Iceland Road Trip: The Golden Circle

Golden Circle Road Trip

Firstly, I’d like to give a huge shout-out to Auður at IHeartReykjavik for the inspiration for this Golden Circle road trip. We used her map and suggested stops to get us from Reykjavik to Gulfoss and back, and it was super handy!

The Golden Circle basically covers the highlights of Iceland in one neat little day-long road trip. If you’re pressed for time and can only spend a day or two in Iceland, then this is the route for you! You’ll cover waterfalls, geysers, national parks and much more in a very short period driving the Golden Circle.

Why drive The Golden Circle yourself?

Rather than take a guided coach tour, we opted to rent our own car when in Iceland so that we could do the sights our own way – freedom to explore and choice far outweighed our need to be chauffeured around. Plus, being in our 30’s we didn’t want to be crammed into a coach bus with a bunch of old people. No offense to old people, but overhearing conversations about retirement plans, medication and grandchildren wasn’t on our list of experiences to be had.

Golden Circle road trip

Road trip! On our way out of Reykjavik, heading east…

It was summer when we went so we did not need to worry about snow on the roads. Although I was a bit nervous about renting a car abroad, I was assured by friends that driving is easy and safe, so long as the weather cooperates. They were right – it was really, really easy to drive there and there’s nearly zero traffic.

Hitting the Road

We set out from Reykjavik after picking up our rental car at around 730am, which included Continue reading

Top 15 Packing Tips for an Iceland Summer

Top 15 Packing Tips for an Iceland SummerAn Iceland summer may have the sun, beach and waves, but what it doesn’t have is any heat that is not in a geothermal pool. It’s COLD, y’all. Although it’s in the northern hemisphere and it’s technically the summertime, temperatures in Reykjavik and beyond don’t normally rise above 70 degrees Fahrenheit/21 degrees Celsius. As I write this post, it’s currently 55 degrees Fahrenheit in Reykavik, and a boiling 93 degrees in New York City. I think I’ve made my point.

Iceland is also known for being a pretty outdoorsy place to visit, so balancing sturdy activewear with city threads for a night out can be a challenge.  Hopefully these tips will help you figure out what to pack for an Iceland summer and what to leave at home.

Without further ado, here are my:

Top 15 Packing Tips for An Iceland Summer

1. Hiking Shoes

I had read up before we left on our trip about what sorts of shoes I should bring and thought to myself, “I don’t own any hiking shoes, why would I buy any now? Just for a vacation? I don’t even like hiking.”  Let’s just say I was glad I took a last-minute trip to DSW to pick up some Merrell shoes, because I wore them every single day of our trip. I got the Siren Sport 2′s, but not in waterproof. In hindsight, I should have gotten the waterproof ones, as they’re only $20 more.

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

Merrell’s Siren Sport 2 Waterproof hiking shoe

I still don’t like hiking (or, as I like to call it, “walking uphill in dirt”), but we sure did a lot of it on our trip. The amazing views usually made it all pay off in the end. Still, I’m so glad I was wearing those shoes. Especially when I took a tumble down the Kerid crater. True story.

2. Bathing Suit

Icelanders love a good hot swim, no matter the weather outside. No trip to Iceland is complete without a dip in one of Reykjavik’s hot pots or a trip to the super-touristy-yet-bucket-list-item Blue Lagoon. Or, you can find a fabled swimming hole described in an Icelandic saga, instead, like on our Snaefellsnes tour.  Don’t be caught without your bikini or trunks and be forced to miss out on a truly Icelandic experience!

3. Sunscreen

Just because it’s cold or cloudy outside doesn’t mean that you won’t get a wicked sunburn. Make sure you slather up your face and other exposed body parts during the daytime (remember, the sun during an Iceland summer is out nearly 24 hours a day) to avoid looking like a cooked lobster come dinnertime!

UNSS030-web

I highly recommend one of the Rodan + Fields options. (full disclosure – I’m an R+F consultant, and clicking on the link will bring you to my R+F online store, but I 100% recommend the products because I use them myself – including on our trip to Iceland!). For my face I love the Unblemish step 4 with 20 SPF and for body the Essentials 30 SPF full spectrum sunscreen does the trick.

4. Sunglasses

Did you know that if you have light-colored eyes, it’s even more important for you to wear eye protection from the sun? These baby blues rarely see the summer without a nice dark lens between them and the outside world. Most of the amazing experiences Iceland has to offer include being outdoors. Remember, the sun shines nearly 24 hours a day during an Icelandic summer (see above). Bring some sunglasses to avoid paying crazy prices once you land in Reykjavik (clothing and other items are much more expensive there than in the U.S.). The glare off of the glaciers in the sun can be blinding – snow blindness is a thing. Sunglasses usually help a photo op, too, so you’re not squinting in every photo!

Top 15 Iceland Summer Packing Tips

These Ted Baker Petrus Wayfarer sunglasses are one of my faves.

5. Water-resistant windbreaker with a hood

You’ll be so glad that you brought a water-resistant or waterproof hooded jacket if you get up close and personal with a waterfall (which are like churches in a European city – everywhere!).  The weather can also change fairly quickly or be a little rainy – and sometimes windy. Keeping your hands free and your body dry, one of these babies will help you really enjoy your beautiful surroundings without being uncomfortable or getting sick later.

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

The North Face’s Venture Jacket

I bought a cheap number from Target (Ava & Viv), and hubs got a great lightweight shell from The North Face that rolls up into a little ball. Unfortunately, The North Face’s XL women’s jackets are a little snug on me (yes, I’ll actually admit that), so I couldn’t join him in the The North Face fun. But his looks pretty sweet, too.

6. Water-resistant pants/Trousers

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

The North Face’s Aphrodite pants

Being sprayed by waterfalls and riding around a glacier lagoon in a Zodiac boat means that you won’t want to wear jeans. Plus, pants with some stretch but water resistance are good for hiking around, being outdoors in the rain and keeping your rental car somewhat dry. Quick-drying pantalones are essential. I picked up some North Face Aphrodite pants in black Macy’s before leaving for the trip (same shopping trip as DSW) and I am so glad I had them. The bonus is that they have pockets and everything.

7. Wicking long-sleeved shirts for layering

Cooler mornings and evenings in the Iceland summer mean you’ll want a little something extra to layer between your tshirt and your windbreaker. A moisture-wicking long-sleeved top can be just the ticket. And, with near-24-hours’ daylight, you can spend 18 hours in a day in the Iceland summer seeing the sights, so you WILL be out and about at a waterfall at 9pm (if you’re up to it!). I love my long-sleeved wicking tops from Fabletics for this.

8. Wicking t-shirts or tank tops for layering

My number #1 favorite item I brought with me was a moisture-wicking, loose-fitting t-shirt. The material is cool in the heat and warm enough in the cooler morning, and if you work up a sweat hiking up to Svartifoss, you won’t be gross all day long. Layering is key in a climate like this!  The Mosa Tank from Fabletics is moisture-wicking and has a vent in the back top.

Mosa Tank from Fabletics

The Mosa Tank

9. Jeans

A pair or two of jeans is great for trekking around Reykjavik in, and you can dress them up a bit to go to dinner at Kol, Dill, or any other cool restaurants in town.

10. Nice tops

Again, for dinners in town it’s a good idea to have something resembling fashion with you. Plus it’s a nice balance after wearing athleisurewear all day to be able to dress up a bit. Pack one or two tops that you can wear out to dinner and wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in by a friend. And let’s face it, with Iceland becoming such a popular destination, the odds are becoming greater that you actually WILL see someone you know while there.

11. Camera

If you go to Iceland without a camera, you’re just an idiot. One of the most beautiful countries of the world deserves to be photographed. My iPhone 5 took some decent ones, and I had purchased a Sony DSC-QX10 to turn my phone into a better camera. Hubs used our Canon DSLR. I really liked the DSC-QX10 but I’m not sure that it takes better photos than my iPhone 6, now. However, as an attachable lens, it was great to travel with as it was fairly small and set up easily.  I got lucky with mine as it was an open-box item, so I got it for about $130 US.

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

The Sony camera I bought for our trip, attaches to my iPhone

The plus side is that the DSC-QX10 has its own WiFi signal and works remotely. So, I was able to use the Sony PlayMemories app as a viewfinder on my phone and set up the lens somewhere else, which is great for selfies, landscape shots, and silly jumping photos.

12. Flats

Reykjavik is hilly in some areas and after a full day of hiking, I don’t think most women want to put on high heels. Reykjavik is also a very walkable city, and you’ll likely be able to walk from your hotel or AirBnB anywhere. Throw a pair of flats in your luggage for a night out, even though a night in the Iceland summer looks like the day! I live in my Crocs Rio flats.

Icelandic summer packing tips

The Rio flat from Crocs in black/platinum.

13. Comfortable socks

Make sure you have dry-fit or other comfortable socks to wear under your hiking shoes that will stay relatively dry to prevent blisters. You may walk much more than you do at home, and foot pain is the worst when traveling!

14. Ziploc bags

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

The duct tape of traveling?

In case you missed the theme here, Iceland can get pretty wet. Having a Ziploc baggie to put your phone in when you’re hiking isn’t a bad idea, and you can even use your touchscreen through the bag, so it will be protected from rain, spray, water and sand. Gallon-size Ziploc bags are great for temporarily storing wet bathing suits after a swim and transporting pastries from Sandholt bakery as roadtrip snacks. They take up almost no room in your suitcase and you’ll be prepared! I feel like Ziploc bags are the duct tape of travelers. Don’t you think?

15. Beach towel

Hitting up the hotpots, swimming holes or Blue Lagoon is great but having a beach towel with you or to sit on in your rental car afterwards will come in very handy. You can also use it as a blanket to sit on if you’re hiking and want to stop to relax for a while. Take it to the beaches in Vik and sit for a few hours to watch the waves hit the shore and think about how lucky you are to be enjoying an Iceland summer!

*Note: This is not a sponsored post. I truly believe in the products that I’ve recommended here, and with the exception of the Rodan + Fields products, I receive no benefit from recommending the items noted, and I only receive a benefit from R+F if you click on the link and purchase from my personal retail site. Thank you!

Have I missed a must-bring? Let me know by leaving a comment! 

Snaefellsnes Peninsula with GoEcco Tours

Snaefellsnes, Iceland

The Snaefellsnes (pronounced like: sn-EYE fells ness) peninsula of Iceland is arguably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Mars-like red landscapes, lush green foothills, rushing streams and rivers, little waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, basalt cliffs jutting out like crystals from the sea; it has so much natural beauty.  We checked it out ourselves with GoEcco Tours on a sunny June day last year.

Our tour guide, Yoe, scooped us up bright and early (although a little late) in a Toyota Highlander and our small group consisted of the three of us (me, husband and our friend) and three travelers from Singapore, including a radio DJ. The girls were nice and we all were into the same things, which was great.  They were late because one of the Land Rovers that we were supposed to take had malfunctioned, so they had to arrange for and use a replacement vehicle. We were a little disappointed because I think the Highlander was a bit smaller than what the other vehicle would have been, and we are all over 5’8″tall.

IMG_2236

Caught between taking photos at our first stop.

That being said, Yoe was a great guide. He cracked jokes along the way to the first stop and let us use our Spotify (thanks, unlimited international data plan!) to play music in the car. We (okay, I) asked a ton of questions, ranging from the Icelandic culture to what people do for fun, to what we were going to see that day and other things he’d recommend for us to see while in the country. We got a ton of great information from him that we used later in our trip.

Capri Sun in Iceland

I love roaming around shops in other countries – they even had Capri Sun!

After a brief stop for some coffee and to load up on road snacks, we were off to our first real stop.

Stop #1: Postcard-Perfect Fishing

Snafellsnes, Iceland

No filter.

Our first stop was a secret stream where flyfishing enthusiasts can come and pay a hefty fee to be able to fish for salmon in its rushing waters.  It was virtually Continue reading

Friðheimar: An Icelandic Greenhouse Lunch

An Icelandic Greenhouse Lunch

During our week in Iceland last summer, we stopped off at Friðheimar for an Icelandic greenhouse lunch after driving the Golden Circle for the better part of a morning and early afternoon. Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurantI had read about it in several other blogs and thought it sounded awesome – who doesn’t want to have lunch in a working greenhouse in the middle of Iceland? Exactly.

A little hard to find and off the beaten path, we drove the rental car only partway down the road and ended up in a little parking lot way too far from the door but close to the horses, so we piled in again and drove the dirt road up to the rather large greenhouse complex at the end, where we found Fridheimar, or Friðheimar, if you can make your keyboard do that weird Icelandic “d” thing.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

A working greenhouse, the farmers here grow amazing tomatoes year-round, taking advantage of the farming practice where you can regulate temperature year-round, which is especially important for a place like Iceland, with its long frosts and colder-than-a-witches’-teet winters. Happy bees buzzed around the tall vines as they were misted.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

PRO-TIP #1: Don’t Come Here If You Don’t Like Tomatoes.

Being that you’re in an Icelandic greenhouse that grows mostly tomatoes, it comes as no surprise, then, that the menu consists of tomato soup. Fresh tomato soup.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Fresh tomato soup!

Perhaps the freshest tomato soup I’ve ever had.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Don’t come here if you’re on the Atkins diet…and don’t want to suffer.

And a table of bread that would make even the biggest carb-lover’s heart skip a beat in delight. Asiago-crusted. Focaccia. Plain. Sourdough. In unlimited quantities.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

We might have overdone it on the bread.

The soup was also unlimited.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Butter, sour cream, cucumber

There was fresh cucumber salsa, sour cream, and butter to accompany the main attraction, brought to the table by kind servers.

To drink, there are several types of Iceland’s craft beer – Einstök – on offer. This was before I had ever seen Einstök in the U.S. – but it’s now pretty prevalent, at least in the New York City area in local beer aisles.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Icelandic craft beer

The white ale went nicely with the tomato soup. It made things feel a little bit more summery, considering it was in the 40’s -50’s Fahrenheit outside. Which was easy to forget when we were snug and warm inside the greenhouse!

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

More Icelandic craft beer

The beers were in addition to wine and several options for Bloody Marys and other Bloody Mary-esque cocktails.  The carafes of water at each table also had little cherry tomatoes in the bottom.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

The bar.

Pro-Tip #2: Come for Lunch – They are only open from noon to 4pm.

We really loved the lunch here at Fridheimar. Since the soup and bread are unlimited and you serve yourself, you’re able to eat as much or as little as you want but it’s not too heavy. It’s also not fried, which is a nice plus.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

We didn’t get dessert, but they all also feature tomatoes – cheesecake with tomato chutney, green tomato and apple pie, etc. On your way out of the greenhouse restaurant, you can stop in the little shop and purchase some of the tomato products that the greenhouse makes, to take home with you. We probably should have!

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

How to get to Friðheimar – an Icelandic Greenhouse Restaurant:

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Friðheimar
Bláskógabyggð
IS-801
Selfoss, Iceland
Phone: +354 486-8894
Friðheimar is best visited if you’re driving yourself around the Golden Circle and plan to stop at Kerið crater or Faxi waterfall. We visited after seeing Gulfoss, stopping quickly at the Faxi waterfall, and before we headed to hike down the Kerið crater.  It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re outside of Reykjavik and looking for an alternative lunch spot – eating in an Icelandic greenhouse!

Have you been to Friðheimar? Tell me what you thought about it in the comments? Are you thinking about going? Ask me anything in the comments, too!

Stone Brewing (San Diego, California)

Stone Brewing

I’ll admit that I got really lost on the way to Stone Brewing‘s location in Escondido, California (just north of San Diego) – the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens. I mean “drive around the office park and check Google maps about 10 times, then find it and park in the wrong parking lot, then walk the length of a football field to the front door” lost.  But it was so worth it once I was safely inside.

Stone Brewing

Sitting at the bar in one of the many spaces of this huge complex.

Known for its IPAs (that’s Indian Pale Ales, for the beer novices), Stone Brewing’s iconic gargoyle is synonymous with good American beer and it is generally one of the leaders of the craft beer movement in the United States.  Not just for IPA lovers, Stone also makes some pretty great stouts, porters, and American pale ales, too.

What sets Stone Brewing apart is that they have opened a location in Berlin, Germany, which I believe makes them one of the first breweries from the U.S. to expand to Europe, a trailblazing move. What’s more interesting is that they chose Germany for their first international location – a country whose beer laws and regulations are older than any other law of the land. The Reinheitsgebot, or German beer purity law, is no longer the law in Germany, but many German beer purists still follow it to this day. The law, dating back to 1516, required that beer only be made from hops, barley and water.

Stone Brewing

Seriously? How is this in the middle of a brewery?

Anyway, Stone Brewing has 3 locations in California and Escondido is home to its largest. The World Bistro and Gardens is an expansive space, featuring a large center bar in a square format, a large indoor dining room and extraordinary outdoor space, including patios, decks, winding paths around ponds and streams, grassy lawns and more.

I sidled up to the only empty barstool I could find and was greeted by a friendly bartender, who presented me with the food menu and lengthy beer list. I may or may not have looked like I needed a drink.

The menu is elevated international pub fare, featuring soft pretzels (what good beer establishment doesn’t have pretzels?) – their take on it being Stone hemp-seed soft pretzels – , avocado tater tots and gourmet chicken wings.

Pretzels at Stone Brewing

If you are here by yourself, maybe DON’T order the pretzels and an entrée.

They also offer ceviche, salads, Asian fare, Mexican dishes, South American dishes and more. The menu is surprisingly varied and the food is really well-executed and delicious. If you’re expecting greasy pub food with no flavor, you’ll be sorely disappointed!

I started with the pretzels and the dish comes with three pretzels. For one person, it was way too much food to order that and then a main course, so if you’re on your own you should probably be more strategic in your ordering than me.  Never shying away from a bread basket, I did my duty, though. The stone-ground mustard and roasted poblano jalapeño cheese sauce was too tempting not to finish it all!

When I went last year, I had a deliiiicious barbecue pulled pork sandwich with house-made slaw and house-made barbecue potato chips, but it is no longer on the menu. It was pretty amazing, though.

Stone Brewing

Pulled pork goodness.

I was short on time so I was unable to tackle a tour, but tours are given all day long at the Escondido location and cost a measly $3 each. The schedule is M-F, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm , and Saturday/Sunday 12p-6pm every hour on the hour. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Stone Company Store at the front of the Escondido location. You must be there 15 minutes prior to your tour to check in and collect your physical ticket.

Stone Brewing

Enjoy one of the many beers on tap!

Speaking of the Stone Company Store, it’s a great place to pick up some swag for yourself or the folks at home. Not unlike the Guinness Storehouse store, it has everything, from t-shirts to bottle openers to candles, glassware, and more.

I wish I had more time to spend at Stone Brewing or that at least I had some friends with me to enjoy it, too. That’ll be for next time.  Cheers!

How to get to Stone Brewing in Escondido, California

Stone Brewing Escondido

Stone Brewing, Escondido
1999 Citracado Parkway
Escondido, CA 92029
Phone: 760.294.7866
Hours: Daily 11am-10pm; Friday and Saturday open until 11pm

 Have you been to Stone Brewing? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Ballast Point Brewing Company (San Diego, CA)

Ballast Point - Fish Out Of Malbec

Some of the biggest news in the craft brew world this year was the acquisition of Ballast Point Brewing Company by Constellation Brands. You might recognize Ballast Point’s famous, ubiquitous Sculpin IPA or Grapefruit Sculpin from your local grocery store shelf. However, there’s so much more to Ballast Point than what finds its way to your local store.

I had a few hours to kill during a free afternoon just outside San Diego at a conference last June and wanted to hit a few local breweries to maximize my time, sample some brews, and relax a little.

So, I started at Stone Brewing’s location in Escondido, CA and was browsing around the gift shop when I ran into several administrators of the California Alcoholic Beverage Control. I asked what other brewery I should check out in the area, since I only had time for one more, and they recommended that I check out Ballast Point. Those people obviously know their stuff, so who was I to disregard their recommendation?

Ballast Point Brewing Company

Outside the brewery

So, I plugged the address into my GPS and took off directly to Ballast Point Brewing Company in Miramar, which is north of downtown San Diego and northeast from La Jolla. One of Ballast Point’s five locations and home to its newest brewery, it’s in the middle of an office park, ten-plus minutes from the highway and if you think you’re lost, then you’re probably in the right place and are nearly there. There’s not a whole lot of parking for the amount of people who are actually inside.

Pro-Tip #1: Carpool if you’re going to come here with a group, if you can. And always designate a driver if you plan on trying more than just a flight!

Upon arriving, I first noticed that there’s an enormous outdoor patio with games and tables to sit and enjoy the food and brews. But when you enter the front doors, the sheer size of the place finally hits you – it’s huge! Continue reading