Driving in Iceland – It’s easy with four expert tips!

For our 2015 Sister’s Trip, my sister and I decided to explore the beautiful country of Iceland! Early on we decided that if we wanted to see everything this country had to offer, we would need to make it a two-week road trip!

“AHHH!! But we’ve never driven through a foreign country before” was the one thing I kept repeating over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to go to Iceland, but so far I’ve only used busses, metro stations and the effecient high-speed rail to get around while traveling. Iceland would be different, so we read all the guide books and blogs we could, chose a rental car company and took off to Iceland! To make your trip that much easier, check out my four expert tips below:

  1. Learn the “Rules of the Road”
    • While a bit cheesy, we found this video to be helpful in what to expect on the roads in Iceland – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MprZuQ-gM3M
    • Watch out for sheep..they are everywhere!!!!
  2. Only order a 4×4 SUV vehicle
    • The best part of driving in Iceland is going on the gravel roads, dirt roads and F-roads. You MUST have a 4×4 to go on the F-roads, but we found that our 4×4 was really helpful on the regular and bumpy roads too!
    • While still expensive ($1300/2 weeks), we decided to rent from Viking Car Rental. We found their responses and customer service to be far superior from other companies that we spoke to and appreciated that extra bit of security just incase something happened.
  3. Order the correct Insurance and optional GPS
    • Your car rental can be a bit costly and that’s because you need the 4×4 SUV with all the extra insurance (ash, gravel, etc). Make sure your car comes with this or pay the fine!
    • GPS came with our Viking Car rental, but if it doesn’t, it’s worth the extra money to have it. Your other option is to get lost and use your phone for data which can cost even more.
  4. Be prepared for the high cost of gas
    • Driving in Iceland is so much fun, but paying for gas is not! We spent about $700 on gas during the two week vacation.
    • If you’re traveling from the US and don’t have a credit card chip, you will have to purchase a prepaid gas card. I recommend buying gas at the N1 Station because that seemed to be the most reliable. They sell the gas cards in 3,000kr, 5,000kr or 10,000kr options.
    • While getting gas, make sure you grab road snacks! We found Doritos that were labeled “Cool American” flavor….perfect!!!

 

 

My Regal guide to the UK that’s fit for a Queen!

I can’t believe it’s taken me until June 2015 to get to the UK! It’s always been on my list, but never made the commitment until recently. Highlights of the trip through London, Bournemouth and Edinburgh are as follows:

  1. Grabbing 4 posh friends and making it a week long epic adventure!
  2. Drinking so much tea that we started talking with an English accent..”cheerio!”
  3. Eating some of the BEST food in my life…Indian and pies anyone?!?
  4. Chatting with so many locals and finding secret hidden spots!
  5. Discovering the best pup in the world (next to Lilo)…Greyfriars Bobby!

If you have a trip to the UK coming up, use my Regal guide to get you to the best spots! Have questions? Make sure to ask me in the comments field and I’ll help you out!!

Traveler Trip: London is EXPENSIVE! Grab a group (we had 5) and split the cost of an AirBnB or VRBO rental. Saves your wallet and live like a local! 

First Timers Guide to NYC!!

How do you describe NYC in one word? Maybe vibrant, speedy, aggressive, stylish or modern? Overall, I think for a first timer, NYC can only be described in one word – overwhelming! There is a quick pace to NYC and at seems as though everyone is walking with a purpose. There’s also so much to see that it’s often hard to fit everything into one trip. My advice is that you see NYC in pieces. Start with the touristy stuff and expand from there to the little neighborhoods on each trip!

For all you first timers, I’ve made you a handy little map to get you through your first trip to NYC! It’s a collection of what I saw on my first few trips to NYC (some for fun, some for business). Here are some of my unique finds:

  • NY Public Library – offers FREE tours! It’s also where the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals are housed! (Located in the children section)
    • Right next to Bryant Park – also free! (Calling all Project Runway Fans!)
  • Russian Vodka Room – I’m not sure if we stumbled into this place…or stumbled out of this place, but it was fantastic! Belly up to the bar and talk to strangers! I met a news reporter who was waiting to interview a famous hacker (they never showed up)! Ohhhh how I love you NYC.
  • 2 Bros Pizza – As a true Chicagoan, I like my deep-dish, but I was on the HUNT for NY style pizza. Not saying 2 Bros is the BEST, but it was only $1, and you can fold it! Eeeekk! Also, if you go really late then you will find the BEST people watching. Seriously.

Travelers Tip: Make sure to sign up/follow NYC Food Gals! Their Instagram Site (@nycfoodgals) showcases yummy meals from all over the city!! 

Have you been to NYC?? What are some of your favorite spots?? Make sure to leave comments in the field below!

Hiking Pulpit Rock – Thanks Pinterest!!

Calling all travelers – are any of you huge fans of Pinterest?? If you love traveling, then you should absolutely love Pinterest because they go hand in hand! I’ve found the coolest places to visit just by signing up and creating my board – Andiamo (It means ‘Let’s Go’ in Italian).

One of my favorite finds was Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) in Norway. Below is what I initially pinned. Does this even LOOK real??? I didn’t think so! So after some research I realized it WAS a real place that you could hike and I needed to go ASAP!

Getting to Pulpit Rock is easy! When traveling to Norway in the summer, you’re probably going to visit the fjords anyway! Stay in Stavanger (we stayed at Victoria Hotel) and take the Rodne Fjord Cruise through the Lysefjord. The cruise is so breathtaking!

While traveling through the fjords on the cruise, you make some interesting stops. My favorites were the goats (cause we had to feed them, of course) and the beautiful waterfall (we got to drink the fresh water)!

The cruise drops you off at Tau, where you catch a bus that takes you to Pulpit Rock. This was very easy to figure out, but if you have questions, feel free to ask in the Comment section.

Traveler Tip: Pulpit Rock took me and my sister about 1hr 45min to hike. We brought a small backpack filled with water, sun screen and snacks. We wore ordinary gym shoes which were just fine for the trail.

Hiking Pulpit Rock is REALLY fun! Very scenic and a ton of friendly international hikers along the way! Very different from my Camelback hike in Arizona! At every turn, there seemed to be a different type of path which made the time go by pretty fast.

Getting to the top of Pulpit Rock was SUCH an adrenaline rush! The view was nothing short of incredible and I know it was a moment in my life that I will never ever forget. The beauty went on for miles with clear blue skies and royal blue waters.

After you get over the view, the people watching and pictures start! PEOPLE WERE SO BRAVE!!!! “What are they doing?” we said. “That person has their DOG up here!” I screamed. “Oh, we could NEVER get that close to the edge!” we declared. After about 10 minutes….we were doing the same crazy pictures! We couldn’t help ourselves!! You’re LITERALLY leaning off the edge of this cliff taking pictures. Crazy. We turned crazy…and I’m glad we did!

 

Have you been to Pulpit Rock? Wanna go now? Share your comments  below! I’d love to hear about hikes that you love from your adventures!

Under the Sea with Denmark’s Little Mermaid!

Disney’s The Little Mermaid came to theaters in 1989 and I, like many other kids, fell in love! I’m such a fan that a few years back my sister gave me a mermaid bottle opener for my birthday! Even when my pup, Lilo, was small, I gave her a mermaid toy that she still snuggles with often! We’re all fans in this family!

Since it’s still one of my favorite movies today, I couldn’t wait to go to Copenhagen, Denmark to see the real Little Mermaid from Hans Christian Anderson’s famous book!

Did you know there are actually two Little Mermaids in Copenhagen?? The famous one is a short boat ride away from Nyhavn, along the waterside at the Langelinie promenade. The other is a smaller replica that’s in an outdoor garden in the Carlsberg Brewery. It was actually Carl Jacobson who donated the famous statue in 1913 to the city of Copenhagen!

If you want to see the famous Little Mermaid, you can either walk or take a boat. I recommend doing both! If you walk along with waterside, you’ll have the opportunity to get the best pictures since you’ll be able to get right up on the rocks! (Be careful!! They are very slippery!)

By boat, it’s faster and relaxing, but you won’t get up-close shots since you’re…well…on a boat at a distance!

Traveler Tip: There are LOTS of boat options to choose from at the waterfront canal, Nyhavn. Go with the option that’s 1/2 way down the pier called Kanalrundfart. It’s a bargain compared to the others and just as good!!

 

What I added to my Travel Christmas tree in 2014!!

It’s January 20th and I officially took down my Christmas tree. Finally!! It was such a great tree this year that I just couldn’t box everything up right away and was trying to delay the process as much as possible! My wreath is still up though…so that’ll be a battle for another day!

As most of you know, one of my best pieces of travel advice is “Pick one souvenir and stick with it!” My signature souvenir is collecting an ornament from every state or country I visit. My 2014 Christmas tree was FILLED with new ornaments that I absolutely adored and quite frankly, couldn’t stop talking about! I always forget all the amazing places I’ve been until I put that tree up and I’m instantly filled with joy and accomplishment!

This year I added Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Texas and two new Chicago ornaments (one for the Bean and the other representing a Beluga whale encounter I did at the Shedd Aquarium). I missed an ornament for Savannah, Georgia and I can’t seem to ever remember to grab one from Boston, even though I go multiple times a year!! Maybe 2015 will be my year to get those!

What souvenirs are you getting in 2015? What did you grab from your 2014 adventures?? Make sure to share your travel comments below!

 

Who doesn’t love Brew Tours?? Especially at Carlsberg!

I’ll admit loud and clear, that I’m a gal who loves her beer!! Stouts and Porters are definitely my go-to, but when I’m traveling I just want to taste the local refreshments and see what all the fuss is about. When I was in Ireland, it was the Guinness Storehouse and when I was in Prague, it was a 3-stop free beer tour. A few months ago in Copenhagen, my sister and I decided to check out Carlsberg Brewery.

Travel Tip: Take a cab! We took the Metro and got turned around a few times. Maybe too many beers??

When you first arrive at Carlsberg, head to the Elephant Gate. You’ll see a lot of these signs posted so just follow those and look for “Elefantporten.”

You really can’t miss it! It’s a very tall brick building and at the bottom, it appears as if it’s being supported by four elephants. Each elephant has an initial of Carl Jacobsen’s four children. Neat!

On to the beer tour! You need to find the main entrance/brand store building. Once you walk in, you’ll instantly be hypnotized by all the Carlsberg merchandise you can buy including clothing, magnets, soccer balls and glassware. They even sell the actual beer in ready-to-take cans! Walk up to the sales clerk and buy your ticket to the self-guided tour. They will hand you a fancy sticker and on you go!

Once inside the museum, you’ll see a fascinating timeline of the history of Carlsberg beer. You’ll also get a glimpse of the machinery, delivery vehicles, stables with the famous Jutland horses and even a miniature stature of the Little Mermaid! It’s quite extensive. For more pictures on this part, check out my Carlsberg Brewery Pinterest page.

By far, the most awe-dropping part about this tour was walking up the stairs to a whole floor dedicated to the “World’s Largest Collection of Unopened Beer Bottles.” Seriously people…this is massive!!! Right now, there are 22,346 bottles housed here for you to gawk at. I was even lucky to find a Guinness Stout!

The whole tour took us about 45 minutes, but that’s only because we spend 20 minutes salivating at all the beer bottles mentioned above! It’s fairly quick if you just run from room to room. I do recommend following the timeline and checking out every part of this museum. After the tour, it was time to relax over some delicious Carlsberg beers. You get two free beers with your tour ticket. If you’re lucky, they will have the famous Jutland horse out for you to enjoy!

What brew tours have you been to? Share your stories in the Comment field!