Keflavík, Reykjanesbær, Iceland

“Reykjanesbær is a municipality on the Southern Peninsula in Iceland. It is made up of the towns Keflavík, Njarðvík, the village of Hafnir and, since 2006, Ásbrú” (Wikipedia). Flying with Icelandair, I had the option of a 17 hour layover in “Reykjavik”, although actually I was flying in and out of Keflavik Airport. And it takes 45-50 minutes to drive to the capital from the airport! It rained when I arrived at midnight, but the next morning, after a few minutes of drizzle, I was fortunate enough to have brilliant blue skies visible through dramatic clouds. So expensive, all in all, but if I had had more time, I would have liked to ride an Icelandic horse, go on a whale-watching tour (plus seabirds), see the Northern lights (in the right season). Another day!

Walking around Keflavik

Víkingaheimar (Viking World) is in Njarðvík, Reykjanesbær, Iceland. Address: 1, Víkingabraut, 260 Keflavík, Iceland. Adults ISK 1500, Students ISK 1300, Free admission for children under 14. The main feature is the “Íslendingur, the replica of the Gokstad Viking ship which in 2000 was sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, for the celebrations of the millennium of Leif Ericsson’s voyage and then to New York. The ship was returned to Iceland and placed on exhibit in the open air until being transferred to the new museum in autumn 2008.” (Wikipedia) Their website claims the Settlement Zoo is open in the summer, but I didn’t see anything except a pen with some sheep. Wish I had gotten the audio guide to do the Norse mythology exhibit properly!

Birds (and sheep) – I also saw Oystercatchers but couldn’t get a good photo. I think I saw Shag, Black-headed gulls, other gulls, Greylag Goose, Wheatear (photo too small!), etc. Would have been so cool to see an Eider duck, noted for their down!

Panoramas

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~Jessica

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Amsterdam

Next stop from northern Germany: Amsterdam. I had never been to the Netherlands before, despite four years living abroad in Europe, and I have a great fondness for the Dutch, so this was a much anticipated trip. Because of mobility reasons, I did a cruise with the happy couple, before they were to drop off Daniel’s parents to return home to Chile. Heidi and I both wore bird dresses — great minds! On the tour was the “Skinny Bridge” which can be seen in the James Bond film ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971).

After they returned to Germany, I continued my intensive sightseeing tour. Rick Steves is my favorite city walk tour guide, so I had downloaded his app and podcasts in advance. The city tour made the most of my walk through Amsterdam on Day 1.

On Day 2, I booked a 9:30am slot at the Van Gogh Museum, a must see for my attractions list. There were no photos allowed except of the wall reproductions, but I snuck a couple in before I was stopped. Madness!

Things I learned:

  • “The Kingfisher is an oil on canvas painting by the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. It was painted from July to December 1886. The Kingfisher was painted in Paris, France.” (Wikipedia)
  • “Wheatfield with Crows is a July 1890 painting by Vincent van Gogh. It has been cited by several critics as one of his greatest works.” (Wikipedia) I found out this painting was one of his last before his suicide and death, and happened to be the cover for my Kindle.
  • “Flying Fox (1884): This is a type of tropical bat – an unusual subject for an artist. The one painted by Van Gogh was stuffed and mounted. Just look at its stiff, unnatural pose. Van Gogh knew a man in Eindhoven (NL), Antoon Hermans, with a collection of more than 300 mounted exotic animals. This bat may have come from that collection. Van Gogh wanted to depict the translucent wings clearly, so he placed a light source behind them.” (van Gogh Museum)
  • “Almond Blossoms is from a group of several paintings made in 1888 and 1890 by Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Saint-Rémy, southern France of blossoming almond trees. Flowering trees were special to van Gogh. They represented awakening and hope. He enjoyed them aesthetically and found joy in painting flowering trees… Almond Blossom was made to celebrate the birth of his nephew and namesake, son of his brother Theo and sister-in-law Jo.” (Wikipedia) This reminded me of my new nephew, James! Five months old now ^_^

Finally, I finished off with Rick Steves’ Jordaan city walk, which allowed a glimpse of the more residential and less touristy aspects of Amsterdam, while including the Anne Frank House (which I couldn’t book tickets in time — they recommend reserving two months in advance!). I had just read The Diary of Anne Frank last year, so it was moving to be outside and think about the year or so of her life spent hiding indoors. The Amsterdam Tulip Museum, of course, just randomly showed up along the way, but I didn’t go in. Notice the uneven houses, due to “settling” Rick Steves informed me.

“Across the Singel is Torensluis, one of the oldest and widest bridges in the city. The big moustached bust is of Multatuli, the pen name of the brilliant 19th-century author Eduard Douwes Dekker, who exposed colonial narrow-mindedness in a novel about a coffee merchant.” (source) This was interesting to learn, of an author speaking out against Dutch colonialism, and compared to Rudyard Kipling.

And last, but not least, a panorama or two.

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Bloemenmarkt

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The river view outside the Anne Frank House

~Jessica

Berry smoothie

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peanut butter creaminess on top

Adapted from Food Network Kitchen

8 ounces (225 g) fresh/frozen mixed berries (I had fresh strawberries)
2 spoonfuls of peanut butter (no bananas!)
3/4 cup (175 mL) plain yogurt, whole milk
1 cup (235 mL) almond milk
1/4 cup (60 mL) cranberry juice
1 – 2 spoonfuls of honey
ice

I would add ground flax seed and a handful of spinach if I had any. I could have added a spoonful of chia seeds, or chopped frozen bananas, or some cooked oatmeal if I wanted a thicker smoothie. Optional: Add 1/2 cup coconut water. I might try hemp, hazelnut, coconut or rice milk to substitute in the future!

~Jessica

Hamburg

I traveled to northern Germany for my work best friend’s wedding in Cuxhaven on a Saturday, where the bride’s family is. This would be a seven day EuroTrip involving flying into Zurich, out of Amsterdam, with a 17 hour layover in Iceland (near Keflavik Airport, not actually Reykjavik). Pretty demanding, even by my standards.

My roommate had made friends with a Hamburg native, Rike, on an earlier Israel trip. I met up with Rike for the briefest of tours, because I was staying with relatives that evening. My father’s family is from the Hamburg region, specifically Aumühle, so his cousins were going to pick me up for my stayover with them that Sunday evening. Perfect weather, and an unusual amount of sun for Hamburg, or so I was told. It seemed I brought good weather everywhere I went, particularly to Iceland. But that is for a later post.

~Jessica

P.S. Here’s one panorama of Cuxhaven at the Wadden Sea, an intertidal zone in the southeastern part of the North Sea.

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Ravioli with sage brown butter sauce (Salsa di burro bruno e salvia)

IMG_2708Adapted from Mario Batali and Giada de Laurentiis

Ingredients:
1 box of Trader Joe’s porcini ravioli (serves 2)
1 tbsp of unsalted butter
2 leaves of fresh sage
thyme, salt, pepper
1 clove of garlic, sliced thin lengthwise
Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
While the pasta cooks (3-4 minutes for the ravioli), melt butter in a saute pan and continue cooking until golden brown color appears in the thinnest liquid of the butter. Add sage leaves and fry a couple of minutes. Fry the garlic and herbs and spices. Remove from heat until pasta is ready. Drain the pasta, but leave some cooking water, and gently pour into saute pan and return to heat. Add the cheese, toss to coat and serve immediately.

Forgot the nutmeg and lemon juice! I missed lunch and so ate this around 5pm for supper. Amber came home later and fried some frozen shrimp to add to her meal. Next time I’ll follow Lidia’s recipe cause she’s really Italian.

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~Jessica

Herbed summer squash pasta bake

IMG_2707Adapted from smitten kitchen

Ingredients:
250 g De Cecco pasta
olive oil
3 summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
Juice of half a lemon
45 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 large or 5 skinny scallions, sliced thin, white and green parts separate
Pinches of red pepper flakes, to taste
25 g (3 tbsp) all-purpose flour
350 mL (1 1/2 cups) broth
thyme, oregano, salt and more pepper to taste
finely grated parmesan cheese
smoked Gouda, cubed small
chopped basil

Directions:
Cook the pasta to al dente in salted water. Drain and set aside. Heat oil in a pan on medium-high, season with salt and pepper, and fry the zucchini for 10 minutes without burning, browning both sides. Remove, and sprinkle the squash with some lemon juice. Melt butter in the pan on medium heat and fry the scallion whites and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the flour until absorbed by the butter. Slowly add the (milk) broth, incorporating each time you mix it together. Season with lemon, salt, and pepper. Simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat and mix in all herbs. Season to taste. Add the gravy sauce to your baking dish. Add the pasta, squash, and cheeses. Stir to combine. Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are golden brown. Serve hot, topped with chopped basil.

I subbed broth for the whole milk and smoked Gouda for the mozzarella. It made the sauce a quite nice gravy, surprisingly. I also had two tomatoes and some reserved puree that needed to go somewhere so… Mystery pasta bake. Yum! In hindsight, however, this would have been super delicious without the addition of tomatoes, although Amber really didn’t mind them.

~Jessica