As you probably know, Dan and I went to Jordan last month for almost two weeks! Our trip was amazing, but the main point of it was, obviously, Petra!! Petra had just re-opened during our visit and we only saw 12 other tourists, which was crazy! I will be posting a full write up and guide on Tuesday, but here are some of our favorite pictures for your Friday viewing pleasure! Happy Weekend!!
When I heard that the site of Jesus’ baptism was only a 20 minute drive from where I was staying in the Dead Sea, I decided that I needed to see it, despite not being religious (I did grow up Christian). We arranged for our excellent driver to take us to the Baptism site before driving the few hours south to Petra. Since it’s close to the Dead Sea, the baptism site can be visited as day trip from either the Dead Sea or Amman. The entire visit takes about 2 – 2.5 hours, depending on how long you need to wait for the next tour. And, for those looking for information, the site is actually called Bethany Beyond The Jordan. There are signs on the highway leading up to it.
A mosaic of the site. More impressive than the actual site in my opinion.
Jordan, a small country in the Middle East existing between Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia (!), recently reopened for travel, and Dan and I spent almost two weeks in Jordan in May 2021 right when it opened up post-COVID lockdown! While I will write more about our trip as a whole, we started our trip with a weekend on the Dead Sea, which was lovely and a great way to start a trip! And yes, while visiting the Dead Sea from Israel is well-known, you can also visit the Dead Sea from Jordan!
Lovely spring flowers all over Jordan.
WHAT IS THE DEAD SEA
The Dead Sea is actually a salt lake – not a proper Sea – sandwiched between Jordan and Israel and the West Bank. The Dead Sea is in the Jordan Rift Valley and its main tributary is the Jordan River, of biblical fame. The Dead Sea is called the Dead Sea because of its salinity (i.e. saltiness); it’s so salty that nothing can live in the Dead Sea for any extended period of time.
Dead Sea from the side of the road. It’s much steeper than it looks.
After a somewhat disappointing visit to the new American Express Centurion Lounge at JFK two weeks ago, Dan and I made our way to JFK’s Emirates Lounge for a proper breakfast and drinks before departing on Emirates’ morning flight to Dubai. Spoiler alert, the Emirates Lounge was great and service was fantastic. We both prefer this lounge to the new American Express Centurion Lounge.
Dan and I finally made our long anticipated visit to New York JFK’s American Express Centurion Lounge two weeks ago! We have been waiting for this lounge to open for over a year and honestly, I kept my Platinum Card just for this experience. We visited JFK’s Centurion Lounge on a Thursday morning around 8:00 AM, prior to boarding an 11:20 AM Emirates flight to Dubai. We wanted a place to respond to a few last minute work emails, drink some breakfast beverages, and eat a small breakfast. In short, the American Express Centurion Lounge in Terminal 4 did provide what we were looking for, but it was not as great as I imagined. And it was very crowded, even on a Thursday non-holiday weekend morning. Here is our review; be prepared for crowds and waits as travel continues to pick up.
You guessed it; Dan and I took a food tour (actually 2!) when we visited Iceland back in February 2020. We choose to tour with Wake Up Reykjavik because it fit into our schedule, but there are a few in town. From my online research, these tours are similar and you try some of the same foods. And on that note, what is Icelandic food you may ask? An interesting mix of fresh, local seafood, the most amazing rye bread, local butter and lamb, licorice flavored things, and, among some other things that I’m sure I’ve missed, hotdogs!! Yes, my favorite, hotdogs! Our tour provided a good overview of Icelandic cuisine and a look into modern Icelandic life, at least in Reykjavik, through our very cool guide, Tinna. I would recommend this tour to tourists with a few days in Iceland, foodies, and those on a budget wanting to try some good food. That being said, the tour was still approximately $95 USD, but everything in Iceland is expensive and this tour offered a lot of quality, classic Icelandic food.
Whether it was COVID related, that we didn’t know what to order, or that it was the holidays, we did not have the best food on our trip to San Jose and La Fortuna, Costa Rica (someone tell me where to go next time!). But, we did have an absolutely fabulous dinner on my birthday at a restaurant in Escazu called Gallo Rojo, or the Red Rooster.
Gallo Rojo is a casual eatery with indoor and outdoor seating, although even indoor is “open air” in the Western neighborhood of Escazu. There is parking on site, but we took an Uber from our hotel, the Sheraton San Jose. We had made a reservation in advance via messaging the restaurant on Instagram, one of my favorite ways to make restaurant reservations in foreign countries where I don’t speak the language! Luckily our reservation was all set and we were seated at a lovely table outside.
The menu at Gallo Rojo is a mix of Costa Rican and Asian dishes, and it was all excellent. And before you think that’s really strange, the owner’s father is Costa Rican and his mother is Tiawanese, so he knows both cuisines very well. He also studied in Argentina and Los Angeles and has worked at known restaurants world wide. Its no surprise that this place is good. The food is also shareable, so Dan and I split a few dishes over the course of the evening.
Fried chicken Bao bun.
Now, for the good stuff! Dan and I started our dinner with the house sangria. The sangria was very good and not at all sweet, which is just how we like it.
Thereafter, we ordered several dishes, our favorites of which were the civiche, the dumplings, and pork belly and fried chicken Bao buns! My very favorite was the fried chicken Bao bun. It was just really, really tasty!
Pork Belly Bao bun.
Fried Bao bun numero dos.
Our favorite part of the meal, however, was our drive home. Unknown to us, San Jose imposed a 9 PM curfew between Christmas and New Years, during which time Uber cannot operate. Well, we just missed the Uber deadline and taxis were no where to be found. Luckily, the owner drove us home to the Sheraton Escazu! Now that is birthday service!!
STEAL OUR DINNER
ON A BUDGET
While cheaper food can certainly be found in Escazu (and even more so in San Jose proper), Gallo Rojo is quite reasonable.
My birthday is the day after Christmas and since it often gets bundled with that holiday, I like to really celebrate (otherwise, it just gets lost). We usually do not go away for my actual birthday due to its proximity to Christmas, but this year, since Christmas was largely cancelled (thanks, COVID), we flew to San Jose, Costa Rica on Christmas evening and were there to properly celebrate my birthday on the 26th!
Christmas wine in JFK Terminal 5. They have really relaxed the drinking situation in T5 during COVID.
The day started out with complimentary breakfast at our hotel, the Sheraton San Jose, which is actually located in the ex-pat friendly suburb of Escazú. I was pleased that were were seated outdoors on an open-air terrace and the weather was gorgeous – sunny and about 70 F (21 C). I was even more pleased to learn that the hotel breakfast was totally delicious and honestly, some of the best food we had on the trip (spoiler alert, we did not love Costa Rican food). For my big birthday breakfast, I had the tastiest cappuccino and a plate of proper rice and beans, plantains, sausage, taquitos, and the most amazing chicken quesadilla-like thing in a yellow sauce, all topped with a spicy red salsa. Birthday off to a great start!
Excellent start to year 37. The quesadilla thing was amazing. I definitely had seconds!
Of course when Dan and I traveled to Iceland last year (pre-pandemic), we paid a visit to the Blue Lagoon. I mean, how could we not? Its one of Iceland’s most well-known tourist attractions and those pictures look just plain stunning. I know, I know. Some “cool” kids think its too touristy for a visit, but I totally disagree. Especially after visiting. After all, you are a tourist for a reason! In any case, there is a ton of information about the Blue Lagoon on the world wide web, but I’m sharing our experience for those planning trips and looking for more than a simple overview of the Blue Lagoon. Happy geothermal water bathing!
Dan and I went to Iceland exactly one year ago, in February 2020 over Valentine’s Day(!), and despite being kept inside for an entire day due to Storm Dennis, we had a fantastic time. Since our main hobby is eating and drinking, we obviously joined a food tour in Iceland – 2 in fact! One of these was a full day private Golden Circle Gourmet tour with Magical Iceland. This tour is most certainly the most expensive food tour I have ever done (and probably will ever do), but everything in Iceland is expensive and I found it to be worth the hefty price tag. Booking was easy via email correspondence with the owner and main tour guide, Ymir. And, when our original date had to be rebooked due to Storm Dennis, Ymir was quick to reach out to us and reschedule (or refund if we preferred).
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