1 Day in Santiago, Chile

Since X and I were headed to the end of the world, AKA Punta Arenas, for the Christmas holiday, we had to fly into Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest city. After 10.5 hours on a plane (Side note: Flying non-stop with LATAM was easy breezy), we landed at about 8am to sunshine and 80 degree weather. It’s the middle of the winter in NYC and Detroit, so we were both super happy to shed some layers.
We were flying out again the next morning at 6am, so we only really had less than 24 hours in Santiago. X’s step-dad has a house in Lampa, so we made a quick stop there first for a shower and a nap. It was wonderful lying in a hammock outside of the house just enjoying the summer breeze.
Refreshed, we headed over to Mercado Central de Santiago, the central market of Santiago. The market is actually a fish market that is known for seafood lunches. Apparently, coming here for lunch is a “must” for all visitors to Santiago!
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We had lunch at Donde Augusto. While we all ordered our own dishes, appetizers were ordered for the table. Words cannot describe how delicious it was. Behold – pink mussels baked with parmesan cheese!
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I, of course, had to go with the Chilean Sea Bass – when in Chile! It was stuffed with king crab meat, which is more abundant down below than it is here in NYC. Delish!
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After lunch, we drove over to Teleferico Santiago, a newly reopened cable car system that brings you up to the San Cristobal Hill (Cerro San Cristóbal).
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The cable cars stop at three stations: Oasis, Tupahue, and Cumbre. The last station connects with the summit of the Hill, where there is a sanctuary that is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception with a 22-meter statue of the Virgin Mary. Within the pedestal of the statue is a small chapel.
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The view at the top is truly breathtaking and you can just see how big the city of Santiago is!
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I’d love to come back to Santiago another time to really get to explore what the city has to offer. But for now, onwards to the end of the world!

Hakata Tonton

Hakata Tonton has been on my list for a very, very long time. I’m pretty sure I bookmarked it on Yelp years ago. When I asked my sister where she wanted to go for her birthday dinner this year and she said Hakata Tonton, I quickly made a reservation. No questions asked!

We arrived at 8pm for our reservation and waited a bit for a booth table to clear up. It was about 30 degrees that night, so it was perfect for hot pot.

We started off the night with a ton of appetizers, because we’re giant piggies and cannot just have a main dish! First to arrive was perhaps my favorite appetizer of the night – the Seared Scallop and Sea Urchin. The dish comes with 6 scallops, each topped with some glorious uni. The uni was fresh and super sweet, which actually, could be said for the scallops as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely trip to the ocean.

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Another standout appetizer was the Egg Omelet with Pork tonsoku and Scallion. Tonsoku, or pig’s feet, is their specialty after all, so this appetizer was stellar. The tonsoku melted into the omelet and the entire dish was just soft and melty.

We also ordered their TONTON Famous Homemade Gyoza, which is wrapped flat and seared on a hot plate instead of your typical dumpling-style gyoza. We were all “meh” about this dish. It didn’t blow our minds, but it wasn’t bad either.

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Our last appetizer was the Garlic Fried Rice with pork tonsoku and egg. Again, the pig’s feet were incorporated perfectly with the fried rice. This dish was fragrant and flavorful – I could eat this all day!

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For the hotpot, we had ordered 2 different ones and split both of them. We ordered –

Their signature HAKATA TONTON Hot Pot with Collagen broth, Tofu, Chicken, Dumplings, Vegetables (cabbage, chives, and spinach), Berkshire pork belly and Tonsoku, or pig’s feet.

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Their Shabu Shabu Hot Pot with Collagen broth, vegetables, thin slices of Berkshire pork sirloin & pork belly.

I enjoyed both of them and I think they both had their merits. At the end of the day, it’s more up to personal preference. The Shabu Shabu hot pot takes a bit more work as you have to cook the meat yourself. But it is the lighter option in terms of taste and flavor profile. The Hakata Tonton hot pot is prepared and served by the waiters, so you do absolutely zero work. It is more flavorful and even a little bit spicy.

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We were completely stuffed, but since it was my sister’s birthday, we had to get dessert. If you let them know ahead of ordering, they will close all the lights and bring out your desert with a candle and sing to you. I love that!

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We ordered the Dessert Tasting Plate, which included their Cheese Mousse, Crème Brulee, Black sesame ice cream, and Mochi cake. My sister liked the cheese mousse the most, but I definitely thought the buckwheat Crème Brulee paired with the black sesame ice cream was the best. The buckwheat helped cut the usual super sweetness of the Crème Brulee.

Service was attentive enough – we did wish they were a little more attentive. Our dinner ended up being well over 3 hours, which I thought was insane.

Tomiño Taberna Gallega

I noticed Tomiño while walking from Soho to Chinatown one day and made a small mental bookmark. I tried to come in on a Saturday night twice but they were unfortunately full – even the bar was full! But third time’s a charm because we finally managed to snag some empty seats at the bar.

Tomiño is a Galician tapas bar serving food from the Northwestern part of the Spain. I absolutely adore Spanish food – especially tapas style dishes – so I was especially excited. We started off with drinks – I had a whiskey sour and my mom had a glass of rose. After I had ordered, the waiter had come back to confirm with me that their way of making the drink would be acceptable. Basically, they do not use any sort of juice or mix-in that contains preservatives so they would be subbing in fresh lemon juice instead. I was A-OK with this! My drink was delicious and reasonably priced too!

We started off with an order of their Croquetas, which come with 4 pieces per serving – 2 pieces of ham + aioli and 2 pieces of seafood + aioli ($8). Both croquetas were delicious, but I definitely liked the ham better. It was certainly tastier.

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We split a salad, which was the recommendation of our waiter – and coincidentally, it was also the first night they were offering it on the menu. It was basically a white bean salad with anchovies, roasted red pepper, and sherry wine vinaigrette. I absolutely loved this salad. The beans were crisp and the anchovies were not too fishy or overpowering. Great call from our waiter!

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Next to arrive was the La Española, which is a large platter featuring tortilla española, pan con tomate, and jambon serrano ($17). The pan con tomate was flavorful and exactly the way I remembered having it in Spain last summer. I was not too wow-ed by the tortilla española, which I thought was a bit dry and tasteless.

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Our last dish of the night was the Pulpo á feira, or octopus boiled and dusted with sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, and paprika ($12). Pulpo á feira is a traditional Spanish Galician dish and is perhaps one of my favorite Spanish tapas dishes. The octopus is super tender from the boiling that happens in the beginning of the cooking process. It practically melts in your mouth!

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For dessert, we went with their special dessert for the holiday season. It featured Cañas, or a traditional Galician dessert that sort of resembles an Italian cannoli. It’s basically a roll of fried dough that’s filled with a custard filling. It was paired with ice cream made from Turrón, a nougat that is typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with some kind of toasted nuts. Our waiter told us that it is considered a traditional Christmas dessert in Spain. I thought the dessert was very good and I enjoyed getting to try a traditional Christmas dessert from Spain – even if it was in a slightly modified form!

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I cannot rave enough about the service at Tomiño. Every single waiter we encountered was attentive, helpful, and absolutely amazing. They were so friendly and really made us feel like we were being taken care of. I highly recommend Tomiño!

Where and What I ate in Iceland

When most people hear the word Iceland, they think ice, glaciers, Northern Lights, puffins, and probably expensive. And they’re all right. Iceland is perhaps the most expensive country that I’ve ever visited – and I live in New York City so I know expensive cities.

I think the majority of our budget was spent on eating out. Sure, since we had an AirBnB, we could’ve cooked our meals and saved a lot of money. But as a self-proclaimed foodie, I also absolutely love eating out and trying out the food in all the places that I visit. So, we ate out a lot. And my wallet is now sad. But, my stomach was super happy!

Iceland, believe it or not, has a lot of amazing food. They have a lot of really great seafood available to them since they are an island. They also have really, really good dairy products like Skyr (their own special yogurt-like cheese), quality cheeses, and delicious ice cream. They also have some really “exotic” food items like fermented shark, grilled whale, and puffin.

So did I eat all of that? What did I eat? Read on to find out!

The Expensive

One night, we went all out. We went to Fish Market, or Fiskmarkaðurinn. I chose Fish Market because their menu looked captivating and interesting. They pride themselves in sourcing the freshest ingredients and cooking it with a modern twist.

We had the Volcano Langoustine Maki, featuring langoustine tartar with sesame oil, 7 spice, and chili on top of a maki roll filled with salmon and cucumber. This roll was very busy and really exploded with flavor in your mouth.

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We also split the Hosomaki, which featured king crab with spicy fly fish roe. This roll was very simple, yet the sweetness of the king crab contrasted very nicely against the spice and saltiness of the fly fish roe. Highly recommend both of them!

I had the Pan-fried Atlantic Catfish with herb pesto, creamy potato salad, grilled corn, and sugar snaps. It was, to put it simply, bomb. The catfish was moist and flakey and the grilled corn and potato salad really mixed things up on the plate.

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For dessert, we ordered the Sorbet Selection since it was the lightest dessert on the menu. It came out on a foot long plate with an assortment of exotic fruits. This was … a very Instagramable dessert.

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The Best of the Best

Best Breakfast –

My best breakfast choice goes to Sandholt. Sandholt, located on Laugavegur, the main shopping street in Reykjavik, was our first stop after arriving at our hotel. They sell all sorts of goodies – sandwiches, bread sliced to order, pastries, desserts, etc. They also have a little “deli” section in the front with cured meats, cheeses, jams, and skyr.

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On our first morning in the city, we stopped in for breakfast at about 9am. We were seated right away and service was prompt and attentive. Everyone had a breakfast plate with sausages, eggs, salad, and sourdough. I opted for their smoked salmon on a soft pretzel, which was yummy but a bit hard to eat. I also had an oat milk latte, which was my first. It was surprisingly good!

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Best Lunch –

My best lunch option is also one of the cheapest meals in the city. Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, which basically translates to, “The Town’s Best Sausages”, is a small chain of hot dog stands located in Reykjavik.

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The sausages are made with lamb, pork, and beef. It’s served in a bun and if you order it with everything, it comes topped with ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade. Under the sausage is a layer of crispy fried onions and raw onions.

I think we ended up going about 4 times during our week in Iceland. On our first day, it was the best midday snack after our afternoon naps (we had arrived at 6am and didn’t get rooms until about 1pm). I really liked the crispy fried onions on the bottom of the sausage since it gives it more texture with every bite. Icelandic mustard is also super delicious, I love that it’s slightly sweet and contrasts with the salty hot dog.

Best Dinner –

For my best dinner in Iceland, I would have to pick Salka Valka, or Fish & More. Fish & More is definitely a very affordable option in the Reykjavik area and has a very homey, comforting vibe. We all opted to have their Traditional Fish Stew, or Plokkfiskur. Plokkfiskur is a traditional oven-baked fish stew made with haddock, cod, potatoes, onions, and spices in a casserole-like fashion. I am a HUGE fan of Plokkfiskur because it just feels so warm and homey every single time I eat it.

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We finished our meal by splitting their Warm Apple Pie and Icelandic Rhubarb Cake. I think I liked the rhubarb cake more since it was very subtly sweet and just a little tart. I highly recommend the rhubarb cake!

Best Cafes –

Honestly, it is really hard to decide which café is my favorite. We went to quite a lot. I’d like to highlight a few of them –

Reykjavik Roasters is probably my favorite café based on just coffee alone. Their coffee was probably the best that I had in the city. Pop in for a morning or mid-day pick up and you won’t be disappointed!

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Café Loki was one of my favorite café stops during our trip because they have a really interesting food menu. You can try fermented shark here and they have delicious smashed fish sandwiches and rye bread ice cream!

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Te & Kaffi is a local coffee chain in Reykjavik and we stopped in here several times during our stay. They serve very good coffee and are a solid choice if you’re looking for a coffee fix.

Honorable Mentions –

Saegreifinn, or Sea Baron, serves the “World’s Best Lobster Soup” and has a really great selection of grilled fish kebabs.

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Day 6 in Iceland

Day 6 in Iceland – Old Ports, Chocolate Tours, and Geese

Our last 2 days in Iceland were pretty laid back. We moved back to Centerhotel Midgardur on Day 6 to make it easier to leave the next afternoon. Again, I cannot rave enough about both our AirBnB and Centerhotel Midgardur. They were both really great places to stay in – clean, airy, and conveniently located.

My day started off at Café Haiti, where we had a leisurely breakfast before exploring the Old Port area of Reykjavik. I love how a part of it is painted in bright turquoise blue. Check out these awesome quotes that go straight to my foodie soul!

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After breakfast and a bit of exploration (I really meant we went to Bonus and Kronan and walked around the supermarkets for about 2 hours), we made our way over to the Onnom Chocolate Factory. The Onnom Chocolate Factory is located in the Old Port area of the city and offers one tour a day – at 2pm.

Our guide, Kyle, was super nice and very informative. He walked us through the process of how Onnom’s bean to bar chocolate is made. We got to try some choco nibs and he even made a chocolate cold brew for us to try. We sampled pretty much every single chocolate they had in the store, which was really helpful in our purchasing process. The chocolate bars here are also at least 400KR to 600KR cheaper than the stores in town. I may have gone a little bit overboard…

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After our tour, we stopped by Valdis. It was on the way back to the main part of the city so we stopped in for a mid-afternoon treat. I had a single scoop of their Hawaii flavor, which was pineapple, coconut, and one more fruit. It was delightful! It was very fresh and light, just what I wanted after sampling so much chocolate at the factory!

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We ended our day at Tjörnin, a prominent small lake in central Reykjavík. The lake is often visited by over 50 species of water birds. We definitely saw some geese, ducks, and swans. A lot of them were bobbing by looking for bread!

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Day 5 in Iceland

Day 5 in Iceland – Black Sand Beaches, Glaciers, and More Waterfalls!

Our 5th day in Iceland began just like our 3rd day – it was windy and rainy, but we nonetheless ventured out to meet our tour guide. This time, we would be touring Southern Iceland!

Our tour visited a lot of places and it was a very, very long day. Here’s where we went!

Reynisdrangar

Reynisdrangar are basalt sea stacks that stand under the Reynisfjall Mountain, at the end of a black sand beach. Reynisfjara beach, where Reynisdrangar stands, is considered one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.

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Our tour guide told us that legend says the sea stacks were formed when two trolls were trying to pull a three-mast ship to the shore. They were caught by the sunlight when the sun rose and turned into stone. They now sit on the beach forever as stone stacks.

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The beach itself is super beautiful. The waves are very dangerous here – they come up really high up on the shore so you always have to make sure you never turn your back to the ocean. The waves can suddenly come up and sweep you out!

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Sólheimajökull Glacier

Sólheimajökull is a part of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which covers the Katla caldera, a fierce volcano that will one day erupt. A visit to Sólheimajökull will show you that climate change is a real thing. Our tour guide told us that at one point, Sólheimajökull reached out into the parking lot. Now, it’s a solid 20 minute walk until you reach an actual part of the glacier. As you walk further in, all you see is brown water and dark ice bobbing in the water – a result of pollution and volcanic ash.

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When one thinks of Iceland, one thinks of glaciers. Sólheimajökull was the only glacier we saw during our trip (the road to Jökulsárlón closed midway through our trip). Despite the fact that it didn’t look like what most people think of when they hear the word glacier, it was a really powerful and striking image for me.

 

Skógafoss

Skógafoss is a waterfall situated on the Skógá River in southern Iceland. It is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country. According to Viking legend, the first Viking settler in the area buried treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend claims that locals were able to find the chest of treasure, but was only able to grab the ring on the chest before it disappeared. I wonder if there’s still treasure back there?

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Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall in the Southern part of Iceland. It is one of the best known waterfalls in Iceland – partially because you can walk behind the falls into a small cave. I think it’s really, really neat that you can do this. You do get super wet if you go all the way back there, so do go prepared.

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We went to about 4 waterfalls during our time in Iceland and I think Seljalandsfoss was my favorite one. It’s very subtle and small, but I loved how beautiful it looked in the sun. We even managed to catch a bit of rainbow when we were there.

Day 4 in Iceland

Day 4 in Iceland – The Blue Lagoon

There seem to be a lot of mixed reviews regarding the Blue Lagoon. Some people think it’s a huge manmade tourist trap that’s expensive and not real. Some people think it’s a really cool experience and would gladly pay the price to spend a few hours just soaking in some moisturizing silica water. I’m part of the latter. While I admit it is a bit of a tourist trap and very expensive, it’s something I think everyone should experience at least once if they go to Iceland.

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I had pre-booked our Comfort Package tickets online along with a roundtrip bus transfer. The trip itself took maybe an hour and we arrived just in time for our time slot. The lockers are a bit hard to figure out as you pick an open one, put your stuff in, close it, and THEN scan your bracelet. I have no idea how they know it’s your locker to your bracelet when tons of people are scanning their bracelets for lockers close to yours.

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You have to do a complete shower before you enter – I saw a ton of people showering with their bathing suits on, which you’re not supposed to do. I wish they enforce this rule a little better. After your shower, you enter the lagoon – either from the inside or by walking outside. There are hooks on the outside with numbers for you to hand your towel or robe. We brought our own flip flops so we left those by our towels as well.

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The water is so warm and so soothing. We ended up throwing our original plans out the window and saying for almost 5 hours. First we went for our silica masks, which I think is pretty darn amazing. My pores felt smaller and I noticed fewer blackheads after we used them. Our Comfort Package included an Algae mask as well, which is meant to brighten and nourish your skin.

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I wish there was something like the Blue Lagoon back home in NYC because I would be there all the damn time! It’s so relaxing and a great way to unwind during your vacation.