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

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!

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

Our Tasty Tuscany Food Tour with Tuscan Wine Tours

My husband and I did this Tasty Tuscany food (and wine) tour in October 2014, while on our Maltese-Italian honeymoon. We had been looking for something to splurge on during our trip, but wanted to find something interesting and exclusive to spend our money on – no run-of-the-mill bus tour would do. I’m so glad we found this tour by Tuscan Wine Tours, because it was one of our favorite days of the trip, all thanks to our guide Caterina, the fabulous company, and amazing destinations and local producers we met throughout our memorable day in Tuscany.

Our small group of 8 were all couples, all happened to be from the states, and were all really cool, like-minded and adventurous travelers. I was a bit hesitant to book the tour since it was a bit pricey at 300 Euros per person, but as we met in the Piazza Giuseppe Poggi that morning, all my anxiety melted away as we boarded the comfortable minivan with our cheerful co-adventurers and met Caterina, our tourguide/driver extraordinaire.

Caterina was a fantastic guide, who educated us on the wines and foods of Tuscany between our various stops on the tour. We were really excited because it turned out that our tour was the last of its kind before the itinerary was modified to make different stops.

The Stops

Stop #1 – Fresh Pasta Maker

Our first stop was at a fresh pasta maker.

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This spot was no joke. It reminded me of some of the shops in Mendoza, Argentina that the Italian-Argentine families run, who churn out fresh pasta daily to buy by weight and prepare at home.

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After a brief lesson on what the different types of pasta are called and which ones were “native” to Tuscany (pici!), we were whisked into the back of the shop – to the kitchen, to see the pasta making in action. Continue reading

The Ultimate Mendoza, Argentina Travel Map

I had too much fun creating my Ultimate Dublin Travel Map, and so now I present to you, the Interwebs, my dear readers, my Ultimate Mendoza, Argentina Travel Map. This is only my map of the City of Mendoza, and doesn’t cover my favorite spots in the surrounding countryside (hello, bodegas (wineries) and vineyards!) – that stuff will be coming sooner than later.

How to use this map:

View the map bigger by clicking the bracket window-looking icon in the upper-right corner, next to your photo/avatar. Save the link to your phone if you’re traveling – I think it might be handy (but that’s just me!). Use the layers to toggle between stuff that you’re looking for – I’ve grouped them in Sightseeing, Restaurants and Bars, Hotels, Shopping and Entertainment and Services & Tourism info, or Continue reading

Top 15 Reasons to Love Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland is one of my favorite cities in the world. There are several reasons for this. And, without further ado – here are my…

top 15 reasons to love Dublin, Ireland

  1. Its Size

    Population-wise, Dublin has about 527,000 inhabitants, and covers an area of about 44.4 square miles. Much of what a tourist wants to see and do is packed into only a few square miles in the city center and this results in a very accessible, walkable town.

     

    Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin, Ireland

    View of the Millennium Spire through the Samuel Beckett Bridge

    I’ve spent a day walking one end to the other – starting around the Grand Canal Dock at Samuel Beckett Bridge and strolling along the Liffey all the way to Phoenix Park and Kilmainham Gaol. It takes a few hours if you stop here and there to see the sights, and it may not be great if you have older folks in your group, but it’s a definite plus that you can see most of the sights on foot if you want.

  2. Ease of public transportation

    You can take public transport all around the city and skip taxi cabs all together if you like. Take the DART from the outer neighborhoods to Tara Street and you’re smack in the middle of Temple Bar, for example. Or, take the DART out of the city to Malahide or Howth and take in the beautiful sea views.

    The Luas, a relatively newer light rail system, hits the city’s shopping streets north of the river, but it doesn’t go many other places that a tourist would want to visit.  Nevertheless, DART and Luas tickets are cheap and are a great option for travelers who are solo or are in small groups (when splitting a taxi doesn’t make sense).

  3. Direct flights to Dublin from many cities

    Dublin’s status as the capitol of Ireland and a tourist destination means that it’s easy to get to from many world cities. There are direct flights daily from the U.S. cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Orlando, for example.  The best airlines to get you there would be Ireland’s own Aer Lingus, or the other major carriers like Delta, American Airlines/US  Air, and even Emirates. I love Aer Lingus personally because you start getting the hospitality and flavor of Ireland the minute you step foot on the airplane.
    Continue reading