A Quick Guide to Reykjavik

When we visited Iceland earlier this year, we didn’t budget much time to spend in Reykjavik thinking we’d rather be out exploring. And while that turned out to be mostly true, we also loved the time we spent in Reykjavik and wished we had longer to spend in the city. This is a quick guide of where we stayed and what we did, which was probably the bare minimum. But for one or two days in Reykjavik, this should see you through!




We were going for cheap here. And available. Most hotels in Reykjavik are nice, but also expensive and book up early. We needed somewhere to stay both our first and last nights in Iceland.

Skuggi Hotel | Walking distance to downtown and free underground parking. Ask for a top floor room and you might get a balcony with a city view!

Kex Hostel | Housed in an old biscuit factory with a cool, eclectic vibe Kex has private rooms and dorms, depending on your budget. But the best part about this hostel is the bar and gastropub. Both the atmosphere and food were amazing. We were lucky enough to have live music when we visited.

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Hallgrimskirkja | Climb the church tower for that famous view of Reykjavik’s colorful rooftops.

Harpa Concert Hall | Such a cool building, inside and out.



Eat the hot dogs. They’re probably one of the cheapest meals you’re going to find in Iceland and they are amazing. I never want to eat a hot dog without fried onions again. Aside from that, here are some other cool places we found.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur | This is the famous hot dog stand. We didn’t have to wait in line at all, but I’ve heard it can be a problem. Honestly didn’t taste a difference between all the hot dogs we ate, but they really are delicious.

Brauð & Co. | Seriously, so good. Anything you get at this tiny bakery will be awesome.

Reykjavik Roasters | I want to say this is the best coffee in Reykjavik, but of course I haven’t tried all the coffee in Reykjavik. However, it was very good and I normally don’t even like coffee that much.

Sæmundur í Sparifötunum | This is the restaurant at Kex Hostel. It’s not too fancy, but also not cheap with a focus on local ingredients. We had our best meal in Reykjavik here.


Just buy one of the Icelandic sweaters. I know they’re really expensive, but I still wish I had gotten one. Get one on your first day there so you can wear it the rest of the trip. It will keep you warm and make the best souvenir. Besides, we found even the secondhand stores to be ridiculously overpriced, so there really isn’t a way to make shopping in Iceland cheaper.

Handknitting Association of Iceland | This is where to buy your Lopapeysa or Icelandic sweater, handknit by locals from Icelandic sheep’s wool.

Hrím Hönnunarhús | Housewares and such. Some Danish design, some Icelandic but all very cool and a good place to buy gifts.

Reykjavik’s Cutest | The cutest gift shop. I’m not 100% sure this store still exists because they don’t have a website. But it’s worth a look!

Stigur | An art gallery and shop featuring Icelandic artists. My favorite pieces were the ceramics by Bjarni Sigurdsson (shop pictured above).

Farmer’s Market | Icelandic clothing label. Only issue is that it’s kind of far from the other shops in downtown Reykjavik.

Geysir | A bit too pricey for me, but thought I’d include it anyway. It is definitely one of the coolest shops in Reykjavik with gorgeous wool sweaters and blankets in modern designs.


More Iceland posts to come soon, including our full itinerary!

Weekend Adventure: Isle of Wight


People say visiting the Isle of Wight is like seeing a little bit of everything England has to offer: white chalk coastline, thatched cottages, castles, and rolling hills. They also say its like going back in time. We found it to be charming and laid-back, which is exactly what we were looking for in a quick winter getaway. We never planned on visiting the island, but on a recent trip to Portsmouth we made a last minute decision to take the ferry over and make a weekend of it!



There seem to be an abundance of good airbnb options on the Isle of Wight, especially in winter. We booked this cottage for 2 nights so we would have all day Saturday to explore the island. It was quirky, but really cute! Its proximity to the Needles (the white chalk formations) made it the best location for us. From here, you can walk to the town of Freshwater as well as Freshwater Bay. You could probably even walk to the Needles, if you were feeling ambitious.






The Needles | The Needles are the famous white chalk rock formations off the southwest coast of the island. They are actually named for a middle pillar, called ‘Lot’s Wife,’ that collapsed in a storm in 1764. Lot’s Wife was the most needle-like pillar. The walk to the Needles landmark isn’t far from the carpark and offers a great view of Alum Bay.

Steephill Cove | This is probably the cutest cove on the island. If we ever go back, I would definitely try to stay in the lighthouse looking over the cove. There is a small café with a deck sitting right on the water, although it is only open during the summer. It was high tide when we arrived, and the waves were pretty rough, so there wasn’t really any beach for us to sit on. But it was still a lovely little cove to explore.

Freshwater Bay | This was the closest beach to our airbnb. We walked along the cliffs leading away from the bay for a while and there were a few interesting rock formations along the way.

Alum Bay | A good beach for fossil hunting with a view of the Needles. The Isle of Wight is also known as ‘Dinosaur Island’ in case you were wondering, meaning it is one of the richest places for fossil discovery in Europe.

Donkey Sanctuary | When George first suggested stopping here, I thought he was crazy. Mainly because I didn’t believe it existed. Why would there be donkeys on the Isle of Wight? Anyway, the island is so small that it ended up being on our way to stop here and I’m really glad we did. The donkeys were so friendly and admission is free!

Ventnor Botanic Garden | We only got a glimpse of the Botanic Garden while parking our car in Ventnor, but it looked so cool. And compared to the rest of England at the time, everything on the island seemed surprisingly green. Even in February, I could feel Spring.





The Best Dressed Crab | This is the place to go for fresh seafood on the Isle of Wight. Once we saw our server bringing out the seafood platter for another group, we had no trouble deciding what to order. It was a bit funny, or at least it seemed unusual to us, because it was served with mayonnaise and dressing. I asked for some melted butter, thinking that was a totally normal thing to ask for and got a blank stare in return. Perhaps only Americans like to drown their sea creatures in hot butter… Nevertheless, the food was awesome!

The Garlic Farm | This was such a cool place! I wish we had eaten a full meal at the restaurant but at the time, we were too full from our seafood lunch. Still, there were plenty of samples to try throughout the shop. FYI: the garlic beer is actually pretty tasty. Also, the staff were super helpful with explaining the different types of garlic and offering recommendations. I suggest going in the summer when the tasting experience is open.

Chocolate Apothecary | We popped into this little seaside café for some snacks and hot chocolate while waiting for our ferry to arrive. I wasn’t expecting anything more than a decent cup of hot chocolate, but it was seriously amazing! Definitely the best I’ve had in England and in such a surprising location.


Unfortunately, this was our last trip in the MINI. We are in the process of selling it now, because we wanted a more fuel efficient car. It only makes sense because of all the driving we do and the price of petrol here. Hopefully, though, we’ll be able to make even more trips this summer because of our new fuel-efficient car!

Weekend Adventure: Hallstatt and Salzburg

A few weeks ago, we went to a place that has been on my bucket list since we moved here: Hallstatt, Austria. George’s sister and brother in law were visiting from the States and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see the tiny lakeside village. I think we caught the very end of the fall colors there which was also really cool to see.


Hallstatt is not only the oldest village in Austria, but probably also the most photographed. Even in the off-season, the village is full of tourists who took the ferry over the lake for a day-trip. However, because we decided to stay overnight, it felt like we had it all to ourselves. We stayed in the Seehotel Grüner Baum, which faces the lake on one side of the hotel and the market square on the other. Our room had a balcony overlooking the market square!



There is not a ton to do in Hallstatt during the day, aside from walking around and taking pictures, but it was a very peaceful place to spend a weekend. I can imagine it getting crazy in the summer, but in November, things were pretty quiet.



On our first day there, we took the funicular up to the famous salt mine for a view looking over Hallstatt and the surrounding Dachstein mountains. This area of Austria is called the Salzkammergut (salz meaning salt, in German) and salt production here has been traced back to the Bronze Age. Once at the top, we simply took in the view while sipping hot chocolate and mulled wine, but for the more adventurous, there were plenty of trails leading into the mountains. We also stopped into the gift shop to buy some salt-themed souvenirs.




The next morning, we woke up to a fog-covered lake and a forecast of rain for the rest of the day. We didn’t have set plans for the day, but in the end we decided to head to Königsee, which is actually a lake in Germany. It was about an hour’s drive from Hallstatt.

First we took a cable car up the Jenner mountain for a view from above the lake. The weather really was awful, but I think we made the most of it. The ride up the mountain in the weathered and creaky cable car was an experience in itself!



After returning to ground-level, we made our way over to the lake to see it up close. I can totally see why Königsee is so popular with German tourists; the water was so clear even on a cloudy day and the mountains surrounding the lake give it a fjord-like feel. Looking back on the trip, I do wish we had taken a boat tour across the lake. The lake is so long, that would be the only way to see all of it!

But we were all tired from walking around in the rain and decided to head back to our hotel instead. That night we ate dinner at the hotel in their lakeside restaurant. I’m sure sitting on the terrace on a summer night would be amazing, but for a fall or winter trip I would suggest eating somewhere else. The food was just not that special.


Our final day in Austria was even wetter than the previous day. We had planned to escape the rain with some shopping and sightseeing in Salzburg, but when making those plans I forgot that it was Sunday. So when we arrived in the city, everything was closed aside from a few tourist shops and cafés.


Luckily, the café I had chosen to take us that morning was open! Café Tomaselli is the oldest coffee house in Austria with origins dating back to 1700. And it was said to be a favorite of Mozarts. The experience is a little different from your average European coffee shop, so it’s good to be aware of before you go. First, a waiter will come to the table asking for your drink order, which you will pay for upon leaving the café. Next, a woman will bring an entire tray of cakes and pastries to the table and you can choose as many as you want. These must be paid for immediately. Of course, we each chose something different so we could sample them all! It definitely made our coffee stop feel more special and upscale.


This is the view from the terrace outside the modern art museum. It was so simple to get to! You just take an elevator from street level up to the museum and walk outside. We did not pay to go into the museum.

Later that day, we were able to squeeze in a couple Sound of Music stops like the Mirabell Palace and gardens, but we spent the majority of the afternoon hiding away at the Augustiner Brewery. As you pass through their delicatessen arcade on the way to the beer halls, you can pick up snacks like wienerschnitzel, pretzels, and fried radishes. We got a little of everything and found a cozy nook at the end of the hall.



While we were there enjoying our beer and snacks, it started to snow! I realize I may have been alone in my excitement, but it never snows in England so I always look forward to the possibility of snow when we travel. For me, it was the perfect way to end our trip.

Weekend Adventure: Copenhagen

Copenhagen surprised me. I had been once before just after highschool on a backpacking trip and my experience then was…interesting. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t my favorite place either. This time, though, I loved exploring the city with George: shopping and eating our way through Copenhagen. It may even be my favorite city we’ve visited since living here…aside from London, of course!


We arrived around noon on Saturday and almost immediately set off for one of the city’s coolest neighborhoods: Norrebro. We shopped, we ate cinnamon buns, we drank coffee. All the best places are found on one street called Jægersborggade.


Next we headed to the city center to climb to the top of the Rundetaarn for some amazing views. The Rundetaarn (Round Tower) was built in 1642 with a spiral ramp so that royalty could ride to the top on horseback. At the top, there is an observatory which claims to be the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. And supposedly, on a clear day, you can see across to Sweden!



Afterward, we walked around the pedestrian area and did some more shopping. The shopping really was amazing in Copenhagen. There were so many beautiful pieces of Danish design I wanted to bring home.

For a quick snack, we got hot dogs from Torvehallerne. It is a food market, so there were lots of tasty options to consider. But for a proper meal, we had already decided to go to the meatpacking district later that night.


For the next hour or so, we hung out at the library bar across from Tivoli at the Plaza Hotel. The drinks were pretty pricey, but the Amaretto Sour was probably the best I’ve ever had. It was the perfect place to relax and talk while surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookcases.

After leaving the library bar, we decided we still were not hungry and instead went to the Mikkeler bar to sample some local beer. It was totally packed, but we found a seat fairly quickly. I highly recommend this place!


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The next morning, we tried to get up as early as possible to see Nyhavn harbor expecting there to be tons of tourists there later in the day. Although when we got there at 9 am, we basically had the place to ourselves. Could have been the fact that it was such a dreary day!


Nonetheless, we had a great time strolling past the colorful houses and taking way too many pictures of pretty boats. For lunch we popped over to Papirøen, or Paper Island, for some delicious smørrebrød. The Danish open-face sandwiches at this street food market were so tasty. Also, the seating options here were great! Much better than any London market.



The only thing on our agenda for the rest of the day was the Design Museum. However, the Amalienborg Palace just happened to be on our way there so we opted to check it out. You can watch the changing of the guards here everyday at 12:00.


We were also able to see the Kastellet military fortess as it was just a few minutes past the Design Museum on foot. More than anything, I loved the colors here. It was a nice place to go for a walk, especially with all the leaves changing color.



When we finally made it to the Design Museum, we realized you can basically see the same designs just by going shopping. Specifically, by making a stop at both Illums Bollighus and the Royal Copenhagen store. I would give the museum a miss, because I would rather have spent that time shopping for pieces that are actually available to purchase (even if they were crazy expensive).

That night, we made reservations to have dinner at a place called Väkst. Both of our meals were amazing, not to mention surprising and (compared to other Nordic restaurants) affordable. The decor was super cool as well, centered around a greenhouse with a cozy, urban style basement. It was the perfect end to our trip and I’m so glad we got to experience some modern Nordic cuisine before heading back to London.

Puglia: the heel of Italy’s boot

Puglia, also known as Apulia, is the region of Italy covering the heel of the boot and most famous for its coastline. It is a well-known vacation spot among Italians, however it is less well known to the rest of the world. It was a little difficult to plan a trip to Puglia because of the lack of information and once there, it was slightly distressing to navigate because no one spoke English. On the other hand, it is completely different from every other part of Italy I’ve seen in regard to the architecture, food, and culture. Luckily, a friend of a friend who lives in Puglia helped us with our itinerary and because of that, we ended up having a very Italian holiday. The only thing I would have done differently would be to stay in a Masseria, or farmhouse, like this one.

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Our first stop after arriving at the airport in Bari was the town of Alberobello, which was made a UNESCO world heritage site for its abundance of trulli–the whitewashed houses with conical roofs that are traditional to this area.



After exploring the back streets of Alberobello, we made a quick gelato stop before leaving for our next destination: Ostuni.




Ostuni is one of the famous “white cities” of Puglia, although I felt as if the architecture more closely resembled that of Greece. It was great to wander through the city’s narrow streets and staircases, discovering hidden shops and restaurants around every corner.


We also visited a number of other cities on our way south to the beaches, but Ostuni and Alberobello were our favorites. We spent the night in the city of Lecce, which is sometimes described as the “Florence of the South.” And in the morning, we headed for the ocean.

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The Grotto della Poesia (Cave of Poetry) near the Torre Dell’orso beach is essentially a sinkhole at the edge of the sea. It was such a beautiful place to go for a swim and jump from the rocks above. You can even swim out to the sea through the system of underwater caves.

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The entirety of the next two days were spent beach hopping from one stunning spot to the next. To be honest, it was almost too hot to do anything else. Our favorite beach in Salento was Punta Prosciutto. The rocky shore is great for exploring and collecting urchins. Otherwise, there’s plenty of white sand beach to lounge around.

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Along the coast, practically at every beach, were these medieval watchtowers. None of the ones we saw were open to visitors, but they were still really cool to see from the outside. Apparently they were built in the 16th Century, lining the Puglian coast as a protective measure. The structures were built close enough in order to communicate with neighboring towers through fire and smoke signals.

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On our final day in Italy, we were torn between visiting an olive oil farm or the ancient cave city of Matera. Matera is actually in the Basilicata region north of Puglia, but it was on the way back to the airport. Plus, we had all watched a travel show about Matera called Italy Unpacked and George’s brother, Tommy, was especially interested to see it.



We parked in the center of the city, then set off to explore on foot. Matera is famous for its cave dwellings or Sassi di Matera, literally meaning “stones of Matera” which are part of the UNESCO listed heritage of the city. The ancient Sassi dwellings were occupied until the 1950s when the Italian government forcibly relocated the residents to the modern city. Although beautiful, Matera was forgotten and impoverished, enduring many years of hardship throughout its long history. Tourism has breathed new life into Matera and we found it to be the highlight of our trip.




Among the sites we visited in Matera, the best was the cave church called Madonna dell’Idris. The fourteenth and fifteenth century frescoes were amazing, but unfortunately no pictures are allowed. We would have loved to visit the Crypt of Original Sin, often described as the ‘Sistine Chapel’ of cave churches, however it was closed during our visit. So to fill the last couple of hours before our flight, we ventured into the caves across the ravine from the city and explored the many former dwellings. We even found a tiny cave chapel with frescoes inside.



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Carreg Cennen Castle & Tintern Abbey

These two stops were the last on an extended weekend roadtrip with my (George’s) parents. Other stops included Lyme Regis, Bath and our personal favorite, the Pembrokeshire Coast. The narrow roads that connect the Welsh countryside moonlight as a sheep safari path. February in the Brecon Beacons was exactly as it should be: damp and foggy.

Road Trip: Luxembourg & Germany

George and I have been traveling a lot lately. We went to Bruges, Belgium a couple weeks ago to celebrate his birthday and we just got home on Monday from his sister’s wedding in Chicago. But before we left for the States, we took a road trip to Luxembourg and Germany with a couple friends. We chose Luxembourg because it was the only place within driving distance that none of us had really been before. George spent about an hour there one summer, but everything was still pretty new to him.  Continue reading “Road Trip: Luxembourg & Germany”

Ireland Part II: Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands

After leaving the Burren in County Clare, my sister and I made our way to our second destination: Doolin. Doolin is a small seaside village on the west coast of Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way. It is known around the world as the traditional music capital of Ireland and that is what drew us to stay there while visiting the Cliffs of Moher.

Continue reading “Ireland Part II: Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands”

Ireland Part I: Loop Head and The Burren

A couple weeks ago, my sister and I decided to take on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. My little sister, Laurel, had just been studying in Spain, so I told her she needed to come visit me before going back to the States. We thought it would be fun to go on a trip together and we chose Ireland because it is a country both of us have always wanted to go to.  Continue reading “Ireland Part I: Loop Head and The Burren”