A House in Iceland

A House in Iceland

Sure it’s got nice views, but where’s the closest Starbucks?

Sep 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

“I don’t eat fish”

I took a tour of Iceland once.  Lovely people.  Beautiful country.  Other-worldly with all of its various landscapes.  Anywho, the tour went all around Ring Road, the road that circles the entire island.  We ate in restaurants around the country, as well as in locals’ homes.  And this one friggin’ lady on the tour, every time we stopped to eat, would remind our guide, “I don’t eat fish.”  Not because she was allergic, or for religious reasons, or because she was vegetarian and wanted to respect all living creatures—she just didn’t like eating it.  The woman’s in Iceland.  Iceland.  You know what Iceland has?  Fish.  That’s what they have.  They’re a tiny little island surrounded by an ocean full of fish.  And we go into a local’s home, where they have spent hours making a fish-based meal for us—because, remember, that’s what they eat in Iceland—and she doesn’t have the decency to stomach a little trout.

(I actually ate this in Buenos Aires, but Iceland’s fish was just as scrumptious)

You know how they talk about the Ugly American traveler?  A stick-in-the-mud tourist who is unwilling to adapt to a new culture while traveling?  This woman was the poster child of the Ugly American.  And “child” is a good word for her.  It was like she was refusing to eat her broccoli.  I’m getting a little too worked up over this.  Pump the brakes, Robert.  But seriously, when you go to Grandma’s house and she serves you crap food, you eat that food and lie and say it tastes great.  Just because you’re never going to see this Icelander again doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them the same courtesy.  And the craziest part was this was delicious fish.  It was caught, like, fifty feet away that day and wonderfully prepared.  Of all the times to give fish another shot, this would be it.  But nope, Ugly American Woman stuck to her guns.  All she ate was potatoes for the entire week.

Please, don’t ever be like her.  If you ever visit a place where the local food doesn’t meet your delicate sensibilities, for the sake of international relations, suck it up and eat.

Aug 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert
Nov 2011
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Cities, Europe, Italy, Pictures, Rome


Sprinkles for Breakfast

travel eat restaurant hagelslag netherlands

I didn’t know about hagelslag before visiting Amsterdam, but my local friend quickly filled me in on this Dutch food.  When I first heard the word, I couldn’t escape the image of Scotland’s traditional dish, Haggis.  I was very, very wrong thinking that.  Hagelslag isn’t sheep innards simmered in a stomach at all.  It’s actually buttered toast topped with sprinkles.

Delicious, right?  Can’t go wrong with butter, bread, and sprinkles.  But even with only three ingredients, hagelslag is pretty tough to eat.  Frankly, it has some engineering failures.  I love me some sprinkles, but only when they are well secured by more sugar.  Hagelslag lacks either frosting or a glaze to hold down the sprinkles.  As wonderful as butter tastes, it fails as an adhesive.  These Hagelslag sprinkles are completely loose, precariously balanced on frictionless bread and prone to falling off if you don’t eat the bread completely horizontally.  With every lift of the bread, a few more sprinkles roll away and meet their unfortunate fate of hitting the ground, uneaten.  I tried to eat over my basket so I could eat the rebel sprinkles later.  This is when I discovered there is no dignified way to eat a handful of loose sprinkles.  Try it.  It’s impossible.

It seems like the Dutch have learned to overcome these hagelslag pitfalls and are going back for seconds.  They even sell hagelslag in their grocery stores.

store bought Dutch hagelslag

And this is a breakfast item, which isn’t really strange, I guess.  Having a little something sweet to start the day seems to be a Western World favorite.  Americans have donuts, and the Dutch have hagelslag.  But there must be some way to make these chocolate sprinkles more easily spreadable on bread.  Like, some kind of spreadable chocolate.  Wait a second, that’s Nutella!  Far be it for me to try and change a nation’s traditional food choices, but seriously, someone tell the Dutch about Nutella.  It would solve all of my eating problems when I visit their country.

Oct 2011
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Whozits and Whatzits Galore at the Spanish Steps

Rome’s Spanish Steps are one of the big sights to see in the city, and I’m not sure why.  I guess they’re pretty photogenic, as far as steps go.  They’re definitely more impressive than my apartment building’s stairwell.  But they’re still just steps.  They don’t light up when you walk on them or move like Hogwarts’ staircases.  The same thing happens when you walk up the Spanish Steps as when you walk up non-Spanish Steps.  You go from one altitude to another, possibly sweating along the way.  I still liked seeing them, though, because the piazza where they are had some of the hardest selling merchants I’ve ever encountered.

All the sightseers relaxing on the steps had to continuously turn away these wandering businessmen.  These guys sold the go-to tourist trinkets.  Bouncy balls, plastic doodads that light up, noisemakers.  You know, authentic Italian merchandise.  A few stuck to selling just one item: roses.  These sellers were the most interesting to watch.  They had a whole little dance they’d do.  A merchant would give a person a rose and not charge them for it.  It would look like he was just doing it as an Italian ambassador of good will, spreading joy to all foreigners visiting his fair city.  Then, once the “customer” started walking away with the rose, the merchant would follow him, and he would either have to pay for the rose or give it back.  It’s like these guys gave people a little rose test drive for free.  “Take that rose around the block.  See how it handles.  I know you’ll be impressed by its performance.”

I never saw anyone actually buy a rose from one of these guys, but I had to admire their work ethic.  Handing out a rose, chasing after the rose, handing out the rose again.  They were smart at targeting people, too.  They’d go for the guy with the girl on his arm.  A classic maneuver.  The guy wants to look good in front of his girl, so he buys her the rose.  I wonder how many relationships have ended over the guy handing the rose back?

Sep 2011
POSTED BY travelbugrobert