Wrapping up Greenland

The final day in Greenland meant there was a lot to do. We took a beautiful boat ride, during which we were supposed to see whales. This was in early June, but whales don’t tend to come out until July. Nonetheless, the scenery was amazing. Can’t parallel it.

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That night for dinner we wrapped it up with a meal dinner at Restaurant Ulo, which is in Hotel Arctic. They were having one of their special dinners where it offers pretty much all local fare providing for a true taste of Greenland. What was missing were veggies (unless you grabbed lettuce from displays).

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I was able to get pictures of most of the stuff, some labeled, some not. Overall pretty darn good. There was reindeer, halibut, mussels, shrimp, whale skin, snowcrab, dried whale, and much more.

This last night in Greenland, we got to stay in an igloo! So, ok, we didn’t make a big pile of snow, but nonetheless, so much fun!

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The next day, we left this amazing island, with view of ice and snow below. I can’t wait to go back and explore other cities. While there, we found out their tourism is growing greatly and I have found/checked out their (very good) website. So much to explore on this island. Add it to your list, and let me know when you go and if you need a travel companion, I’m game!

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Tasting & Exploring Ilulissat

When we arrived in Ilulissat, there was the need for some quick food before exploring the town on Day 1. The most common thing we had for the few days we were there were the sandwiches at the hotel. They were absolutely delicious and revolved around 3 choices; smoked halibut, shrimp and reindeer. Just simple ingredients and amazing taste.

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After fueling, we headed into town. Most things were walkable, though there were quite the hills. If needed, there was a shuttle bus back to the hotel, but it only ran every 30 minutes, and you could likely get back to the hotel by then. There were also a ton of cabs there, for a small town. And, in this town you don’t go anywhere but the town because the only way in/out is by boat or plane.

Some of the scenery, with the video being my favorite:

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The houses & buildings aren’t so colorful because of the potentially dark winters. It’s historical and was to help residents identify buildings. The colors ID’ed the function of the building: Commercial houses were red; hospitals were yellow; police stations were black; the phone company was green and fish factories were blue. Those don’t necessarily apply now and residents can just paint their houses any color they like. It just makes the town vibrant!

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At one point, sled dogs were nearly equal in population to humans (3,500 to 4,500 humans). But in mid-2016, the was a distemper outbreak and this wiped out a good amount of the dogs. They are working the rebuild the population and this could take awhile, as this is recent.

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Welcome to Greenland

After Iceland, I traveled a bit West, and North, before returning to the US. I wanted to check out Greenland and visited Ilulissat, which is north of the Artic Circle. And, hey, even got to stay in a 4-star hotel!

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Being in the far north right around the summer equinox, the sun never set (see below). And 30 degrees wasn’t that bad for June! It got up to the upper 30s by mid day and the sun was pounding on us (side note, we didn’t see a drop of rain after having it pretty much the entire time in Iceland).

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The night we arrived in Greenland, we received a Welcome Dinner. This was with the other tourists, most of which happened to be on the same plane. It was a two-course meal with a quick bite before.

The bite was fish skin with an asian-like flavoring on it. Good to try but not going to add that to my list of favorites.

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The first course was halibut, or shall I say happiness. I was pretty much halibut carpaccio. Super thinly sliced with garnish. So nice to have this!

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The main dish was Muskox, served two ways. The one on the bottom right was a tenderloin and underneath the onion was some of the meat that just melted in your mouth. Almost BBQ-style. Very nice taste to all of it.

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Very nice intro to Greenland cuisine.

Ok Bistro, Borgarnes, Iceland

As my trip in Iceland continued, made it to Borgarnes.

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The first night there, checked out one of the few restaurants, Ok Bistro. The name comes from ‘Ok jökull in Borgarfjörður which through the centuries has been the smallest glacier in Iceland. In the last couple of decades it has retreated steadily and in 2014 Icelandic geologists removed the glacier status of Ok. The mountain Ok still stands tall at 1200 meters and it´s located to the west of way bigger Langjökull.’

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The restaurant was recommended by the hotel and has a high rating. Started dinner with an Einstök Icelandic White Ale. Very nice with a taste of coriander and orange. I was expecting a bit of a hefe-likeness/cloudimess to it but not at all.

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We ordered a bread basket (some places give bread free, some don’t). It was freshly baked bread with mixed pepper hummus 890 kr. Tasty.

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For a main course, started with the Minke Whale. Had heard about the whale and wanted to try it. Read about it, too, and the pros/cons. The minke is ok to eat. This was a small plate, which is what we wanted so as to just get a sample.

Grilled Steak of Minke Whale with blueberry and brennivín jam, bacon bits and birch syrup, smoked mushrooms in cream sauce (they kindly put the mushrooms in sauce on the side). 2890 kr

This was amazing. They were small pieces and everything else on the plate made it outstanding. Nice and tender and unique taste. Very glad I got to try it!

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We then wanted something else simple and the chef was able to made us a basic salad (yes, veggies). It was perfect. Just simple ingredients. And at this point, I didn’t care how much veggies cost.

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Great restaurant to check out and you looked right at mountains and water. Glad we went.

And some of the views in the area of Borgarnes include:

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BÓNUS

I read through a book some friends gave me about traveling to Iceland (Cheap Iceland: How to Travel This Expensive Country on a Tight Budget) and several times it mentioned the store BÓNUS. It’s a discount store, sort of like ALDI. That book was great, but that guy sounded like he had no money. He provided some nice tips, though.

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There was one right near the first hotel so I had to go check it out. Helps that I love going to grocery stores, too. Pretty traditional grocery store stock, of course with some local food. Prices weren’t too bad; I was expecting stuff to be very high. We did pick up stuff to use during the week instead of needing to eat out for every meal because I read via the book that it was expensive to do so.

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HVER Restaurant, Hveragerði, Iceland

Recently traveled to Iceland and Greenland for vacation. Landed in Reykjavik early in the morning and then starting driving east. The first place we were staying was Hveragerði. Upon arrival mid-day, it was high time for lunch. We opted to simply grab something at the hotel (Hótel Örk) at the HVER Restaurant.

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There was a nice sounding soup on the menu — Langoustine soup, garlic marinated langoustine and saffran cream. (2.150 kr.)

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Then also the Salmon — Cured salmon tartar, toast and honey dressing. (2.200 kr.)

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Adding the prices here because I’d heard Iceland was pricey. Basically these were $21 for the soup and $22 for the tartar.

Apparently the soup was quite good and the salmon was delicious. This was the start of the trip, so I was not yet aware that this was a delicacy to have veggies. Great way to kick things off.

Simple Happiness

Some of my friends think I’m crazy, some of them are in complete agreement. Going grocery shopping is fun. And going to Wegmans is even better! There isn’t one near me; I have to drive at least 25 or so minutes to get to one. But once there, it’s just pure, simple happiness. So much produce, bread, cheese, meat, seafood, other stuff. They just have everything, you can’t go wrong…bliss.

I hope one gets built in upper NW DC where the Fannie Mae building is. I was so hoping one was going to come to North Bethesda. I could have walked to it. Though walking home from Wegmans could be tough after shopping. That could also help limit what you buy, I guess.

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The Wine Harvest

There is a fun local restaurant in Park Potomac, MD (just outside of DC) called The Wine Harvest. If you know the area, it’s off of Exit 4/Montrose Rd from 270, or if you’re ever just going up 270, it’s where that Harris Teeter, Founding Farmers and the ever-growing townhouses/developments are (though that last part doesn’t totally narrow it down).  They also have a location in The Kentlands.

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It’s a small, family-owned place that offers a casual, tasty menu and also sells wine by the bottle/is a wine shop. Oh, beer, too. They have a bar where you grab or drink and tables to sit back and relax.

Last time I was there I just went for some sort of finger food and opted for the Smoked Salmon Plate — smoked salmon served with chopped red onions, capers, sour cream and baguette slices. Instead of sour cream they were great and put manchego on there for me!

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My friend went for the Greek Salad romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, Greek olives, pepperoncini, feta cheese, served with Greek dressing and pita and added a bowl of the Soup of the Day, which was a Cream of Broccoli.

We enjoyed a bottled of Italian wine with dinner. You can order wine by the glass from the menu or buy a bottle from their nice selection, but are then charged a corkage fee. But, you can take it home if not finished.

Everything, from food to service was very good. The prices are also excellent. Not your typical DC prices, which is great!

Brazil Nuts

The other day I was offered some cashews and I wasn’t very hungry so turned them down. But then I was told they were from Argentina and this guy’s mom picks and them toasts them herself. Then she sends them up him (her son). I could see there was something unique about them from far away because of the dark and sometimes tiny black accents on them. Had one…wow. Most amazing cashew I’ve ever had. These things were also enormous!

Made me think about Brazil nuts and my trip to Brazil a few years ago. Overall, I love nuts. But, I usually avoid buying mixed nuts because of those darn huge Brazil nuts that take up so much space in the container. They are a bit tasteless and almost chewy.

Well, when I was in Brazil, we visited a local market in Manaus on the last day. Think of something like Pike Place in Seattle on beyond illegal steroids. Among other local stuff, they had Brazil nuts and I told the guide how they weren’t my favorite. So, he grabs one, whips out his machete and shells the thing. He says ‘try it.’ Staring at it, it was just bright and a bit moist. Take a bite, it’s almost like candy. So good, nothing like we get here. It totally changed my perspective on Brazil nuts. I came back to the US hoping all these nuts had followed me on the plane, but of course when I opened a package of them or purchased them in bulk, they apparently had not boarded the plane…

Another reason I love traveling, enjoying the true local fare.

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Dax Farmer’s Market

I have been off the blogging scene recently because of an oh-so-rough trip to Ireland and France.  I am now starting to recap said vacation…

One of the best parts of the trip was why I went — for a friend’s wedding in SW France, in a small town named Dax.  It’s about a 90 minute drive from Bordeaux.

franceMy friend’s fiance had told me about the must-do the morning of the wedding, the local farmer’s market.  It ended up being about 2 blocks from the hotel.  WOW.  The place was making Pike Place look weak on some levels.  Some 3+ hours later we returned to the hotel with lunch to enjoy outside.  I grabbed Paella, as this town is close to Spain so they get some of their influence.  Others grabbed cheese and sausage, bread, veggies, some had nice flatbread-like pizza.  And, of course, wine!

Almost too good to be true.

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