One Weekend in Cardiff…

One Weekend in Cardiff…

If it weren’t for the stiff warm weather and having a heavy-feeling in my legs, I would have said that my 10 mile run through Cardiff the next morning was a great one. It was a 5 mile out-and-back, with the turnaround point being (Cardiff University). Having the roads transition from gravel, to cobblestone, to lawn made my run even more exciting. If the weather had been cooler that morning and my legs less sluggish, I would have run countless laps around this place! 
 
When the rest of the family got ready for the day, we traveled forth to the Opera House building, which was by some other landmark government buildings and statues. They were building a football arena, and so construction zones got in the way of the beauty of the area, but we were only outside for just enough time to walk inside the opera house—to escape the cold and to stop into the gift shop. 
 
The opera house and government buildings in Cardiff.
The opera house and government buildings in Cardiff.
 
And let me tell ya, out of all the souvenir shops we went to on this trip, Wales has some of the best shops with the most unique offerings of tourist trinkets. And of course, I didn’t buy anything, haha!
 
My cousin’s husband is a doctor and had to work in the evening, so he dropped us off at one of the shopping centers in the area.
 
There was a "Kissing Wall" at the cosmetics section of one store!
There was a “Kissing Wall” at the cosmetics section of one store!
 
My cousin took us around to all of the stores that were popular there, like Joe Malone and Cath Kidston.
 
Joe Malone perfumes and Cath Kidston bags
Joe Malone perfumes and Cath Kidston bags
 
The Cath Kidston store especially caught my eye because it reminded me of a mix between Vera Bradley and Betsey Johnson. We didn’t buy anything at these retail stores since my cousin assured us we could go to the outlet mall later and probably get better deals.
 
Shopping!
Shopping!

We did end up going to the outlet mall, and while I did find a shirt to my liking from a British brand (only 10 pounds, yay!), the winning store was the Cadbury’s Outlet. We were able to stop by a few minutes before closing, but I was overwhelmed by all of the chocolate…I seriously could have bought the whole store because it was two years of my childhood ;( .

We made a stop at Sainsbury’s a grocery store chain in the U.K., to pick up some items for making a veggie-friendly British breakfast in the morning. My sis and I had fun walking down the aisles with the girls, talking about our favorite ice creams and which products we wish we had in the US.

They were also giving free Lego trading cards with every $10 purchase and of course the girls were already collecting them. When we got to the counter for check out, the cashier handed them a packet that was supposed to have four cards. When they only found three in their pack as we were leaving the store , Little P remarked that “This whole thing was a scam”. Maybe I’m biased because they are family, but I was so impressed by how sharp and perceptive the girls were!

When we got back home, we quickly changed into pjs and relaxed in the living room, enjoying Muffin’s antics. My cousin had already prepped dinner (chappatis and all the fixin’s) and after eating, we decided to watch a movie. Our movie night choice wound up being The Arrival with Amy Adams, but I was disappointed (and confused, lol) especially since the ending had been hyped up by the media. I went to bed soon after (around midnight), and quickly fell into the kind of sleep you can only fall into after a busy but lighthearted day with loved ones.

–β™₯–

The next morning I woke up incredibly sore. My back and arms felt like they were going through DOMS, even though I didn’t do any strenuous workouts with those parts of my body the day before. I was so tired that I decided not to run that morning. After taking a shower, I went downstairs and hung out with Little M. She was showing off her subjects workbook and we went through some writing exercises together.

Then my Dad offered to show her how to make mashed poh-tay-toes and she went nuts! Her mashing, scooping and presentation skills were on point, but my Dad forgot to add one ingredient and so she had to take it all out of the pan again. She was happy all the while though!

{Veggie} British Breakfast
{Veggie} British Breakfast

Our British breakfast included veggie sausages and tomatoes, buttered toast, scrambled eggs, seasoned button mushrooms, baked beans, and potato mash. After consuming our feast, we immediately got on our feet and headed for the car, just so that we wouldn’t fall asleep from a food coma! A hike at Ystrafallte was our plan for the day, and we had to put these carbs to work πŸ˜‰ !

The drive was a bumpy and windy one due to the roads, but we were entertained by sheep (finally!) along the way.

sheep
Peep at that sheep!

We parked near a little inn and restaurant, and then found a map of some of the best paths to follow to find the waterfalls.

Ystrafallte
Ystradfellte

To be honest, we weren’t prepared to walk on those paths…at least I wasn’t! I didn’t pack any sturdy hiking boots, and I was walking in my platform sneakers. Every step was made with hesitation, haha!

Into the woods, like a fairytale.
Into the woods, like a fairytale.

We did make it to one of the (closer) waterfalls in one piece, and stopped to rest while taking in the natural beauty.

There were some people down below us, almost inside the waterfall!
There were some people down below us, almost inside the waterfall!

The girls were having fun climbing over some smaller rocks, but when someone suggested we head back, there was no retaliation. The hike back up was hard though, I was holding onto my Dad’s hand for dear life, haha!

When we got back to the car, we drove to a beach that had a carnival set-up and all of the beach food you could think of—we indulged in ice cream and chips with curry sauce, and then went for a walk on the sand.

beah carnival
Coney Beach? Mimicking Coney Island is the way to go here πŸ˜‰

It started to sprinkle a little bit, so we got back in the car and headed home to rest/freshen up for a proper dinner out. Between the British breakfast and the carnival eats, you’d think eating is the only thing we do as a family, but who’d complain about that?

Las Iguanas was our dinner destination, a South American food restaurant that reminded me of Chevy’s back in the States.

Las Iguanas Quinoa Ensalada
Las Iguanas Quinoa Ensalada

For my meal, I chose to get the Quinoa Ensalada, described as a dense salad with “quinoa, black beans, sweet potato & charred corn with molho Γ  campanha salsa served on top of crushed avocado with a cranberry & chilli salsa & roquito pepper drops. Topped with purple Peruvian potato crisps & sprinkled with fresh coriander.”

iguanas
Quinoa Ensalada πŸ₯— from Las Iguanas 🦎 last night. Totally beats anything I’ve ever gotten at a chain Mexican/Spanish/Tex-Mex (or the like) restaurant, and I’m additionally surprised that I didn’t fall alsleep in it after trekking YstradfellteπŸ’§!

It came out tasting as delicious as it sounded. The cranberry and chilli salsa with pepper drops were my favorite part. And of course the purple potato crisps!

When dinner ended, a tinge of sadness came over me because I knew that our blissful weekend was about to come to a close…our trip was pretty much almost over too! We still had one more day in London and then we were off to France, but the weekend in Wales was hands down the best part of the whole journey. Reconnecting with family—no matter where they are—is bound to turn into a good time had πŸ™‚

What are some activities you like to do at large family gatherings?

Las Iguanas - Cardiff Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Welsh Country

Welsh Country

Going into this Europe trip, I honestly didn’t think much of Wales as more than where my cousin and her family lives. We used to live in the U.K., and we actually did visit Wales when I was younger. I remember having a shirt from Wales with a bunch of cartoon sheep on it. It was one of my all-time favorite t-shirts.

On a Friday morning, we caught the Great Western Railway (GWR) from Paddington Station. It was easy to board, except we had to make it exactly on time. It’s not like Amtrak where they’ll wait for an extra fifteen minutes after the actual departure time before leaving…

At Paddington Station
At Paddington Station

Fortunately we caught our train, and settled in for the three hour ride. I was asleep for most of the ride (of course), but when we got to Wales, everything looked so bright and cheerful compared to the dreary gray and smoggy London we left that morning. I’m not sure why, but I just felt happier looking at the scenery. Signs in Welsh started popping up as we made our way through the Cardiff station.

When we saw our cousin, we immediately went into hug mode. It had seriously been SO long (like seventeen years…). She and her husband picked us up, and we made our way back to their house.

Welsh Land
Welsh Land

The roads, highways, rolling hills, and architecture is the houses were so amazing. It was like walking through a suburb with a strong Medieval history.

Our cousin had lunch prepared, and afterwards she, my sister, and I went to pick up her younger daughter from primary school. Imagine a peppy and petite Desi girl short enough to be five, but is actually eight, with a thick Welsh accent and that’s Little M. She came out in her uniform, saw us, and became very bashful. Her mom was like “Oh, so now you’re quiet!” She did open up to us soon enough though!

At home, we met my cousin’s older daughter, who I’ll refer to as Little P. She presented herself as quiet, but was very polite. We were all then introduced to Muffin, the baby of the family.

Just look at those adorable eyes...
Just look at those adorable eyes…

Apparently, her sibling won the title of “Best Pug in Wales”. Go figure.

The plan for the evening was to go for an hour drive west to the cliffs in Swansea. The car ride was absolute fun since the girls were so full of energy. They took a particular liking to my sister, especially Little M.

Drive to the cliffs
Drive to the cliffs

We parked near a lush green cliff and saw sheep not too far from us. The girls jumped out and ran manically towards them and the sheep bounded just as fast. It was a funny sight for sure. Near the cliffs was The Worms Head Hotel/Pub, we found a table out back, and ordered some plates of garlic bread and chips.

chipsandfries
Garlic Bread & Chips

Little M was adorably hyper, and would not stop chatting. We couldn’t help but laugh, even though her parents told her to calm down a bit for the consideration of others. I could see others were smiling though.

We didn’t go down to the cliffs, but we walked for a bit after, down a gravel-packed trail. There were a bunch of dogs, and the girls had to pet them all. When we got back to the car, it was almost 8pm but we just had to stop at Verdi’s Ice Cream before going home.

Verdi's Ice Cream Parlour
Verdi’s Ice Cream Parlour

Verdi’s was by the water, near a dock with a bunch of boats.

Mumbles, Swansea
Mumbles, Swansea

It was getting chilly, but it wasn’t too cold to deny ice cream. My cousin recommended the Turkish Delight ice cream, and I eagerly jumped at the chance to try a new ice cream flavor. It ended up being a winner for me.

Turkish Delight Ice Cream
Turkish Delight Ice Cream

The ride back was more quiet, since the girls fell asleep, but drive back while the sun was setting was a gorgeous sight indeed. Watching Wales turn down for the night only emphasized to me how magical this place was.

This weekend was certainly going to be a great one.

Have you ever visited Wales?

Verdi's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Afternoon, London!

Afternoon, London!

I wanted to leave London having had (vegan) fish and chips, but that just wasn’t in he cards this time. When we left for Covenant Garden after leaving the London Eye, we were dragging our feet just to get to food. 
 
I was hoping we could have sat down at Coaches & Horses, but when we arrived in the late afternoon, they were closed until dinner. Since we were so ravenous, we were ready to just sit down to anything at that point.
 
Good thing Dishoom was around the corner. I remember bookmarking it on Instagram, in case we ever came by it during our visit in London.
 
Dishoom in Covent Garden
Dishoom in Covent Garden

And it wasn’t such a bad back-up! We saw it was packed on the top main floor, and so we agreed to go to the basement level for more cozier accommodations. We ended up getting appetizers (samosas), Pav Bhaji (bread and a tomato-based sauce), a Roti Roll, and Vada Pau.

menu
Mmmm…getting my “chips fix” with Vada Pau
chutney and samosa
Samosas and chutney

And some raitha (yogurt) to cool off our tastebuds with after the main meal.

The spread.
The spread.

I wasn’t too blown away by the food, perhaps because I was expecting my plate to be fuller and filling. The Vada Pau was a fair mix of sweet and spicy, but where were the chips? It was like we were sharing a bunch of snack plates, haha!

After finishing our food, we continued our tourist trek and headed towards the House of Parliament. I was blown away by how grand a government building looked! Then there was the Buckingham Palace…

[Top] Is that a building where people work or a palace? [Bottom] Yeah, this is actually a palace?
[Top] Is that a building where people work or a palace? [Bottom] Yeah, this is actually a palace?

At this point, my legs were really giving out and I was feeling sheer exhaustion. My Dad and sis went on to check out London Bridge, but I had to rest my legs. Listening to my body again meant sitting on a bench in the middle of the city, people-watching in a foreign land. It was actually kind of fun, and, I think, just as cultural as hopping from landmark to landmark.

The three of us met back up again in the evening, but decided to forgo dinner out and instead head back to the hotel after stopping for some food at Waitrose to bring back. I was happy to find and indulge in some British grocery treats—like Turkish Delight and Oppo Ice Cream!

Turkish Delight :)
Turkish Delight πŸ™‚

^ THIS is absolutely one of my favorite candies/chocolates ever. The filling is like jelly and has a strong, rosy scent. The chocolate shell is thin, so it’s all about the gel.

Oppo Mint Choc Swirl Ice Cream
Oppo Mint Choc Swirl Ice Cream

I was happy to be able to try a pint of Oppo on this trip! It’s like the British equivalent of Enlightened pints! The base was a creamy mint with thick chocolate swirls and splashes of caramel. Eating this while watching the British version of HGTV was the best way to relax at the end of our exciting, but exhausting day!

Look at that chunk 'o' swirl!
Look at that chunk ‘o’ swirl!

In the morning, we would be off to Wales! So all rest, and any rest, was welcome!

Do you have a back-up plan of things to see if one thing doesn’t work out?

‘Ello London!

‘Ello London!

We left for London bright (oh so bright…) and early on a Wednesday. There wasn’t time for a decent breakfast so I had some coffee and then helped pack all of our luggage into the car. The hour drive back to KEF seemed to go by quickly, perhaps due to the fact I pretty much dozed off for a good portion of the drive. Actually, I woke up right as we were pulling into Avis. 
 
Going through security was a chore. They took my bag for “examination”, but literally only took a piece of paper to “swipe” it, and then let me go. I guess I couldn’t have been be too surprised by this happening, considering the things going on, but I just found it very odd and unnecessary to hold up my time for no explicit reason. 
 
After making our way through Duty Free, we found our gate. We were flying with EasyJet, a British-based airline that had a very retro feel. The inside of the plane was literally transplanted from the 1970s. 
 
Before boarding, I had to do something about my gnawing stomach. Snacks were going to cost us on this flight, so I picked up a European candy bar to try. 
 
Lion candy bar!
Lion candy bar!
 
This Lion bar had a thick chocolate coating, nougat, and crunchy nut pieces. It could have totally been a breakfast bar…I mean, you’ve got your nuts…and then chocolate and caramel for taste πŸ˜‰ 
 
The flight was about 3 hours long, and my face was getting more oily by the minute. I arrived in London in much more of a tired-looking state than when I arrived in Iceland! 
 
We flew into Gatwick, and from there took an express train into London.
 
Gatwick Express
Gatwick Express
 
When we got off, we found a black cab to take us through the city up north to West Hampstead. What should have only been a ten minute drive took almost an hour due to traffic. With the heat, humidity, and dust, it was pretty tortuous. 
 
Seen on my ride.
Seen on my ride.
 
Good thing there were enough landmarks and people to watch to keep us somewhat distracted during our drive. 
 
We stayed at a hotel in the area for our first two nights in London. For dinner, we didn’t want to travel too far so we walked a few blocks over into the food/shopping neighborhood of West Hampstead. 
 
West Hampstead, London
West Hampstead, London
 
We were about to have Lebanese, but then I spotted Nando’s from afar. I had been wanting to go there since learning their only US locations were on the east coast and Illinois. Funny thing was, Nando’s practically ruled the U.K.—it was pretty much in every neighborhood! 
 
Nando's menu
Nando’s menu
 
There were a good amount of veggie options to choose from. I went for the quinoa salad topped with feta crumbles. My sis and dad got veggie and portobello mushrooms.
 
Nando's famous sauces.
Nando’s famous sauces.
 
My sister also got a side of mash that we were all intrigued by. My dad even asked one of the employees if he could know what was in it and they brought over a recipe book!
 
Yum, yum, YUM!
Yum, yum, YUM!
 
I was a fan of the halloumi cheese, and gobbled up the leftovers of my Dad and sis. 
 
β™₯
 
The next morning, I decided to go for a run, even though I knew the weather wasn’t going to be the best…and of course, it wasn’t. I ran 9 miles, but the entire my time my legs felt heavy, I was sweating profusely, and I was craving water. I can’t imagine how London runners do it, but if I ever want to live here in the future, I have to keep this in mind…
 
Running through hot and muggy London in the morning!
Running through hot and muggy London in the morning!
 
I made it back in one piece, quickly showered and got ready, and then headed out with my Dad and sis. We took a double decker bus into the heart of the city since a stop was near our hotel. We got off on Bond Street, and found a Selfridges to walk into. 
 
Selfridges Food Hall!
Selfridges Food Hall!
 
I headed straight towards the Food Hall, but had no idea what to get given the food stalls present. Ultimately, we decided to pick out some things from a bakery in the corner right near the entrance. Honestly, I wanted EVERYTHING. 
 
Oh. my. what. to. choose.
Oh. my. what. to. choose.
 
I was able to pick out one thing for myself, while my Dad and sis split a huge loaf of olive focaccia and a mini cake. My heart was full just looking at the pink-glazed, pistachio-topped chouxnut that lay before me. The texture was chewy,  and the cream filling had a vanilla flavor. My only regret was that it was tiny, and it was gone within a handful of bites. 
 
Strawberry and pistachio chouxnut
Strawberry and pistachio chouxnut
 
After breakfast at Selfridges, we began our tourist adventures. Our first stop was Trafalgar Square, and we made it there successfully via the Tube. If there’s one thing I learned from this trip, it’s to “mind the gap”, haha! 
 
When we reached TS, my Dad immediately noticed how there was a scarcity of pigeons. Apparently they used to rule the grounds, but there wasn’t one in sight. Also, there are a number of Bollywood movies that have had the romantic meeting of hero/heroine here. 
 
What pigeons?
What pigeons?
 
After taking some touristy pics of statues and next to them, we decided to go inside the National Gallery since it was right there. I was feeling very exhausted, and my legs felt super sore, so I sat out the exploration part. I was also very hungry, and found it was best to listen to my body even if it meant “missing out on art and culture”. 
 
But I was embracing the culture, in a way, by snacking on these U.K.-based Nakd Bites. I was expecting crunchier pieces, but each mini bite was soft and flavorful! I tried Coconut Bliss and Salted Caramel, both of which were rich in their respective flavors.
 
Nakd Nibbles
Nakd Nibbles
 
When my Dad and sis were done, our next destination was the London Eye. We were able to get advance tickets and save some time not standing in line. Ultimately, this spot is hyped up more than it should be. It was like riding on the slowest ferris wheel ever. The views were great, but the constant Coca-Cola plug wasn’t. 
 
London Eye
London Eye
 
When we reached the ground again, the three of us were more than ready for a late lunch. Out lunch plans turned out different than planned, but we ended up making a very popular choice in the end…
 
London: love, hate, or indifferent ?

Nando's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Iceland, Day 2

Iceland, Day 2

Once we were well rested, we were ready to head out for dinner. We had to stop by another store, similar to Target or Wal-Mart, but the name started with a “H” and now I can’t remember it. Of course, it was hard to find anything under 10,000 Kroner ($10 USD), and even essentials like travel size shampoo, milk, and eggs seemed like pricey purchases. When in Iceland I suppose…

Before coming to Iceland, I didn’t think there would be too many vegetarian/vegan options around, but to my surprise, there were quite a number! Kaffi Vinyl got a lot of rave reviews, and I thought we should check it out sometime during our visit, and avoid any chance of missing out.

kaffi
Kaffi Vinyl

The cafe had a hipster vibe for sure. Everyone working and sitting down looked like they came straight outta Berkeley, haha.

kv
A hipster vibe here…

Even though the decor and ambience made me feel like I was back in Nor Cal, the food (and price tag) did not. The burger, noodle dish, and quinoa salad we ordered were familiar in name but with an Icelandic twist.

noodlesquin_Oa
Pad Thai and Quinoa Salad of some sort. Packed with veggie-based protein!

My burger was full in size and rich in flavor. It also came with a side of generously salted sweet potato fries.

kaffi__
“Dinner in Iceland was just as good too. Pricey, but oh so delicious! My meal was a black bean/quinoa burger topped with pickles, grilled pineapple, blueberry jam, and spicy kimchi sauce. Vegan in Iceland is definitely doable πŸ‘ŒπŸ½ πŸ”πŸŒ±”

After dinner, we walked around the city center again, going by souvenir shops before closing, and checking out the HallgrΓ­mskirkja church, apparently the tallest building (or it was?) in Iceland. It got chilly really quickly, so we immediately chose to head back to the BNB to get warm and get some shut eye.

β™₯

Our second day in Iceland started bright, but not too early. We struggled to make the room dark once 10pm the previous night hit. The sun didn’t set until 11pm and rose again around 3am…poor Icelandic people and their circadian rhythms!

I wanted to stay cozy under some blankets while sipping on Senseo coffee, but I decided to go out for a 5 mile run to get a feel for the landscape, and to shake out my legs from the previous tow days of exhausting travel. That morning, we also learned about the horrible attack in Manchester, and were a little bit concerned since we were flying to London the next day. Getting out for some fresh air certainly helped ease the anxiety.

We were lucky to have picked out an Airbnb that was so close to lush green hills and a walking/horse riding/running path that surrounded a clear body of water. My legs felt super heavy, but I pushed through and was able to do some intervals in Iceland, haha!

When I got back, my Dad and sis were ready to hit the road and I quickly got ready. Our first stop for the day was exploring Grotta. We were hoping to stumble across a hot spring during our trip, and according to the map this location was closest to the city.

Grotta was an expansive green and brown grassland, with a rocky path towards the lighthouse. There was a sign that prohibited walkers from crossing, but we went anyway. We saw some rebellious tourists climb over the rope, and we followed suit.

iceland1
Rocky in Grotta

We were successful in pinning down the lighthouse, but there was no hot spring in sight. It was a bummer, but we were hungry enough to move on from our disappointment.

iceland2
Lush, windy pastures

We ended up back at the Reykjavik city center for lunch. Honestly, it’s the most happening place in the city so it was no surprise we were back here again. We found a cheaper eatery in Noodle Station.

iceland4
Noodle Station

18 Kroner for two veggie pho bowls. Nice!

iceland3
Veggie Pho!

We were quickly warmed up and ready to head back outside. My sis and Dad accompanied me to a fish spa so I could check that off my list, haha! I’ve read so many reviews and articles about fish spas, and knowing that they are illegal in the US, I knew I’d only get the chance to go to one when traveling internationally.

This spa was owned by a gentleman who took extra care in making sure conditions were absolutely sanitary—especially for the fish! The walls were painted a deep purple and tranquil music was playing in the background.

I first had to wash my feet, then add some disinfectant to my skin before stepping into a tank. I then sat back while the fish got to work. And since it was my first time, the owner recommended I spend my 20 minutes with the baby fish.

fishs pa
Get to work fishies!

It was ticklish at first, but then I got used to it. I read about how some people had uncontrollable laughter the whole time because of how sensitive they are—I just held it in by smiling the whole time. Finally, my callouses runner’s feet were getting some RNR πŸ˜›

The three of us still wanted to see a hot spring before leaving, and so after my session with the fishes, we thought we’d head to see The Geysir, a part of the Golden Circle. It was an hour drive from Reykjavik, and we left around 3pm. I knew we were going to be tired as soon as we got there, but that comes with the territory of traveling! We tried to also keep on the lookout for sheep, since Iceland is famous for livestock roaming around the hills and trotting along countryside roads. We saw some in the distance, and the sheep stayed put.

We parked in front of the visitor’s center and upon stepping out so wanted to go back in the car and turn the heater on full blast. I was too sensitized by Cali weather—40 degrees Fahrenheit was just too much! I was able to get a warm cup of cappuccino and hold onto that to “trick” myself into thinking I was warm. Then we were able to walk towards the Geysir.

geysir
Geysers along the way…

There were smaller springs along the way, but we knew the one of interest was blocked off by rope and had a group of tourists anxiously waiting for it to erupt. We were waiting for at least twenty minutes, and literally after I said “this is getting ridiculous”, it erupted and splashed in our direction, causing the three of us to flee in different directions. It was a funny sight for sure.

statue
Funny/weird statue at a gas station on the way back to Reykjavik.

We called it quits after that and from there, drove an hour back to Reykjavik. I would intermittently fall asleep during the ride, but immediately perked up when we got to the city. For dinner, I gave a list of places for my sister to decide and she picked Kaffihaus Vesturbaejar.

kaffihaus
Getting cozy at Kaffihaus Vesturbaejar

When we parked outside, my Dad was like, “not another hipster place” and I was like, “Dad, I can’t control how these vegan-food serving places run their business!” But we were all pretty hungry so our restaurant style preferences took a backseat to what food was offered/what we could eat there!

burger
“After a day of trekking to the Grotta lighthouse, a fish spa treatment for my calloused runner’s feet (can finally check that one off the list 😁🐟), and a long drive to visit The Geysir, the fam and I were able to relax at Kaffihus Vesturbaejar, and split two “Veganbogaris” πŸ”πŸŒ± and fries 🍟 among the three of us. This was honestly my favorite meal of the Icelandic leg of our trip so far—just enough food and a pretty presentation πŸ’•”

We pretty much had one option—the Veganbogari. We got two and split them between the three of us. The portions were as perfect as the crispy exterior of the potato wedges that were served alongside the burgers. The creamy green aioli sauce was also perfection.

We drove back with full bellies and content with that we explored of Iceland. It was by no means an epic outdoor adventure, camping in the arctic tundra for days on end, but I feel it was a good introductory visit to one of the Scandinavian lands.

I won’t deny however that I was more than ready for London!

Have you ever visited Iceland (or Greenland)?

First Stop, Iceland!

First Stop, Iceland!

Our European adventure began on a Sunday morning, with a stop for bagels before heading to the airport. My Dad had a rental since we used it to move my sister’s stuff, so before heading over to our terminal, we dropped it off and took the shuttle from there.

Checking in and security was surprisingly not too bad! TSA Pre does have it’s advantages…since our first leg was a domestic flight to JFK Airport in NYC.

Our flight was about six hours long, but on Jet Blue, so we were set, haha. Once we landed, we realized we had to walk over to another terminal and go through security again (this time, a much more tedious process), before being able to find something to eat.

Options for food at JFK’s international terminal are all things mediocre and mundane. We ended up getting personal pizzas and a salad to “get our greens in”. It took about an hour between dinner and finally boarding on Icelandic Air.

When we did board, we were handed cute water bottles with the top part of the bottle shaped like a glacier. And the music playing was very Enya-like.

Glacier bottle?
Glacier bottle?

There were no free inflight meals or snacks, but we came prepared with our own. I mostly slept for the majority of the flight, so hunger wasn’t a huge issue. We reached Reykjavik (actually Keflavik) by morning.

Upon landing, we had to exit out of the side of the plane (in the cold…) and board a bus to take us to the airport. After going through immigration and collecting our luggage, we were able to grab a rental and head out on Icelandic roads.

Everything looked so dreary and foggy, but overall it actually felt quite peaceful. It was an hour drive from the KEF airport to Reykjavik proper, but we knew we were in “civilization” upon seeing large warehouses and more traffic.

The address to our Airbnb was so short, I was surprised Google Maps didn’t come back with an error message. We weren’t too trepiditious about the apartment we would be staying in once we got settled in.

Airbnb digs.
Airbnb digs.

Yeah the bathroom was tiny, but the rooms were simple, clean, and our host left us a good number of blankets on the sofa so we wouldn’t get cold. Plus, I think tiny bathrooms are part of the whole European living experience, haha.

After freshening up, we got in our rental and drove to the city center. It was freezing cold, and I wanted to make sure we knew exactly where our coffee/breakfast destination was before getting out of the car! Good thing we parked in front of Reykjavik Roasters.

Reykjavik Roasters
Reykjavik Roasters

It was like walking into someone’s kitchen/garage. Half of the space had a bakery counter and tables, while the other half was “storage” for large bags of coffee beans.

coffee
Eclectic decor, eclectic people
roasters
Bread and baked goods πŸ™‚

We first realized Iceland was pricey when we saw that the coffee would be 800 Kroner…$8 USD for a single cup of coffee. It was sticker shock for sure, but we knew we’d only be here for two days so we put up with it. Along with coffee, we split some fresh nut bread with cheese and jam, a cinnamon scone, and a coffee “jogart” parfait topped with honey and almonds.

Icelandic breakfast
Icelandic breakfast

Everything tasted so fresh and warm, and even though I was the one that had the coffee jogart, I gobbled up my piece and leftover crumbs left from the scone.

After our authentic coffee break, we walked a couple blocks towards the water. There was a huge walking path that was carved alongside the water, hugged by rocks. Walkers, runners, and photographers could all be seen walking along the trail.

icelandddddddddddd
A glimpse of Icelandic coast

We stopped to take pictures along the way, including one of what we thing is an abstract sculpture of a viking’s ship.

Before heading back to the apartment for a few hours of rest, we stopped at a shopping mall called Kringlan to see if we could grab some snacks that weren’t, uh, so pricey in comparison to the morning’s meal…

kringlan
Kringlan

We stepped inside a store similar to the dollar store, and came out with nothing since everything for sale was extremely overpriced for what it’s actually worth. It left me wondering, are Icelandic people just richer than the rest of us? Or is it really that much of a struggle to live here?

1500kroner
An expensive fish pilow

We felt more justified buying food, and when we entered Bonus, an Icelandic-based grocery store, we were able to make it out alive with our wallets not undergoing a huge drop in weight, haha!

bonus!
Oh hello Nutella!

After our purchases, we were able to rest up, and then head out again for dinner—at Kaffi Vinyl! More on that in the next one πŸ™‚

Moving Out, Flying Out

Moving Out, Flying Out

My sister’s graduation fell on a Friday and we felt like there was so much to do in so little time! While I went out for a long run at Woodward Park, my Dad drove over to my sister’s dorm to help her finish up with packing. Our close friend also came down for the weekend, and helped out.

After my run, I showered and got ready to meet everyone for brunch. My sister wanted it to be at Benaddiction since that has been her all-time favorite place in Fresno since we both discovered it during one of my earlier visits. We caught up quickly and laughed a lot. The restaurant was already pretty loud so it was no big deal. My friend and sis got their usual favorites while I got a simple potato plate. I also had some of mint chocolate chip pancakes they just had to order…

After brunch, I left with my Dad and the both of us went back to the Airbnb while my sister got ready for the ceremony. We met her and my friend again about an hour before, and my sister left us all to join her class.

After looking at the program though, we were dreading how long everything was going to take…My sister’s major was one of the first ones to step up though, so we didn’t have to wait too long for her to get her spotlight πŸ™‚

After the ceremony, it was blazing hot outside (still…) and I wanted to just head back and cool off but of course we had to take pictures. I headed back with my sister and friend since I was staying in the dorm for the night.

We rested for a bit before making plans to head out to The Cheesecake Factory. It was going to be a late dinner, but surprisingly, not as packed as you’d think it would be on a graduation day.

We met up with another one of my sister’s friends who graduated with a degree in Communications. After dinner (and drinks for some, haha), we were back at the dorm around 10:30. My sister’s friend from lab came over with some friends, and by the time it was 11:30, there were seven people packed into a tiny dorm room. It was a hilarious sight…something I probably would have found humorous at the time if my eyes weren’t so droopy. I retired for the night earlier than everyone else and slept like a baby!

The next day was a day full of packing and driving. We left Fresno mid-morning and got to Irvine around 5pm, and had to quickly catch the sales clerk at the public storage facility my sister was keeping her things for the summer. We had to climb a flight of stairs to unload her stuff into, and by the time we were done, we were all ready to eat before heading back to my place to rest for the night.

Veggie Grill sounded perfect, and we were able to head to the one at The Market Place…a HUGE outdoor mall/shopping complex in Irvine.

Veggie Grill, The Market Place
Veggie Grill, The Market Place
-
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I wanted to try a seasonal menu item, and the Tofu Poke Bowl seemed like it would be nourishing and flavorful.

Spring seasonal menu!
Spring seasonal menu!

It looked small at first glance, but the flavors were anything but. The rice was sticky and filling (sushi rice!), and along with the pickled cucumbers, avocado, edamame, and tofu cubes, this dish certainly was satisfying.

Tofu Poke Bowl
Tofu Poke Bowl
Sparkle!
Sparkle!

After eating, we had another 40 minutes on the road before arriving in Santa Monica. The drive back wasn’t too hectic, as we weren’t in a race against the clock to see if we could beat the closing time of a storage place. Once we got back to my place, the three of us started arranging our things and emotionally preparing ourselves for our Trans-Atlantic journey the next day—we were hours away from adopting the title of “Tourists” for the next two weeks!

Off to Graduation!

Off to Graduation!

The first of my long series of travel posts—starting off with the days of my sister’s graduation weekend, and then the good stuff from Europe πŸ™‚ ! Enjoy!!

Graduation weekend came upon me so quickly! I still have at least two years to go for my PhD, but my sister is finally done with undergrad!

I was working till the last minute on Thursday afternoon before leaving for my two weeks off. My dad picked me up from campus, and the plan was for both of us to drive up to Fresno to see my sister and possibly help her with packing.

Everytable
Everytable

Before hitting the road, I introduced E to my Dad and we had lunch at a small but convenient place called a Everytable. I had been wanting to check it out for a while, and since we were running short on time trying to drive up to Fresno, it seemed like a good choice.

l
Grab a bowl,
sit down, and eat!

I was expecting more than salad bowls to be offered, and was slightly disappointed not to see some noodle or rice salads in the display. But for what I did choose (Kale Caesar Salad), the taste and texture wasn’t too bad! My salad came with Parmesan crisps to be used as a topping, and the additional crunch was a perfect touch.

Pretty good salad...
Pretty good salad…

We left around 2pm after dropping E back in lab. The three hour drive up wasn’t too hectic. We were battling LA traffic of course, at least until Santa Clarita, but once we were on the road time seemed to fly by. We stopped for coffee midway, and made it to Fresno by 6. My Dad and I were staying in an Airbnb for the night and checked in there first.

Before heading out to dinner, we thought to check in on my sister. She had plans with some friends that night but we were able to meet with her briefly and helped with some clean-up amidst her packing “mess”.

For dinner, we headed out to a place called Tofas Grill, since it was conveniently right next to a Wal-Mart. We planned to stop there to pick up some gift and greeting cards.

Tofas in Fresno
Tofas in Fresno

They offered a ton on their menu, but the only decent vegetarian option was a ginormous vegetarian plate.

Lots written down but not really much to offer...
Lots written down but not really much to offer…
They did have ample seating though!
They did have ample seating though!

The falafel was too dry for my liking though…

Falafel, salads, hummus, pita...the usual.
Falafel, salads, hummus, pita…the usual.
Looks good and appetizing, but the falafel was too dry...
Looks good and appetizing, but the falafel was too dry…

At least the pita was soft and made up for it? Can’t deny that it was a filling dish though!

After stopping by Wal-Mart for some gift cards and greeting cards, my Dad and I came back to our Airbnb and I went to sleep right away. I had to get in my last long run before my marathon in San Diego on June 4th, and it was all about fitting it in into this time of excitement and change!

Do you feel mostly excited or nervous before “good” change is about to happen?

Everytable Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pending Travel

Pending Travel

This post was written weeks ago, but with all the traveling I’ve been doing and no time to sit down and post, here it finally is with no edits to verb tense, haha!

These past two weeks have been on hyperdrive! Even my efforts in running seemed to be sub-par in comparison to my performance in previous weeks. Stress has been subconsciously hitting me I guess!

I’ve been scrambling putting together stuff at work, as well as prepping for two weeks of international travel. I haven’t packed yet (no surprise) but I do have a list going. Things are going to be coming back-to-back with no pause in between—sister’s graduation, traveling in Europe, my marathon in San Diego—this time off seems to be like it’s a lot more work than intended.

Salted Caramel Cluster...it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete πŸ˜‹ #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta πŸ˜‰
Salted Caramel Cluster…it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete πŸ˜‹ #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta πŸ˜‰

But hopefully the payoff is good. I’m anxious-excited about seeing my cousin, whom I haven’t seen in 17 years, and her 13 and 9 year old daughters I haven’t met yet, at all!

I went to the Westfield mall in Culver City last weekend with E to shop for said daughters. My cousin enlightened me on what they would really like as gifts and I was ready to have fun with it. I bought the younger one two cute dresses from Old Navy and The Children’s Place. I remember my wardrobe was literally all TCP from ages 7-10, and I was taller-than-average for my age lol.

Gifts!
I come with gifts!

For the older daughter, I got two pieces from Hollister…hard to believe (or is it?) that the brand is still popular among teens. Man, I remember feeling SO much unspoken peer pressure to wear Hollister and Abercrombie, haha.

After buying some chocolates from Target, and a cookie butter jar from Trader Joe’s (which I’m hoping they’ll love since Trader Joe’s isn’t available in Wales!), E and I decided to take a lunch break at the happening food court.

I spotted Bibigo down the walkway, and headed towards it while E went next door to Burger King.

Bibigo, Westfield Culver City
Bibigo, Westfield Culver City

A nice, warm veggie bowl with cool toppings sounded so appetizing at the time. So for my base, I had a bowl with salad greens. On top of that went pickled veggies like onions and slaw, and of course kimchi.

Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!
Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!

To finish it off, warm tofu cubes added a nice touch along with seaweed flakes. Even a guy who was behind me in line commented on how good it looked, haha.

A fantastic creation.
A fantastic creation.

The bowl was just filling enough to get my energy spent from shopping back up, and to power me to get back home. E and I had a fun bus ride back to the train station, and from there I traveled my usual commute home.

Couldn't resist snapping this pic of my city <3
Couldn’t resist snapping this pic of my city <3

It was too late to take a nap when I got home, but I tried to turn in early enough so that I could catch up on some sleep. At least it was a productive day overall though!

Do you like planning for trips?

May’s Degustabox

May’s Degustabox

May’s Degustabox contained a lot of surprises, many of which got me excited about my trip to Europe that was at the end of the month. There were a balanced amount of snackables, condiments, and other meal prep items that would be fun to try out and incorporate into my weekly meals.

May's DegustaBox
May’s DegustaBox

I loved the Soy Yay Sauces that were included in past boxes, and this Asian Mesquite BBQ Sauce included. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and it definitely has a smoky flavor. The consistency is thick (just how I like my sauce/marinades!) and along with topping on my crockpot veggie bowls, I used it to flavor some otherwise plain tofu shiritake noodles one night.

Flavorful sauce!
Flavorful sauce!
Flavoring otherwise bland noodles!
Flavoring otherwise bland noodles!

The sauce also paired well with this Wild Harvest grain rice that was also shipped in this month’s box. I only had to microwave a serving with just enough water to hold and provide a medium for heating/cooking the rice. After everything was cooked and warmed up enough, I added a serving of Soy Yay and the flavor profile was enhanced. It was like I had sticky or curry rice or something.

Wild Harvest rice cooked with Soy Vey's BBQ Sauce
Wild Harvest rice cooked with Soy Vey’s BBQ Sauce

I also happened to think it made a nice combo with the La Tortilla Factory white corn tortillas. The tortillas were firm, chewy, and a true mix between a corn and white flour regular tortilla: the size and compact characteristics of a corn tortilla mixed with the soft chewiness of a white flour tortilla.

La Tortilla
La Tortilla White Corn and Wheat Tortillas

Barilla also had some featured products in this box. Yes, there was a box of Farfalle and a small bottle of a beautiful green colored pesto, but I didn’t get a chance to try them out yet. I made it a priority to try out two products from their Mulino Bianco line.

Pasta and pesto
Pasta and pesto

These Galletti cookies were actually shortbreads, and featured a rooster emblem with scattered sugar crystals on the surface. They melt in your mouth, but they are pretty dry, though lightly sweet. Would have paired well with a coffee or English tea.

Shortbreads with little roosters on them :)
Shortbreads with little roosters on them πŸ™‚

I absolutely loved the Sfilati breadsticks. They offered a great crunch, savory tomato flavor, and were such a warm, eye-catching color. I added them to a crockpot veggie bowl one night and things were taken to the next level for sure.

sfilati
Sfilati
IMG_0438
CRUNCH!

Last month’s box of oatmeal was a feature from Better Oats, but this month’s box was from Pure Grain. The flavor was just plain/original, and I’m not sure why Spongebob was on the front, haha.

Tagalong Oatmeal
Tagalong Oatmeal

The oats were easy to prepare much like any other instant oatmeal packet. One of the bowls I had was prepped in lab, when one of my colleagues had some leftover Girl Scout cookies sitting at a table. I took three Tagalongs and added them to a warm mug of oatmeal, right as it finished its cycle in the microwave. Melted to perfection, as flavored instantly.

Mint Mojitoooooo
Mint Mojitoooooo

Skinnygirl K-Cups were also a feature in this month’s box. I liked last month’s Peach Bellini flavor, but Mint Mojito has a great flavor profile as well. Just like with PB, a little packet of stevia goes a long way in truly bringing out the minty freshness of this flavor. It is a refreshing hit to the back of the mouth!

Dandie's Marshmallows in Dreaming Cow Grass-Fed
Dandie’s Marshmallows in Dreaming Cow Grass-Fed Blueberry Cardamom Yogurt

An item that I believe was featured as a sample in this month’s box was a vegan marshmallow packet by Dandies . They were the original flavor, and so soft to the touch/taste! Actually, they tasted much like the real thing! I topped them on a blueberry Dreaming Cow yogurt, which gave my “after dinner snack” an extra boost.

Mutti Polpa
Mutti Polpa

A can of purΓ©ed Mutti tomatoes was provided this month instead of a tube of tomato paste like last time. Looking at the ingredients again, I was amazed by how the only ingredient was fresh purΓ©ed Italian Roma tomatoes. I literally dunked the can on top of some cut vegetables for my crockpot dinner one night, and by the time I got home, the tomato purΓ©e was well-cooked and coated over the vegetables. I didn’t need to add any sauce afterwards because everything was now so deeply flavored!

Minced tomatoes in my crockpot bowl!
Minced tomatoes in my crockpot bowl!

I had to pass on the Goya lentil soup even though it sounded fantastic. The thing that prevented me from trying it out was the fact that it contains chicken stock. Ah well, my lab mates took advantage of that!

Lentil soup, with chicken stock.
Lentil soup, with chicken stock.

Which of these products would you try and what would you make?

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