Iceland - with Chrissie Nelson Rotko
This week Nordique is profiling travel and food blogger Chrissie Nelson Rotko. Chrissie runs the blog Off the Eaten Path where she shares her stories and experiences from across the world. And when Nordique found out that she recently travelled to Iceland we could not resist finding out more!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your love of food and travel:
Chrissie: "I live in Charlotte, NC, USA with my husband, AJ, our dog Bodie and our four cats. I work full time as an Assistant Public Defender and I am a food and travel blogger part time.
My parents definitely sparked my love of food and travel. Growing up, my mom would cook dinner and we would always sit down together as a family to catch up and eat; it was at a young age that I learned that food wasn’t just nourishment, but it was also a way to gather and have fun with your loved ones. Now one of my favourite things to do is cook at home or go out to a restaurant and spend a long time savouring my meal while enjoying the company I am with.
We also had the great opportunity as kids to travel to all kinds of places; everywhere from New York City, to Wisconsin to see our cousins, to the beach at the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and as we got older, we took family trips to the Cayman Islands, Hawaii, and Mexico. We also grew up just outside of Washington, DC, and loved exploring the city with my parents and grandparents.
My husband and I both love travelling and exploring, so for holidays and birthdays we have started gifting each other experiences rather than tangible things. Since meeting him, we’ve gone on all sorts of adventures (even if it’s just a weekend away camping in the mountains, a quick road trip to the beach, or 11 days in Iceland!) and we have already started planning our trips for next year! "
When did you start your blog? Where have your adventures taken you?
"I started my blog in 2013 about six months after I moved to Charlotte as a hobby to combine my love of food and writing and to motivate myself to get out and explore my new city (I think a great way to explore a new place is by eating and drinking your way through it!) Over the past five years, I still feature restaurants and activities in Charlotte, but I have expanded my blog to include easy at home recipes and travel guides. My blog has gone from a hobby to a pretty strong side hustle business complete with sponsored content, ads, freelance writing and photography and teaching classes, and it’s been so fun and amazing to my hard work pay off through the growth and exciting to share my passion for food and travel with my readers. I’ve travelled to a lot of places but there are still a lot on my bucket list!"
What inspired you to travel to Iceland?
"Last year AJ and I were talking about planning a big trip for summer 2018 and I suggested that we consider going abroad because we had done a lot of our travelling recently throughout the United States. We wanted to go to a place where we both had never been, that had a lot for us to see and do, and that mixed his love of nature and the outdoors with my love of food and culture. I don’t remember who brought up Iceland but we both loved the idea, especially because we had several friends recently travel to Iceland and all of them had wonderful trips.
AJ spent the next few months mapping out our itinerary covering everything to see and do around the entire country, collecting recommendations from friends, and doing a ton of research for our trip. It was truly a magical 11 days!"
Most memorable event during your time in Iceland?
"The most memorable event during our time in Iceland is when we got locked outside of our rental car in Hella... The key fob just wouldn’t work. It was our second night in Iceland and our first night away from Reykjavik on our road trip around the country and the car just wouldn’t open! We had a big day ahead of us the next day, and it was already 11 PM and I totally started freaking out. The rental car company sent a friend over to where we were staying and he jimmied the lock so we could get our belongings from inside, and then they drove us a new car down at 2 AM so we didn’t have to go back to Reykjavik the next day and ruin our plans. A memorable start to our trip!
That lead into the next day, which was probably our most memorable day in terms of sights. We hiked and tried ice climbing at the Solheimajokull glacier. Alberto from Artic Adventures was the best guide! We then walked on the black sand beach at Reynisfjara, enjoyed lunch at a small, family restaurant in Vik, explored the Fjadrargljufur canyon and marvelled at the glacier lagoon at Jokulsarlon. It was a really long, fun day. We also loved the two days we spent in Siglufjordur, and I loved watching the puffins in Borgarfjordur Eystri. Oh, and the two lagoons/geothermal baths we visited (the Blue Lagoon and Myvatn) were also great! It’s so hard to just pick one thing!"
What did you think of the Nordic food? Did you try any traditional dishes?
"I really liked the food! We stopped at a traditional Nordic restaurant for lunch in Seydisfjordur and enjoyed a Nordic platter full of traditional foods like artic char, reindeer, black pudding, lamb and gravadlax and I think that was one of the best things we ate on our trip. We did try hakarl (fermeted shark) at the Shark Musuem on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and it was not delicious (but tasted better paired with rye bread). I also really loved the fish soup we ate in Borgarfjordur Eystri and Siglufjordur (so perfect after a cold morning of whale watching!). We ate a ton of fish in Iceland and everything tasted so fresh. We also ate a ton of hot dogs... Icelanders love hot dogs! We also stopped at a dairy farm on our way back to Reykjavik for fresh cheese and ice cream. We also really liked Skuli Craft Bar in Reykjavik so much that we went twice!"
What were the favourite places you had food at in Iceland?
"We loved the Nordic Restaurant in Seydisjordur. It was just warm enough for us to sit outside near the harbour and have a glass of wine and a beer while we shared the Nordic platter. The Harbour House Café in Siglufjordur was cozy and had great fish soup. We also loved the local brewery in Siglufjodur, Segull 67, which is in an old fish factory. We spent our first night in Siglo enjoying brews there, got a tour of the brewery from the bartender, and enjoyed some traditional Icelandic folk music from some other brewery patrons who had just come from a concert at the Folk Music Centre. We also had a great meal at Strikid in Akureyri, and lunch at Fridheimar if you are touring the Golden Circle it's a must!"
Did you find Iceland as magical as people say?
"Yes! Even driving out of the airport, we were mesmerised by the landscape. Everywhere you go, there’s just something more unique and beautiful: there’s mountains, crater lakes, geothermal pools, deserts, more mountains, glacier lagoons, so many waterfalls, stunning views of the ocean and so much more. I told AJ a lot of the time I felt like I was either in a dream, a picture book or on a play set, and someone was going to raise the curtain and tell me they were pranking me and it wasn’t real life."
What did you learn from your travels around Iceland?
"While Iceland is a small country, there is so much to see and do there! Many people we’ve talked to use Iceland as a layover destination before going to other parts of Europe or a quick trip destination from the United States, but I feel like we only barely scratched the surface on our eleven day trip, and there was a lot of the country we didn’t see and several places where I wish we could have spent more time. While we enjoyed Reykjavik and the Golden Circle, we saw so many incredible sights, met some amazing people, and stayed in some really cute places outside of the capital city, and so my advice for people travelling to Iceland is to really spend a lot of time there and dedicate one whole trip to exploring the entire country. Every area is different with tons of different things to do, see and eat, and it’s worth a whole vacation to do it all!"
Have you planned a trip to another Nordic destination in your diary?
"Not yet, but we have many Scandinavian spots on our list to visit! Next year we are going to visit my sister and brother-in-law in Hawaii with the rest of my family, and then we are taking a trip with friends to Glacier National Park and Canada. We would love to go to Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and so I am hoping we can plan something there."