Experiences

East Iceland’s best bed and breakfast

Where : Silfurberg guesthouse, East Iceland
www.silfurberg.com
When : Summer
Why   : Unique, off beaten path, extraordinary hospitality, elegance and charm in a beautiful nature surroundings.

Silfurberg is an amazing bed and breakfast, located in serene East Iceland, surrounded by fjords, magnificent snowcapped mountains, rivers and waterfalls. Just to get there is an adventure. We started our journey with views of beautiful East fjords and then crossed over the mountains, we drove up and went through blocks of what seemed like endless thick fog for couple hours. Our car GPS was confident, we stayed on track and were finally rewarded by majestic views of the valley below us.  We stepped out of the car and inhaled crips air, marveling at waterfalls, mountains, green and quiet “remoteness” around us. Silfurberg guesthouse makes Iceland trip most special, as it combines everything I love about Iceland – wonderful people, surrounding incredible nature, elements of design and history throughout the house, delicious food, stories about the country and Icelandic people shared with owners and guests. I didn’t want to leave.

Views of East fjords on a way to Silfurberg



Greetings… homemade wool slippers and wooly sheep-friends


If I had a jacuzzi in Iceland…

Our most comfortable cozy room (and there were robes and chocolate on pillows and best night sleep)

Many tasteful and elegant design touches, combining modern details, Icelandic art and family history

Best meal we had in Iceland, fresh, locally sourced lamb, vegetables and fish, followed by decadent chocolate cake, perfectly cooked with love in a kitchen next to the family-style dining table. 

My morning run. I will never forget that air – so fresh, crisp and clean it feels intoxicating. 

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Architecture blended with nature at Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

How cool is this design marvel in Costa Rica!? Amazing architecture blending with nature of beautiful Papagayo Peninsula Pacific coast – this is at Andaz, hotel concept by Hyatt. There are no desks at check in and no rush, you are greeted with green juice and a view of the ocean at airy relaxing outdoor lobby. And when you leave, there are coconut macaroons at checkout. Good vibes of Costa Rican “Pura Vida” are reflected in free flowing environment and hotel staff attitude. I couldn’t stop taking photos of this beautiful and unique place, filled with earthy details, open inviting spaces, cool furniture and wonderful Costa Rican culture and nature at every turn.

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Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

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Pura Vida Found at Leaves and Lizards Costa Rica

When I woke at 5AM to sounds of birds and cicadas in the middle of rain forest and saw breathtaking view of Arenal Volcano from my hammock, I knew I discovered “pure life” – that’s what Costa Rica “Pura Vida” is all about.  Simple Costa Rica way of life, it’s community, welcoming people, amazing untouched nature, clear rivers and quiant colorful villages got deep into my heart and changed something, I am not sure exactly what. For everyone it’s different. I had this intense feeling of connecting with nature, where every minute brings different chorus of sounds, every breeze changes how birds sing, what butterflies you see, when rain starts and ends… you sense it, you notice these dewy drops on tropical flowers and you can’t help but change.  Real world slips away… One morning at yoga meditation, Sabrina tells me : “Breathe… Imagine the ocean in your throat, it rises and falls down, it washes away your thoughts, just hear the sounds around you and breathe…”  It is easy to imagine that ocean, with Costa Rica amazing beauty of Pacific and Caribbean coasts, country’s cloud and rain forests and their spectacular wildlife. Another morning, Debbie introduced us to horses that we spent day with, riding to a hidden rainforest waterfall. I learned that horses are very sensitive and unique creatures – they understand us, they feel our human strengths and weaknesses. They have ability to heal and connect us to the world. We can let our egos go and let instincts take place. There is energy and connection to every element of the world around you in Costa Rica. You understand that you don’t need much to be happy. It gives you freedom and brings sense of adventure and discovery. It’s my little paradise with heavenly deck and outdoor shower.  With kids morning chores at the farm and ziplining in the Arenal Volcano rain forest.  It is found at Leaves and Lizards retreat in Costa Rica.

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Catarata Llano de Cortez (8)

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Dreaming of warm places

Dreaming of warm places in Caribbean. So many wonderful experiences and memories.
Grand Cayman – perfect island vacation with small children. Water is super calm and white sand is soft. Island is very quiet and laid back, easy to rent a car or commute by efficient 1 dollar mini buses. Comfortable condos on gorgeous Seven mile beach like  Christopher Columbus  have fully equipped kitchens and rooms so it feels like home away from home with the beach almost to yourself. Little kids love turtle farm and aquarium. There are plenty of great restaurants but it is so easy breezy to just make simple meal for children at condo, grab bottle of wine and snacks, set your chairs on a beach and watch sunset while kids play sandcastles.
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Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico – we love amazing people of Mexico, their hospitality and great spirit. Nuevo Vallarta is a newer destination in Mexico and not as busy as Cancun. Staying at one of smaller all inclusive resorts like Grand Velas is ideal long week-end escape for fun in the sun. Pacific ocean’s dark golden sand shore is beautiful. In the morning waves are crashing and perfect for body surfing that children enjoy. In the afternoon, water descends yards away, opening wide mirror sandy path for walking and jogging. Grab dinner at charming fishing village of Bucerias. It has wonderful small family run restaurants to enjoy fresh sea food.
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St.Maarten-St.Martin – this is complete list of everything perfect vacation needs: sightseeing, wonderful beaches, amazing food. It is half Dutch/half French so it is kind of two islands at once. Dutch side for beach hopping and shopping in Philipsburg and French side for quiet time on a perfect stretch of white sand with turquoise water and palm trees and superb french meals at Grand Case. Children love Loterie farm’s wildlife and unique Butterfly farm and garden. Anse Marcel is secluded beach with breathtaking views to get away from it all…

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Giving thanks and four elements of traditional Mayan Temazcal ceremony

I had a wonderful experience at Temazcal ceremony during my last visit to Riviera Maya in Mexico. Temazcalli, as translated from Aztec language means “house of steam” where through heat, aromatherapy and chanting we can purify and harmonize body and mind. Today, on Thanksgiving day, I keep going back to that special mind body connection experienced at ancient Mexican ritual, reflecting on the past, living holly in the present, celebrating human spirit, life, existence and gratitude.
Traditional temazcal symbolizes place where we can reflect and reconnect with ourselves, Mayans used it to cleanse body and spirit and reach a deep connection with Mother Earth.
Earth is my body
Water is my blood
Wind is my breath
Fire is my spirit
Our group was greeted by Shaman from the local tribe who took us to a round cave where we seated around heated volcanic rocks. Copal, sacred Mayan tree resin, was burned to inhale and detoxify bodies. Then camomile, rosemary and other herbs mixed with water were splashed over heat creating aromatic steam. Shaman was chanting and singing and then invited us to four guided meditations, he told us that we will be giving thanks to four elements, representing four puertas or doors:
First : thankful to beautiful nature, our connection to everything on this planet and being respectful to earth.
Second: thankful to humanity, our spirit, our health, strength given to our bodies.
Third : thankful to ourselves, how we reflect on our own lives and happiness, respect and gratitude and answers for questions inside each one of us.
Fourth: thankful to our family, friends and loved ones,  for love, support and warmth our relationships bring us.
Life is beautiful. Have a safe and happy thanksgiving!

Best coffee in Twin Cities

On my travels and back home, I am always looking for a perfect cup of coffee and cafes with great coffee drinks and tasty roasts, good vibe atmosphere and creative baristas (I strongly believe they are some of most fun people in the world). There are couple local coffee places, they are big part of my life here and they are not found in most Minneapolis/Twin Cities listings online.  City pages has a great review of coffee houses, but in addition here are my two favorite spots, one is for my family time and the other is a workday must.

Family, friends, history and art at Dunn Brothers Smith Douglas More House

Any day, any season has a moment to cherish at this coffee house. Summer patio’s grapevine pergola is a must for a cold flute of prosecco, fall and winter are cozy in many of beautifully decorated historic rooms, that are made for friend and family get togethers. Spring is blooming with cherry trees. It is like a warm and inviting home with great foods and drinks. Dunn Brothers in Eden Prairie is run by a family with amazing attention to detail (children book reading nights, eggs from local farm, home made cards, vinyl records, unique decoration items) and freshly in-house roasted coffee (and you can watch them roasting it).  We built so many great family memories here, lots of blueberry muffins for my little one, quiet “avocado breakfast” mornings for family and many, many cups of flat whites –  my favorite coffee drink choice – it is made with loosely frothed milk and coffee art and amazingly done at Douglas Smith More Dunn Brothers coffee house.

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Best Coffee in Twin Cities

Peace, Love, Coffee and work meetings at  Minneapolis Peace Coffee.

Week day mornings are warmer and brighter at Peace Coffee, that opened two new locations at Minneapolis Capella Tower this year. Peace Coffee is our Minnesota proud company, selling organic, fair trade coffee and they “pedal-no-petrol” their coffee via bicycle couriers to stores and coffee shops. Their blue and red colored skyway location instantly lightens mood. My favorite is their ground level location. It is modern and energetic, talented baristas and creative drinks, it is perfect on a go or for a work meeting. I love combination of rustic reclaimed wood, comfortable plaid chairs, sofas with jewel pillows, contemporary lights, black granite and impressive fireplace. Twin cities blend is my daily awakening coffee choice -it is organic, bold and strong, making a perfect combination with favorite gluten free muffins and Patisserie 46 croissant.

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(this is not sponsored by anyone, just really awesome places to visit).

 

Perfect summer town by the lake

Do you know that feeling when you arrive in some warm vacation destination, sun is so bright that you instantly put on sunglasses, excited to see tan, happy, smiling people wearing sandals, flip-flops and straw hats, taking time to enjoy ice-cream or cold beverage on a hot day. Kids run off to build sand castles or jump into the water.

I always get this feeling of “being on the island time” as soon as I drive into Excelsior city in summer. Life is good in this neighborhood. Excelsior is a perfect Minnesota summer town by the lake, that has just the right number of shops and restaurants, local farmers market, kids playground and couple of beaches paired with the best ice-cream and amazing lake views all around. It is breezy and nonchalant. It is easy to spend a day or a week just letting time go by and savoring every moment of Minnesota precious summer. My favorite moments? Here we go:

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Watching the boats sail or slowly float by the shore

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Explore and find pretty quiet spots around the lake

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Fun things don’t come from comfort places :).

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Spending time with a friend

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Kick your shoes off…go on a swing and hear children laughter at playground

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Girls polka-dot bikini time…

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I tried all Sebastien Joe’s ice-cream flavors during summer but my vote goes to raspberry chocolate.

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Check out local unique stores around the city

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Enjoy dinner with local ingredients at Victor on the water.

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Watch the magic sunset

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Summer in Stockholm

When winter is long and cold, just like in Minnesota, summer brings so much joy and celebration. And Sweds, just like Minnesotans are  having picnics in the parks, biking, swimming, spending week-ends at their summer lake cabins – enjoying every moment of sunshine. Summer happiness is everywhere : on a boat ride to Archipelago beautiful lake islands, in the smiles of happy children riding carousels at Skansen open air museum or playing at Astrid Lindgren’s books theme fairytale park. It is on a gorgeous Strandvagen boardwalk stroll with ice-cream in hand, admiring beautiful views of lake Malaren and Stockholm’s skyline of copper spires, bell towers and roofs.

Outdoor cafes and restaurants are filled with friends and families enjoying their traditional Swedish “fika”, that is coffee and cardamon/cinnamon bun or other sweets. And even Scandinavian design that I expected to be only monochrome, minimalistic palette of earth tones, becomes alive and beautifully inspired by summer too,  bursting in bright colors and flowers of Josef Frank textiles at Svenskt Tenn. So what’s happening on a great day of summer in Stockholm?

What can be better than breeze in your hair and sun on your face, watching boats passing by on board of Stromma’s Ostana, built in 1906. Cruising Archipelago islands and seeing Swedish classic summer cabins.

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IMG_4215IMG_8346Bright colors and flower details at Svenskt Tenn’s Josef Frank show room

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IMG_4478Get breakfast, lunch or enjoy Swedish fika at colorful and cool Urban Deli and then play with kids in the next door park like one of local Sodermalm neighborhood families.

urbandeliIMG_4228IMG_0040Spend afternoon at amazingly cool Fotografiska museum.

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IMG_4276Get on a carousel at Skansen open air museum.

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Enjoy dinner with a lake view at  Veranda for classic Smorgasbrod – buffet selection of famous Swedish cold and hot dishes

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Walk around Gamla Stan

One of great travel experiences in european cities is visiting their old medieval towns. Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm, goes back to 13 century and definitely one of most charming places I visited. Best part is wandering away from touristy main street and losing yourself for couple hours in tiny alleys and cobblestone streets, admiring beautiful pastel colored buildings, pencil lined windows, unique Swedish crafts and details, then finding unexpected little antique shops and cafes tucked away on quaint romantic squares. It felt like being inside of fairytale book pages, back in time. Let’s go for a late afternoon walk around Gamla Stan with me and my camera, that definitely loved this place…

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Stopping by at Hairy Pig, established in 1490, for beer and great charcuterie.

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After dark, Gamla Stan is even more charming..

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Favorite wineries in Sonoma county

I came up with this post while working on itinerary for my friend who is visiting California soon. End of summer and fall is such an amazing time to visit wine counties. Sun is still hot and bright, but nights are cooler and air is crispier.  Everyone chooses different wine region. My choice was Sonoma – it is known for “mom and pop” wineries with great history and intimate setting. It is close to Pacific coast I love – the rugged and beautifully wild – it gives me this amazing feeling of freedom.  We drove picturesque Pacific Highway 1  from San Francisco and admired amazing ocean and cliff views, feeling like in a car commercial. Spent a night in Bodega Bay, and in the morning went for a kite running on a windy beach (read about it here), then drove inland – from colder grey and brown, cloudy, filled with eucalyptus and ocean smells  – to sunlit hills and open yellow-green prairies of Sonoma wine land that really reminded me of Tuscany.

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I love anything bubbly 🙂 Sparkling wine, champagne, prosecco, cava are all in one big happy family for me. Visit to gorgeous Korbel winery was definitely on the top of my itinerary. Great tour of the winery, interesting movie about making of “California champagne” and pretty lunch setting in the patio.

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Not far from Guerneville where Korbel is located, there is a great winery that started back in 1905, tasting room is captivating, featuring photos of winery from very old days. And their famous “Thousand flowers” is perfect California wine – summery and pretty.

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Continuing on wine road…Next on my list is Cline winery. Their Rhone blend “Cashmere” is one of my favorites, warming me up in soft and delicious notes of cherries and chocolate during colder nights in Minnesota. Winery has beautiful grounds, offers great tour telling the story of Valeriano Jacuzzi (one of brothers of famous family who pioneered water pumps) and his grandson, Fred Cline who started the vineyard.

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I have same dreamy face expression on my face after a glass of Cashmere or their Zinfandel as this handsome dude 🙂

And across the road from Cline is stunning Jacuzzi winery with it’s gorgeous Tuscan villa and fountains, gardens, olive trees and roses.

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I saved the best for the last…At Benziger winery with their rich delicious wines – hop on their tram for the tour around estate, see green lush rolling hills in the heart of Sonoma county and hear about their biodynamic practices. The landscaping on Benziger grounds is not just perfectly designed, it is also a showcase for how plants and flowers aid in their farming.  I discovered their cool blog featuring stories about winemaking and great recipes and wine pairings – read more at Benziger blog and schedule the behind the scenes tour.

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Favorite wineries in Sonoma county

To discover your future favorite wineries in Sonoma county or for more planning, check http://www.wineroad.com.

Find more about my California experiences here.