Monday, November 30, 2009


The Holidays are here, the colder weather is somewhat here, and that always gets me in the mood for soup. For Thanksgiving I was in charge of making Butternut Squash Soup with Fontina Cheese Crostini that could feed an army of 40 people (one of the benefits of marrying into a big family)! The relatives were raving and so I wanted to share the recipe (courtesy of my favorite chef- Giada De Laurentiis) with all of my jet setters. I know this isn't a post about jet setting to a great destination, but since many people jet set to be with family for the holidays, I figured it would be fun to tell all of you about it. Plus, the soup is very easy to make- and for those of you that know me personally, I used to be the biggest klutz in the kitchen- so this was a big deal! :-)

- 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 7 to 8 cups) - 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

- 1/2 baguette, sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1 cup (2 ounces) grated fontina cheese
- Kosher salt

In an 8-quart stockpot, add the butter and oil and melt together over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the sage. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat.
For the crostini: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sage. Sprinkle the cheese on top and season with salt, to taste. Bake until the cheese has melted and the bread is light golden, about 6 to 8 minutes.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the cheese crostini.
Cook's Note: The cooked vegetable mixture can also be pureed (after cooling for about 5 minutes) by ladling, in batches, into a food processor or blender and blended until smooth.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Turn on the t.v. today and you are bound to hear the same thing repeated over and over again: "today is one of the busiest travel days of the year." I poke some fun, but it definitely is true! And as the author of a travel website, I certainly had to mention it!It's no secret that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is always the busiest travel day of the year. Airports will be busy today. AAA says 1.2 million people are expected to fly to their holiday destinations. However, they also point out that there will be a 6.7 percent decrease in air travelers this Thanksgiving compared with last year. Instead, more cars are expected on the road as many people are trying to save money by driving instead of flying. More people are also expected to use trains and buses this year too. I tried to beat the crowds and jet setted to where I'll be spending my Thanksgiving Holiday yesterday. No matter how or when you are getting to your destination, and whether by jet, car, train or bus, I hope that you get there safely and have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


There are so many places in the world that I want to jet set to, but I don't have an endless bank account to do so like a celebrity. That's why I try to find my readers jet set smart deals as often as possible. But, I often wonder where celebrities do jet set to since money isn't an option. Thanks to Travel & Leisure Magazine we now know!

Here is their list of Secret Celebrity Destinations & Hotels:
1. Los Cabos, Mexico- Las Ventanas al Paraiso Resort
2. South Beach Miami, Florida- Setai or Fountainebleu or Mandarin Oriental
3. Montego Bay, Jamaica- Round Hill Hotels and Villas4. Turks and Caicos- Parrot Cay
5. Whistler, British Colombia- Fairmont Chateau Whistler
6. Aspen, Colorado- The Little Nell7. St. Bart's- Eden Rock
8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil- Copacabana Palace
9. Key Biscayne, Florida- The Ritz Carlton10. Negril, Jamaica- Rockhouse Hotel11. Alberta, Canada- The Fairmont Banff Springs
12. Jackson Hole, Wyoming- Spring Creek Ranch
13. South Africa- Molori Safari Lodge
16. St. Moritz, Switzerland- Badrutt's Palace Hotel
17. Montecito, California- San Ysidro Ranch
18. British Virgin Islands- Necker Island
19. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico- Punta Mita Four Seasons Resort
20. Careyes, Mexico- Cuixmala
21. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands- Caneel Bay, A Rosewood Resort
22. Honolulu, Hawaii- Halekulani
23. Palm Beach, Florida- The Brazilian Court Hotel & Beach Club
24. Playa del Carmen, Mexico- The Mandarin Oriental
25. Riviera Maya, Mexico- Rosewood Mayakoba
26. Antigua- Jumby Bay
27. Anguilla- Cap Juluca

Friday, November 20, 2009


It's no wonder Puerto Rico is known as the shining star of the has great culture, beautiful beaches and delicious food. Yes, I'm Puerto Rican, so maybe that makes me a bit biased. But, I will tell you that everyone I know who is not of Puerto Rican decent and has jet setted there has agreed with me. In fact, Shermans Travel ranks Puerto Rico as one of the best places in the Caribbean for being most affordable, for offering the best all-inclusive trips, for being on the beach by lunch, and as one of the best islands for culture and history.
The flight will get you there from New York in just under four you can be lying on the beach in no time! I just checked airfares and see deals for the month of December for $300 per person round trip, for direct flights (from JFK to San Juan). I used to spend my summers in Puerto Rico when I was growing up, and have not been back since 2004, but with deals like this and the winter months coming...that may change.

My Favorite Hotel in Isla Verde Area: El San Juan Hotel and Casino

My Favorite Hotel in El Condado Area: Caribe Hilton

My Favorite All-Inclusive Hotel: El Conquistador Resort

My Favorite Restaurant: La Bombonera

My Favorite Thing to Do besides lying on the beach: Shopping/Walking around Old San Juan's Cobblestone Streets

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I'm sure by now, by my abundance of posts about Iceland, you can tell that I have fallen in love! The people are warm and welcoming, the country is absolutely beautiful, and it's so close. I cannot wait to return, and I have a perfect see the Aurora Borealis.The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is created when particles are electrically charged by the sun. Supposedly, you can see the Northern Lights on cold, crisp nights between September and April. We thought that a trip in November would have been the perfect time to see the Aurora Borealis, but unfortunately, we did not see it. We got conflicting information while we were there about the odds of seeing it. Bottom line is, Auroras are difficult to predict with precision- it's Mother Nature's call. So if you go out to see them you need to be patient and hope that you get lucky. You can't know if you'll see the lights until the last minute. We talked to locals while we were there and many said mid-January through mid-March is a better time of year to see them. The air is so cold and crisp during that time, that many Icelanders say you can even see the lights while walking around downtown Reykjavik. I just looked into flight & hotel deals for February, and I see prices starting in the low $400's per person. I'm going to keep my eye on it, because it's very easy to jet set there on a Thursday night and come back on a Sunday...I'll let you know what happens.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


In this crazy world we live in, safety is of the utmost importance to me when I travel. I have to say that when I was in Iceland, I felt very safe. In fact, Iceland has a relatively low crime rate according to the U.S. Department of State. One thing that reassured me of this when I was there was the abundance of baby carriages with babies inside of them outside of restaurants, coffee shops and stores. This is pretty typical in Scandinavia from what I've heard and read. Mothers and fathers will leave their little ones bundled up in their strollers while they go inside a venue to do whatever it is they are going to do. Nobody ever disturbs the carriages, and no one even seems to notice they are even there- except for the occasional American tourist (that would be me) who is not used to seeing such a thing on U.S. soil. I couldn't help but do a double-take the first few times I saw this, and even snapped a picture of this to show to you all. Could you imagine if someone did this in the U.S.? They would probably be arrested and have their baby taken away from them! It's nice to jet set to a place these days where you can feel so safe.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


You quickly realize in Iceland, that if men and women take the time to dress up (not in jeans) to head to the bars for the Runtur when it's cold outside, then obviously fashion is important to Icelanders. Shopping is incredibly expensive in Iceland, but it's worth shelling out the extra krona (ISK) for local designers' stuff...their creations are unique and fashion forward.RYK, owned by Kristin Kristjansdottir, off of Laugavegar in downtown Reykjavik is a store that I absolutely fell in love with and wanted to transport back to the U.S. Kristin is a designer who literally makes the clothes she sells in her own shop.She has beautiful tops, dresses, and cute jackets that range in price of about $60-$300USD. I got a tunic that can either be worn as a dress or paired with leggings. I can't say enough about her stuff...and the fact that her little Pomeranian keeps her company in the store while she's working...she's a woman after my own heart. Another trip to Iceland for the weekend just to shop in Kristin's store would not be out of the question for me! She is working on getting her website up and running, but you can check out some of her awesome designs by clicking here, or email her at kristinryk@simnet.isAnother store, which you'll see all over Iceland, is 66* North. Their slogan is "Keeping Iceland Warm since 1926," and they live up to their words. They carry hats, gloves, scarves, coats, etc., and you see people all over Iceland wearing their stuff. My friend Laura and I couldn't resist when we saw almost every woman walking around downtown Reykjavik in one of their furry hats. It cost about $70USD for one, but we both wore ours the entire trip, and know we'll get good use out of them in the wintertime in New they were a good investment!Now, if shelling out a lot of krona (ISK) for clothing is not your thing, then I suggest heading to Kolaportid Flea Market.
It's a Reykjavik institution, open on Saturdays & Sundays (11am-5pm) where you can find second-hand clothing, Icelandic sweaters, antique jewelry, trinkets & art for the home, music, and food. I mention food, in particular, because this is the place where you can try hakarl- rotten shark. Sounds gross? It is! (Just take a look at my face!) It tastes and smells like ammonia. But, it's an Icelandic delicacy- which is usually eaten more as a right of passage (i.e. when you join a fraternity/sorority in college).All in all, there's something for everyone when it comes to shopping in Iceland. Yes, it is still a fairly expensive country to visit, but the U.S. dollar is worth twice more there today than it was just three years if you can, jet set there soon. You will love Iceland!

Monday, November 16, 2009


No visit to Iceland would be complete without a dip in the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa that is filled with hot water (38*C) fed from the adjacent geothermal plant.
Believe it or not, the silver plant towers are your backdrop as you sit in the hot steam and cover yourself in white silica mud. The lagoon is filled with hot pots, and the algae and minerals condition and exfoliate your skin- you come out feeling as soft as a newborn baby. You should know that like the other geothermal pools in Iceland, you must shower naked before entering, and also know that the water makes your hair feel like you will need tons of conditioner afterwards. Nonetheless, it's amazing, we loved it so much that we went at night one day (so cool & romantic) and during the daylight on another day. Also, it's very close to the airport, so depending on when your flight lands or departs, it may be a good time to go.

Friday, November 13, 2009


You know the saying "When in as the Romans do."? Well, the same goes for Iceland, when in a glacier hike! My friend Laura is definitely the adventurous type and suggested that we go on a glacier hike in Iceland. I agreed, thinking how hard could it be, right? She told me it would be a 2 out of a 5...boy, was I in for a shock! In the end, I'm glad we did it, but only because I made it down unscathed!.Our day started at 9:30am. We signed up to go with a tour group called Arctic Adventures. Our driver and guides name was Mio.There were six of us in total on the hike (including Mio).It took about 2 and 1/2 hours to drive out to a glacier known as Skogar on the south coast of Iceland. The drive was absolutely beautiful, with views of mountains and the Atlantic Ocean along the way. When we got to Skogar, it was raining and windy...great weather for a glacier hike...not! Mio fitted us each for our crampons, gave us an ice pick- which also could be used as a walking stick, and he taught us how to walk both up and down the glacier. Five minutes later, we were on our way to the top! Along the way, we would walk very close to something known as crevasses- holes about 20-30 feet deep.It was scary! You definitely had to watch where you were going at all times. The sight from the top was spectacular.Laura and her boyfriend, Pierre, even ice climbed. They sure are brave!
It was a great experience- and quite a good workout too I might add. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, and Rich felt the same way, but we are so glad we did it!
After the three hour hike, we drove to see Skogafoss waterfall. It's not as big as Gulfoss, but it beautifully topples down a rocky cliff.

After this day...we certainly needed another visit to one of Reykjavik's geothermal pools...and that's exactly what we did. For dinner that night, we wanted something not so fancy, and headed to American Style for hamburgers. Icelanders love their fast food...and American Style is where locals like to go. This place looks like a fast food joint when you first walk in and it acts like one too. You have to go up to the register to place your order and pay, and then you sit down and they bring the food out to you. We had bacon burgers- which come with special sauce on them- and french fries.We washed it all down with a local Viking beer.Since it was a Friday night, we decided to do the Runtur- Reykjavik's pub crawl. the Runtur happens every Friday and Saturday night along Laugavegar- the main street in town. Icelanders dress up and head out to the bars to drink, dance and be merry. The good times last until about 6 in the morning when places finally close. We started our Runtur at Karamba- which is a coffee house by day and a lounge/bar at night.
From there we went to Kaffibarrin- which has the London Underground symbol over the door. Inside, it's really cute and looks like an old house.Next we went to Bar 11 which is your standard bar.The last place on our Runtur was B5- a super sleek spot that has great music and is a good place to dance. Next week, you can read about some of Reykjavik's great shopping and the Blue Lagoon...stay tuned!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


For every destination, there is always a to-do list of things you should see and experience while jet setting. In Iceland, two of those things include an outdoor bath at one of Reykjavik's geothermal pools, and a drive to the Golden Circle. That's how we planned to spend our second day in this beautiful country. We hired a local taxi to drive us around for eight hours. Since there were four of us, the cost was about $200USD per couple.11AM- We headed to Laugardalslaug Pool- Reykjavik's biggest pool, and also the largest pool in Iceland. The price to get in is $360ISK per person. There is an awesome water slide, a large pool and smaller hot pots that are similar to hot tubs. Volcanic water keeps the temperature at a mellow 29*C for the large pool and between 37*-42*C for the hot pots. Note: The city's pools are free of chemicals, so you must shower naked before getting in. Don't worry, men and women have separate locker rooms- but if you are shy about being nude in front of others- this may not be for you.12:15PM- Back in the taxi and on the road to the Golden Circle. Gulfoss, Geysir and Pingvellir are unique sites commonly referred to as the Golden Circle.Pingvellir is a national park about 20km east of Reykjavik. This is a place of spectacular beauty- a place where you feel like your pictures cannot do it justice.It is like being in another world when you are here- it truly is amazing! You can spend hours walking through this immense rift valley which is caused by the separating North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.We then continued on to Gulfoss- Iceland's most famous waterfall. It is a double cascading waterfall that is the biggest in Europe.
After Gulfoss, we got back into the car and went to see the Geysir.Its pronounced Gay-Zeer. This is another of Iceland's most famous tourist attractions. It's the original blasting hot water spout (temperature of 230*C) after which all other geysers around the world are named. There are a few in the area to see, some bigger than the others. The most reliable geysir of all the ones is named Strokkur- which goes off every 5-6 minutes. So have your camera ready! Also be warned that it is sort of smelly like rotten eggs from the sulfur. That night, back in Reykjavik, we went to The Fish Company for dinner.The restaurant came highly recommended from our waiter the night before at Dill Restaurant- and he was right! Here's what we had:
Fried Icelandic Lobster, butter cooked carrots, sheep sorrel jelly & Brennivins eggfoamJamaica spiced tunafish, pear-lime foam, deepfried softshell crab & bacon powder
Butterfried rack of lamb in fresh herbs, saltkiot & parsnip, burned mushroom & blueberry-baconsauce
Olive oil sous vide Baccalo from north of Iceland & squid in pirl pirl, plum tomato & black marengFor deesrt we had banana & coconut cake, that came with roasted coconut chips, fresh papaya foam & homemade vanilla ice creamDinner was another incredible experience!Afterwards we stopped next door to Restaurant Reykjavik to the Ice Bar. Believe it or not, this is the ONLY ice bar in all of Iceland!Actually, I should point out that it's not really even a bar, but instead a converted meat locker within the restaurant that has walls lined with ice blocks. You pay $1500ISK per person to get in and they give you a big coat to put on- then you go in and they give you a drink.You can either choose to have Brennivin or a cocktail which is made with vodka, wine and sprite- it's very fruity, but very good. Although the experience is sort of cheezy, I woulod definitely still recommend it. It's really cold in the room, so if nothig else, it's fun to bundle up and take some pictures.A bit of walking around and we worked up a mini appetite again! We went to Devito's Pizza for a slice.This place was voted best drunken slice and best pizza in Reykjavik. We had a pepperoni slice. Everyone puts garlic oil and lemon pepper on the slices- DELISH!Tomorrow read about our Glacier Hike and our time at another geothermal pool!