Surely, you’ve all seen the commercials by now. People all around the globe are sending in their DNA samples to find out who they really are. The cool folks at AncestryDNA™ were kind enough to gift me not one, but two AncestryDNA test kits!
I still don’t know why, exactly, but I do think people can have a spiritual connection to landscape, and I certainly did in Iceland. -Hannah Kent
A year ago today I was gearing up for a European adventure — and the first stop was Iceland! I arrived on Feb. 2, 2015 and I’ve reminisced about my time there every day since.
After 21 days of traveling around Europe, I’m back in the good ol’ Empire State. As much fun as it was adventuring and exploring a bunch, it’s nice to have the comforts of home and my pup by my side. Here’s a round up of my trip and some tips (and more photos) for all my fellow wanderers!
Out of the cities visited on this trip, here are my rankings from favorite to least favorite:
- Reykjavik, Iceland
- Paris, France
- Barcelona, Spain
- Rome, Italy
Surprise! I loved the coldest place the best! Not really surprising at all though…Do I need to remind you just how beautiful Iceland is?
My photos don’t even do it justice. The mountains were absolutely stunning; it reminded me of the mountain views I had as I traveled around Seattle and Vancouver this past summer. Ah, majestic mountains. I love ’em.
In Iceland, Ty and I stayed at the Kex Hostel which I would absolutely recommend. It’s clean, conveniently located and the employees are very accommodating. But really I’d recommend it mostly for their breakfast. The bread you guys. The BREAD. Something about bread in Iceland is magical; my theory is because it’s made with the pure glacier water they have access to, it makes the bread that much better. Also, the jam they served with this magic bread was even more magical. I need to see if I can order it online…
ICELAND NOTES: Daylight is scarce (depending on the time of year) so plan accordingly. Also, shop hours were generally 10AM-6PM…so night owls beware. Iceland is also pretty expensive compared to other places in Europe so get ready to budget!
PARIS was our last destination and my overall second favorite city. It reminded me of a London where everyone speaks French and smokes a lot.
From the quaint streets and shops to the beautiful architecture and the picturesque Seine River, I loved all of it. If you want a great french pastry, check out L’Eclair de Génie. I’m not even a huge eclair person and I loved them.
Barcelona was Ty’s favorite place and rightfully so – it was a ton of fun. We stayed at the Kabul Backpacker’s Hostel which was a very upbeat and social hostel. The employees were super nice and the cost was so, so cheap! There was a bar downstairs and happy hour was fantastic (1 euro sangria and beer!). We had a great view from our room and quickly made friends to go out and explore with.
With all this positive talk, you may wonder why I ranked Barcelona third on my list — it really comes down to personal preference. I wasn’t a fan of the Spanish siesta as a visitor; I’m sure I’d love the concept if I lived there but it’s something to take into consideration as a tourist when planning what time to eat, etc. Highlights for me though definitely included Park Güell and the paella at 7 Portes Restaurant.
And finally, ROME. We stayed at the Yellow Hostel and were upgraded to a four bed ensuite with a bathroom. A pleasant surprise after arriving a day late (because we got our flight confused and went to the airport in Barcelona a day early)…ALWAYS QUADRUPLE CHECK YOUR FLIGHTS PEOPLE!
Later that night, we went on the Rollin Bar. Advertised through the hostel, the Rollin Bar is literally a party bus with a bar (and stripper pole…) on it that makes scenic stops over the course of 2 hours before returning to The Yellow Bar (the Yellow Hostel’s neighboring bar). It’s 25 euro to get on the bus (with four drinks included), but really the drinks are unlimited and it’s freakin’ cray. Oh, and one of Ty’s friends happened to be in Rome at the same time so he came along too!
So why was Rome last on my list? It’s a great place to see and there’s so so much history, but there’s not much to do overall. I can’t imagine spending an entire week there, let alone living in Rome. Also…as I mentioned in my initial Rome post, I got incredibly awful food poisoning (probably from one of the above items, though it all looks delicious and tasted great going down). So my time there was definitely clouded by getting sick.
Would I recommend going to Rome? Of course. But really as a day trip. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you could definitely experience it in a day.
And that’s all folks! I had the best time and can’t wait to continue exploring and traveling more in the future. Thanks for reading!
Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Greetings from Heathrow airport in London where I’m currently finishing up a 12 hour layover before heading to Barcelona. I figured I’d take this time to give y’all a few nuggets of wisdom I learned in the past few days through my Icelandic ventures.
- Know your currency. Prior to my trip, I went to my local bank and ordered some Icelandic krona. Tyler didn’t. So when we arrived at the airport in Iceland (KEF; which is super small and modern and amazing btw), she went over to an ATM to withdraw some local cash. Only problem is she got the whole comma/period thing confused and withdrew wayyyyy more cash than she needed. WHOOPS! So definitely be mindful of that. She couldn’t exchange it back until we were leaving the country.
- Plan ahead. I’m all about “winging it.” It’s basically my life’s motto. But, my friends, sometimes it’s best to actually plan ahead. One of the things I was most looking forward to in Iceland was visiting the Blue Lagoon. But it was all booked up for the dates and times we wanted to go; womp womp! Make sure to look into popular places/events to see if you need to book in advance.
- Read the fine print. If you venture to Iceland, you’ll probably become familiar with the Flybus. It runs to and from the airport and you can easily book tickets on the spot or online. However…Ty and I booked a ticket for an 1130AM pickup from our hostel; we stood outside from 1125 to close to noonbefore calling the folks to see what was up. Turns out we needed to be outside half an hour prior to our listed departure time — whoops! Luckily we got placed on the next bus free of charge, but my freezing fingers and toes could’ve been saved a bit had we been more vigilant.
- Do it while you can. It’s easy to see an opportunity and say, “oh well we can always do that later/tomorrow/etc” but if you have the time and money (if necessary) to do whatever “it” is in the moment — DO IT! Ty and I went to visit the famous church in Reykjavik on our first day in town (a cold, but clear, day). We had the option of going up the tower to get a 360 view of the city but opted to save that for another time. Welp! Wrong choice as the rest of our days were blustery and blizzard-like. We ended up going up the tower on our last day but it was snowing so much we couldn’t see anything. So, going forward, if we have an opportunity to do something cool, we’re doing it right then and there!
In just a few hours I’ll be in Spain! More updates to come…stay tuned!
Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Well, today I ate plenty of things I never thought I’d ever eat. Liiiiiike sour whale, ram’s testicles, sheeps head jelly, pickled herring and the dreaded fermented (aka rotten) shark. Eek! All of these were included in a sample platter at Cafe Loki (recommended by local tour guide, Eric). The cafe is located right across the street from the famous Hallgrimskirkja church.
I wasn’t super excited about diving into the bites below… Famed Chef Anthony Bourdain has said the fermented shark is the “single worst and most disgusting thing” he’s ever eaten in HIS LIFE. And dude has eaten plenty of crazy things around the world…so I was rightfully scared.
Tyler posing below with her bites of ram testicles. They were the worst things (tied with sour whale) on the dish in my opinion. I managed to get through the fermented shark pretty easily; it wasn’t as bad as everyone claims it is.
Below is a whale steak dish from another cafe we went to…it wasn’t what I expected at all. I was expecting it to look more like the sour whale above (white strip third from the right) but it was more like eating a gamey land animal and I actually liked it. So if you want more normal, delicious Icelandic food go here: Ostabúðin.
Iceland is certainly an adventure! I’d also really recommend the famous lamb hot dog stand. Oh, and the tap water here is great! Pure, and straight from the glaciers. Woooo! Off to Barcelona tomorrow (but not before a quick 13 hr layover in London)!
More to come!
Spread kindness and cheer, xo