Friday, September 30, 2016

Stop #2, Part 1

[Rule #1: this is going to be long, and you're not going to care. Rule #2: I'm not going to proofread, and you're not going to care. There are better ways to spend my time abroad than making sure I used the right form of "your" ;-)]

The next leg of our tour, I have dubbed as follows:

A New Mexican Meets an Umbrella

Why? Because we're in Dublin, Ireland, and it's been raining.

But let's start from the beginning, shall we?

Back in Keflavik, our hosts were awesome. I mean, freaking awesome. I'd highly recommend any of you to stay with them, because they're great. We stayed up far later than we should've done, just by talking to them. They were going to go out and take pictures of Aurora Borealis, and we REALLY wanted to go with them, but our flight out in the morning was far earlier than we liked to admit. But our hosts were nice enough to call ahead and get a taxi for us, since we had no idea how to go about doing that. Before Iceland, I'd never taken a taxi in my life. I've now taken two. I digress.

The Keflavik airport suggested being two and half hours early for our flight, so like the newbies we are, we listened to it. Don't do that. Seriously, don't do it. Especially if your flight leaves at 6:20 in the morning. Yeah. We left our host's house at 3:50 in the morning, and it sucked. We did not sleep that night. My best estimation is that I slept for two hours, but I reall don't know. Every time I closed my eyes I found them snapping back open, just in case I might miss my alarm. The moral of that story is: don't listen to the airline's website. Also, Keflavik Airport didn't open our section of the terminal until an hour before our flight was supposed to take off, so we ended up sitting around for an inordinate amount of time. On the bright side, it gave us plenty of time to research our destination and figure out how we were going to get from Dublin Airport into the city itself.

If I had to give a review of Wow Air, it would be that they really need to learn to better communicate with the people taking their flights. Our flight out of Keflavik was delayed, though they told none of us anything about it. Apparently they had some unscheduled maintenance that needed to be done on the plane. None of us would've complained about that. Seriously. Please make sure my plane is in working order before I get on it. Please. Anyway, they didn't tell us anything of what was going on, and we all stood in line for a very long time waiting to get on the plane. I was so exhausted that I actually have no idea what time we got on the plane. All I really know is that I had a hard time sleeping there, too. *sigh*

I didn't sleep on the plane, try as I might. My head kept bobbing. Not cool, head. Not cool. But the flight was really very decent. Wow is annoying in that they make you pay for every little extra thing. There are bag fees, seat fees, and fees for things I didn't even think there could be fees for, and they push products during the flight, but the flight itself was actually pretty great. Especially for the price, even with the extra fees, I'd recommend it. Just be sure to pay ahead for your bags, to cut down on some costs.

After a fitful hour of head bobbing, we landed in Dublin. Mum's first phrase upon our arrival? "Oh look! Cows!"

To which I chuckled. The cows didn't seem to mind being so close to the airport.

Getting through customs was a breeze. I think they looked at the two of us and thought we were just two more American tourists here for the weekend. Which was what we were. So they were right. We easily retrieved our bags, made a quick pit stop, and headed outside. Since we'd handily figured out what bus we wanted to get on ahead of time, we had an approximation of where we were going. So we bought two way tickets at a kiosk and boarded a bus into the city.

I should mention that this time we were well aware that we would have a jaunt to our host's house. We knew it. So we had time to prepare. We haven't gotten lost yet, for which I'm quite pleased! Having a river in the middle of the city helps keep things nice and organized. Find the Liffey, and you'll easily figure out where you are.

I've digressed again, haven't I?

We had a twenty minute walk from the bus stop to our host's house. That meant another twenty minutes pushing a bag and lugging a purse and a carry-on. It wasn't half bad though, aside from the surprisingly chilly wind that kept trying to push us the other way. I swear, my left hand was not strong enough to push a suitcase for very long. (Another side note: if you have a walk like this, and your suitcase is on wheels, you should push it on all four wheels. Pulling it expends a lot more energy and tires you out faster, while pushing it is as easily as pushing a cart around the store).

Twenty long minutes later, we reached the apartment. Only our host wasn't home. The janitor let us into the building and the cleaning lady let us into the apartment, only to tell us that our host was in the hospital. Neither of us had any idea what to do. Seriously. What do you do if you're staying at someone's house, someone who you've never met, and they're in the hospital? Plus, we had no idea why he was in the hospital. There wasn't much we could do, but we hadn't eaten yet, so we quickly cooled off (a twenty minute walk is enough to turn an icy breeze into a sauna) and went out for lunch (it was two in the afternoon, but we realized that we hadn't yet eaten or drank anything all day long). I messaged our host on the Airbnb app and let him know we'd gone out and taken the key from the cleaning lady, noting that we really had no idea how to get back in the building, since it was the janitor who'd let us in in the first place.

We walked down the stairs, and as the door closed behind us and we looked out the window, we realized it was raining. And we'd left our umbrellas on the bed upstairs. The bed that we didn't know how to get to, because all we had was a key, and we needed a fob in order to get the front door to open.

Well, crap.

Not much we could do about it, and it looked like it was only drizzling, so we put our hoods up and went outside.

Now, being from New Mexico, neither of us are used to seeing a lot of rain. Any rain that lasts more than ten or fifteen minutes is a lot of rain, for us. So when it sputtered, started and stopped, went between drizzling and pouring, it seemed a normal thing. And we soon found ourselves walking along the Liffey, taking in the sights, and forgetting about our hunger. Only to have it rear its head when we read a sign for Guinness stew. Yummmmm... Except it seemed that was what everyone was serving. So it took us a while to find a pub we wanted to go to, and eventually we ended up at a place called Fitzsimons. We each ordered our own beer and a bowl of stew, mine Irish, Mum's Guinness.

Stew in Ireland is not like the stew I make at home. I'm used to soup being runny and stew being thicker and creamier. Stew here is like a soup with giant pieces of stuff in it. I had a piece of celery in mine that was as long as my thumb -- and I have long thumbs. But oh my dear goodness gracious was it delicious. Especially on an empty stomach. Only trouble was, that stomach hadn't eaten anything in such a long time that it'd shrunken, and they served us portions worthy of a lumberjack during logging season. I'm a tiny little woman. I couldn't have eaten that much on a good day.

As for the food, I'll just say this: get it. Eat food in Ireland. I've not had anything that wasn't absolutely delicious. And I'm a bit finicky with my food. I know what's good. Trust me. Eat in Ireland.

While we were there, our host thankfully messaged me back and let us know how to get back into his apartment, and informed us that he was okay. He'd injured his leg on a run, and had to see a doctor to make sure everything was okay. *whew* We could get back to our bags!

After having to hang out in the pub an extra half hour or so just to have enough room to finish our beers, we decided that from here on out we should just split something and order something else if we're still hungry, and we proceeded to continue exploring. And in our exploring we realized we were in the Temple Bar area. Oh, and a little thing called Dublin Freaking Castle! (I may have adding the "freaking" part myself). Mum's been wanting to see castles for eons, so we had to go in. She tried to look like she didn't want to right away, but I knew we had to. Like a good daughter, I ushered her into the courtyard. It's beautiful. Seriously. I have pictures, but they don't do it justice. At all. It's beautiful, and if you're ever in Dublin, you should go see it. Definitely.
When we finally tore ourselves away, we wanted to go to bed. But it wasn't late in the day, and we knew we'd likely be hungry again later. Logically, we went to the only light food that could possibly serve as an alternative to an actual dinner:


We found this cute little place called KC Peaches, which I thought was cute because Dad calls Mum KC all the time. We're not entirely sure why, but he does. So we went in and got a slice of chocolate pear tart and another of this chocolate ganache mousse crisp rice light sponge cake thing that looked so amazing we couldn't help but get it. We ordered them to go, along with a cup of coffee for Mum and another of chai for me, and started the trek home.

It rained again.

We thought it might stop, so we went on. But it just kept raining. And raining. And the poor paper bag holding our pastries was ripped from the wetness, and our hoods were soaked through (because, of course, our umbrellas were still back at the apartment), and our pants were covered in dark speckles and our hair was blown to high heaven and dampened by heavy rains. By the time we made it back, all we wanted to do was get out of those clothes. We hung up our things, put on our pajamas, stole some forks from our host's kitchen, and ate our pastries on our bed.

Especially after being caught in the rain, those things were the most delicious treats I could've possibly tasted. The pear tart only had the sweetness of the pears, paired with the bitterness of chocolate and buttery tart crust beneath. But the cake! Oh, the cake... I know a lot of Americans like sweet foods. The more sugar, the better. I'm not one of those. I like sweets, but in moderation. I'd rather have something delicious and slightly sweet, light enough that I feel like I can still stand, and that was exactly what this cake was. Layers of the lightest white cake you've ever tasted with chocolate mousse and chocolate covered crisped rice in between and chocolate ganache and toasted coconut on the outside... I could've eaten the whole piece myself, but I was nice and shared. :)

The rest of our first night was spent laying in bed reading, getting a phone call from family back home, and charging every electronic device we brought with us. And then it was off to blissful sleep.

Day two in Dublin started more slowly, blessedly. We even woke up late. It took us nearly two hours to get ready, and when we finally left our room, our host was waiting for us with pastries on the table. He hobbled to the kitchen (which we told him he really didn't have to do) and make us a cup of coffee and tea (Mum says his coffee is the best in Ireland). He sat down with us while we ate, and we talked about our plans for the trip, before the two of us finally made our way outside, this time with umbrellas in our purses.

Now, something I should mention, is that the day before, while we were on the bus from the airport, they were playing a video about all the different bus tours you can take in Dublin. And they played one that looked like a lot of fun, called the 1916 tour. Mum and I don't know that much about Ireland, and we really wanted to get to know as much as we could. This tour was historical, talking about the revolution, and so when we left the apartment we went in search of where we could take this tour.

We took our time finding the place. The Liffey is so pretty, as are many of the buildings that line it. We stopped many times along the way to take pictures (don't worry, I'll post them en masse as soon as I can) before we finally reached a vistor's centre. The lady inside pointed us in the right direction, we went to the bus station and purchased our tickets, and had a couple of hours before the tour began.

Once again, we walked. Up and down O'Connell Street, along the Liffey, across any cool looking bridge we happened upon, all while trying to remember that traffic is backward in this country. Look left, not right. Left, not right. It's only just starting to settle in my head! Like the good little tourists we are, we found a souvenir shop and got some things for ourselves and some friends and family (something we had sadly not had time for in Iceland), and meandered through various streets until we felt certain that our feet could use a rest. Please.

When we had less than half an hour before the tour, we stopped for fish and chips. Grease has never tasted so delicious (aside from a need for salt, which I've noticed in all of their food, but could just be a matter of taste). We snarfed it and went straight across the street to the bus stop.

The 1916 tour is a dramatic performance on a bus. There are two actors, one male and one female, who play four characters each in order to depict the happenings of the Irish Revolution. It was utterly fascinating. They explained how the revolution began, things that were done in it and what went on around it. They depicted soldiers and women who assisted them, all fighting for the cause of Ireland's freedom. I felt like it was a much better way to go about explaining everything, rather than just telling us. Everything sat with me, and really still has. I would go on it again, on another trip, if the opportunity arose. I enjoyed it that much.

Remember to tip! We did, thankfully, before we got off the bus. The performance was spectacular.

Afterward, we went back to what we'd done the rest of the day: we walked. This time, down Henry St. It's a street that's just for people, filled with shops and a few eateries, along with various street performers. We walked up it and down it, and ended up at a chocolate shop, where we picked out the four kinds that sounded best and continued our walk.

I have never had a mango chocolate so delicious in my life. Seriously, you have to eat everything in Ireland. Maybe my stomach is growing back to normal size by now.

Walking, walking, walking.

Raining, raining, raining harder... Umbrellas?

Being from New Mexico, our instinct is not to use them. See, in NM, when it rains, it's only going to rain for a little while. In Dublin, apparently, that's not the case. I put my hood up. Mum caved first and got out her umbrella. Eventually, I did the same.

The rain got to our heads, both figuratively and literlly. We walked around in a fit of confusion, not quite knowing where to go or what to do in this weather. We tried ducking into stores, only to find that they were already packed full. We walked on the streets, but it was hard to stand close enough to hear each other while we each held an umbrella. *sigh* I don't think New Mexicans are meant to carry these things. They're a nuisance, aren't they? But I suppose they do the job.

It was a little early for dinner, even though there was nowhere else to go, and after a quick stop for some chai and coffee and looking at more menus than I care to remember, we ducked out of the rain into a restaurant for which we hadn't read the menu. What can we say? It looked cute.

If you've never had a boxty, you really should. They're delicious. And if you've never had a charcuterie plate, you really should. They're fun and delicious. We had both, along with a beer flight to share. Seriously, I'm going to say it again, eat food everything in Ireland. Bring an extra stomach if you have one. Mum says, "If you don't, buy one while you're there." Dinner was followed by Irish Whiskey for Mum and something called A Perfect Ending for me, which our waiter kept calling a happy ending and saying he shouldn't say that. Either way, it was delicious and our waiter was a lot of fun. Gallaghers Boxty House was the name, and you should go there if you're ever in the area. Deliciousness all around!

We walked home in the dark, in the rain. Not something two New Mexican women are used to doing. Ever. For one, we don't walk home alone at night. For two, we don't walk in the rain. That night, we did both.

I'll say this though, the streets of Dublin feel very safe. I didn't once feel strange or remotely nervous. It's a very walkable city, and the people are very friendly.
I'll say this too, just for giggles: walking home in the rain, while having badly to use the restroom, will make you walk ten times faster.


{Rani D.}

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Stop #1

This will be long. I'm not sorry about that. It's stop one on our trip, my Mum and I, and as promised, I'm sharing it with you.

No pictures for you yet, but I'll try to get some up on the next leg of the trip, and I'll keep posting on Instagram. If you haven't followed me yet, go do it! I'm Rani.Divine -- and I've been posting whenever I remember to do so.

[note: I'm not going to proofread, and you're not going to care. Okay? Okay.]

The trip started in Texas. We drove all the way to Fort Worth on Friday, the 23rd, and spent all day Saturday shopping and sightseeing around Grapevine, downtown Fort Worth, and the Galleria in Dallas. But Sunday was the greatest day of them all, on that leg of the trip. Sunday we went to church at Eagle Mountain International Church, a part of Kenneth Copeland Ministries. They had a pastor named Billy Burke teaching that morning, and again that evening -- and we all wanted to go. He's a healing teacher, and his services are filled with moves of the Holy Spirit. Boy did we see some. After hours and hours in church, worshipping the Lord, listening to teachings from Billy and Pastors George and Terry Pearsons, we witnessed miracles. I watched a woman with Parkinson's be healed, her hands suddenly still in the presence of the Lord. A boy whose hips had been damaged, and who hadn't been able to run without severe pain, was suddenly running back and forth across the stage. A woman with memory loss began to remember. A man with a growth in under his arm announced that it'd vanished. Women were healed of breast cancer. Men freed from demons. Children set free. Everywhere I looked, people were receiving their healing. The Lord gave, and they received without question. We all witnessed the beauty of it, the passion, the love of the Lord poured down upon His children. And it was a beautiful sight to behold.

It was also the perfect beginning to a trip unlike any I'd ever been on before.

Until that day, I'd never been to a healing service. I'd never seen miracles taking place before my eyes. And until now, I'd never been out of the country. How awesome is it, how great is the Lord, that I get to do both in one trip?

Monday, the 26th, we left the country. Dad drove me and Mum to DFW airport, watched while we got checked in and checked our luggage, and said a heartfelt goodbye when we made our way through security. He stayed with us the whole time, the watchful eyes of my Daddy on both of us until he knew we'd made it through and were on our way.

Our trip may have already started, but our journey was only just beginning.

The whole day was spent in airports. Not exactly the funnest way to spent that many hours, but we made the best of it. On a side note, the restrooms in DFW are amazing, and if you have the chance, you should definitely go in one of the Monte Blanc stores. Write with one of the pens if you can. It's worth it, even if you don't want a fancy pen. Trust me. Oh, and wear comfy shoes if you'll be in Kennedy Airport. It's a trek. And don't use the bathrooms in Terminal 7. They're horrible.

Mum and I still had fun the whole way, despite what some people call the annoyance of being in an airport all day. After all, we were on our way to Europe, and neither of us had ever been out of the country before. This was our great adventure, and we had the blessing of experiencing it together! We watched people, walked around the airports, played games on our Kindles, and generally tried to stay awake throughout the day.

New York, Kennedy Airport, was interesting. Bag claim was a hassle that had to be dealt with. See, all both flights were one-way, so we had to stop and get our bags when we hit our layover city. At Kennedy, however, our bag claim belt was shared with four other flights. Four. Other. Flights. I can see the necessity, it being Kennedy Airport and all, but there were so many people and so many bags that it was just a confusing mess. We found our bags eventually, after me almost knocking down a twig of a woman trying to get mine off the belt. But then we had to change terminals, to get to where we would board our next flight, which meant taking the overground train Kennedy has in the middle of the terminals -- and something neither me nor Mum had ever experienced before. After struggling to get on the thing without falling, we were both then trapped without a bar to hold onto, and holding our suitcases, carry-ons, and purses. We both very nearly fell over. Fortunately, our terminal was the next one over. We waited in line almost forty minutes before we could check in, eventually made our way through security for the second time in one day, picked up some pastries from Starbucks to eat once our flight landed in Europe, and eventually found ourselves seated outside our gate, waiting for our place to board.

By eight-o-clock that night, we were on our way to Iceland.

Icelandair is, I think, one of the nicer airlines. We boarded the plane and were immediately handed a bottle of Iceland Glacial water, which by the way is delicious water. If you've never had it, you should. Yum. The water in the country is good too, though it smells a little funny. You won't notice that once you drink the deliciousness. I digress. The flight attendants left a blanket and small pillow on each of our seats, and we even had our own mini TVs to ourselves. Remember, I've never been out of the country, so I don't know if this is normal. It's not in domestic flights, let me tell you. Though the flight itself was a little choppy, it really felt like being in a car on the roads of New Mexico. Easy to deal with. Especially if you're from New Mexico. We slept most of the flight, or rather, tried to. It's hard to sleep on a plane!

On arriving at Keflavik Airport, my mother had a blonde moment. We weren't sure where to go, so she walked up to someone wearing the equivalent of a TSA badge and earwig and asked "Do you work here?" The woman replied, "I should hope so, or else I'm not sure why I would be wearing these," and laughed. She then directed us to where we needed to get our passports stamped, and once again we were on our way.

I'll tell you, the chaos of waiting in line to get your passport stamped is insane. I've rarely felt so cramped in my life, and I've never once gotten used to it. Some cultures don't believe in personal space, and I experienced that firsthand. Oy.

After only slight confusion, we got through the line and made our way to baggage claim.

There's a mall in Keflavik Airport. Not in the terminals, but outside. By bag claim. There's a duty-free mall, where you can buy everything from Iclandic alcohol to VS underwear, all duty-free. They even have carts! We did not partake. After all, we were only in Iceland a short time.

Bag claim in Iceland was much easier than it was in New York. Only one flight's bags to a belt, and ours were early off. We'd pre-purchased a bus ride to Reykjavik, where we were staying our first night, so we grabbed our tickets and got on for the ride.

Did I mention it was about 7 in the morning?

On advice from a friend of ours, who often travels to Germany to visit her family, we didn't stop to rest. Even so, we hadn't anticipated much action in the first twenty minutes we were in Reykjavik. That was not the case. The bus ride was nice (GrayLine, in case you wondered), and we had the opportunity to see a little bit of the countryside and eat the pastries we'd gotten from Starbucks in New York, while constantly reminding ourselves that it was now morning, and not the midnight our bodies believed it to be.

But then we got off the bus after the forty-five minute ride to Reykjavik, having told our driver what hotel to drop us off at, only to get off the bus and realize we were at the wrong location. And the bus was now gone. Sheesh. Google Maps to the rescue! (Sidenote: it's been great having T-Mobile out here. I don't mean to be a commerical, but man, these guys have some pretty great service overseas.) Mum mapped the address to where we were staying, and we started our trek.

People say you should get lost everywhere you go. I didn't know why, until that day. I didn't understand why anyone would ever want to get lost. I like to know where I am, always. I just do. But we got lost. Google Maps glitched, it couldn't figure out which way we were facing, and we made it to the end of a street and stopped in stumped confusion, unable to read or understand any of the street names, not knowing our north from our sideways, and in a city neither of us know much about.

Thank God for locals!

A lovely young lady stopped paused her walk while we were situated on the corner of that street, and asked us if we needed help.

Yes. Yes we did.

She helped us, even taught us how to pronounce the name of the street we were staying on, and once again we were on our way. Google Maps found us again, and twenty minutes from the time we were dropped off (also twenty minutes late to when we told our hosts we'd check-in), we arrived at the home of the lovely Bea and Haffi, Airbnb hosts.

Much to Bea's surprise, we simply dropped off our bags and went out again right away. After all, we'd been told that the best way to get over jetlag is simply to force yourself into the local time. It wasnow 9:30 in the morning, so we might as well act like it. Having already been lost in the city, we knew a little bit of how to get around town. That, my friends, is why you should get lost in every city you visit. You'll know your way around like nobody's business, let me tell you.

We went to a nearby pond and watched the ducks and swans, took pictures of some of the houses, and called the bus company to make sure they would pick us up at the right place from now on. Then we walked to a church Mum had found online, called Hallgrimskirkja, that she'd wanted to see. Don't ask me to prounounce that.

It's a beautiful church. I highly recommend going to see it, if you're in Iceland. Inside there's an organ, with an organist playing beautiful music that fills the great hall. Some people were sitting in the pews, enjoying the sound, while others were snapping pictures left and right. We were in the latter group. After paying a small fee, we went up to the top of the steeple. From up there, we could see what looked like all of Reykjavik. The coast was visible from one side, and houses on all three, in colors in such array that you will never see in New Mexico. Ever. The desert is known as fifty shades of brown. Reykjavik is a hundred shades of every color you've ever wanted to see.

From up there, we saw a statue on the coast that we wanted to see up close, so upon our descent we made note of the direction and headed off. After a short walk and stopping at various points along the way to photograph anything remotely pretty enough to photograph, we were there. It's like a Viking ship, an abstract one, made out of metal. I'll post pictures later, with everything else, as soon as I have time.

The coast in Reykjavik is beautiful. Beautiful. We could've sat out there for hours. I'm pretty sure we did, actually. We took more pictures, selfies included, and continued our walk. We found some parks to sit in, located a coffee shop for future reference, grabbed a hotdog from a food truck, and found the place where we wanted to go for dinner. But only one thing mattered at that point, only a few minutes after noon: sleep.

We slept for three hours, on what could've been a sack of potatoes for how tired we were but was actually quite a comfortable mattress. Soon after my head hit the pillow, I was asleep. Never have I been so happy to rest.

When we woke up, it was almost time to go out again. We changed clothes, freshened our makeup, brushed our teeth, and went to dinner.

Check out Tapas Barrin online if you get the chance. That's where we ate our Icelandic Feast. Of course, home-time it was nowhere near dinner time, so neither of us was very hungry... So we split a meal for one. It starts with a shot of Brennivin, a famous Icelandic drink which also happens to be delicous. But the main meal is smoked puffin in blueberry sauce, Arctic chard with red pepper salsa, lamb kabobs samfaina, blue ling in lobster sauce with luscious mashed potatoes, lobster tails baked in garlic butter sauce, minke whale with sweet potato puree and cranberry sauce, and white chocolate skyr (a traditional Icelandic dessert) mouse with passion coulis and lemon sorbet for dessert. Oh my goodness. That meal was delicious. If you've ever had Maine lobster, and you think it's the best lobster, you're wrong. Iceland lobster is awesome. And if you've been watching my Instagram, you'll have seen an image of the dessert, which was fabulous. I do not, however, recommend eating minke whale. I didn't like it, personally, but I can see how other people would. Try it, definitely. Arctic chard is very yummy, on the other hand, as was the blue ling. Go to Tapas Barrin for sure if you're in town. Mum said they have good coffee as well -- I didn't try it, but I'm also not a fan of coffee.

After a quick stop at the house to switch coats, we were picked up by GrayLine for a Northern Lights tour. We had two blessings on this trip. One was that we got to sit together. We were some of the last people on the bus, and literally had the last two seats side by side. The second was the lights themselves. Even the locals said they were some of the best they'd ever seen. The bus took us to a little cafe on a ranch outside town, on the other side of Iceland. There, we could either sit on the bus or in the cafe, or wait outside for the lights to start. Apparently, it's never predictable as to when they'll start, how long they'll last, or the colors they'll be. That night, they were beautiful. Mum and I spent half our time outside, and the other half inside trying to keep warm. The lights started as faint little lines, hard to pick up at all if your eyes caught the glint off someone's smartphone or the rays of headlights from a car across the way. But then, a few hours into the night, they danced. I'd never seen the Northern Lights before, but believe me, this was a spectacle. It was beautiful, and in so many colors I couldn't even describe. They danced across the sky, from horizon to horizon, mixing and blending, popping and spiraling, so much that none of us knew which way to look. I have never before seen a more dazzling display of nature, and I will never not recommend going on a Northern Lights tour, anytime you happen to be in Iceland, or in a place where you're able to see them. They lasted at least twenty minutes, though none of us knows for sure. We were all too ensconced by the lights themselves, by the beauty of it all, to know exactly how long it lasted. Whatever the length, it was beautiful, and so far I count it the highlight of the trip.

GrayLine returned us to the place we were staying, where we only spent the one night. We slept in in the morning, quickly got dressed, and went to the coffee shop we'd seen a few blocks away. Icelandic pastries are yummy. Though, I'd pretty much say that any pastry is a yummy pastry. But really, they were delicious. We had one that was a little like a crunchy croissant filled with raspberry cream and covered with dark chocolate and dried raspberries, and another that was akin to a turtle brownie. Also, starfruit strawberry tea is delicious. Mum had another coffee.

Once again, GrayLine were the ones to pick us up. This time, from the right location. They took us back to the airport -- but that wasn't where we planned to stay for long. See, our flight is tomorrow, very early in the morning, and we didn't want to have a forty-five minute bus ride that early. So we caught a taxi from the airport that took us here, to Keflavik, where we spent all afternoon. We once again walked a bit in the city, strolled along the paved coast, and even took the beaten path up along the rocky shore, where we took some marvelous pictures. I'll post some for you later, I promise.

We got to board a ship on the shore, one that's decommissed and open to the public, and even see a giantess in her cave. It was silly, but hey, we were having fun. And we were very thankful that we'd been working out at home, in preparation for the trip. And for comfy shoes. Don't go anywhere without comfy shoes. Seriously.

The afternoon ended at a touristy restaurant, where we split fish tikka and a seafood plate, and ate a creme brulee for dessert. You'll have seen the seafood plate on Instgram and Facebook, if you've been watching. We also met another mother/daughter travel duo from the States, from North Carolina, and stayed an extra hour in the restaurant to chat with them about our adventures.

Now, the day winds down in our bedroom of the next host house in which we're staying, and once again the Northern Lights are supposed to be stunning.

We'll see if I stay awake long enough to see them.

I doubt that I will.


{Rani Divine}

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pack Logic

As you all know, I’m on a trip! And I had something pretty cool happen while I was packing everything in my suitcase—something that’s never happened to me before.

My bag was underweight.

Seriously, that's never happened to me before. Usually I'm frantically searching for anything I can take out of my bag so it'll be under the dreaded fifty pound rule. I'm a chronic over-packer. 

So I was talking to my sister-in-law about how light my bag turned out, and she suggested writing a little blog about it, in case any of you guys were interested in my magic methods. Therefore, I thought I’d put together a short list of the things I did to keep my bag almost fifteen pounds underweight... so I can buy some souvenirs on my trip without going overweight on the way back home.

1. Weigh your bag

I don’t mean after you’ve put stuff in it. I mean beforehand. You should know how much your bag weighs, so you know exactly how much space you have. If your bag is more than twelve pounds, I highly recommend getting a new one. Samsonite has some great lightweight bags out there, and Burlington Coat Factory usually has good prices on them.

2. Pack twice

I know, a lot of us don’t even want to pack once. But if you’re going on a week-long (or longer) trip, you’ll definitely need to pack twice. Yes, I'm saying I've been over fifty pounds on a week-long trip. I'm an overpacker, remember?

I guarantee you, the first time you pack, you’ll have put extraneous items in your bag. I can guarantee it, because I've done it. Every. Single. Time.

So weigh your bag after the first pack, take everything out, and remove what you won’t need. Don’t bring a shirt that will only go with one pair of pants. If it doesn’t match with at least three other articles, don’t pack it. Looking at you, ladies. ;-)

3. Get a lift scale

I don’t know if that’s what it’s called, but that’s what I’m calling it. My dad was nice enough to pick one up for us. It’s one of those scales that's basically a handle with a strap on it. You string said strap around the handle of your bag, and pick it up via the scale. It's a much more reliable read than your traditional bathroom scale, and honestly, they're a lot of fun to play with. I've been weighing random things around the house since we got it. You'd be surprised how much things actually weigh.

4. Think about your carry-on

The carry-on seems to be one of the most underutilized methods of packing. Use it! Put books, electronics, and as many liquids as you can into your carry-on. This will keep your main bag lighter and prevent any extra charges at check in from having a bag that's overweight.

That’s what I did, and I have an extra nearly fifteen pounds of space in my bag. Oh yeah, and most of what I packed was fall/winter clothes. And it's including two pairs of shoes. Boom.

Apparently, I know what I’m doing. Even though I didn’t realize it until right now.

For any of you going on trips soon, I hope my little guide gives you some ideas! My next blog post will be from the road, so keep your eyes out!


{Rani Divine}

Monday, September 19, 2016


As promised, today I want to take a few minutes to explain what’s going on with Too Many Books to Count, and why we stopped our (usually) month-long series a little early. 

I hope that you’ve enjoyed our latest series. I had a lot of fun drawing my characters for you, and picking out scenes that I think are very expressive of those characters. We’ve had a huge response from it, so it’s something I’ll definitely consider doing again.

But for the next two months, I’m going to be on a semi-hiatus.

Yes, that means I won’t be posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We’ll pick that up again in the beginning of November. Don’t worry – it’ll go by quickly.

During the time that I’m away, I will still be posting on Too Many Books to Count – but it will not be on a regular basis or in a describable pattern.

Why, you ask?

Because I’m going on a research trip out of the country!

I’m not going to tell you where I’m going, because I’d like it to be a surprise. I’ll only be posting a few times while I’m gone, but I’ll do my best to share some of the highlights of the trip and tell you some fabulous places to check out if you’ve never been before.

It’s a really special trip for me, because not only do I get to go exploring Europe (see, a hint!), I also get to go with my mum – one of my very best of friends.

We’re SO excited to get to experience this, and I really can’t wait to show you some of what we’ll be doing.

Will this help you figure out what I’ll be writing next, now that I’m almost finished with my Earth-Space series? Maybe. We’ll see. If I write something spectacular, I’ll let you know.

For now, thank you to everyone for sticking with me in Too Many Books to Count, and don’t forget to check back in regularly over the next couple months, for updates about where I’m going and what I’ll be doing.


{Rani Divine}

Friday, September 16, 2016


Today, our series comes to an end. I know, it seems weird since we’re in the middle of a month. I’ll explain that on Monday, don’t worry.

I really hope that you’ve enjoyed getting to know some of my characters, as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you. They all hold special places in my heart, even the ones who’ve annoyed me to no end. And today I’m sharing one who means a lot to me. She plays an important role in this world, and in the lives of more people than even she knows. And she’ll end up playing a pivotal role in the final installment of the Druid Novels.

Everyone, meet my first person narrator: the witch of the Dwr.


(I was trying to make her hair look wet — how'd I do?)

Arneia was one of the characters who I just connected with from the very beginning. I never found her difficult to write. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I could’ve written the whole book from her point of view, and had no trouble whatsoever. That was how much she and I connected. I laughed with her, I cried with her, and I grew with her.

This scene is a very pivotal one in the story, one that you’ll all know is coming from the very beginning, and one that I looked forward to from the start.

I hope that you all enjoy it, and that you’ll stick around in the next few months as my publishers get ready to announce the release date of this beautiful addition to the Druid Novel series.

Excerpt #3 from Dwr: People in the Water, by Rani Divine

©Copyright RAD Writing, 2016

I swam beneath the human’s vessel, ushering some of the swimmers away as I did so. The nets were being pulled up, and it wouldn’t be long before the swimmers were once again dragged up onto the deck to become the victims of the humans. This was their way of surviving. They needed sustenance, in the same way that the Dewin required it. But for them, it was not necessary that their sustenance be given to them by the world around them. For my people, the coral would drop their polyps into our hands, and we would eat. We did not require much, nor were we required to consume as frequently as humans, but still we ate. This much, I understood. I knew also that they would never find the island without our assistance—not the way they were moving now. They likely had no idea that the island even existed, only they hoped that it did.
It was a hopeful thought, to know that Malcolm and his people wanted a better home, a better life. They didn’t want to be associated with the humans who lived in the plains. To them, those people they’d left behind were the scum of the earth. It fascinated me that they were even allowed to think or say such things about each other, as the future rulers of this world. There was no telling how long it would be before my people, and the people of my sisters among the Dewin, were taken from this world. Humans would have to learn to live with each other sooner or later, and it seemed most appropriate to me that they learn now, when there was still time and the Dewin still remained among them.
For now, however, there was little that could be done on the matter.
These had already left their home in the plains, and they searched for a home anew. I would not show it to them until I knew that they could be trusted, that they would not actively seek out and destroy members of my people. In truth, that was all that I could ask of them.
Now, I released a few of the swimmers from my arms and turned back toward the ship. Since Mira’s stunt yesterday, more and more of my people had been entering the nets in an effort to rescue as many swimmers as possible. I didn’t know what they hoped to gain by prolonging the time the humans remained in this place, casting their nets in search of sustenance, but I could no longer prevent them. I’d followed their example more than once this day alone, with Afon at my side.
The swimmers were my ward. I had to care for them in any way that I possibly could. That meant that I would resort even to this, to ignoring the people aboard the ship and the needs of their bodies, in order to preserve the lives of those I held most dear. The swimmers were mine to care for, given to me by the Vartes. Many of them would die at the jaws of the sharks or the other predators: it could not be prevented. But the lives lost to the humans were avoidable, in many ways.
Another of the nets was pulled up from the depths, catching over a hundred of the swimmers within its embrace. Unthinkingly, I swam toward it as quickly as I possibly could. I reached my arm inside from the top and retrieved as many of them as I could. It was already far too late for anyone to jump within the arms of this net and save the majority of the swimmers.
“Fyddech chi'n gadael iddyn nhw farw?” Mira asked as she swam closer to me. “You would let them die?” I knew by now what she was trying to do, why she had stayed here even after I’d asked her to leave and shown her that there was no reason to remain in the absence of her master. My sister had been ordered to goad me, to anger me and make me hate what she had become.
To my disgrace and shame, it had begun to work. Her eyes stared into mine, and I was pained at the sight of them. I did not want to believe that my own sister could grow to hate me, that she could so easily be turned against the Vartes, against her own sister. This was not the Mira I’d grown up with. She was no longer my sister. Yet, every time I looked into her eyes, I saw only the gaze of my mother’s daughter.
“Rwy'n arbed cymaint ag y gallaf,” I replied, watching as the net was pulled up onto the ship and another was cast off the opposite side. “I save as many as I can.”
“Maent yn eich ward. Onid ydych yn gweld?” She swam closer to me and took hold of one of my wrists. “They are your ward. Do you not see?” She tugged on my arm and pointed up onto the deck of the ship, where even now many of the swimmers were being gutted. Blood spilled down off the ship and into the water. Sharks already patrolled the outer edges of this region, being kept at bay only by the magic of my people. When the nets finally ceased, they would feast on the parts cast off by the humans, the pieces that these people had no desire to consume.
“Yr wyf gwrach, chwaer. Rwy'n gweld i gyd,” I breathed, forcing my eyes back down onto the last of the nets. “I am witch, sister. I see all.” I’d kept count every time they’d dropped the nets to fish, and if I’d counted properly, this would be the last.
“Byddwch yn gweld dim ond yr hyn yr ydych am ei weld,” Mira replied. “You see only what you wish to see.” She released my arm and swam closer to the vessel, watching to see when they would begin to pull the net back up.“Ydych chi hyd yn oed yn gwybod faint sydd wedi marw heddiw?” she asked. “Do you even know how many have died this day?”
A shark snapped its jaws on the other side of the line, and she flinched at the sound. Instinct. Even my people had something to fear in the predators of these waters. We never knew what they were thinking, what they would do. But I doubted that my sister would ever be willing to give her life for one of them, as all of us had been asked to do.
“Rwy'n gwybod y bydd yna fwy os na fyddwn yn ofalus,” I said. “I know there will be more if we are not careful.” I attempted to take her hand, and she only swam closer to the net.
Slowly, like a shroud of mist moving over the waters, the net began to rise. My sister turned toward me, hatred in her eyes. I knew she would not attempt to rescue any of those now caught in the nets, not after everything she’d said to me now. She wanted me to prove that I was willing to give my life for my ward. Her eyes pierced into mine, and she did not look away. Even as I turned and swam into the net, catching up an armful of the swimmers to throw from the trap, I felt her eyes upon me.
I cast the swimmers up and out of the net, and I took hold of the edge to follow. But before I could move, Mira’s hand covered mine. The net was pulled tight, all the edges now breaking the surface of the water. In that moment, I finally understood the true purpose of my sister’s presence. It wasn’t simply to goad me, to make me feel pain over all that had happened. She was here to trick me, to trap me, and to throw me into what she believed was a den of the most vicious of creatures.
“Hwyl fawr, chwaer,” she said as she looked up at me, her expression consumed by malice. “Goodbye, sister.” “Efallai y bydd eich pobl yn drugarog yn eich tranc.” She smiled. “May your humans be merciful in your demise.”
The net was pulled higher from the water, and I struggled to be free. I shouted down to my sister. I watched as some of the others came to my aid, only to be held back by Afon. He would not allow them to risk their lives—not even for me. It was well. I would’ve ordered him to do that very thing.
Being dragged from the depths, from the only place I had ever known as my home, I felt the cold air rush upon my body. Swimmers surrounded me, those that I’d been unable to save. Fear crashed down upon me, and I prayed to the Vartes that there was another way, that there must have been something I could do to get out of this situation. I prayed for aid, that someone would loose the end of the rope and the net would crash back into the sea.
I felt the wooden surface of the ship beneath me as the net was finally dragged up onto the deck and my ward spilled from its hold. My own body betrayed me, thrashing against the air that surrounded me. This was not my home. I could breathe air, yes, but I could not survive for long in this place.
         I screamed.