Trolls and Giants in the Land of Ice

September 2022

Some of the photos I am posting are from other members of the travel group. I unfortunately didn’t not keep track of who took each photo. I apologize for not giving due credit.

It all began with a post from travel expert Eric Hansen who has a YouTube channel Backpacking TV and you can follow him on Instagram @EpicTrails365. He was approached by TrovaTrip to host a trip to Iceland and he invited his followers to join him. We signed up right away.

Great hosts, great group of people to travel with and our guide Bara was amazing. She adapted to our group and adjusted the itinerary to our level of activity perfectly. I highly recommend a tour guide. The sites are fairly far apart and it really helped to have someone who knew exactly where to take us. She even threw in some special extras.

The places we went to were definitely where the tourist go but it’s not like other places we’ve visited. Even at the most crowded waterfall it was still a very reasonable number of people. There were the occasional Instagram posters who were trampling areas they weren’t supposed to be in but mostly it was like minded people who absolutely were in awe of the landscape. The trip there was pretty easy. From NYC it was just 6 hours. The airport was small and easy to navigate.

Weather – I am not a person who likes the cold. A couple of days into a visit to any location with snow and I’m over it. We visited Iceland in September. The highs during the days were in the 50s. According to Bara we had unusually amazing weather. I think it drizzled the first day we were there and the rest of the days it was sunny and blue skies. We packed lots of layers and rain gear. One day I wore my long underwear but the rest of the time standard long pants, long sleeve shirt, sweater, heavy jacket, and hiking boots were fine. No gloves, scarves, or hats required. But again, we had unusual weather and everyone says to expect the weather to be all over the place so pack appropriately.

Because this was a package everything was included – where we stayed, where we ate for main meals and the sites we visited.


We flew into Reykjavík and stayed just one night before we were off on our bus. We didn’t really have a chance to explore that first day. Several of the people in our group stayed a week longer. If you are doing a group thing and plan to stay a few extra days I recommend staying after the group part is over. That way you have a better lay of the land and can go back to the things you want to further explore. Our only stop in Reykjavík that first day was Skal a bar around the corner from our hotel. The food was amazing. Fresh and interesting.

Salt Baked Beets with walnuts and homemade mascarpone; Roasted sunchokes with smoked creme fraiche, hazelnuts, apple and brown butter; Smoked arctic char with sour cream, cucumber and herbs. The drinks were the special that day and I can’t remember what they were but they were delicious.

We stayed that first night and the last 2 nights at Hotel Klettur it was nice, clean and comfortable. Great location. One thing that took us a while to figure out, you had to put the room key in a slot near the door to turn the lights on. It was a very ingenious way to conserve energy and make sure people turned out the lights when they left the room. Most hotels had this. Most of the architecture in Reykjavik was newer and basic. Built for the weather. I’m sure there are historic sites, museums etc but we didn’t get to see them because we didn’t stay longer. I regret not staying. Just a couple of extra days would have been enough to really see the city.

Day One | Canyons, Geysers & Hot Springs

Our first site was Thingvellir National Park. Waterfalls, canyons, and historic sites. Game of Thrones filmed several scenes in the canyons. Click here for other filming locations in Iceland. As you can see, it wasn’t super crowded. There are other people there but it was really easy to snap photos without people in the shot. It was also easy to stray off from the group to see other parts of the park. No one was over by the church and the cemetery (my favorite part 🙂

Next stop was Geysir Hot Springs. This was one of the touristy places. Lots of people trudging along not really taking in the view. I would still recommend stopping here but it wasn’t may favorite. The springs were hot, really hot. In the first photo you can see bubbling, that’s boiling water. They had signs everywhere not to touch the water it was scolding hot. The geysers were just feet away and there was just a small rope around it. It was pretty exciting when they went off.

The next stop was massive Gullfoss Waterfall. It’s really hard to tell just how massive this was. If you look closely you can see the people walking along the path in the first photo. We needed raingear to protect us from the spray. In the third photo you can see how the path leads to the top of the waterfall. The view was beautiful.

At the geyser park there was a nice gift shop, restrooms and a restaurant with good food. Most of the food, even at the tourist spots were good. Nothing crazy, just freshly made burgers, soup, sandwiches etc.

Following the geyser we stopped at a hot springs, Secret Lagoon Hot Springs it was not a fancy one but I don’t think it would have mattered. It just wasn’t my thing. I’m not a hot tub person, really not even a water person. You change in a locker room and they want you to shower in a group shower before you put on your swimsuit. Which I can tell you did not happen. I felt awkward enough changing in front of the group I was with. After strategically working with my towel I managed to get changed, showered with my suit on. Then jumped in. Yep it was warm water. You just stand around with everyone in a warm pool of water. The springs are off to the side and they build a natural wall of stones to divide it and create a little stream as it runs down the stream it cools off enough for the pool. So if you aren’t sure if it’s worth doing or not. There are no surprises, it’s exactly as pictured where ever you go. A warm pool of water. The changing facilities might be a little more private but in the end you are just standing around in a warm pool.

Our first night on the road we stayed at a farm just outside of Hvolsvöllur – Hotel Fljotshlid It was beautifully natural. We saw a glimpse of the northern lights. It was simple, dorm style accommodations and a nice meal. The view was spectacular though.

Day Two | More Waterfalls, Sneaker Waves & Pizza

On our way to Skogafoss Waterfall we stopped at a farm that was at the foot of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. The visitor board explained how the farm continued even after the volcano erupted. Which was something that we saw a lot along the way. Traveling on the road around the perimeter of the island you have mountains and volcanos in the center with glaciers in-between them filling up the valleys. You can see how the landscape has changed depending on if the glacier has receded or if there was lava from an eruption.

Next stop was Skogafoss Waterfall there’s a fairly steep climb to the top, stairs most of the way but only a rail or rope in certain places. Once you are at the top it’s pretty flat. You can continue to hike along the path and eventually end up on the other side of the mountain. Camping is allowed most places but they are having to make changes to those rules because farm and home owners had tourists camping on their property without asking and then asking to use their bathrooms or kitchens. So if you do want to camp, be sure to look into the rules before you go.

Next stop was Reynisfjara Beach, as we drove there, our guide cautioned us several times to be sure to stay away from the water’s edge. The waves are very erratic. They have warnings for sneaker waves. If you search for Reynisfjara Beach sneaker waves you’ll see videos. The beach has beautiful black sand, the most interesting cave with natural columns and several rocky islands just off the coast. There was also a little restaurant, Black Beach Restaurant. Again, everything was fresh and well made and the restrooms were nice. Even at the tourist spots or parks the facilities were really nice.

On our way to Fjadrargliufur Canyon we stopped at a little village called Vik and had pizza at Black Crust Pizza. They make their dough with volcanic ash and serve some of the pizzas with red pepper jelly. I will never eat pizza without jelly again. Imagine a cracker, with cheese, prosciutto and jam. That’s what it was like. Delicious. After beer and pizza, our guide asked us to walk down to the water and collect a stone for our next stop.

Along our road to our last stop for the day, Fjadrargljufur Canyon, where the road Hrifunesvegur meets Sudurlandsvegur there’s a little rest stop. People started building cairns there. We each added our stones to build our own little cairn and leave our mark in Iceland. I absolutely loved this.

Last stop for the day was Fjadrargljufur Canyon, easy hike to the top then flat from there. If you prefer not to hike up you can drive a little further down the street from the main entrance to a second parking lot. Then walk over to the look out area. There is a path further along the canyon from there but we stopped at the overlook. The path is far from the edge and has a little rope to keep you off the flowers. The look out area has a metal railing so you can get closer to the edge if you want to. See the sheep in the last photo. Sheep just run wild wherever they want to go. At the end of the season all the farmers go and collect their sheep and bring them in for the winter. It’s a big deal there. We found sheep in the craziest places.

Bara had a surprise for us and we made an unscheduled stop. At a little town called Kirkjubæjarstofa there was a folktale about 2 nuns from 1186 you can visit the website to read more about the area. We parked in the parking lot of Kjarr Restaurant next to the Klausturhof Guesthouse. There’s a path just across the street from the parking lot with a picnic table. It’s pretty hard to see. Beautiful little creek with amazing old trees and rocks around the water’s edge. There’s a little stone step path that you climb through the woods to get to the top. You could see for miles. The hike down was just as steep but if I can do it almost anyone can. A suggestion of walking sticks for next time was well noted.

Wow what a day! We hit the ground running on this trip and never stopped. We made it to our next hotel, the nicest of them all and the best food. Foss Hotel Glacier Lagoon. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. We had a delicious meal for dinner then they have a breakfast buffet. Most of the hotel’s had the breakfast buffet but this one was definitely elevated. More warm dishes and offerings. We stayed here 2 nights.

Day Three | Boat Rides, Diamonds & Ice Caves

Next day we were off to a boat ride in Glacier Lagoon and visiting Diamond Beach. The boat ride takes you around a lagoon next to a glacier that is slowly receding. As parts of the glacier break off the icebergs float into the lagoon they slowly float down the river to the ocean. As they reach the ocean they get washed up on shore of the black sand beach. The guides on the boat ride were outstanding. So happy to be there and happy to show us around. There was a little stand with necessities and quick food. I kept hearing about the Icelandic hot dog with crispy onions so I gave it a try. The hot dog is served with raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. It was a good hot dog. I’m not sure I’d wait in line for an hour for one (in Reykjavik there’s a famous food truck with them an people do in fact wait that long) but it was good while we waited for the next leg of our trip. There were also bathrooms and several food trucks there. The boat tour company was Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Boat Tours.

After the boat ride and a snack we drove across the street to the Diamond Beach. Where the icebergs wash up on the black sand beach. I couldn’t take enough photos. (the first photo is from someone else on the trip. Not sure who.)

Next we drove about 30 min to go off road over what looked like Mars terrain to a glacier. We boarded a truck with giant wheels (if you have back problems you wouldn’t be able to ride in this vehicle. It just hauled ass over every rock there and you bounced all over the place). The “road” was over the ground that was left after the glacier receded. There’s no vegetation yet just dirt and rocks of all sizes. Once you arrive we hiked another 15-20 minutes to the edge of the glacier. Donned spikes for our shoes and hiked up the glacier. There were some interesting holes to look down but aside from being able to say I hiked on a glacier it was just a giant slope of dirty ice. Now the cave underneath, that’s a completely different story. The opening was very large you just walked in. The ceiling is ice so it looks like you are under a river. There’s a river flowing through it. As you walk further back into the cave it gets smaller for a short time and we had to duck down as we walked. That was just for a minute then it opens back up, turns a corner and ends. But it was so beautiful. If you look closely in the cave photos most have people in them. That will give you the scale and help you see what’s up and what’s down.

Another amazing day, finished with probably the best meal we had on the trip. Dinner at Foss Hotel.

Day Four | Hiking, Hot Springs & the Backside of Waterfalls

On the road again, to Vatnajökull National Park this was a big hike up over the mountain. At the end we had the best fish and chips from a food truck at the visitors center/camp area.

Once again our guide surprised us with a little side trip to Kvernufoss waterfall. We were virtually the only group there visiting these falls. Moss covered boulders along a winding river in a canyon that takes you to a hidden waterfall. That you can walk behind. It was dreamy.

Our last stop for the day was Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This one had the most tourists. Tourist, the annoying kind that are rude and throw cigarette butts on the ground. It was ok. Kvernufoss gave us the behind the waterfall experience without the nasty people and the walk to the waterfall was much nicer. Seljalandsfoss you need rain gear. You walk up to the waterfall around behind it and back out. There’s a fairly steady stream of people walking through and you will get wet from the spray and the mist. The location had restrooms and gift shops. There was a food trailer with quick snacks and coffee. Mostly packaged items.

On our way back to Reykjavik we stopped at Reykjadalur Hot Springs. This was an easy 2 mile hike from the parking lot to a hot spring. They did have places you could change but they weren’t private. It was a platform with a divider but you were divided from each other not everyone else. Again, not a water person so I just opted to put my feet in. In the parking lot was a really cute visitors center. Nice bathrooms (they were pretty nice everywhere we went) and a restaurant that made waffles that were delicious.

Back to Reykjavik

Back in Reykjavik we decided to hit some of the restaurants I had seen online before our trip. The first 3 photos are from Sandholt Bakery. We stopped here the first day we arrived and grabbed a coffee. I wanted to go back to have lunch but we got there just after they stopped serving meals. Their bakery and desserts were yummy anyway. The next 2 photos are Braud & Co a bakery, also end of the day so they only had a few things left but also yum. Next 3 photos are from Cafe Loki. I knew it would be touristy, it’s right across from the Leif Erikkson Monument downtown. They serve traditional Icelandic food. From the YouTube channels it looked pretty basic. The item that got my attention was the ryebread ice cream. I have no way to describe this. It doesn’t taste like rye bread or like ice cream. It’s not overly sweet, its also not creamy. It’s not the most delicious thing I’ve eaten but it wasn’t bad either. Definitely worth trying though. We didn’t have to get a table, I just ordered at the counter. The last photo is from Joe & The Juice which was in the airport. They made smoothies, pressed sandwiches and coffee. If I’m ever there again, I will definitely pick up a sandwich when I land and again when I leave. As with most of the restaurants in Iceland, fresh made farm to table food.

To Wrap it Up

So glad we made this trip. As I said, I highly recommend a tour guide. She understood what we wanted and customized the trip to fit our preferences. There were lots of campers and camp sites as well. If you want to travel without a guide try visiting some of the YouTube channels for Iceland. I really liked Iceland with a View she has an entire channel devoted to Iceland. Her point of view is unique as well because she’s an American living in Iceland. I also liked the post from The Ryan’s Travel – What do Icelander’s Eat.

Packing – whatever they tell you to pack, pack. Normally the weather is all over the place. We were there in early September. We had t-shirt days and days with long johns. We were lucky and had warm sunny days but that isn’t usual. So come prepared. Most of the YouTube channels have packing tips.

We didn’t really need cash. We used our credit card just about everywhere. I grabbed $100 in Icelandic Krona at the airport when we arrived and ended up only using it as a tip for our guide at the end. I know usually they say don’t exchange money at the airport they charge a higher fee. But with a group I didn’t want to have to make the group stop so I could exchange the money and I didn’t want to have to search for a place to exchange the money in town. It was worth the extra fee to get it over with.

The airport is nice, easy to get around and had great restaurants and friendly staff. The gift shop actually had the nicest t-shirts I saw on the whole trip. Gifts were a little hard to get. It was either tourist junk made elsewhere or hand made items that were hundreds of dollars. And living in the south a $300 wool sweater doesn’t really make sense.

As active as this trip was is was so relaxing. This was the first group/tour guide trip I’ve been on. It was a great way to travel. I’m not sure it would work everywhere. It worked in Iceland because even the touristy places are beautiful. It’s not like normal vacation places. It would be hard to miss the “good spots”. It also helped we had such a great group to travel with.

Portland, Vancouver & Seattle with a Side of Poison Oak

2016-05-02 Portland - next to our hotel

What a beautiful and friendly area! I don’t think I heard a single person honk at someone in Portland. Everyone is just genuinely friendly. We got really lucky – it was sunny and low 70s most of the time bought a raincoat and only needed it to keep warm in the evenings. Down side was I apparently am allergic to poison oak because it was nasty. Some of the hives were pancake sized, blisters, and then when the swelling started I went to the ER. Then a follow up trip the next day to an urgent care that finally diagnosed the poison oak. It sucked but didn’t let it mess with the awesome time we had.

For starters 7 days in 4 cities was a little too tight. I was happy to have seen Vancouver, the suspension bridge was really cool (more on that later) and the food was great but I wish we had just headed over to Seattle after Victoria we really didn’t see any of Seattle.
Just means another trip.

So Portland has different areas to explore. We stayed downtown near Pioneer Square. No matter where you stay it’s easy to walk everywhere and there was only one place near the Burnside Bridge where I started to feel nervous. The downtown area has lots of restaurants, hotels, office buildings, parks the usual.

Our hotel The Heathman was lovely. The original hotel was across the street and is now The Picnic House. 2 brothers built the first hotel and made so much money the first 2 years that they built a second hotel across the street. The second and now current Heathman was more lavish than the first so people stayed there instead of the at the first one and they put their first hotel out of business. The current one stayed open. Check in and out was easy, they had help when we needed it. The front desk was friendly and happy to suggest restaurants and areas to check out. The rooms were a little small but as to be expected in an historic hotel. In the lobby they had a little chocolate shop that had drinking chocolate (with shots of espresso) – so good.

Chinatown is just to the north of downtown –
there’s the beautiful Lan Su Chinese Garden there
where you can have tea over looking the koi pond.
We didn’t have time to go but it’s on my list for next time.

Just to the west of Chinatown is The Pearl –
really cute trendy area converted warehouses,
restaurants, shops, parks etc.
We walked there from the hotel and had lunch and
a snack while exploring.

The Pearl

Daily Cafe in The Pearl

Every place has crazy flowers – stuff that would cost $12 a stem here are like carnations to them. Loved the big rolls of paper they used for the daily specials and the serve yourself cucumber or plain water. Menu was a little bit of everything but all of it local and fresh. The lady at the counter was so friendly – these people are just happy.

Cute shop in The Pearl – can’t remember the name.

2016-05-02 Portland - The Pearl local shop

Afternoon snack at The Pearl Bakery ok first not so nice guy.
But the other guy was awesome, went and found
fresh out of the oven brownies for us.


Back downtown to The Nines Hotel where we had drinks at Departure – this place is a very modern bar on the roof of the hotel. When you get off the elevator it looks like you’re in queue for Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom. Fun cool music that’s not too loud because they get you are there to talk to your friends, the music is just background. Once again, everyone is friendly and happy. Bartenders were on top of it. Most people were sitting outside on the rooftop but believe it or not it was too hot and sunny for us!

The Picnic House,

Then on to dinner at The Picnic House, mentioned earlier as the original Heathman Hotel. It was pretty good. A little too pricy there were things with the décor that were cool and other things that were just off. The food was good but felt like they were trying a little too hard. But once again great service.

Remnants of the old lobby of the original Heathman Hotel. Not pictured are the Lion House rolls with pistachio and thyme butter and the edamame and pea hummus with ricotta, mint, sunflower seeds, and pickled onion. All really good. Above is the smoked salmon mousse with duck rillette and pickled onions.

buttermilk fried chicken with hot honey, chicken gravy, and
pineapple slaw that was really good

   Bacon and beef meatloaf with a tomato jam,
mashed potatoes and green beans – delicious
White cheddar, roasted broccoli, pickled apple mac and cheese
with a potato chip crust also really good.

 To the west of The Pearl is NW 23rd –
upscale shopping, restored old homes, lots of restaurant
options and it’s right next to Washington Park.


We had breakfast at Besaws – a 100 year old restaurant
in a brand new building. Once again outstanding service
and delicious food and drinks.

Blake had The Continental – vodka, cold brew coffee,
strawberry rhubarb puree, fresh lime, and cava it sounds crazy
– crazy good.

Cider braised oatmeal with poached rhubarb, lemon curd, and walnuts
Avocado toast with feta, sunflower seeds, radish, and cilantro

The farmers hash with bacon, asparagus, onion,
roasted potatoes and garlic, cheddar, greens,
and a scratch biscuit
Zucchini French toast with basil anglaise and granola
– so stupid good!!

Pittock Mansion

We stopped at the City Market and grabbed a picnic lunch
for later then headed to  Pittock Mansion – built in 1914,
the home, view and gardens were beautiful
Now after you’ve walked all over town you’re going to
realize things are closer then they appear on the map.
So you’re going to feel all like
– Oh we can easily walk up to the mansion.
Except the sidewalk runs out on Burnside St which
is a pretty busy highway and not only is it a pretty steep climb
and very windy road there’s only a  small shoulder to walk on.
Just call Uber, trust me.

But it’s awesome once you get up there!

Washington Park

After the tour we took the Wildwood Trail from the mansion’s parking lot down the mountain across Burnside Street and continued through Washington Park to the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden. The path is natural but very easy to walk in regular sneakers (this is probably where I got the poison oak). We passed several other hikers but it wasn’t crowded with people. The trees are moss covered giant pines with fern and ivy everywhere.
It couldn’t have been more picturesque.

2016-05-03 Portland - Washington Park trail 2
2016-05-03 Portland - Washington Park trail 1
2016-05-03 Portland - Washington Park trail 5

Washington Park is huge there are parts that are just wild trails like above and parts that run next to neighborhoods. Follow the signs along the path to the Japanese Garden and you’ll come right off the trail to the garden. Originally Portland Zoo was built in the spot on the hill where the Rose Garden is. Then is was moved up higher and they built the Rose Garden. Then they moved the Zoo again up higher and built the Japanese Garden. The Zoo is still there along with several other gardens. The park would take days to see everything.

Japanese Garden in Washington Park

Then we walked over to the Rose Garden and had our picnic lunch.
The rose garden unfortunately wasn’t
in bloom yet but lovely anyways.

  Lunch on a bench –

   From the garden it was an easy walk back to the hotel.
We walked through several really pretty neighborhoods.
If you have a car drive around King’s Hill – Park Place dead ends
into the entrance of Washington Park.

Oven and Shaker

Oven and Shaker is definitely a favorite in The Pearl –
the best mint chocolate chip ice cream I’ve ever had.
But everything was just so good.

Honey Basil Collins
Cazzilli potato, salami and parmigiano croquettes with chevre aioli
Arancini wild mushrooms risotto, smoked mozzarella,
and tomato ragu

Maple Pig, apple butter, bacon, ham, mascarpone,
and ricotta – arugula added
Wild fennel sausage, tomato, smoked mozzarella, potato,
and mama lil’s peppers

Then holy crap the desserts –
which aren’t on the menu so I’ll try to remember…

Mint chocolate chip ice cream with the freshest mint ever.
It tasted like you were biting into a mint leaf.

Chocolate olive oil cake with fresh ice cream
espresso fudge and cherries

Strawberry rhubarb with shortbread cookie,
olive oil and pistachios

Columbia River Gorge

  The next day we explored the Columbia River Gorge. We used Sea to Summit for the tour which I really recommend because they will tell you all about the history of the area and take you to spots others might not know about. Our guide was really nice and the pace was easy. They pick you up at Pioneer Square and you can get your tickets in advance online.

Breakfast before the tour at Public Domain, across from Pioneer Park.
There is coffee everywhere in Portland in fact you just smell
it all the time which is so nice. So really it’s not hard to
find a good place for coffee. This place also had
nice pastries to choose from as well.

2016-05-04 Portland - Public Domain

The tour took us along the Historic Columbia River Highway. The highway was built 100 years ago to be scenic so people in their model T’s could travel along and enjoy the view. All along the highway were rest stops and little inns. Most have burned down but a few are still there. The first we stopped at was Vista House. Just a rest stop but it’s exactly the same now as it was in the original pictures.

Then onto Latourell Falls – an easy hike to falls from the street.
All the falls are on Google maps.
You could just take the highway yourself
and stop at each fall. They are pretty well marked.
But you won’t get all the cool history like you would in the tours.

2016-05-04 Portland - Columbia River Latourell Falls 10

Then Multnomah Falls – there’s a restored historic lodge there as well.
Definitely the busiest of the falls we stopped at but I will still stop.
You can really see the moss on the trees here.

   Our last stop was the dam and salmon hatchery which was very interesting. The guide stopped at a little place on the island where you can see the sea lions. The sea lions eat about 20% of the salmon when they are spawning. Which apparently is unacceptable because the hatchery tries to catch them, tag them, then move them.
But the sea lions figured out that if they block the opening
of the cage the automatic doors won’t close.
So instead they lounge around on the platforms.

South Park Seafood

After the tour we were starving – the lovely staff at the Heathman Hotel recommended South Park Seafood perfect,
it was just a few blocks from our hotel as well.

Oysters fresh from the bay – beet, fennel, watercress,
pistachio brittle salad
Shishito peppers fried with lemon and sea salt
Brussels sprouts with gochujang, cilantro, and peanuts
Spicy shrimp and grits – and a juicy burger with fries

Then for dinner – it was a pre-fixe 6 course dinner with a little something to start and end the meal. They have 2 seatings and 2 community tables so you get to meet new people. The chef creates there right in front of you in the cozy space. The waiter did an excellent job explaining what we were eating and was happy to answer my many questions.
Everything was just over the top.


House made ritz cracker with local sausage for the amuse bouche

Mesquite grilled tuna, shaved porcini, black garlic
vinaigrette with hazelnuts
Spring ravioli house made ricotta, green garlic verte and parmesan

   Harissa rubbed lamb roast, new potatoes, carrots, peas, with
preserved lemon and mint
Roasted beets, shaved turnips, smoked yogurt, watercress,
and Japanese ginger

   Cow’s milk burrata, compressed green strawberries, shaved
asparagus with aged balsamic
Chicory semifredo with dark chocolate sorbet, puffed rice,
and espresso crème

 Foie gras on peanut shortbread with sauterne gelatins
This meal was heaven.

Victoria and Vancouver BC

We drove from Portland up to Port Angeles to ferry across to Victoria BC. For this ferry it’s pretty small and they only have 2 times a day they travel to Victoria so probably a good idea to reserve a space online in advance. You have to get there an hour ahead of time, pull your car up and park it. Then you can leave the car until 30 minutes before the ferry leaves when they start to load the cars. There were several small restaurants in the area. I don’t suggest Downriggers on the Water. Let’s put it this way the place was huge and we were the only ones in there. Not a good sign. The other spots about a block away on the main street were busy. Probably a better bet.

Once you drive off you’ll drive through customs.
They just need to see your passport it was very easy.

The Fairmont

Victoria was a cute little town all along a bay. We were able to easily walk from one end to the other. We stayed at the Fairmont Empress. I’m going to show you a few pictures but I really wasn’t happy with this place. They charged 5 star rates for a 3 star experience. It was very disappointing. I know the outside looks impressive but the rooms were really small, no a/c, and half the hotel was under construction.
The service was not up to the standards of a hotel like that.

 The tea was in a balcony area that overlooked the temporary check in area, the waiters were like waiters in a diner not a high end restaurant, the menu for tea was nothing special and the quality of the food was C+. Also, very expensive. I’ve had a lot better, a lot of other places. So aside from the poison oak (which by the way just started to show up the morning we left here) this was the only other negative part of the trip. With all that said I would still have gone to
Victoria, the gardens were well worth it.
I just wouldn’t stay at this hotel or waste money on the tea.

The bay area has mostly hotels and government buildings. On the opposite end from the Fairmont is a little fisherman’s wharf area that is definitely touristy but interesting at the same time. It’s a bunch of floating buildings. Some are places you can stay and some are restaurants and shops. The sea lions swim right up and beg. Cute. Most of the restaurants
we passed were very touristy and nothing I’d like.

This was an apartment building along the bay instead of a lawn
they had a pond. It was pretty cool.

2016-05-05 Victoria BC - Farimont Inn 10

View from our room at night.

Jam Café

Our breakfast at Jam Café was delicious. There’s usually a wait, but weekdays and early you should be ok. We sat at the counter.

Regular breakfast with bruleed grapefruit –
beautiful bowl of fruit with not one melon in site

Scratch biscuit with mushroom gravy and tomato jam –
house made granola with yogurt and fruit

Butchart Gardens

Now on to the reason we were in Victoria. At Epcot in the Canadian pavilion they have the Frontenac Hotel (which we’ve been too) and Butchart Gardens. My grandmother loved Epcot and really loved those particular gardens. I wanted to see the actual gardens the replica at Epcot is based on. It was spectacular. No matter where you stood or looked every nook and cranny of that place was tended to. The Butchart family built there home there over 100 years ago and had a cement factory near by. They traveled and loved bringing home specimens from their travels. Mrs. Butchart first built a Japanese garden then a formal Italian garden, then a rose garden, then a large lawn so guest could enjoy music on the lawn and picnic, then when the quarry next to the cement factory was exhausted she turned it into a sunken garden which is what the Epcot garden is fashioned after. People are just wandering around silently admiring it all.

 If I lived there I would visit this garden every week. We talked to a lady who does and she says the beds change almost daily. The family still owns the house and gardens and run it.
They take spectacular care of it.


We left the garden and took the ferry to Vancouver. Here’s where I would have changed things. If I had to do it again I would have gone straight to Seattle so we could have had a couple of extra days there. Vancouver was nice and the Capilano Suspension Bridge
was cool but I wish I had seen more of Seattle.

We stayed at the Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver. Very nice hotel. Didn’t take any pictures. But I would stay there again.
It was a good location as well.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge was built 1889 by George Mackay who owned land on both sides of the river and had a cabin on one side and built the bridge out of hemp rope and cedar planks. It soon become a destination for adventurous friends. In 1914 Edward Mahon built a Tea House and improved the bridge. The bridge has only been rebuilt a handful of time the last time being in 1956 in just 5 days. The bridge is so strong a 75 ton tree fell on it during a storm and it didn’t budge. Now there are sky walks along the cliffs, nature trails, and it’s all done with nature in mind. Using logs and stones
instead of plastic and concrete. Very well done.

potato and leek pastry with cane cola – yum.

Homer Street Café

Dinner was at the Homer Street Café – once again a delicious dinner. Outstanding service. Everyone is just so friendly in that whole area.

We all got fish – steelhead salmon, cod, and trout but apparently their rotisserie chicken which you could see cooking in the open kitchen is what they are famous for.

The next day is was lunch at Small Victory Bakery
just more of the same  really good fresh food with great service.


The very kind ER doctor suggested we go to Vig’s for dinner. An Indian restaurant that doesn’t take reservations and you’ll have to wait 2 hours but the bar is fun to watch and Vig personally greets everyone and passes out appetizers while you wait. You felt like you were a guest in his home. The wait staff was outstanding. The food once again delicious. A little spicy though. I did notice if you don’t want to wait just come at 10pm and you’ll get right in. But then you’ll also miss all the fun in the bar.

The mixed drinks were great with names like Sari not Sari

Raw sugar and ghee braised squash with mushrooms –
Khoa paranta with tangy tomato-onion chutney

endless naan bread that they just seemed to show up at the table
just as we needed it

Garam masala sautéed mushrooms in a porcini cream curry
Lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on turmeric
and spinach potatoes

What a great evening.


Brunch was at Wildebeest before we headed to Seattle.
One of the best brunches I’ve ever had.

Wild mushroom and house cured bacon omelet –
Croque Madam with greens

2016-05-08 Vancouver - Wildebeast 4

And then there was the Dutch Baby – a German oven baked pancake. Holy hell it was good. I’ve heard of them but never had one. It’s lighter than a regular pancake but not eggy like a crepe. It’s very similar to Yorkshire pudding or a popover. Inside was a light layer of raspberry jam, citrus segments, granny smith apples, fresh ricotta, and bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. I will be making this at home.


Full of wonderful food we drove to Seattle for the last leg of this trip.

Checked into our hotel – Hotel 1000
downtown Seattle a few blocks from Pike’s Place Market.
Beautiful large room with a huge bathroom.
Perfect service and priced really well.
Next time we go to Seattle I’m staying there.

The Walrus and The Carpenter

 That night we ate at The Walrus and The Carpenter
I use to look up cool places to eat when we plan a vacation. It’s really hard to find stuff that isn’t touristy. If you ask anyone at the hotel they tend to send you to what they think a tourist wants instead just the really good local places. This place was on the list at Then after looking into it I also saw it featured on Andrew Zimmerns’ show Bizarre Foods (not sure why it was on Bizarre Foods not really very bizarre just really fresh) It’s in a little neighborhood about a 10 min Uber ride from downtown in an old converted building. There’s another restaurant in the front. You walk down a long hallway to the back of the building where Barnacles (their bar) is and The Walrus and The Carpenter. They have an outdoor balcony area on nice days. As with everywhere else exceptionally friendly people. Even in the hippest trendiest places. Also so happy you are there and so ready to make your time there awesome. No reservation, they put our name down and said they’d come get us in the bar. As soon as we walked into the bar someone was helping us, and it was packed with people. The bartender showed us where to hang our jackets and handed us a little plate of Lays chips and asked what he could get us. Table was ready in 30 min so we just had enough time to finish our drinks but they have appetizers in the bar too if the wait is longer.

The kitchen is open so you can see all the activity.

Marinated olives – fresh bread with whipped sea salted butter

Toasted baguette with local honey and black pepper
and Freya’s wheel cheese

An assortment of fresh oysters from local bays – Salmon crudo

Artichoke, fresh yogurt, pine nuts – Steak tartar with rye toast

Fried oysters with cilantro aioli

Maple bread pudding with espresso butter sauce and whipped cream –
Roasted dates with vanilla oil and salt

Nothing crazy just really really fresh and assembled
in an interesting way.

The next morning we had to head to the airport but before we did we managed to stop by Pike’s Place Market, get a piroshky from Piroshky Piroshky – the original is potato and onion, my favorite was the beef and cheese, we also tried the fresh rhubarb and the ham cheese and spinach. All really good. Don’t let the line fool you. It’s out the door but it’s a really tiny place and the line moves really fast.

Also got to stop in the original Starbucks.

And then sadly we headed home. We were really lucky to have had amazing weather while we were there. Not one drop of rain. When we go back I’ll be sure to bring our rain jackets again and this time we’ll see more of Seattle.