Tagged: europe

A port wine-soaked tour of Porto

Douro River in Porto

View of the Douro River from the Palácio de Cristal

Happy 2016, all! Christmas is officially over, so I’m sad to report that the amount of Christmas market content on this blog will drop by at least 75 percent (don’t worry, though; 25% is more than enough to work with).

The holidays can be a rough time in general, and then add in FOMO from social media’s constant stream of other people’s vacation destinations, and it can get downright awful. If you’re still feeling residual FOMO doldrums, it’s time to imagine a trip that you yourself would love to take, and then plan it in as much detail as possible!

Today let’s take a look at a trip to Porto, Portugal. My brother lives there, so my dad and I headed over to spend our Christmas holiday with him (so unfortunately I was one of those people inadvertently causing FOMO, sorry!!!).

Porto sunset

Porto sunset from Vila Nova de Gaia

Porto is a seaside-town with lots of beautiful architecture and zero shortage of port wine. And given that #myaesthetic is anything that makes me resemble an old British man, I fell in love with all things port-related. I’m proposing here a short afternoon itinerary, which will require a driver, however (Porto’s kind of spread out). So have your DD on hand and let’s get started!

  • Fortify yourself with lunch: Don’t start on an empty stomach. I recommend Cafeina, located in Porto’s chic Foz neighborhood. The food here is beautiful and delicious. In fact, despite joking all week about the “Instagram Husband” video and not getting the whole taking-pictures-of-your-food phenomenon, my dad finally broke down here — over a seared foie gras appetizer.

    If you’d really like to treat yourself, head to The Restaurant at The Yeatman in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the Douro River from Portugal. This is where all the port houses are found, so after lunch you can head right on over. The Yeatman is the only restaurant in Porto with a Michelin star, so it ain’t cheap, but it has incredible reviews.

  • Ruby, tawny, and vintage port wine

    Ruby, tawny, and vintage port wine

  • Taste all the port: Fun fact about port and Vila Nova de Gaia: once the wine is bottled (in the Douro valley, about 100 kilometers from Porto), it’s only allowed to spend one winter at the vineyard, then it gets floated down the Douro, to Gaia and its respective port house.

    Port house tours are great fun and you get to learn more than you ever thought possible about the wine. And best of all, you can do tastings! We went to Graham’s, and I fell in love with their tasting room: it looked just like a British library, complete with photos of Winston Churchill. 👍

    Other port makers include Sandeman, Taylor’s, Ferreira, and Ramos Pinto; you really can’t go wrong.

  • Walk it off: You got this.

    Livraria Lello

    Livraria Lello, bookstore of my dreams

    Of vital importance: You must see the Livraria Lello, known as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Legend has it that JK Rowling used Lello as inspiration for Harry Potter (she lived in Porto for several years). It’s 5 Euros to get in (you can buy tickets in the stall across the street) but well worth the price of admission. And despite what I read everywhere on the internet, they were allowing people to take photos!

    Lello is walkable to a bunch of other fun sites. For instance the gardens of the Palácio de Cristal. These boast a breath-taking view of Porto and the Douro, and are perfect for photo ops. And I’d probably be whipped by all the citizens of Portugal (jkjk I’m sure the Portuguese would be perfectly pleasant to me) if I didn’t mention the TILES. The exterior of the Igreja do Carmo and the interior of the São Bento train station are famous for their tile work. Go and straight up litter Instagram with your shots.

  • Igreja do Carmo

    Igreja do Carmo — and those tiles!

    Craving a seaside walk? The promenade at Foz is gorgeous, and you’ll have a front-row view for some awe-inspiring ocean waves. You’ll also be close to the Foz Do Douro Urban Park, which is pretty and charming and all that good stuff.

By the time you finish sightseeing, you’ll probably feel lovely enough to return to wherever you’re staying and watch a Bones marathon, which is exactly what you should do. Or, you know, go out to dinner and check out the nightlife. I don’t know how you have all this energy, but whatever, you do you!


A Wee Winter’s Jaunt in Manchester


Dale Street in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK (p/c Alex Pepperhill)

Word got out to one of my former coworkers about my itinerary-making skillz/obsession, so she asked me a few weeks ago to put something together for her. She was heading to Manchester, in the UK, on a work trip and needed some advice on how to spruce it up ever so slightly (because nothing spells excitement like a business trip…).

Winter can be a tough time to travel: there’s unpredictable weather, certain sites may not be open outside of the high season, and limited daylight hours can put a kink in your touring. But with a very small amount of planning — and a lot of stops for hot beverages — you can still have a wonderful time, even in chilly Northern England.

Again we’re following a day trip format, so off we go!

  • Accommodations: I’m interested in the Northern Quarter neighborhood, which is chock full of restaurants, bars, and funky shops. I found an Airbnb apartment on Piccadilly (priced at $115 as of today), steps away from NQ. It’s an elegant-looking studio with a Murphy bed, which I think is super fun. I can imagine I’m in a TV show where, like, Laverne and/or Shirley have to rescue me from a Murphy bed gone bad or something.

  • Breakfast (around 9am): You’re probably familiar with my love for all things Scandinavian by now, so I’m planning for breakfast at Takk. Takk is an Icelandic-style coffeehouse close to the Airbnb. It’s known as one of the top 10 Mancunian breakfast spots.

  • A morning stroll (10am-ish): The Northern Quarter is known for its many fun shops, but the most famous one is arguably Afflecks. This Manchester institution is the place to be if you need to get a tattoo or have your chakras cleared.

  • Late lunch (2pm): Strictly speaking 2pm is a tad early for teatime, but you’re on vacation and it’s chilly out, so you do you. Richmond Tea Rooms serves a lovely cuppah all day long, but more importantly, they serve all manner of sandwiches and savory pastries. And if you’re feeling particularly twee, you’ll love the Alice in Wonderland-themed decor.

  • Walk it off! (3:30pm): The possibilities are endless, and luckily the town is small enough that you can explore your options. Of course you can always go to a museum and get some culture, and the Manchester Museum has a wealth of archaeological, anthropological, and historical works. It made the news in 2013 when a security camera caught video of a small Egyptian statue moving on its own. Rumors of a curse spread fast, but were quickly put to rest when it was found that car and passerby traffic were causing the phenomenon — if you believe that sort of thing, anyway.

    John Rylands Library (p/c Wikimedia)

    You’re also perhaps well aware of my predilection for libraries. There are two amazing ones here to check out! The John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester is known for its stunning beauty. It opened in 1900 and is said to house one of the greatest collections of printed materials manuscripts in the world.

    Though, if you’re craving something a bit spookier, check out Chetham’s Library. As the English-speaking world’s oldest public library, it has a whole lot of history — and it still provides free access to over 100,000 books. But I promised something spooky, didn’t I? According to TimeOut, the audit room “provided a temporary home for Dr Dee, the celebrated Elizabethan mind […] who turned to the occult and lost favour with the court and the public. In this room you’ll find the very table at which Dee supposedly summoned the devil himself, with a hoof print burned into the wood the proof.” 😨

    How are you feeling now, are you cold? Laggy? Whiny? I think it’s time for some more caffeine. Head to Grindsmith in Salford. This is a quirky, Kickstarter-backed pop-up coffee shop. It looks like a little cabin and is nestled by the river for maximum coziness.

  • CHRISTMAS MARKET TIME!! (5-6pm): What, did you think I wouldn’t get you here? Even though it’s the day before the holiday, there’s still time for Christmas marketing! Pop by one of the many locations, browse through the stalls, and sip on mulled wine (remember, it’s cold out and you need to save your strength).

  • christmas-market-manchester

    Christmas Market (p/c citybaseapartments.com)

  • Dinner (7-8pm): I hope you’ve worked up an appetite! We’re back to NQ for dinner, and there a few different ways you can go. If you really want to treat yourself, consider having an experiential dinner. The Man Behind the Curtain offers a 12-course tasting menu where the chefs have carte blanche to create whatever they desire. It’s 70ÂŁ a head (before wine), so it ain’t cheap, but it’s certainly memorable — also because all the cooking takes place in the dining room.

    For a lower-key meal, The Northern Quarter offers innovative, seasonal cuisine in a relaxed setting. What’s more, on Sundays they follow British tradition and offer special roasted meals.

  • Drinks (10:30pm-ish): It’s the end of a long day, so wind down with a drink and some good company. You can head away from NQ to the posh Manchester House, which offers a view of the city and a massive cocktail list.

    If you’d like to stick close to the flat but are still craving a handcrafted tipple, give Hold Fast a shot (hee!). It has more of a dive bar setting, but still boasts a large drink menu.

    Lastly, if you’re just really into finding a traditional pub, English Lounge is the place for you. Have a pint (and maybe a bit of fish and chips?) and just soak in the UKness of it all. Cheers!

On est tous Paris


The Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day

We’ve all been spending a lot of time this week in front of the news. We’re obsessively trawling social media for updates on Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Japan, and Mexico — not to mention Syria. It totally seems like the world has just gone absolute bonkers lately and I know so many people are feeling powerless.

I have exactly zero solutions for righting the world, but I’m compelled to at least throw what little solidarity I can out into the world and hope it sticks. And if I can help to tame someone’s anxious mind with a silly travel itinerary for even 15 seconds, I feel OK about that.

I spent several extended periods of my life in France, particularly in Paris. If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that the city will recover and continue to be the lovely, light-filled place that it has always been. Paris is a huge part of me, so along with sending all the healing thoughts I can muster, I want to spotlight it today.

So without further ado, here is my suggestion for a day in Paris — particularly in the 10th and 11th arrondissements, the areas the most affected.

  • Accommodations: I’m pretty into this little studio near Oberkampf and République (as of today, it’s $72/night). It’s just a short distance away from the Canal Saint-Martin, which if you recall, was where Amélie liked to skip stones. The host, Sophie, has excellent reviews and apparently leaves a bottle of wine for her guests — quel service!

  • canalstmartin

    The Canal Saint-Martin, p/c @nozenfantscheris

  • Breakfast (around 9am): Ok, so we have two choices here, mostly because I feel sacrilegious going to a restaurant that basically serves American breakfast when I’m in the land of croissants and pain au chocolat. That said, I’ve picked Holybelly in the 10th arrondissement for its great reviews, and also because it serves a full breakfast on weekdays. Some days I really need my protein! (They do change the menu monthly, so it’s not always eggs and bacon, FYI.)

    If I’m feeling more traditional, I’d pick up some croissants from Du pain et des idées and walk the five minutes to Ten Belles for a café crème. Then, I’d either sit in or go find a bench by the canal — either way, I’m settling in for some prime people-watching (the Parisian pastime).

  • A morning stroll (10am-ish): If it’s a nice day, the Promenade plantée is a nice walk and a good way to escape city hubbub. It’s converted train tracks, much like the High Line in New York City, only harder to find! Here is a tiny map that can help you track down a way up.

    If you’re looking to do some shopping, rues Oberkampf and Bichat, and avénue de la République have lots of boutiques, especially vintage ones. Check out Pop Market for a quirky collection of gifts, or L’auto école for cute jewelry and accessories. Time Out also has a guide to shopping in the neighborhood.

  • La chambre aux oiseaux, p/c @atelierrueverte

    La chambre aux oiseaux, p/c @atelierrueverte

  • Late lunch (2pm): For lunch, I’m hitting up La chambre aux oiseaux, a cozy, vintage-looking spot that’s ranked really well for brunch, but which also gets crazy crowded on weekends (reservations needed). Weekday lunch is supposedly calmer, and they serve several different sandwiches on crusty breads.

  • Walk it off! (3:30pm): There are a few options for an afternoon constitutional. Personally, I would choose to amble through the Père Lachaise cemetery (even though it’s in the 20th so it technically breaks with my 10th/11th theme by a few blocks — ack!). Here you can say hi to Jim Morrison (just follow the goth kids), Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Maria Callas, and many many more. Or, depending on which day of the week it is, you can take a turn through the MarchĂŠ St-Quentin, one of Paris’s smaller markets, with lots to pick from in the way of local food and drink.

    If you’re looking for more of an adventure, there’s an Edith Piaf museum that’s actually located in someone’s house?! So you have to call and make an appointment with the (French-speaking) resident. It’s full of memorabilia, so if you’re a die-hard fan who’s not afraid of a challenge, you should make the trip.

  • Dinner (7-8pm): I’m so torn here! I am obsessed with crêpes (sweet and savory! Let’s have a two-crêpe dinner!) and cider and delicious Breton food, so I definitely have my eye on West Country Girl.

    However, Astier is old-school French all the way, and reportedly has the biggest cheese plate in town. THE BIGGEST CHEESE PLATE IN TOWN. Plus, Time Out says,” You just have to look at the regulars’ crimson faces to know you’re onto a good thing.” In the end, you’re just gonna have to follow your heart and choose your dinner that way.

  • Drinks (10:30pm-ish): For drinks, let’s finish up back at Oberkampf, particularly rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud. There are a ton of bars on the street, but in particular are L’Orange mécanique and Le Cri du glaçcon. L’Orange mécanique is a reference to A Clockwork Orange, so it’s dedicated to a 60s and 70s vibe. It’s one of Time Out’s top 100 Parisian bars and boasts cheap drink prices. Le Cri du glaçon, on the other hand, is a bit pricier, and focuses on cocktails. There’s a huge drink menu, and the bartender is supposed to be an expert mixologist.

Paris, nous vous aimons et nous vous saluons ! À très bientôt, je l’espère. 💜


Vivez Paris !

Ein Tag in Wien: A Chilly November Day in Vienna

Vienna foliage, p/c @michelleamock

Vienna foliage, p/c @michelleamock

One of my favorite No Reservations episodes is when Anthony Bourdain is in Vienna and is SO. DOGGONE. TICKED. to be having the best time there. He’s all upset because the city is so #offbrand for him: it’s not in the least bit edgy or punk rock. He tries to get indignant, but he just can’t because it’s just so cozy and cheerful and lovely.

I’ve never been to Vienna, but it’s fast becoming my newest obsession thanks to coverage like this — and let’s not forget my proclivity for all things hygge. I mean, I can get down with a trip to the tropics; I’m not a monster! But given the choice, if there’s even a remote chance that a country has a population of handy shoemaking elves hidden deep within its forests, then that, my friends, is where I want to be.

Austria has that in spades, and then to sweeten the pot, Vienna is outrageously beautiful, with every cultural activity you could possibly dream of. So with that in mind, I’m going to pay homage to the NY Times‘ 36 Hours series and share my thoughts on a perfect chilly fall day in Vienna.

  • Accommodations: My fictional home base would be in Mariahilf or Neubau, which are supposed to be funky neighborhoods with lots of boutique shopping and eclectic bars. I found this adorable apartment on AirBnB for (when I looked) $79 a night. It’s a studio loft with a giant bathtub and incredible windows, and the hosts have great reviews. So far I’m feeling pretty good about this trip!

  • Phil in Vienna, p/c Yelp

    Café Phil in Vienna, p/c Yelp

  • Breakfast (around 9am): Nothing too crazy for breakfast, but when in Vienna, one must have coffee. Or else the baristas of cafés past will, like, haunt you forever more. I’m pretty into Phil, a bookstore/coffee shop on Gumpendorferstrasse that’s supposed to serve a yummy spread. From the photos, it looks super-comfy — that is, if you’re like me and are soothed by being in the presence of thousands of books. Let’s pretend that you are.

  • A morning stroll (10am-ish): Let’s check out Neubau! The NY Times‘ 36 Hours post recommends browsing through the shops on Neubaugasse. I did a quick search and apparently Carnaby (number 78) is where all the cool kids get their vintage clothing, whereas Shu! (number 34) is the place for beautifully designed shoes.

  • Late lunch (2pm): While Amerlingbeisl is perhaps best known for its stunning courtyard, the food is equally celebrated. A beisl is a tavern offering local specialities, so here you can get a taste of all things Austrian. The cuisine is not light, so hopefully the brisk air gives you an appetite. By the by, we’re doing something a bit more modern for dinner, so if you want schnitzel, get it here. And rumor has it the ginger apricot punsch is out of this world, so you know what to do.

  • Austrian National Library


  • Walk it off! (3:30pm): Fight the urge to fall asleep after all that deliciousness; we have miles to go before we sleep! I’m torn between two things here. On one hand, I really like modern art, and mumok (11€) features works by Warhol, Picasso, Oldenburg, and more. On the other hand, Vienna boasts one of the most beautiful libraries in the world: the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (7€). You can’t take photos, but you can live out your dreams of reenacting the library scene from Beauty and the Beast….

  • CHRISTMAS MARKET TIME!! (5-6pm): If you think I’m going to visit Vienna and not make sure it’s during Christmas market time, you need to get to stepping (again, you need only read my Copenhagen post). For this expedition I’ve chosen the Wiener Adventzauber und Christkindlmarkt (Magic of Advent and Christmas Market), which starts on November 13 and is open from 10am to 10pm. But but but you have to make sure you’re there when it’s dark so you get the full effect of the Christmas lights. Promise me this!! Also promise me that you’ll partake of the mulled wine. It’s chilly, and you need to keep warm.

    Wiener Adventzauber und Christkindlemarkt

    Wiener Adventzauber und Christkindlemarkt, p/c news.at

    FYI, there are other Christmas markets that have different hours; check those out here.

  • Dinner (7-8pm): Ugh, you seriously want to leave the Christmas market? What’s wrong with you?! Fiiiiine. Dinner is at Labstelle, which is a brisk walk from the market. Per their site, they serve food with regional roots and urban flair. This is definitely a departure from our traditional lunch, but Yelp reviewers say the dishes are balanced, creative, and honest. The decor looks really groovy, too.

  • Give it a rest, Lauren 😒: I’m not telling you to rush through dinner, but if you get out before 10, you can toooootally hit up another Christmas market. The market at Maria-Theresien-Platz is on your way back to Neubau, and you probably need another mulled wine to keep up your strength, right?

  • Drinks (10:30pm-ish): If I haven’t thoroughly walked you out, check out one of the bars close to the apartment, in Mariahilf. The NYT suggests If Dogs Run Free (Gumpendorferstrasse 10-12), a favorite for local artists, though if you’re looking for more of a pub feel, give Känguruh Bierbeisl (Bürgerspitalgasse 20) a whirl.

Look, I even tried my hand at making a Google map with the different destinations! Is it too much for one day? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Can I get a hygge?: Winter in Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens at ChristmasTivoli Gardens at Christmas (photo by @mandy_n)

It is absolutely the wrong time of year to even think about what I’m about to write about, buttttttt… my blog, my rules. Neener neener!

So, there’s this Danish concept called hygge which, like all the best foreign words, cannot really be translated into English. The closest we can come is “cozy,” but really it’s all about soft candlelight (or #literally ALL the fairy lights — see photo above), a roaring fire, a warm boozy beverage, and good companionship. It’s one of the ways the Danes get through the long, dark winters (though there is a summer version of hygge that mostly involves barbecues and picnics) and still have their sanity more or less intact.

And it’s hygge that I think of when it’s been 95 degrees every day for basically the last two months.

Leslie Knope - Everything Hurts and I'm Dying gif

So what better time to put FOMO-busting to good use? Let’s hygge it up!!

My dear friend Mandy and I traveled to Copenhagen in November 2013: prime hygge season! We stayed in Nørrebro, a funky neighborhood just outside of center city, perfect to escape to after a day of sightseeing.

There are tons of cozy and comforting places to visit so you can get your hygge on.

  • Ravnsborggade: One block up from the waterfront, this small street is lined with adorable boutiques that, come mid-November and after, host miniature Christmas markets. Antique shops like Ingerslev Antik (#22) let you outfit your own home with all the vintage hygge you can, while Bungalow (#17) has stylish paper goods, Christmas ornaments, lights, and textiles for decorating with a more modern, but still homey, touch.

  • Sandwich from Smag in Copenhagen

    ~*~*THE*~*~ sandwich from Smag (photo again by @mandy_n)

  • Smag: This sandwich shop’s cafe is not really all that much in line with hygge, but their food itself is some of the most comforting you will ever eat. (If you’re looking for a cozier setting, you can take your food to Kaffeplantagen just up the street; they won’t mind.) Take, for instance, their smoked salmon sandwich, which when we had it was complemented by dark rye bread, a green pea puree spread, whole peanuts, arugula, and pea pods. We had to fight temptation to not go back for it every day we were in Copenhagen.

  • Kaffeplantagen: Danes are famous for their love of java, so where else to look for hygge than in a coffee shop? Grab one of Kaffeplantagen’s creamy, foamy lattes — be sure to dust it with cinnamon, if the barista hasn’t already — and choose from their beautiful selection of pastries. They also serve savory food, but in limited quantities, so try to get there right at lunch if you’re looking for something heartier (and if for some bizarre reason you’ve decided to forgo eating at Smag).

  • Bevar’s: Bevar’s is one of the more hyggelig cafĂŠs in Nørrebro. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and also have free Wi-Fi, so it’s a popular all-day hangout spot. The crowd turns livelier in the evenings, though, when there’s often musicians performing. On these nights, people put their computers away and start chatting with unfamiliar faces; however, the music is still low enough where you don’t have to shout. If you’re there on your own, grab a glass of wine at the bar and make conversation with the bartender; they’re happy to give you some recommendations on how to find what’s hygge in town.

  • Barking Dog: What better way to warm up on a damp, chilly day than with a hot toddy? The Barking Dog offers several different kinds (though unfortunately you won’t find the standard Christmas gløgg — mulled wine), and its cafĂŠ has plenty of nooks where you can hole up and forget about the rest of the world for a while. Their cocktails are handcrafted — think specially chipped ice, freshly zested citrus, etc. — so they take about 3-5 minutes to prepare. Service takes a while on weekends, but it’s quite an enjoyable show to watch.

Bars, bars, bars: Barhopping in Reykjavik

Reykjavik at midnight

Reykjavik at midnight

Yikes, only a few posts into this blog and I’m already awful at it! It’s been over a month since I blogged, but in that time I went to Iceland, helped friends plan (and pack for!) a trip to Paris, and am now helping other friends plan a vacation in Iceland and France. So I have been keeping busy on the travel front; I just haven’t been sharing it with you fine folks.

Well, last time we left off at restaurants in Reykjavik, so this post let’s chat about a few of the bars — only this time I have the added bonus of in-person knowledge.

I got into Reykjavik on a Saturday at 5:30am. As a result, I was totally out of sorts all day and unfortunately didn’t get to appreciate the full Saturday-night pub crawl that normally happens (starts at 11pm, ends ????). So, most of my bar experiences happened midweek when Reykjavikers don’t normally hang out, and to be sure, I mostly met ex-pats on these adventures. Still lots of fun, still great people and good conversations, but less “authentic” perhaps. (I still met my fair share of Icelanders, though, so you can put your tiny violins away; I shall soldier on!)

Anyway, without further ado, let’s talk about bars!

  • Mikkeller and Friends Reykjavik: Mikkeller is a Danish brewery that I really wanted to go to when I was in Copenhagen, but didn’t have enough time. They brew a vast amount of beers and let you sample before you buy, which, if you’re a completist, can probably get you in some real trouble! I came here directly from my dinner at Dill (they share a building) and wasn’t ready to go home yet, and I’m glad I did.

    It’s a dude-heavy atmosphere for sure (men at a beer bar, go figure) but very laid-back; I felt totally comfortable coming here on my own. I chatted with a Spanish guy who lives in the same town as my parents — small world, amirite? — and his Icelandic friend, so it’s definitely a great place to get a mix of locals and travelers.

  • Drinx Bar at Kex Hostel: Kex is not your typical youth hostel filled with young backpackers touring on the cheap. They have a variety of rooms at different price points, so all sorts of folks stay here. It’s also really well integrated into the town, and Reykjavikers often come here for a drink or two at Drinx. I spent my birthday in Iceland, which was a Monday night — not exactly a huge party night for Icelanders — and figured Kex would be a good place to grab a drink since it has an international “population,” if you will.

    The bar is beautiful: it’s done up to look like the library in a manor home, and it faces the bay, so you have a view of the water and the mountains across the way. (How’s that for poetry.) They serve food and of course also have a decent drink selection — it was here that I tried BrennivĂ­n, one of the most famous Icelandic schnapps, and affectionately nicknamed “Black Death.” There was a ton of people there, even on a Monday night, so I was able to make some friends and properly ring in my new year!

  • Ölstofa KormĂĄks og Skjaldar (or just Ölstofan): This was where I attempted a leg of the Saturday night pub crawl, mostly because I had heard that it was a good fit for the 30something crowd. :/ Turns out it was just the thing for my jet lag; I was able to have a quiet drink while still feeling right proud of myself for managing to be out on the town. It’s very neighborhoody, very chill: when I first got there it was about half-empty but over the hour or so I spent it got calmly raucous. The bartenders will chat with you and you can also talk to your neighbors; if you’re feeling less social there are tables around the perimeter where you can hole up and do your own thing.

  • Snaps: I had dinner here my first night in town, still in a jet-lagged haze. In fact, I almost didn’t go here at all, but it conveniently was a 5-minute walk to my apartment, so it was my compromise with myself. It ended up being a fantastic spot with delicious food. I suppose it’s mostly known for being a restaurant, and a very popular one at that: if you don’t reserve in advance you’re probably going to be sitting at the bar, which is where I happily ended up. Almost the moment I sat down my two seatmates and I got to talking, and we more or less spent our entire dinner in conversation. The bartenders/waiters were awesome and really accommodating — good-naturedly humoring my neighbor when he asked about four different waitresses what the catch of the day was when he didn’t believe it was a type of catfish. Snaps was a fun and delicious introduction to the town, and it rightly earns its title of one of CNN.com – Reykjavik’s coolest bars.

  • Waffles and whipped cream

    My beauties!

  • Tiu Dropar / Le Château de dix gouttes: I didn’t expect to go to Tiu Dropar, only because it’s a French restaurant and I was mostly looking to keep to more Icelandic spots. But, having just spent 10 hours on a tour bus careening through drizzly weather, I was chilled to the bone and in desperate need of coziness. This is a basement-level spot, a bit dark but cheerily lit by candles: it’s the kind of place you want to hole up in on a dark winter evening (or a summer evening that’s 45 and rainy). The bar is quite small so it’s more a spot where you grab a table and read, or write, or just gaze off into the middle distance and contemplate life. That is, of course, when you’re not eating waffles and whipped cream. Which should really happen more often. In fact, I’m not quite sure why I’m not eating them right now.

Well, it hopefully will not be as long between posts from here on out. Like I said, I’ve been working on a lot of travel-related things, so I just need to get them up here!