Tag Archives foodie

Food Culture Around the World

by Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Food culture around the world varies from one location to another. What determines the food in a particular region is determined by a few factors such as climate, proximity to the ocean, resources available and agriculture. When visiting different regions of the world, the one thing that makes a location stand out is, more often than not, its food.

When I travel, one of my favorite parts of the trip is experiencing different foods from that place. It’s always exciting for me to try whatever the locals love and helps me to get a better understanding of the culture.  Discovering the “hidden gems” or “secret spots” to find an authentic meal of the locale is always an adventure and you usually find great deals than if you would,  just sticking to the eateries that cater to tourists.

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dosha in India

There are times where the foods are so extremely weird or different that its hard tho believe that these people really eat things such as grasshoppers, frog legs or rotten shark meat.  But they do!!  I try my best to be non-judgemental about their food choices and try everything I can, well at least a “no thank you helping” anyway, to not offend, plus I try to think of it as a learning experience. And although there are foods I will never be able to say I truly enjoy, (or would ever want again) I was able to immerse myself into a new culture by trying it’s regional cuisine.

The worst type of travelers to me is a picky food eater. The worst! Thank goodness I really haven’t traveled with anyone that isn’t game for trying new things, (like me) but when I hear stories of friends who only sought out American food, like KFC or McDonald’s I shutter at the thought of how terrible that would be.

How in the hell do you feel like you are going to experience a place you visited without trying their foods?

I don’t get it? Not to mention, American fast foods is awful, (to me anyway) and yes, you can get it, literally everywhere in the world. When I see the big yellow arches or the Colonel’s face on a sign, in the most random places in the world, I almost feel embarrassed of what we eat as Americans. Other countries must think we are crazy for what we eat!

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crawdads in New Orleans, USA

Food culture around the world to me is how we connect with each other. We may not be able to speak to each other because of a language barrier, but if you are given food and smile and nod your head in approval of the taste, there is no loss in that translation there. It brings people who have nothing else in common, together.

When I fondly reminisce of a place I visited, one of the first things that comes to the forefront on my mind  is a dish that I enjoyed there. I jut recently became aware of how much food has really impacted my travel experience.  I’ve realized how much it has enhanced my enjoyment of virtually every destination I’ve been, whether it be another country or another region of my own country. Each place has given me a new taste to savor.

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street food-pad Thai in Thailand (my favorite!)

It’s funny that this has never dawned on me before because I love all food, especially ethnic food and am always super eager to find something to try the second I arrive in a new land. This has got me thinking of what I wanted to do next on the blog.

Let me digress a bit. When I return from a trip I usually always get the,  back to reality blues, and want to find some way to keep the trip alive. So of course, I write about it, share my travel stories, share my video and pictures of my trip, but I also do something that maybe some of you don’t or didn’t think of.

I try to imitate a recipe of a food I ate while I visited.

I seriously do this every time I come home from a trip and it is usually within the first week, back home. I know, I’m pathetic. Maybe I am pathetic, but it is a way for me to remember the trip and most importantly, I get to taste that amazing dish once again without having to revisit in order to experience it.

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Indonesian food in Amsterdam-its a thing there

How I do this is, I just search the internet for a recipe of that delicious ethnic dish I’m craving.  I have no trouble finding a recipe or two, or 10 with all the ingredients I need.  Some recipes are easier than others and some require ingredients that I’ve never heard of or are very hard to find at a basic grocery store, but mostly, it can be made with a quick run to my local market and can be made for dinner that night. I must admit, although I am a pretty decent cook, it never comes out the same as if you ate in first hand, but its a good second.

Even before I started my “world travels” I would do this (in a sense) when my kids were little.  I didn’t make foods that were from a foreign land that I visited myself, but it was from a foreign land that I intended on visiting some day. It also made it a really fun a way to teach my kids about other cultures.

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shwarma in Dubai

This is how it went. I would pick a country on the globe, (sometimes with the kids help, sometime not) and then I would google a little information on it and print it out. Then I would find a popular dish that represented that country.  This part was sometimes tough because it was hard to have a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old to eat weird or spicy things, so sometimes I would improvise  a little, but you get the idea.

Dinner time came and we all sat down to eat. I would show them on the globe where this food came from. I’d give them a little background history, which was super basic since they were so young, and then we would eat.

The kids thought it was fun, as did I,  since I’m obsessed with travel (obviously),  but it also made them learn about other places other than just what was outside our back door. It also made them learn to try new things and not to be closed-minded that how we live, or what we eat, for that matter, is NOT the only way or the right way.  They sometimes didn’t like the food and I’d have to make them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead, but overall they always had their,  “no thank you helping” and enjoyed our little cultural lesson a lot.

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Icelandic lamb soup in Iceland

Today my kids are 17 and 20 and thankfully, are both not picky eaters. My son thinks he is the next Andrew Zimmerman, by always wanting to try bizarre foods, and my daughter is now a world traveler, herself, loving the diverse foods she tries, at every place she’s been. I really think that this cultural food experiment we did when they were at impressionable ages, helped them see that, a lot of enjoyment in life is through food. It also let them taste flavors and regional recipes that have been passed down from one generation to another from all over the world and that steak and potatoes may be good, but there is so much more to try that will make your taste buds sing with joy.

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creme brulee in Paris

Which brings me to my next idea for the blog: Recipes from around the world!  Yay!

I will post one recipe a month that has inspired me through my travels. Some recipes may be from places I’ve already gone to and want to share a dish that I loved, while others may be dishes I aspire to try on my upcoming adventures, but all of them will be made for the sole purpose of sharing with you guys, so that you may be able to make it too, even if you can’t visit these places yourself.

Clearly you can just hop on a search engine and look up a recipe yourself, but this is a place that you can go to for inspiration of foods you may not have tried before or even heard of. (so how could you search for it? right?) I will also share where I got the recipe and a lot of times I blend recipes to my liking, so I’ll tell you exactly what I did to create my masterpiece. I will give you a  step by step guide, with pictures, and maybe even a video if I’m not feeling shy?

The first edition to my Global Recipes page will be November 1st, so check back soon for the first installment. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Cheers!

What is your favorite dish from a country that you visited? I’d love to hear about it and maybe even try to make it?

 

 

 

 

Would You Eat Rabbit For Dinner?

by Monday, September 21, 2015

Fine dining in New Hampshire has come a long way. Before, there were only a few choices, or you would have to go over the border to Massachusetts, to find an upscale restaurant. Today, there are a number of restaurants with highly skilled chefs, showing off their mastery in food artistry, in  places such as Bedford, Nashua, Manchester Salem, and Portsmouth New Hampshire, that would impress even the most critical foodies.

I had the pleasure of trying a restaurant that I’ve heard a lot of rave reviews about, called TekNique (restaurantteknique.com),  this past weekend, in my new “home town” of Bedford, New Hampshire.  I recently moved to Bedford this past August. Since it was literally, a five-minute drive from my house, I just had to check it out.


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TekNique Restaurant
Bedford, NH

HISTORY

TekNique Restaurant is the creation of Chef Matt Trottier, a life-long chef, getting his start, right here in New Hampshire. He started out as a dishwasher at The Bedford Village Inn, also in Bedford, where his uncle was a chef and later found himself at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY( ciachef.edu), earning his own culinary degree.

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Chef Matt Trottier

*a funny side note is I currently live in the owner of The Bedford Village Inn’s  house

He fine tuned his unique take on food combinations and presentation at renowned favorite restaurants, such as Inn at Little Washington (www.theinnatlittlewashington.com), Stone Hedge Inn (stonehedgeinnandspa.com), The Bedford Village Inn(bedfordvillageinn.com), CR Sparks (crstherestaurant.com), Micheal Timothy’s(mtslocal.com), and Giorgio’s(www.giorgios.com).

The restaurant is considered casual, fine dining and was opened in 2011. Not long after Trottier’s opening,  he was already getting nods from New Hampshire Magazine (nhmagazine.com),  in 2012 for his dish Free Form Seafood Lasagna” as an “Editor’s pick”,  in HIPPO magazine (hippopress.com), being voted as “best new eatery” in 2012, has been featured on Phantom Gourmet(phantomgourmet.com) television show and currently still has a 4 star rating on yelp.com

Here is the link to the Phantom Gourmet’s segment on TekNique


 

LOGISTICS

My husband and I made the reservation, last-minute on Saturday afternoon, for Saturday evening. I wasn’t sure if there would be any availability, but it was no problem. We made our reservation for 6:30pm through opentable.com

The restaurant is located at 170 Route 101 in Bedford NH and is easily accessed from both route 293 and 93. It is situated in a plaza with plenty of parking, in the central part of the town.


 

thewanderlustyogi.netAMBIENCE/SERVICE

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Tek-Nique: “the manner in which details are treated.”

Walking in to the restaurant, they had autumn decor on the outside door, that look seasonal and inviting. Once you entered the main entrance,  there is a large display with the definition of “technique” on the wall, giving the customer an idea of the chef’s vision for his restaurant.

We were warmly greeted by the hostess and welcomed in by the general manager, Brendan Kelly.

The setting was dimly lit with modern decor with hues of earth tones, that was trendy, yet subtle. They played French dinner music that was loud enough to set a mood of relaxation, but not overly loud so you could still have intimate conversion.

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diningroom at TekNique

Our waitress was very pleasant and knowledgable about all of their offerings on the menu. She brought us our menus and listed the specials. She gave us a moment, then brought us waters and took our drink order.  We only ordered soft drinks, but they have an extensive wine list and cocktails.thewanderlustyogi.net


 

BREAKING BREAD

When she returned with our drinks she also brought us their bread offering. This night it was a homemade lavash topped with seeds, served with a parmesan cream, dressed with olive oil.  The cream was very light and fluffy, with a consistency of cappuccino foam. It was salty and creamy and a perfect accompaniment to the crispy lavash.

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parmesan cream and lavash

After finishing the first dish we were excited to browse the menu.  They had a good range of items, categorized in sections: Garden, Sea,  Field, and Game. I spotted their famous “Free Form Seafood Lasagna” and knew that was the one I had to try. My husband decided to get a little daring and try the “Braised Rabbit Strozzapreti” . Neither one of us has ever tried rabbit and it isn’t something that we normally see on a menu. I almost didn’t let him. I just couldn’t imagine eating a poor rabbit, but who was I to tell him what he can and can’t order.  He said, “For the blog!” and he was right. I should let him so that I can tell the readers if this dish is worth killing a bunny for.

We also wanted to try an appetizer. We looked at a few options, like Oysters on a Half Shell, Charcuterie (chefs choice of cured meats) and  Tuna Poke, but both wanted to try the Pork Belly.


 

APPETIZER

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pork belly appetizer at TekNique

Our appetizer arrived in a timely manner and the presentation was enticing.  The Pork Belly was introduced, plated on a grilled tortilla, topped with avocado, queso fresco and salsa verde. It had a great combination of Mexican-inspired flavors with the saltiness of the pork belly, the crunchiness of the tortilla, the creaminess of the avocado and freshness of the salsa verde with hints of lime and cilantro. We devoured it and longed for more, but just as we yearned for more pork belly, we knew we should save our appetites for the main course.

The waitress came to collect our finished plate and asked if we like it. We both nodded and said, “Yes, it was delicious!” She soon returned with our main entrees. My husband Brice’s rabbit was set in front of him, and my lasagna in front of me. She asked if we wanted fresh cracked pepper or needed anything else and we both declined,  on the edge of our seat, excited to dig in….but wait!  First, the dreaded, food pic.  My husband still rolls his eyes every time I make him wait to eat so that I can get a picture of what we are about to enjoy. One of the drawbacks of being married to a blogger.


 

MAIN COURSE

The “Braised Rabbit Strozzapreti” was served in a shallow dish and seemed to be a sort of stew. It is made with mirepoix, mushrooms and a vermouth demi. It had a brown gravy that looked very tasty. My husband took his first bite and said,  “Wow, this is really good!  You need to try this!”  I was hesitant and didn’t want to.  He said,  “You have to so you can write about it.” I said that he could just explain it.  He said the rabbit tasted almost like steak, but much more tender. He said it wasn’t gamey or had an after taste, like how lamb sometimes does.  He said it did, in fact, taste like a stew. That the mushroom flavors along with the straw noodles and brown vermouth sauce was a perfect complement to the delicate meat. He felt like it was a perfect dish for the fall or winter months. Again, he kept taunting me to try it and putting a small fork-full in front of my face.  Over and over he said, “Come on, just try it!  You will regret it.”

No, I don’t think I would regret it, but what the hell, I’m eating other meats now, being a born-again meat-eater, after three-and-a- half years being a vegetarian.  Why is a rabbit’s life any more special than a cow’s right? Because they are cuter? Cows are cute too.

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Braised Rabbit Strozzapreti at TekNique

I did it! And you know what? It was really good!

Time to see what all of the rage is about with this popular dish at TekNique, the Free Form Seafood Lasagna. The dish looked huge. The square, layered, and freshly made sheets of pasta were delicately placed one sheet at a time,  with pieces of shrimp, scallop, lobster, Maine crab and drenched in an orange lobster cream sauce that looked mouth-watering.

The texture of the pasta was soft and the cream sauce was out of this world. Each piece of seafood was moist and sumptuous. It was lavish, but still had the overall feel of  comfort food. I was extremely pleased I made the decision to try this. It was fantastic!

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Free Form Seafood Lasagna at TekNique

After dinner, my husband said we should try a dessert. Especially after the impressive dishes we just ate, they got to have some awesome desserts here.  I was extremely full, and actually had to bring home the rest of my plate, but was totally down for trying, at least a bite of a dessert here.

The dessert menu was brought to us and it was with a heading “sweet endings“. How appropriate. We were looking through and a few items caught our eye, like the Baked Alaska, Lemon Tart and the Molten Chocolate Truffle Cake, but we ended up deciding on one to share, the Tiramisu Donuts. I was looking forward to having a few bites of this decadent dessert with a cappuccino to end our lovely meal.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have cappuccino or espresso there, only regular coffee. Not a huge deal, but I must say, I was a little disappointed.  That is something  I’m sure people would like at a restaurant of this caliber.  (I would like to suggest that to the manager/owner, if he reads this article.)


 

DESSERT

Our dessert was brought along with our coffees and was served with vanilla ice-cream. It was very rich and tasted like good old-fashioned donuts but with a twist. The coffee mascarpone, ameretto, chocolate and cinnamon sugar adorning each donut square, brought this dessert to a whole new level.  This was not Dunkin Donuts!

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Tiramisu Donuts at TekNique


 

CONCLUSION

TekNique was a very good restaurant that offered a casual, fine dining experience, right here in Southern New Hampshire. I can see why people love the Free Form Seafood Lasagna so much and why this is a highly recommended spot in Bedford.  In town, we would normally go to The Bedford Village Inn, Canoe or the Copper Door for this type of dining, but now we will be putting TekNique at the top of our list. Not only is the food just as good, if not better, than the other surrounding fine-dining options, but the prices are much lower overall on every dish type. I may not order the rabbit dish next time, not because it wasn’t delicious, but because of my psychological reasoning, that won’t escape my thoughts,  but if eating Bugs Bunny doesn’t make you cringe, it’s a must try!  I will tell you, however,  that I’m craving the “Free Form Seafood Lasagna” as I write this.

Maybe we will go back again next weekend?


 

Tip: For locals who normally dine at the very popular and always busy Copper Door, and can’t seem to get a reservation on a weekend night (like us), try TekNique.  We got a reservation last-minute and it wasn’t over crowded and loud. I think you would be pleasantly surprised at just how good the food is and  you would taste the attention to detail, that Chef Trottier puts into every single one of his dishes. They may not have cappuccino, but everything else is on point.


 

If you don’t live local or can’t get to TekNique to try Chef Matt’s signature dish “Free  Form Seafood Lasagna” he shares his recipe and a cooking demo so that you can make it at home. Here’s the link:

 

 

Reykjavik, Iceland: A Perfect Stopover

by Friday, September 11, 2015

Last summer I took Iceland Air (www.icelandair.com) for the first time on our trip to Paris and Amsterdam. The reason we chose Iceland Air, simply, was the cost.  They had great deals to many of Northern Europe destinations.  The flights left in the evening, like most other US to Europe flights, but with a stop in Reykjavik.

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The Blue Lagoon, Iceland


I never even considered a visit to Iceland before, but it is something I kept hearing about as a new “hot spot” for travelers.  I was intrigued.


The week before my trip I was at work (still a full-time dental hygienist at the time) and I saw a patient that traveled a lot for his job. I loved seeing him because we got to talk about world travel instead of just the usual, “do you floss” talk. When I told him about my upcoming trip, he asked which airlines. When I said Iceland air he told me about this amazing deal. He said that Iceland  Air was trying to promote Iceland  tourism and will offer, up to a 7 day stopover, for no additional charge. At first I didn’t believe him because he was always joking around with me, but by the end of his appointment I knew I had to look into this.

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I got home and did some research. He was right!! I was so excited and yelled to my husband, “What do you think about staying one night in Reykjavik Iceland?” We did have one extra day on our vacation because it fell on Labor day weekend. He said, “Sure, that sounds great”

This deal is still going on today.  here is the link:http://www.icelandair.us/flights/stopover/

I was pumped! To think I would not only be seeing Paris and Amsterdam( for the first time), but now also be able to squeeze in a little visit to the “Land of Fire and Ice.” How cool!

I immediately brought up my reservation and looked up contact information on how to go about the change in my flight.  I called and spoke to a Iceland Air representative. She stated that this is possible and people do it all the time, but she would have to check the availability of seats. A minor detail I forgot due to my excitement!  Guess what happened next? Yep, it was a no go. Especially being a holiday weekend , there were actually overbooked by 10%. Bummer!!

I guess it wasn’t meant to be?


 

Fast forward to this summer.  My girlfriend from work was taking a trip with her mom to visit their homeland of Poland.  She was ironically taking Iceland Air. I had previously told her about the deal and she thought it would be a great opportunity to take herself.  She booked he flight with  3 day stopover in Reykjavik.  I told her I was excited and wished I was able to have done that last summer.

She said, “Why don’t you join us?” “Just for the Iceland portion of our trip.”

I thought about it and decided to take a quick check of price quotes first.  I found a deal for $432.00 round trip on WOW Airlines.  What the hell was Wow Airlines? I’ve never heard of it, but whatever. I’ve flown Air Asia (http://www.airasia.com,) I’m not picky.

So I booked it!thewanderlustyogi.net


 

In the few months of planing and seeing what I wanted to do on my quick trip, my husband said he was interested in going as well.  He works as a home inspector, so summers are crazy busy and he works constantly. He said it would be a perfect  long weekend getaway (less than a 5 hour flight) to relax after an exhausting work season. I was thrilled.

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At Boston Logan airport doing my daily headstand challenge, waiting for my flight to Reykjavik, Iceland

The first thing on my bucket list to check off, was to see the Blue Lagoon (http://www.bluelagoon.com.) I always thought that seemed like such an unique and awesome thing to see, but ever since I was watching (dare I even admit this?), The Bachelor, (cough, cough), television show and their episode in Iceland, I knew that it would have to be a must on my ever-expanding travel destination wish list.

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Northern Lights viewed from my WOW airlines flight

The Blue Lagoon is situated about 20 minutes north  from the Keflavik airport and in route to Reykjavik, which is approximately 45 minutes from the Keflavik airport (something that many people aren’t aware of). Because of this, it is recommended to visit the Blue Lagoon either on the way in from your flight or on the way out to your flight. This way you can use your time wisely (since many visitors here are on a stopover ).


 

Day 1: Blue Lagoon and checking into our AIRBNB

We decided to do it right when we got there. The flights that come into Keflavik International airport from the US come in very, very early. Iceland Air around 7:00 am and WOW Airlines at 4:00!!! This part was a bit inconveniencing. It’s not like you can check into your hotel that early and nothing is open.

W got in from our flight and hung out at a juice and coffee place called Joe and the Juice (http://www.joeandthejuice.com.)  It had great health smoothies, coffee, lattes, cappuccinos and hand sandwiches. Our car rental place didn’t even open up until 6am, but our reservation wasn’t until 7:00 am. Lots of waiting around.

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arrived at 4:00am in Keflavik International Airport, sitting at Joe and the Juice drinking coffee until anything else opens. Boy is it cold here!! 40 degrees!!!

We finally got our car and started heading to the Blue Lagoon. We got there early.  Our reservation was from 8:00 am-11:00am. The very first block. They do 3 hour appointments, which was plenty of time to enjoy the warm and milky blue waters.

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just checking off the bucket list!

There are 3 different packages from a basic entry to a luxury experience.  I decided that this is where we would splurge on our trip. I wanted to have a private changing room and spa area to lounge around in and have a bathrobe, slippers, towel, spa products, drinks and snacks. The basic entry ticket did not provide any extras and you would be changing in a crowded room, not unlike a YMCA. I didn’t want that. I wanted this experience to be special.

We were greeted and walked down to our private “members only” area.  We felt like VIP’s and enjoyed every minute of this special treatment and private area. Although it was much pricier, I think it was well worth it.  My friend and her mom didn’t indulge in the luxury ticket and they didn’t enjoy it as much. My friend said, when I asked her how they liked it,  responded, “It was nothing special. I felt like the whole thing is over-rated. It isn’t even natural. It is heated by a power plant!”

In spite of the fact that this is true, I still feel like, natural or not, this place is the bomb! Where else in the world can you swim in a geothermal bath? Not many places at all!   I know I will never probably get to do this again in my lifetime. (I am writing another post that will give a in-depth look into our Blue Lagoon experience soon.) Also note, that there are many naturally occuring geothermal pools in Iceland, plenty right within the Reykjavik region.

When we were done with our Blue Lagoon visit we headed into Reykjavik to have lunch at a cafe that was recommended.  We figured we could walk around a bit and explore the area before heading to check into our airbnb rental ( http://www.airbnb.com), which was about 20 minutes away.

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veggie sandwich at Laundromat Cafe

We ate at the The Laundromat Cafe (http://www.thelaundromatcafe.com. It was a funky, eclectic style, casual place. They offered free wi-fi with the password:iloveyou. Their menu had the usual American staple dishes such as burgers, salads and club sandwiches, which I was  a little disappointed in. I wanted to try some authentic Icelandic dish.  I guess I could do that somewhere else?  I had a veggie sandwich and my husband had a burger. We hung out and used the wi-fi and after eating, both felt extremely tired.  I think the combination of an overnight flight with little to no sleep, taking a 3 hour bath and then filling our bellies, was enough to make us feel ready for a nap. It was still too early for check-in, ugh! We walked around a little but were eager to just relax for the night in our airbnb house rental.

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Reykjavik

When it was time for check in, we drove to the address and waited to meet the person who was letting us in.  (This is another whole post I will share about later) We waited 2 hours! Due to miscommunication, the person thought she was meeting us at 5:00pm, but we thought we were meeting us at 3:00pm. It was torture waiting to be able to take a shower, lay down or just use the bathroom, especially after landing 12 hours prior,  but finally we got to stop and take a breather.

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airbnb rental in Iceland

We decided on a quick and casual dinner, since we were tired, and certainly had to try their famous hotdogs called a pylsur while visiting.  This would be the perfect time to.  The hotdog is made with a combination of pork, beef and lamb and is the Pride of Iceland.  We found a restaurant that served them, literally 2 minutes from our rental.  We got two each. We had them, as the say, “Clinton style” with mustard only.  This is how you should order it, I’m told by locals.  Their mustard was different, almost like a honey mustard, but not quite. I must admit, the hot-dogs were delicious!

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Icelandic hotdogs “pylsur”


 

Day 2: Spent the Day in Reykjavik

I’m not sure if we were just generally tired or the 4 hour time difference affected us but we slept late. Very late! So late that the day we had planned, touring the “Golden Circle” with my friend and her mom was not going to happen. I couldn’t make them wait for us.

They did the tour themselves and we had to readjust our travel itinerary. No big deal. I never like to over plan anyway. The best things that happened on any of my previous travels, were always on a whim. Not to mention, this was supposed to be a somewhat relaxing trip for my husband. No stress.  We decided to go find some lunch (now that it was afternoon by the time we got ready) and we wanted lobster soup. It was cold out and it seemed fitting since it is a popular Icelandic dish.  I’m all about trying other culture’s foods. While I showered I asked my husband to look on tripadvisor (one of my favorite goto travel resources) to find who makes the best lobster soup in Reykjavik.  On his research he found the Saegreifinn Restaurant (http://www.saegreifinn.is.), located right in Reykjavik harbor.

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lobster soup

You can’t get much fresher than that. We drove the 20 minutes, parked our rental car in the  parking garage, which had ridiculously low hourly rates, and walked over tho the harbor side.  The restaurant was a little fishing village style place. It was very small with benches lined up where you actually sit side by side with other customers and order at a counter.  A completely basic setup so if you are looking for a comfortable dining atmosphere, this wouldn’t be it. On the menu- pretty much just lobster soup.

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minke whale anyone??

They also had open refrigerated section with fresh fish to buy by the kg. I went over for a browse.  They had mink whale, cringe!! No thank you, but the lobster soup was, as the review promised, “delicious”!!!

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Saegreifinn Restaurant

After our bellies were full and we were warmed up, we headed over the weekend flea market called the Kolaportid Flea Market. I was so excited because I love flea markets and if we would have gone to the “Golden Circle” tour we would have missed it. I was in search of a handmade Icelandic wool sweater. I guess that’s what you need to buy when you are here.  The prices were super high for these at all the souvenir shops, I thought for sure I could get a better deal at the flea market.

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Kolaportid- the weekend flea market

I was wrong! Even at the flea market they sold for no less than $200.00 USD. I just couldn’t justify it.  Wool has already been my least favorite material. It’s so itchy! I realize you can wear this over clothes and it is extremely warm but for $200.00, I know I wouldn’t get the use out of it to justify the price.  No sweater for me.

We walked around the main street called Laugavegur, which had gift shops (more sweaters) coffee shops, restaurants and plenty of bars.  We found our way to the Hallgrimskirkja church. It was remarkable looking and tall. It almost looked like a tall “Lego block” building . We went in and were going to go to the top for only $6.oo USD for a lift ticket, but ended up just strolling around inside and outside of the building.  I’m afraid of heights anyway.thewanderlustyogi.net

We walked all day. Reykjavik isn’t a very big city, but it has a lot or character and European charm. The colorful buildings and cobblestone roads were pretty to wander around on. Something to point out that didn’t dawn on me until I came back home was, we never felt unsafe the entire time we were there. The thought of our safety was never even spoke of. I can’t say the same on my visit to India, Thailand and the United Emirates. That was always on the forefront of my mind.

I think Iceland would make a perfect solo travel destination for females.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe later walked along the ocean path and saw the Sun Voyager structure. It was impressive, but it started to rain so we took a few snaps and headed toward the Harpa (http://www.harpa.is.) This is the central hub for all entertainment and cultural events in Reykjavik. It had unique architecture with mirrored cubes all around the building.  We made this our final stop before deciding on dinner.

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The Harpa

For dinner we chose a cute sushi place called, Sushi The Train (http://www.osushi.is.)  They set it up with a conveyor belt (almost like a baggage claim belt you would find at an airport, but on a smaller scale) and chairs lined up on either side.  They place offered different types of sushi and Japanese dishes. As the food  drives by, you can choose which dish you would like to try by just taking it. By the end of your meal, you bring the “color coded” plates to the counter (each one has a different value) and pay the total.  It was very inexpensive and a fun and easy way to end our day in Reykjavik.thewanderlustyogi.net

We headed back to our car and paid the parking garage fee. it was less than $4.00 USD and we were there the entire afternoon!! I was shocked how cheap it was since everything else in Iceland seemed very expensive.


 

TIP: They say the night life and bar scene in Reykjavik is taken very seriously by the locals. However, the drinks are super expensive, so the Icelandic bar-hoppers are known for  staying at home early and drinking first, before heading out to the bars at around midnight and partying way into the night.  So, if you go there for happy hour and wonder where all the people are? Just wait, it will get busy late night, so pace yourself.  Unfortunately, I can’t give you my opinion on the bars since I don’t drink, but there were a ton! I’m sure you wouldn’t have any problem finding a drinking hole to enjoy some spirits with Icelandic locals.


 

Day 3: Waterfalls, waterfalls and more waterfalls, geysers and a black sand volcano beach

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Selijalandsfoss waterfall

We got an early start this day. We knew we had a lot of ground to cover missing the first day out on the road. We decided to do our own version of the “Golden Circle” tour. We chose to focus on the  south-west region of Iceland. We would head south to the beach in Vik, and make our way back up and around to see the popular waterfalls and geyser. That would fulfill our wishlist and we could do it all in a day trip.

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there were backpackers everywhere we looked…some even hitchhiking!

On our way to Vik we passed the Selijalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls. They were beautiful as we thought and we saw dall sheep, horses and beautiful mountain landscapes as we drove. At least it was very scenic views for our 2 hour drive.

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driving in Iceland

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One thing that slipped my mind was the steep walks and stairs leading to viewpoints you are required to take to see these natural wonders. Like I said earlier, I am deathly afraid of heights! This day was full of amazing sights, but also gave me extreme anxiety. I tried my best to enjoy, but with my husband playing jokes on me, pretending he was about to fall, seeing tourists hanging off the edges, trying to take extreme selfies and kids running, with no parents in site, along the hundred foot drops, I was about to have several heart attacks!

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Skogafoss waterfall

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We finally made our way to the beach in Vik. Initially, we were at the top cliffs area, beautiful, but again the heights! ugh!!  Until we ended up on the black sand beach. This by far was my favorite area. I am partial to any beach, but the views all around, the black sand and lava rock formations, were nothing I have ever seen before.  We spend some time in a cave along the stretch of beach and my husband even spotted a puffin in the distance. thewanderlustyogi.netWe were lucky that this happened to be the nicest day of our 3 day stay (6o degrees and sunny).  We felt the ocean and were surprised that the temperature was much warmer than you might expect for Icelandic ocean waters. We even suggested that the oceans in our home state of New Hampshire, USA might be colder!

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Vik, Iceland

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I got to do my daily headstand challenge here at Vik, Iceland!

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My husband had a flooding thought of taking a swim in the ocean, just to say he did it, but just as quickly as the thought flooded in, it flooded out. He knew we still had a half day ahead of driving and touring and didn’t want to be uncomfortable. Poor sport! Just kidding. It would have been funny to see, but I agree, he may be freezing and wet all day, and I would NEVER do that. I have Reynaud’s syndrome! I would end up with hypothermia.  Visiting that beach and being able to do my daily headstand (#365headstandschallenge)  there, was more than I could ask for. It was awesome!

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campers at Skogafoss waterfall

We started to get hungry, but were pretty much in the middle of nowhere. We remembered that they had a hostel and restaurant at the bottom of Skogafoss  falls an it was on our way back towards our next stops. We figured we could have a little lunch there and head to the next stop after our break. The food was surprisingly good and inexpensive. We assumed, it was after all, a camper site/hostel area and tourist attraction, that it would be the usual burger and hot-dogs, but no. They had all sorts of Icelandic dishes and options. I was excited.thewanderlustyogi.net I ordered a lamb stew to share and picked char fish for my meal (its kind of like a salmon and a local fish). My husband ordered the leg of lamb. We even treated ourselves to dessert because they had a skyr cake, that we couldn’t pass up. Iceland is one of the only known places where you can find skyr (according to the locals), besides Denmark, Sweden and Norway, so we had to. It was very good, but if you have ever tried skyr before, you would think it was yogurt. It doesn’t seem so outlandish a treat. Also, when I got home, I found some at my neighborhood grocery store (in the yogurt section).  None the less, everything was so good and our bill was only $47.00 USD.  We were very happy that we chanced it and ended up having an awesome and authentic Icelandic meal.thewanderlustyogi.net thewanderlustyogi.net thewanderlustyogi.net thewanderlustyogi.net

Off to the geyser. The road that we took leading to it was so scary! It was so skinny and literally hanging off a cliff. It had many “shared bridges” which is a common thing in Iceland, where you have to share it with the oncoming traffic.  The road ended up going to dirt and I wasn’t even sure if our car would make it.

Another side note: its best to get a 4×4 car to rent. We were okay with the 2-wheel drive car, but if we had gone on more roads like this we would have needed a 4×4. Some roads don’t even allow anything other than 4×4 cars on it.

 Like it said on our dashboard of instructions from the car rental company. “Driving in Iceland is different.” Besides skinny, windy and cliff side roads, possible wildlife, sharing bridges, there is also the risk of falling rocks. If that doesn’t concern you, don’t forget in the winter, without proper gear and blankets, you could risk death by hypothermia if stranded roadside. I’m just so happy my husband joined, otherwise I would have had to drive. Yikes!


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The geyser was really interesting and I was happy that it (went off ) erupted in very short intervals..I wasn’t really sure about that and was so glad we could easily capture it’s eruption more than once.  It was getting cold so stopping there when the sum was starting to set was a good thing. The heat coming off these gurgling water holes was intense. The sign read that it could reach 80-100 degrees celsius and to stay away. The steam was so hot. We even may have gotten little too close at one of the eruptions. No wonder why we were the only ones standing there? The most memorable thing would probably be the overwhelmingly smell of sulfur that you couldn’t escape.  My husband may have gotten away with a few gaseous releases from his big lamb dinner that I would have not noticed.  He kept giggling every so often, saying, “Excuse me” as to joke, but I think he may have required that excuse me even if we weren’t at the geyser.

Lastly, we stopped at Iceland’s most visited waterfall Gullfoss. Since it was extremely close to the geyser we couldn’t miss this one. Gullfoss was the largest of the waterfalls and the most impressive. I’m not sure which was scarier; standing on the jutted out lookout at Skogafoss or the wet and slippery, rocky ledge of this bad boy? They were both terrifying, yet a marvel to witness.

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Gullfoss waterfall

 

Since we drove for nearly 12 hours that day, accomplishing all the sights we wanted to see, we decided to just get take-out for dinner and call it a night. We couldn’t wait to see all the footage and pictures we took of this amazing day in Iceland. We stopped at a nearby pizza place. Naturally, we got the “Boston-style pizza”

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crosses along the road in Selfoss heading back to Reykjavik from Vik


 

Iceland has many unique natural wonders to visit, from their breathtaking waterfalls, awe-inspiring glaciers, gorgeous black sand beaches, rejuvenating geothermal oasis pools, volcanic mountains and bubbling geysers. These are things you can’t just see anywhere.  With Iceland Air and WOW Airlines offering cheaper flights daily than their competitors, from  the US to Europe and discount deals for stopovers, why not take advantage of them and get to see the land of Fire and Ice for a day or two? The prices on these airlines to European cities, such as Amsterdam, Paris, London,Copenhagen, Barcelona, Dublin, Milan, (just to name a few), provide such savings, that a quick stopover in Reykjavik wouldn’t break the bank. You never know, you may even see a troll?

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