Day 1 in Iceland

After an extremely long day of traveling, I am finally well rested, showered, and about to have breakfast at the hotel.

Chris and I took off from Boston on Saturday around 9pm. There was a slight delay because of some thunderstorms in the area but once we took off the flight was smooth and felt relatively short.

Due to the time difference we were expecting to land in Iceland around 6am the next day. I promise you, I did my very best to sleep on the flight. I woke up early that day. I drank a lot of red wine. I got a work out in. But alas, I was extremely uncomfortable and MAYBE got a max of 90 minutes of sleep. I think it was closer to 45 minutes, honestly.

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*The higher the pinkies the fancier*

One thing that I’m glad I caught during the flight was flying over Greenland. The clouds cleared a few times so I could see the terrain and it occurred to me that I would most likely never have seen Greenland in my life otherwise.

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It said on the flight info screen that the air temp at our altitude was -58 degrees Fahrenheit.

We landed in Reykjavik on time and met up with Chris’s parents, who flew from New York and arrived shortly after us. From what I experienced, the airport was very clean and modern. It also had some of the coolest bathrooms I’ve ever been in, just sayin’.

We picked up our car rental and headed out. I’ve never seen such a diverse terrain as I did in our first day driving around. I’ve actually never seen anything like this country ever. Iceland is a volcanic island and as a result there’s a lot of really cool rock formations and unusual lava fields. Suffice to say, it wasn’t long before we pulled the car over to take photos.

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We stopped quickly for breakfast at a little cafe and went to Kronan, a local grocery store chain to pick up snacks for the road. I love going to grocery stores in foreign places. It’s interesting to see how people eat and shop.

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After that, it was time to hit the road. Our hotel was in Reykholt, a little over an hour’s drive from the airport. Check-in wasn’t until 4pm so we decided to drive around a bit and sightsee. So worth it. We found a road on a map that drove through a valley and it was by far the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.

I don’t even know where to start in explaining it. I read somewhere that when you visit Iceland you want to take pictures of every single thing you see. It’s true. The photos come nowhere close to how genuinely magnificent and vast the landscape is. It was mind blowing. There were miles and miles of land, broken up only by enormous, towering cliffs. Every body of water we encountered was perfectly crystal clear.

 

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You can’t tell from the photo but those are giant mountains!

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The drive on this remote, single road was roughly 3 hours (we had to go slow for a long portion of it because it was unpaved) and we saw no more than 5 other cars throughout it. The landscape was not only vast but varied as well. Some stretches were lush and green and with one turn we would be surrounded by nothing but what seemed like rocky desert.

 

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When we finally made it out of the valley we stopped for a quick bite to eat at gas station/rest stop. The restaurants in Iceland are expensive but the gas stations often have reasonably priced groceries available. We went to the bistro and split a plate of nachos for about $28.00 before heading on our way.

While we were on the road we noticed a lot of cars stopped in one area so we decided to check it out. We couldn’t tell what the attraction was from the parking lot but when we got closer we found that it was an incredible waterfall/stream.

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It’s so difficult to relay the true scale of these sites because they’re so massive and look so underwhelming in photos. A good opportunity to just be present and enjoy the matter at hand, I guess.

When we finally got to the hotel after a bit of confusion and a 2 hour detour, I thought I’d be ready for bed. However, after napping intermittently in the car I still had energy to walk around and explore the grounds and I figured if I could stay up later it would help with the jet lag. We settled into our rooms and washed before heading to dinner at Restaurant Mika, where I got the Cheese Dream Pizza. I’ve never had cheese pizza with raspberry chili sauce but it ended up being delicious. The restaurant has been recommended online and I can say after visiting that the service and food were both excellent.

Finally, after we finished dinner around 9pm (still bright as day outside btw,) we were ready for bed. I crawled under the covers and slept like a rock until our alarm went off the next morning for breakfast. All things considered, it was not a bad first day at all.

Stay tuned for my day 2 recap!

chelsea

Snow Day in Portland

Recently Chris and I decided we’d take a day trip up to Portland, ME. It’s about a 2 hour drive from where we are and Chris just got a new car so he’d been dying to drive it around a bit.

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Not including a slight detour for some lunch, it took us about 2.5 hours to get there because what we thought was a snow sprinkle turned out to be windy, freezing rain for most of the day. But that didn’t deter us!

The way I like to experience a new place is to plan a few things ahead of time, but leave lots of flex room for walking around and changing my mind.

Chris and I were both a bit sleepy after lunch (thanks, pasta) so our first stop in Portland was Bard Coffee.

I got a standard coffee and Chris got a fancier one that they gave to him on a tray. The interior had a sort of minimalist vibe with high ceilings and simple furniture, which was balanced out by a really cool wallpaper print.

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They also had non-dairy milk available for no extra charge, which is always a plus in my book. The weather outside was more severe than it was in Boston so a hot coffee was just what we needed.

Word for the wise: don’t wear heeled booties to Portland in the winter. I didn’t even think twice about it when I left the house because there wasn’t a speck of snow on the ground in Boston but Portland had whole streets shut down because of the snow and ice.

After finding to our dismay that we would not be doing a walking tour of Portland, we got in the car and headed over to a place called The Holy Donut, which we were told by friends we couldn’t miss out on. Luckily, by the time we got there there were still some donuts left.

The donuts, which are made with potatoes, were unlike any I had tried before. It was somewhat later in the afternoon so the donuts had been sitting out for a number of hours and I didn’t want to set my expectations too high.¬† They were still amazing. I expected them to be hard and stale but they were a magnificent combination of fluffy and crispy.

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There were also some interesting flavors that I had never tried on a donut before. We got one of everything they had left: Churro, Maple, Lemon, Pomegranate, Chocolate, and Wild Berry. My favorite was the lemon. It didn’t have that super sweet lemon-like flavor, but more of a mouth puckering meringue taste.

The shop’s interior was very much no-frills with old coolers and furniture but it almost gave it an authentic old school feeling.

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Note my poor shoe choice

Our next stop was slightly outside Portland but was one Chris had been excited about all day: The Maine Beer Company. We were worried the tasting room would be closed because of the storm, like so many other places but we called ahead to make sure.

Maine Beer Co.’s Peeper Ale is a beer that I’ve only noticed in the Boston area in the last 8 months or so but it, along with other MBC beers have really become popular. Aside from having good, sustainable beer, Maine Beer Co. also donates a portion of its profits to environmental and animal charities, hence its slogan: “Do What’s Right”. A beer after my own heart, I tell ya.

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Chris and I wanted to try all of the beers so we decided to split their $18.00 variety flight. They had a few board games available to guests so Chris taught me Texas Hold Em while we sampled and read about the beer. Side note: You’ll never find me at a table in Vegas.

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We started to get hungry so we finished up and made a quick stop before heading to dinner at the LL Bean Store. I always knew LL Bean was from Maine so I was expecting a pretty big store. I was wrong. It was an entire LL Bean campus. There was every LL Bean product you could think of. Fortunately for my wallet, neither of us felt much like shopping so Chris snagged a quick picture with the boot and we headed out.

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Our last stop of the day was a highly recommended spot called Duckfat. It was a cozy little restaurant with craft sodas and awesome food. Chris and I shared an order of poutine (the small was big enough for 2 to share) and a cup of their lentil soup for starters.

For an entree I got a roasted delicato squash panini with pickled cauliflower, turnip & leak slaw, boursin, and brown butter-sage mayo. It was refreshing to see a more interesting vegetarian option than the standard veggie burger or caprese sandwich that you usually find in restaurants. Chris got the house smoked turkey panini wit buttermilk fried shallots, swiss, frisee, and herb mayo. His was good but we both like the squash sandwich best.

Satisfied and full, we wrapped up our left overs and headed home. For a cold, wet day it was still a pretty successful trip. I’d love to see the city again in the summer.

 

Vacation Recap Pt 1.

Sometime in January when I was feeling particularly stir crazy, I decided to get myself some vitamin D and book a short trip to Florida. My plans this summer don’t really allow for anything crazy this spring but I thought I’d treat myself to some sunshine after a stressful and busy holiday season. Here’s a recap of my trip last week.

I have family in Florida so luckily I didn’t have to worry about lodging. At a “cool” temp of 70 degrees, everyone was in pants and sweaters but I was loving it.

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My first night, we went to dinner at a place called “Manny’s Steakhouse” which, all dreams of veganism aside, has the best steak I’ve ever had in my life. There’s always a crazy wait to get a table but once you do, it’s totally worth it. I got the filet mignon with (endless) salad and a loaded baked potato. Plus all their drinks were 2 for 1. We are definitely not in Massachusetts anymore.

The next day we visited a little town on the Gulf Coast called Tarpon Springs. In Florida it has a reputation of being a “Little Greece” because there’s a huge sponging industry there, which apparently is big in Greece?

The town was adorable and the streets were lined with cute little gift shops and Greek restaurants.

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Our first stop was a brief lunch of olives, feta, pepperoncini, fresh bread, and saganaki. (And 2 for 1 Bloodies, obv.)

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Afterwards, we walked around and shopped for a bit. My grandmother insisted I get a sponge (I felt weird because they’re more of an animal than a plant) and I picked up some hand crafted olive oil soaps – sandalwood, lavender, eucalyptus.

One of my favorite parts of Tarpon Springs was the decorated bicycles found along the main road.

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That last one is covered in sponges- go figure.

I have a rule that I can’t buy unnecessary clothes out of season but I had to make an exception when I found this adorable jumper. When in Rome, right?

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By the end of the afternoon we were ready for dinner so we grabbed a table at a place called Hellas.

We started with saganaki again & paired it with a traditional Greek salad. For entrees, I got the mousaka (kind of like a Greek lasagna) and my grandparents split the catch of the day. I’ve never been a seafood fan but this fish smelled amazing and it was filleted and seasoned at the table.

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And of course, for dessert – baklava.

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After dinner home we headed home, well-fed and content.

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chelsea