My Year in Review: The Outcome of my 2018 New Year Resolution

A little over a year ago, I made a New Year resolution (discussed in a post that can be read here) that I would succeed in taking twelve trips in one year. Well, 2018 has come to an end, and … I failed.

By the end of 2018, I only succeeded in making 11 journeys. Many were relatively short and others took me further than I had ever dreamed I’d go. Obviously, in this case, failure is relevant as 2018 was definitely anything but that and was a year filled with some of the most memorable and adrenaline-inducing memories.

So where in the world did 2018 take me?

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (January 2018)

IMG_1397A Winter Weekend in Gettysburg Pennsylvania | Top Things to Do in Gettysburg | #AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Gettysburg National Military ParkIMG_1397A Winter Weekend in Gettysburg Pennsylvania | Top Things to Do in Gettysburg | #AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Gettysburg National Military Park

Read More about this trip:
A Winter Weekend in Gettysburg
The Haunted Orphanage of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania ft. Jennie Wade House

Iceland (February 2018)

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Read more about this trip:
6 Days in Iceland: A Self-Drive Itinerary
The 5 Best Restaurants I Ate At In Iceland

Boston, Massachusetts (March 2018)

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Read more about this trip:
How to Spend St.Paddy’s Day Weekend in Boston, Massachusetts

Southampton, New York (April 2018)

Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards | The Hamptons | Wine Travel | AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of WorldIMG_3506

Read more about this trip:
Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards

Chicago, Illinois (May 2018)

IMG_4216How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Wrigley Field | Chicago Cubs

Read more about this trip:
How to Experience Chicago in Two Days
A Review of Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites Hotel

Providence, Rhode Island / Newport, Massachusetts (July 2018)

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Walt Disney World – Orlando, Florida (August 2018)

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Read more about this trip:
Dole Whip Alternatives At Walt Disney World

Niagara, Canada / Watkins Glen, NY (September 2018)

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The United Arab Emirates (September 2018)

ee8fc4e8-40d6-43a8-b738-3e32622573f6What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert, Falcon Show | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOWWhat to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Al Wadi | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

Read more about this trip:
What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah


Baltimore, Maryland (December 2018)

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Woodstock, Vermont (December 2018)

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Despite coming up one trip short of my set goal, 2018 definitely did not leave me short of experiences. I saw one of my favorite Irish rock bands at the House of Blues, ended up on an entirely unplanned, last-minute trip to a country I didn’t plan to get to anytime soon, spent time with my family at the “most happiest place on earth” and one of our favorite places, and rang in my 25th birthday with a few beers and my closest friends in a secluded cabin under the northern lights.

I’d like to thank all the three day weekends and my boss who let me occasionally leave a couple of hours early to catch a flight. And I’d like to apologize to my professor whose online class I fell asleep halfway through due to the five-hour time difference while I was in Iceland.

I’ll probably have to slow down a bit for 2019, but I’m pretty sure 2018 provided me enough experiences to last me a lifetime – or at least until I have enough time for a vacation.

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How to Experience Chicago in Two Days

When it comes to U.S. cities, I’m always going to be a bit bias to my hometown, New York. Between the constant movement, the air of ambition, and the best bagels and pizza you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating after a long night out, it’s hard not to be. C’mon, Frank Sinatra even got famous for singing all about it.

But Sinatra also had another song called “Chicago”, a city he regularly discussed his love for. And considering how difficult it is to go a day in Chicago without hearing him blaring over the radio, I think it’s safe to say Chicago loved him back. And just like his song “Chicago”, which was simple and catchy, this city will have you relishing in it’s urban simplicity and humming along as you stroll down State Street. I’ve been to a few cities, but Chicago is one I could see myself going back to again and again – hopefully for longer than a weekend next time.

But luckily, due to the compact size and design, you can still experience a whole lot of Chicago in just a couple of days

DAY 1:

Pre-Breakfast at Goddess & the Baker

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Goddess and the Baker

Goddess & the Baker had been recommended to us by quite a few people, and while the breakfast menu didn’t call out to me, their baked goods definitely did. Of their most popular offerings, one is their rainbow cake, which you may have scrolled passed on your Instagram feed one or two times. Since we had a half hour to kill before our breakfast spot of choice opened up, we decided “why not” and decided to get a slice of that tempting rainbow cake at 9 am.

Let me start off by saying that other than Dominican cake (#DominicanPride), I’m not really a cake person. But this cake was like no other I have ever tried. I’m not sure how they were able to make this as moist as they did or what flavorings (but I’m thinking extra vanilla) they added into their mix, but we wanted to savor every single bite of it. The cake is also topped with almost whipped-cream style frosting that wasn’t overbearingly sweet like many others.

I literally did a Google search to see if it was possible to have one of their cakes delivered to New York, if you need it’s perfection put into context.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Goddess and the Baker

 

Grab Brunch at the Gage

Any restaurant with an Irish breakfast and corned beef hash on the menu is a place I’d like to be. In case you’re wondering, I went with the latter. The Gage is an American restaurant with slight Irish undertones and sits right across the street from Millennium Park, providing a tourist’s perfect view if you choose to eat outside.

We did and ended up regretting it once the heat spiked but despite being slightly uncomfortable, my boyfriend said he’d dream about his side of Gage potatoes and I’d rank my corned beef hash in the top three I’ve ever had.

Pro Tip: Winters in Chicago may be notoriously cold, but their summer heat can be unbearable. We went over Memorial Day weekend and were hit with 92 degree weather both days, so make sure to check the forecast beforehand and be aware that Chicago’s temperatures tend to be a bit extreme.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | The Gage

Take a  Walk Through Millennium Park

They say you can’t leave Millennium Park without taking a mirror picture in Cloud Gate, also known as the Bean – but I found the Bean to be way less worth dodging a crowd for than waiting ten minutes to watch random faces “spit” water at Crowne Fountain.

I know schedules can be tight, and you may have an urge to take that prized photo of “the bean” and run, but there are so many hidden gems of Millennial Park. During our stroll we ended up coming across several small gardens we had no idea were there.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Crowne Fountain in Millennium Park

Spend a Few Hours at the Field Museum

We had a tough time choosing between the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, but considering that this museum is much closer proximity to where we were spending out day, and online reviews seemed to lean towards the Field Museum, it didn’t take us long to make a decision.

Admission ranges from $24-$38 depending on the ticket you choose, though the middle option, which includes General Admission and admission to one 3D movie seemed perfect for us. But honestly, the museum is so expansive, you’d probably have a great experience with General Admission alone.

You’re greeted at the Field Museum by Sue, a 67-million year old T-rex. From there you can visit an ecolodge to an Egyptian pyramid.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | The Field Museum

Grab a Classic Chicago Style Hot Dog

We spent many a Google search trying to find out where to get the best hot dog in Chicago – in the end, just like in New York, the best hot dogs can usually be found at a random hot dog stand. Lucky for us, we spotted a hot dog stand right outside of the Field Museum almost as if it were waiting for us. This stand not only offered classic hot dogs, but vegetarian and turkey options as well, which is great for people who enjoy that but I already knew I was getting a classic with all the Chicago goodness (a.k.a pickle spear, relish, onions, and mustard).

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Chicago Style Hot Dog | Chicago Eats

Let Out Your Inner Athlete at the Chicago Sports Museum

The Chicago Sports Museum is located inside the Water Tower Place mall along the Magnificent Mile with a price of admission of only $10! On top of that, it’s one of the smaller, lesser known museums so we almost had the entire place to ourselves. The concept is pretty similar to that of the NFL Experience in Times Square, combining nostalgic sports adverts and equipment with interactive experiences. Guests can compete as a goalie with Blackhawks, jump on the court with Bulls, or stay behind the scenes desk recreated to look like that of the late Harry Caray’s – an American sports broadcaster.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Chicago Sports Museum

Have an Authentic Italian Meal at Rosebud on Rush

Let me start off by saying that Rosebud on Rush was a long-time favorite of stars like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, and Robert Redford, so if you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of legends, add this spot to your list. Second, the atmosphere makes you feel as if you’ve been transported back to Chicago in the 1940’s. Finally, there food was so good that I literally texted all of my closest friends back home in New York, just to tell them that I finally found a city to compete. My pappardelle was the perfect texture and was cooked to perfection (and in-house that very day). Should I go back to Chicago, this place will always be in the itinerary. And to think, we only ate here because the line at Giordano’s was around the block; so thankful for that!

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Rosebud on Rush | Chicago Eats

Wrap Up Your Day with the Navy Pier Fireworks

I’m a Disney World fanatic, meaning most firework shows do not reach my standards and the Navy Pier Fireworks are no exception. However, as a relaxing way to wrap up a jam-packed day with Lake Michigan as the backdrop in one direction and the Centennial Wheel as the backdrop in another, it’s a fun add-on. Unfortunately we didn’t have time this day to actually enjoy the Navy Pier, but we were glad to not have missed visiting entirely.

Pro Tip: Should you decide to end your night at the Navy Pier, analyze your transportation options fully before going. By the end of the firework display, the amount of people leaving was so many that we, and many others, experienced almost 45 minute “searching for a driver” Uber and Lyft waits. Chicago has a decent subway system, but most stops actually leave you a few blocks (or quite a distance) from the main attractions, including the Navy Pier, so public transportation wasn’t an option. Regular cabs were even up-charging up to $40 for a not-worth-40-bucks ride to the train station. Eventually, we decided to walk a few blocks and came across the most awesome cab driver who charged us just $10 to get to the station, and from there it was just a 25 minute ride to our hotel on the blue line.


DAY 2:

Spend a Morning at the Adler Planetarium

There are three admission options for the Adler Planetarium: General Admission, which gives you access to the museum only; the Basic Pass, which gives you access to the museum and one sky show; and the Anytime All Access Pass, which gives you access to the museum on any date of your choosing, one sky show, and access to the Historic Atwood Sphere Experience – but most of the salespeople will tell you that the Basic Pass provides enough for one day.

With this pass we were able to spend a couple of hours scoping out each unique exhibit, ranging from topics like Astronomy in Culture and A Walk Through Space and Time, as well as one interactive star show in the dome-shaped planetarium.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Adler Planetarium

Take in the View of Lake Michigan

A few feet from the Adler Planetarium you’ll find you a short stairway leading your directly towards Lake Michigan, which provides a relaxing and scenic view after a few hours roaming the museum. On a beautiful day like ours, it almost felt as if we were relaxing along the coast in California, with the blue water and Chicago skyline in the background. If you remember your bathing suit, you can even hop in for a quick dip along this “tar beach”.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Lake Michigan

Grab a Churro at La Bodega

If you’re thinking that this spot sounds like a hipster bodega, you are absolutely correct; but I’m in no position to judge a shop that focuses solely on coffee, hot sauce, tacos, and various flavored churros. Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds, plus there’s an assortment of piñatas hanging from the ceiling.

We ended up getting a couple of coffees, as well as a Red Velvet churro and a Fruity Pebbles churro. While the Red Velvet option was good, Fruity Pebbles was the real winner due to the creamy filling. We didn’t grab any tacos on this round, but we did get to enjoy the delicious aroma of some being cooked in the back, and it was almost enough to make us consider a pre-lunch lunch.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | La Bodega | Chicago Eats

Stroll Along Riverwalk

While Memorial Day weekend meant the river was packed with private yachts (apparently everyone in Chicago owns one?) and tour cruises, we couldn’t leave without checking out one of Chicago’s staple locations. We actually stood along the river, sipping what remained of our coffees for a good half hour just taking in the scene – and also questioning how such an urban city managed to keep their waterways looking so clean.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Chicago Riverwalk

Get a Cliché Snap of the Chicago Theater

The Chicago Theater is not only one of the most legendary venues in the city, but it’s also a widely popular landmark. The theater was one of the most visited movie theaters from 1925-1940 and post-restoration, now serves as a venue for concerts and tours.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Chicago Theater

Grab a Quick and Delicious Lunch from Nando’s

If you’re from Chicago, Washington D.C., or parts of Maryland, you may have always known about the culinary magic that is Nando’s. If you’re not, you may have had your first experience with the not-so-fast fast food spot abroad in the U.K. We had Nando’s for the first time in Ireland where we willingly ate it, and I kid you not, three times in seven days. Nando’s centers around chicken and Mozambican-Portuguese flavors, but unlike other “fast-food” chicken spots, this chicken is grilled fresh on a grill right in front of you after it’s dipped in one of their several tasty marinades. In fact, a majority of their sides are even completely healthy. Okay, maybe not the garlic bread but it’s made on Portuguese bread, so I’d suggest saying “to heck with it” and ordering it anyway.

 

Catch a Cubs Game at Wrigley Field

Whether you’re a die-hard baseball fan or someone who just enjoys cracker jacks and the roar of the crowd, you can’t miss out on the opportunity to catch a Cubs game if you’re in Chicago during the season. We were able to get two 400-level seats (a.k.a, the best seats anyway) for about $32 each on Stubhub, but they weren’t going for much more on the official Wrigley site.

The appeal of Wrigley is it’s old-school design, which provides an entirely different feel than fields like Yankee Stadium. While the tech leaves something to be desired (we couldn’t hear a thing broadcasted over the speakers), it’s worth visiting for the nostalgia value alone.

Pro Tip: Don’t splurge on overpriced Cubs swag at Wrigley Field. There’s a sports store right across the street that had a bargain bin of $10 Cubs t-shirts that served us just as well.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Wrigley Field | Chicago Cubs

 

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6 Days in Iceland: A Self-Drive Itinerary

When it comes to planning a trip to Iceland, especially during the winter months, it’s best to accept prior to your trip that every day may not go exactly as planned. While going through security before our flight home, we heard numerous groups discussing their own trips to Iceland, complaining that all of their tours had been cancelled or that they hadn’t been able to experience every single thing they thought they would.

So before we continue, take a deep breath, and accept that your plans may perhaps fall through. Winter weather in Iceland is wildly unpredictable, but at the same time, winter there is so visually stunning. I would’ve been fine if we did nothing but drive around “oohing” and “ah-ing” at volcanic ranges. Secondly, if you or another person in your party has experience with harsh winter driving, rent a car. I’m not saying that it is necessarily a smart idea to drive into a blizzard despite all tours being cancelled, I’m just saying that on certain days we drove into a blizzard despite all tours being cancelled.

All joking aside, renting a car gives you a lot more flexibility when it comes to your schedule. Whereas booking a tour could result in a wasted day, driving gave us the option to change our plans at last minute notice if roads were closed or there was inclement weather in certain areas. We definitely left Iceland having missed out on a couple things we had originally wanted to see, but to be honest, we experienced so much that those things were barely a thought. Plus, that just means we have to go back.
Day 1: Reykjavik
Day 2: The Golden Circle
Day 3: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 4: The Langjökull Glacier
Day 5: The South Coast
Day 6: The Blue Lagoon

Day 1: Reykjavik

Coming from New York meant that a majority of flights we could’ve booked would get us to Reykjavik at approximately 4:30am-6:30am the following day. Personally, I always prefer earlier arrival flights because I’m able to run on adrenaline for almost twelve hours after landing; but also because it can often mean a whole extra added day to your trip.

First things first: get your rental car. When you exit the “arrivals” area of Keflavik, you’ll find various car rental depots for popular car rental companies, such as Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, etc. However, if you’re like us and booked your car through a company exclusive to Iceland, you’ll have to hop on a shuttle to the actual rental car office. This shuttle is a bright yellow bus that you can catch at the designated bus stop about a minute walk from Keflavik. I’d assume if it were summer and you had minimal luggage that you might be able to walk to the rental office, because Blue Car Rental was the second stop and we were there in what felt like three minutes.

    • While I highly recommend Blue Car, please be smarter than we were. Just because a car says “7-seater” does not mean it’s the type of 7-seater you may be used to. In fact, once we stored our luggage, it only really fit five of the six of us. Sitting awkwardly atop two of my friends while my head was bent in an a 90 degree angle, definitely did not make for the most comfortable 45 minute ride to Reykjavik. To make matters worse, even after we unpacked our luggage, we consistently rotated since the back two seats were suitable for people 4″11 and under. Long story short, if you’re more than five, get a second car.
    • We opted to have Wi-fi included with our car rental and it was the greatest choice we made. Your wi-fi comes in the form of a portable little egg shape device that one us kept in our pocket even when we left the car. Because what’s better than being able to Snapchat data-free virtually everywhere you go?
    • Purchase all the car insurance. It’s better to pay upfront than have to worry about a potential large payment later.

Next stop: Breakfast.

It had been a goal of mine to have breakfast at the Laundromat Cafe, and luckily that’s exactly where we ended up at 8:00am on our first morning in Iceland. The Dirty Breakfast which consists of eggs, bacon, potatoes, tomato, sausage, and yogurt is just as heavenly as it sound, and the ambiance is a liberals paradise.

 

 

Unfortunately, I found out a few days ago that the Laundromat Cafe shut its doors just a week after we left. But never fear! The owner insists they are currently seeking another Reykjavik venue to re-open. Until then there are a boatload of other great spots for breakfast in Reykjavik like Bergsson Mathús, Cafe Bablu, and C is for Cookie.

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After breakfast, head to the Saga Museum; but don’t forget to stop along the way and appreciate the beauty of Mount Esja, which isn’t actually a mountain at all, but an entire volcanic range. We spent a good fifteen minutes just gawking at its beauty – this was before we realized that the entire country is one giant scenic view.

The Saga Museum uses life-like figures to depict different moments in Iceland’s history, and is a great way to learn a bit more about the country you’re visiting before diving right in.

The Saga Museum is open daily, from 10:00am-6:00pm and entrance is 2100kr ($20).

 

 

The next two stops are quintessentially Reykjavik. First, stop by the Sun Voyager statue for a quick photo opportunity. Jón Gunnar Árnason, the sculpture of the statue has said its design was meant to convey, “the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress, and freedom.” In a way, it reminds me of the meaning behind the Statue of Liberty back home.

When visiting you’ll also have an excellent view of both Thufa, an outdoor art piece by Ólöf Nordal; and Harpa, the majestic concert hall of Reykjavik.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

From here, head over to Hallgrimskirkja. This structure which took 41 years to build is not only the largest church in Iceland, but is also among one of the largest structures of Iceland in general. I guess that’s why most visitors can’t leave Iceland without heading to the top to take in the view of Iceland’s largest city. And once you’ve descended, don’t forget to check out the statue of Norse explorer, Lief Erikson who greets visitors as they enter.

Hallsgrimskirkja is open from 9:00am-5:00pm during the winter months, and 9:00am-9:00pm during the summer. Note that on Sundays, the tower is closed from 10:30am-12:15 due to mass. Admission to the tower is 1000 ISK.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

 

If you’re a history buff, your next stop should be the not-to-be-missed National Museum of Iceland, which is home to over 2,000 artifacts.

The National Museum of Iceland is open daily from 10:00am-5:00pm, though it is currently closed on Mondays. Admission is 2000 ISK, and free for anyone under 18.

At this point you may be getting smacked by hunger pangs and sleep deprivation. So run over to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur and order one (or two) with everything, and take a relaxing walk around pond Tjornin. Then when you’re done, do a quick grocery run at the closest Bonus, stock up Skyr, and head to your accommodations for a much deserved nap.

 

 

NOW WAKE UP, because you have to spend a night experiencing Reykjavik nightlife at least once. Literally, maybe just once, because the booze prices in this country are astronomical.

The first bar we stopped at was the Lebowski Bar, where we ordered White Russians all around. If you don’t get the reference, add watching the Big Lebowski to your list of post-Iceland activities. The Lebwoski Bar has a list of about a dozen different White Russians, though I prefer a classic.

If you’re feeling lucky, for 2500 ISK you can have the bartender spin a wheel which might leave you with 10 “free” beers. Our first friend to spin actually hit the jackpot and won 10 (really 8 if you subtract payment) free beers to start the night. But don’t get too cocky; the next two to spin both hit “gutterballs” and walked away 2500 ISK poorer.

Hopefully you didn’t spend all your money spinning the prize wheel, because Lebowski’s bar food is surprisingly delicious. After all, nothing goes down better with a White Russian than mozzarella sticks and a Honey Boo burger.

Side note – our bartender was beyond awesome! By the end of the night we felt like she was part of the gang.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

American Bar was next, which also had a spin-to-win wheel, but thankfully we had learned our lesson by then. One of the best parts of Reykjavik is that a majority of the bars are all in a five block range, so walking between them is super easy. Others worth checking out: The English Pub and The Dubliner.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com


Day 2: The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is one of the most popular sightseeing routes in Iceland and offers an array of different stops along the way. The weather was a bit back-and-forth on this day and due to the minimal light hours during the winter, we had to cut out some of our hidden gems off the itinerary. That being said, it’s definitely possible to hit more stops than we did depending on the weather and time of year, so definitely pick out your favorite gems to add to your own itinerary.

Stop one: Thingvellir National Park

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

How much you enjoy your time at this park is going to be based on how adventurous you are willing to be. At first glance, the park seems pretty barren, though even barren is stunning with the sun shining through. The deeper into Thingvellir you go, the more there is to see – from towering lava rock to a small church with adjacent buildings, which was apparently the site of Iceland’s first parliament in 960 AD.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Many of the paths had been snowed over but we, along with a few other visitors, trekked through the slush to experience as much as we could.

A Winter Weekend in Gettysburg Pennsylvania | Top Things to Do in Gettysburg | #AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Best Winter Boots for Travel

    • If you’re traveling in winter, make sure you have a pair of waterproof winter boots. There is nothing fun about attempting to make your way in sopping wet sneakers, or injuring yourself by slipping on an icy patch.

 

At one point on our adventure, we accidentally stumbled upon Öxarárfoss, a small waterfall that remains semi-frozen during the winter months. This ended up being one of those accidents we questioned not originally having on our itinerary; though it may be much smaller than some of the more popular Iceland falls, it’s slight seclusion and simplicity make it that much more beautiful.

 

 

After your excursion through Iceland’s only UNESCO Heritage Site, head over to Strokkur, Iceland’s most famous geysir that erupts every 6-10 minutes. Though on our trip it seemed a bit more frequent. Not every eruption is as dramatic, so it may be worth sticking around for a two or three.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

After freezing your fingers off trying to capture an image of Strokkur blowing its top, head over to Fridheimar for a late lunch/early dinner. I highly recommend making a reservation to be on the safe side, though we had made the latest reservation available and were dining with only four other groups.

Fridheimar is located inside one of Iceland’s geothermal tomato greenhouses, and hence every menu from the entrees to the desserts are tomato-based. This restaurant is more of an experience than a meal, and is worth every penny.

Fridheimar is open daily from 12:00pm-4:00pm.

 

 

Finally, it’s time to visit the majestic and popular, Gullfoss. Gullfoss is one of those natural wonders that leave you wondering why so many places to choose to pave over beauty for skyscrapers. Be sure to do some walking among the open space surrounding Gullfoss as you’ll be able to get a few differently angled views of the falls.

This is one of those rare occasions where I’ll suggest stopping at the visitor center gift shop before departing. Were some of the items overpriced? Of course, it’s Iceland. But I was able to grab some stunning post cards and prints that actually didn’t break the bank.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Other stops you may want to make during your Golden Circle self-drive tour:

Faxi Waterfall (64.2254° N, 20.3372° W)

Porufoss (64.260707, -21.369836)

Kerid Crater (64.0413° N, 20.8851° W)

Solheimar Eco-Village (64.0656° N, 20.6419° W)

Gamla Laugin Geothermal Pool (64.1377° N, 20.3097° W)


Day 3: The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Often called “Little Iceland” due to the varying landscapes that exist in one location, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula had been calling out to me from the initiation of our trip planning.

If you’re driving from Reykjavik, which is about 2.5 hours, this definitely requires an early start if you’re attempting to see much of the peninsula in the same day. So quickly down some of that Skyr you purchased at your local Bonus supermarket and hit the road.

 

  • Reminder: Though not quite as north as the Westfjords, in winter this area was approximately 8-10 degrees colder than Reykjavik. We also experienced some intense winds that at times were almost painful if your face wasn’t covered, so I’d recommend bringing along some extra layers and a ski-mask.

Stop 1: Búðir

You’ve probably seen snapshots of the Búðir or “the little black church” without even realizing, as it’s become a common stop for photographers visiting the peninsula. To many, this may seem an odd spot for church – secluded from much else. But this little hamlet provides an erie but stunning break from the snowy surroundings.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 2: Bárður Snæfellsás

Legend has it that Bárður Snæfellsás, half troll and half man, was the settler of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. In 1972, co-founder of the Icelandic Sculptors Society, Ragnar Kjartansson built a stone figure of Bárður, which now stands tall in the fishing-village of Arnarstapi watching over his land.

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If traveling in winter, don’t be surprised that Arnarstapi is almost completely deserted. It seems that this town is mostly utilized during the summer season, which makes sense considering how dramatic winters in the area can be.

Stop 3: Hellnar

Hellnar is an ancient fishing village one stop over from Arnarstapi, and is a great place to stop for the perfect view of Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000 year old glacier.

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Stop 4: The Londrangar Basalt Cliffs

  • Warning – If you think the rest of the peninsula is windy, just wait until you stroll along the Londrangar Cliffs. In the wintertime, there are also some difficult-to-see ice patches, and one almost sent me flying off of a ledge. So walk slowly, take your time, and pay attention to your surroundings.

The view, however, is completely worth it.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 5: Vatnshellir Cave

Vatnshellir is the cave that apparently inspired Jule’s Verne’s, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and with Summit Adventure Guides you can journey down into the 8,000 year old lava tube. We had a great tour guide who went by “Gummy” during our 45 minute tour, and his knowledge, jokes, and Marvel references really added to the experience.

At one point, once you’re two stairwells, a bridge, and a walk deep into the tube, everyone is asked to turn of their lights, leaving you absolute darkness. This is the level of darkness that your eyes will never be able to adjust to. Despite this proclamation, we all still attempted to stare at our own hand, thinking at some point we’d make out an outline. But nothing.

Summit Adventure Guides provides several tours including the Vatnshellir Cave Tour, which runs all year. Tours should be booked in advance and run 3750 ISK, roughly $37.

 

 

Stop 6: Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík

While Djúpalónssandur is known for being the “black-lava pearl beach”, Dritvík is known for something a bit more somber. In 1948, an English trawler ship slammed into the beach, killing 14 of the 19 crewman. The few iron remains of the ship remain in the same location out of respect and memory of those who passed.

Despite the snow covering much of both areas, these destinations are not to be missed.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 7: Feast in Ólafsvík

We had asked our Vatnshellir tour guide for some restaurant recommendations, considering a majority of businesses in West Iceland were closed for the winter. He eagerly suggested two spots over in his hometown of Ólafsvík, one he described as “a black house with a green roof”. This restaurant ended up being “Hraun”, which was not only run by some of the most accommodating staff, but also is home to some of the best tasting burgers you will ever eat.

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Stop 8: Hunt the Northern Lights

We had booked an Airbnb for one night alongside Kirkjufell to experience the countryside and hopefully catch a glimpse of the northern lights. We had accepted the day prior that we probably were going to leave Iceland without having seen them; after all, we had daily snow, almost complete cloudy skies, and on that night the aurora forecast was extremely low. But hey, at least the views from the cabin were stunning.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

While we hung inside, I made a point of running outside every twenty minutes or so to see if we could at least get a view of a dark starry night sky. But due to the weather, all I kept seeing was solid darkness. But luck was on our side. On my fourth time out, there finally seemed to be a gap in the cloud cover, and I was greeted by a strip of stars like I had rarely seen. If this was all we got, I’d have been happy. However, after calling my friends out, one pointed out what appeared to be a mild bright, white light from behind Kirkjufell.

Slowly these light patches lightened and began to spread out and few snaps of my camera proved we were finally getting a glimpse – a few green stripes were in fact streaking the sky. During the peak, there were even what appeared to be some vertical moving lines. But just as quick as they appeared, the cloud cover regained its position over West Iceland.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

 

We might not have experienced the most intense aurora borealis, but the experience was still memorable – and waiting it out was half of the fun.


Day 4: The Langjokull Glacier

We had originally planned to wake up early and drive the almost three hours to the Husafell Base Camp, where we would begin out Snowmobile Into the Glacier tour with Mountaineers of Iceland.

This tour would’ve taken us snowmobiling on the second largest glacier in Iceland, followed by a cave tour. However, there are only so many experiences that can be saved by self-driving in Iceland. And it is extremely dangerous and never okay to enter an ice cave or take part in activities like glacier hiking without certified professionals.

But if the weather wasn’t a deterrent, this would’ve been a great chance to take part in some action-packed activity on your way down from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

On the flip side, Mountaineers was great to work with and processed our refund in a timely manner with no issues. Be sure to check out their official site for other awesome Iceland tours.

The Snowmobile Into the Glacier Tour with Mountaineers of Iceland must be booked in advanced, and runs 29.900 ISK for two guests on one snowmobile. All drivers must have a valid driver’s license. 


Day 5: The South Coast

Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is the first of the two main waterfalls you will hit on your South Coast drive. Though it appears smaller in comparison to Skogafoss, it actually drops about 197 feet. During the summer months or when icy paths are no issue, guests can walk a path behind the falls for a unique view.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 2: Skógafoss

Skógafoss is one of the biggest and most accessible waterfalls in Iceland, making it a popular stop all year round. Pictures really don’t do this waterfall justice, as you really don’t understand its power or size until you’re there in person, walking right up to it.

  • If you’re traveling in winter and want to get up close and personal, make sure to bring a waterproof jacket or poncho. You do end up walking right into a thick wall of mist, and wet clothing isn’t a great combination with potentially strong winds.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 3: Sólheimasandur Plane Wreckage

On November 24, 1973, a US Navy plane ran out of fuel and crash landed on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach. Later on it would be found that the pilot actually just switched to the wrong fuel tank. Fortunately, all onboard survived but the wreckage still remains on the beach as a popular tourist attraction.

Though driving to the wreckage used to be allowed, in order to preserve the beach it has since been prohibited. In order to reach the wreckage, you now have to walk approximately 45 minutes there and 45 minutes back. This walk, I’m sure, can be relaxing in the appropriate weather. We chose to do walk in an almost zero-visibility blizzard – and let’s just say, I would not ever recommend it. But in general, I do recommend taking the walk to the site. It’s really something.

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Stop 4: Reynisfjara Beach

Despite Iceland being home to primarily black sand beaches, Reynisfjara has always been the iconic black sand beach to visit. This is due in part to it’s unique features, like Hálsanefshellir Cave, basalt columns, and stunningly tall rock formations.

  • When exploring the beach, be sure to avoid walking to close to the shoreline. Reyinsfjara is home to sneaker waves, which can appear suddenly and are strong enough to pull you out to sea. Putting yourself in dangerous situations is not worth the photo op.

If you feel you didn’t take in enough of the sites on your drive, never fear, because you just might get a glance when you turn around to drive all the way back to Reykjavik!


Day 6: The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is the perfect last stop before your flight home, due in part to it being not too far from Keflavik Airport.

  • Be sure to look up sunrise time for the day you’re planning to visit when booking your tickets. Watching the sun come up behind the bridge of the lagoon was the highlight of our time there.

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Tickets for the Blue Lagoon run from 6990 ISK – 53000 ISK depending on your package. We went with the cheapest package, which ended up costing about $80 for our time slot, and have no regrets. Just a heads up: bring a towel, as the cheapest option does not include one.

While the Blue Lagoon can seem a bit pricy, the entire experience seemed worth the price of admission. The staff, premises, shower/changing rooms (which are even equipped with blowdryers) are clean, spacious, and top of the line. If you’re envisioning a giant swimming pool, yes, $80 is a bit steep. But if you appreciate the Blue Lagoon for the spa experience that it truly is, then it’s a steal.

Plus, when it begins to hit you that your spectacular Iceland trip that you spent months planning is finally coming to an end – you can drink your sadness in beer and Skyr smoothies at the pool bars.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

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A Visit to the Orchards of Warwick, NY

Is it even fall if you don’t drive upstate for the soul purpose of overindulging in apple products?

Applewood Winery is located in Warwick, NY and is a little over an hour and a half drive from New York City. While we’ve spent the last four years or so frequenting the same apple orchard (shoutout to Wilken’s Fruit ad Fir Farm), we figured it was time for a change of pace. A quick Google search yielded a dozen results, but we quickly narrowed it down to two locations within a fifteen minute drive from each other: Apple Ridge Orchards and Apple Dave’s Orchards.

I had a good feeling about Apple Ridge from the moment we pulled up aside it, and were told that while the lot was completely full we could  park along the side of the road to our left, down a grassy hill of residences.

A) A packed lot, I assumed, meant this was a popular and thus worth-visiting location.

B) Despite the packed lot, we were given directions to any alternative spot for parking which was only a two minute walk away from the orchard.

C) This place must be filled with some friendly people, because have you ever attempted parking outside someone’s house in a back in the city?

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Apple Ridge Orchard’s screams “family fun”, though the bright, sunny day may have played a large hand in that. The decor consisted of scarecrows, crates of pumpkins, potted flowers, and a coop of chickens. I won’t lie, I was way more excited than some of the kids about the dozen chickens available for watching. But the major win was the amount of apples still available for the picking! While I’ve found some orchards to be rather scare outside of a two-week window in September, and others ravished by bird-nibbles or apples that looked as if they would turn to mush any second, Apple Ridge has acres of every variety, many in great condition.

My friend and I noted how quickly we were able to fill our 1/2 bushel bag, not with one but three different varieties. For the record, one bag is totally adequate to split between 2-3 people. While at first we were taken aback by the $30 per bag price, a bit steeper than what we’ve experienced at other orchards, we quickly realized we’d be able to fill this bag with way more than we typically do.

Little update: one bag fit enough apples for both of us to make a pie and have a little under a dozen leftover.

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Of course, being adults (and I use that term lightly) we were excited to get over to Apple Dave’s Orchards, due in a large part to it being home to Applewood Winery.

Apple Dave’s Orchard is also in Warwick, NY and is a quick drive from Apple Ridge . If you happen to be traveling with a family of both adults and children, or just prefer to have various experiences in one trip, these two spots are super easy to hit together.

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com
There are a variety of options in terms of ciders, wines, and brews, but we settled on two ciders to try: The Applewoody, a pumpkin hard cider with Apple Jack and cinnamon; and Naked Flock Currant Hard Cider, which is made with tart currents from the Hudson Valley.

What I loved about the Applewoody was how the pumpkin flavor came through more as an aftertaste as opposed to an overwhelming pumpkin taste that I’m not often fond of in beverages. Similarly, the Currant cider had a mildly sweet taste that you’d expect, but was counterbalanced by the tart currants. Both options were incredibly smooth, and I’d have a difficult time choosing which I enjoyed more.

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

What goes best with a cider tasting? According to Apple Dave’s Orchard/Applewood Winery, it’s pizza.

I was very wary of trying the pizza here, mainly because being from New York City means that I’m a total pizza snob. I also noticed as they were being removed from the oven that the crusts were way thinner than I was used to, and all I could picture was the flabby-like consistency of an Ellio’s.

But thankfully the thin crust was not only cooked perfectly and held up to the cheese and ingredients, but it was pretty dang tasty. Was it mind-blowing? No. Does it compete with legitimate pizza establishments back in the city? Not even close. But it was decently delicious, and worked as the perfect accompaniment to our cider.

The Applewood Market is not different from many other orchard markets, which is not an insult in any way. I wait around all year to visit these markets, and often come home with bags of butters, jams, and pastry mixes. But don’t worry about doing a little shopping; the prices are totally reasonable and everything is fresh, delicious, and free of all those additives you’ll find in most supermarkets. For granola lovers, I highly recommend grabbing a bag of Chocolate Cranberry Granola if you happen to stop by.

But of course, we all know the main reason for visiting an apple orchard.

The apple cider donuts.
This line was long. I’m talking 30 minute wait long. As in the baker had to come out and announce that there were only 500 donuts left and he couldn’t guarantee us all that we’d be able to get our hands on some deliciousness. Well, I’m sorry for those who missed out, but fortunately for us, we were able to get our hands on a dozen.

Naturally, we devoured most before even getting back to the car.

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

We strolled a bit, and made a in the distillery to grab some cider to bring back; and if we hadn’t arrived so late we probably could’ve spent another hour just enjoying the surroundings.

New York State is pretty popular when it comes to pick-your-own orchards, but I’d definitely look into Apple Ridge Orchards and Apple Dave’s Orchards should you be overwhelmed by choices.

But remember:

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London: Day 3 – Cheers London!

Today was the day that I felt would never come, yet still came too soon. After a year and a half of planning and dreaming of this trip, it was now the final day of our adventure.

Stop number one of the day, was actually stop number 1 and 2.

You may have heard of The Breakfast Club, a local breakfast spot in London of which I believe their are three locations (and more throughout England). But one location is a bit more popular than the others, an for good reason. If you find yourself at The Breakfast Club,  try asking for the Mayor. If you’re lucky you’ll be led to a large blue fridge, which actually leads to The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, a hidden speakeasy.

That’s the first secret that I’m ruining today; the second is that if you stop in for breakfast and are having a challenging time making a choice on what to order, the chicken and waffles are out of this world.

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The remainder of our final day was essentially a self-guided, cliche tour of London.

So after our first stops, we obviously headed over to the Tower Bridge area. While planning our original itinerary, we had planned to spend a couple of hours touring the Tower of London, but due to time constraints this is yet another thing that will be saved for our next trip.

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The area surrounding Tower Bridge was probably one of my favorite locations in London, at least earlier in the morning. Relaxing along the Thames was super relaxing, and at the time there were very few visitors around.

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The peace didn’t last too long however, considering that our final plans involved us hanging around the most popular attraction in all of London. You guessed it, the London Eye.

Big thanks to Coco-Cola for developing the amazing deal that is the multi-attraction package, when you book your London Eye pre-timed tickets. We had decided, prior to traveling, to purchase a trio so we could see as much as possible and save a few bucks.

Was it worth it? …Eh.

We had decided to do the London Eye, the London Dungeon, and the SEA LIFE London Aquarium.

In case you’re wondering which high-volume tourist traps are worth visiting and which you’ll live without ever seeing, I’m about to break it down just for you.

For starters, if we compare pre-buying tickets to the three locations that we chose as a multi-ticket to pre-buying the same three attractions separately, we did end up saving approximately 16 euros each; 48 combined for all three of us. Savings are even higher if you compare the trio to buying day-of tickets.

However, if I were to make recommendations to a friend or fellow traveler, I might suggest really researching each attraction.

To help with that, I’ll be reviewing all three of the most touristy-trap tourist traps of London.

1. The London Eye

I understand that the London Eye, aside from the Palace of Westminster, may be a sight many think of when they think of London..but…for me…the London Eye may not have only been the most anticlimactic part of our trip to London, but maybe even our entire trip. It’s an overrated ferris wheel.

This is coming from someone who, when in Paris, had to travel to both the Eiffel Tower and Tour Montparnasse. I am a complete sucker for views, when there are in fact views to be seen. The only exciting view from the eye, would be the Palace of Westminster and believe me, it looks just as outstanding, if not more, from the ground. I would definitely be open to attempting the eye again at night, as maybe London lit up would be slightly more appealing; But I personally feel there is a lot more you could see of London, instead of wasting time in a half hour (much longer without pre-timed tickets) queue for lackluster view.

When it comes to my famous (I just made this up now) ranking system, Worth the Wait or Not So Great…the London Eye, unfortunately takes the latter.

2. SEA LIFE London Aquarium

Tiny children, especially those who don’t frequent larger aquariums or marine sanctuaries, might find SEA LIFE to be a fun time. I was very very unimpressed with SEA LIFE on many levels. From a tourist perspective, it just wasn’t enjoyable. SEA LIFE is very small, and compact, and awkwardly themed in certain areas but I wasn’t expecting the Georgia Aquarium in the middle of  London.

From the perspective of someone who advocates for wildlife conservation and proper restrictions on places that house any type of wildlife, I found SEA LIFE to not only be ridiculously undersized but also, to put it bluntly, filthy. I am all for attractions that aim to boost awareness of conservation and preservation for the average person, but this aquarium screams money-scheme and nothing more.

Worth the Wait or Not So Great?

3. The London Dungeon

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Of all three attractions, The London Dungeon is the one I would most definitely recommend and visit again during future visits. If you’re someone looking to really immerse yourself in some of London’s history and myths, in a short amount of time, this is the place. Each scene of the London Dungeon is so immersive and detailed, you almost feel as if you stepped back in time. The Great Fire of London and Jack the Ripper take the top spot as my new favorite areas, but the attraction as an entirety is not only worth the money, but exciting and something everyone in the family can enjoy.

Worth the Wait or Not So Great?

FYI, there isn’t even really much of a wait at the London Dungeon, as large groups are taken in at a time, making it even more worth it.

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The rest of our night was spent roaming the promenade surrounding the London Eye, sipping drinks from food stalls and gazing longingly across the Thames at the Palace of Westminster. I wish I could document exactly what I was feeling that night but it was most likely a cross between feeling anxious and content, but bittersweet.

Only three weeks prior, I had boarded a plane for this adventure and it had already come to an end, but the adventures experienced within that three weeks were enough to last me a lifetime, or at least a year.
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Read about the rest of our quick London visit:

London: Day 3 – Cheers London! (2016)

London: Day 2 – Churches, Fashion, and St. James Park (2016)

London: Day 1 – Just Touched Down in London Town (2016)

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Paris: Day 7 – A Little Old House with a Garden

Of all my spectacular days in Paris, and each was in it’s own way, there was no day I was looking forward to more than this one. While most think Versailles when they hear “day trip from Paris”, and of course I visited Versailles as well, it was always Giverny and Monet’s garden that really called out to me. I was beyond excited to even have scheduled in time to go, but once I realized I could take part in a bike tour to this village, I knew that was exactly the way to go.

The first part of our tour consisted of a 30-40 minute Coach bus ride to the French commune of Vernon.

The minute we arrived in Vernon, I knew I’d have to come back to France to focus on the countryside. And though we weren’t too far from Paris, technically on the borderline of Normandy and Île-de-France, the vibe was completely different than Paris.

Our tour guides divided us into two groups; one group would get their bikes first then head to the market, while the other would do the opposite. I was placed in the first. Our tour guide led us to a few storage units where we all got identical bikes, each with a different named taped on it; which he read allowed as he handed them out. My bike went by Mufasa.

After getting our bikes and walking them to the market, we were given a good amount of time to make any purchases from the market and nearby store and bakery, to bring to our picnic. Yes, this was the moment where all my French dreams came true. Hopping from stand to stand, I purchased some slices of salami from one, some slices of gruyere from another and a baguette. I also accidentally purchased a full size bottle of pear cider, while thinking I was purchasing a cup or small bottle, but when can you have too much cider? And of course, you can’t pass a bakery without stopping in to get a lemon merengue tart.

z7We placed our purchases in our baskets and began our bike ride towards Giverny, all the while passing amazing church’s and small French homes and the cutest French women who waved as we passed by. As much as I fell in love with Paris, I may have fell in love with Vernon/Giverny even more.

One of my favorite parts was when we came to open strips of bike paths and I, of course, took it upon myself to speed ahead and lead the pack. Eventually we got to the perfect picnic spot along the Seine River, where we not only had a view of the river and what looked like a castle but also that famous house built above the river that you always see when googling pictures of Giverny.

It was almost perfect. And I say almost only because I ended up popping my bottle of cider over our entire picnic blanket and half of the group. I was one of the youngest ones on the tour, but I met some amazing and inspirational people including bot not limited to: An older couple who was traveling all across France, an Australian couple who was spending a month and a half in France and Ireland, a newly divorced woman who, upon realizing she was able to take a leave from work for longer than she originally thought, decided to spend four months in France learning French, a writer who was finishing up a year living in Paris, and a woman who believed in up-and-going on adventures whenever she felt like it while also taking classes, this week being a massage class in Florence before stopping in France.

I didn’t think it was possible to want to be so many different people at one time.

After finishing, we packed up and hopped back onto our bikes and were off to the house and gardens of Claude Monet. We were given an hour and a half to explore at our leisure, and even after patiently strolling through both the gardens and his home, filled with rather slow moving lines, and stopping every three seconds to take a photograph, I still finished up with a little more than a half hour to spare.

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Conveniently, the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny is a two minute walk from Monet’s house, and so I spent a bit of time strolling through there.

As I exited the museum, I met up with a couple of people from the tour and we grabbed some gelato nearby, before meeting back up with the group. After riding back to our orignal drop-off and packing our bikes back into the sheds, we were on the bus back to Paris.

I Uber’ed back to neighborhood and ended up spending a little time shopping and a lot of time window shopping. When I got back to my apartment, I cooked up some eggplant ravioli with green olive tomato sauce, warmed up a piece of a baguette, tossed together a basic salad and called it a night.

 

Read about the rest of our Paris escapade:

Paris: Day 7 – A Little Old House with a Garden (2016)

Paris: Day 6 – “Let them eat cake!” (2016)

Paris: Day 5 – Strolling the Île de la Cité (2016)

Paris: Day 4 – How to Become a Parisian in One Hour (2016)

Paris: Day 3 –  Il a été tout a commencé avec une souris (2016)

Paris: Day 2 – I See Dead People (2016)

Paris: Day 1 – Lost in the City of Love (2016)

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