Big City hopping

Backpacking or roadtripping in Europe is something I haven´t done a lot, and started doing late in my travels, since the budget for a month in Europe can go a long way in Western Africa or Southeast Asia. Its also nice to visit Europe in the summer, which is prime work time, but early autumn or late spring is really the perfect time to visit. I got the excuse to go to Europe for 2 days of work, but extended it into a week long overland trip of big city hopping so I could try and justify my carbon emissions from Iceland and back.

Vor Frelsers Kirke

I started in Copenhagen, where I wanted to visit a dear horse-backriding friend Ditte, but that very same weekend she went to Iceland to ride so I borrowed her summer cabin for me and my favourite German riding friend. Michael had a bad knee so we didnt ride the Icelandic horses nearby in the town of Nykobing but we enjoyed the beaches of Sjaelland by bicycle and the weather was even good enough to barbeque dinner.

Copenhagen canals

We stopped in Copenhagen for a night to overlap with Ditte for one city bike ride and some touristic stops, and the next morning I flew to Hamburg, where I´d be meeting yet another horse friend Jana, for her birthday! We celebrated by scooting around town, day drinking and taking public transport ferries with roadbeers for a cheap booze cruise. We dined with some friends and sniffed some stuff that gave me a head rush, and the next morning we were finally off to ride. We rode Icelandic horses at a friends breeding farm called Bockholts-Hoff and rode thru a German forest on horses that had just arrived from Iceland. I wore my new yoga/riding/hiking pants that were a little too tropical for the rainy weather, but they must have been the reason the sun finally came out.

riding Icelandic horses in Germany

Next I was off to Rotterdam, via flight to Amsterdam and dinner with a Dutch horse friend, who rode those very Icelandic horses with Silke and I a few weeks earlier in Iceland. A short and sweet date before I checked into my Backroads hotel and was given a Backroads van to drive to Provence early the next morning.

Dijon

My ´work´ roadtrip took me 1,099km thru Holland, Antwerp and Belgium, then Luxembourg and into France. I drive past Moselle, Metz, Nancy, a bit of Champagne region, Dijon and spent a night in Beaune. Then I drove the Bourgogne trail, past the gastronomic capital of Lyon, along the Rhone and into Provence. We ended in Carpentras, where we keep our vans, and I spent a day bike touring thru Aubignan and Sarrians.

good thing our bikes have built in wine racks

Another day was spent traveling by train back to Paris, eating some moules frites on the streets of Montmarte, and left feeling like I had taken in an overwhelming amount of sights, tastes and culture from so many different corners of Europe. I had also managed to get a tan and feel the sun, so returning to a chilly fall in Iceland was very welcomed, especially since it was one of the first times Iceland was really experiencing a truly autumn season.

Iceland places 5th in the Bocuse d’Or European Selection

If you’re into food and cooking and restauranteering, you’ve probably heard of the competition Bocuse d’Or. It’s namesake, Paul Bocuse, is a super famous and savvy French chef who’s had 3 Michelin stars at his restaurant just outside of Lyon for over 50 years straight. He brought French cuisine and French chefs to the forefront of fine dining and international gastronomy, and created the Bocuse d’Or competition in 1987. It’s a 2 day compeition that happens every year, first every two years on a regional level (Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe), then every alternating year, the ‘worlds’, some sort of a cooking Olympics (which includes the winners from each region, plus Canada, the USA, and Morocco, and 2 ‘wild card’ invited countries). In the end of each Bocuse season, you have 24 nations in Lyon every other year competing for the Bocuse d’Or.

Coach Siggi Helga supporting Viktor during the competition, while the stands behing fill with screaming fans

Coach Siggi Helga and Icelandic Bocuse president Sturla supporting Viktor during the competition, while the stands behind fill with screaming fans

Iceland’s best placing was 3rd, winning the Bocuse d’argent. Silver, Bronze and Gold mark the podium winners, and there’s even one crazy Danish guy who has competed three times and won one of each… The European selection and Bocuse d’Or Lyon have started to be pretty consistent in the last 5  or 6 years – Scandinavian countries are always on the podium, and often the only ones on the podium. Norway, Sweden and Denmark have many medals under their belt, and Finland and Iceland are never far behind (Iceland has never landed lower than 9th place in either the European or Lyon competition).

Viktor and team Iceland win the best fish dish!

Viktor and team Iceland win the best fish dish!

The competition is super complicated, but can be broken down into a few words to explain it simply enough for you and me to understand. Each country sends a Chef and a commis (an assistant that acts kind of like as sous chef that has to be under 23 years old) that have 5 hours and 35 minutes to cook two gourmet courses for 24 judges. They plate 24 fish dishes, and 24 meat dishes that have first to be presented on a showy catering platter, then split up into 24 portions. The fish and meat produce are the same for each team – this year it was Sturgeon fish (and its caviar) and Hungarian Young Red deer. The rest of the meal is imagined and designed by each team for months prior to the competition. In addition to the chef and commis, the team has a Coach and a President (officially), plus a dozen other behind the scenes experts to help (designers, second assistants, promotional managers, and millions of kronurs worth of sponsors who all have a say).

Team Iceland relaxing after their grueling 5 hrs and 35 minutes

Team Iceland relaxing after their grueling 5 hrs and 35 minutes

Viktor Örn was this year´s chef to compete, one of 20 chefs and nations represented, and placed 5th in the European Selection. He also won the prize for the Best Fish Dish. Only one other chef, Siggi Laufdal, has placed higher in the pre-competition, 4th place in 2012, and also won the Best Fish dish prize. After the podium is filled with the overall winners in both dishes, there is a reward given to the highest earned points in each dish, one for meat and one for fish. There’s also a prize for the best commis, and the judges are the presidents of each competing country, plus 4 honorary judges (Paul Bocuse’s son and previous Bocuse d’Or winners or presidents of hosting countries).

this years Bocuse Europe was hosted by Hungary in Budapest

this years Bocuse Europe was hosted by Hungary in Budapest

Viktor Örn is a good friend and an unbelievable chef, having won the Icelandic chef of the year in 2013 and the Nordic Chef of the year in 2014 (he’s HOT at the moment), so stay tuned to see how he does in Lyon for the Bocuse d´Or 2017. Better yet, come and support team Iceland at the event, since it´s a one hell of a time… and our humble little country never has as many supporters as the others, even though we´re so much better than most of them 😛