The Seaside Calls

One girl's mission to escape monotony

Wonderspaces | San Diego

UPDATE: Wonderspaces is returning to San Diego in 2018! As of February, dates haven’t been announced yet, but keep checking back here for new info.

From time to time, my dear Lexington will hire me to do some photos for her instagram feed, and I’m always so stoked because she’s incredibly fun to work with, and she always comes up with fantastic ideas… and this time was no different. She had the idea of doing this shoot at Wonderspaces, a temporary art installation here in San Diego. I’d been wanting to check it out anyway to see what all the hype was about, and this was the perfect excuse. Plus, it gave me a great reason to bring my camera along!

Now when it comes to art, I’m a bit of a snob, and I tend to stray away from modern contributions (I would take Caravaggio over Banksy any day)… But the stuff I saw here reawakened my appreciation for the artists of my generation! It was weird, quirky, and interactive, and I couldn’t get enough!




If you’re in the San Diego area while Wonderspaces is still up (until August 27, 2017), you should absolutely check it out. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time!

UPDATE: Wonderspaces is returning to San Diego in 2018! As of February, dates haven’t been announced yet, but keep checking back here for new info.


Nena’s Travel Essentials



Stone Church Ruins | Eleroy, Illinois

The Old Eleroy Stone Church

You know the best thing about road trips? Besides snacking on beef jerky and slurpees? Finding weird things on the side of the road. Especially abandoned things. If it looks like it’s been forgotten by society, I’m in love. This was one of those discoveries that was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

We were driving from Galena, IL back to my aunt’s home in Chicago, when I noticed this stone church¬†without a roof, and very clear signs of fire damage. Obviously I made my aunt pull over, and I went in to explore. The caution tape did not deter me… in fact, it made my rebellious side come out. I wouldn’t say I break the law often, but I’ve definitely done my fair share of trespassing. I think most photographers have a tendency to do things like that, but it’s totally fine because it’s all in the name of art ūüėČ

After doing¬†a little research, I found out that this building actually hadn’t served as a church for a couple decades, and had recently been utilized as¬†an antique shop. The owner lived inside, so unfortunately he lost both his shop and his home… and possibly his cat, from what the locals¬†were saying on Facebook. The fire had taken place a few weeks before I stumbled upon it.

I tried to go in, but I didn’t get far. From wall to wall, the building was completely full of fallen beams, chairs, and other debris.

The stained glass windows had fallen out and were still laying in small fragments on the ground below. The strong scent of fire still lingered in the air.

I don’t know what is to become of this building, or how long it will sit there in this condition, but getting to explore it in its abandoned splendor was exactly the kind of thing¬†I live for.


Phallological Museum | Reykjavik, Iceland

Day 1 In Iceland

The Icelandic Phallological Museum

After strolling a bit more through the streets of Reykjavik, I found what I was looking for.¬†The Icelandic¬†Phallological Museum:¬†home to over 280 real penises from various species, including human! I am a big fan of all things¬†bizarre and disturbing, and this was one of the more bizarre and disturbing museums¬†I’ve visited. And I loved every minute of it. They claim to have at least one penis from every mammal native to Iceland, and they also have some exotic specimen that have been donated, such as giraffe and zebra.

Penises. Need I say more?
Penises. Need I say more?

penis museum

scrotum lampshades
scrotum lampshades
The penis of a sperm whale is proudly displayed in the center of the museum, and it is as big as me. Talk about awkward.
The penis of a sperm whale is proudly displayed in the center of the museum, and it is as big as me. Talk about awkward.
Human Testicle. The penis itself is in a nearby jar, but these specimen weren't preserved properly, so they became shriveled up and discolored. They are currently looking to acquire a "bigger and better" specimen.
Human Testicle. The penis itself is in a nearby jar, but these specimen weren’t preserved properly, so they became shriveled up and discolored. They are currently looking to acquire a “bigger and better” specimen.
They say this jar contains the penis of an elf (it is believed, in Icelandic Folklore, that elves are invisible)
They say this jar contains the penis of an elf (it is believed, in Icelandic Folklore, that elves are invisible)
Turns out walrus penises have bones in them
Turns out walrus penises have bones in them

whale penis 2 jars whale penis

Some of the exotic pieces.
Some of the exotic pieces.

My Favorite City In The World | Reykjavik, Iceland

Feels Like Home


After thirteen hours of flying, I¬†finally landed in¬†beautiful Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland! Well, technically I landed in Keflavik, but then I took a bus directly to the heart of Reykjavik. My Airbnb was in an idyllic location, and nearly everything I wanted to see was within walking distance. When I got there, I contacted the host, who told me to get the key from the blacksmith downstairs. I thought to myself, “Blacksmith? How quaint!”




I was exhausted by the time I made it into the apartment, so when I got there I went straight to sleep. When I woke up around 7 p.m., I realized I was in good company. Maybe it’s because I was in a pretty hip area, but everyone slept all day and then hit the town around midnight, staying out until the bars closed in the morning. Every night I enjoyed the loud ambient music echoing through the streets, as I watched people taking walks, laughing and drinking. Then, at 6 a.m., it all stopped and the city was completely silent. A night owl like myself could definitely get used to living in such a city.



The next day I set out to explore the city. As I was on my way out, my roommate’s friend came over with a karaoke machine, and took it out on the balcony to perform for all the passersby. I was only able to get this short clip, but you get the idea.




The next day around noon, I ventured down to Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik’s iconic church. It can be seen throughout most of the city, and my apartment was no exception. Feeling confident in my navigational skills, I decided to just walk towards it until I got there, no map or anything. So what if I got lost? There is no safer city in the world to get lost in! So I grabbed my walking shoes, my lucky scarf, and my camera bag and started walking.

One thing I have noticed every time I’ve visited Europe is that people WALK differently than they do in the States. No one ever seems to be in a rush; while we Americans love to speed walk, Europeans love to stroll. So, when in Rome… Even at my leisurely European walking pace, it only took me about 20 minutes to get¬†there, and when I did, it was as breathtaking as I had imagined.



After basking in its glory for a few minutes, I went inside and bought my ticket for the elevator (I wanted to get some shots of the chapel first, but there was a wedding going on). Once I reached the top, I waited for the other tourists to clear out of the room, and then I rushed to¬†a vacant window from which I could photograph the beautiful rooftops of Reykjavik. It was a pretty high window, and I’m a pretty short girl, so even though I¬†stood on the stool they had provided, I wouldn’t have been able to see out the window if I hadn’t had my camera on me. For someone who loves color as much as I do, this was truly a wonder to behold.

As I stared in awe at the beautiful city, I was rudely awakened from my deep thought by a loud “BONG…BONG…BONG…”, which caused me to fall off of my stool. Turns out the church has a functioning bell tower directly above the viewing area. I took that as the church’s way of saying “give the other tourists a chance, Nena! You’ve been hogging the window for 20 minutes!”


The view from the top of Hallgrímskirkja
The view from the top of Hallgrímskirkja



I honestly could have stayed there all day, taking in the beauty of the city and the cool ocean breeze, but it was time to start making my way to the next location on my list.


Elf School


I had heard rumors about Elf School. I had done a little research. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It was, however, an interesting experience. Elves play a major role in Icelandic folklore, and supposedly 50% of Icelanders believe that they exist.

The headmaster (a very eccentric retired professor) gave us our textbooks and sat us all down (there were 8 students¬†total). The classroom was full of little figurines depicting mythical creatures such as elves, dwarves, etc. We were then told many stories about elf sightings in iceland, and his theories as to why elves are not regularly seen‚Ķ ‚ÄúYou must be ‚Äėpsychic‚Äô to see elves‚ÄĚ, he told us.¬†‚ÄúWomen are more psychic than men, gays are more psychic than non-gays, and children are far more psychic than adults‚ÄĚ. This went on for about 4 hours.

As the end of the class neared, the headmaster’s husband brought us freshly made Icelandic pancakes (which are WAY better than American pancakes), ginger ale, and our diplomas. This is a pretty slow-paced attraction, but, then again it is school, so I don’t know what I expected. If you’re looking for something weird and off-beat to do in Reykjavik, this will be an experience you won’t soon forget.


The “classroom”


The Laundromat Café


After such a long class, I was ready for a beer. I’d heard the Laundromat Caf√© was touristy but still pretty awesome, so I checked it out. It was overcrowded for sure, but I loved it because it’s so unique! As you may have guessed, it’s a laundromat and a caf√©, but also a library and bar. A bar full of delicious craft beer, including my all-time favorite beer, √Āstrikur Nr. 18 (a Belgian-style ale with hints of peach).



Why don’t we have these all over the world? Nothing is more boring than sitting around while your laundry is being washed, so you may as well have some food, booze, and books while you wait! It’s also a great opportunity to fill out all those postcards you’ve been blowing off (sorry, friends ūüėÖ).



What’s in my suitcase


Reykjavik’s Old West Side


This historic part of Reykjavik was probably my favorite part of the city. It’s a bit tucked away, and there were very few tourists in the area. As I ventured further into these residential streets, I noticed the strangers I passed by were all speaking Icelandic, rather than English or German or Dutch.

I stepped into Stofan Caf√© because it looked so adorably chic from the outside. I was delighted to find that the Caf√© was full of locals! The barista even greeted me with a friendly “Gott Kv√∂ld!”


She was giving him French lessons. Adorable.
Not my favorite beer, but it was good!

After I’d had my fill of beer, I was back to exploring.

Sk√ļli Magn√ļsson, “Father of Reykjavik” (1711-1794)


The reason I had ventured into the Old West Side in the first place was to find Reykjavik’s historic and beautiful¬†H√≥lavallagar√įur Cemetery. It was so incredible that I dedicated¬†an entire post¬†to it.



Back to the Heart of the City


After a long day of walking around, I needed a little break. I went to the grocery store to stock up on Lucky Charms, and came back to the apartment for a little nap. Once I was sufficiently energized, I decided to go on a little stroll to get to know my new neighborhood.


This is, hands-down, the best logo I’ve ever seen.

Single Gloves speed dating. How cute!


Harpa Concert Hall


To bring an end to an amazing day, I walked down to the waterfront to marvel at this architectural wonder. The sun finally started to set, and the glass walls caught the light and created the most beautiful array of colors.



Though I’d be spending two weeks living in Reykjavik, I had many other adventures planned, so this was one of the only days I had dedicated to exploring the city. But, it only took one day for me to realize that I could genuinely see myself living here. Reykjavik is a small but lively city, perfect for an introverted artist like me. It’s a city that truly inspires creativity, but isn’t too busy or crowded. Basically, it’s what I’ve been looking for my whole life.

Any questions about planning a trip here? Drop them below!


Nena’s Travel Essentials