Top 5 To-Dos in Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile is a colorful seaside town with UNESCO World Heritage Site status, where the only thing more impressive than the colors of the buildings and the freshness of the seafood is the steepness of the hills (of which there are over 40!).

Valparaiso, Chile

Just one of Valparaiso’s colorful staircases

There’s so much to do there, but without further ado, here are my Top 5 To-Dos in Valparaiso, Chile: 

5.  Walking Tour of Street Art

Valparaiso Chile Street Art

Valparaiso has some pretty amazing street art, and there’s no better way to see it all than to take a walking tour of the city with a guide.  We did the Valparaiso Highlights Tour with Tours4Tips, which wasn’t a street art-only tour, but we covered a LOT of great murals and learned about the famous street artists that have works throughout the city. The tour meets daily at 3pm at Plaza Sotomayor.

Valparaiso Street Art

Valparaiso, Chile Valparaiso, Chile Street Art

You’ll see some works by famous Chilean street artist Inti Castro (or just “Inti“), as well as some works by other high-profile artists from Valparaiso, Viña del Mar and Santiago like Charquipunk, and Un Kolor Distinto.

Valparaiso, Chile

One of the many works by Inti

You’ll find this piece when Continue reading

The Best of Santiago, Chile in 3 Days

The Best of Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile may not be the world’s most beautiful city. It’s not the ugliest, either. It’s got its fair share of fun things to do and cool things to see, but Santiago is a city where people live, work and play. It’s not necessarily built for tourism, but there’s a lot of things to do and see there as a tourist, if you know where to look.

Many folks build a trip to Santiago, Chile on their way to Easter Island, other parts of mainland Chile like Valparaiso, or Mendoza, Argentina. It has many direct flights from U.S. and other international cities, and is one of the capitals of South America.  I submit that it’s definitely worth seeing, rather than just passing through, after being there a handful of times.

Our most recent trip to Santiago had us there for three days, which is the perfect amount of time to see the sights and enjoy the city.

The Best of Santiago, Chile in 3 days

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Tours 4 Tips Free Walking Tour

This time around, we opted to take a tour with Tours 4 Tips, which was awesome! We did the Santiago Offbeat Tour. Our guide was fantastic, and the group was mainly people around our age, but there was definitely a range. We hit some of the top sights of the city that we wanted to see. We also got great background on the tumultuous political past of the country, much of which is not taught in U.S. schools (or is more than a paragraph or two in our history books).

Santiago, Chile

Our guide explains the local produce of Chile at La Vega Central.

Santiago, Chile Mercado Central

Face to face with a conger eel, or congrejo, at the Mercado Central

Our tour highlighted three of the main markets in the city, including the Mercado Central and La Vega Central. We also saw 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!

Reykjavik Hot Dogs: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

Hot dogs in Reykjavik, Iceland

Before even going to Reykjavik, we knew that we’d definitely be eating hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. These iconic Icelandic-style frankfurters have been featured in No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, Forbes magazine and a slew of other travel shows, guides and reviews. As a self-styled hot dog connoisseur (they’re one of my favorite food groups – yes, one can simultaneously love hot dogs and truffles), I just had to see for myself if these Reykjavik hot dogs were as good as their reputation indicated.

The place whose name,

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

translates to “The best hot dogs in town” did not disappoint. Hailing from a city where hot dogs are taken seriously (travelers to NYC always say how they need to get a hot dog from a cart on a street corner – we affectionately call them “dirty water dogs”), I have to say: dang, these Reykjavik hot dogs are legit. Continue reading

48 Hours on Easter Island

48 Hours on Easter Island

Easter Island. Rapa Nui. Isla de Pascua. Whatever you call it, it is a mysterious gem in the middle of the south Pacific Ocean. I mean it’s really in the middle of nowhere, with being about 3,756 km (2,340 miles) to Santiago, Chile and 4,231 km (2,646 miles) to Tahiti and 1,922km from Pitcairn Island, the closest inhabited place to it. Fun fact: Pitcairn is trying to recruit new residents since the population has dipped so low – as in, to 45 people –  in the past few years – read more on that here:  http://www.immigration.gov.pn/

Here’s what I knew about Easter Island before we went there:

1) there’s Moai there (the big stone heads)

2) it’s technically part of Chile, and

3) …Ok…that’s about all I knew.

Moai of Easter Island

The Moai at Ahu Tongariki

So why go? Seeing those big, beautiful stone dudes was on my bucket list. And Easter Island is pretty expensive to get to if you’re traveling around South America as a student or a poor, newly-employed attorney. It was more expensive to go there for a weekend than to go to Rio de Janeiro for a week. So, let’s just say it was on the list but wasn’t do-able until my friends and I started seriously talking about a South America trip this year.

First – how does one get to Easter Island?

You fly, obviously. But, not so obvious is the complete lack of variety when it comes to airlines and direct flights. You basically need to fly on LAN and fly from either Santiago, Chile or from Tahiti. There’s one flight a day, in the morning around 11am. And that’s it. You miss it, you wait until the next day. So when our flight departing New York’s JFK was late in leaving (because – get this- the plane was on the other side of the airport and took an hour and a half to DRIVE TO THE GATE), we knew we were going to be cutting it close and our 2.5 hour layover in Santiago was shrinking.

Pro-Tip #1: arrive in Santiago the night before your flight to Easter Island, or leave at least a 4-hour window between your connection’s arrival at the airport and your scheduled departure.

Easter Island

The arrivals gate at the airport

We nearly missed the flight, and after some begging/pleading/nearly crying to the LAN employees at Santiago airport, we made our connection. I don’t recommend starting your vacation that way. I’m typically probably way too nice to airline personnel, but this was a moment where I almost truly lost it. Mainly because we were promised by the flight attendants and the desk staff in New York that we’d make our connection without a problem, even with the delay. So give yourself a good cushion!

So the plane you take to Easter Island is a jumbo jet – a 787- for some reason, I was thinking that there would only be a small plane since it seems like a semi-unpopular destination. Continue reading

Daytrips from Dublin – Howth, Ireland

Daytrips from Dublin - Howth, Ireland

What do you do if you’re spending a week or so in Dublin, don’t have a car, but want to get out of town and see more of Ireland than the big city? A day trip to Howth could be just what the doctor ordered.

It’s easy to get to on the DART, walkable, offers beautiful views, good dining options and is not far from the center of the city.

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EAT: The House Restaurant & The Brass Monkey

When you go to Howth, you should go hungry so you can enjoy the little pubs, cafés, and, of course, the world-famous smoked salmon from Wrights of Howth.

We wandered up the main street up into the hills (take a left out of the DART station, bear right onto Church Street and continue on up the hill to the right to Main Street) and into this adorable restaurant called The House Restaurant. Continue reading