The International Cider Search!

In our last blog post, we wrote about our great evening at The Shore Pub in Kirkwall. Whilst there, we asked for a recommendation for something to drink. And we were given the suggestion of Thistly Cross Cider. Thistly Cross Cider prides itself on making 6 varieties of cider, using high quality ingredients and Scottish apples. And of course, using high quality ingredients means crafting a refreshingly delicious cider!

Being indecisive as we usually are, we couldn’t decide which variety of Thistly Cross Cider to get. As we were feeling a bit adventurous after a day of exploring and adventures, we actually ended up trying all three varieties that the pub served. We tried their original cider – of course. We also sampled the Whisky Cask Cider and the Real Elderflower Cider.

We really liked all three ciders but our favourite would have to be the elderflower – crisp but floral at the same time, and not overly sweet at all. (We have tried several other elderflower ciders since then and none have compared to the Real Elderflower cider of Thistly Cross!) We also liked the Whisky Cask Cider, with a bit of a unique but subtle flavour from the whisky cask.

We will say that way back in 2015, ciders hadn’t yet broken onto the scene at home. So we found it refreshing to have something other than beer at the pub. Since 2015, we have slowly began to notice more and more ciders at our liquor stores and also in bars and pubs around town.

Despite that, we have yet to get our hands on some Thistly Cross cider at home! We have scoured our provincial and private liquor stores and have had no luck 😢.

So when the chance to visit Seattle came up last summer, we decided to see whether we could find any Thistly Cross South of the border. Doing our research beforehand, we found Total Wine, a liquor store somewhat close to our hotel, carries Thistly Cross cider. And so, right before catching our bus back to Vancouver, we went in search of the elusive Thistly Cross cider.

Total Wine is a large store with all varieties of liquor. Let’s just say we were tempted by a lot of their offerings! 😋 We finally came to the cider section and… Voilà – there it was! The Thistly Cross cider that we had been searching for. Unfortunately they only had the Traditional, even though their website said they also carried the Whisky Cask. We contemplated grabbing a whole bunch of bottles to stock up, until we remembered that we would have to carry them for the 20 minute walk back to our hotel and also for the bus journey from Bellevue back into Seattle and then… back to Vancouver. 😥 So, we settled for 2 bottles.

Besides the Thistly Cross, we also saw some ciders that we frequently drank in Ireland and the UK – Magners and Strongbow. We couldn’t resist picking up the Magners to remember the amazing time we had in Ireland. And we spotted a Cherry Blossom Strongbow that we JUST had to try!

We lugged our purchases from Seattle back home to Vancouver and couldn’t wait to try them! 🍻

Cider party!

So, was this international trek to source Thistly Cross Cider worth it?

Yes! We still loved the crisp and easy to drink cider. Wish we had brought more home!

The scotch tries to join the cider party as well… 🤣

The Magners tasted just as we remembered from Ireland – although without our trip mates and some Irish trad music, it just wasn’t the same! 😔

The Cherry Blossom Cider by Strongbow was really interesting! It was flowery and fruity but not to the point of being sickly sweet. It was still refreshing and crisp.

We had some fun pouring it out 😋!

We are already plotting our next trip to Seattle to stock up on more Thistly Cross Ciders. Perhaps they’ll have the Real Strawberry cider next time – that’s one that we REALLY want to try! Ioana also got us some ciders to try from her recent trip to Romania. So we’ll have to have a cider tasting party real soon!

And here’s to hoping we get Thistly Cross cider here in Vancity soon so we don’t have to make the cross border trek to get our hands on some!

Hope you enjoyed our little International cider journey! We’ll take you back to Orkney and Scotland next week – stay tuned 😊

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!


From Seattle to Keflavik!

With our luggage, passport and ISK curency in hand, we headed off to catch the Quick Coach from Vancouver to Seattle – more specifically to SeaTac airport to catch our Icelandair flight to Keflavik! Since Icelandair only provides limited seasonal (summer) service through YVR, we had to take a bit of a detour through Seattle.

Our journey down to SeaTac was very smooth. We got through U.S. customs very quickly – as it was 7am on a weekday. The bus also made good time through downtown Seattle – we must have missed the busy morning commute! So we arrived at SeaTac wayyyy early at 10:30am for our 3:30pm flight. At least that’s better than being late!

The Icelandair check-in counter wasn’t open yet, so we had lots of time to hang out before we could drop our luggage off. So, of course, we amused ourselves with people watching and selfie-taking!

Ioana spotted this group of blue-hued flight crew making their way through SeaTac!

Once we dropped off our luggage and went through security, we went off in search of food!

The Icelandair flight did not have complimentary in-flight meals, unlike all of the other transatlantic flights that we have been on. We found it a bit strange for an almost 8hr international flight. If you upgrade to Economy Comfort or Saga Class, then you do get a complimentary meal from the in-flight menu. There is, of course, food and alcoholic beverages for purchase on board. There is even a discount if you pre-order your food before your trip.

We decided to get some food from the small food court by our terminal so we could have a bite to eat during the overnight flight.

Finally, it was time to board our plane!

A pleasant surprise awaited us when we got to our seats – a pillow and a cozy blanket! Haven’t seen these on a flight in a while and they kept us comfortable and cozy for the whole flight 😏

Once we had taken off, we were treated to a gorgeous view of the Cascade mountain range surrounding Seattle.

Travel Tip: If you are taking an Icelandair flight, check to see if meals are included with your fare. If not, you might want to consider pre-purchasing your in-flight meal, bringing your own food and snacks or purchasing something from the airport before boarding. During our flight, we got complimentary beverages (juice, coffee and tea) but no snacks. And 8 hours is a long time to go without food!

There was an in-flight entertainment system on the back of the seats, with some new movies and older ones, as well as TV shows to keep you entertained on this transatlatic journey. The girl sitting next to us had some trouble with her entertainment system and the flight attendant quickly offered her an entertainment system on an iPad.

We tried to catch some sleep, so that we would be ready for out first day of exploring and adventures when we landed!

We smoothly landed at Keflavik Airport and cleared customs – earning a new stamp in our passports! Before we arrived at the baggage claim, we passed through a large duty-free shop. We had read that locals prefer to purchase their alcohol here, as it is cheaper than buying it in the city. So following the locals and the many flight crew members who were purchasing their alcohol here, we browsed the selection and came away with some wine and cider. (No Thistly Cross though, to our disappointment!)

Keflavik is about 50 minutes away from Reykjavik. We booked our transfer through Icelandair. We exchanged our paper tickets for a FlyBus+ “orange zone” ticket. This meant we did not have to change buses at the BSI. Others with different colour tickets had to get off at the BSI and change to smaller minivans and buses.

About an hour after getting on the bus at Keflavik, we pulled into the Icelandair Reykjavik Natura – our home for the next few days!

Stay tuned for more on Iceland! Next up? Off to explore the city and take a walking tour! Follow us on Instagram for our Icelandic adventures 😏

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Cheesecakes, Friends and Sunsets

As we blogged last week, we went down to Seattle for a short weekend getaway. We didn’t have much on our list of places to see and visit since we had all been to Seattle before… But one of our food stops for this trip was The Cheesecake Factory. Besides being known for the GINORMOUS (read: controversial for population health reasons!) portions of food that they serve, they are known for – you guessed it, their cheesecakes. They don’t have any restaurants in Canada or Australia. So since we were in the States, we thought we would try their ‘signature’ item and stopped by the Bellevue Cheesecake Factory for a visit.

Or, two.

Our first visit was for a late dinner the night we arrived into Seattle and Bellevue. However, after a poor attempt at finishing our HUGE dinners, there was absolutely no room for cheesecake. We decided to come back another time for dessert.

Here is round two… This time, it was brunch – hoping a lighter meal would leave a bit of room for cheesecake. Who are we kidding… the portions were still huge! (The three of us could have probably just shared two meals and it would have been an adequate amount.)

We all chose from their “Eggs and Omelettes” section of the menu, which is served all day.

This is the California Omelette with “Avocado, Mushrooms, Green Onion, Tomato, Garlic and Shallots, Sour Cream, Jack Cheddar and Swiss Cheese”, served with white toast and tomatoes.

Another California Omelette, with potatoes and whole wheat toast. The omelette was tasty. I liked the combination of ingredients – especially the avocado and cheese, with green onions, garlic and shallots for the sharp bite, flavour and crunch! Definitely something I would copy and make for myself at home.

This one here is the Chorizo and Avocado Omelette with “Chicken Chorizo, Avocado, Sauteed Peppers and Onions, Salsa, Cilantro and Cheese Topped with Sour Cream”, with an English Muffin and tomatoes.

Let’s just say… it was another “attempt” at finishing our meal. We felt bad for wasting the food 😦 They should offer half portions for all of their meals! (Or we should have been smarter and split two meals between the three of us instead…)

At least this time, we were able to save SOME room for dessert. We spent a long time perusing the menu and trying to decide on our cheesecake choices. In the end, we decided to each pick a cheesecake and share – so we could try 3 different flavours.

Here’s what we got:

  • ADAM’S PEANUT BUTTER CUP FUDGE RIPPLE CHEESECAKE – Creamy Cheesecake Swirled with Caramel, Peanut Butter, Butterfingers® and Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cups.
  • FRESH STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE – The Original Topped with Glazed Fresh Strawberries. Our Most Popular Flavor for Over 35 Years!
  • MANGO KEY LIME CHEESECAKE – Topped with Mango Mousse on a Vanilla Coconut Macaroon Crust

I think we all agreed that the Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake was the best out of the three. It was the Classic Cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries. The cheesecake was smooth and when paired with the strawberries, was a simple, but classic and delicious combination. It wasn’t too heavy and would be a safe bet the next time we eat at the Cheesecake Factory!

I adore peanut butter – but even I don’t think I could finish the entire slice of Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake! There was a LOT of candy pieces swirled into this cheesecake. So there was a whole host of flavours and textures – from the gooey caramel to the crunchy candy bits and the smooth cheesecake. Definitely a good one to share!

The Mango Key Lime Cheesecake was a bit tart, so it cut through the sweetness of the other two cheesecakes. But even then, it eventually became a bit too sweet. Pair it with the other two cheesecakes and we were too full to honestly enjoy it!

Here’s the aftermath… It would be wonderful to have a “tasting” portion of the cheesecakes, so we can have a taste of several cheesecakes, without stuffing ourselves or wasting the cheesecakes. I guess the other option is to bring more people with us the next time we’re at the Cheesecake Factory so we can split the cheesecakes between more people! In the end, we couldn’t finish all three! Maybe if we hadn’t eaten the omelettes, there would have been more room to finish. We know for next time ;).

Too full to finish the rest of the cheesecakes 😦

After that filling meal, we stretched our legs and walked off our meal at the adjacent Bellevue Square. Read: we went shopping! (But with our poor exchange rate right now, shopping in the States wasn’t such a good deal anymore!) After the shopping expedition, it was time to head back to the hotel with M so she could grab her luggage and head off to the airport for her flight home! It was sad to see her go, but we are already plotting our next adventure! 😉

Until our next adventure!

Ioana and I hung out around Bellevue for a little while longer before catching our bus home. Before leaving Seattle, we had a mission to accomplish. We were in search of the elusive – Thistly Cross Cider! Searching for something a continent and an ocean away from its home in Scotland proved to be more difficult than we thought!

Did we find it? You’ll have to visit our blog in the next little while to find out!


And just like that, our weekend away was over and it was time to head back home 😦

It was a gorgeous summer evening, making for some beautiful photographs on the bus ride home.

Goodbye Seattle!

I love watching the scenery flash by. The Pacific Northwest has some gorgeous views – even if just by the highway! (Clearly we’re not biased at all…….)

Today, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset against the backdrop of the beautiful Pacific temperate rainforest.

After some napping, blogging (free Wifi on the bus!) and reading, we were back on Canadian soil! But before we could get on our way home, we had to get through pass the “Border Security” test. There was a little bit of a wait, as there were several coaches in front of us. What else is there to do but take a selfie!

Eventually, we piled off the bus and went to talk to our friendly Canadian border guards. When asked what goods I was bringing back to Canada, I replied honestly with “one bottle of nail polish and alcohol.” Needless to say, we were waved through without any further questions!

With our Seattle trip over, we are itching to plan our next trip SOMEWHERE! Hmmm…. Where to next! Suggestions are always welcome 😉

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Cheesy Goodness at Beecher’s 

We went down to Seattle a couple of weeks ago for a weekend trip. And whilst exploring the area around Pike Place Market, we came upon Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.

The first Beecher’s Handmade Cheese shop opened here in Pike Place Market in 2003. A second location was added in New York City in 2011. Beecher’s prides itself in producing fine artisan cheese – by hand. Of course, with the help of healthy, well-fed and well treated cows!

Besides having a cafe and a cheese counter, there is even cheese production right on site! This Pike Place shop has fit a custom pasteurizing and cheesemaking facility into its 1,000 square foot glass-walled kitchen. If you stay a while, you can watch the cheesemakers stirring and working hard over this huge vat of dairy goodness, destined to become tasty cheese!

If you’re interested, they have some information boards on the process of cheesemaking inside the shop. Very interesting and not something that you see everyday when grabbing some lunch! (I especially liked that there were a couple of children who were very interested and engrossed in watching what was going on. I think it’s good for kids to see that cheese, and food in general, doesn’t just magically appear in the fridge or on supermarket shelves!)

Speaking of lunch! It was just about time for lunch and we were getting hungry! The cafe menu contain a number of cheesy sandwiches, soups and…

One particular item on the menu jumped out at us – the ‘World’s Best’ Mac and Cheese! It was a little bit windy and chilly that morning, so it seemed fitting to have some comfort food for lunch!

Although it was really busy in the shop and cafe, it was a quick and efficient process to order your food then move down the line, pay and pick up your food.

Here it is – The “World’s Best” Mac and Cheese.

“Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese is made with an incomparable combination of our signature Flagship and Just Jack cheeses. A hint of spice and penne pasta, versus the standard macaroni, make for a creamy mac that’s not just for kids.”

What did we think of it?

It was definitely all sorts of cheesy goodness! The cheese sauce wasn’t just poured on top or mixed in haphazardly. The cheese coated each penne pasta, so that each mouthful was a delicious mix of gooey, smooth cheese and pasta. It was, as expected, very rich and creamy. But not overly so and it didn’t make us feel overly full or gross afterwards. (Getting the small size probably helped with this!) This certainly isn’t your “typical” scoop of cafeteria Mac and Cheese or a box of microwaved KD!!

It made for a perfect walking-lunch, as we continued to explore Pike Place Market!


Has anyone else been to Beecher’s, or tried their cheeses? What did you think?

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

From Ireland to Seattle – A Reunion

The thing we love most about travelling is meeting other like-minded travelers from around the world! We are always curious about other cities and countries – gotta scout out locations for our next trip! Plus, by making friends with people from all over the world, we have couches to sleep on when we visit them – just kidding!!! 😉 At the very least, we have a friend and a local tour guide who can show us around when we visit and give us the insider scoop on what to visit and see!

So, while we were exploring Ireland on our Shamrocker Adventures tour, we met a lovely Aussie – M.

The 3 of us at the The Brú Ború Dancers sculpture in County Tipperary during our Ireland tour!

We have kept in touch with her since then. When she found out she would be coming to the States for work trip, we all got excited for the possibility of a reunion!

We started looking at convenient places to meet up and eventually decided on Seattle. It was relatively cheap for M to fly to and it was just 2-3 hrs south of Vancouver.

Once we settled on the dates and location, we started figuring out the details of our weekend away – coordinating arrival times and finding a hotel room. We ended up staying a Courtyard by Marriot in Bellevue – a city east of Seattle and across Lake Washington. Hotels in Bellevue were more affordable than staying in downtown Seattle. There was also an express bus (The 550 Express) that goes straight from downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle, making it very convenient to get around.

We didn’t do much else in terms of planning for this trip… We had all been to Seattle before, so this was more of a catch-up/wander around leisurely (read: SHOPPING) trip! It was kinda nice to not have a packed agenda of sightseeing objectives! 😉

Ioana and I left Vancouver Saturday afternoon and headed south to Seattle. Whenever I think of Seattle, I automatically think of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy, which is set in Seattle. It was cool to head into Seattle and see the iconic skyline that is featured on the show.

Perhaps the ferry that Dr. Shepherd used to take to get to work?!

We arrived into Bellevue in the evening and had a lovely reunion with M! After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we headed out for a spot of dinner and caught up on our lives since we last saw each other in Dublin almost a year ago!

The next morning, we grabbed our Starbucks (conveniently located beside the hotel lobby!) and headed out to catch our express bus into Seattle. Our first stop of the day was the iconic Pike Place Public Market!

It is really amazing how there is such a large market with a huge variety of food, fresh produce, fresh seafood, fresh flowers and handmade crafts – right in downtown Seattle! There were shops and stalls in the covered market area and also some stalls outside. We couldn’t wait to explore all of these!

But first – a selfie!

Selfie with the iconic sign!

We didn’t have any plans (except needing to get something for lunch!), so we decided to just wander through the market.

Being a Farmers Market, there were loads of fresh produce shops and stalls. The vegetables and fruits looked really fresh and many were advertised as local to the area. I love local food – supporting the local community, reducing your food miles and the food is more fresh, tasty and nutritious since it gets from the farm to your table quicker!


How can you possibly resist those big, sexy tomatoes?!?!?! The roma tomatoes just don’t cut it!

The Pacific Northwest is known for fresh and wonderful seafood, so we walked by several shops selling seafood.

The fresh seafood at City Fish Co.

Look at the size of the salmon!

There is one particularly famous place to get your fish, along with a bit of a show – Pike Place Fish Market. These are the guys who “throw the fish” – yup, literally! Youtube it or come to Seattle and see it for yourself! They sometimes even pull pranks on customers. If you’re at Pike Place, go by their shop and stay a while. There is always a crowd around this shop as their antics are quite entertaining! While we were there, no one purchased a fish, so unfortunately we didn’t catch a picture of a flying fish! ( 😉 couldn’t resist!)

Pike Place Fish Market

Another famous part of the Pike Place Market is the flower market. There is an entire section of flower farmers – with table after table of gorgeous cut flowers and beautiful bouquets. It just brightens the entire market up! And with prices as low as $5 – $10 for a colourful, bright and fragrant bouquet, no wonder pretty much everyone was walking around with a bouquet!


Sunflowers galore!

And you can’t talk about Seattle without mentioning Starbucks. The first Starbucks coffeehouse opened here in Pike Place in 1971 and has since taken over the world! We like our Starbucks, but not enough to wait in a line that wrapped around the block! So we just looked at it from the outside as we walked past…

We walked by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and was captivated by their “World’s Best Mac and Cheese”. So that’s what we had for lunch! Check out our visit to Beecher’s Cheese and our cheesy walking-lunch here!

A delicious bowl of “World’s Best” Mac and Cheese – super cheesy and delicious!

With our Mac and Cheese in hand, we strolled outside to the Victor Steinbrueck Park. It offered a beautiful view of the Elliott Bay and the Seattle waterfront. We lucked out again with the weather – it was rather cloudy and windy this morning, but we got some warm sunshine in the afternoon. So we were able to enjoy the weather and the waterfront views here.

Victor Steinbrueck Park – just past Pike Place!

Spotted: Mario on a Totem Pole!

The waterfront view

Spotted: Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57, Safeco and CenturyLink Fields in the background…


In Ireland, we started a tradition taking “gazing photographs” – because… they look super cool?! Anyways, we thought it was fitting to continue that tradition here! I totally love this photograph. Just don’t ask how many takes it took to catch all of us in this “gazing selfie!”

We started a tradition of gazing out at the gorgeous scenery of Ireland and Scotland… So it was only natural that we continued that tradition in Seattle!

That was the end of our “scheduled” portion of the day! Our plan for the rest of the day was to wander around downtown and perhaps do some shopping! 😉 And since our shopping adventures didn’t come with any epic photographs, we’ll share some cityscape photographs that we took today.

Market Memories Mural

A bit of a different view of this iconic sign!

Post Alley

Gorgeous braids of peppers and garlic! Was really tempted to bring some home, but I wasn’t sure that would get by the border guards and I really didn’t want to end up on the show “Border Security”!

Bricks and flowers!

Bricks and a mini Space Needle!

After a couple of hours wandering the shops, we decided it was time to head back to Bellevue and grab some dinner! More to come from our trip to Seattle!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!