s kept up entirely by local volunteers. So if and when you visit, I cannot emphasize your duty to leave no trace. Places like these will only last as long as we can take care of them.5 I can say with confidence that the time we had at Seljavallalaug was by far my favorite part of our trip.

Seljavallalaug, Iceland // Photo by Sarah Gerrity

We had spent most of they day at site after site — starting with Seljalandsfoss and Gjulfrafoss, where everyone was struck by their first moments of “ho-ly shit, what planet am I on” awe. The landscape transformed with almost every curve of the road, and we met other travelers, ranging from the very handsome, Czech law student who helped us not get lost on the road to the plane wreckage, to the recent Santa Barbara grad, on his fifth day of a year-long solo travel adventure. Seljavallalaug felt like the right way to end an incredible day.

There were a few minutes that we had to ourselves in the pool, right before the latter traveler from Santa Barbara stumbled upon us. We mostly savored every one of those moments, because there is nothing more beautiful than being in a warm pool, surrounded by mountains, enveloped by clouds and lightly falling snow — with the only soundtrack being falling snow and the slight trickle of water from the hot spring to the pool.

Seljavallalaug, Iceland // Photo by Sarah Gerrity

Several times throughout that trip, we all talked about the importance of soaking up every single moment — and as often as we could remember to, we put our phones away and I kept my camera at my side, and we would soak up every sound, every breeze, and every scent. With every blink, every breath, I knew it would be more and more painful to leave.

Seljavallalaug, Iceland // Photo by Sarah Gerrity

We hung around the pool waiting for an older couple to leave, and when we finally had the pool to ourselves, we stripped down and got in, because yolo (or, “yoiio,” which we coined for “you’re only in Iceland once,” which obviously did not apply to me). And shortly after, the Santa Barbara grad I mentioned before showed up, and timidly joined us. He was so nervous to have stumbled upon four skinny dippin’ ladies that his hand trembled when we passed him our flask of bourbon. And every time we forced him to be our photographer. But by the time we were ready to walk back to the car, he tagged along for the walk, and we wished him on his merry way.

Yoiio.

Finding Seljavallalaug

From the Ring Road, turn inland on Raufarfellsvegur road. After about 10 minutes, it’ll get pretty rough, but drive until you can drive no further, and park your car at the end of the road. There’s a little ridge on the left side of the valley that you can walk along. Our directions were “walk towards the valley for about 15 minutes,” which sounded crazy, but turned out to be 100 percent accurate. Once you cross a little stream, and turn around a bend, you’ll see the pool.

There are changing rooms and hooks where you can hang your clothes up to stay dry, and the pool is lukewarm, except for one corner, where the hot water trickles in. Try to avoid the hot spot, because if you’re there for too long, it’ll make the rest of the pool too cold to swim in!

Also, fun fact: the local volunteers do drain the pool out for cleaning once a year or so. When I visited in November, one of my hosts told me that they had drained it in September or October, and it took a month to refill and warm up again. So ask around when you’re visiting!

If you have a free afternoon in Iceland and are in the mood for a workout, Hveragerði is a great option for your day. From Reykjavik, it’s about a 40-minute drive – and you’ll be hiking for 60 to 90 minutes. I went in March, when the mountains were white as they could be, and it took us a solid 90 minutes. Beware, people who hate hiking. But I promise, the hot river is worth it.

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Finding Reykjadalur

To get there, take Highway 1 towards Vik for about 40 minutes – when you descend the huge pass, you’ll see steam coming out of the ground, surrounding a small town at the foot of the mountains. That’s Hveragerði. Then, you basically take the main road in town to the very end – and the trailhead will be there.

You’ll likely see hikers high above the trailhead – that will be you soon! Just follow the trail and the red trail markers for 3 km, until you pass through an area where there are a few bubbling geysers and a ton of steam rising from the ground. When you’ve arrived, you’ll find some boardwalks and probably a handful of other tourists and locals enjoying a dip in the pools.

Start at the lowest pool, as they get hotter the farther upstream you go!

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Sorry not sorry for the booty shot!

Sorry not sorry for the booty shot!

In November, I aggressively road tripped across the south of Iceland over five short days. And while it was one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever taken, it was incredibly difficult to see everything we wanted to see when we were constantly chasing daylight and spending 75% of our time driving. So when I returned a few weeks ago in March, I had planned our itinerary a little differently for our quick little journey.

The main difference was that in November, I hopped from Airbnb to Airbnb – but in March, we stayed in one apartment in Reykjavik the entire time. I highly recommend staying in a different city each day for a longer trip, especially if you are traversing the whole Ring Road. But if you’re limited to a few days, I’d say staying in Reykjavik is the way to go.

Another thing you should keep in mind with this itinerary is that I was fairly confident that my travel buddies would be up and at ‘em every morning, and easy to mobilize out the door. And if your friends like to sleep in and take their time, go to Iceland when there’s a little more daylight to spare 🙂

Here’s how I planned out our March adventure, and we generally lingered in our apartment until 11 am or so – plenty of balance between rest and adventure.

Day 1: Arrive, Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik

Blue Lagoon, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2015

If you’re flying Wow Airlines from Baltimore, you’re probably going to be landing in Reykjavik just after 5 am. Not gonna lie – it’s a rough start to a trip. But if you pack some Zzquil and stock up on coffee when you land, you’ll breeze through. Take your time in the Keflavik airport (Joe and the Juice has great music, comfy seating, and handsome baristas that will gladly supply you with multiple lattes and ginger juice shots).

Grab your rental car around 6:30 or 7 am, and head over to Midlina, nearby the Blue Lagoon. It’s literally a bridge between the European and North American tectonic plates, so you can pull together a great Snapchat story of you running between the continents.

By the time you’re relaxed and all pruney from the Blue Lagoon, you’ll have a 40 minute drive back to Reykjavik, where you’ll want to eat and nap. If you wake up and it’s a clear night, check the aurora forecasts and take advantage of your jet lag by hunting for the northern lights.

Pro tip: book your Blue Lagoon tickets in advance, because they do sell out, especially on the weekends.

Day 2: Golden Circle Tour

Secret Lagoon at Fludir, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

Not gonna lie – I felt pretty meh about the Golden Circle. The views were cool, but having driven across the southern coast before, the attractions on the Golden Circle weren’t super exciting. THAT BEING SAID – we ended our tour at a little hot spring in Fluðir called the Secret Lagoon. It’s eerily quiet considering it’s an organized, pay-to-enter structure, but it made the Blue Lagoon feel like Disneyland on a crazy day. I would do the Golden Circle tour again just to spend a couple more hours in Fluðir.

Day 3: South of Iceland to Vik

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity, 2016

This will be one of the most amazing drives of your life. I promise.

One of the highlights of taking three girls who had never been to Iceland before was watching their reactions to seeing the southern coast en route to Vik – because every time the road turns, the landscape completely transforms from snowy wasteland to endless fields of furry ponies to majestic cliffs and waterfalls to jagged mountains that soar in the distance.

Reynisfjara, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity, 2016

Things you should absolutely stop for on the road to Vik (this order worked out really well for us) – I’ll write up more details about these spots in a later post.

  • Icelandic horses
  • Seljalandsfoss + Gjulfrafoss + Skogafoss
  • Basalt columns from Reynisfjara beach
  • View of Vik and its cliffs from the town church
  • DC-3 plane wreck, which is now said to be closed off because travelers were tearing up the “road” (we never really found a road – markers were knocked over and we basically just tried to drive in tracks)
  • Seljavallalaug – a warm swimming pool built into a cliff

Day 4: Hike to the Hot River at Hveragerdi

Hveragerdi, Iceland, Sarah Gerrity 2016

On our last full day, we had trouble deciding what to do. But after some research and being mostly fed up with spending hours in a car, I remembered seeing photos of a hot river that was only about a 40-minute drive from Reykjavik. The hike was described as a rigorous 45 to 60 minutes, but honestly, we’re all pretty damn fit and it took us 90 minutes – perhaps you should add time for climbing through mountains covered in snow.

You’re pretty much ascending the entire way, but once you’re there, it’s quite the sight to be seen – a hot spring river with a wooden boardwalk and small pools built from stones. Make sure you pack sandwiches, bourbon, and water. The hike in is no joke, but at least you get to soak in the incredible views in a hot river. There’s nothing like it. Read more about the hike at Hveragerdi here.

Day 5: Coffee in Reykjavik, Depart

Again, if you’re flying Wow Air to Baltimore, they have limited flights, so you’ll likely be leaving in the afternoon. Pack your bags, explore the design shops and cafes in downtown Reykjavik, and cry as you head to the airport. I’m pretty sure you’ll spend that 40 minute drive thinking about when you can plan your next trip back.

Packing for a winter trip to Iceland

Seeing as I just booked another five-day trip to Iceland, I thought it might be appropriate to write up a winter essentials list for visiting Iceland. To be quite honest, I was able to fit everything I needed, plus camera equipment, in the Lo & Sons Catalina bag, which was the perfect way to road trip from guest house to guest house along Iceland’s southern coast.

I’m heading back in March, and my packing list will be relatively the same, but I’ll probably bring a little bit less of everything. I’ve found that I generally wear the same outfits over and over again anyway!

Warm leggings — on most days, one pair of UnderArmour Cold Gear tights got me through the day. But when I spent more than 20 minutes in the snow photographing the auroras, I layered 2 pairs of leggings with some opaque every day tights. But, I will say, this pair of leggings is by far my favorite workout and everyday tight.

Layers, all of the layers — Lululemon’s long sleeve tech shirts and form fitted zip-up were a perfect uniform for comfort both outside and within the toasty restaurants and coffee shops. This Land’s End version looks perfect *and* affordable.

A hat that covers your earsthis is what kept my ears nice and toasty.

Legit boots — probably a good investment if you’re the kind of person who wants to go to Iceland in winter. Just sayin’, you’re adventurous, and you’ll probably want to go backpacking or exploring some other rugged terrain… and these boots gave me the warmth, protection, and traction I needed to frolic on some snow covered mountains. These Columbia ones did the trick. Grab a few pairs of these smart wool socks, too — pull em up high over your leggings, it’s super sporty and will keep your tootsies pretty warm.

Gloves — As a photographer, I prefer mittens that convert to fingerless gloves, so naturally, those fair isle knit Gap mittens called out my name. These mint tech gloves from Target, though… super cute!

Snow jacket — I ordered the North Face’s Snow Thermoball Triclimate as my attempt to prioritize warmth over fashion this year. It’s three jackets in one, and pretty damn lightweight. The inner layer is my go-to jacket in DC, and put together, the shell + insulated layer kept the snow, wind, and rain away from my layers in Iceland. If you’re looking for a comparable option without the typical North Face price, another version is half off here. The Columbia Bugaboo does essentially the same thing for $175, and the Marmot Alpine Component comes in some great colors.

Bikini — Iceland is covered in hot springs, and while we only made it to the Blue Lagoon, you better bet I’m stopping at every “laug” along the road when I go back in March. For traveling abroad, I swear by the super cheeky Stone Fox Swim Tucker bottom, and the surprisingly supportive triangle tops from Victoria’s Secret. Pick a couple of bright colors, or go with the icy blue lagoon blue to blend right in, like I did 🙂

If you’re reading this, you probably know that I’m absolutely obsessed with Scandinavian culture and the Arctic scenery… so it should be no surprise that I’m smitten with Iceland.

Here’s a quick collection of photos from the area around Reykjavík, including a color-coded bookcase at a half tourist, half local cafe that doubles as a laundromat (also known as the Laundromat Cafe). If you’re not following along on Instagram, please do!

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I know everyone says the Blue Lagoon is the Disneyland of Iceland (overpriced and unnatural) but it was just so relaxing — and the perfect way to start off a desperately needed vacation. Also, why not watch the sun rise at 11:00 am while drinking a beer in a giant thermal hot tub?

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A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to check out the newly reopened Renwick Gallery here in DC. I visited the museum once, years ago, when it was called the American Craft Museum, but it’s been so long and the exhibit in there will hold fast to my memory for pretty much, ever.

Thanks to this dude, I got to spend a leisurely lunch with several other IGDCers, exploring the Wonder exhibit, which, you can tell by these photos, is mesmerizing to say the least.

The photos don’t do it justice. Go, and take lots of photos. There are signs throughout the building that encourage it 🙂

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#EmptyRenwick, photo by Sarah Gerrity (@gurrity) #EmptyRenwick, photo by Sarah Gerrity (@gurrity)

#EmptyRenwick, photo by Sarah Gerrity (@gurrity)

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Last summer, I got roped into the organizing crew for Dîner en Blanc, an amazing event that happens on different nights all over the world, where thousands of attendees meet at an undisclosed location for a flash mob, picnic dinner.

This year, the location was so perfect — the Carnegie Library, located right smack in the middle of DC. And, since my assigned meeting point was in Chinatown, the 350 people headed to the location with me didn’t even have to get on the metro. Talk about convenient!

Here are some shots from the night.

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Just over six months ago, I started working for Cava. Man, how that time flies. Man, how cool is it that I get to create stuff like this, all day, every day? And it feels like things are just getting started. California, we’re comin’ for ya.

Maketto

It had been a while since I had last been to H Street.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love H Street. Hell, I lived there for a couple of years, and then some. My time on H Street preceded what H Street looks like today. Remember Toyland? Before The Big Board? That and New Citi Pizza were our jam.

Needless to say, every time I head back there, it feels like there are a billion new hot spots, and always feels a little bit like home. I made a chalkboard wall in the kitchen of the house we lived in — it better damn still be there, because there’s some great typography with our house address on it. 823 4th Street, I’m looking at you.

Anyway, when I got the chance to hit up the A Creative DC irl meetup at Maketto, I jumped on it. I had been dying to see this space for so long, and it did not disappoint.

It had been an aggressive Friday — Cava hosted breakfast at Creative Mornings DC, and then we searched/explored the Toki exhibit in an abandoned building, and after Maketto, I had a photo shoot and several other projects planned. But we made it through.

And I ordered the braised beef sesame pancakes, which I expected to be a sort of sandwich, but in all actuality fit right in with the theme of my day: aggressive AF. Images below.

It was delicious. And, as you can see from the photos, the space is stunning. If Maketto existed back in 2013, I might not have ever moved.

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I had been wanting to get into some fashion-oriented photography for the past couple of years, so when I started working at Cava, I dropped a few hints at Liz to collaborate on some outfit posts.

Luckily, one of my favorite streets in DC happens to be the one I live and work on, and a quick afternoon stroll made for the perfect mini photo shoot. Check out Liz’s kicks — the brand uses sales and production to help entrepreneurs develop their businesses, all while creating a product that’s functional and beautiful too. You can see + shop Liz’s carefree but perfectly styled attention to detail here, and follow her on Instagram here.

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