21 December 2016

REYKJAVIK


Iceland in winter? Why not? A winter sale highlighting a quick, three-night trip to Reykjavik from NYC passed through our email, and we booked it the next day. Sure, it was cold, rainy, and dark, with daylight only from 11am-4pm, but we still wished we could have extended the trip.

Accommodation: Center Hotel Plaza

Adventures: Reykjavik City Sightseeing Tour {Hallgrímskirkja Church, The Pearl, Höfði House, The Sun Voyager sculpture}, Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle Tour, The Settlement Exhibition, National Museum of Iceland

Takeaways: 1) November might not be the best time to visit Iceland in terms of weather. 2) English is widely spoken. 3) Free wifi is everywhere - even on the tour buses! 4) The darkness is a bit strange at 10am. 5) Credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere. 6) The weather needs to be favorable (cold with clear skies) to see the Northern Lights, which isn't favorable for tourists. 7) There's something special about being in Reykjavik during the holiday season. 8) Food is expensive. 9) The city felt like our hometown in Michigan.

Memorable Moments: 1) Applying silica mud masks at the Blue Lagoon. 2) Checking out the local goods at the gocery store. 3) Sampling Icelandic beers. 4) Eating pylsurs (hot dogs) from the street food carts.











Foodstuff:
Reykjavik offered a large assortment of eating options, but we mostly survived on fish and chips and pylsurs (Icelandic hot dogs made with lamb, pork and beef served with fried onions and sweet brown mustard). Tourists will also find lamb, fermented shark, puffin, and whale on the traditional restaurant menus.

Also, skyr, a soft cheese with a consistency similar to yogurt, is amazing stuff.

Restaurant Picks:
Street Food Carts::
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur ("the best hot dogs in town"; order ein með öllu - one with everything)
Tryggvatagata 1, 101

Pylsuhúsið (hot dog house)
Ingólfstorg Square, 101

Lunch/Dinner::
Tryggvatagata 11, 101

Reykjavik Fish Restaurant (try the fish and chips with lemon-pepper dill sauce)
Tryggvatagata 8, 101

Saegreifinn ("lobster soup and grilled fish on a spear", order the lobster soup)
Geirsgata 8, 101

Drinks:
The Drunk Rabbit Irish Pub (order the pizza romana if you want food)
Austurstræti 3, 101




Recommendations:
1) Consider taking advantage of the Icelandair Stopover program on your next transatlantic trip.
2) Stay in downtown Reykjavik.
3) Don't bother exchanging a lot of money. Credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere.
4) Pack and dress in layers. Pack boots, a hat and mittens, and a water-resistant coat in the wintertime.
5) Eat from street food carts and visit the grocery store to save money.
6) Consider renting a car and exploring the countryside.

Next Time: 1) Sign up for another Northern Lights tour and hope it's not canceled. 2) Sign up for whale watching. 3) Climb the Hallgrímskirkja Church Tower. 4) Visit the Iceland Phallological Museum.

Good Reads:

14 December 2016

36 HOURS IN NEW YORK CITY


“There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.”  Simone de Beauvoir


Domestic locations usually aren't our specialty, but a stop in New York City is worth sharing.

We ended up in NYC after we booked a travel package that included round-trip flights from JFK International Airport. We were still responsible for booking a connecting flight to JFK, but we found it less expensive to fly to LaGuardia Airport the day before and stay for a night in Midtown. It just made sense to enjoy a long, 36-hour layover in the city.

We had both been to NYC before as tourists or on business, so our plan was to hit our favorite spots, visit a few tourist attractions we initially missed, and eat as much New York-style food as possible.

Accommodation: The Avalon Hotel

Adventures: Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Shake Shack, Museum of Modern Art

Takeaways: 1) We both forgot how much walking is required. 2) NYC bagels are worth every carb. 3) Some of the touristy stuff loses it's appeal after the first visit, but those observation point views never get old. 4) There's something special about being in NYC during the holiday season. 5) So. Many. People. 6) Street food cart hot dogs are overrated. 7) There's a different vibe in Midtown on weekends. 8) Don't be surprised to eat lunch with standing room only. 9) We are not modern art people. 10) It's more fun to walk around the city in the evening.

Memorable Moments: 1) Walking 10 miles the first day. 2) Turning around and seeing the Empire State Building lit up in the sky. 3) Riding the elevator to the Top of the Rock. 4) Seeing Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night in person. 
















Foodstuff: NYC is a foodie paradise. All types of cuisine can be found here at all hours of the day in venues ranging from fancy, award-winning restaurants to street food carts. We made a point of eating New York-style bagels, pizza, and hot dogs. Also, Shake Shack did not disappoint.

Restaurant Picks, Midtown:
Breakfast::
Bagels and Schmear
116 East 28th Street

Lunch::
Shake Shack {gourmet burger chain; serves beer!}
Herald Square, 1333 Broadway {other NYC locations available}

Little Italy Pizzeria {people went crazy for the grandma's pizza, standing room only}
1 East 43rd Street

Drinks::
The Perfect Pint
123 West 45th Street

Point Break NYC {good food, too!}
12 West 45th Street 

Recommendations: 1) Pack good walking shoes. 2) Learn the street grid. 3) Uber.

Other Attractions to Consider: Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Broadway, American Museum of National History, National September 11 Memorial, Ellis Island, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, etc!

Good Reads:

10 June 2016

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS


This space is supposed to document our adventures abroad, but we felt our quick weekend in Las Vegas deserved a small post here. Vegas is a four hour flight and a three hour time difference from home, so it counts as a unique travel adventure, right?

We have both visited Las Vegas before but not together and at different ages, so when we were looking to get out of town last week, we decided almost on whim to venture here. We took a late flight out after work on Friday and spent the following two days enjoying the warm weather, cuisine, and nightlife.


Adventures: The Mirage Pool, The Strip, Absinthe 

Takeaways: 1) Vegas when you’re a thirty-something is a much different experience than when you’re a twenty-something. 2) Desert heat is strange. It’s hot but a dry, non-sticky type of hot. 3) There is SO MUCH WALKING required. 4) The distance to locations on The Strip is deceiving. 5) In-N-Out Burger is totally worth the calories. 6) Food and drink prices are twice what we expected. 7) There are some unique jobs here. 8) It's easy to lose track of time everywhere.

Memorable Moments: 1) Sunbathing in 108 degree weather. 2) Paying $25 for a 32oz Bloody Mary. 3) Ubering to In-N-Out Burger. 4) Being overwhelmed with food options at the Bacchanal Buffet. 5) Watching the performers in Absinthe. 6) Winning (small) on the slot machines.











Restaurant Picks:
Lunch::
In-N-Out Burger (for a cheap and tasty West Coast burger, take an Uber)
4888 Dean Martin Dr

LVB Burgers and Bar (try the fried pickles)
The Mirage
3400 S Las Vegas Blvd

Dinner::
Bacchanal Buffet (plan to wait in line, ask about the all-you-care-to-drink upgrades)
Caesars Palace
3570 S Las Vegas Blvd

Mon Ami Gabi (French steakhouse, make a reservation)
Paris Hotel
3655 S Las Vegas Blvd

Recommendations:
1) Uber to the airport.
2) Pack a swimsuit, sunglasses, sunblock, comfortable shoes, Band-Aids, and Alka-Seltzer.
3) Plan on spending twice the amount of money you expected.
4) Purchase alcohol and snacks at Walgreens to save money.
5) Take advantage of the free drinks when gambling.

17 May 2016

CUSCO



Our last stop on our trip to Peru was the city of Cusco. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the capital of the Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest and now has a unique blend of Inca and Spanish cultures. We had almost two full days here before we started our 23 hour journey home, so we signed up for a city tour to see the important sites and spent our remaining time in the markets searching for alpaca blankets and other souvenirs.

Accommodation:  Maytaq Wasin Boutique Hotel

Adventures: Cathedral, Santo Domingo Monastery/Qoricancha, Saksaywaman, Qenko, Tambomachay

Takeaways: 1) The altitude is no joke. 2) The weather changes rapidly. 3) Cusco is hopping at night! 4) Inca walls have been incorporated into modern buildings, like banks. 5) The Cathedral is an impressive building. 6) The women and children dressed in traditional clothing expect payment for their photos. 7) There are more tourists in Cusco than Lima.




Memorable Moments: 1) Ordering coca tea. 2) Taking in the view of Cusco from Sacsayhuaman. 3) Tasting cuy. 4) Buying so many alpaca blankets! 






^^the 12 angle stone^^



^^sacsayhuaman^^





^^cuy, for photo purposes only^^


Foodstuff:
  • Coca tea. It tastes like edamame and helps with the altitude. Stick to less than 3 glasses a day and avoid at bedtime.
  • Cusquena beer.
  • Cuy, fried or roasted guinea pig. It's a Peruvian delicacy. We weren't fans.

Restaurant Picks:
Breakfast/Lunch::
Jack's Cafe (all day breakfasts, big toastie sandwiches - no credit cards)
Choquechaka 209

Lunch::
Paddy's Irish Pub, "the highest Irish owned Pub on the planet" 
Plaza de Armas, Calle Triunfo 124

Dinner::
Nuna Raymi (Peruvian cuisine)
Calle Triunfo 356

Recommendations:
1) Pack sunblock and a raincoat. Bring warmer clothes for the higher altitude.
2) Acclimate to the altitude before hiking up ruins.
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