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Hi!

Welcome to my life. I share stories about my adventures in travel and food. Enjoy!

Best of... 2015

Best of... 2015

In 2015, we traveled… a lot. More than we've ever traveled in a calendar year. The majority of travel occurred in the last 2 months of 2015. Exhausting, yet exhilarating. When reflecting on our travels, I realized two things: 1) I can offer a ton of great info on booking, packing, and experiences on trips and 2) Maybe this travel thing is a good fit for me. 

While we traveled a ton and there are so many stories to share, here's a quick "Best of" list for hotels and restaurants we visited in 2015. Most are international, some are in the US and some are right here in North Carolina. 

Favorite Restaurants - Finland, Russia, USA

Cafe Massilia - Monrovia, California, USA
Why we loved it: Truly amazing and authentic food. The owners are from an area near Nice, France and it shows. You can feel the heart and soul in the food. Best part: for lunch, they had a prix fix menu with a starter, main, and dessert for $25. That's a deal - ESPECIALLY in California
       Mid 2016 update: They have closed their doors. According to their Facebook, they will reopen, but no word on when or where. 

 Crepes and a side salad

Crepes and a side salad

 Escargot... classic 

Escargot... classic 

 Soup a l'oignon

Soup a l'oignon

 Deliciously herby trout

Deliciously herby trout

 Profiteroles with creme

Profiteroles with creme

Sky Ounasvaara - Rovaniemi, Finland
Why we loved it: Unique, high-end food that doesn't feel pretentious. Not to mention, beautiful views of the raw forests of Lapland. If you want the full, delicious story, check out the post dedicated to this amazing hotel restaurant in Lapland

 Sky Ounasvaara Cod 

Sky Ounasvaara Cod 

Roka Ravintola - Rovaniemi, Finland
Why we loved it: The friendlies and most accommodating service, plus delicious and FRESH food. Not to mention, possibly the best pulled pork outside of the southeastern US. If you want another mouth-watering story full of photos, check out the post entirely about the best bistro in Rovaniemi

 Roka Pulled Pork Street Sandwich

Roka Pulled Pork Street Sandwich

Stefan's Steakhouse - Helsinki, Finland
Why we loved it: Another delight in Finland. It was made better by the fact that we met Stefan (yes, of Top Chef fame) earlier that day. Even for the high-priced Helsinki, the prix fix meal was quite reasonable, even more so for 7 courses. Also, that Nutella crème brulee… om nom  nom

 Stefan's Steakhouse Nutelle Creme Brulee 

Stefan's Steakhouse Nutelle Creme Brulee 

 Stefan and me in Helsinki's Irish Pub

Stefan and me in Helsinki's Irish Pub

Ristorante Povoledo - Venice, Italy
Why we loved it: They graciously accommodated 6 people with love and warmth. They are really close to the train station and we had the last high speed train out of Venice to catch. The food is bellisimo! Out of 6 people, three had the meatloaf, and 2 had the most amazing ravioli ever put on this earth.  We ate everything before we even thought about pictures. Sorry not sorry.

Teremok - St. Petersburg, Russia
Why we loved it: It's surprisingly amazing fast food. The folks at Teremok make a fresh crepe and stuff it with either sweet or savory filling. I had a chicken Caesar for my meal and got a strawberry jam filled for dessert. Then they send you on your way. Don't wait until your last night in Russia to try this wonderful and quick eatery. 

Good Stuff Eatery - Arlington, Virginia, USA
Why we loved it: GSE serves diner style food, but fresher, and less greasy than a real diner. You can do any burger as a chicken sandwich and they have amazing salads (that wedge, OMG). Not to mention, you'll want an entire bucket of their rosemary and thyme fries all to yourself. And once you feel like you want to explode from all the deliciousness, grab one of their milkshakes on your way out the door. Good Stuff Eatery has several locations around the DC Metro area, but our first experience was at the Arlington location. Little did we know it was another Top Chef alum's restaurant, Spike!

Milkshakes at French Broad Cafe - Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Why we loved it: Speaking of milkshakes, we had rich and thick-a-licious milkshakes from French Broad Café in Asheville. Now, when it comes to a proper chocolate shop, I prefer Chocolate Fetish in Asheville. But, for a café style dessertery, French Broad has it down pat. From macarons to milkshakes, the strongest of sweet tooths will be satiated. 

AKA Bistro - Pasadena, California, USA
Why we loved it: The ahi, the salmon, the duck, the CHEESE BOARD, where do I begin! I got this recommendation from a client of mine who lives in the area and he did not disappoint. AKA is so good, we ate there twice in 3 days. Nuff said.

 AKA Bistro Duck Breast

AKA Bistro Duck Breast

 AKA Bistro Salmon

AKA Bistro Salmon

 AKA Bistro Cheese Board 

AKA Bistro Cheese Board 

Cozida das Furnas, Furnas, Sao Miguel, Azores
Why we loved it: It's cooked in the ground! In a volcano!! Well, it used to be. Basically, this meal is a paleo's dream - it's all meat and vegetables, steamed by geothermally heated soil. The fats from the meat flavor the greens and the veggies and it may be the greatest thing ever to come out of Portugal - including Cristiano Ronaldo. There, I said it. 

 Traditional Cozida

Traditional Cozida

Restaurant Rincón de León - Barcelona, Spain
Why we loved it: You don't get a much better Barcelona experience than sitting in a family owned restaurant with a view of La Sagrada Familia eating authentic paella. Plus, they let you play with your food.

 Playing with shrimp heads...

Playing with shrimp heads...


Favorite Hotels - Russia, Finland, Azores

Mercure Arbat Moscow
Why we loved it: SUPER friendly staff, clean rooms, and a phenomenal location. It's close to a pedestrian-only street with tons of shops and street stalls, plus it's right across from a metro stop. What more could you want in a massive city like Moscow? 

Hotel Indigo Helsinki
Why we loved it: Awesome rooms, location is convenient for walking everywhere you need in Helsinki, but it's not the price of a city-center hotel. Not to mention, they have a great pool and proper Finnish sauna for your enjoyment. 

SantaSport Cottage Rovaniemi
Why we loved it: Other than maybe staying in an igloo in the dead of winter, the cottages at SantaSport are a great Finnish experience. Everything is made of wood, clean as can be and in the traditional Scandinavian fashion, quite minimal. Best part: there's a full kitchen and a Finnish style sauna in each cabin. 

Sao Miguel Park Hotel
Why we loved it: Have you ever wanted to walk into a hotel and feel loved? That's what happens here. The Azorians are so welcoming and loving that no matter what airline you fly, where you have the most points, you feel like a VIP as a soon as you walk in the door. The front desk staff operates like a concierge, helping you to plan everything you need while visiting the island. 

Favorite Places - Azores, Russia, Italy, Spain

Nordeste, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal
Why we loved it: The entire Northwest (Nordeste) side of the island is like a lush rainforest with waterfalls, amazing cliffs, green trees, and friendly people.

 Nordeste

Nordeste

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow & Catherdral of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg
Why we loved it: These two traditionally constructed Russian cathedrals are quintessentially Russian. Brightly colored, candy-like domes sit atop the buildings and glint in the sunlight. You can't help but smile when you see them… and then want some candy or ice cream.

St Basil's Cathedral
 Photo by Matthew Vick

Photo by Matthew Vick

Libraria Aqua Alta, Venice
Why we loved it: This bookstore is in Venice, so immediately it's pretty cool. But it's a book shop on one of the blue canals. How can this not be amazing.

 Libraria Acqua Alta, Venice - A gondola displaying books

Libraria Acqua Alta, Venice - A gondola displaying books

 Libraria Acqua Alta Back Stairs

Libraria Acqua Alta Back Stairs

La Sagrada Familia Barcelona, Spain
Why we love it: yes, it’s a massive tourist attraction, but once you visit, you'll understand why millions of people flock to this cathedral. This is the most amazing cathedral we've ever seen. It beats Notre Dame de Paris hands down. 

 Just one of the many windows of La Sagrada Familia

Just one of the many windows of La Sagrada Familia

 

Have questions about the list? Shoot me an email either here or threestartraveler {at} gmail {dot} com
 

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