30th Birthday Celebrations in Copenhagen

Part 3 of “the best summer of my life” blog posts … featuring my 30th birthday trip to Copenhagen!

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I chose to celebrate my 30th with one of my closest friends, H. We’ve travelled together before: we visited her hometown together in Germany to visit the Christmas markets in December 2016 and we knew we were/are the perfect travel companions. We have exactly the same travel style and the same tastes and similar personalities. Befriending her and getting to know her is, to date, one of my greatest accomplishments in Dublin, so I knew I wanted to celebrate with her. She’s also an extraordinarily loyal friend, so she didn’t hesitate to say yes when I asked. I chose Copenhagen for a few reasons: 1) I’ve wanted to visit for many years 2) I’m the world’s greatest fan of “The Little Mermaid” and Hans Christian Andersen, so… enough said. I had to visit the little mermaid statue and my 30th seemed like the perfect occasion to do so. 3) My birthday is at the end of August, meaning it is quite hot across most of Europe… and, well, I hate the heat. Copenhagen’s weather turned out to be absolutely perfect when we were there (apart from the fact that it lashed rain pretty much non-stop on my actual birthday, but I am grateful that we had the most perfect weather imaginable the day before and we really made the most of it!).

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We stayed in this amazing Airbnb in central Copenhagen. It was perfect for us: it was spacious, modern, decorated beautifully, comfortable, in the perfect location (we were able to walk everywhere easily) and we were able to enjoy coffee and drinks on the adorable balcony in the mornings and evenings.

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Days 1 & 2

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Day 1 didn’t consist of much apart from a late lunch/early dinner at RizRaz (their salad bar is AMAZING!!!! and will forever be remembered as one of the happiest experiences H & I shared together); the weather wasn’t great and we were fairly tired from travelling. We took the time to get our bearings and plan the rest of our time in Copenhagen. On Day 2, we decided to stop for breakfast on our way to Nyhavn – Cafe Norden caught our eye and it really did not disappoint! Breakfast was as delicious as it was aesthetically pleasing. Their homemade rye bread was some of the tastiest bread I’ve ever had!

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Nyhavn did not disappoint – yes, it is touristy, but for a reason. It is incredibly charming and is a wonderful place to wander around.

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I’ve read a ton of reviews by people saying that they were disappointed in the little mermaid statue. I was NOT one of these people. Yes, it was overly crowded around the statue, but I still managed to feel like I had my “moment” with her… and it was worth it!

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Next, we walked through Freetown Christiania.

Christiania is a former military base that sat abandoned for many years before becoming the neighborhood we know today. In 1971, a group of hippies broke down the barricades and began squatting there. Nowadays, approximately 900 people live in the area, comprising a community that has its own rules and regulations completely independent of the Danish government. Source

I simply cannot describe the feeling of walking through bohemian Christiania other than… it is one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. We saw some very interesting sights, people and houses. If you visit Copenhagen, I would absolutely recommend visiting Christiania. It’s an experience unlike any other.

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We then visited Tivoli Gardens, but we only paid for entrance, not the rides. It was absolutely worth it – it’s an incredibly beautiful park with so much to see and do. We watched a ballet, played a couple arcade games, had lunch and watched a dog show. Tivoli is what inspired Walt Disney to create Disney World and, being from Florida, this was a pretty cool experience for me. If I lived in Copenhagen, I think it would be worth it to get an annual pass as they host so many different events year round. We noticed lots of locals hanging out, spending their Sunday with friends and family at Tivoli.

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Ice cream in Copenhagen is an absolute MUST!!! Iceland is also known for their ice cream, which I thought was good, but this is quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. Again, I don’t know how to describe it – it was unique in every way!

Day 3

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We began my birthday by eating one of the most incredible breakfasts I’ve ever had in my life – in one of the most beautiful cafes I’ve ever been to. Paludan Bogcafe… a stunning bookstore and cafe, all in one. The staff was very friendly, the space was so cozy and inspiring and their menu offered high quality food and drink for great value. I’m pretty sure breakfast took us over three hours to consume – it was the perfect way to begin my 30th year… a leisurely breakfast in a beautiful space with a dear friend. What more could I ask for?

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This is the “vegetarian brunch”: scrambled eggs with chives, hummus, yogurt with fresh berries and muesli, pancake with maple syrup, cheese and fresh fruit, served with either fresh orange juice or a small smoothie… all for only 109 kr (approximately $16 USD)!! INCREDIBLE value for money. Copenhagen is notoriously expensive, but I would consider this cafe to be so well priced. This meal literally kept me FULL until we had dinner at 8:30pm (and I am usually the type of person who requires more than three meals per day).

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Unfortunately, it rained all day on my actual birthday. However, the rain did not deter us. H surprised me by treating us to a “couple’s” (friends!) full body massage followed by champagne and relaxation in the spa, which was so appreciated. We didn’t book a couple’s massage, so that was a bit of a surprise; however, it ended up being that much more fun and enjoyable, because it was an experience we were able to share together. We also visited the Rosenborg Castle between rain showers.

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I chose Llama for my birthday dinner: a Latin American restaurant inspired by Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Mexico – AKA my dream come true. It was pricey, but worth it for a special experience. Not an obvious choice of food while in Denmark, but I have no regrets. We shared a variety of unique (seemingly my favourite word to describe our trip to Copenhagen!) dishes and enjoyed a smokey margarita to toast to our friendship.

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Llama’s bathroom floor

Day 4

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I had to visit Brødflov, mostly because of the name (bread love), but also because their cafes are beautiful and I read about their delicious pastries. We had so much to fit in on our last (half) day, so this was breakfast #1 for us.

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Breakfast #2 was enjoyed at Cafe Dyrehaven – a super cool spot with extra friendly staff. We went for the open-faced sandwiches, but unfortunately, due to our flight time, we were too early and chose a breakfast item instead. Avocado toast with beetroot cured salmon – absolutely amazing!

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HOT DOGS, glorious hot dogs – OMG. Shortly after breakfast #2, we had to fit in one last hot dog. Just like ice cream, Iceland is also known for their hot dogs… and they were truly amazing; however, I’ll go out on a limb and say the two hot dogs I had in Copenhagen were even better. For our last meal before heading to the airport, we opted for a spicy hot dog from a street vendor and it was, quite possibly, my favourite thing I ate all summer. Yep, I said it.

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Our trip to Copenhagen was perfect in every way and was everything I could have asked for my birthday. I wanted to be able to look back on my 30th birthday with a fond memory, despite going through a difficult time, and thanks to H, I will forever be able to do just that. Thank you to Copenhagen for being everything I needed at that time. H and I both agreed we could happily live there – it’s everything we love in a city: so friendly, clean and beautiful.

Insider’s Guide: Dublin

My dear friend Gigi kindly featured me on her blog, The Global Organizerhere. I am posting my featured post below, but I highly recommend checking it out on her blog – because the format is much better (and there are more photos!).

FROM CHELSEA

I’m Chelsea; my passport says I’m American but my heart will tell you I’m Irish. I grew up in Florida, but have known my entire life that I’m meant to live in Ireland. I moved to Ireland in September 2010 (Cork for 6 months, then Dublin) and I genuinely fall more in love with Dublin every single day. It is by far my favourite place in the world and even though my favourite hobby is travelling, I am always happy to come back to Dublin. Dublin has everything: the sea, mountains, beautiful parks and is a city that can either feel like a bustling capital city or a tranquil town, depending on where you are. I even like the Irish weather, which is especially funny coming from someone who is from Florida.

EAT

When people think of Ireland, they usually don’t think of food. Or if they do, they think of meat and potatoes and maybe Lucky Charms. This is changing hugely! When I first moved here in 2010, the foodie scene was non-existent. I am now convinced Dublin has one of the most amazing foodie scenes in the world: I actually think it’s even better than London’s, though I’m a bit biased. We have some incredible restaurants here and you can have top-notch cuisine from just about everywhere around the world. Dublin really knows how to do brunch! P.S. Lucky Charms do not exist here. Well, they do… you can buy a box for 10 euro from one specialityshop! I’d say Ireland produces the best beef, butter, milk and strawberries in the world.

  • Bunsen– Nothing compares to Irish beef. You must try a Bunsen burger: melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Bunsen has a cult following and luckily, there are four locations.
  • Full Irish breakfast – Surprise, potatoes are not generally part of a full Irish! A full Irish usually consists of eggs (usually fried, but you can request otherwise), rashers (bacon), sausages, baked beans, black and white pudding, fried tomato and toast. Make sure you try some incredible Irish butter on your toast… even better, if you have an option of having brown bread / brown soda bread, choose that!!
  • Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse or most pubs (it’s debatable who has the best Guinness!) My vote would be for a pint at the Cobblestone because of the atmosphere – you can listen to live traditional Irish music if you’re there in the evening.
  • Brunch is a way of life in Dublin. I have many favourite brunch places – one of them is Two Pups Coffee, in a great old neighborhood called The Liberties. They have great coffee, unique food (avocado toast with peanut butter!! Trust me, it’s fantastic) and the staff is super friendly.
  • Modern Irish (Whitefriar Grill and The Winding Stair) – Irish pub food (L. Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter / O’Neills / The Hairy Lemon) –Fish & Chips (Beshoff Bros or Leo Burdock) – Neapolitan pizza (Cirillo’s) – Sushi (Musashi and Kokoro) – Indian (Pickle) – TexMex (Boojum) – Ice cream (Murphy’s or a 99 cone from Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire) – Vegan (The Happy Pear and Cornucopia) – Salads (Sprout) – Lebanese (The Cedar Tree or Damascus Gate) – Vietnamese(Pho Ta and Aobaba) – Michelin Star (Chapter One) – Tapas (Las Tapas de Lola or PortHouse) – Pasta (DaMimmo and Rosa Madre) – Unique fine dining experience(Taste at Rustic – Peruvian and Japanese fusion) – Best Egg’s Benedict (Wuff) – Best scones (Emer’s Kitchen and Brother Hubbard) – Favourite newcomer(Nutbutter – healthy food) – Sandwich (Green Bench Café) – Amazing views (Sophie’s at The Dean) – Dessert (Nutella Cheesecake at either Taco Taco or San Lorenzo’s; though unfortunately, you cannot go only for dessert) – Donuts (Rolling Donut) – Coffee (Proper Order, Clement and Pekoe, Il Valentino, Butler’s)

PLAY

  • Cliff walk: Either Bray to Greystones and lunch at The Happy Pear if you feel like eating healthy or Howth cliff walk followed by fish and chips
  • Guinness Storehouse
  • On your way to Trinity College to see the Old Library and the Book of Kells, wander through St. Stephen’s Green park and then down Grafton Street, stopping to listen to various buskers.

STAY

This is something I can’t really comment on, seeing as I’ve only ever lived in Dublin. I’ve never been here as a tourist. However, I know if money were no object and I could stay anywhere in Dublin, I would choose either the Merrion or the Shelbourne. For someone on a major budget, I know the Generator hostel in Smithfield is great as far as hostels go.

The best areas in Dublin to stay in are: Dublin 2 (safest and nicest part of the city centre), Dublin 4 (just a bit outside the city centre and very posh), Dublin 6 (very local neighbourhood), Smithfield/Stoneybatter in Dublin 7, Dublin 8 if you want to be near the Guinness Storehouse and Phoenix Park. Stay away from Temple Bar in Dublin 2 if you want any peace and quiet.

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Ireland is the land of a hundred thousand welcomes (Céad Míle Fáilte) and is, in my humble opinion, the most magical place on earth.

“It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what that love is for; for some it’s the friendliness Irish people are famous for, or the beautiful landscapes or the incredible produce we are becoming renowned for. Or perhaps it’s something a little less tangible. Perhaps that love of Ireland is more an emotion, a moment, an elusive feeling that we know intimately well but might find hard to describe. It’s what makes us love this country no matter the weather, it’s how we feel landing in Dublin Airport after a stint away. It’s the taste of a proper strong cuppa, it’s the craic, the kindness and the bold humour. It’s the thought of holing up in a cosy pub with a creamy pint of Guinness and the deep conviction that when the sun shines there’s nowhere else you’d rather be. It’s the sight of the Phoenix Park in the autumn when the trees are molten amber and the deep, burgeoning pride when our county takes home the Sam Maguire cup.” ~Author Unknown

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FAVORITE TRAVEL HACK

  • Charles Schwab bank is my best discovery – they are my American bank of choice and I adore my Schwab debit card because they refund ALL ATM fees – local or international! Bonus: they have fabulous customer service.

Oxford Birthday

I had the pleasure of spending my birthday weekend in Oxford with my best friend/life wife/flatmate. She did her Master’s degree at Oxford and I’ve wanted to visit with her ever since we met. It was everything I imagined and more and I can certainly see why it is her favourite place in the world. I was really impressed with how friendly everyone was and not to mention the obvious: the gorgeous architecture!

Highlights:

  • Staying in Exeter College – our accommodation was a room where Fellows stay, absolutely STUNNING and massive! It was honestly the size of an apartment and we had 4 different rooms! The light was incredible and the room was so quiet.
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Entrance to Exeter College’s Dining Hall

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  • Fellows’ Garden at Exeter College – favourite spot in Oxford, you cannot beat the views! Not to mention the privacy and the beauty. There’s not a better spot when the sun is shining.
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The view from the Fellows’ Garden at Exeter

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  • Cream tea at Vaults and Garden (located in the garden of St. Mary’s) – we didn’t waste any time when I arrived, we pretty much went straight to V&G for tea and scones!! Their house blend is easily the best black tea I’ve ever tasted. I already miss clotted cream…

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Vaults and Garden

  • Climbed St. Mary’s – the views are incredible! Well worth the £4 and the 25 minute wait.
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View from the top of St. Mary’s

  • Iced dirty chai at the Missing Bean – my first dirty chai (chai latte with a shot of espresso) and I’m addicted! Not to mention I completely fell in love with the Missing Bean – it is definitely in my top 3 coffee shops I’ve ever visited!

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  • Pimm’s at The Bear – such a great pub! We didn’t eat there but I was very impressed with their menu. A big step up from normal pub food!
  • Blue cheese burger at Turf Tavern – some of the loveliest outdoor seating areas I’ve ever seen
  • Bagel (with a gorgeous amount of cream cheese) and iced latte to start my second day at the Missing Bean – this place knows how to do coffee. Easily the best iced latte I’ve ever had! So smooth.
  • Touring some of the other colleges: Christ Church (the dining hall is unbelievably impressive), Merton, Magdalen (the gardens!!! most impressive grounds)
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Christ Church Dining Hall

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Magdalen

 

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  • Exploring the Covered Market and buying 3 different cheeses (Oxford Blue!) and fruit for our light picnic-in-bed dinner that evening (the weather wasn’t great and our room was so comfortable!)
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Perk of being an adult:  being able to eat just this (+ a baguette and a nectarine) for dinner!

  • Champagne High Tea at the Old Parsonage Hotel – K surprised me with this for my birthday. This place is absolutely STUNNING and this was my first ever proper high tea!! I was so impressed with everything about this place: the interior, the exterior, the staff, the lovely royal blue ‘princess’ sofa I got to sit on, the champagne, the tea, the clotted cream and jam, all of the sweet and savoury foods (except for the macarons). We were sickeningly STUFFED afterwards, mostly from all of the liquid… we each had 2 pots of tea!! I physically couldn’t sit up towards the end of the experience but it was SO WORTH IT.
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The Old Parsonage Hotel

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  • Drinks at The Morse Bar (in the Randolph Hotel) – we originally went just for a glass of white wine (we are poor students + we were still full from high tea) but while we were drinking our wine, we were watching Jose the bartender/artiste make cocktails for other customers. I’ve never been SO impressed by a bartender’s care and passion for making cocktails. We were intrigued by a certain cocktail he made multiple times – he carefully peeled a lemon and daintily wrapped it around the outside of the glass and propped it inside the drink and for the grand finale, PERFUMED THE COCKTAIL!!!! We later found out he was perfuming it with vanilla, but oh my goodness did this blow our minds. We decided right then and there that we had to have whatever that drink was. Best £13 I’ve ever spent! It was the Morse Bar Champagne Cocktail and was invented by Jose and I’m convinced it’s my favourite and the most unique cocktail I’ve ever had. It was visually stunning as well – very fitting for a birthday girl! “An outstanding pre-dinner fizz – combines Calvados Apple Brandy with Champagne and a hint of lemon and vanilla”

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  • Breakfast at Turl Street Kitchen – my first time having ‘bubble and squeak’! I had never even heard of it before and absolutely adored it. Great inventive way to use the leftover veg and potatoes from the previous night’s roast dinner!

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  • Tour of the Bodleian Library– I did the 1 hour standard tour of the 15th-century Divinity School, Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court and Duke Humfrey’s medieval library. Absolutely stunning and well worth the £8 – our tour guide was fantastic. It seems like they limit the groups to 15 people. Be warned: these tours DO sell out, so get your tickets in advance!
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Divinity School

  • Exhibition at the Weston Library – we went to see one of their special collections and it was stunning! My favourite was Charlemagne’s purple and gold manuscript (mid-9th century)… so unique!

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  • Exploring various shops (Blackwell’s bookstore and Blackwell’s art & poster shop; Pod; leather shops)
  • Lunch at Vaults and Garden – veggie lasagne (exquisite!) with a salad
  • Cake (elderflower and poppyseed // avocado and lime) and iced dirty chai at the Handle Bar café (formerly known as Zappi’s) – absolutely loved this place!! It is located above a bike shop.

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It was really relaxing to not worry about anything other than my next meal and to explore a beautiful city with my best friend (except for the fact that I almost missed my flight back to Dublin – details in my next post). I cannot think of a better way to start my 28th year! On that note…

Is it just me or does the jump from 27 to 28 seem massive?! I feel like I just jumped from my mid-twenties to proper adulthood. This is probably because it coincides with finishing my Master’s degree but still. As sad as I am that today is the last day of August (WHAT!? Is it just me or did this summer fly by faster than usual?!), I have a fire in my belly and am so excited to begin my career and see what this next year holds for me. The next few months will very much be a transition period for me. I was hoping to submit my dissertation today but am (hopefully just) about a week and a half behind…nearly there!

I am going to enjoy my last few days/weeks of being a student and my very last month of student discounts. The next time I post, I won’t be a student anymore!

August Thoughts

Dearest blog, we meet again… at the time we usually meet:  when I am struggling to write my dissertation.  I find blogging and writing creatively often helps me to write academically, so here I am.

I simply cannot accept the fact that it is the 1st of August. How did this happen?! Time is flying faster than usual and if it’s true that time flies quicker the older you get, I cannot imagine what life is going to be like when I’m a whole lot older.

I’m not ready for it to be August for a few major reasons:

  • This is my last official month of being a student and therefore, life as I know it will never be the same once August is over.  As much as I am ready to be rid of the stress that comes with being a student, I am not ready for such a big change and will never be ready to give up my ever-changing, flexible schedule that is always full of variety.
  • My dissertation is officially due this month, need I say more?   This is the most terrifying sentence I have ever typed! It is going well but is naturally causing me lots of stress and is eating up all of my energy. Summer college classes are not a thing here in Ireland and it’s getting old trying to explain to people how this summer is the most stressful time of my student life. “But aren’t you supposed to be on holidays?” NO! “Well, you deserve a holiday when you finish!” … If only I could afford one!
  • I am not ready to be 28.  I am very, very excited (and blessed) to be celebrating my birthday in Oxford with my life wife at the end of this month, but I am not ready to say goodbye to 27, my golden year. Twenty-eight just seems so much older. I still feel like a 14 year old a lot of the time. I am currently reading the book “The Defining Decade:  Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now” by Dr. Meg Jay and, while it is incredibly insightful and parts of it make me feel so much better about myself, I do wish I had discovered this book in my younger twenties and find myself wondering and worrying about the state of my life. Having said this, if you are a twenty-something, read this book now!! I cannot recommend it enough.
  • When August is over, I am officially facing the dreaded unknown. I will be in a major transition period and, while I know I will still be living in Dublin, I have no idea what I’ll be doing for work next month and if I’ll even have a job.
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Procrastinating going to the library to work on my dissertation by colouring

I must say, one positive thing about being a Master’s student trying to finish her dissertation is the ability and excuse to justify anything. Even though I’m as poor as they come, I can easily justify a take-away coffee every day and the occasional (but more occasional than normal) treat… because I’m finishing my dissertation and will do whatever it takes. Whatever gets me through!

Who knows where I’ll be in a month’s time. It’s terrifying but also a bit exciting. We all go through these major transition periods and I do have faith that whatever is meant to happen, will.

Are you going through a transition period right now? Tell me about it in a comment!

Checklist of Things to Do in my 20’s & 30’s

The following is a list of things I must do (if I haven’t already) in my 20’s or 30’s:

1) Eat healthy foods – This is actually a change that has happened to me already, and I am so grateful for it. I actually want to eat healthy meals (almost) all of the time because, unlike in my adolescence and younger 20’s, I do not want to feel gross after a meal… ever! I think twice about what I’m going to eat before I eat it. I am not saying I never treat myself to cake, a burger, pizza or fish and chips… I most certainly do, but in moderation and I dread the after effects of eating this stuff. This is one way I know I’m growing up.

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Must eat less full Irish breakfasts, as much as I adore them!

2) Drink less alcohol – This is another change that has already happened to me and happened to me at a younger age than most people. I have absolutely no desire to ever get drunk again and I mean that 100%. I never want to get drunk again. I didn’t start drinking until the age of 22, but spent that year of my life very much enjoying alcohol. I simply cannot imagine drinking that much these days and I now limit myself to 2 drinks on a night out. At age 27 (nearly 28), a night out for me now is much different than a night out when I was 22. My ideal night out now is a nice meal with a glass of wine followed by a cocktail and in bed by 11 p.m. (at the latest)!

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3) Settle in a home – This is how I know I am really growing up, because I didn’t even feel this way 6-8 months ago. I still do not have a desire to buy a home, but I want to rent a home. I want to settle in a place I can call my own. Six to eight months ago, the idea of settling down in one place was the most awful sounding thing in the world. I am quite tired of not knowing where I’ll be living after my lease ends and I want to be able to buy things for my home (like kitchen gadgets, my favourite!) without thinking twice about possibly transporting them across the Atlantic Ocean. I also really want to live in a house, not an apartment. I am the lightest sleeper in the world and am tired of constantly worrying what noises I’ll hear from my neighbours.

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It would be nice to have a permanent home for me and all of my stuff!

4) Apply for my dream job – I will be completing my Master’s degree at the end of this summer (how did time fly so fast?!) and will therefore be qualified to work as a guidance counsellor. I am so excited at the prospect of finally having a career and one that I really think I am going to love. I never thought this would happen to me! It’s definitely one of the most exciting things about becoming an adult.

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Time to be a professional!

5) Think about and plan for retirement – I will be honest and admit, this is something that crosses my mind fairly often lately, but I have done nothing about it. I have not had a stable enough job as of yet and certainly have not had a job that pays me enough to save anything (with the exception of the money I saved for my round the world trip). I am very close to being qualified to work in my field (a career! Me?!) and when I finally do, planning for retirement will begin. 40% of millennials don’t have current plans for retirement… that’s a pretty scary statistic! It’s a major goal of mine to no longer be part of that statistic, I’d rather be with the 60%!

6) Travel the world – I’ve done it once and thought once I completed a round the world trip, that might satisfy my wanderlust for such a big trip, but instead, it did the opposite… I want to go on endless round the world trips!! I want to keep going. At the top of my list: Japan, New Zealand & Mexico. I also want to see more of my country (the U.S.), especially the National Parks! Really, I just want to travel more often.

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7) Manage my finances – Ugh, this is definitely one of the biggest downsides of adulthood, but it has to be done. Since I am getting ready to finish my Master’s degree and just finished Exit Counselling for my loans, paying off my student loans crosses my mind a lot. It is a terrifying, daunting thing that constantly makes me wonder if doing this Master’s was worth it, but then I remember, without it, I would not be able to work in my field. I am very blessed to not have any loans from my undergraduate degree.

Personal Capital has a great Wealth Management Tool, which can assist you in managing your finances and planning for retirement!

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8) Become best friends with my parents – I am happy to say this has already happened to me and we’ve always been close, but me moving abroad brought us even closer. At my age now, I can say that I really and truly appreciate everything my parents have done for me, and I think it’s very important to reach that stage.

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9) Rekindle my interest in fitness – Something I have achieved in the past but not currently. The stress of my Master’s degree (and let’s face it, life in general) has caused me to stop going to the gym when in reality, I know it would only help relieve stress. I used to love going to the gym and need to find that motivation again.

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10) Achieve happiness – I think the trick to this is achieving everything else on the list first, then true happiness will follow (and will hopefully accompany me on the journey).

Iceland Road Trip: Days 8 (Reykjavik) & 9 (Inside the Volcano)

I am FINALLY publishing my final “Iceland Road Trip” post, exactly 1 year after booking my flight to Iceland. I sincerely apologise for taking so long to complete this series of blog posts!

Day 8: Reykjavik

C left very early in the morning. J and I checked out of our Airbnb and made our separate ways as we were staying in separate places that night. I chose Konrad’s Guesthouse and was very happy with it. I was delighted to have a private room and the location was fantastic; the only downside was no private bathroom (typical in Iceland), which was only unfortunate because my stomach was upset from overdosing on hotdogs and unhealthy foods for a solid week. As much as I really wanted to enjoy another hot dog from Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (the best hot dogs), I physically could not bring myself to do it.

I enjoyed a leisurely day in Reykjavik mostly alone (though I did run into J in town!) and what a beautiful day it was. I went to the top of Hallgrímskirkja (church) for 800kr (approximately $6USD) and I would recommend doing this on a nice day for a picture-perfect view of beautiful Reykjavik if you have spare time.

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Hallgrimskirkja

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View from top of Hallgrimskirkja

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I had Icelandic salmon for lunch (major yum) and Skyr afterward (my absolute favourite Icelandic snack – I ate it every single day!). I then went to Stofan café – an adorable, cozy place that is very popular with locals and tourists alike. I sat by the open door and happily listened to locals speaking Icelandic for a couple hours. Afterward, I went for my second ice cream cone (this time just vanilla, my first one was dipped in chocolate – I recommend trying both!).

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Skyr – my FAVOURITE! I got so excited looking at all of the flavours every day

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Stofan cafe

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If I had to describe Reykjavik in one word, it would be “trendy”. It’s also beautiful and so relaxed.

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Day 9: Inside the Volcano

After agonising over whether or not to do this half-day tour (due to the high cost – 42,000kr/ approximately $335USD), I decided to do it because 1) hey, I’m in Iceland and 2) what else would I do? The main activity I wanted to do whilst in Iceland other than whale watching was a glacier hike and I wasn’t there during the right season for it. I had seen all of Reykjavik so I needed something epic to do on my last day. Plus, I got the last spot on the tour so it was meant to be! I was collected at 12noon, we hiked for one hour to base camp with our guide Sveinn. We saw part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge on our hike, which was fascinating. When we were relaxing at base camp, we got to play with a 9-week old orphaned Arctic fox.

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Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the distance

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Arctic fox

5 people went down into the volcano at a time. We descended in an open cable lift, which was so exciting and pretty surreal. It takes 6-7 minutes to get to the bottom, and we had 40 minutes inside (including the time it gets to get in and out, unfortunately!). The Thrihnukagigur volcano erupted 4,000 years ago and is now dormant, of course. I could not believe how beautiful it was inside. The COLOURS!!!! Absolutely unreal. The promo photos and videos do not lie.

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View from the top of the volcano

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Open cable lift – how we got inside

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Going down!

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Looking up – goodbye light!

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Looking down

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Looking up

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Inside the volcano!

Time flew by much faster than I thought it would. I really enjoyed being in the volcano and for what we pay, I do think we should get an hour. I was nowhere near ready to leave. Afterwards, we were fed lamb and rutabaga soup (delicious!) and hiked back to the vehicle. We were gone for 5 ½ hours in total. I am happy to say I was very glad I did this activity.

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Made me feel so small

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Open cable lift coming down to bring us back up

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It wasn’t this bright – that’s from the flash

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It was shocking to see daylight again!

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I had noodles from Núðluskálin for dinner again, and then decided to stay in a guesthouse (GG Guesthouse) in Keflavik near the airport since my flight departed at 06:20 a.m. The host, Erikur, told me I have smiling Irish eyes, which made my day! I had to wake up at 03:45 the next morning to head to the airport. Erikur pre-booked a taxi for me the night before, and the drive to the airport was only 5 minutes with no traffic. THE TAXI COST ME $19USD. NINETEEN DOLLARS FOR A FIVE MINUTE JOURNEY! I couldn’t believe it, but what could I do? My final expense in Iceland. I flew Wow Air and actually really enjoyed them, with the exception of the LARGEST queue for check-in I’ve ever seen in my life and the fact that they are beyond strict with luggage. As long as you get to the airport with plenty of time to spare, have patience and play by the rules when it comes to packing, you’ll be grand.

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Pylsusinnep – Icelandic brown mustard – I bought a bottle and took it home!

My last random tip for Iceland: there is no need for any cash. With the exception of some B&Bs (and tipping tour guides), every place takes credit cards, even for tiny purchases.

Wherever you go in Iceland and whatever activities you partake in, you’ll have a brilliant time. Definitely do a road trip though – some of my best memories were in the car!

In case you missed my previous posts:

Days 1 (Reykjavík to Vík) & 2 (Vík to Höfn)

Days 3 (Höfn to Egilsstaðir) & 4 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri)

Days 5 (Akureyri & Mývatn), 6 (Akureyri to Staður/Borgir) & 7 (Staður to Reykjavik)

Iceland Road Trip: Days 5 (Akureyri & Mývatn), 6 (Akureyri to Staður/Borgir) & 7 (Staður to Reykjavik)

In case you missed them, here are links to my posts about days 1 (Reykjavík to Vík) & 2 (Vík to Höfn) and days 3 (Höfn to Egilsstaðir) & 4 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri).

My apologies for taking a ridiculously long time to publish this post. I’ve been working on it for awhile and the past few months have been hectic for me. Without further ado…

Day 5 (Akureyri & Mývatn)

Akureyri, the capital of Northern Iceland, is the only place we stayed for more than one night. We planned it this way due to the activities we wanted to do, plus we figured we’d need a bit of a break by then (and we were right).

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Akureyri

On our first morning in Akureyri, we woke up early to make it to Húsavík for whale watching with North Sailing at 11:00. I read that North Sailing is the best company to go with and even though you can whale watch from Akureyri, I read great things about Húsavík and wanted to give it a try since it was only an hour and a half drive from where we were staying. Well, we got stuck behind a few extremely slow trucks and since it was an excessively foggy day, we really were stuck behind them for some time. We ended up having to run to the boat and jumped on it at exactly 11:00 – they nearly left without us.

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Let me start by saying that before going whale watching, I read many reviews that explicitly said “IF YOU GET SEA SICK, DO NOT GO WHALE WATCHING IN ICELAND”. If you don’t want to listen to those reviews, please listen to me. If you’ve ever gotten sea sick, it’s a guarantee you’ll get sea sick on the seas surrounding Iceland. I have a funny history with sea sickness. I suffer from vertigo and have gotten sea sick multiple times, but I’ve also survived very rough seas (the Great Barrier Reef on an extremely stormy day, even the boat staff were sea sick!) without feeling sea sick at all. Whale watching in Iceland has always been on my list and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. If I was going to feel sea sick, then I wouldn’t complain about it because it would have been my fault for getting on that traditional Icelandic wooden fishing boat in the first place.

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North Sailing is a fantastic company and I would recommend them if only for their wonderful customer service. They were very helpful to me in the days leading up to our time to whale watch. I contacted them online to ask about their cancellation policy in case the weather was very bad, and they said we could cancel or reschedule without any problem. They also recommended calling them the day before and the morning of sailing to check on more precise weather conditions out on the sea. Please be mindful that the word “calm” when referring to the Icelandic seas is not calm. We were told our time slot shouldn’t be particularly rough, but would not be calm by any means. We decided to take a chance and in the end, I am glad we did.

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Whale tail

The only very unfortunate thing about our timing was the extreme fog. It was so foggy that it was impossible to see the horizon, which is not good for someone who gets sea sick. I was grand for most of the 3 hour trip; however, there were moments that I didn’t feel so great but am luckily very good at distracting myself so I was okay. We purposely did not choose the 4 hour trip (which includes a visit to puffin island) because, as much as I would have loved to see puffins, I didn’t want to risk being on the boat for an extra hour.

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Humpback Whale

We ended up seeing white beaked dolphins and a humpback whale (and a couple puffins!), so it wasn’t a super successful whale watching trip (my only disappointment was not getting to see a blue whale) but I was delighted because we did get to see a whale (multiple times!), so no complaints from me. And I can say I went whale watching in Iceland, which will forever be a very cool memory.

Afterwards, we stopped to buy some Icelandic craft beer to enjoy that evening and we drove back to Mývatn (45 minute drive) to go to the Mývatn Public Baths! Best. Decision. Ever. The baths in Mývatn are very similar to the Blue Lagoon and look the same but are much less crowded (and much cheaper – 3,700kr/€26 [adults] / 2,400kr/€17 [students] vs. €50 for the Blue Lagoon). We had the best time here, what an experience! It was much needed after we froze our hands and faces off while whale watching … not to mention spending long hours in the car! If you’ve never been to a public bath in Iceland, keep in mind it is a requirement to shower with soap and hot water whilst completely naked before getting into the water (indoors, don’t worry!). They have lockers and everything so the experience is enjoyable all around… except when it’s time to get out of the warm water!! We stayed in for over an hour and a half and only got out because we were hungry and completely pruned. The only downside to these baths is there is a very strong smell of sulfur but as long as you breathe through your mouth, you get used to it.

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Myvatn Public Baths – photo from here

We drove back to Akureyri (1 hour and 15 minutes) and indulged in burritos at a burrito bar in town called Serrano. We were beyond starving and the burrito was exactly what we all needed. We relaxed that night with a movie.

Accommodation

We stayed here for 2 nights and adored this place (and the owners)!

This Airbnb

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View from the apartment

Day 6 (Akureyri to Staður/Borgir)

We left Akureyri in the late morning and drove through the stunning (obviously) scenery onwards to Staður (in the North West of Iceland) – approximately a 3 ½ hour drive nonstop. We arrived at our Airbnb home around 5pm and were stunned when we “checked in”. Our nearest neighbours were seals and we had a private beach. The house was gorgeous and even had a steam room that we took advantage of. We went for a (very cold) walk on “our” beach and I discovered an entire sheep’s skeleton – creepy! We had a relaxing night cooking pasta together, drinking and enjoying each other’s company since it was our last night all together.

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Iceland has the coolest churches

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Pretending to be the Little Mermaid on our private beach

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Creepy full sheep skeleton

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Our last night together

Accommodation

This Airbnb

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Thickest mattress I’ve ever seen!

Day 7 (Staður to Reykjavík)

The drive from Staður to Keflavík International Airport is 2 and a half hours, but we gave ourselves plenty of time because we had to drop off one of our crew for his flight home. Plus, we made a few photo stops along the way. After dropping K off, it was time to return the car. I did not expect to be so emotional. I really became attached to Opel on our trip and I still loved her even though she was filthy! It took an absurdly long time to return the car due to long queues, but all was well in the end. The guy inspecting our car was very impressed with how much we drove in 7 days and said that’s very difficult to do. Other than being (understandably) filthy, Opel was in good condition and it was now time for us to navigate without a car. The 3 of us took the Flybus to Reykjavík, took a taxi to our Airbnb, arrived around 5pm and went out to explore Reykjavík properly for the first time.

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I made them take a car selfie

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We loved the marshmallow-looking bags of grass

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Not wanting to say goodbye to Opel

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Yet another hot dog from N1

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Beloved N1 petrol station aka our second home on the trip

We did a bit of tourist shopping and got a hot dog at the best hotdog place in Iceland. Trust me when I say the queues are worth it. Their menu is literally hotdogs and sodas. I couldn’t pinpoint what was so special about these hot dogs, but they were unreal. I was sad I wasn’t able to have another as, after this one, my stomach wasn’t able to handle anymore hot dogs.

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Best hot dog in Iceland – there is always a queue!

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It was divine

We then visited Harpa, a stunning concert hall. The architecture and decor is incredible. We ate incredible Asian-Mexican noodle soup for dinner, and went to Lebowski bar for a beer (1100 krona – keep in mind, only 500 kr during happy hour which we just missed!). An American at the bar thought I was Icelandic which was hilarious, even though I am tall and blonde, because I was very much dressed like a tourist. He asked me how to say “cheers” in my language and luckily I knew – Skál! On our walk home, we found a pinball arcade and witnessed an amazing sun”set” (it never fully set, of course). We definitely made the most of our evening in Reykjavík and quickly fell in love with this trendy city.

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Beautiful Reykjavik

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Harpa

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Inside Harpa

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Delicious Fideos de Mexico noodle soup from Nudluskalin – highly recommended

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I’m not going to link to our accommodation in Reykjavík because I wouldn’t particularly recommend it. There was nothing wrong with it other than the fact that it was presented to be much newer than it was, but it was my least favourite place we stayed on our trip. Here’s some photos of the gorgeous view from our place, though!

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Still to come: Days 8 (Reykjavík) & 9 (Into the Volcano adventure)