How to spend a day in Reykjavik, Iceland

We hired a car for our week in Iceland, but when we arrived in Reykjavik, it was parked out the front of our Airbnb and promptly forgotten about until it was time to head back to the airport. We found Reykjavik to be a pretty easy city to walk around, even in the cold of winter. And despite the shorter daylight hours, you can actually pack quite a bit in to a sunny winter’s day while you’re there.

I’m clearly not a Reykjavik local (and I’m sure a they would have some different ideas on how to spend a day in their city), so this is my visitor’s version of how to spend a day there to take in as much of the city’s mixed bag of offerings as you can.

 

 

1. Get up early and start walking towards the Harpa Conference & Concert Center. Actually, you don’t have to get up that earlywe were there mid-November and this was about 7:30am. You’re not going to see inside the building or anything, it’s just really beautiful in the morning darkness on your way to your second stop.

 

2. Keep on walking south along the water for about 800 metres to the Sun Voyager. This frequently-photographed sculpture that looks like an old Viking long-ship is next-level spectacular during sunrise. It draws massive crowds during the day, so if you want a chance to have it to yourself, it’s worth the early wake up.

 

3. Double back and follow the main road around to the left at the Concert Center, taking you on a kilometre walk to Lake Tjörnin. If you’ve thought ahead and brought a KeepCup full of tea or coffee with you, this is a nice stop to make. If you’ve brought along some bread, too, even better – the birds here loooove a feed.

 

4. Opposite the west side of the lake at the corner of Suðurgata & Kirkjugarðsstígur, you’ll find the Hólavallagarður Cemetery. I love a cemetery visit when I’m travelling, and I’ve been to a lot of them now, but this will always stand out for me. After you’ve been driving around Iceland for a week, you notice that there actually aren’t a heap of trees there; they seem to be hoarding them all at this cemetery. In winter, when the graves are covered in moss and snow, and the light is a little darker and there’s no one around, it’s a pretty unique experience.

 

5. Start walking north again back towards the Concert Center and make your way to Kolaportið Market. Because no day out is complete without a trip to a local flea market, especially in Iceland where everything is generally incredibly expensive!

 

6. You’ve gotta be getting hungry by now, so take a lunch break at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for the best hot dog you’ve ever eaten. Literally the BEST hot dog. You’ve ever. Eaten. EVER.

 

7. A kilometer and a half walk south-east along Skólavörðustígur Street will take you through the city centre, where you’ll be able to check out some of the street art scattered around the city.

 

8. If you’re game, head to one of the many tattoo studios in the city for a more permanent souvenir from your time in Iceland. I had this beauty done by Martin at the now closed Sweet Hell Tattoo Studio, which is a shame because it’s one of the better studios I’ve been tattooed in. If you’re intrigued but unsure, I’ve written a guide to getting tattooed on your travels which might help.

 

9. No visit to Reykjavik would be complete without seeing the city’s main landmark, Hallgrímskirkja, the city’s towering Lutheran church. Even if you’re not much into architecture or religion, you can’t not be left a little in awe of this building and the way it pops up at the end of a main street, like it’s just waiting there to welcome you in. And if you’re happy to join to line with the other tourists, I her the view from the observation tower up top is pretty spectacular.

 

10. It’s time for afternoon tea, now. Head about 500 metres along Vitastígur, and you’ll hit Te & Kaffi. Warm up, caffeinate, get some sugary treats (I highly recommend the choc chip cookies) into you, and get ready to head back out into the cold for one last trek before you call it a day.

 

11. Your last stop is just under 2 kilometres away, north-west, back towards and past the Concert Center. You’re ending your day at the Saga Museum. You can dress up as a Viking in the foyer area before grabbing your headphones and following an audio guide through the museum, watching on as life-sized (and sometimes disturbingly life-like) figures play out scenes from Iceland’s history. It’s a little tacky, a little silly, but it’s also a pretty good history lesson.

 

 

Messing up in Ketchikan

This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess us sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up.
– Marilyn Monroe

 

It’s an odd place, Ketchikan. At least it is in early October. The cruise ships have ended their season and the town returns to the residents.

The skies were grey for the entire duration of our visit, as if to warn us away. The locals met us with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion by the locals. They couldn’t understand what two young people could be doing in their little town as independent travellers. We were asked more than once if we’d missed our cruise ship home. Saying no and that we were Australians seemed to be a valid enough explanation for at least half of them.

We stayed in a guest house on Creek Street, because everything else was closed for the season. It was a creaky, old weatherboard building that served as a dance hall and Alaska’s first registered brothel before it was closed in the 1950s. Creek Street is full of these aging wooden tributes to the past, sitting in a wonky line along a rickety boardwalk, held up on criss-crossed wooden stilts.

They stand like aging movie stars past their prime but too proud to step aside. Tarnished metal plaques on their outer walls bear their names – Star House, Preacher’s House, June’s Place. heir bright colours stand out against the grey sky – mint green, sky blue, salmon pink.

Salmon. The perfect Alaskan stereotype. The creek is full of them. Walking the boardwalk at dusk, when the sky is turning pink and the air is still, there’s an acrid smell of gutted sea creatures. It reminds you of the end of the day at a fish market. The water in the creek rises and falls fast, faster than many of the salmon can keep up with.

When the creek water falls at the end of the day, you can finally see what lies beneath. Below the wooden stilts of the boardwalk, a vicious valley of jagged rocks appears. And caught up the are the salmon. Dozens, maybe hundreds of them.

Things started moving too fast for them, and they’ve gotten themselves stuck as the tide falls back out. And just as you’re processing the savage fate of the fish, the seagulls sweep in like vultures. They pick at t as they lay helpless in their death throes.

That’s life. Sometimes things change too fast for us to keep up, and we stumble. Occasionally, there will be those who come along when we’re most vulnerable to pick at our wounds. Shit happens; we mess up and we get stuck. But we’re not victims of the tide. If we’re paying attention, we know when we’ve messed up. And if we can mess up right, we get the chance to learn something from it, save ourselves, and keep on going.

8 Perfect Paris Streets

The only way you’re going to really see Paris is on foot. Because there are dozens of beautiful little walking streets in the city that you’re going to miss completely if you’re in a taxi or on the trains. If you Google “Paris walking streets,” you’ll get hundreds of lists; here are the ones I really liked. They’re all in quite central areas, easy enough to get to if you don’t know the city well, and will give you a really great overview of what you can find if you take the time to wander…

 

1. Rue Montorgueil
Why walk it? Cafés, bakeries and restaurants for the most part, like Au Rocher de Cancale. There are also some beautiful little places where you can get a crepe and some wine while you do some people watching.

 

2. Galerie Vivienne
Why walk it? This little undercover walking street has been made Instagram-famous for is beautifully tiled passageway which is strung with fairy lights overhead. Galerie Vivienne is home to a few old bookstores mixed in with some more modern boutiques.

 

3. Rue Saint-Séverin
Why walk it? It’s one of those story-book cobbled streets up near the Latin Quarter. Start at Boulevard Saint-Michel where you’ll find lots of pretty cafes and restaurants. Turn left on Rue de Petit Pont and you’ll end at Shakespeare & Company for a book fix.

 

4. Rue Cler
Why walk it? With wide walking paths and lots of shops, it’s an easy place to soend a few hours. You’ll find everything from Mariage Frères tea to lots of colourful florists to some delicious smelling bakeries. At the end of street, just past Rue Saint-Dominique, you’ll find the Church of Saint-Pierre du Gros Caillou.

 

5. Rue Mouffetard
Why walk it? This cobbled street on a hill hosts a farmers market of sorts every day except Monday. It’s lined with food stores and stalls – butchers, fromageries, bakeries, patisseries, the works. The croissants from Maison Morange are exceptional.

 

6. Passage Verdeau
Why walk it? For the beautiful old bookstores like Librairie J.N. Santon and other antique shops. It’s a real step back in time.

leading into…

7. Passage Jouffroy
Why walk it? This is another classic walking street, really harking back to the past. It houses a wax museum, a former 19th century brasserie, and Le Valentin, a tea house with the most incredible cakes.

leading into…

8. Passage des Panoramas
This one’s considered to be the first covered walking street in the city. With it’s old tiled floors, a few cafes and some antique collector stores (stamps, coins, postcards), it’s a great way to end your walking day.

Cook this: 5 ingredient lemon coconut shortbread

We’ve all been in COVID-19 induced isolation, so we’ve all been spending some quality time with our kitchens. And when I noticed our lemon tree had gone bonkers a few weeks ago, I turned to my trusty, 888 page-long CWA CLASSICS cookbook for help. Classic shortbread is nice, but shortbread with lemon and coconut is better, so here’s my spin on a classic…

Ingredients:
• 250g softened butter
• ¾ cup icing sugar
• ⅓ cup desiccated coconut
• finely grated zest of one lemon (I used a Meyer lemon from the tree in my backyard)
• juice of one lemon
• 2½ cups plain flour

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a lamington tin with non-stick baking paper.
2. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until creamy, then beat in the coconut, lemon zest and juice.
3. Sift in the flour and stir to combine – you might want to use your hands to bring the dough together.
4. Press the dough into the lamington tin as evenly as you can, then place into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes – you want it  JUST golden, not browned!
5. Cool the shortbread in the tin for 2 minutes, then transfer it carefully (leave it on the baking paper) to a cutting board. Cut it up into squares while it’s still hot, then transfer the shortbread, still on the baking paper, onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Top 15 Things To Do in Paris

1. Eat all of the croissants and pastries

https://dupainetdesidees.com/en/
Where? Du Pain et des Idées, 34 Rue Yves Toudic
Why go? Because pastry tourism is a thing in Paris. Or at least I’m pretty sure it is. You can find an amazing croissant in just about every café, but the ones at Du Pain et des Idées are extraordinary. Also, the pistachio escargots… if you’ve eaten a more exquisite pastry, I don’t believe you!
Cost? A few euro each, and worth every cent.  

 

2. Go see the Eiffel Tower – and go up it for an unreal view

https://www.toureiffel.paris/en
Where? Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France
Why go? You can’t very well go to Paris without seeing it, but while you’re there, you may as well take the ride up – the view out over Paris is incredible. You can also have a drink or even enjoy a fancy meal up there – just remember to book first.
How long will you need? Give yourself about two hours.
Cost? A ticket to the top will cost you 25.00 per person.

 

3. Then, go see the Eiffel Tower from Montparnasse Tower

https://www.tourmontparnasse56.com/en/
Where? 33 Avenue du Maine
Why go? Now that you’ve seen things from the Eiffel Tower, it might be nice to check out the view with it in there. And you won’t get a better view than the one from Montparnasse Tower. You’ll take the super-fast lift up to the top where you’ll get an insane 360° view over Paris from 200 metres high. And you can relax at a café window seat and take it all in while drinking coffee and eating more croissants!
How long will you need? We were up there for about an hour.
Cost? €17.00 per person

 

4. Take a stroll through the Tuileries Gardens & grounds of the Louvre

Where? Rue de Rivoli
Why go? If you’re a classic art fan, you’ll of course want to visit the inside of the Louvre, but walking the grounds is like walking through a gallery in itself. Once you’ve taken it all in, spill out into the gardens, take a seat and do some people watching. It’s a really lovely break from the chaos of Paris.
Cost? Free!

 

5. Walk up the hill and see Sacré-Cœur Basilica at the top
http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/english/

Where? 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre
Why go? Sure, you can take the funicular, but the steps are so much more rewarding (and if you eat as much pastry as I did in Paris, kind of necessary). Sacré-Cœur is beautiful to see once you get to the top, but the view when you turn around is almost better, especially on a clear day.
Cost? Free to walk up that hill, free to enter the basilica

 

6. Do some shopping at the undercover passages

Where? Galerie Vivienne, 5 Rue de la Banque
Why go? Paris has a heap of gorgeous undercover walking passages that hark back to the 18th century when the city was a rabbit-warren of these passages. Most of them didn’t survive, but a few like Galerie Vivienne and Passage Jouffroy have become quite popular for a bit of coffee drinking and shopping.
How long will you need? You could easily (and we did) spend an entire day exploring the city’s undercover passages.

 

7. Have a fancy French dinner at P’Tit Troquet or Cafe du Commerce

http://www.leptittroquet.fr/en/
Where? 28 Rue de l’Exposition
Why go? When in Paris… I always thought French food was completely overrated, until I ate at Le P’Tit Troquet. They have only a few items on the menu at any one time, all using fresh produce and prepared with the utmost care. One spoonful of the beef bourguignon and you’ll start to understand why the stuffy old ladies adore the cuisine so much.
How long will you need? A few hours. There’s the entrée, the main, the dessert, the wine…
Cost? Around 40 per person will get you a three course meal and generous glass of wine.

 

8. Get some kitchen inspo at E. Dehillerin
https://www.edehillerin.fr/en/
Where? 18-20 Rue Coquillière
Why go? Once you’ve tried some good food over there, you might be a little more inspired to hit the kitchen when you get back, and E.Dehillerin has absolutely everything you could possibly need. Even if you don’t like to cook, you can’t not want a giant wooden spoon the height of a small child.
Cost? Prices are actually pretty reasonable, so you may buy more than you expect.

 

9. Visit some Parisian residents of the past at the Père Lachaise Cemetery

http://www.pere-lachaise.com/
Where? 16 Rue du Repos
Why go? One of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever visited, the Père Lachaise is set on the most stunning garden grounds. If you can visit in autumn, you’ll be rewarded with golden and red leaves everywhere, and it makes it a lot more enchanting than creepy.
How long will you need? 2 – 3 hours
Cost? Free

 

10. See the show at the Moulin Rouge

http://www.moulinrouge.fr/?lang=en
Where? 82 Boulevard de Clichy
Why go? Yes, it’s tacky and old, but you know what? It’s actually a really fun night. Especially if you purchase the tickets that include a bottle of champagne and find yourselves sharing a table with some other foreigners. We actually found the comedic/contortionist/random filler acts in between the main musical numbers to be the most entertaining, and it was kind of fun to get dressed up and pretend to be in the fancy Paris of yesteryear for the night.
How long will you need? A few hours
Cost? Prices vary depending on date and time, but start from around €70

 

11. Go to Disneyland!
http://www.disneylandparis.com/en-us/
Where? Marne-la-Vallée
Why go? If you need a reason, there’s just no helping you…
How long will you need? All day!
Cost? 1 day tickets are around USD$80.00 per person

 

12. Eat some Nutella crepes in Luxembourg Gardens

Why go? Have you even been to Paris if you haven’t stuffed yourself silly with crepes?! Grab a Nutella-smothered crepe in the gardens and walk your way around the part French/part English/Italian inspired gardens to work it off.
Cost? A few euro for one, but you’re probably not going to want only one.

 

13. Shop for books in English at Shakespeare and Company

https://shakespeareandcompany.com/
Where? 37 Rue de la Bûcherie
Why go? This may be the most famous independent book store in the world, and for good reason. The perfect old building is full of English language books, and is worth seeing even if you’re not a reader. Also, a café on site in case you haven’t had your fill of French coffee and croissants yet.
How long will you need? If you’re a certified bookworm like me, an hour or two…

 

14. Visit Montmatre
Why go? This is artist-territory, and the classic Paris you imagine after seeing movies. Storybook old buildings covered in ivy, sweet little cafes run by equally sweet little old couples, and artists working on pieces on the streets.
How long will you need? If you have time, spend half a day there.

 

15. Sample your way through Rue Mouffetard market

http://www.rue-mouffetard.com/market.html
Where?
Why go? This cobbled walking street fills with street stalls most mornings, selling everything from seafood to fresh bread. Head in on an empty stomach so you can eat your way through – bonus points if you’re staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen so you can buy ingredients to cook with later!
How long will you need? An hour or two