Best Of Bilbao! ad hoc Cascanueces Restaurant

Tomates de Lodosa
Tomates de Lodosa.  ad hoc Cascanueces.  Bilbao, Spain.


Heros 21, 48009 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

Less than a 10 minute walk from the Guggenheim Museum, ad hoc Cascanueces consistently delivers one of most memorable dining experiences in Bilbao.

Chef Diego Valdivielso and sommelier Oscar Vila’s customer service and attentiveness is based in the belief that the best wine “is not necessarily the most expensive, but the one that is shared”.

Some of the better known dishes at ad hoc Cascanueces include Japanese pasta with lacquered bacon, octopus and spicy mayonnaise, scorpionfish with wild rice, and red tuna tatami.  The dessert known as Postre Bosque Dulce (sweet forest dessert) is smash hit with diners.

ad hoc Cascanueces (Cascanueces = “Nutcracker” in English) is consistently one of the highest rated restaurants in Bilbao.

Travelers will find presentation of all dishes in fluent English when desired.

Postre Bosque Dulce (sweet forest dessert). ad hoc Cascanueces
Ad Hoc Cascanueces
ad hoc Cascanueces. Bilbao, Spain.
Tataki de atun rojo
Tataki de atun rojo (tuna tataki).  ad hoc Cascanueces
Picanha brasileña
Picanha Brasilena.  ad hoc Cascanueces

Photo credit: ad hoc Cascanueces



Relax and Rejuvenate: Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Become part of a natural wonder: Blue Lagoon, Iceland

240 Grindavík, Iceland

The rejuvenating, relaxing geothermal waters of Blue Lagoon, Iceland are among the top spa destinations in the world.  And the view here is amazing.

Waters at the Blue Lagoon stay around 100F, and naturally renew themselves every 40 hours.   The water is just 4.5 feet / 1.4 meters at the deepest point.

Rejuvenation at Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Visit year-round: Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Located 30 miles / 47 km southwest of Reyjavik, the Blue Lagoon is supported by an on-site spa, hotel, and restaurant to supplement the experience.

Upon arrival, visitors are equipped with a wristband, which works like a locker key and credit card.  Very handy for keeping track of your things, and buying drinks while in the water.

Surrounding campus of Blue Lagoon, Iceland

There are a few things to keep in mind while visiting Blue Lagoon, such as staying hydrated, removing jewelry, and proper use of conditioner.  A video with the best tips can be found here: YouTube guide to visiting Blue Lagoon

Note that the staff supporting the Blue Lagoon are known for keeping an incredibly clean  facility.  Pre-booking is required.


Photo Credit: Blue Lagoon, Iceland.


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The 5 Million Star Hotel, Iceland


Stay outdoors while being indoors.  The 5 Million Star Hotel, Iceland.

Hrosshagi 2, Skalholt 801, Iceland

The 5 Million Star Hotel offers just that: a clear and amazing view of 5 million stars and the aurora borealis. Less than one hour drive east from Reykjavic, guests stay outdoors – and simultaneously indoors – inside one of five heated bubbles nestled in the forest.

Each bubble fits two adults, with a huge bed with an unbeatable view of the sky and forest.  A nearby, centrally located shared services area has the well-appointed shower and kitchen facilities.  Each bubble is equipped with electrical outlets so guest iPhones stay well-charged.

One of the most unique and rewarding experiences in Iceland – the 5 Million Star Hotel.

Choose from five bubbles: Una, Asta, Thorunn, Valdis, or Maria.


Unbeatable views of the sky and forest.  The 5 Million Star Hotel, Iceland.

Photo Credit: 5 Million Star Hotel

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Frost and Fire Hotel, Iceland

Frost og Funi pic 4
Along the river Varma.  Frost and Fire Hotel, Iceland.


Hverhamar, 810 Hveragerði, Iceland

Located 30 miles east from Reykjavic on Route 1/Ring Road, Frost and Fire Hotel is home base for Iceland experience seekers.

Guests can choose from salmon fishing (with fishing permits sold at reception), snorkeling in nearby clear waters, Icelandic horse riding, Jeep tours, and several different difficulty levels of mountain biking – all close by Frost and Fire.

Rooms range from $168 to $510 per night.  Guests can choose from single, double, and even family size rooms.

The on-site restaurant Varma specializes in the Iceland slow food concept (small scale local producers and farmers), with views overlooking the river.

F&F pic3
Nighttime views. Frost and Fire Hotel, Iceland.
Frost_og_funi pic 1
Guest room.  Frost and Fire Hotel, Iceland.


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Vegetarian in Paris: Carmen Ragosta Mode and Cuisine

boutique fuori bianca
Front Fascade: Carmen Ragosta Mode and Cuisine. Photo Courtesy: Carmen Ragosta

Carmen Ragosta

8 Rue de la Grange aux Belles

75010 Paris

Metro Stop: Jacques Bonsergent, line 5

Hours: 11:30 AM – 7:30 PM

Lunch, Dinner

The romantic and trendy Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood is the perfect placement for Carmen Ragosta Mode and Cuisine.  Here visitors find great vegetarian and vegan food with an Italian spin, right alongside a handmade clothing boutique.

The owner is an Italian fashion designer, who herself grew up in a family of chefs.  This helps bring out the creativity and one-of-a-kind experiences that diners have grown to love at Carmen Ragosta.  Be sure to try the tiramisu, which is known to be among the best in Paris.

Place Setting at Carmen Ragosta. Photo Courtesy: Carmen Ragosta.

New Paris Hotels 2016

New Hotels Paris 2016

A sample of some interesting accommodations opening in and around Paris in 2016:

Maimonide of Brooklyn Hotel

Metro Stop: Mairie de Saint-Oeun, line 13

Rooms: 120

Rates from €69

Located in Saint Ouen just outside Paris, Maimonide of Brooklyn is described as an “urban motel/monastery”. Modeled after a vegetarian fast food restaurant of the same name, the hotel will include a vegetable garden, organic restaurant, and communal table. The rooms here will not have tv’s , but a bookstore and iPads will be in place.


RER Stop: Rueil-Malmaison

Rooms: 100

Rates from €250 (all inclusive rate)

This new Okkohotel will be just outside of Paris in the business district of Rueil-Malmaison. This location will include a fitness center, garden center and two restaurants for the health conscious businessperson. Opening is scheduled for June 2016.

L’Indochine Hipark Hotel

Metro Stop: Porte de Pantin, line 5

Rooms: 180

This design of this hotel will be funky enough to take some photographs. Designed by French architect Manuelle Gautrand, the building will easily attract travelers to its rooms and top-floor nightclub. L’Indochine Hipark will be located at the corner of Boulevard Indochine and Avenue de la Porte Chaumont in the 19th arr.

Holiday Inn Express Velizy

RER Stop: Chaville-Velizy

Rooms: 111

This will be a familiar stop for many global travelers. This newest location will be at the center of the Velizy business district just outside of Paris. Look forward to the free pancakes and cinnamon rolls at breakfast.

The Best Of Paris: Healthy Living

dining in Paris
Photo: Even the cafe tables are small in Paris

It’s been widely advertised that the French are among the slimmest people in the world. This is a little hard to believe given the widespread availability of butter, and amazing French food in general.

But does the data support the claim that the French are the slimmest people?

Turns out that, yes, the French are the slimmest, at least when compared to the rest of the Western world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), France has a lower percentage of overweight citizens than the rest of Europe and North America. Denmark gives France a run for their money, but France still wins.

So how do France and the Parisians do it?

Well, there’s no single thing that does it. It’s lots of smaller contributing things, such as:

Smaller Portions: When you eat at a restaurant in Paris, you’ll notice that the portion sizes are smaller. Dessert is especially small. However, the food is over-the-top amazing, and distracts you from the fact that you got less food. Supermarket portions in Paris are smaller, too. Example: you’ll find milk in quarts instead of gallons.

Wine, Not Beer: The majority of French drinkers prefer wine over beer. Wine has far less calories than beer, and is typically enjoyed more slowly. This adds up to a far lower calorie count over time.

Walking: The Paris Metro system takes people away from cars and into the subway. However, you must first walk to get to the subway, and then do a bit of walking when you get off. Cardio exercise is an implied part of the daily routine. And it happens multiple times each day.

You Have To Carry Your Groceries: Another side effect of riding the Metro is the fact that you have to carry your groceries home rather than put them in your car. This means you are A) walking more and B) tending to buy less groceries, because you can only carry so much.

Small Refrigerators: It’s good that Parisians only carry a small amount of groceries, because they can’t fit much in the fridge anyway. Everything in a Paris apartment is small, including the refrigerator. Picture the size of a college dorm fridge in the U.S..

No Soda: A good way to advertise your tourist status in Paris is to order a Coke. It’s available, but not common. You have to really look to find someone enjoying a soft drink in Paris.

These things keep the City of “Light” healthy without relying much on big fitness centers or the next fitness craze. Healthy living is built in to the daily routine in Paris. As long as you stay away from the cigarettes, that is.