I spent the day exploring Durham, England. I caught the train from Newcastle, and walked into town, finding the central square and market. Strolling up the road, I took some photos of lovely storefronts and stopped into a few shops. (I should have titled this piece “Shopping Durham,” as my “shopping” blog posts are the most popular!)
I explored the beautiful Castle and Cathedral – more on those in the next few blog posts! One of the outdoor cafe tables at Cafe on the Green, between the Castle and the Cathedral called my name. My guidebook and journal kept me company during lunch. Then, I had the good instinct to cross the River Wear and walk along the far side, looking up at the town and the Cathedral in its summer greenery. Why? I realized that the Cathedral facade would be lit by the afternoon sun.
I was even able to position myself just right so the construction cloth over the tower that is under restoration was blocked by the leaves. It was a beautiful and peaceful afternoon, part of an unusually sunny summer of 2018.
I’ve only spent two days in Reykjavik, Iceland in my life, so I’m not ready to write the guide book for Lonely Planet. But so many friends have told me that Iceland is on their bucket list, so I thought there would be some interest in some personal recommendations. I’ll keep this brief: two super hotels, two phenomenal bakeries, and two memorable seafood restaurants.
Our very first stop after driving the 30 miles from Keflavik International Airport to the city was the Braud Bakery. We were hungry right off the bat for breakfast, and I remembered my friend Britt’s words, “best cinnamon rolls I ever tasted.” Well, Britt was not exaggerating. Apparently, the hard working Icelanders practice baking all winter long, as they huddle inside their homes in the 24 hour darkness. And here is your first vocabulary word: Braud means bread. A second and third visit to Braud brought us to the conclusion that cookies and everything else they bake is exceptional as well. (Time to fly home before gaining the Iceland-15!)
Apparently all tennis players love pastry, and Britt (my tennis buddy) also recommended the Sandholt Bakery on the main shopping street Laugavegur. Eggs are healthy, but they cost $40, so let’s be practical and have another pastry and coffee here. (Warning: everything in Iceland — food, drinks, hotel, wool hats, etc. — all cost twice as much as you expect.) By the end of your trip, you’ll be relaxed and saying, “who cares?”
There are many nice looking and convenient hotels in Reykjavik. We favor Hilton hotels, and I can report that both the Hilton Reykjavik on the north perimeter of the city as well as the centrally located “Canopy by Hilton” were terrific. If you don’t have a rental car and plan to walk the city, choose the latter.
When it comes to food, I doubt that you can get a bad meal in Reykjavik. Literally everything we had to eat was fresh and delicious often with interesting preparation. A shopkeeper where we bought a wool sweater recommended these two restaurants. For a casual bistro, try Salka Valka “Fish and More” at 23 Skolavordustigur. (Say that fast three times!) The local dish fish stew is yummy. We spoke with some friendly Norwegians there.
Sjavargrillid “Seafood Grill” is on the same street — Skolavordistigur, which you can easily find on foot in the shopping district. I had the perch, creatively prepared. Service was great, and the place was busy. Make a reservation here: +354 571 1100.
Wherever you go in Reykjavik, whatever you eat, whatever you buy – have a wonderful time!