The 52 Project: Nov 16

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^^ Hey guys! So once again our internet abilities is forcing me to post a 52 Project photo on a Sunday instead of a Monday. We are currently in Escazu, Costa Rica, and we leave bright and early tomorrow morning for our 5th and final destination of our South American tour — Tamarindo, Costa Rica. The photo above, though, is from my new absolute favorite place on earth – the Galápagos Islands. There is so much I can’t wait to share about this trip, but I can say without a doubt that the Galápagos Islands are one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. I’m making it my travel mission to get back to this place again. Bis bald, friends – my next post will be coming at ya from back in the States. Massive bummer.

A Little Bit of Peru

Hi friends!

How’s it going? So Chris and I are currently in Quito, Ecuador, awaiting our flight out to the Amazon rainforest tomorrow (squeeee!). After the Amazon it’s on to the Galapagos (my No. 1 travel bucket list place, by the way … No big deal), then Costa Rica. We’ve been having an amazing (and somewhat eye-opening and life changing) time in South America so far, and while I don’t have time to share a ton of details right now (plus who can blog on an iPad? Not me!), I figured I could at least share some photos.

Here’s a bit of what we’ve seen so far:

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Bis bald, friends! More deets to come later!

The 52 Project: November 3

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^^ Happy November friends! Chris and I are now in Quito, Ecuador, on our way to both the Amazon and the Galapagos. We finished our tour of Peru, and it was more than we could have hoped for (reference the photo above of myself and Chris, enjoying the view of Machu Picchu after trekking up the Inca Trail. I was hoping to be able to blog more, but to be honest … I’ve been exhausted! And we’re about to head into no-Internet territory, so even these weekly photo posts may be late coming. But needless to say, it’s been a pretty once-in-a-lifetime experience so far — and we’re so looking forward to what else is coming. Bis bald, friends!

The 52 Project: October 27

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^^ Well friends, it’s been an insane week. Chris and I packed up the past six years of our lives in apartment 4W in NYC, and we left yesterday for the first leg of our four-week South American tour, landing in Cusco, Peru, early this morning (hence this photo). I’ll do my best to keep you guys updated as the trip progresses, but I may not always have the Internet. Stay tuned!

Life Lately: Late Feb 2014 Edition

Two months down in this new year of ours, my friends — unbelievable!

Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on in our neck of the woods …

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^^ The views in Iceland were astonishing.

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^^ Climbing the fish hut to take photos in Iceland.

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^^ Chasing the Northern Lights

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^^ The Gullfoss Waterfall.

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^^ Watching geysirs (that’s how they spell it in Iceland) erupt.

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^^ Walking through Grand Central to the subway after our Valentine’s Day drinks at The Campbell Apartment.

Central_Park_Snow

^^ How much did I love this man and his dog in snowy Central Park?

Toy_Fair

^^ I checked out the annual Toy Fair at the Javits Center for a story I was writing.
It’s so much fun seeing all the new toys for the year!

Penny_the_Cat

^^ This face. Kills me every time.

Shrimp_N_Grits

^^ Shrimp and grits for dinner, inspired by our brunch at East End Kitchen,
which serves shrimp and grits as well, but they’re pre-made
with bacon so I couldn’t have them. Our take was better ;)

Bis bald, friends! Hope everyone’s having an amazing year so far! I’ll be heading to Marathon Key with a friend for my birthday in a few weeks. With the winter we’ve been having, I could definitely go for a little bit of sun, that’s for sure.

Our Final Day in Iceland

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Last Monday was our last day in Iceland. (A tear.) We had had an absolutely amazing time up until then, what with making friends and seeing the Northern Lights and watching a geysir explode and eating some delicious food. But we had something on tap for Monday that, if I’m being completely honest, was high up on my list of reasons why I wanted to visit Iceland in the first place.

The Blue Lagoon.

Let me tell you a little bit about this place, my friends. According to their website, “the Blue Lagoon was accidentally formed in 1976 during operation at the nearby geothermal power plant. In the years that followed, people began to bathe in the unique water and apply the silica mud to their skin. Those with psoriasis noticed an incredible improvement in their condition. Over the years, the Blue Lagoon has been innovative in harnessing this gift of nature to develop different spa services and products. Today, Blue Lagoon is recognized as one of the wonders of the world.”

In other words, friends, the Blue Lagoon is straight up magic. The silky blue water is just warm enough that you never want to leave, but not so hot that you can’t stand bathing in it for hours on end. (We were there from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.) The silica mud — placed in little containers around the outskirts of the Lagoon that you can spoon out and spread on your body — makes your skin feel like perfection and gives you a glow that lasts for weeks for come. There is a swim-up bar with smoothies and wine and beer, a waterfall that you stand underneath whose pressure feels like the best shoulder massage you’ve ever had in your life, a steam and sauna room and so, so, so much more.

Oh, and it’s friggin’ beautiful …
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Photo 7^^ Us after spending four hours in that ridiculousness. See? Aren’t we resplendent ;)

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You can get lockers as part of your Blue Lagoon package (there are a bunch of different package options … we picked the cheapest one), and there is a space to store your luggage. The Blue Lagoon is about 20 minutes from the airport, and about a 40-45 minute ride from Reykjavik, making it the perfect activity either directly after arriving in Iceland or right before heading back home. You can book a package, like we did, that provides transportation to and from the airport and or your hotel.

A word to the wise when it comes to the Lagoon — this is no place for modesty, friends. Full showers are required both before entering the Lagoon and after, and this means sans bathing suit showering. Lots of naked people are gettin’ about in these Lagoon locker rooms, my friends, and there’s no use feeling awkward about it, because you’ll just be out of place. Another tip is to load your hair up with as much conditioner as possible — and leave it in, don’t wash it out — before heading into the water. Even so, you’ll probably end up leaving the Lagoon with a mess of mangled, salty hair, but it’s totally worth it.

And so that was about it. After four hours of relaxing in the Lagoon and the steam room, after smothering our bodies in what could only have been pounds and pounds of silica mud and after eating delicious smoothies, we headed back into the locker rooms to shower and dress and catch our bus to the airport to head home.

Iceland. Oh, Iceland. I had an idea of how amazing you were before I visited you … but I never in a million years could have imagined the impression you would leave.

If it’s within your ability to do so, I would highly recommend making the trip. Believe me … you’ll thank me later.

Bis bald, friends! A quick last-minute addition to my travel list for this year is a trip to Marathon Key with my bff for my birthday in early April. It’s a 10-day trip using her parents’ time share … and yes, I do believe I am one of the lucky ones.

Okay, now bis bald, friends!

 

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 3

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Last Sunday Chris and I were attempting to wake ourselves up at a reasonable time, after having partied until the wee wee (way past our bedtime) hours  the night before. Luckily for us, the hotel stopped serving breakfast at 10 a.m., a perfect excuse to make sure we got our butts out of bed in time for that.

We were lazy that morning after breakfast (Chris sleeping a bit more, me checking out this truly amazing record store that was on our street — if you love music and you’re in Iceland you must go here … ), but in the afternoon we had booked the Gulfoss and Geysir Express Tour , and I was dying to get out and see more of the Icelandic countryside.

I would explain to you a bit about the tour, but the explanation from the company site is pretty helpful:

“Take an afternoon tour from Reykjavik to experience geysers, waterfalls and some of the most exciting natural phenomena Iceland has to offer. In just six hours you’ll visit the country’s best known historical sites and natural wonders perfect if your time in Iceland is limited.

You will visit Thingvellir, where the Icelandic parliament Alpingi was established in 930. It is here in this geologically unique place that the slowly diverging tectonic plates of America and Europe meet. In 2004 Thingvellir was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The tour also takes you to the famous Gullfoss waterfall, the spouting hot spring of Geysir and Strokkur. Continuing your journey to Hveragerdi, a small but beautiful horticultural town, you will see how geothermal energy has been harnessed for the unique greenhouse cultivation of all kinds of vegetables, exotic fruit and flowers.”

Here’s a bit of what we saw on that trip …

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Photo 4^^ Shifting tectonic plates — how cool is that?! Directly across the water from us was the U.K.
And at one point driving on this tour you are on the North American continent,
then you literally drive over the line into Europe. I love stuff like that.

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Photo 7^^ Short, fat horses are everywhere in Iceland! Driving through the countryside
on this tour was absolutely breathtaking. One thing we learned about the horses, though –
if they don’t perform up to Icelandic standards, or aren’t of the right temperament, they get eaten.
Our tour guide would say: “Well, if the horse is mean or can’t get along with the other
horses, we have a solution for that …” Oh and also, riding horses is a perfectly
acceptable way to get around town in these smaller towns. So if you go to a bar,
you may see a line of horses parked outside because, as our guide says, they
have strict laws in Iceland about driving cars when you’re drunk … but  not so much for horses.

Photo 8^^ How beautiful is the Gulfoss waterfall? It was at the restaurant here that
Chris had traditional Icelandic Meat Soup with lamb and vegetables.
Our tour guide said this is something people from Icelandic typically eat every week.

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Photo 12^^ And the geysirs … the amazing, awesome geysirs.

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Photo 13^^ They had little signs next to each one telling you how hot they were.
This one was around 80 degrees. Hot!

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I should mention here a few things about Iceland that I haven’t yet. For starters, the water that comes out of their tap is natural spring water — some of the best water in the world. There is no need for bottled water or filters here. (Which is why when I tried to buy a bottle at the grocery store the night before, the clerk told me to put it back. “This is the same as what comes out of your faucets. A waste of money to buy this,” he said. Thanks for the tip, Mr!) The hot water is also natural, geothermally heated water, and it has that sulfer, rotten egg smell? You know the one I’m talking about? At first it’s a bit off-putting, but after a while you tend to get used to it and barely even notice.

It was on this tour that the guide talked to us about the economy in Iceland. Since the government went bankrupt a few years back, everything in the country had become astronomically expensive for the locals (which we can attest to), but much, much cheaper for travelers. For example — the dinner we ordered later Sunday night would have cost us $170 Krona, but we paid for it on credit card, and it only came out to $106. There is no minimum wage in Iceland, they pay 40% of their wages to taxes, and there are very few “good” jobs, with most of those jobs located in Reykjavik. This means many people can’t afford to actually live in Reykjavik, because it’s too expensive, but they have to work there to make even a decent wage — and they end up commuting hours every day, and working up to 10 hours a day, just to make ends meet. People are fleeing the country in droves, our guide said — to include important professionals, like doctors. To make matters worse, there is really no rental market in Iceland, meaning people are forced to buy their homes, even when they can’t necessarily afford to.

Very sad.

Oftentimes people who work in one place and live in another hitch rides with the tour buses for free if there is extra room. We ended up giving a young girl a ride from her job at the geysirs to the town where she lived about 25 minutes away. It was all very interesting.

Back in Reykjavik we decided to head out for our last night on the town. We made our way back to Bunk (which, if you’ll recall, we had tried the night before but it was closing), and really loved it. It had a very low-key, laid back vibe, and was the perfect place to relax before heading out to dinner.

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Photo 24^^ Andddddd, we tried Brennivin – aka Black Death — Iceland’s signature distilled Schnapps liquor.
It was …. strong! And gross. But when in Iceland …

Photo 25^^ We passed this little sign of loveliness on our way to dinner. Oh Iceland — you’re simply the best.

We headed to Snaps for dinner around 9 p.m., and the place was finally starting to slow down. We had a perfectly lovely (if somewhat forgetful!) French waitress, who said hello to us in three languages (since in Iceland you never really know where people are from). Throughout the night (which was a really long one, since we’re pretty sure she never thought we wanted to order dinner and it took us about an hour of being there before we finally tracked her down to tell her we did, in fact, want to eat), we discovered that she has a Norwegian Forest cat, just like we do, that she was from France, she was engaged, and that she wasn’t really a waitress by trade — she normally gives hiking tours of volcanos … how cool! — but that she had a friend who worked at Snaps and she was just helping out. We ordered wine and this to-die-for zucchini and cream cheese appetizer, and I ordered mussels and frittes (you have never seen a plate of mussels like this before!), and Chris got the lamb steak with bearnaise sauce, which he says was delicious as well.

All in all I we give Snaps a 5-star rating. Tasty. Fun. Great place to people watch. If in Iceland, you must go here.

Of course our filling meal didn’t stop us from stopping back at the hot dog stand on the way home. I ordered the hot dog bun with the works, sans hot dog (which the man who made it for me promised was not a weird order) — and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

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We took our one and only cab ride home that night, and ended up with a Russian driver who told us he used to be a professional hand ball player, and that he had family back home in Russia he was trying to support, but basically backed up everything our tour guide had mentioned earlier about how hard it is to make a living wage in Iceland. Poor Russian cab driver — we really do wish you the best.

And that was Sunday, my friends. The next day, our last day, was spent at this amazing little place called The Blue Lagoon — ahhhhhh the Blue Lagoon! But more on that later …

Bis bald, friends!

Remember When It Was Day 2 in Iceland …

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Last Saturday night Chris and I boarded a bus with Icelandic Excursions and set out in search of the Northern Lights.

Here’s something that I’ll say about chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland. In February. No matter how rugged up you think you are — you are not. If you think you have too many pairs of socks on … you do not. Do whatever you can to stay as warm as you can while you’re out there, because you could be out there for a very, very long time.

Icelandic Excursions was a great company to ride with. They only take their tour groups to spots where there’s an area to grab a coffee or hot chocolate or beer and go to the bathroom, and they’re willing to stay out pretty much for however long it takes to find you those dang Northern Lights.

(P.S. I’m no scientist, but this is a pretty great explanation of how the Northern Lights come to be … you should definitely check it out. Nature is amazing.)

Back to Saturday. So we traveled about an hour outside of Reykjavik to this huge field where we all disembarked and waited. And waited. And waited. We were here for about an hour or so before my feet started to feel like they were going to fall off and I needed a hot chocolate and a bathroom break.

The lights here were …. well … pretty fantastic friends.

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Photo 18But they were about to get even more fantastic. Our amazing tour guide had told us on the ride to the first spot that if they got word of a better siting of the lights elsewhere, we would all hop on the bus at a moment’s notice and speed off to said second site — and that’s exactly what we did. Chris and I were warming up on the bus for a second (so nice they keep the heat on!) when everyone else started piling on. For a second we thought we were done, but it turns out we were just moving to our second place.

We actually started to see the lights pretty brightly from on the bus as we were driving, so the driver did the quickest parking job he could and we all raced off the bus and into the field and started snapping away ….

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Just magnificent, people. The light Gods were with us that night, and it was an experience we’ll absolutely never forget.

We arrived back in the city around 12:30 that night — just about the perfect time to get ready to head out for the night! You guys, I’m not ashamed to say that on a normal night, by 12:30 I’d be well into my slumber. We’re talking deep REM sleep, friends. So it turned out that it was a good thing we waited until Saturday to go out, because coming off our Northern Lights tour I was still revved and excited and raring to go — much different from the night before when we had had maybe four hours of sleep.

So we drank some of the wine and beer we had purchased the night before and ate some of the cheese, uploaded some photos of the Northern Lights to Facebook and Instagram (I’m only human), and headed back out into the night around 1 a.m.

And it. Was. Bumpin’! These Icelanders are serious about their partying, and they do not mess around! Our waitress from Mar earlier in the day had recommended that we start off at a place called Bunk, but when we went in a little after 1 it was getting ready to close. Lame. (Don’t worry, we made it back there the following night.)

So onto the bar next door — Boston. I’d say we were here for a little over an hour, and it had a really nice atmosphere. It wasn’t crazy crowded, and everyone seemed happy and friendly and a bunch of the girls were dancing around. It was dark and homey, and there were two floors, one with oversized comfy couches and chairs and the other more of a party area. We liked it here. Boston was definitely a good find.

Then, friends, we made our way over to Prikid. By now it must have been around 3 a.m., and the line was starting to grow at this particular bar. We didn’t have to wait long — although the bouncers did card every single person who entered before us, stopped and looked us up and down, and then let us right in sans being carded.

Ouch. Guess we’re old looking.

I should preface our Prikid experience by saying that we had stumbled upon this bar guide of Reykjavik before our trip, which is amazing. You may notice that under the explanation for Prikid they say that the atmosphere is “Homey; low key,” and:

“Primary reason to go there To
find a mate; to chat with friends; to
bolster an image; to pretend to work
on your book of poetry; to toke on a
doobie.”

Photo 24^^ I took this photo of Prikid much earlier in the night the Friday before, simply because I
thought the place looked cool. It’s pretty low-key around 9 p.m. Not so much around 2:30 a.m.

And while I guess I could sort of see how the doobie part is accurate, the last thing I would call Prikid is “homey”, nor did I consider it a good place to “pretend to work on my book of poetry.”

Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun. We met a really young looking kid wearing two hats and a sweatshirt who told us his name was Massimo and that he was a professional some-sport-or-other that was just shy of being an Olympics-approved sport. He was from Boston, but he had lived in Iceland for three years, and he absolutely loved it there. He owned three snowmobiles and he showed us pictures of him riding them.

These are the things you talk about at 3 a.m. at a bar in Iceland to a random stranger when you are slightly intoxicated.

He was with a girl who seemed really annoyed the entire time we were with them. When I asked her if Massimo was her boyfriend, she scoffed and said no, they were just friends. Please, lady. I can smell a crush from a mile away.

Downstairs the bar was pumping the rap and R&B music, it was crowded and dark and the bar tenders kept swinging these low-hanging lamps that were all around the bar so that there was this constant feeling of movement right above your head.

It was …. really fun! At one point a very drunk boy at the bar came up to Chris and asked him for money for a drink (we did not oblige), and while I was waiting in line to use the bathroom a very nice young woman who looked to be about 19 or 20 started talking to me for no reason. Just because we were standing there. And she was nice. And that’s what Icelanders do.

Oh Iceland, how I love thee.

After Prikid we headed over to Baejarins beztu pylsur.

Did you get all that?

Anyway, it’s the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland (some say it’s even the best restaurant there), and Chris got a hot dog with the works.

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The thing about my husband, you see, is that he doesn’t even really like hot dogs. However, this hot dog, he says, was the best hot dog he’d ever had in his life. I guess for a person who doesn’t like hot dogs that isn’t really saying much? He seemed happy about it though, and the line was long to get one, so they must be something special. (Don’t worry, I tried one the following night, sans actual hot dog, and at least I can attest to the fact that “the works” part of the hot dog was pretty great!)

And that was about it friends. Our Saturday in a nutshell. The Northern Lights, bar hopping and hot dogs. We headed home around 5 in the morning (but not before stopping at the grocery store to pick up cup of noodles and some caramel chocolate to eat when we got home … geez I must have been drunk!), feeling happy, buzzed and alive.

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Bis bald, friends! Tomorrow it’s on to Day 3.

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 2

I’m baaackkkk! So Day 2 of our Icelandic Adventure really was quite the day my friends. It was the day that Chris and I got to take part in something that a very limited number of people will ever get to see. Like, ever.

I’ll give you a hint.

_DSC5209^^ Oh my!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We started the morning and early afternoon off by renting bikes from this very Harley-looking dude on a very dilapidated street with lots of graffiti that was only a few blocks from our hotel and only one street over from one of the main downtown streets.

And it may have been freezing that day (and in some parts treacherously icy!), my friends, but the views were still absolutely glorious. We rode around the entire rim of the city from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., just taking it all in …

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Photo 6^^ One of the natural thermal beaches that you’ll find all around Iceland. Pretty amazing.

After our ride we were both eager for some coffee to warm us up, and I really wanted a tasty treat. (You know me!) So we stopped by C is for Cookie Cafe in the downtown area for some coffee and the most delicious (and expensive at $8 for one slice!) warm apple pie and whipped cream.

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Here is where I need to make note of something that totally and 100% intrigued me. When you are in a new place, one of the most amazing things is to note the cultural differences. What’s considered totally normal and average in one place could be considered inconsiderate or rude in another. So when we first approached the cafe, I noticed that about three or four strollers were parked outside next to the big windows surrounding the place. So they don’t bring strollers inside places, I thought. Interesting.

It didn’t end there, though. As it turns out, it seemed to me that, at least in this one particular instance that I saw, babies who were asleep when their parents arrived were left outside. In the carriages. All bundled up and sleeping soundly away. One mother inside had a baby monitor at the table with her, but I didn’t really think twice about it … until I later realized that the reason was because her baby was asleep outside in her stroller!

Amazing!

My first thought was about the cold, but in the days since I’ve seen this and have mentioned it to people, the first thought that springs to most people’s minds is the fact that crime must not be a big issue here. That’s promising, I guess? As blown away by this realization as I was when I first understood it, it’s as I said — what’s considered commonplace in one country can be completely baffling in another.

So much to learn about this world.

Anyway, moving on. After the coffee we decided to kick it up a notch to beer. Chris used his Happy Hour app and discovered a happy hour happening at Mar, a fancy little restaurant near the water with maps on the wall showing you all the different countries from which they draw inspiration for their cuisine.

We didn’t do cuisine though — we just did drinks ;) And we chatted up the bartender to no end about the ins and outs of going out on a weekend with the Icelanders. She suggested good bars for us to visit (one of which was prikid, which I have so much to say about!), and confirmed to me that yes, things do indeed tend to get a bit crazy on weekends in Iceland and yes, drunken shenanigans most definitely would ensue.

At least I was prepared.

After Mar we headed towards the water to climb up a hut made out of hay which is used to dry fish and take pictures of the water.

Weird sentence — but that’s exactly what we did.

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Photo 9^^ Silly husband. I think those aren’t for riding.

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Photo 12^^ See. A hut of straw that you climb up.

photo 1 (56)^^ See. Dried fish guts inside the hut.

photo 2 (60)^^ Top of the hut.

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Walking home from our hut adventure we stopped by The Kebab House for dinner (see review here), which was decent but not all that memorable. Chris got the fish and chips (said he’s had better) and I got a veggie pita, which was pretty okay. Wouldn’t be the first on my list of dining recommendations for Iceland, let’s just say. Although there was a group of rowdy men drinking beer at the table behind us for a while when we first arrived, and at one point they broke out into Icelandic song. So that part I really enjoyed!

So that night, friends. That night. It was the night of all nights. It was the night of our Northern Lights Tour, as well as the night we went out into the town.

There’s so much to say about both of these amazing things, and I’ve already written so much for today — I’m making an executive editorial decision to cut our Day 2 in half. Yup. Just decided.

Tune in tomorrow, my friends, for an update on our Northern Lights Tour and our adventure with the crazy Icelandic party animals!

I guess in that case the first photo I shared with you was a tease. Oh well, what can you do! Bis bald!

P.S. I’m noticing in my dashboard that I’m getting some readers from Iceland on both this and yesterday’s posts — Hi Iceland! So happy to have you!

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 1

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Hey friends,

As you all know by now, Chris and I returned home from our (awesome. amazing. unreal. fantastic. insert-fabulous-adjective here) trip to Iceland late last night, and I’ve been busting to share the info and photos with you. Alas, a full day of work has kept me from doing so until now.

Anyway, moving on. Coming home from a trip like this. just. plain. sucks! But going through all the photos and writing down the memories here to keep forever … well that’s just really fun.

Here we go! Day 1 in Iceland began last Friday, at around 6 a.m., Icelandic time ….

After a quick (and somewhat cramped) overnight flight from JFK, we landed at Keflavik Airport a little before our expected arrival time of 6 a.m. Which was actually 1 a.m. NY time.

Who needs sleep when you’re young?!

We had booked a shuttle transfer from the airport to our hotel, the Best Western, ahead of time, which I would highly, highly  recommend since it was so easy and cheap (approximately $15), and you do not want to get to Iceland and have to worry about how you’re getting to your hotel, since if you’re staying in Reykjavik, it will probably be about an hour away. Like I said, we stayed at the Best Western Hotel Reykjavik (Trip Advisor reviews can be found here), which was a tad off the beaten track from downtown Reykjavik (about a 10 to 15 minute walk to the city center, I’d say) — but the front desk ladies were always completely lovely and extremely helpful, and a decent breakfast was included, and the price was right … so really, I’d say if you don’t mind walking a bit to get to the really hopping part of town, it’s worth staying at the Best Western.

Of course getting in at 6 a.m. and arriving to our hotel around 7 a.m. meant we couldn’t check right in. Instead we stored our bags and hit the streets! The cold, dark streets. Neither one of us really had any idea where we were going (and it stayed that way for about a good 20 minutes, I’d say. Why didn’t we just ask for directions?!), and the sun doesn’t rise until about 9:30 a.m. in the winter in Iceland, but none of that mattered — we were on an adventure! We spent the morning walking around downtown, drinking coffee at Te & Kaffi (also read about it here), stumbling upon the most adorable and classy violin-making shop I’ve ever seen (note to self: take up the violin again), and checking out some of the local stores in the downtown area, most of which don’t open until the sun has fully risen by 10 a.m.

Photo 1^^ The gorgeous church that pretty much starts the main drag of downtown Reykjavik.
Also, this picture was taken around 8 a.m. Nary a glimmer of sunlight in the sky!

Photo 2^^ Umm, right?! How amazing is this violin studio??

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photo 4^^ One of these things is not like the other …

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During our wanders we also happened upon The Laundromat Cafe, which I had read about and knew I wanted to visit. The place has a seriously adorable, 70s-style laundromat downstairs, while the upstairs doubles as a restaurant by day, bar by night, and all-around bookstore (they color code their books, like I do!) and people-watching heaven.

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Oh, and my eggs and tomatoes weren’t too shabby, either. (As it turns out, Icelanders are pretty proud of their tomatoes. They consider all other tomatoes grown from outside of the country to just not be good enough … and after tasting theirs, I can see why.)

By the time we made it back outside it was snowing gently — the perfect Icelandic weather! We made our way slowly back to the hotel (not before picking up some wine at the local store for later) to finally check in and take a nap before heading back out into the day. (As a side note, I’ve already mentioned that the sun doesn’t rise until 9:30ish in the winter in Iceland, but it also sets around 5 p.m., so if you’re a daylight lover, you really need to plan your time wisely to make the most out of what little you’ll get of it if you travel here in February. I wasn’t quite sure how I would take the fewer hours of daylight. As it turns out, I didn’t mind it even one tiny little bit.)

After our nap, we headed over to Cinema No: 2, which I had also read about, to take in two videos — one on the formation of Iceland and its geography and people, and another on the Northern Lights (for which we would have a tour to try to find ourselves the following night). The Cinema was small but super cozy, with couches and an old-school popcorn machine and a lovely man in a warm sweater to take your money at the door. The “movie screen” is really a projector screen, and the videos themselves seem pretty old, but it doesn’t matter. The history of Iceland and its nature and the Northern Lights have been set for years, so there’s really not much updating that needs to be done. On the other hand, it’s a bit expensive (about $30 for both of us) … but it was worth it. A very nice thing to do on your first day in Iceland. Just be sure to double-check the times if this is something you’d like to do on your own trip. The Cinema isn’t open all day (I believe we went around 6 p.m. to catch our movies), so it would be a shame to head all the way over there and miss them.

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After the movies we went straight to Micro Bar, a tiny little bar located behind the lobby of The Center Hotel, practically directly across the street from The Laundromat Cafe. (Also check it out in this list of the 11 coolest bars in Reykjavik, which I really wish I had seen before we left for our trip. But that’s okay … I think we did just fine. The trick is to just ask the locals … but more on that later!) This funky little place is actually a microbrewery, and we were able to sample four of their most delicious beers for the low, low price of $20.

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I think here might actually be a good place to mention prices in Iceland. Ummmm …. they be expensive!!! And we live in Manhattan, friends, so when someone from Manhattan calls another place expensive? Well, you just know it must be true. I’ll get a bit more into the finances of Iceland (or lack thereof) in day three, though, because that’s when we learned all about it. For the purpose of today’s blog post, let’s just put it out there that if you travel to Reykjavik, be prepared to drop some cash, friends. It’s one of the best places I’ve been in the world (What?! Did she really just say that?!), but it’s no cheap place to visit.

All of this detracts, however, from the awesomeness that is Micro Bar. It has such a homey, low-key vibe, with subdued lighting and tasty snacks and lovely bartenders, and the most adorable paintings of mountains (each with something tiny and surprising to find that makes it different) on the walls — this is a must while in Iceland.

I guess here is also a good place to tell you about what our original plans were for Friday night. As anyone who has ever read anything about Reykjavik or has been there will know — on the weekends, these people know how to party! They party hard and loud and long into the night. Like, they start the bar hopping around 12:30 or 1, friends. This is no joke. So knowing this was a Reykjavik ritual that we would most definitely be partaking in, we thought we’d grab a quick drink and dinner early, then head back to the hotel with some wine from the local liquor store (conveniently located near Micro Bar), some snacks from the grocery and take a quick power nap before heading out again around 12:30 or 1.

For dinner, we had originally tried to make a reservation at Fridrik V, but unfortunately we couldn’t get in. Then we read about Snaps (which also made that top beer places list I linked out to above), but they were pretty booked when we tried there as well. (Don’t worry, we did make it to Snaps, eventually.) We instead stumbled on Noodle Station, a hole-in-the-wall Thai soup store that smelled delicious and had lots of locals eating there. So that’s where we ate our first night, and it was spectacular, friends. To be fair, I’m going to go ahead and just say that we didn’t eat anything bad, per se, at all on this trip. (You can pretty much assume this means we didn’t eat any traditional Icelandic food — like whale, or Puffin. Ummm…needless to say I’m okay with that, and so is Chris.) So the Noodle Station on Friday night was delicious, but it wasn’t our best meal. Still, it’s worth a shot for lunch or if you’re in need of a quick nighttime meal, for sure.

On the way back to our hotel for some wine and our (what was meant to be a) power nap, we stopped at the grocery store for some cheese and crackers. We were also hoping to find some playing cards (which we without fail always forget to bring on trips), and when they didn’t have any for sale, the lovely man behind the counter who rang us up actually ended up pulling out a pack from behind the register and just giving them to us completely for free. I mean … how lovely! It was really a small act of kindness that made our night.

So that was pretty much our first day in Iceland, friends! I’m going to spare you the expense and just say we never made it out Friday night (100% my fault), but did get out with the crazy crowd on Saturday night … and it was every bit as much fun as everything I had read.

But more on that tomorrow. (That and a little thing called the Northern Lights!)

Bis bald, friends!

 

The Year 2013: A Review

Hi friends,

Well it’s that time of year again — the one where everyone takes a couple minutes to take stock of how the past 12 months have gone? This year has been a particularly important one for myself and Chris. It was our first year of married life. It was a year spent celebrating our marriage around the world with family and friends. It was a year that we made some pretty big decisions about our future (not yet shared here!), and one that had a lot of amazing traveling in it …

February
In February we took an amazing weekend trip to Tarrytown for our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, where I had one of my absolute favorite meals of this entire year.

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March
In March I took a relaxing trip to visit my best friend in D.C., where we practiced wedding makeup for Chris and my upcoming wedding party in April.

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April
April was a holy-cow-of-a-month for us! First, I turned 30 (ah!), and we celebrated with a gorgeous hike up Breakneck Ridge with friends.

Thanks for going along with my crazy idea, gang!

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Holy rock climbing!

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Then Chris’s parents came for a visit, and we all took a trip to London so that Chris could run the 5th race in his World Marathon series.

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Geared up!

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We also celebrated our marriage at Magnanini Winery in upstate NY with friends and family in April, but I didn’t blog about that because I didn’t have photos for a long time. I have them now, though! Here are some of my faves.

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June
In June we celebrated our wedding in Jersey with some close friends and family. Here are some of my favorite shots from that party:

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July
In July we took a trip out to Charlotte, N.C. and Arizona to visit an old, old friend of mine.

^^Bloody Mary's in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It's been real.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Sedona hike--unbelievable.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

August
In August I took another trip back down to D.C. for a “sprinkle” baby celebration …

^^The beginning stages of lemon bars. Can you say yum?!

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^^ Blueberry Crumble for the dessert bar.

^^We also made these to-die-for apple crumble bar with cinnamon. The sign in the back was a piece of corkboard that Lisa painted with chalkboard paint and strung some twine across. People wrote notes on little cards and placed them on the twin for Alison and her new baby boy.

and we visited what has now become our new favorite upstate winery — Warwick Valley Winery.

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Summer Happenings
I feel like I should take a moment to pay homage to all of the activities we took part in this summer that were right here in New York City, like seeing Shakespeare in the Park, hosting my nephew’s very first trip to NYC, riding bikes through the park, seeing the NY Philharmonic in the park (are you sensing a “park” theme?!), checking out the Met, going for a sail from Pier 25 on the west side and strolling around DUMBO, Brooklyn … to name a few.

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^^ I seriously forgot how many hills there are in Central Park. I had to take a break about 3/4 of the way through.

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^^Stolen from Istagram, thank you very much.

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^^ So -- what's the theme? Can ya tell? Hint: I'm wearing a red wig!

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^^ Freshman year JMU roommates -- go Dukes!

September
September was another busy month for us. First we took the ferry out to Governor’s Island to go exploring.

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^^ Carousel ahead!

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We also headed to St. Augustine, Florida for the Gentleman of the Road Mumford & Sons tour for Chris’s Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip … (also talked about here)

^^View from the Beachcomber. Not too shabby.

^^Chris with the Castillo de San Marcos fort in the background.

^^Check out all the wrist tags we needed! Shuttle. Concert. Drinks. Boat. Check!

^^This last photo was actually from Saturday night's show when Mumford was playing and it was lightning in the background. But we'll get to that ...

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October
We headed to Australia (also here) at the end of September and into October to celebrate our wedding with Chris’s side of the family, as well as to take a honeymoon trip to The Great Barrier Reef.

^^What bride gets to wear her wedding dress three times? This one, that's who!

^^ Mom and baby. Man I'll never stop loving it when I see these guys!

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^^ The Sydney Harbour's a real beaut - isn't she?

November
I headed to the suburbs of Philly in November to visit an old friend and her family, and we took a trip out to the Philadelphia Zoo while I was there …

^^ I was about to delete this photo of the Clown Fish because I had better ones, until I saw the Fish Photo Bomb.

^^ This little guy is a Red Panda, and she'll be making an appearance in my children's book very soon!

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^^ Rhino!

and we celebrated Thanksgiving in both Newburgh and New Jersey.

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December
This month we surprised my stepdad with a Super Secret weekend trip to Syracuse, his alma mater, for his 50th birthday.

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And we took a Christmas trip to Stowe, Vermont with some family

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And that about sums up 2013, friends! On the docket for 2014 so far is …

  • A trip to Saratoga Springs the first weekend in January to celebrate our one year anniversary. I’m particularly excited about the hotel where we’ll be staying — Saratoga Arms it’s gotten amazing reviews.
  • Iceland in February!
  • Denver in April with my sister and her boyfriend
  • A trip out to Cape Cod for a friend’s wedding (not to mention lots of other friends’ weddings scattered throughout the year!)
  • A potential 1.5-3 month trip in South America at the end of the year. Lots more on this to come.

Bis bald, friends! And may your new year be filled with fun travels, great friends and awesome experiences!

For the Love of Spontaneous Travel ….

Hi friends,

It probably shouldn’t come as a huge shock that I’m a sucker for anything that seems like a good travel deal. So when I saw a Travelzoo deal posted yesterday for 5 days in Iceland–including hotel, air and a Northern Lights tour–I just felt like we really had to go for it.

A little over a year ago now, a couple of co-workers from my previous job all took a trip together to Iceland, and from everything I heard, it’s pretty amazing. Reykjavik itself is well-known for its night life, the Northern Lights (aka the Aurora Borealis) would be absolutely amazing to see and, let’s be honest, if I could plop myself in the Blue Lagoon for the rest of my life … I think I’d be one happy lady.

We had originally planned to try to head out over Thanksgiving break, but we waited too long to book it, so the trip will now be the weekend before Valentine’s day of next year. That’s okay, though. With Australia and The Great Barrier Reef coming up, plus Chris’s Super-Secret-30th-Birthday-Trip, we’ve got a lot on our plates this year.

Huzzah for new, fun trips to look forward to!

Bis bald, friends!

The Excitement of Upcoming Travel

Hi friends!

Well we’re firmly into the second quarter of 2013 here, and it’s time for me to start getting excited about some of the trips we have planned for the rest of the year.

So let’s see. For starters, my in-laws will be making their way to the U.S. the week after next, and Chris and I will be heading to London with them to watch Chris run the London Marathon:

100_6027^^A little flashback to when Steph and I first visited London back in 2010

Then, Chris and I booked a trip out to Arizona to visit an old friend of mine for the weekend of July 4th. Neither one of us has been before, so we’re super excited. We’re going to go camping and hiking, and visit Lake Powell and Havasu Falls:

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September will be a big month for us, too. We’ll be heading to Australia to celebrate our wedding with Chris’s side of the family, and then taking a couple-day honeymoon to The Great Barrier Reef:

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^^A little memory from our last trip to Australia (written about here and here). That’s Shawn the Koala, the subject of my soon-to-written children’s book series. Seriously. It’s coming.

There will be another trip in September two weekends before Australia, but that’s super secret for now, as it’s a surprise trip in honor of Chris’s 30th birthday. Let’s just say—I’m super excited about it!

And that’s about it (for now)! Bis bald, friends! I’ll catch up with you again super soon …

Rome–Our Fourth and Final Destination

Well, here we are friends. We’ve arrived, at last, at our fourth and final destination of our little European adventure from a few weeks ago–Rome.

Now, you know my love of Rome. The ancient architecture. The amazing artists. The un-replicatable (is that a word?) food. It’s all just amazing. But you know something that’s kind of even more amazing than all that? Sharing a place that you really love with someone you love.

Awwwww–aren’t I so sweet? No but really, guys–I was beyond excited to visit Rome with Chris and to see if he would fall as in love with it as I did.

And the verdict? Well of course he did!

So let’s go…back to Rome… Continue reading

Me, Dragging My Feet …

Hi friends,

Sorry it’s taking me so long to wrap up our little European adventure–you know how I feel about writing my last post about a vacation. It just makes it so real that it’s over (not that being home for the past week hasn’t made it real, as well).

Anyway, I’ve been a bit busy, but I promise, promise, promise to get to my fourth and final post–Rome! Sweet Rome!–written some time this week.
Until then, look at this pretty, pretty picture while you wait …

Who couldn’t love Rome? I mean, really …

A Gorgeous (and Expensive) Drive Through the Alps

Hi friends,

So back to last Wednesday morning, Chris and his dad left the hotel early to pick up our rental car so that we could get on out of Munich. We would be driving about 2 hours from Munich to Salzburg to drop Chris’s parents off (it was so sad to say goodbye!), and then Chris and I would be continuing on to Venice.

We knew that we were starting off with an expensive journey, since renting a car in one country and returning it in another is, you know, not that cheap.

Little did we know that was just the beginning …

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A Hop, Skip and Jump to Munich

Hello, Munich. How I’ve missed you!

Hi friends,

So part deux of our European adventure story starts off in Munich, where we stayed at the Citadines, which are more small apartments than hotel rooms (meaning we had a little kitchen and a living room, but no one to clean the place up when we left for the day.)

The location was perfect for Oktoberfest–it was just a short walk to the grounds where the tents are. It’s not the best location if you’re in Munich mostly for the city center, though, like to visit Marienplatz or stroll through town. (For that type of trip, I’d highly recommend the hotels I stayed in during this trip to Munich a few years ago.)

Lucky for us, we were there for Oktoberfest, and our adventure began that Sunday night …

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Last Thursday, When We Were Berlin-Bound

It’s hard to believe this wall ever divided Berlin. So sad.

Hey friends! So it’s Monday, October 8th, which can only mean one thing–Chris and I are back from Europe.

Cue the violins.

Seriously though, this was one stellar, awesome, amazing trip. In what amounts to 9 full days, we managed to cover Berlin (where Chris ran a marathon), Munich (where we had so much fun at Oktoberfest!), rent a car and drive from Munich to Salzburg to Venice for more than $700 (that story will come later), see Venice in less than 24 full hours and hit up Rome for all the classics.

That’s a lot.

But despite the fact that it was a whirlwind…it really didn’t feel that way. I felt like we were able to spend a good amount of time in each place, and I actually did end up feeling rested and relaxed when we arrived back last night.

So anyway, without further ado, how about I take you on back to last Friday, when Chris and I arrived in Berlin at around 8:30 a.m…

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Home Swapping Sites on our Horizon

Hi friends!

So it’s t-minus two days before Chris and I jet off on our little European adventure…I am sososo excited!

Although, we did hit a minor bump in the European road yesterday when Chris emailed me to say that our pre-booked hotel in Rome had unceremoniously unbooked us. Apparently something with Chris’s payment information was incorrect, and he had missed the warning email.

Oops.

So there we were, three days before leaving without a place to stay in Rome.

Chris quickly booked a back-up hotel for us, but it wasn’t in an area of Rome that I thought would be central to all the lovely things we have planned. As I was searching hotels.com for something more adequate, a coworker of mine mentioned using home swap sites, like HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb.

I’ll be honest–I’ve never actually used one of these sites before. I know plenty of people who have, and they’ve always been more than happy with the results, so I figured, why not give it a try! After about a half hour searching on Airbnb, I found a cute little studio apartment for rent in an area of Rome that seemed lovely, and that had received tons of good reviews on the site.

So…we booked it! This, my friends, will be our first forray into the world of booking through home swap sites.

Who knows, if all goes well, it might be our new norm.

Do any of you guys use sites like HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb? Have you generally liked what you’ve found? Do you prefer one site over the others?

Bis bald, friends!

The Beautiful Lights of Italy

How beautiful is this light fixture??

Hi friends,

Let’s take a quick step back for a moment, shall we? I’d like to go back to about three weeks ago when I was in Italy, surprising my family with a trip and having the time of my life. While there was so much there that I saw that I loved, one surprising thing that I noticed was how ornate and beautiful all of the light fixtures were. Nary a bathroom ceiling was left unadorned by a fabulous, sparkly, glowing chandelier.
So, my friends, I did what any aspiring photographer would do–I took as many photos of them as I possibly could.

Care to take a trip with me down memory lane?

Continue reading

My Trip to Calabria, Part Deux

Welcome back friends! I’ve come to the part of my travel blogging that I always hate–the part where I write about the rest of the trip and then I’m done. It always feels so finite, like I’m actually finally done with the trip. There’s nothing left to do. The last word has been written. As long as I still have these blog posts to write, the trip is still alive in my mind, you know?

Anyway, as they say… all good things must come to an end, I guess.

So here we go, on with the final few days of my trip.

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A Family Trip to Calabria, Italy

Hi friends!

Well I’m back from my super-secret trip, and I can finally tell you where it was to: Roccella Jonica, in Calabria, Italy.

So why was this such a big secret? Well it was a surprise to my family who lives there (my grandfather’s sister and brother, as well as another sister who was visiting from Australia) that I was coming. It was a surprise that my aunt and uncle and two of my cousins were coming, as well.

Aren’t surprise visits just the best? This one totally took the cake.

Let me start at the beginning …

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A Prince Edward Island Trip—Part Deux

So Cath just sent us a text message to say that she’s on the plane now, headed back to Aus-Town.

Sad.

It’s only been two weeks, but MAN we packed it in in two weeks! We had gotten pretty used to having that bundle of Aussie energy around…it’ll take a bit to get back to normal, I think.

Anyway, in honor of Cath’s last day, here’s what happened on our last day of adventures at Prince Edward Island….

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A Trip To Prince Edward Island

Cath and I sat down last night so we could go over all her notes from our trip to Prince Edward Island (a trip she’s been wanting to take for quite a while now). So without further ado, now that I’m fairly certain all of my details are accurate, here’s a rundown of our trip to Canada….

After a two-hour delay out of JFK into Charlottetown (in which we flew in what is seriously the tiniest plane I have ever been on), we didn’t end up arriving at our bed and breakfast—The Sonata Inn on Grafton Street—until after 11 p.m. We were starving, but Charlottetown reminded me a bit of Salzburg in the fact that no restaurant would be open at such a late hour.

Luckily for us, though, Dale, the lovely owner of our B&B, took our delay and late arrival into account, and upon letting us in and giving us a tour, he also informed us that he had left a small basket of food in the room just in case we were hungry. This, my friends, is one of the benefits of staying in a friendly little B&B.

Thanks for the chips, fruit cups, and granola bars Dale!

Our cute little room, which happened to have a large, walk-in closet that was haunted by a light ghost. That's right, a ghost who kept turning the lights on and off.

After a restful night on the comfy beds at the B&B, we all headed down to the breakfast on Friday morning before we started our day. As this was my first B&B experience, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew some socializing would be on the agenda, and that we would most likely be sitting with other groups of people at the table.

Turns out it wasn’t half bad! That morning we ended up sitting with three couples—one of which happened to be the two most adventurous 80-year-old people I have ever met in my entire life (seriously, they’ve been skydiving and zip lining and para-sailing…they really live it up!)—while we chowed down on muffins, fruit, yogurt, and homemade eggs and ham (I skipped out on that brekkie, as you could probably have guessed). It was actually  kind of nice to get a chance to meet some other travelers, to hear about what they had already done on the island, and to get some pointers on things we should check out.

After breakfast, and after Chris had picked up our rental car…

We headed into town so that Cath could buy her tickets for Anne of Green Gables—The Musical, and to do a bit of shopping.

Then we hit the open road. We took a scenic drive along the coast, stopping to have lunch at a fantastic little place on Brackley Beach called The Dunes, overlooking the Green Gables Shore. The cafe sold food and drinks, sure, but it also was an artsy venue, as well as a flower garden and pottery studio.

It cost us $20 to get onto the beach, which is a bit much. But it definitely was pretty


Eclectic artwork at The Dunes Cafe

The gardens at the Cafe

Crab cakes....oh my!

My delicious Pho soup with the famous PEI muscles

There was awesome furniture in the outdoor area that had all been carved out of driftwood

 

After our fabulous lunch, we all loaded back into the car and drove up the coast to North Rustico, this adorable tiny little fishing village.

Then it was on to the famous Cavendish to partake in the history of Anne of Green Gables, which included seeing the house where L.M. Montgomery’s cousins lived, which is believed to have been the inspiration for her stories, as well as the site of where the home of her grandparents used to be, which is where L.M. herself grew up. We walked the trails surrounding the little green Anne house, read some of the history of the place, and took lots of photos.

Full disclaimer: I’ve never actually read the books. Oops. But don’t fret, friends. I purchased my very own copy of Anne of Green Gables directly from Prince Edward Island, so it will be the very next thing I read.

The famous green house of Anne of Green Gables

Anne's room

On the trails behind the Anne house

After we’d had our fill of Anne, we tried to check out Avonlea, as well, but there was a big music festival happening the same weekend, so unfortunately it was closed off. So instead, we headed over to Cows Ice Cream (seriously some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had) in Bay View for a treat and a bit of a rest before hitting up our final destination of the day—New Glasgow for The Toy Factory, where Cath picked up some cute things for the kids in her classroom and her granddaughter.

New Glasgow scenery

After a full day of driving and site seeing, we were definitely starved. So after New Glasgow we headed back to our hotel to freshen up for our dinner at Lobster on the Wharf, where Chris and I would eat our first of three lobster rolls on this trip (Lobster Roll Rating No. 1: 3.5 for good lobster, but not enough of it, and the roll was just a bit hard (hey, we wait a long time for lobster rolls, we deserve to rate them! The potato salad was homemade and delicious, though, as was my Bloody Caesar drink (the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary, made with clam juice, so says Chris).

We ate out on the deck, which was beautiful, until I got so cold I couldn’t feel my right hand anymore and I had to ask if we could please move this party inside. Cath and Chris happily obliged.

Sunset at Lobster on the Wharf

Calamari and scallop appetizers...yum!

Lobster roll No. 1

Enjoying a little lobster

So it was a busy day, my friends. But even so, when we arrived back at the hotel after dinner we borrowed London Suite from the B&B video library to watch.

And I promptly fell asleep.

I’m told I didn’t miss much.

Bis bald, friends! Stay tuned tomorrow for an update on Saturday’s adventures…