Faroe Islands day 4: shopping in Tórshavn…and goodbye

Tórshavn harbour
Our last day was not a full day, with our flight leaving from Vagar airport at 2.35 pm. After sleeping in we hit the streets of Tórshavn with one mission: to purchase a real Faroese wool sweater. As we waited for one particular store to open – Guðrun & Guðrun – whose sweaters we had seen through the window each time we went to the grocery store. The trip was a success and Laetitia bought a beautiful cream sweater (which then proceeded to shed all over the car and her coat!)

Statue in The Tórshavn.
The Tórshavn Cathedral.

As we left Tórshavn for the airport we decided to drive to/through the last of the villages we hadn’t been to/driven through on Streymoy: Velbastaður, Syðradalur, and Norðradalur (this place is so tiny it is just a few houses.)

Laetitia in her new sweater with the village of Velbastaður in the background.

A curious sheep in Norðradalur.
And then, just like that, we refueled, drove through the undersea tunnel one last time, dropped off the rental car, and said goodbye!

Read about our first three days here:

Faroe Islands day 3: breathtaking Sørvágsvatn and Gásadalur

Lake Sørvágsvatn

Our main plan for Day 3 was to hike around Lake Sørvágsvatn, located on Vagar just before the airport (you’ll probably fly over the lake when you arrive/leave). From Tórshavn we drove as though we were headed to the airport, through the undersea tunnel and to the town of Miðvágur, where we parked the car in the parking lot of what looked like a hardware store  You can also park a bit closer to the lake if you like: just after the town the road veers right and many people park around there for the hike.

The start of the hike.
The sheep in the Faroe Islands are literally everywhere.

The Sørvágsvatn hike is pretty relaxed (although muddy) but it does get pretty steep at the end; however you’ll be rewarded with incredible views, with the lake looking like a cup of tea above the ocean…

A group of sheep walk with a view of Sørvágsvatn lake behind them.

Lake Sørvágsvatn does actually fall into the ocean, although not from a very tall height.

After Lake Sørvágsvatn we drove as far west as you can go by car on Vagar to Gásadalur to see the waterfall  that falls into the ocean. On the way there the road narrows and you pass through another one lane tunnel. The tunnel was in fact only built in the 2000’s to make the town more accessible.

Gásadalur and the waterfall.

There is a convenient viewing spot located near the waterfall with a little bench you can sit on and enjoy the view. But I also suggest walking down a little further until you hit the ‘no entry’ sign because you can get a better view from there (the photo above was taken in the that spot while the tiny person in the top right is at the official view spot).

Our final stop for the day was Kirkjubøur, back on Streymoy island, just a 20 min drive south past Torshavn.

Ólavskirkja Chruch in Kirkjubøur.

The Visit Faroe Islands website describes the significance of Kirkjubøur better than I can:

 In medieval times, this small village was the cultural and episcopal centre of the Faroe Islands. Today, it effectively consists of three main elements; firstly, the 900 year-old farmhouse/museum Roykstovan, which is thought to be the oldest wooden house still in use today (the Patursson family have lived there for 17 generations); secondly, the present Parish church, Ólavskirkja, built in 1111 and used as the main church in the Faroe Islands for centuries; and thirdly, the medieval Magnus Cathedral, built in the 1300s and the effective seat of power over several centuries.

Inside Roykstovan.
Inside Roykstovan.

On to day 4…

Faroe Islands day 2: experiencing the beauty of Kalsoy

For Day 2 in the Faroe Islands our main plan was to visit the small island of Klasoy, accessible only by ferry from Klksvik, on the island of Borðoy. This also meant driving through our second undersea tunnel (the longer of the two)! 

We left Tórshavn around 8:15 to give ourselves enough time to get to Klaksvik . To take 10 am ferry we arrived a bit earlier to get in the queue…it wasn’t long (there was only one other car) but the ferry only has room for around 8 cars so in the busier season it is probably good to arrive earlier. We purchased the tickets on the ferry (200 DKK for the car + the two occupants), and we left promptly at 10 am, arriving in Kalsoy by 10.20. You can check the ferry schedule here.

View of Klaksvik harbour from the ferry.
A view of Kalsoy from the ferry.

Kalsoy is very small, and there is only one road that goes along the east island, with three single-lane two-way tunnels to cross (I have written more about these in the practical tips section).

Our first stop on Kalsoy was in Mikladalur to see Selkie the Sealwife, a small statue of a ‘seal woman’. Legend has it that one night a year magical sealmen and women would leave the ocean, shed their sealskins and dance the night away at the edge of the water. One night a young man who wanted to see if this was true, snuck down to the waters edge. Upon seeing a beautiful sealwoman climbing out of the ocean he decided to hide her sealskin so she would not be able to go back at dawn…long story short he basically abducted her and forced her to be his wife.

From Mikladalur we drove to the end of the island to Trøllanes from where we hiked up to the nearby lighthouse. The hiking route is not an official one but it is a fairly simple route. I downloaded an app called Wikiloc to use as a guide especially on the first part where there is a very steep hill and you’re not really sure where you are going yet. The hike begins at the north end of the town – walk up the road that looks like it leads to nowhere and then go through the little red gate. From there proceed up at a diagonal towards the right. Once you’ve cleared the first steep part you keep going up but at a more forgiving angle, around the base of the mountain. After a while you’ll be able to see the tiny lighthouse in the distance. I think we gave ourselves around 2 hours for the whole hike which included spending some time at the top…I would highly advise this since the view is breathtaking.

Once we were done hiking we drove back to the ferry stop and took the 2.30 pm ferry back to Borðoy. Since we had not been sure how much time we’d need in Kalsoy, and on Sundays there are fewer ferries, we hadn’t planned anything else for the day. However, since we had some time we decided to drive as far as we could and headed to Viðareiði on Viðoy island – the northernmost settlement in the Faroes . We didn’t ended up stopping in the town since there wasn’t really time, but you can apparently enjoy a traditional Faroese meal in the town.  One thing to note is that when driving from Klaksvik to Viðareiði there are two single-lane tunnels you will pass through and there is a fair amount more traffic than on Kalsoy. Read my tips for driving through these tunnels here.

On to Day 3…

Four days in the Faroe Islands

A group of sheep walk with a view of Sørvágsvatn lake behind them.
Sørvágsvatn lake on Vágar island, Faroe Islands, March 2017.
If you haven’t heard of the Faroe Islands you’re probably not alone. I didn’t know about them until I came across a photo of an incredible landscape online and investigated where it was taken. The Faroe Islands are an archipelago made up of 18 islands in the North Atlantic…and after seeing more photos I became preoccupied with going there. Thankfully I found a friend willing to go on an adventure and from there we set about planning how to get there and how to spend our time. We read a couple of blogs (Near the Lighthouse, Inusualia) and spent a lot of time of the Visit Faroe Islands tourism site (which is fantastic).

All the spots we visited in the Faroe Islands.
We arrived in the Faroe Islands on a Friday evening, and departed in the afternoon on Tuesday. Here’s how we spent our four days:

And if you’re looking for our practical tips and info, you can read them here.

View from outside Tjørnuvík, Streymoy island, Faroe Islands.

Day 1: Rain, rainbows, sheep and a waterfall on the islands of Streymoy and Eysturoy

On our first day, which was rainy and cloudy, we set out from Tórshavn  to visit a couple of villages and towns during the day. Since we knew this would be the worst weather day of our stay we didn’t plan any hikes or outside activities. We first drove to Vestmanna, which was very quiet but had a very nice little harbour…during the summer season you can take a boat trip from here to see the bird cliffs nearby.

Vestmanna
After we left Vestmanna we headed for Tjørnuvík, which is the northern-most village on Streymoy known for its black sand beach. Along the way we saw the Fossá waterfall. There is some confusing information online about the exact location of Fossá but you can’t really miss it. Once you turn off on the road to Tjørnuvík, it is very narrow (single-lane but two-way traffic) and you have drive slowly so you won’t miss the waterfall cascading on your left. The road gets more narrow as you head down a very steep hill to Tjørnuvík but the views are beautiful. It was incredibly windy in Tjørnuvík so we didn’t stay long, but we did get a glimpse of the rainbow from the beach and played fetch with a local dog before we left for Saksun (also on Streymoy).

Fossa waterfall on Streymoy island.
Fossa waterfall on Streymoy island.

View from the beach in Tjørnuvík.
To see the full beauty of Saksun, make sure you drive in further. At first Saksun appears to be nestled in the mountains; however this is just a trick. While it is a located a little higher it is right by a inlet of the ocean on the west side of the island. If you want to walk to the inlet do so from the first part of the village (you turn left from the road) and not from the Chruch side (you keep straight on the road). The little Church in Saksun is very rugged and beautiful and it was one of my highlights from the trip. Near the parking by the Church is the start of some more serious hiking routes, as well as great bathroom facilities.

Saksun village from above…I climbed along the waterfall to capture this view. That’s the inlet from the ocean that you can see.

The Church in Saksun.

The two small rocks you can see in front of the big cliff-face are the witch and the giant (Risin og Kellingin). You can read the legend about these here.
After a energizing few hours in Saksun we left the island of Streymoy for the island of Eysturoy (connected by a bridge) and headed for the town of Gjógv. On the way there we stopped to take some photos of the views and found our car surrounded by sheep. Up until that point all the sheep had run away as soon as I wanted to take a photo – but we soon figured out what was up…it was feeding time and when they saw an SUV pull-up they assumed it was their dinner. 

Faroese sheep on Eysturoy island.
After our photo session with the sheep was over we continued on the way to Gjógv. The drive takes you through some incredible mountainscapes but everything was covered in clouds so we couldn’t get the full experience. However, based on what we read and the route we took I believe we drove close to Slættaratindur, the highest peak in the Faroes.

Gjógv village, our final stop on day 1.

Gjógv

Sheep walk down by the water in Gjógv.
On to Day 2…

Bae Area

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The view from my friend’s apartment in Outer Sunset, early in the morning, on a day without a trace of the famous fog.

Earlier this month I took my first trip to the West Coast to visit three of my close friends who have moved/moved back. It was a much-needed break from work and I was blessed with ‘San Francisco summer’ – the two or three weeks of heat and sunshine in September/October. I spent the first few nights in Oakland (the rest in Outer Sunset) and had great fun during First Fridays. It was also fleet week so loads of noisy airshows and festivities around the city. I enjoyed the wine and trip out to wine country. I absolutely fell in love with the ‘painted lady’ houses; ate a burrito the size of my arm; racked up so many flights of ‘stairs’ on my iPhone activity counter; marveled at the Redwood trees; and discovered Dutch Crunch bread.

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Fleet week air display against the Golden Gate Bridge.
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Street performers on a break near Pier 39.
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Escape from Alcatraz.
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A most patriotic seagull.
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Pier 39.
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Mission district.
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Early sunset in Oakland harbor.
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One of my favourite photos from the trip, outside Space Burger in Oakland.
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The exquisite Oakland theater.
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On my first day we went for a walk in the Redwood Regional Park.
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I couldn’t get enough of the Redwood trees.

Visiting Trinidad: what to do on a 4 day trip

Trinidad holiday

Last year, for Memorial Day weekend my friend and I decided we were in need of a mini holiday. We wanted to somewhere that was a relatively quick and direct flight from New York, somewhere warm, and somewhere that wouldn’t be too touristy. We pulled open Google Maps and assessed our options, finally deciding on Trinidad!

This post is very late in the making but since we had a lot of challenges finding good info online, I thought it would be useful to do a write-up about our experiences. So if you want to spend 4 days in Trinidad, here’s what you can do…

A view of Port of Spain
A view of Port of Spain

Day 1: Arriving in Port of Spain and “Liming” on The Avenue

After settling in at our guesthouse we were starving (Jetblue’s free snacks only take you so far). We had plans to meet up with a friend of a friend to go “liming” (partying) later on the Avenue, but we need to grab a bite beforehand. The lady working at the guesthouse recommend we go to the cinema/mall (MovieTowne) in town but this was ultimately not the right move for us. The mall is full of US fast food chains, none of which appealed to us. Eventually, we settled on a seafood restaurant inside but the food was pricey and ultimately the least interesting meal we ate on the trip. After that we met up with Andrew, a college friend of a friend of mine and we headed to the Avenue, which is lined with bars, ranging from more upscale lounges to chilled-out and casual dives. We hopped around drinking g&ts but didn’t stay out too late.

Maracas Beach Trinidad
Maracas Beach Trinidad

Day 2: A day trip to Maracas beach

Our mission for our first full day in Trinidad was to hit the beach. Some internet research prior to the trip revealed Maracas beach as the place to go. We spoke with the guesthouse when they arrived and they arranged for a driver who would arrive in the morning and take us there for the day. Victor, our driver, was really fantastic and a huge help for the remainder of our time in Trinidad.

Maracs Beach, Trinidad

Maracas beach seems like it is really close to Port of Spain, but it actually takes maybe 45 mins to an hour to get there, because there is only one road and it is very windey (on the day we were there, there was a huge festival/party happening not too far from the beach and the road was absolutely packed on the way back into town. The beach is not very big but it is really lovely and we had a great day there. There are toilet facilities that were very clean and well looked after, but bring change because there is a small fee.

Maracas Beach Trinidad

Maracs Beach, Trinidad

Maracas Beach Trinidad
Maracas Beach Trinidad

Food wise there are tons of food stalls selling “Shark and Bake” (and other food options) but there is one that has a very long, and that’s the one you must go to – Richard’s. “Bake” is a type of fried flatbread on which you can have your choice or shark or fish. Once you get that you get into a line to choose toppings and condiments: there are so many that it can be stressful, so observe (as we did) what others are choosing before you. Honestly, this one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life and I dream about having it again all the time.
After we had recovered a little from stuffing our faces we spotted an ice cream truck selling homemade ice cream – and they had coconut flavor which is one of my favorites…or should I say it was until I had this – the ice cream was so good that it is pointless to eat other coconut ice cream again.

Richard's Bake & Shark Maracas Beach Trinidad
Richard’s Bake & Shark Maracas Beach Trinidad
One of the best meals I've ever had.
Bake & Shark: one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
The amazing ice cream stand!
The amazing ice cream stand!
haven't found coconut ice cream that tastes this good anywhere else.
I haven’t found coconut ice cream that tastes this good anywhere else.

On our way back to the guesthouse, Victor spotted a roti stand on the side of the road in the city center and we picked up dinner. The rotis were really cheap (about 3 USD) and absolutely delicious and we ate them with champagne purchased at the airport, before passing out, exhausted from a whole day at the beach.

Macqueripe beach Trinidad
Macqueripe beach Trinidad on Day 3.

Day 3: A secluded beach and flight of the scarlet Ibis 

for day three we had booked afternoon trip to go see the scarlet Ibis coming in to roost at sunset in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. We were really keen to go to the beach again but Maracas would have been too far. So Victor recommended we go to a tiny little beach called Macqueripe, which was much closer. When he dropped off we were the only people there aside from a small beach clean-up crew. The beach is really really tiny but the water is amazing, and really calm and basically your own ocean swimming pool. Once it reached a little later a lot more people showed up, but at no point did it feel crowded.

Making friends at the beach.
Making friends at the beach.
Victor brought us lunch from his restaurant so that we wouldn't get hungry at the beach!
Victor brought us lunch from his restaurant so that we wouldn’t get hungry at the beach!

In the afternoon a driver arranged as part of the Ibis tour (booked through Island Experiences) picked us up and took us to Caroni. When you arrive, it doesn’t look like much – just a few boats docked in the water.

These are the boats on which you navigate Caroni.
These are the boats on which you navigate Caroni.

Once you head into the mangroves it is quite a different experience: narrow waterway tunnels enveloped by mangrove trees, followed by wider open areas dotted with other boats. Seeing the brilliant red-orange birds among the dark green was really incredible but taking photos is tough so don’t expect Nat Geo shots with your iPhone. It is also a little annoying with everyone on the boat clamoring to take photos so make sure you pick a seat on the edge or front/back of the boat.

The mangroves of Caroni swamp.
The mangroves of Caroni swamp.
The only half-decent photo I managed to get of the Ibis.
The only half-decent photo I managed to take of the Ibis.

After the trip our driver dropped us at nice Indian restaurant (name long forgotten but it is inside a new condo development).

Day 4: the Temple in the Sea, one of the world’s tallest Hanuman statues and more food!

This was our last day, with our flight booked for 4:48 pm. We woke up early and decided to go for a walk around Queen’s Park Savanah, which was just a short walk from the guesthouse. There were loads of people jogging or power walking around the park.

Our morning walk.
Our morning walk.

Queens Park Savannah

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Fresh coconuts at Queens Park Savannah towards the end of our walk.

We had no specific plans for this day before we arrived but based on some blogs I came across and advice from Victor we set out to see The Temple in the Sea at Waterloo, followed by a visit to the Dattatreya Temple to see the 85 ft. Hanuman statue. On the way out of town we stopped by Victor’s restaurant to get food for the trip. It was outrageously hot this day and the sun was merciless. The route to these sights (which are relatively close to one another) is not that scenic but the temples are really beautiful and have really interesting histories.

The Temple in the Sea, Trinidad
The Temple in the Sea, Trinidad

The Temple in the Sea, Trinidad

The Temple in the Sea, Trinidad

The Temple in the Sea, Trinidad

The Temple in the Sea, Trinidad

The 85 ft. Hanuman statue at the Dattatreya Temple.
The 85 ft. Hanuman statue at the Dattatreya Temple.

Dattatreya Temple, Trinidad.

Although we were pretty full from our 2 breakfasts (at the guesthouse and at Victor’s restaurant) but we also had to try a local specialty – doubles – which are small flatbreads with curried chickpeas. Like all the local dishes we tried, they were delicious but very messy to eat in our unskilled hands.

The doubles stand
The doubles stand

Doubles stand, Trinidad

Doubles, Trinidad

From there we headed back to Victor’s restaurant to pick up rotis for the road and then it was off to the airport. We arrived a little early – and our flight ended up being delayed – but full of food and very sunburnt we returned to NYC!

This is Victor's restaurant.
This is Victor’s restaurant.
This is Hannah, who is the chef in Victor's restaurant.
This is Hannah, who is the chef in Victor’s restaurant.

 

A few basics:

Getting there: Jet Blue flies direct to Port of Spain from JFK New York, for around 500 USD. The flight time is apx. 5 hours. We took a flight that left in the morning on Saturday and arrived late afternoon in Trinidad. You can buy a SIM card at the airport. We took a cab from the airport to the hotel (there is an official cab booth right near arrivals).

Where to stay: after much searching online we decided to stay at L’Orchidée Boutique Hotel. Port of Spain gets quite a lot of business travelers so there are also a lot of bigger global chain hotels but the guesthouse was really lovely and a much better choice for us. We also spent time deliberating whether to stay all three nights in Port of Spain or whether to stay near the beach or perhaps even to go to Tobago for a day, but in the end the Trip Advisor reviews for some of the accommodations outside of the city were not very positive and a trip to Tobago would have been a little bit hard to fit in.

Prices: I’m struggling to remember the prices of everything…however I think the whole day trip to the beach to Maracas was around 60 or 70 USD (shared between two of us). For the trip we did on day 4 and the airport drop-off Victor gave us one amount for the whole day. The Caroni sanctuary visit was 55 USD pp and our stay at L’Orchidée was 345 USD for the entire 3-night stay, which included breakfast, but keep in mind this was over a year ago. 

Tip: if you’re a coffee addict make sure to bring your own!