An Invitation To… Reykjavik, Iceland

As we leave the colder months behind – which I am *so* excited for – I wanted to reflect on my visit to the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik (pronounced rake-ya-vick) with my husband in 2015.

I just can’t say enough good things about the Icelandic culture. The people are beautiful, the natural landscapes are beautiful, but that beauty is not limited to skin or surface. Each person and place we encountered was welcoming, friendly, and exuded peace. Let’s dive in.

Something I learned…

Icelanders learn up to three languages in grade school: Icelandic, English, and Danish

When visiting Iceland, we treated it as a true “stopover” for 3 nights on our way to Ireland. We went on a Super Jeep tour of the Golden Circle, which is easy to do since it’s only 2 to 3 hours outside of the city.

We experienced the gamut of nature, seeing rich green vistas with rivers snaking through, bright white glaciers, overcast skies blanketing an active geyser, followed by afternoon sunshine over massive rushing waterfalls. All in one day! One of my favorite things about our tour was our guide, Ingi. He gave us tidbits of Icelandic history in between stops across the country’s majestic landscape.

Some fun facts we learned:

  • Not only do most Icelanders learn the 3 languages above, they typically do so before the age of 12.
  • Icelanders are purposefully peaceful. Iceland has no military force, and police officers don’t carry guns.
  • Most of Iceland is powered by renewable energy sources, primarily geothermal.
  • There’s no McDonald’s on Iceland.
  • Iceland has a universal healthcare system that is both available and affordable to all.
  • If you dare… you can try unusual (and controversial?) local fare including whale, shark, and puffin.

Something I ate…

Reykjavik is known for its coffee… and hot dogs

Right?! The fabulously gorgeous land of Iceland is known for dirt cheap delicacies? It’s true. I particularly adored the coffee at a quirky, hippy joint called The Laundromat Café. Yep. You can eat and do laundry there. My little Type A heart is swooning at the efficiency of this concept. And we had the BEST hot dogs at a little permanent food truck-ish place called Baejarins Beztu Pylsur.

We also had divine fish and chips, Viking beer, and more delightful snacks on our short trip. Too little time to try it all!

Something I felt…

The holiness of nature

Call it the slow pace of vacation, the fresh air lacking petrol fumes, or the proximity to the ocean… but I really felt sparks in my faith here. No matter where we went, I kept thinking over and over: God is so masterfully creative. In just one country, He picked so many colors, textures, and shapes for us to feast upon with all our senses. Mindfulness naturally came here; I didn’t have to work for it like I normally do.

How do you capture a raging waterfall in a single frame? How do you box up a miles long glacier into one photo? You don’t. But I hope to impart a bit of Iceland’s magnificence with a few of my measly snippets below.

Wrap Up: Peace be with you, every day

Whether you want to visit Iceland or just want to escape your day-to-day, I hope you feel these same feels when in nature. That you may always be in awe of how it catapults you into its endless depth, full of surprises and full of reverence.

If Iceland is it, then I can’t end this post without mentioning a stop to Hallgrimskirkja Church… for the views. Pay a small fee, then go to the top of the steeple where a 360 degree view of Reykjavik awaits. It is a grand experience seeing the mountains and ocean so close to each other, colorful row houses bunched together, and little dots of humans roaming about the city. Absolutely breathtaking.

There’s so much more to tell, but I’ll leave that to you to discover.

What would give you a full mind, belly, and heart in the next city you explore? Follow more of my “invitations to” adventure at the top right of the page: Home > Travel+Bug.

An Invitation To… Kauai, Hawaii

The island of Kauai is one of my absolute favorite places to be in the world. My husband and I first went for our honeymoon, and I’ve been twice more since… once even out of the blue for WORK! We’ve often thought of moving there “someday”, whenever we get tired of the grind and a much slower pace calls. I also have a theory that the first island you visit in the Hawaiian Islands becomes your favorite, because the scenery is breathtaking and the overall feel is calming. And then you remember, I’m still in the United States.

I cannot say enough good things about Kauai. It’s called the “Garden Isle” for a reason, and describing it as “lush” is an understatement. Succulent greenery, glittery blue, surf-ready waves, luscious flowers… join me as I reminisce.

Something I learned…

There are wild roosters ALL over the island due to Hurricane Iniki in 1992

So, Kauai is a colorful island with colorful… roosters? Yep, sure is. The story goes, that when Hurricane Iniki hit, the force of water was so strong that it toppled over chicken coops. This let maybe hundreds of chickens and roosters loose, and now, some reports estimate there are thousands of feral chickens on Kauai. They’re literally everywhere, foraging at beaches, grocery store parking lots, or the side of the road. But like any wild animal, they don’t bother you if you don’t bother them. I love that this unique, quirky story belongs to Kauai.

Something I ate…

Red sea salt, coconut peanut butter, purple potatoes, and lots more

Kauai is very remote, as told from a factoid on a bag of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts: Hawaii is the most isolated inhabited land mass in the world. Kauai is 2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan, and 4,900 miles from China. (KauaiFunFacts.com)

So, one may wonder about the food (because, I’m always thinking about food). Is it mostly imported? What’s “local” besides coconuts, fresh fish, and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts? Well, here’s a few delicacies I ADORED and took home when I could:

  1. Hawaiian Red Alaea Sea Salt – an accidental creation when ocean met dirt.
  2. Coconut Peanut Butter by North Shore Goodies.
  3. Purple sweet potatoes – slightly sweeter and tangier than your standard orange ones.
  4. Fresh ahi tuna… not just a little morsel on sushi. Whole slabs of it.
  5. Moonfish (Opah) – common catch of the day: white, flaky, and great on tacos.
  6. Kauai Coffee – I toured the farm and still order the Vanilla Macadamia Nut blend online regularly. No creamer needed!
  7. Lay’s Tangy Carolina BBQ chips – devastated these aren’t sold on the mainland.
  8. Kauai Mud Pie, available only at The Olympic Cafe. It is a one-of-a-kind treat consisting of coffee ice cream, chocolate ice cream, macadamia nuts, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream… need at least 4 peeps to finish it!

Something I felt…

What a more peaceful life looks like: lazy days, tranquil setting, and less “stuff”.

On one particular dreamy day in Kauai, sipping cocktails on a patio, hubs and I imagined what it would be like to move here. Could we break into the real estate market and live off rentals? Would one of us find an engineering job? Could I make it as an entrepreneur (pipe dream) and make a living on creativity? The entrepreneur dream was inspired by these amazing candles at Island Soap & Candle Works, which eliminates at least one potential business line for me. No way I could compete; these candles are life-changing!

We were particularly drawn to this dream because in a weird way, it would force us into simplicity. No doubt, Kauai’s landscape lends to the tranquility it exudes. But more than that, it takes less than 3 hours to drive around the whole island. Anything else is a boat ride or plane ride away. Wherever we went, there was no rush. Even when the main highway, Kuhio, gets jammed at all hours of the day, there’s little honking. There’s no speeding past each other, because you can’t. You’re either taking the two-lane highway to the “wetter” side up north (Hanalei, Princeville) or the “drier” side down south (Koloa, Waimea). So all that’s left to do, is enjoy the ride as you glance over, notice the ocean about 20 feet away, and try not to drive into it as it sneakily lures you in.

Wrap Up: Kauai is everything it’s amped up to be

Quick reality check—the two downsides about Kauai from my view are: 1) the rainy season is VERY RAINY, and 2) how long it takes to get there… from anywhere in the world.

But all things considered, it’s totally worth the trip. The locals are some of the friendliest, sweetest people you’ll meet. It’s easy to get lost in their native ways, like how they preserve the Hawaiian language, protect the nearby island of Niihau, and much more to stay true to their heritage. There’s a new beach to explore along the Kuhio Highway every 5 minutes. The island hasn’t been fully commercialized and won’t be for a long time, considering that per code, no building can be taller than a palm tree.

The beauty here, in this faraway land, is endless.

Thank you for letting me wax poetic about my all-time favorite travel spot. There’s so much more to tell, but I’ll leave that to you to discover.

What would give you a full mind, belly, and heart in the next city you explore? Follow more of my “invitations to” adventure at the top right of the page: Home > Travel+Bug.

An Invitation To… Kinsale, Ireland

A few years ago, my husband and I visited Ireland and fell in love with the town of Kinsale. Surprisingly when we mentioned visiting Ireland to friends who’d also been, this was hands down our favorite stop on our respective trips. “Wait, you’ve been to Kinsale, too?! No way! Isn’t it amazing….”

We stayed for one night but could’ve easily made this “home base” for our whole trip. Our Bed & Breakfast (B&B) host had endless recommendations for us. Join me as I reminisce.

Something I learned…

Charles Fort was the largest engineering feat of its time in the 17th century.

Kinsale is the southernmost port in Ireland. It served as a critical trade hub to the country over the centuries, especially in wartime, as it used to be the only port of entry to Ireland from the south. Charles Fort, built in 1601, was designed in the shape of a star to better resist cannon fire from those trying to threaten or take over Ireland.

While we enjoyed the history bit, we really soaked in the breathtaking 360 degree views, since Charles Fort sits atop the whole city. I was definitely more focused on the swathes of green grass blankets, intricate cobblestone walls, and sailboat-dotted shoreline surrounding us.

Something I ate…

Jim Edwards Restaurant has a scrumptious seafood dinner that won’t break the bank.

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Our lovely B&B host suggested we try Jim Edwards for our first and last dinner in Kinsale. We had an amazing four-course meal for the price of one expensive bottle of whiskey back home. I couldn’t believe the bill and thought they forgot a bottle of wine or something.

We got the works… stuffed mussels, pan fried fish, grilled steak, Irish cabbage, potatoes au gratin AND french fries, then dessert: perfectly rich, I-can-die-happy-now, chocolate fudge cake with vanilla bean ice cream.

Obviously, I insisted on sharing more than usual because “I didn’t get a good taste of those potatoes” (!)

This meal has a solid place on my top 10 all-time best dinners list. (What, you don’t have a similar list…?)

Something I felt…

Nonstop laughter for two hours on the Kinsale Walking Ghost Tour.

Another recommendation from our B&B host, we initially exchanged some looks at the mention of “ghost tour”. But, we soon found out this wasn’t a scary or “lame” tour in the least. We got to hear some of Kinsale’s best legendary stories that gave context to the rustic churches and dark corners we explored. We left with sore cheeks that night from laughing so hard

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We ended the night with night caps at Kitty O’ See’s down the street, where we slapped knees to a live band playing Irish jigs and tried our first taste of other-than-Jameson Irish whiskey: Tullamore Dew.

Wrap Up: Kinsale is a must-see

Kinsale is a very charming, very small town that you can easily get to know in a day. But stay longer if you can; the locals will treat you as one of their own the minute you meet. 

There’s so much more to tell, but I’ll leave that to you to discover.

What would give you a full mind, belly, and heart in the next city you explore? Follow more of my “invitations to” adventure at the top right of the page: Home > Travel+Bug.