20 Years of Travel #16: Iceland

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The  series continues by featuring Iceland. In 2011, we took a family vacation to Iceland. Since then, Iceland has become a favorite and popular travel destination as it should be. Here are my favorite highlights from our trip all around the island.

Reykjavík

Start and/or end your time in Iceland exploring its capital city.

——Music Scene——

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When you think about Iceland, do you think about music? If you don’t, you should. It is not just the home of Björk. Check out 12 Tónar, which is not just a music shop but also a recording studio.

——Puffins——

257484_10150214019212986_68884_oWho doesn’t want to see these adorable animals?! You can take the Puffin Express to get a good view of these interesting looking creatures!

Blue Lagoon

For a little relaxation, soaking in these hot springs is well worth the money in my opinion.

Thingvellir National Park

Here you will not be standing on a tectonic plate but will be walking on the Almannagjá fault line between the North American and Eurasian Plate.

Waterfalls

There is no shortage of amazing waterfalls in Iceland. Here are just some that we got to see.

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Viking Houses

In the rural areas, you can see remnants of a strong Viking past.

Horseback Riding

You will definitely want to ride the unique Icelandic horses. Not only are they beautiful creatures, but they have an interesting quick-step trot.

Geysirs & Hot Springs

You will find these in Thingvellir National Park, Blue Lagoon, and other places.

Glaciers, Volcanoes & Icebergs

In 2010, Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted causing many problems not just in Iceland but around Europe. Due to a large ash cloud, air travel was restricted on the European continent and around 100,000 flights were canceled. Bárðarbunga erupted in 2014. We heard a bit about Hekla, while we were in Iceland as some natives believe that we should expect a potentially bad eruption from Hekla soon. From research I have done, Hekla usually has a large eruption in the 40s both in the 1840s and 1940s. We shall see if that trend continues. Meanwhile, that particular volcano once spread lava over a vast part of Iceland, which has now turned into fields of moss (pictured below). These volcanoes are covered with massive glaciers. The melting of these glaciers have created lakes with chunks of ice (like icebergs) in them.

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ATV Tour

At the last minute, we got to do a ATV tour in through the mossy lava fields.

Coastal geology

You can tell by looking at the cliffs on the coasts of Iceland that Iceland used to be part of the mainland not an island. Part of the coast even looks like the Giants Causeway in Ireland (see picture below).

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Our trip to Iceland was amazing. It is such a beautiful and peaceful place. There is a reason it has become a hot travel destination in the last few years.

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HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

Christmas Holiday in Porto, Portugal – December 2015

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Unable to spend the holidays with our family, my husband and I decided to take a little relaxing getaway to Portugal. We decided to spend Christmas in the town of Porto. We just pre-booked our accommodations and that was it. Everything else we were just going to figure it out as we went. We spent five full days in Porto and loved every minute of it. Just going with the flow was not a problem. There were plenty of things to do and see. Porto was far from boring during Christmas. Here are the highlights:

Food

francesinhaTry the Portuguese dish called the francesinha (pictured on the right), which is a sandwich with layers upon layers of different meats, covered in melted cheese and topped with a cooked egg. I do not want to think about how much cholesterol there was in that meal.

Not surprisingly, many restaurants are closed Christmas Eve night and Christmas night. Plan accordingly. We found that kabob stands around the city and hotel restaurants are open.

Drink

The Cafe Majestic is the perfect place for a great cup of coffee (though slightly more expensive than other cafes in the area). It is a stunning cafe but is very popular and well-known so do not be surprised if there is a line out the door.

port tastingAn absolute must in Porto is to take a port wine tour. There are many vineyards and cellars to choose from across the Douro River from Porto’s city center. We chose to visit Taylor’s Port Wine Cellar. For 7 Euros a person, we were given a lesson in the origins and creation of port wine, a fantastic tour of the cellars, and three tastings that we were able to enjoy from a scenic veranda that overlooked the city of Porto. Such an amazing deal for this wonderful experience!

The Christmas Scene

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treeI loved the Christmas decorations found all over Porto, from the Christmas tree in front of City Hall (pictured above and on the right) to the ice skating rink in the park to the markets and finally the street lights (pictured below). On Christmas Day we sat inside Clerigos Church and listened to popular Christmas songs being played on the organ. We were surprised to find after the organ concert that the Clerigos museum and tower were open on Christmas, so we climbed the 240 steps for some breathtaking views of Porto’s city center and the Douro River.

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Sights

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As a book lover, I really enjoyed visiting the Lello & Irmao Bookstore (pictured above). It is said that the ornately decorated inside of the bookstore inspired parts of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies. It is simply stunning!

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Porto has unique architecture. Its buildings are coated with tiles (pictured above). You will find grand tile murals located inside the Sao Bento train station.

If the weather is nice, like it was for us, then take a nice relaxing boat cruise down the Douro River. It is a great opportunity to get a different visual perspective of Porto and take lots of pictures.

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Seaside Excursion from Porto

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Since we were so blessed with sunny and warm weather, we decided to take the 500 bus from Porto’s city center (across from the Sao Bento train station) to Matosinhos, which is a nice beach town on the Atlantic Ocean. We got to Matosinhos in time to have a wonderful seafood lunch at Restaurante Lage do Senhor do Padrao. The seabass is fantastic (pictured on the right). foodMatosinhos has a wonderful walking path along the coast where you can people watch and enjoy the waves crashing on the shore (picture above). It is a great place to view an amazing sunset (picture at bottom).

We loved Porto! If it isn’t on your travel bucket list, it should be!

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