Food, Friends & New Adventures

Part 4 of my “photo diary of the best summer of my life” series (Summer 2018) … featuring food, friends and new adventures in Dublin. This isn’t so much a blog post as it is a photo diary and memory record for me. This is the final post of this Summer 2018 series.

As you know, I went on a spontaneous trip to Italy (Roma and Verona) in June. I decided on this trip for three reasons: 1) to see a very good friend I hadn’t seen in years, 2) to explore a region of Italy I’ve never been to (Verona) and 3) to eat.

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Eight years of friendship! I first met A on my very first trip to Italy in April 2011.

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Amorino opened in Dublin in early summer

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I enjoyed numerous dinner picnics in Stephen’s Green (and yes, I often bring my own hot sauce!)

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The picture of summer in Dublin! Can’t beat the Dublin light. St. Stephen’s Green

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Greystones in April

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I had the pleasure of seeing my best friend / life wife graduate with her PhD! An incredibly perfect day for us, and a memory I will always treasure.

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Teddy’s 99!

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I ate a record amount of ice cream in summer 2018.

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Pure happiness at the Happy Pear

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We went all out for breakfast at the Happy Pear

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One of my favourite brunches in Dublin… peanut butter avocado toast at Two Pups Coffee! Trust me, it’s delicious.

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An incredible newcomer as of last summer… my beloved Nutbutter!! I had the pleasure of catching up with a friend I met on the train to Aguas Calientes, Peru at Nutbutter.

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I’m a Bunsen fanatic and it will always be my #1, but BuJo is a close second!!!

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Vietnom @ The Glimmer Man Pub – fabulous!

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Yet another Happy Pear breakfast

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One of the best flat whites I’ve had in my life @ Noshington. 

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My second to last night in Dublin – celebrating the best way I know how: with “I” at Cirillo’s, my greatest pizza addiction! (the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve had outside of Napoli)

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Countless walks (at least once every day) through Stephen’s Green

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Making new friends

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I started boxing in May… went a little bit crazy on this day and had to casually ice my knuckles while walking through Grand Canal (this was the smallest bin bag the bar could find, ha)

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I got to appreciate so many sunsets in summer 2018.

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I treated myself to Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre for the second time – this time alone!

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I happened to be walking by the Taoiseach’s house when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were getting ready to leave

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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An average sight in Dublin

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Beautiful Victorian Dublin

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Appreciation for Dublin’s architecture

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Can’t beat a Dublin summer sky! This was taken from my flat window

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… so was this!

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Dublin street art

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Fascinating tour of the Freemasons’ Hall

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The sight of these stairs instantly relaxed me every single time!

The single greatest decision I made in summer 2018 was to sign up for one month of unlimited yoga classes at Yoga Hub on Camden Street. I took my first yoga class in college and hated it, because I had the unfortunate experience of having an odd, over-the-top instructor. I unfortunately carried this hate with me for 10+ years. In July, I decided I wanted to force myself to like yoga, which is why I signed up for an unlimited month of classes. Luckily, Yoga Hub was only a 5 minute walk from where I lived and it became my haven, my escape, my happy place. I completely fell in love with yoga during this month and my discovery of my love for yoga was the greatest blessing, especially at that particular time in my life. This just shows you sometimes need to give things (and people) a second chance in life. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have discovered my love for yoga.

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Combining my two greatest music loves: orchestra and traditional Irish music at the National Concert Hall

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“I” showered me with mermaid gifts for my 30th… to my absolute delight!

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A Day in Sintra, Portugal

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Living my best mermaid life at Pena Palace

On my last full day in Lisbon, I agonised over whether or not to take a day trip to Sintra. I initially intended to go, but my friend went the previous day and said it was insanely crowded. The older I get, the less tolerant I am of crowds. After breakfast, I made the spontaneous decision to go to Sintra and I am so happy I did! I happened to be on the same train (40 minutes to Sintra) as Luis, a guy I met on my walking tour two days before. We decided to spend the day together and I can’t imagine it any other way. We had a blast!

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We decided to hire a private driver for the day because we were both feeling lazy and a bit overwhelmed. We randomly chose Tania (Off Course Tours / reviews here) and had no idea how lucky we were to choose her! She kept us laughing all day – if you are planning to go to Sintra and you have a good sense of humour, please hire Tania! She is fabulous. We got to skip all of the queues and saved an incredible amount of time. Every time we did this, Tania asked us to wave like royalty so the three of us would do so, and this became the theme of the day (see below). Another reason to hire Tania: the palaces and monuments of Sintra are very spread out – if you are only in Sintra for a day, it will be quite stressful to try to see more than one monument on your own.

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Pena Palace

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This guy matches the palace perfectly!!

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View of the Moorish Castle

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Being at Pena Palace felt like being in Disney World for adults! Quite spectacular and so much to explore. I was very pleased with the amount of people in Sintra – not too crowded at all. I cannot imagine being there in summer!

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The grounds below the Pena Palace

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Being a princess

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Royal wave… everywhere we went!

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Having a blast!

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Sintra has a microclimate and we experienced almost every season in one day! The weather is rarely the same as it is in Lisbon. It was extremely windy, quite chilly, very hot and humid, raining (luckily this didn’t last long at all!), super sunny, very cloudy. It changed every couple minutes, literally.

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Chalet of the Countess of Edla… looks like the Hansel and Gretel house!

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After lunch with a view (at a lovely local cafe called Garagem – we had gorgeous soup, a codfish croquette, a steak sandwich and a coffee… all for €6.50!!!), we went to Quinta de Regaleira. Every time I spoke to someone who had already been to Sintra, this was the place that they most recommended seeing and I can see why! So, so beautiful. We definitely had a major “wow” moment when Tania drove us up to the entrance and we had our first view of this beauty!

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The Masonic Initiation Well

The pair of wells, known as the ‘Initiation Wells’ or ‘Inverted Towers’, consist of ‘winding stair’ architecture, which carries symbolic meaning including the death/rebirth allegory common to many hermetic traditions. One of the wells contains nine platforms, which are said to be “reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.”” source

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Walking on water!

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Cork tree in Sintra

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We were unfortunately too tired to hike down to the Monserrate Palace. This is at the top of my list the next time I am in Portugal!

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This truly was the highlight of my day in Sintra. After we left Quinta da Regaleira, Tania drove us to a viewpoint of Monserrate and then, on our way to the town centre of Sintra, she said “would you like to try the best shrimp cake you’ll ever have?” It didn’t sound particularly appetising to me at the time, but I never say no to trying new food! We pulled up to this very unassuming old shop on the side of the road. Cafe Pereira or Cafe Salvador, as it is owned and operated by a sweet man named Salvador (pictured above, with Tania, our guide).

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These photos were taken from Google Maps

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To clarify, this “shrimp cake” is a savoury food, not a sweet cake. I don’t know how to describe it as it was unlike anything I’ve ever had before, but it was absolutely delicious!! Salvador also makes incredible espresso (and I’m a coffee connoisseur!). He was so pleased we decided to visit him, but really, he has no idea how happy he made me. Tania said he doesn’t get as much business as he used to, partially due to the location outside of town. This made me so sad because really, businesses like Salvador’s are who we should be supporting. Please, if you have a car in Sintra or if you hire Tania, visit Salvador’s shop and try his shrimp cake, or at least his coffee!!!

 

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The laneways of the town of Sintra were reminiscent of being in Greece!

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Sintra

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National Palace of Sintra

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Enjoying a travesseiro

Another must do when in Sintra: go to a place called Periquita and try the travesseiro pastry! Travesseiro means pillow, but that doesn’t give much away in regards to its taste. It is made of puff pastry with a filling of almond cream, but the taste really cannot be described! Please note: Piriquita currently has two units, one right of the main entrance of the alley of Sintra and the other on the same street but higher up – just keep going (it’s very close).

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Luis and I went out to dinner together in Lisbon after our day in Sintra at Alfaia and we noticed this piece of artwork hanging in the restaurant. He said he was the bald guy and I was the lady with the crazy hair – perfectly accurate. I could not stop laughing.

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Pure happiness at the end of our day in Sintra – I love meeting new people when travelling

If you’re visiting during off season or shoulder season, I would strongly recommend visiting Sintra. Please make sure you bring layers and be prepared for all types of weather – don’t let the weather in Lisbon fool you! I would also highly recommend more than one day in Sintra to really do it justice as it is quite mountainous and the monuments are spread out. Don’t skip the town of Sintra itself as it really exceeded my expectations. It is beautiful and quaint and really enjoyable to wander around.

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Peaceful Prague

There is no one in the world who is a more compatible travel companion for me than my sister. My sister, rather spontaneously, decided to book a trip to come visit me and attend my Master’s graduation, but also to spend just over a week of my Easter break travelling with me to Prague, Ljubljana and Bled. It was an absolutely fabulous trip and just what we needed, since we hadn’t really had much one-on-one sister time in a couple years. The trip was not without its bumps and was far from perfect (e.g., we found ourselves trying to translate items in a Czech pharmacy and sadly went to bed hungry our first night in Prague), but I wouldn’t have changed a thing (except for we would have liked to sleep in Bled, more on that later).

First up – highlights of Prague!

We stayed in a lovely, spacious Airbnb apartment right on the riverbank near Anděl for 3 nights.

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Dancing House

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Lennon Wall

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We enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the terrace of the Lobkowicz Palace cafe at Prague Castle and this was the view. While it is rather touristy, I would highly recommend eating here. The service was friendly and fast, they didn’t rush us and the food was really nice.

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Trdelník

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I still dream of trdelník! This is a Czech pastry made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with a sugar and almond mix, with optional chocolate on the inside. If you don’t have an extremely high tolerance for sweets, you may want to split one of these with someone – they are huge! So so delicious. Eat as many as possible.

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St. Vitus Cathedral

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Malá Strana

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nakládaný hermelín (pickled cheese) @ U Fleků

While the pickled cheese was gorgeously delicious, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend U Fleků. I loved this restaurant when we walked in, but as soon as we sat down, we were put off quickly. They serve you alcohol without even asking if you want it and while I understand it’s a smart sales tactic, it’s pretty unfair when you don’t want to drink. The staff got extremely annoyed when we said we didn’t want the drinks, so that really ruined the experience for us. Having said that, if I had to do it all again, I’d still go back for this dish!

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Old Town Square – Easter market

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Church of Our Lady Before Týn

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Perníčkův sen

We were on our way to this precious bakery (cutest one I’ve ever seen in my life!) when we realised they closed in 15 minutes. We trekked across Prague to make it in time and to try a couple of their gorgeous cookies.

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Malá Strana

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Kampa Park

I had zero interest in seeing Kampa Park because these statues really creep me out. We had a good laugh when we accidentally passed through Kampa Park on our way back to our apartment.

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Jindřišská věž – Zvonice

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Sauerkraut soup

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Zvonice

If you go to Prague, ensure you go to Restaurant ZVONICE. This was by far our favourite experience of our whole trip, and we still talk about it on a regular basis. Zvonice is located on the top two floors of a Gothic bell tower and is an absolutely stunning restaurant, with wonderful views of the city. It is one of the most unique places I have ever eaten. The staff was incredibly friendly and welcoming.

We went for the sauerkraut soup and oh my dear Lord. To this day, it is one of my favourite dishes I have EVER eaten. Ever. Description: traditional South-Bohemian fine sauerkraut soup with roasted chanterelas, baked mashed potatoes and sour cream. Neither one of us likes mushrooms, but if you’re like us, don’t let that put you off. I’ve also read reviews of those who don’t even like sauerkraut and they still love this soup – I can see this being possible. I cannot describe this soup but I’ll tell you it’s an experience we will never forget.

When we were leaving Prague, we were squashed like bugs against the windshield of the airport bus literally next to the bus driver for 40 minutes because the bus was that full. We had to remain standing like that the whole time but funny enough, we found the whole experience quite amusing and the bus driver kept laughing at us.

Prague is a magnificently beautiful city and we really fell in love with the people and the Czech culture. We adore the city’s rule of no noise after 10pm in apartment buildings and really noticed Czech people are pretty much always quiet. You can barely hear any talking in restaurants! I loved this.

Next up: Ljubljana and Bled, Slovenia!

 

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!

Returning to a place you didn’t like the first time

I’ve always said I love (or at least like) every place I’ve ever travelled to. With one exception: Belfast.

I spent one week in Belfast in 2011, which is definitely a big part of the reason for my dislike for Belfast. One week is too long to spend there as a tourist. It wasn’t all bad – the history is fascinating and I Couchsurfed and met some lifelong friends. It was just so different from anywhere in the Republic of Ireland and to my 22 year old self, not in a good way. At 22, when I travelled, I liked to constantly be on the go and do and see as much as possible. Belfast is not a good place for this because it’s not much of a tourist attraction – there isn’t all that much to see. At 27, I’m a very different traveller and prefer to get to know a city the relaxed way through its cafes, bars and restaurants. Belfast is absolutely wonderful for this and I am so glad I gave it another chance. I’ve felt terrible expressing (or at least thinking of) my dislike for Belfast all these years!

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I have a good friend, D, who is currently living in Belfast and is studying at Queen’s University. He’s been there since September 2014 and I’ve been meaning to visit him ever since. I finally had the opportunity to do so and spent all of Wednesday and Thursday there. He gave me a tour of Queen’s and I am envious of their library! It is so much nicer than Trinity’s and I’m obsessed with the C.S. Lewis room. We had lunch at Maggie Mays and I definitely want to try one of their massive milkshakes next time!!

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Queen’s University Belfast

I had the best time and now have so much love for Belfast. I stayed at a stunning boutique B&B called Maryville House off of Lisburn Road and I couldn’t possibly recommend this B&B enough! It is gorgeous and felt like a home away from home. We explored Lisburn Road which is my new favourite area of Belfast, just a 10 minute bus journey from the city centre. So many lovely cafes, restaurants, bars and boutique shops.

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Maryville House

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We lucked out with the weather and it was very sunny, so we sat outside for coffee at Miel et Moi. I enjoyed a cappuccino and an almond scone – really lovely place with super friendly staff.

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Miel et Moi

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Miel et Moi

We then popped (literally) next door to The Albany – a stunningly elegant bar. I had the New York Sour:  rye whiskey, roasted orange sherbet, fresh lemon juices, Cabernet Sauvignon, served with a camomile foam. Gorgeous cocktail and I’ve never had anything like it before.

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The Albany – New York Sour

We then walked around the city centre for awhile before eating dinner at the Crown Liquor Saloon. We shared the nachos and the wild boar & chorizo burger (combining chorizo and its spices of paprika and chilli with lean and flavoursome wild boar meat) which was unreal!!! This was my parents’s favourite bar on the whole island of Ireland so I had to try it. After eating, we went downstairs and were able to grab a snug for me to have a pint to toast to my parents. Such a cool place for a group of friends to go and a really beautiful bar!

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Crown Liquor Saloon

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Afterwards, we went to Kelly’s Cellars and enjoyed some Irish music, followed by Maddens, where we had a long chat with a lovely local. Loved the buzzer on the door to get in – remnant of Belfast’s troubled past.

On Thursday, I had a long, leisurely breakfast at my B&B, followed by an apple and cinnamon scone the size of my head. No exaggeration. I then (finally!) went to the Titanic experience and was happy to avail of the student discount because the prices are fairly shocking (understandable though, since Titanic is now Belfast’s biggest tourist attraction and I know the city spent loads to build it).

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Maryville House Breakfast

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Massive apple and cinnamon scone

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The exhibit is absolutely gorgeous and was a very informative, enjoyable experience. My only disappointment was the fact that there weren’t many artefacts recovered from the Titanic. I was expecting it to be more of a museum, but it really was more of an “experience”. They did a fantastic job though. There were many different ways to learn – a ride, voices from survivors, reading, artefacts of letters, china, menus, set-ups of what different rooms looked like on the Titanic, a simulator which made you feel like you were on the boat, a discovery theatre, interactive computer programmes, etc. and it’s all visually stunning. I spent 2 1/2 hours inside and then had a look at the SS Nomadic (included in the admission price) and the outside where the Titanic was built. I then met D for a light dinner- we ate at Stix and Stones and I was very impressed by this place.

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I’d like to send an apology to the universe for my previous dislike of Belfast. I am happy to say my opinion has completely changed and I have a lot of love for this city now. I had forgotten how friendly the people are! Belfast natives make Dubliners seem rude – and I think Dubliners are very friendly. The lesson here is:  if you travel somewhere and do not like it, give it a second chance a few years later. You might be surprised.

 

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)