Green City Escape: Reykjavik

Summer in Iceland (read: July) may seem a bit of an oxymoron. After all, the country is well known for its icy landscape offering everything from snow-covered caves, volcanic treks and geysers, to the infamous bubbling Blue Lagoon. But if you’re looking to explore its capital city, Reykjavik, on its own, summer is your best bet, when warm(er) temperatures allow you to explore on foot all there is to offer in this quirky city.  And 24-hour sunlight through July gives you more daytime hours to explore. Flights from the US are relatively inexpensive, especially if you choose to do a stopover between the US and Europe.

Eat

Maybe it’s that summer never entirely settles in Iceland or the short-winter days, but the capital city is crammed full of colorful, cozy cafes and shops. Here you’ll find ones serving traditional Icelandic foods from fermented shark to hot dogs. Yes, hot dogs! There are numerous street stands through the city.

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Walk the narrow streets of the city exploring the many cafe’s, shops, and bookstores. A trip to the National Museum of Iceland will tell you all about viking history. You can also try one of the many geothermal hot springs located within and just outside of the city.

Sleep

Reykjavik has a variety of accommodation types from hostels to Airbnb. If you’re looking for an affordable option, Airbnb is the way to go. You can find one in the city center or 101 or just outside of the center. It may be worth paying a bit more to walk to everywhere. Uber and Lyfts don’t exist here.

If you’re looking to explore outside of Reykjavik, you can arrange a tour online or rent a car to the Secret Lagoon or drive along the Golden Circle, which loops around giving you access to waterfalls, geysers and geothermal springs.

Once forgotten, the U.S. virgin islands offer American paradise close to home

Looking at a map, the trio of small islands to the South East of Puerto Rico look like a trail of island breadcrumbs leading downward toward Venezuela and cozying up to the British Isles. The U.S. Virgin Islands were once sleepy islands passed over by Columbus on his voyages of “discovery. ” They later became chess pieces——sold to the U.S. in a rushed deal from Denmark to keep the rolling hills and white sand coasts out of the hands of Nazi Germany during WW1. The Danish West Indies became a U.S. territory in March 1917. This year celebrates their centennial birthday.

One hundred years later, the islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix are bursting with a unique history, culture, food and activities—-with caribbean, Danish and mainland American influences. I flew to St. Thomas during spring break along with members of my immediate family to attend the wedding of a family friend. It was the perfect excuse to get reacquainted with the island after a 20-year-hiatus. In my absence, I noticed a great deal had changed on the island, including an influx of Americans living and working there.

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View of Havensight in Downtown Charlotte Amalie.

I spent many spring breaks on the island as a child. Therefore, the week I spent in St. Thomas was a bit like coming home for me. Back then, my parents had a timeshare in Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in Bolongo Bay. This time around we chose higher ground renting out a villa in Blackbeard’s Hill, west of the capital, Charlotte Amalie. McLaughin Anderson Luxury Villas offers a sweeping view from the center of the island and is located close to Magen’s Bay and Mahogany Run Golf Course. The four-bedroom property we chose includes rooms with en suite, a private pool and full kitchen with washer and dryer.

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Entrance to the villa with a view of an uninhabited island.

The flight to the island was a quick three-and-a-half hour ride from Washington, DC. The airport is located in St. Thomas, but services all three of the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as the British Virgin Islands. American citizens do not require a passport to board a flight but are required to go through customs when exiting the island.

We began our trip by shaking off the winter storm we left and settling into our temporary home. After a quick trip to the neighborhood supermarket for some local fare, we relaxed poolside on our deck soaking up the sun. The next two days were filled with pre-wedding events at the Marriott at Frenchman’s Reef. When we had a day to ourselves we decided to get reacquainted with the streets of downtown Charlotte Amalie, also the capital of the Virgin islands, exploring the alleyways past luxury jewelry stores, high end clothing shops and restaurants. We were lucky to be able to explore on a day when there were no cruise ships docked, so streets weren’t crowded with tourists. The area is very walkable and includes an open air market perfect for practicing your bartering skills.

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Magen’s Bay

Our first trip to the beach was at Magen’s Bay, one of the most popular beaches on the island. Its white sand, calming water and relaxed atmosphere and bar brings people from all over the island for swimming and snorkeling. The entrance fee is affordable at five dollars for non residents and includes parking. Other public beaches on the island are free and many are included in the resort fee.

On land the island offers a number of unique activities including tours of blackbeard’s castle, a world-class golf course, skydiving and zip lining.

Getting around on the  island is easy without a car. Taxi vans are located everywhere and will take you most places for less than $12 a person. If you decide to rent a car, be aware of the streets winding through hills. People are required to drive on the left side of the road and steering wheels are on the left, which can cause a bit of confusion to visitors.

Traveling to one of the other two islands is a breeze. If you want to visit St. John, it’s a quick ferry ride from either Red Hook Bay or downtown Charlotte Amalie for six or twelve dollars, respectively. The ferry also goes to Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Traveling to St. Croix involves a slightly longer trip on a seaplane.

There is no shortage of things to do and discover on the islands. Visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands  is a great option for those especially coming from the East Coast, where its a short flight. The beaches, historic places and sports options are amazing and plentiful. And you never have to leave the country.

For more information on the events and festivities celebrating Transfer Day, check out the site. Click on this link for the best places to visit and things to do in the USVI.

4 essential items to keep you healthy while traveling

When it comes to luxury travel, nothing is more synonymous than the color green. Both the color of money and nature, it symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness and energy. Until recently, “green” or “eco-travel” meant roughing it in a rainforest with a camouflage backpack, plastic water bottle and a map of local hostels. The more recent “discovery” that eco-travel could be more than glamping (glamorous camping) has opened a new world of travel and with it, new must-haves from low-cost to expensive.  Here are a few of my favorite finds.

Bamboo Travel Pillow

If you’re like me, you struggle with finding a comfortable seating position on a plane. This ultra comfy neck pillow contains memory foam to conform to your ideal resting position. It’s made from bamboo, a renewable plant, so it’s also good for the environment and the perfect size for a carry on. (www.hotelcomfort.com)

Compression Socks 

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Long-distance flights over the Atlantic or across a continent can wreak havoc on your sleep, sense of time and most importantly, your circulation. Compression socks help to improve your circulation by providing pressure to your ankles and lower legs helping to circulate blood flow to your heart. There are many colors and varieties to choose from.  A Google search will reveal many options. Check out Amazon to compare styles and prices.  (www.amazon.com)

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Source: honeydewnaturals.com

Essential Oils

From calming lavender to energy-boosting peppermint, every essential oil comes with healing properties.  They can help you to rest, reduce anxiety while traveling, or even improve your memory. All very helpful when you’re away from home.(www.amazon.com)

Coconut Oil

This multi-use oil, also considered an essential oil, works as a skin and hair moisturizer and anti-bacterial agent. It’s great on your skin in the winter alone or added to your favorite moisturizer. You can find it at most drug stores, beauty stores and Amazon.

Nadler Hotels, London: understated luxury

The entranceway to Nadler Kensington Hotel, in the historic area of Kensington.
The entranceway to Nadler Kensington Hotel in the historic area of Kensington.

When traveling to a new city, where you lay your head can make or break your experience. A clean, comfy hotel can offer a much needed respite after a long flight or be the source of a bad review on TripAdvisor. So, after spending seven hours flying across the Atlantic, I was hoping my hotel choice in London would be a good beginning to my first view of the city.

I chose the Nadler group of hotels after searching online for boutique hotels in London with a central location and good ratings. The Kensington location is situated in a historic townhome ideally located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Kensington High Street is less than two miles away, leading to Kensington Palace, home to Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. The area is the smallest borough in London and the home to embassies and within a short walk to Museum Row and luxury department stores. Long rows of historic white town homes line the streets, a mixture of private residences and businesses.

After arriving at Heathrow, I hopped the Tube to Earl’s Court Tube Station, where I had a five minute walk to the hotel. I arrived at the doorstep the hotel on a deceptively sunny Autumn morning. A light wind kissed my neck as I heaved my heavy suitcase up the stairs.

The Nadler Kensington is a multi-level property, with a long entryway that opens to a cozy lobby area and front desk designed as a parlor room with a towering shelf of books to browse, a fireplace and modern furniture. The multilingual staff is very helpful and accommodating. After arriving a bit early and waiting for my room to become available, I was subsequently upgraded to a Deluxe room, so it was quite spacious for one person.

A neighborhood block in Kensington in London.
A neighborhood block in Kensington in London.

The room came with a super comfy queen bed with a luxury faux fur throw and voluminous pillows. A desk area with complimentary electronic adapters and a very useful USB port (along with free wifi) was also present along with a flat screen television and a large bathroom with a tub and generous counter space for toiletries. The tub was a bit high (I’m short), and additional toiletries like a bath mat had to be requested, along with a complimentary rubber duckie! The room included a hidden kitchenette with a coffee/tea maker, English Breakfast tea bags, and a Britta tap filter. Porcelain teacups and glasses were also included along with stainless steel cutlery.

The hotel is conveniently close to two tube stations; Earl’s Court and High Street Kensington, providing quick access to other tourist areas in the city.

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Kensington Palace and Gardens, London.

25 Courtfield Gardens

London SW5

0PG, United Kingdom