Iceland Excursions; Suggestions on what to see and do

So we have already shown you how/what to pack when traveling to Iceland and how to (somewhat) stay on budget. Now the most important part, what to see/do?!

Iceland is known for it's serene landscape and beautiful natural wonders and there is no end to the amount of amazing, once in a lifetime sights to see. 

This list will break down a few of our must see/do list while in Iceland. Of note, we booked all of our tours through viator.com. Not only were they the best prices around but they were efficient and organized which made the whole trip that much more enjoyable!

1) Cave Hike/Golden Circle Tour

This all day, action packed tour took us through the southeastern part of Iceland. We started out with an early morning exploration of a volcanic cave. There was lots of crouching, sliding, and some crawling involved but man was it fun! Check us out!

After a much needed lunch, we were refueled and ready for our afternoon which consisted of a hike around Thingvellir National Park, watching the roaring cascade of Gullfoss waterfall (insanely beautiful!), and awed over the massive Geysir eruption in the geyser fields.  

Because our tour guide was phenomenal (seriously Icelandic Adventures is the best!) we made a quick pit stop to feed and faun over some Icelandic horses. 

2) Waterfalls/Glacier Walk/Black Sand Beaches

This tour was a spur of the moment decision for us, we had booked and planned our entire trip prior to coming, leaving ourselves 2 free days in our week long vacation in case anything interesting appealed to us, and thank goodness we did! During our brew tour, we met a really cool couple who had taken this tour the previous day and raved about it, so we knew we had to check it out on one of our free days!

This all day tour took us to the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss (stunning), where we hiked behind the falls and then just generally stood drooling at the sheer beauty,

Next in the tour was a stroll along the black sandy beaches of Reynisfjara. This unique beach is comprised of basalt lava and is utterly breathtaking. 

After a quick lunch in Vik, we headed out for our glacier hike at Solheimajokull Glacier. This serene and peaceful site looked like something from a land before time. You can totally imagine you are the other person in the world standing looking at the rolling hills and snow white ice. 

 

3) Blue Lagoon

Now after all those days of hiking, and sightseeing, you would be insane not to take an afternoon to soak and relax at The Blue Lagoon geothermal hotsprings. 

FOR A MORE IN DEPTH LOOK AT THE BLUE LAGOON- CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLE HERE

Your entrance fee gets you admission into the facility, one towel, 2 drink vouchers, and unlimited volcanic ash face masks. 

We soaked our weary travel bones until we were sweaty prunes, and then soaked some more. With a swim up bar, we could honestly have stayed forever. The steamy haze and sheer size of the pool made the experience intimate and despite the crowd when checking in, spacial and relaxing. It was definitely one of our more memorable experiences. 

4) Food/Brew Tour

You all know by now that we are huge self proclaimed foodies who make it a mission to try all the local cuisine, including, strike that, especially the strange and unusual. Singing up for a food/beer tour will definitely knock off some of those must eat items from your list. We booked one that paired a local brew with a local sample sized serving of food. Expertly timed courses and great explanations of flavors, this was a fun one.

If you want to wing it- we recommend checking out this restaurant which offers a seven course meal which highlights all the unusual foods Iceland has to offer. We chowed down on horse, puffin, and whale to name a few. The step price tag of 70USD per person was worth it in my opinion to sample all these rarities in one stop.

5) Northern Lights Hunting

You can't visit Iceland and not try to catch a glimpse of the illusive Northern Lights. Hailed as one of the seven wonders of the world, this scientific phenomenon is simply put, magical. Our nighttime tour took us several hours outside of Reykjavik to literally, the middle of nowhere. Our gregarious tour guide kept the late night ride entertaining with old folk lore, Icelandic facts, and interesting stories along the way. While they (obviously) can't guarantee that you will see the lights, they do everything they can to make it the best possibility (they have scouted out several prime locations, kept a close eye on cloud coverage, and are flexible with viewing spots, etc) and will even offer to reschedule you free of charge for another day of your trip if the lights don't cooperate. While the lights weren't out in full force for our hunt, we did catch some truly magical glimmers. 

**Download the Northern Lights app if you are an iPhone user before you go and take pics from there with a steady hand for your best shot at catching the lights on camera. If you don't have a fancy one that is.***  

In addition to these stunning sights around the countryside, there is plenty to keep you occupied in the city of Reykjavik as well. A few must see places/activities within city center include:

- Weekly Fleamarket, Kolaportið which is opened every Friday/Saturday and features some really unique hand crafted items including jewelry, wool sweaters, hats, etc. 

-Saga Museum: Play dress up like a Viking and enjoy this 50 minute self guided tour through some of Iceland's history as depicted through wax figures. 

-FREE city walking tours" You don't want to miss the opportunity to take advantage of a FREE walking tour all through downtown Reykjavik. Sponsored by the city, this guided tour will show you all the historical spots around town in this two hour guided tour. 

-Elevator ride up to the top of Hallgrimskirkja church. Check out this view! 

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-Puffin/Whale Watching Tours: Depending on what time of year you travel, be sure to check out the puffin and/or whale watching tours. This was a fun (if cold!) few hours on the sea and a good alternative to hiking around the countryside if you have physical limitations or just need a more relaxed day. Experience the beautiful landscape from the sea!

Ballin on a Budget; Planning your trip to Iceland

As you guys know, we recently returned from a week long jaunt in Iceland, and had the time of our lives. 

We had heard that Iceland was an expensive country to visit, but were woefully under-prepared for just how expensive things could be. So we have complied a list of tips and tricks to make the most of your trip, without breaking the bank. 

1. Cheap flights:

With the emergence of bargain airlines, flying doesn't have to be as costly as it once was. Airlines including Spirit, Allegiant, and WOW can take you to many tourist destinations for a fraction of the price. The tricky part comes in scheduling which airport to fly from (they don't have hubs at all international airports), and understanding baggage and carry on rules.

WOW is the bargain airline which operates to and from the US to Iceland (and parts of Europe). Check their website to see out of which cities they operate. We took these cities listed, and looked to see which we could fly to on the cheap. A couple hours of research later and we were able to book flights from Charlotte, NC to Boston, MA to Reykjavik, Iceland all for the low low cost of $550 USD per person. (We also had some credit card points to redeem so our cost was under $500 per person- score!) Red eye flights are also considerably less expensive. We never flinch at a red eye, especially when it's international. Arrive in time to see the sunrise and you're ready to explore!

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Being a bargain airline, WOW makes up there revenue with charging for all bags, carry on, movies, and in flight drinks and snacks. No complimentary conveniences here! To save on the insanely overpriced snacks (there is no way I am spending $6 on a mini can of Pringles), I packed some snacks for the ride (Lance cracker, packages of nuts, some cookies), although I did cave and buy a Coke ($3) due to airline restrictions of boarding a plane with liquids. 

Each passenger is allowed one carry on (laptop case or smaller) and you must pay a fee to use the overhead bins. You also pay for each checked bag, and the weight limit was 35 lbs per bag which meant we had to be very careful in our packing and clothes selections. (I tend to overthink everything which inevitability means overpacking!)   

CHECK OUT WHAT I PACKED FOR OUR TRIP HERE!

2. Lodging:

While there are plenty of nice hotels in Iceland, if you are planning on staying for more than 2-3 nights, we highly recommend looking into renting through Air B&B. Not only is it less expensive per night, but they usually offer discounts for extended stays of more than 5 days.

We also took advantage of our kitchen/fridge to stock up on cereal/milk/snacks (which saved money on our food budget). One with a washer was an extra perk that allowed us to pack lighter and be able to wash clothes mid trip. We opted to stay in the Marina district. We were a mere 2 blocks away from the pick up spots for our tours and an easy 4 blocks from center city. It was the perfect location! 

3. Food/Drinks:

Food and drink prices are astronomical in Iceland, but there are ways to save money where you can. If you don't mind hotdogs/warm sandwiches/noodles, there are some really great stands throughout Reykjavik where you can pick up an inexpensive lunch (under $10).

One of my favorite parts about traveling is sampling the local cuisine, so I personally don't like hitting up the same spots to eat every day, I much prefer to try a new place everyday. BUT with as busy as we were, sometimes a quick lunch on the way to our next activity worked in a time crunch (and made our wallets happy).

Download the app "AppyHour" (Itunes and android) to locate where all the best drink deals are happening every afternoon. (Because no one wants to pay $14 for a pint or $22 for a cocktail!). With this app you can quickly locate drink deals across Reykjavik. (Typically BOGO or 50% deals). 

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Here are a couple of our fav cheap eats:

Baejarins Betzu Pylsur: Hot dog stand.  Good hot dogs, simple, but very reasonably priced.

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Ramen MOMO:  This little tiny restaurant is a hidden gem.  Only sits 10 people at the time, so you will have to wait.  They won't cook your food until you find a seat.  A must have! (And for $5 USD per bowl- a real money saver!)

 

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4. Sightseeing:

Iceland does not have a large scale public transport system like can be found in most large scale cities in the US, and across Europe. Mostly due to the vastly undeveloped landscape of the country, and the fact that the entire population is under 400k, there really isn't a need. This leaves you with 2 options: 1) Rent a car or 2) Book tours which include pick up and drop offs.

Keep in mind that gas prices (like everything else) are quite high. Roughly $3.00 per liter, and sights are very spaced out, so know this when deciding how you want to get around. We opted for tours which included pick up, and drop off as it was a more cost effective, and convenient option for us. The tours through viator.com were very reasonable and well run. (Note that this website is not Iceland specific- you can use it for booking all manner of international tours!)

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 You simply  cannot  travel to Iceland and not explore the beautiful countryside. I mean, check out this view!

You simply cannot travel to Iceland and not explore the beautiful countryside. I mean, check out this view!

NOT SURE WHICH TOUR TO BOOK? CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLE ON WHICH TOURS WE RECOMMEND!

5. SOUVENIRS

Like everything else in Iceland, souvenirs are also very expensive.  Yeah, you want to bring your mom, or your friend a bottle or Icelandic Liquor, or a taste of sea salted chocolate, or perhaps even a wool sweater.  Be prepared to pay a pretty penny for all of the above.  Almost all souvenir stores around the center city are very high in price.  We made the "mistake" of purchasing some very costly small items on our first couple of days, but soon realized that there are other ways to find the same items way cheaper.  How?

If you are looking for good quality wool sweaters, all the fancy stores around the city will charge you a couple hundred dollars for something nice.  Go to the Reykjavik flea market on Saturdays or Sundays and you will be able to browse a vast variety of hand-made authentic Icelandic wool items at a much cheaper price.  Even though this is a "flea market" the wool merchandise, and costume jewelry is hand-made and new. Yes, it's still a little pricey, but cheaper than a downtown store.

We also found that souvenir shops NOT in center Reykjavik have way cheaper prices. We shopped for small items and collectibles at the stores located outside the city when we went on tours.  

IF you happen to spend over $6,000 Icelandic Krona (roughly $60 USD) in one transaction (excluding food) keep your receipt, you might be eligible to receive up to 14% of your purchase back! Simply, take the receipt and fill out a form at the tax office located inside the airport, and they will reimburse your sales tax directly to your credit card AND, while at the airport, hit up the Duty Free store! Seriously, you will save a whole lot of money by buying booze and candy to take back home there, instead of a liquor store.  

There are not a whole lot of ways to save tons of money when visiting Iceland.  You have to do what you can to minimize the impact on your pockets.  Everything is expensive, but it's cheaper if you plan ahead. Planning is key.  Plan where you want to eat, buy your cold gear before arriving, purchase your alcohol at the duty free before leaving the airport, and definitely use the viator app for tours, and the appy hour app to search for half off dining and drink options.  Follow this and you will save some moolah.  Buy your souvenirs outside city center, and walk everywhere.  Taxis are costly.  Do you have any other tricks or tips? We would love to know!

Please comment below or shoot us an email! 

Safe Travels my friends! Have fun in Iceland.

XOXO,

Coco

 

 

 

What we learned while backpacking. Paris and Rome.

Before we travel, I always make it a point to research the places we are planning on visiting for things like weather, customs, special laws, walk-ability, transit and transportation arrangements etc.  Often times I find it very useful when I read tips and suggestions from other travelers and their experiences.  SO, I thought I would put together a list of tips and suggestions from our own experience while we traveled in Europe.

1. TRAVEL LIGHT.

There is no need to carry a million items. Remember, people live there and there are many places to buy the essentials like toiletries and other products should you need them. So packing travel size items is totally the way to go. Your luggage will be less heavy and your back will thank you.

2. TAKE AN UMBRELLA/RAINCOAT

I guess this one depends on where and when you travel, but generally, I always take a small travel umbrella and a light raincoat. Many times in the past I've failed to take these items and the result? I get miserably soaked by the pouring rain. Especially if you are out and about sightseeing. A travel umbrella is so small, you can place it in a side pocket of your backpack with no problem and it is TSA approved. As far a a raincoat,I opt for a light raincoat (C0lumbia Sportswear worked perfectly).  Make sure it is waterproof and not just water resistant (believe me...great difference).    

3. PORTABLE CELL PHONE CHARGER

I use my cellphone to take all my pictures while traveling.  I mean, the convenience of just having a small device which you can also use as a camera/phone/GPS and mini computer is just a great perk of living in the twenty first century...as such, I also have to deal with terrifying "low battery" pop up message that is inevitable when traveling. A small, portable cell phone charger is a life saver. You can check out all our pictures now and thank the creators of such neat device later.

4. PORTABLE SELFIE STICK FOR PICTURES

When we exerted ourselves up 37 stories just to reach the top of the Saint Peter's Basilica or the Notre-Dame top level to see the mystic gargoyles, it was worth it. But we also realized there's an incredible potential for amazing pictures that cannot be achieved with just stretching your hand.  A selfie stick was the solution.  A picture perfect solution. 

5. TAKE A SCARF

Yes, It is HOT in many places in Europe in the summer days. This was especially true when we visited Rome. You will be tempted to wear just a tank top and shorts, or a sleeveless maxi-dress. It's the perfect attire for the warmth of this spectacular place...BUT be aware that MOST (if not all) churches, and sacred places in Rome - including the Vatican- will NOT let you in if you don't cover your shoulders (and your knees).  A scarf is the perfect alternative to wrap around your neck and shoulders.  and it also provides a very stylish way to accessorize your outfit. Locals in both, France and Italy wear scarves all the time, even in the summer months - and especially at night.

6. GIRLS, MAXI OR SUMMER DRESSES ARE A MUST

A perfect outfit when backpacking is one that you can dress up or dress down with ease.  A maxi dress or a cute summer dress provides the perfect combination of style and comfort. Dress it up with a scarf or custom jewelry, or just wear it as it comes during the day. You can't go wrong with a dress.

7. TENNIS SHOES ARE TOTALLY OK

One of the things I was most worried about was the fact that I wanted to pick the right pair of shoes for Paris and Rome. I didn't want to look like an obvious tourist.  I googled a million times and read a million blogs to investigate what kind of shoes other people were taking on their trips. All suggested comfortable walking shoes, and flats for women. Many stated to stay away from white tennis shoes. Let me tell you what I saw. An unbearable amount of both men and women wearing tennis shoes (as in Nike and Adidas). I also saw a lot of locals wearing white tennis shoes (usually Converse or Keds). So I wish I would've known this before picking my shoes. I opted for taking a pair of gray Bobs (by Sketchers) with the memory foam inserts. They were very comfortable walking shoes and they looked just fine with my outfits.  Just remember, whatever shoe you pick, make sure they are made for walking (we walked an average of 10 miles per day), and make sure you break them in in advance!

8. WATERPROOF YOUR SHOES

I learned this one the hard way.  Remember when I said we've gotten soaked by pouring rain in the past? Well, this includes our shoes. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than walking around in wet soggy shoes all day. So this time, I knew better. I got a water-proof spray (make sure it works on fabric) and waterproofed my shoes all the way around.  The result was as expected, and my feet did not get wet at all when it rained -Even when I accidentally stepped in a big puddle!.

9. PARIS PASS/TRAIN PASS 

Is it worth the money? Well, the answer depends on your needs.  There are many alternatives on packages that you can get while in Paris.  We definitely recommend to get the travel card even if you don't end up getting the whole Paris pass deal.  Let me explain.  The Paris Pass is a package deal that you can purchase online and pick up when you arrive at one of the many locations they offer. It includes a museum pass, an attraction pass, and a travel card.  You can get it for two, three, four, or six days, depending on your needs. If you purchase the whole pass, you have access to over 60+ museums and attractions and unlimited metro, RER, and bus travel, a bus tour, fast track access to many museums, and a guide book. So here's how you decide.  Make a list of the museums and attractions that you want to visit for sure, and if it's more economical to just pay for them individually (you can find the prices online) and if you are not interested in taking the bus tour either, then just get the travel card and a museum pass, or just a travel card and pay for the museum entries individually. We got the pass for convenience and peace of mind. For us it was worth it since we visited many places. 

RELATED: PARIS: CITY OF LOVE AND MANY OTHER AMAZING THINGS

10. USE YOUR MANNERS

I'm embarrassed to admit that many Americans are perceived as rude in Europe. And unfortunately it is true. I observed how many of us forget to use our manners when talking to strangers in Europe. I'm going to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and state that it could be (perhaps) the language barrier. Many people (including myself) get nervous and forget the few foreign words they know when someone speaks to them in another language. But either way, it's not an excuse. Don't forget to use your hellos and thank yous in the respective language.  You will see a huge difference in the way locals respond to you.

11. DON'T FALL FOR STREET SCAMS

There are MANY scammers scampering the streets for their next victim. From innocent looking kids trying to convince you to sign a petition - while his/her friend steals your cellphone or wallet, from very young women posing as old and disabled gypsy ladies begging for money - you know they are not real when they won't show you their face.  Many pickpockets and fake street performers that only want to distract you so you are an easier target. Also, there are many street sellers that will literally hand you an item and once you have it in your hand they will demand payment.  Best thing to do; be vigilant of your surroundings and your belongings and you will be fine. 

12. TRY EVERYTHING (FOOD/DRINK)

Forget diets! eat everything you can and enjoy a different culture through their cuisine.  You only live once!

RELATED: ROME MUST EATS

RELATED: PARIS FOODIE EDITION

13. FACE THE HEIGHTS

The most beautiful views in Europe will be from the top of a mountain or building. We climbed Norte-Dame, Sacre-Coeur, and Saint Peter's Basilica (at 37 stories high) by foot.  Hundreds of steps later, you will be awed by the incredible views you will find once you face your fear of heights and tight spaces. Especially in Paris, prepare to climb many, many steps all around the city.

14. CARRY A MAP

If you don't have constant internet access it's impossible to rely on your phone's GPS when you get lost in the city. Having a good map with clear street names can potentially save you your sanity when the time comes. This is a good advice also for a metro or RER maps. Plan  your route in advance so you don't waste precious vacation time trying to figure out where to go and how to get there with no map.

15. SUMMER CAN GET HOT

I said it before, but I'll say it again. Summer can get hot, especially in Italy.  If you are planning on visiting in June-August, plan accordingly and pack summer clothes. Shorts, dresses, sunglasses, and lots and lots of sun screen when you go out sightseeing.

RELATED: WHEN IN ROME

16. AMERICAN EXPRESS- NOT ACCEPTED EVERYWHERE

We wanted to minimize the amount of cash we carried, in case of pickpockets. Didn't want to risk getting robbed of all our money. We thought it was a good idea to pay with a credit card whenever possible. For the most part this worked great. BUT be advised, only Visa and Master Card are accepted in most places. Coco had an American Express card that was barely used because apparently Paris and Rome (even the very touristic places) do not accept American Express.

17. THE WI-FI SCAM

One thing I would like to point out is the fact that almost every cafe, restaurant, and shop in Paris advertises free Wi-Fi for their patrons. LIES. Now, this is only a theory based on observation, but it seems to me that advertising free Wi-Fi is a good tactic to get people to have a seat and order an espresso while they figure out their maps or they make a call using internet access (namely, us).  But 8 out of 10 places do not really have this free Wi-Fi access. You have to request a password to access their network, and (if they provide it to you) the connections don't work. Our group was pretty technologically savvy and none of us could connect to most networks. When you ask the waitress for a correct password, they will say it is the password it was already provided and that it should work. Verdict: false advertisement just to get tourists to sit down while hunting for that precious Wi-Fi.

We all have different experiences every time we travel. It's our mission to share these with fellow travelers for informative purposes. We would also love to hear from you and your experiences! Comment below and tell us about your trip and backpacking experiences! 

***TRAVEL WITH US! READ ABOUT OUR OTHER ADVENTURES HERE!

Things you must try in Paris (Foodie edition)

It's no secret we LOVE good food.  In fact, part of the reason we travel so much is to try new food and to experience exotic tastes (and blog about it - insert cheesy smile).  While in France, we tried everything new we could get our hands (and mouths) on.  We also had a good glass of wine with our meals every time we could.  So, if you go to Paris, here are some things you must eat/drink:

RELATED: PARIS CITY OF LOVE AND MANY OTHER AMAZING THINGS

1. (French) ONION SOUP.

You will find this item under "Onion Soup" on the menu - If they list it under "French Onion Soup" their menu is too Americanized and trust me, you want to try the real thing.  We tried ours at a small cafe in the 10th arrondissement, next to the Porte Saint-Denis monument.  It was a savory, cheesy, soup with a generous amount of all the good ingredients.  Do not miss out trying this famous soup!

2. ESPRESSO

a must have with your meals.  Whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner you must have a cup of espresso.  I noticed that Parisians won't give you much sugar with any kind of coffee you order.  Good thing I'm used to black coffee! French espresso is made out of dark, perfectly roasted beans, brewed into a very strong (one or two gulps) tiny cup of coffee.  The perfect energy drink to keep you going.

3. CAPPUCCINO

Seriously, there is a coffee shop or coffee bar in every corner of Paris.  A very common practice is to approach the "bar" (which is the counter), order your coffee and pastry or choice, and enjoy it while standing up at the counter.  If you sit down, sometimes they will charge you slightly higher price for your snack.  Some places will ask you if you want the counter or a table before you pay so they know how to charge you.  DO NOT leave France without drinking -many- Cappuccinos.  This creamy, foamy, chocolaty cup of perfection goes flawlessly with any croissant you choose.  

4. PIZZA

Yes, you can find good pizza in Paris too.  Maybe because Italy is so close to France, we found really good pizza while in Paris.  I prefer the ones with lots and lots of gooey cheese.  One that comes to mind, the paysanne pizza.  Lots of cheese, mushrooms, eggs, tomatoes, bacon and a dairy creme (that I have no idea what it was but resembled sour cream) in the middle...perfection.

RELATED: WHEN IN ROME

5. HAVE A TASTE OF FRENCH BEER

There are many to choose from.  Kronenbourg 1664 (blonde beer), Cervoise Lancelot, Duchess Anne Triple, or my favorite, Blanche Hermine (wheat beer).  Our hubby's like IPA's and it was quite difficult to find them around Paris. But, we stumbled upon a very cool little pub called Rivolux on 16 Rue de Rivole, which had IPA's on tap.  The bar tender, was as amazing making mix drinks as he was friendly.  Nice atmosphere, great company, good drinks.  Life is good.

6. CHEESE

My FAVORITE thing in the world is to eat a good piece of gooey cheese accompanied by a good glass of wine.  Blue cheese, goat cheese, Gouda, Camembert, Machengo, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gorgonzola, Comte Cheese, and many others are among the ones we tried every time we could put our hands on a cheese platter.  yum.

7. WINE

In Paris, a meal is not completed if you don't order wine.  Whether you like red, white, rose, dry, sweet, sparkling, wine is the perfect companion to your lunch or dinner.  Maybe the savory level of French cuisine is specifically designed to make your taste buds crave some wine.  Maybe it was the fact that we were in Paris and wanted to try everything.  Maybe is was the ambiance.  Have some wine.  You deserve it.  

8. ANGELINA PASTRIES at VERSAILLES PALACE

If you visit the Palace of Versailles, just south of Paris, you can enjoy ANGELINA's royal-like selection of pastries.  I tried a Strawberry cream cake that I only wish it was a little bigger.  They have a few locations throughout the Palace and the gardens.  You won't be disappointed.

9. FOUR CHEESE SPAGHETTI

Perhaps the best pasta dish I've ever had.  It was simple, yet incredibly flavorful.  The combination of mozzarella, cheddar, provolone and Asiago melts in your mouth and will keep your taste buds engaged till the last bite.

10. CREME BRULEE 

A classic made perfection.  Creme is a type of custard that is very popular in France.  You can find it in croissants, doughnuts, and other french pastries.  Creme-Brulee has always been a favorite of mine.  Creme with a rich layer of caramelized sugar...life doesn't get better than that.  

BONUS must EAT: CREPES

Plain, with chocolate, creme, caramel, chantilly cream, fruit, at a coffee shop, restaurant, bar, or at a street vendor. No matter where you are or what time it is, you can find a place that will have crepes.  Total paradise.

**** READ ABOUT OUR OTHER ADVENTURES HERE!

And you fellow traveler? what is your favorite must try? Comment below and we might try it out!

Must eats in Rome!

Our three day jaunt in Rome was filled with some serious good eats. I can't think of one thing I ate that was just "meh", everything was rich in flavor and simply put, delicious. Rome had, hands down the best pasta and pizza I have ever eaten. The sheer number of items to sample can be overwhelming to a traveler so I'm going to give you a breakdown of the top 10 foods to try when in Rome!

1) Gelato: You can't come to Rome and not try the gelato. More simply put, icecream. Ranging in flavors from light and fresh fruits to deeply decadent chocolates and caramels, there really is a flavor for everyone. You won't have to search hard, there are shops on nearly every corner. I sampled the raspberry and chocolate and they were absolutely delicious. 

2) Corneto: Not to be confused with a croissant (yes they look exactly alike but don't make the faux pas of calling it a croissant!), this flaky pastry is the breakfast item of choice in Rome. Variations on the corneto are many, you can find them filled with chocolate (both dark and white) and cream. I tried them all -don't judge, it was for research (who am I kidding, I just really like a pastry) and I personally preferred the cream one, or corneto crema. Whichever way you order, these things are a must when in Rome.

3) Negroni: This cocktail was recommended by our traveling companion and resident one time bar tender, Stephanie. The negroni is comprised of one part gin, one part vermouth, and one part Campari and garnished with an orange peel. While not everyone was a fan in the group, I personally enjoyed the cool kick this stiff drink offered, especially after a long day of sightseeing.

4) Spaghetti Carbonara: A very traditional Roman dish, this pasta is comprised of egg, cheese, pancetta, and black pepper. Grate a little Parmesan cheese over top and voila, culinary perfection. Filling and scrumptious this was a meal fit for a queen!

RELATED: WHEN IN ROME

5) Mezzmaniche Gricia- Another traditional pasta dish in Rome, this meal is comprised of rigatoni pasta, prosciutto Norcia, and onions. I grated some Parmesan cheese over the dish because, well, you can never have enough cheese! This was my first meal in Rome and definitely set the tone for all the good eats to come.

6) Cacio e Pepe: A very popular Roman dish, our Air BnB host, Helena raved about, insisting that we try it while visiting. Meaning simply, "cheese and pepper", the flavor of this dish is anything but simple. Each bite is cheesy deliciousness. Did I mention it was served in a fried cheese bowl?!  

7) Pizza : The amount of options available in all of Rome for pizza are staggering but trust me, pick any and you wont be disappointed. This pizza was made to order with all fresh ingredients, each mouthful an explosion of flavor. I opted for the spicy pepperoni, olives, and tomatoes, and believe me when I say, there was not one scrap of crust left on my plate when we left. Superb!

RELATED: PARIS: CITY OF LOVE AND MANY OTHER AMAZING THINGS!

8) Ravioli- Or as I like to call them, pasta cheese packets. These little suckers are the perfect delivery mechanism for some cheese! Even those are not so adventurous with their eats will love this one. Stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach served with a butter and sage sauce, these ravioli were definitely the best I've ever eaten. They were practically oozing with richness.  

9)  Trippa alla Romana: Ok now don't let this one scare you off, but trippa is....well...its intestines. I know, I know, it sounds absolutely disgusting, but let me explain. The intestines are cleaned and prepared, then cooked in a tomato based sauce filled with various herbs and spices. I was worried it would have a weird consistency or displeasing taste but was pleasantly surprised at the smoothness of the meat as well as the tasty combinations of spices used to prepare the dish. I would definitely recommend branching out of your food comfort zone to try this one out.

10) Soute di Cozze: Husband and I ordered these yummy mussels as an appetizer on our last night in Rome. Not only did they taste like they just came out of the ocean but whatever sauce they cooked these bad boys in was divine. (Our waitress spoke no English and we spoke no Italian so we weren't really able to get the full gist of what sauce these guys were cooked in). Taking a guess, I imagine it was a tomato based sauce with some garlic? Whatever is was, it was heartstoppingly good.

Well that rounds out my list of top eats in Rome, three days was not nearly enough time in the beautiful country of Italy (I'm already scheming ways to get back for a longer jaunt) but I think we really did Rome justice by packing in so much of the local cuisine in such a short time.

What are some of your favorite dishes in Rome? LET US KNOW BY COMMENTING BELOW!

Paris, City of Love... and many other amazing things!

So as all of you know, we packed our backpacks and embarked on a 10 day adventure to Paris/Rome and now we are sharing our experience with you. I’m going to tell you a little bit about Paris, France. But, before I go into details, let me debunk the saying “French people are rude” or “Paris is not that great” which I sadly heard numerous times before we decided to experience it ourselves. Parisians are incredibly nice, and the city itself is nothing short of amazing. There are so many places to see that in all honesty, we probably needed a whole month to see them all!. Many locals went out of their way to help us out and to give us directions when they recognized a "we're lost" face- even when we didn't speak each other's language. All you have to do is be polite to them and they will be polite to you. 

RELATED: WHEN IN ROME

So we made sure we had a metro map, and toured this fascinating city by ourselves.  Here are my top 5 must see places while in Paris:

1.       THE LOUVRE MUSEUM.  

 

This is perhaps my favorite place in Paris. The Louvre Palace was originally built in the 12th century and extended over the centuries to what it is today; a magnificent, massive palace, home to thousands of the world’s most renowned works of art. The actual museum opened in 1793 and is divided into several wings, from Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities, to Islamic art, sculptures, paintings, prints, and drawings.  You can see world famous paintings like the Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci, to Greek art masterpieces like the Aphrodite sculpture (The Venus de Milo).  There is so much to see and experience in the vastness of this museum that it can be a little overwhelming. The Napoleon III apartments are a must see area of the Louvre. The extravagance and magnificence of the exhibit shows you how luxurious it was to live in this palace. I can totally picture myself living here (as a princess in a fairy-tale). Oh! and don't forget to stroll by the "carousel" and see the, also very famous, inverted pyramid.  It's beautiful!

2.       THE PARIS CATACOMBS

Equal parts amazing and macabre; the underground Paris Catacombs are definitely something different. Get there early (before they open!) so you don't have to wait too long in the line.  We got there thirty minutes before opening and still have to wait over one hour to get in.  When you enter, you have to go down, and down, and down a spiral staircase that seems never-ending (So beware if you are claustrophobic), but it's worth it!  There are miles and miles of underground tunnels and secret passages under the city of Paris and most of it is covered by the bones and skulls of more than 6 million people. Of course, only a portion of these tunnels are open to the public, but it is still shocking to see this osseous display with your own eyes.  Back in the late 1700’s when the cemeteries of the city were overflowing with centuries of dead Parisians, mostly from disease, famine, and wars, millions of remains and bones were transferred to the underground tunnels, establishing the largest ossuary in the world. They say there are several secret entrances around the city, and if you are not an expert in the tunnels, better not attempt to explore the non-public areas of the catacombs on your own…legend says a man got lost in the catacombs in the late 1700’s and died without finding the exit. 

 

3.       NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS CATHEDRAL.

Everybody has heard of Esmeralda and Quasimodo, right? Well, Our Lady of Paris (exact translation) is one of the most beautiful medieval/Gothic structures you can visit. It is surreal to think that you can step foot in a building that has stood tall for so many centuries. Construction began in 1163, but it wasn't until the mid-13th century that the design and the façade were completed. You can appreciate the magnificent Rose window and the Cathedral’s gorgeous inside. The Gothic architecture and the many engravings, and sculptures will keep your jaw dropping. We took an extra step (or 387 to be exact) and climbed all the way to the dome. I mean, you can’t go to Notre Dame and not see the very famous Gargoyles! It was a narrow, endless spiral staircase to the top, but we made it. After shaking the claustrophobic moment off, you can see it was well worth it when you catch your first glimpse at the amazing Gothic gargoyles. They have been watching over the city of Paris for centuries and they are still standing. Another quick step inside the bell tower (another smaller staircase) and you can see the Cathedral’s majestic bell. But, just so you know, this part of the tower is (all) a wooden structure, so you will feel it move underneath you. Or that could’ve been my legs feeling like jelly after going up 31 flights by foot.

 

4.       THE EIFFEL TOWER.

I get it. You can’t be in Paris and not see the very famous Eiffel Tower. Located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, this gigantic iron tower was built in 1889 as an entrance to the world’s fair.  When you are under it, you can actually feel its energy and magnificence on your own body. Security was very high when we went (the EuroCup 16 was in effect), and Paris celebrated with European soccer fans by hanging a colossal soccer ball from the tower. We didn’t go up to the floors allowed to the public, but we enjoyed some good ice cream, and shopped for souvenirs at the Champ de Mars. 

 

5.       SACRE-COEUR BASILICA

Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this basilica built in the late 1800’s, sits on top of the butte Montmartre, which is the highest point in the city. Prepare to walk up many, many steps, since the roads that lead to this point are filled with stairs.  There’s no avoiding this fellows, so get your legs ready. You can take a little funicular car (your metro ticket will work for this one) to the top of the hill. Once you reach the top, you will be amazed by the view. It’s totally worth it. After your visit you can stay in the area and visit the little museums and galleries nearby. My favorite, the Dali Gallery, is within walking distance of Sacre Coure. 

Bonus tip, wear comfortable shoes when sightseeing in Paris.  You will do a whole lot of walking and stair climbing.  

Besides my top 5, I also have to mention the Chateau de Versailles. Located 45 minutes south of Paris (just take the C line and it will take you directly there), it was the luxurious home of Louis XIV in the late 1600's, early 1700's. We got there pretty early. They open at 9am and the lines can get very long, very quick. Since the early bird gets the best worm, we were among the first in line and were able to buy a "passport" ($18 euros) which grants entrance to the palace, the gardens, and other smaller house-museums inside. The golden gates of the lavish Chateau gave us a good preamble of what to expect once inside.The furniture, the decor, the chandeliers, the statues, everything evoked an extravagant way of life. A royal way of life.  *sigh*

We walked and got lost in the gardens (yes, they are that big), ate lunch at one of the several little restaurants, and rented a row boat for a romantic sail in the Palace's Grand Canal (it is so big, it took 11 years to be built). By the way, this is a must do! So the next time you are in Paris, don't hesitate to visit all of these places and take lots and lots of pictures!

**** Read about our other adventures around the world! HERE

Fellow travelers, what are your favorite parts of Paris? 

When in Rome!

So Mia and I just got back from a whirlwind 10 days in Paris/Rome. When I tell you this trip was PHENOMENAL! With only 3 days in Rome, we really had to make good use of our time to see everything on our "must see" list but surprisingly we also discovered a couple neat little gems along the way (which of course, I'm going to share with you guys!). So here is my  list of the top five things to do/see in Rome.

1) The Colosseum. Dating back to 70AD, this ancient structure is the home of bloody battles and torturous executions. Go ahead and pay the extra 6 euros to get a guided audio tour which provides interesting information on the structures architecture, the gladiators themselves, the fights, and other interesting tidbits of information. We got there about 30 minutes before opening time, 9AM, which I strongly recommend so you don't have to wait in long security and ticket buying lines. I was blown away by the sheer magnitude of the structure and that fact that it was almost 2000 years old. To think of everything it has seen and withstood over time is really mind boggling. 

2) St. Peters Basilica- Built in the 1500's, this basilica was constructed in the rumored place where St. Peter was tortured and ultimately crucified by Roman Emperor Nero in 64AD. The sheer size and attention to detail is simply breathtaking, not hard to believe you take into consideration that it was largely designed by the esteemed artist, Michelangelo. St. Peters Basilica is also is also the burial place of the much adored Pope John Paul II (now officially a Saint). You definitely don't need to be Catholic, or even a religious person, to admire the beauty and intricacy of this structure. If you are able, I strongly recommend you pay the few euros is costs to walk to the top of of the top of the dome and take in the panoramic view of Rome. I'm not gonna lie, it was difficult, and for someone who is deathly afraid of heights and super close quarters, it was a nail biting climb. The staircase spirals very tightly in places and is super hot (we traveled in June) but once you climb those 551 steps, the view is simply breathtaking. Take your time and walk around (enjoy the breeze and fresh air!) and snap a few pics before making your way back down again. The halfway point back down has the Vatican gift shop where you can stop in to purchase any number of items blessed by the Pope himself, rosaries, figurines, post cards, metals, prayer cards, anything you can imagine really. 

3) The Trevi Fountain. Rome is famous for their numerous piazzas (plazas) with amazing fountains and quaint streets but the Trevi Fountain is a must see when in Rome. Day or night, this fountain is awesome either way (trust me on this- we went one day and the next night to compare). Make sure and take a coin to throw over your left shoulder, backwards which according to legend, means you will come back to visit one day. Located in the Pizaaas di Trevi (imagine that), this place is always packed, and at night the lights illuminating the fountain are so romantic. Street vendors come out at night to sell all sorts of wears from jewelry to Italian souvenirs. (Keep your purse/wallet/phone close- the area is ripe with pickpoketers!).

4)Palatine Hill: Just a short walk from the Colosseum, Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient places in the city dating back to 10BC. Be ready for a long walk, we ambled around these ruins for several hours, taking in the breathtaking beauty. Palatine Hill was once the home of various Emperors and nobility and have remained surprisingly intact over the past couple of thousand years! It was like walking through a movie set for a post apocalyptic movie, the flowers and green grass provided such a contrast to the obviously old and crumbling city around. Please don't skip out on seeing Palatine Hill while in Rome!     

5) The Vatican/Vatican Museum: You can't go to Rome and not hop on over to the residence of the Pope! Home of the famous Sistine Chapel, The Vatican is the richest country in the world. Yes, I said country. I didn't know this either but the Vatican is actually it's own country, residents being those born in the Vatican or with proven family lineage of residence. Inside the Vatican you can walk St. Peters Square, visit the Sistine Chapel which houses the famous painting by Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam (sorry no photos of this masterpiece- camera are strictly forbidden inside the chapel), and priceless works of art held within the Vatican museum by world renowned artists including Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Bellini. We opted for the guided tour by City Lights Tours which was worth every penny. A knowledgeable and energetic tour guide, Enza, lead a small group (14 people) around the Vatican, Vatican museum, and St. Peters Basilica, sharing with us fascinating history and facts. (We were also able to skip the lines- score!)

 

Now I know I said this was my top 5, but I'm sneaking in this last spot because after all this running around Rome you are going to want a good spot to sit back, relax, and enjoy a good drink. The area of Rome known was Trastevere is loaded with good food and plenty of places to grab a drink. We enjoyed wandering the little streets and alleyways taking in the scenery and liveliness of the area. Known as a vibrant collage hangout, Trastevere is located in the 13th rione (district) of Rome. We picked a spot at a local bar and sipped Nagronis after a long day sightseeing, it was the perfect spot to unwind and take in the local atmosphere!

**** Travel with us! read about our other adventures here!

What are some of your favorite spots in Rome?!

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