Iceland Road Trip: The South Shore

The South Shore of Iceland in one neat little day-long (ok, maybe 18 hours) Iceland road trip. If you have a bit more time and can spend a few days in Iceland, then this is the route for you! You’ll cover waterfalls, glaciers, glacial lagoons, national parks, black beaches, lava fields and much more on this unforgettable route.

WHY DRIVE THE South Shore YOURSELF?

After figuring out that we didn’t want to do an organized coach tour (see also: Road Trip of the Golden Circle), we opted to wake up at the crack of dawn and drive ourselves out to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, at which we had a 1pm reservation for a Zodiac boat tour.  

We also wanted the freedom to be able to stop wherever we liked if something looked interesting. From everything we’ve read, the south shore of Iceland has so much to offer, it’d be crazy to just drive right by it all.

Pro-Tip: Make sure you have a chip-enabled credit card with pin with you if you’re on an Iceland road trip – you’ll need it to buy gas at gas stations along the way.

HITTING THE ROAD

We set out from Reykjavik after a quick stop for breakfast and coffee at Sandholt Bakery in Reykjavik’s city center (more on that later – about $14 US). We stocked up on snacks (fresh-baked soft pretzels from the bakery and bottled waters) and made our way east, out of the city.  Our plan was to just go to the glacier lagoon and then spend the rest of the day sightseeing on the way back at our leisure. It worked out really well.

The weather was a little iffy – drizzling, light rain, then sunshine, some wind, and basically everything but snow. So, be prepared for a few different seasons if you’re visiting in the summer! Then it was onward to our first stop: the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon! Continue reading

Experiencing the Quebec City Toboggan Run

What’s it like to go down the famous toboggan run in Quebec City (Toboggan Slide au 1884), just beside the Château Frontenac at the Terrasse Dufferin? Well, see for yourself!

We captured this video with our GoPro Hero4 Session and a handy-dandy chest strap, which Luke wore as the front rider in our run.

It was exhilarating, to say the least! The queue wasn’t even that long, although there definitely was a queue. We went on Christmas day, and waited for about 15 minutes. As you can see, three toboggans go at a time, and there seem to be about 9 in all.

Buy a ticket from Continue reading

Top 5 Most Overrated NYC Attractions

After years of taking friends and relatives around the City that Never Sleeps, I’ve been forced more than once to endure the tourist traps that define this great concrete jungle, but no real New Yorker ever tries to visit unless absolutely necessary. Here are my Top 5 Most Overrated NYC Attractions, and a few alternatives to get the same or similar experiences, without overpaying and braving the slack-jawed masses.

5.  Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

Everyone wants to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Beneath the famous Christmas tree and the gaze of Prometheus, 150 skaters at a time can skate around in circles while being gawked at by hordes of tourists.

$25-$32 will get you admission to the rink and $12 will get you rental skates. Ouch.

Rock Center is beautiful and a must-see during the holiday season, especially. In the summer there’s a great outdoor bar and cafe that’s erected over the rink – so it’s a great place to be year-round. But, you don’t need to skate there.

Instead: Go ice skating at Bryant Park or The Rink at Brookfield Place – basically anywhere else.

Bryant Park‘s skating rink is free (yes, FREE!) with skate rentals of $20, and the Winter Village is definitely worth a look. You can store your bags for a fee and pay $28 to skip the line. Just allow plenty of time and you won’t need to do that, though. If you’re visiting, plan to visit during working hours, when the poor folks who live here need to be at work. And know that I’m envious of you!

The Rink at Brookfield Place, in the shadow of the World Trade Center, right by the water and surrounded by fabulous shopping and restaurants, is a great deal at $15 per 90 minute session and a $5 skate rental.  You can even pay a bit extra to take a skating lesson from former U.S. Olympic skaters. How cool is that?

4.  Statue of Liberty

Sure, Lady Liberty is a beaut’ and she celebrates her 125th anniversary this year. But, do you really want to get on a boat with a bunch of other tourists and be held captive, then corralled around the queue to get in, then wait some more, go 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

Iceland Road Trip: The Golden Circle

Golden Circle Road Trip

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.

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!

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

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.

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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