Provincetown 2018: Vacationing in a Safe Space

Most people refer to their usual vacation spot as their happy place – in my case our usual vacation spot is not only my happy place but one of my safe spaces. This isn’t something I realized until this past June when we spent a week with friends in Provincetown (Ptown), Massachusetts. It makes all the sense in the world when I look back and reflect on the years of history I have with the town – nevermind the town’s own long and extensive history of inclusion.

This is the place we vacationed when I was a child – camping on Race Point.

This is the place I was first tattooed – and continue to be tattooed – thank you Coastline Tattoo!

This was also the place I became engaged to, and later on, married to my husband.




This is also the place where I’ve vacationed with friends for years and felt like part of the majority instead of part of the minority – and with that, felt safe to simply hold my husband’s hand while walking down the street. This simple act was thoughtless in Ptown, which is what makes it a safe space for me. I didn’t need to think if I should or shouldn’t hold his hand. We acted without reservation – which in itself was an absolute vacation from the reality of the constant act of filtering my brain does in other public spaces.

This is not to say our lives are lived quietly – we are both out and extremely proud gay men – but for me, there is a steady stream of thoughts and actions that pass through a mental firewall. Life is sometimes lived curated – a learned behavior of editing one’s actions in an effort to be comfortable and make those around you comfortable – or at least to be unassuming out of an ingrained sense of self-preservation. And the break from this almost involuntary (yet draining) task is one of the best vacations we take each year. The energy I have during this week to funnel into other things – conversations, exploring, photography – reminds me that while we have come so far, we still have so far to go.

Provincetown is not only a vacation and a safe space for me – it is also a place where I can see possibilities – possibilities for myself and for the world around me. Where the vast tapestry of people in the world can come together and coexist in a place that blends art, life, leisure, work, and passion (not to mention great food, great drinks, great shopping, and some bumpin tunes).

This very dramatically framed realization aside – our time in Ptown was yet another amazing 7 days of rest, relaxation, reconnecting, and rejuvenation (ask for Kevin Ptown Massage + Body!) If you ever find yourself at the outermost part of Cape Cod I’d make the following recommendations:



Patio – American Grill & Cocktail Bar

Patio holds a near and dear spot in my heart, as it was one of the first places I ever ate when I started visiting Ptown as an adult. Since that first dining experience 7 years ago it has become a staple in each and every trip – most notably our rehearsal dinner. We usually have our first and last dinner of the trip here – when the food and drink is this good you keep the tradition alive.

Strangers & Saints

A beautiful copper-clad bar helps set the tone for craft cocktails and delicious bites and entrees. As always, I recommend the Manhattan.


The Mews

Date night was brought to us by The Mews and my mother- and father-in-law who wanted us to enjoy an amazing vacation dinner. The view was perfect (a half-moon table right against the floor to ceiling windows so we both looked straight out into the bay at night), the wine was on point, and the beet and pesto buratta was to die for.

Mama Matcha

To satisfy all of your hippie, earthy, crunchy, healthy needs there is Mama Macha to the rescue. This quickly became an expensive but delicious habit over the course of the week. Favorites include the matcha latte, lox sandwich, and matcha protein balls.

The Canteen

Frosé, buddha bowls, and lobster rolls – Need I say more?

Local 186

We’ve been to a lot of burger restaurants in our time, but Local has and always will take the cake on this category. Whether you want a straight up burger, turkey, veggie – they’ve got you covered. The nicest waitstaff around and the best apps (fried pickles, yes please) and meals. Go.

Cafe Heaven

Amazing brunch and amazing art on the walls.

Drinking (+ Coffee)

Harbor Lounge

Where I recently learned of my love for Aperol Spritz – the view and the comfortable atmosphere can’t be beat – especially if you catch it on a quieter afternoon.


An awesome two-story restaurant and bar – great atmosphere, great drinks, and even better rosé. If you can eat here you’ll find a blend of French and Italian coming from their kitchen – at the very least I recommend charcuterie so you have a delicious base to go with your beverages.


Crown & Anchor – Dive Bar

During the later part of the week (specifically), I’d point you in the direction of the Crown & Anchor’s Dive Bar so you can catch Bobby Wetherbee at the piano (Thursday-Sunday). Several glasses of Rosé and some ballads later we called it a very good night – and you should too.

Dive Bar Rose

Joes – Coffee

Solid americanos and even better baked goods.

KoHi – Coffee

California vibe right on the beach.

Shopping & Art

The number of unique shops and galleries that line Commercial Street in Ptown are more than I could possibly list here – but a few of our favorites are below:

Tattoos (and aftermath)

2018 Tattoo
Fantastical Creatures & Icelandic Staves

So every year that I have gone to Provincetown I have had a new tattoo added – and it has always been done at the same shop in town – Coastline Tattoo. We start by scheduling our appointments and talking to the artists on Monday and end up getting our work done on Friday afternoon. I’m still working my way through collecting all of the artists in the shop – and I’ve only ever strayed once when I had my DC tattoo done…in DC. Appropriate, right? The collection of art I have assembled on my body is pretty amazing in my own personal, humble opinion. I have and will continue to recommend Coastline to anyone and everyone who’s in the area.

Afterward, tradition dictates we head to Tin Pan Alley and connect with the rest of our group to (against professional advice) numb our pain receptors with an adult beverage and pre-dinner apps. The bartenders are engaging and make a pretty damn good cocktail. If you hit this place in the evening hours you can usually luck out and catch some live music (piano bar!).

Other To-Dos (i.e. DESSERT)

The Nut House

This is all you need to know – homemade ice cream sandwiches on freshly baked cookies. Go. Now. Don’t walk – RUN.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten many great places, as there are just far too many to list – and it’s even more impossible to order them in terms of amazingness. We haven’t even touched on the beaches and National Seashore! The love I have for Provincetown is infinite as I have had so many eye-opening, life-changing, and heart-warming experiences within the small boundaries of its township. If you have the chance to visit this place take the time to observe the intermingling of people, personalities, and beliefs and see the inherent safety and love it provides its visitors.

It’s an altering experience. 



A Savannah Wedding Weekend

img_8048Destination weddings are always a blast, not only because you get to witness someone’s marriage and have a chance to reconnect with family and friends – but because you get the opportunity to do this in a completely new place! We just returned from such a wedding weekend in Savannah, Georgia, where we were able to experience this new city through the eyes of the couple. Since we both have some flexibility with vacation time, we tacked some days onto the beginning and end of the weekend in order to maximize our time with everyone, and get to experience as much of Savannah as we could. We were not disappointed! From the time we landed, we felt welcome in the city – our Uber driver giving us a synopsis of her time in Savannah up until the moment she dropped us at the front door of our VRBO rental – graciously booked by my in-laws.

When I say VRBO rental I really mean massive, sprawling, charm-infused Georgian home. The rental technically had three different living quarters: (1) the main house, which consisted of three stories; (2) the basement/ground-level apartment that ran the length of the home; and (3) the single bedroom carriage house that lay across the courtyard (yes – you read that correctly – across the courtyard). Each part of the property felt completely private, yet utterly connected because of the quaint courtyard area that joined them all.

From the top of the outdoor spiral staircase, we had a lovely view of our own carriage house accommodations and the nearest church (one of many), spiking up over the roof – swaying tree branches, Spanish Moss, and all. Not to mention it was a perfect 60-some-odd degrees and sunny.


When you think “Savannah” I’m sure you immediately imagine parks, gardens, and squares – which we also did – but the sheer number of them is still striking when you arrive and start to walk the city. There are currently a total of 24 squares throughout Savannah that interrupt traffic as you walk about – making for a more pedestrian-friendly feel. Granted, we had our fair share of speedy Georgians motoring from intersection to intersection – but the squares every several blocks act as a bit of an oasis along the way to your destination. I usually recommend no destination though – wandering is when you find the best places. A few of our favorites are below:

Food & Drink

Collins Quarter – We ended up eating brunch here twice. It’s always interesting to find a foreign element in a city – which is exactly what Collins Quarter aims to do. They have fused the feel of Australia’s cafe culture into Savannah while layering on innovative and unique food. Two of my favorite things – caffeine and good eats. We would recommend them for any meal – the menu looked great regardless of when you arrive. Their website makes it clear that parties over 4 need a reservation – so run over to OpenTable and make a reservation if you’re in town!



The Chromatic Dragon – This was another two-timer! As we Ubered into the city we saw a sign for this bar and I was intrigued – so like any good, older millennial, I ran to the Google Box and tried to figure out what this place was. Turns out it is a video game bar! Initially, I thought it would be rows of old-school arcade games, but instead, you actually sat and played pretty much any current game console and multi-player game of your choice, while you ate and drank. They’re also family-friendly, across all ages – so bringing the nephews was a-okay. Needless to say, I got my butt whooped by a 5-year-old.

For those that are a bit more old-school, there is also giant Jenga and giant Connect Four – as well as a plethora of boardgames I saw off in a corner by the bar. The menu is also full of amazing puns – icing on the nerd cake.

Kayak Kafe – Solid healthy choice when surrounded by traditional Southern food for four days! Towards the end of our trip, we were craving a salad and ended up walking to Kayak Kafe to get in some steps and take in some greens. The restaurant is actually the front-end of a local gym but has the feel of a small, local joint once you walk in and sit down. The guacamole and pita were to die for and the salads were exactly what we needed. We can speak to the “Vegetarian” and the “Greek” salads – both were home runs.

Gallery Espresso – A place that takes coffee, tea, baked goods, and employee wellness seriously. Just check out their website and read about their team and the training they’ve had while working at Gallery. We pit-stopped here for a midafternoon pick-me-up and ended up an amazing Red African iced tea and zucchini bread. They also feature a gallery space and host local artists which you can see here.

Clary’s Cafe – After in increasingly frustrating 2 hours trying to wrap up a work report I joined the family for breakfast over at Clary’s Cafe on our first full day in Savannah. The bonus here was that while I was yelling at Excel they were waiting in line, so when I finished and jogged over from the rental, they were walking in the door and just sitting down to our table! Sometimes timing really is everything.

Clary’s is a local institution from what we could discern – incredibly friendly service with photos of the owners, family, friends, and patrons all over the walls. The nephews seemed all in on the pancakes, while I inhaled one of the better omelets I’ve ever had. Breakfast potatoes – also delicious. Big diner-style fare if that’s what you’re looking for – which will provide you with a solid base for all that daytime walking/drinking

Savannah’s policy on open containers is: Open containers are a-okay! It isn’t shocking to see folks walking with a solo cup as they move from the bar to a historic site, to another bar.


ShopSCAD – While there are a ton of great shops and stores to poke in and out of along the way, I’d highly highly recommend the SCAD shop to anyone. Situated along one of the main roads running in between the green squares sits the SCAD shop. This shop features the insanely talented artists of SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) – everything from handbags and bowties, to candles and teas, to ceramics and furniture.

Brendan actually made a last minute bowtie purchase that made it into his outfit the day of the wedding.

Gallery 209 – great shop containing work from a variety of local artists. We ended up finding a puppy sitting gift, as well as a gift for ourselves here way too easily. The works featured here range from jewelry, to 2D and 3D work.

The Wedding!


The wedding was a three-day event spanning the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner on Friday, ceremony and reception on Saturday, followed by a casual Sunday brunch.

The weekend looked a little something like this:




And from there the bride and groom quite literally rode off into the night by horse-drawn carriage…and then met us at Pinkie Masters for a nightcap!

– – –

I leave you with this:  when in Savannah take long walks through green, fountain-clad squares – enjoy a drink while maneuvering the city (on foot w/ a solo cup) – be awestruck by the churches, cathedrals, and other architectural beauties – look for a ghost or two – stay someplace that’s nothing like your home – embrace and eat some Southern food – and then…wash it all down with a salad from Kayak and video games at Chromatic Dragon. Because soon enough you’ll be flying back to reality.




Bits of the beauty…

Day 6: Homeward Bound


The day we return home is always bittersweet – we’re excited to get home to the pups and our own bed…the ability to use more than one electrical outlet that doesn’t have an adapter in it – but we also see the things we loved about the place we’re leaving.

Great restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops…amazing views, people, and conversations – all things that propel us forward to talk about our next destination on the plane.

This is usually me planning our next trip before our current one is even over – I’m working on it, I swear. #beinthemoment

So, on our last day in Iceland we had great intentions for breakfast, the top of Hallgrimskirkja, and the art gallery near our AirBnB that we hadn’t gotten to – in reality, we checked off two of those three: (1) the view from the top of Hallgrimskirkja, and (2) breakfast at a cafe we discovered the day before, named Kaffibrennslan. Lucky for us, we ended up walking into the church right as the doors were opening so there were only 10 or so people in line for tickets ahead of us. 1000 krona per person to ride the elevator to the top and take in the view from what is the highest point in the city. Even on a gray morning the city and surrounding landscape were amazing. The houses and buildings that cascade down the streets from the church with their different colored roofs – the coast weaving in and out- bits of new construction illustrated by cranes and new, taller and taller structures.


After taking in as much of the view as we could, we rode the elevator back down with a few other early morning tourists and decided to stop in the church itself. There is something very simple, but very beautiful about Hallgrimskirkja – the way it calls on the Icelandic environment for inspiration – the ends of each pew resembling basalt pillars.

Afterwards, we made our way down the hill towards food and caffeine at Kaffibrennslan – two Americanos and two sandwiches later we sat in that pre-flight, quiet reflection. This may have had a little to do with being out late at Kiki the night before – but let’s go with pre-flight reflection. This really has been a great adventure that I’m considering a scouting mission – we’ll be back for sure – hopefully with friends and family so we can share what we’ve done, and explore new places! Since it was winter and the weather was a bit uncooperative (it never is here) we were restricted a bit – the upside being that the entire area was a bit quieter than in summer/high tourist season. Hopefully next time we can get farther out and see some of the amazing environment that lays beyond.


From here it was a whole lot of travel – back to the AirBnB to grab our bags, the mile walk to the BSI bus terminal, the 45-minute bus ride to the airport, and so on.

The Keflavik Airport was once again easy to navigate and move through – jumping off the bus we printed fresh copies of our boarding passes, cleared security and border control, and entered our terminal for some food and duty-free shopping. Icelandic security is a bit different in that Brendan and I seemed to have different experiences – him having to take off belt, boots, etc. – whereas I didn’t, but every bracelet and ring had to be taken off in my case. Still no explanation on that one.

Icelandair however – a dream to board and fly state-side, was a bit of nightmare to board on the Iceland-side. No zones, no calling by rows…just droves of economy passengers lining up at random and cattle calling their way past the desk agents, onto the plane and jockeying for position to stow their bags, before grabbing their assigned seats. All very Icelandic in what we have determined is a very “it’ll all work itself out” mentality the country’s people seems to have. If you’re expecting a tight and organized boarding procedure on the way back – don’t – just go with the flow and know that you’ll eventually be in your assigned seat. The in-flight entertainment system alone is worth the stress boarding provides.

The flight itself was uneventful – thankfully. Landing a little late (I blame the boarding process), we power walked to Customs, as we were told that multiple international flights had landed all at once and we’d be in line for a while. Thankfully I had downloaded and used Mobile Passport. Completely free to use, it let us submit all of our customs paperwork electronically and cut 200+ people in line. We ended up leaving Customs faster than the Global Entry people who pay for their expedited service. I’m inclined to not even share this detail, mostly because I don’t want to wait in line as people catch onto it, but at the same time I don’t want the service to shut down from lack of use!

From here it was a hop, skip, and brief bus ride over to the parking lot and off to scoop up the pups. We’re home.


Day 5: Wrapping up in Reykjavik


Our final full day! Since our glacier hike was canceled on Monday we decided to rebook and do the lava caves that I talked about in an earlier post, but we were staying in contact with Pink Iceland in case the option to go out Wednesday presented itself. Unfortunately, we got the call letting us know that due to the storm coming into the region all the trips out were canceled again. We were incredibly grateful we took them up on their offer Monday instead of just rescheduling and hoping for the best.

So, with a full day in the city ahead of us, we decided Wednesday would be our wrap-up day – we planned to do a few things we hadn’t gotten to yet, and a few things that we had enjoyed again!

The list included:

The Reykjavik Art Museum Hafnarhúsið

A contemporary art museum housed in Reykjavik’s old custom’s house – the great part about their museums is that several of them are part of the same system, so when you purchase a ticket you receive admission to all of them for 24 hours.

Bren taking in the Fact of the Matter exhibit

Ida Zimsen – our LGBT coffee house from the Pink Tour

Because who doesn’t need more coffee in their life when you’re still adjusting to the time zone a little bit – or using the timezone as an excuse to drink excessive amounts of Americano.

The Harpa – again! 

I wanted to go back and photograph more of the Harpa without being on tour. They also have a pretty amazing collection of gift shops and restaurants – we managed to find a few items to take home with us and they were actually pretty reasonable given what we purchased.

Harpa by night – photographer’s delight

The Sun Voyager

With a view of Mount Esja in the distance, the Sun Voyager sculpture is pretty phenomenal to see in person.

Tip of the Sun Voyager and Most. Esja in the distance

Skuli Craft Bar

The beer and the bartender were both awesome last time, so as we enjoyed the last of our Icelandic beer we wanted to do it in a place we didn’t mind giving our money to.


The National Theater of Iceland 

Purely for a couple of quick photos. The history is also interesting. During WWII England occupied the unfinished building as part of their military operations – focusing on preventing Germany from invading Iceland and using it as an outpost.

A dusky National Theatre

The Canopy Hotel

This was more of a quick bit of research for future stays – it’s beautiful inside and is right in the center of the city. I think we’ll have to come back with folks and give it a test drive.

Inside the amazing Canopy Hotel

Dinner at Krost

Krost was kind enough to like one of my Instagram photos earlier in the week, which sparked my interest. After a little research, we decided to give them a try – they’re basically a nice restaurant located in the Hlemmur Food Hall, not far from our AirBnB. If we only had known this place existed! It was a small collection of coffee shops and restaurants under one roof – like a food court…but classier.

Drinks at Kiki Queer Bar

Because how else do you close out your vacation than we a few final drinks at the local gay bar? Kiki was great – the evening started off with “quiz night” and wrapped up by turning into a full-on dance party.

Fun Fact – Kiki Queer Bar is pretty much the only “exclusively” LGBT bar in the city (Bravo is also known for being queer-friendly, but isn’t strictly a gay bar) and just celebrated its 5th birthday. 

Inside Kiki Queer Bar – love these guys no the way to the WC


And that was our day! We managed to hit up all of our favorites and do a few new things before we ultimately went back and packed up for our flight out on Thursday afternoon. We did squeeze in one more touristy thing on Thursday morning, so more on that soon.




Day 4: The Blue Lagoon!

Interior walkway

We made the determination early in the planning stages of this trip that we’d do the Blue Lagoon for an entire day. You’ll have the option to book your Lagoon experience as a pre- or post-flight pitstop, but we both wanted to make sure we didn’t feel rushed or like we had to run off to check into the AirBnB or the flight. Next time we’re here it would be a great way to handle the jet lag or say goodbye to Iceland, but for the first time, I highly recommend putting it on a full day so you can take your time and relax.

Brendan and I vacation in different ways sometimes – since I am normally off to the next item on our list as soon as I’ve seen the last, whereas Brendan is great at enjoying something, relaxing and lingering in the moment. All about balance – which is a little bit of what the Blue Lagoon did I think – restored some balance to the vacation and life in general as we prepare to close out this trip.

Getting there – super easy! We walked back to the BSI bus terminal, which is about 1 mile from the AirBnB and swapped our voucher out for our actual tickets.

Tip 1 – when you book your ride back and forth from the Lagoon with FlyBus you get a voucher with all of your information and a QR code. When you get to BSI the day of you have to turn that in at the counter to get the actual ticket(s) to board the bus, otherwise you are left standing there with the bus driver telling you to run back inside. No one wants to be the person who makes everyone else late for their spa day.

Once on the bus, we left about 15 minutes after our departure time, which seems to be about normal since it’s a 45-minute ride to get there for “on-the-hour” reservations with Blue Lagoon. In our case, we had a 9am bus ticket (with an open-ended return time for the same day) that left at 9:15am and got us there at exactly 10am for our 10am reservation with the Lagoon. Once there we walked up the lava stone walkway that leads you up to a beautiful building, surrounded by a beautiful lava formation and blue-blue water – with steam gently rising off the surface. A literal postcard.

Blue Lagoon
Front of the Blue Lagoon

Checking in was painless – we had booked a “Premium” package which was slightly more expensive (9990 krona v. 6990 krona), but came with a few extra perks and a much shorter check-in line upon arrival.

All checked in with our magic wristbands strapped on, we headed for the locker rooms and showers to get ready for a day of total relaxation and floating! The wristbands have a waterproof chip in them that grants you admittance to the next part of the building, locks and unlocks your locker, and allows you to use your perks – like the drinks and two masks that our package came with (the first is silica, which everyone receives – the second is algae, which only comes with the higher-tier packages). After that, you can use the bands to charge additional items to your account, and on your way out you pay your tab, tap the band at the exit gate, and drop it into the receptacle that opens up. Insanely high-tech in my opinion. Here is the video they send you the day before your trip so you can get excited and learn how to navigate the place without looking like a complete lost puppy.

Two quick items about showering: (1) prepare to do it naked, (2) if you have hair, leave the conditioner they provide you in so not to come out looking like Bride-of-Frankenstein-esk after exiting the lagoon. The silica, while great for your skin, will give your hair a brittle quality afterward if you don’t. And don’t worry, they actually tell you to do this with their conditioner. Don’t be doing this with some cheap-ass Herbal Essences, mucking up the place for the rest of us.

General comment about “mucking it up for the rest of us” – don’t be that person that leaves a mess behind, whether it’s in the lagoon, the streets of the city, or in the lava fields. We came across an increasing amount of trash and discarded stuff over the course of the week. Be an adult and pick up after yourself. Also, stop yelling in churches – I’m looking at your Yankees fan from earlier today, as I write this. 

Tip 2: There are two ways to enter the lagoon as you exit the locker rooms – one that is a ramp that slowly drops down into the water while you’re still inside the main building – the other is completely outdoors, so you exit the building, walk onto a raised patio, then descend into the lagoon. We opted for the indoor entrance every time so to avoid as much of the cold as possible.

Tip 3: The lagoon is not “temperature controlled” i.e. there will be hot and cool spots as you move throughout the different parts of it. If you want to find the warmest possible zones (around 104 degrees F) navigate towards the enclosed boxes – these are the areas where the lagoon is replenishing itself from, therefore the water is really warm.

See! Aim towards these bad boys. Plus, this is a great place to rest your drink, sunglasses, cellphone, etc. That brings us to….


Tip 4: If you’re going to take pictures either pre-purchase a waterproof cellphone bag (Example) or just pay the premium at the Lagoon store and have it ready to go. You don’t want to be stranded internationally with a  wet phone, frantically looking for a bag of rice while doing the soggy phone prayer dance.

So – our package came with a “free” 1st drink for each of us from the outdoor bar, and reservations at Lava with a “free” glass of Prosecco if we decided to make the reservation and dine with them. We took them up on both drink offers. Beer and wine outside (you can do a smoothie if you want that healthy spa feeling) and then a 2pm reservation at Lava, with a glass of Prosecco each.


The food at Lava was amazing – the bread and Icelandic butter alone were worth the reservation. Brendan went with a vegetarian two-course, while I went with a fish three-course meal (when in Iceland, have the fish).

See the drool-worthy menu here.

Overall the meal was delicious – rich, but delicious. It wrapped up with americanos and creme brûlée, topped with lemon sorbet. I mean, I’m going to need the Icelandic butter to grease the plane seat so I can get in and out of it on the way home.

Satiated, we headed back upstairs, showered again (we follow the rules), purchased one of those waterproof cell phone cases (learn from our mistakes…paid the premium), and dove back into the water (via the indoor option!). I also bought a couple of pairs of cheap sunglasses since the occasional sunlight was reflecting off the lagoon with some intensity. For the next hour, we floated around, took some photos and enjoyed the ever-changing weather. Those sunglasses I just bought..useless…as soon as we got in the water and put them on we tempted the Norse Gods and brought about a 20 minutes snow squall…which. was. awesome.

Watch a bit of it below:

Having had our fill of salty water and relaxation, we timed it so we could exit the lagoon, rinse and dress, then poke around the gift shop before catching our bus back to Reykjavik. As promised there was a bus ready to rock-and-roll at quarter past the hour. We boarded and dozed off for the 45-minute ride back to the city – the unexpected bonus with this bus was that it dropped off at several locations around the city, not just the BSI terminal. Armed with Google Maps, we jumped off a little ahead of schedule for a more favorable stop within closer walking distance to the AirBnB.

Tip 5: If you do not plan on having a full data plan while in the country and will be relying strictly on wifi  – first – don’t – it’s terrible. Second…if you still decide to reply on cafe and bar wifi, download the map of your region before departing. If you go into Google Maps you can download offline versions of their map for a specific selection/area, which comes in really handy when you can’t just jump on LTE. Learn more about that from the Time article here.

After having navigated our way back we crashed hard for a bit – just long enough to regain some energy and head out for a late night bite at Glo again. This was followed by dessert and wine/coffee at Le Bistro, around the corner. Glo was just as great the second time, and Le Bistro did not disappoint with their tapas-style dessert option where you got a little bit of coffee, chocolate mousse, tiramisu, and creme brûlée (because who wouldn’t have that twice in one day?).

And that concluded our evening – relaxed and FULL we headed back.

More soon!

Day 3: The City Walk Tour & Shopping


So – late start to the morning…

Knowing that we had a tour planned for the early afternoon provided a built-in excuse to sleep in a bit later and make breakfast at the AirBnB, instead of running right out into the city like we normally would have. We also got a call from Pink Iceland  (the city’s LGBT-friendly tour company) that they wanted to start a bit earlier, which was perfect for us.  Instead of 2pm, we were going to start around 1/1:30pm – so we finished up and headed across the city to get to their main office. Once there we were greeted and offered fresh coffee (yes, please). Shortly afterward one of the co-owners (Hannes) came out and gave us a private tour! The bonus of being here in February, not quite as many tourists, so if you can deal with the colder and ever-changing weather I highly recommend it. So far this week both of our tours turned into private excursions – I think this is what they call #winning.

Over the course of about 2 hours, Hannes walked us from the Pink Iceland office along a ton of culturally and societily-relevant sites and locations, including:

  1. The location of the first openly gay bar (co-owned by him “back in the day”)
  2. The National Theatre of Iceland
  3. The Icelandic Supreme Court
  4. The Central Bank
  5. The Harpa
  6. The Reykjavík Art Museum Hafnarhús (which used to be the Custom’s House)

I’m not including much detail on the actual tour itself because if you’re in Iceland highly recommend booking the tour, or another excision, through Pink Iceland – they were awesome to us all week. The tour stopped at IDA Bookshop & Cafe, which I suspect that we’ll be back before we fly out for more americano and book shopping. While we were there we sat and talked about our common love of dogs, being married, and the short, but powerful LGBT history of Iceland.

Afterwards, Hassen walked us through some of the downtown area (as I refer to it as) and closed the tour at the statue of Jón Sigurðsson, who is known as the Father of Iceland. From this park we were able to see the country’s (Reykjavik) Cathedral and parliamentary building.

Fun Fact – approximately half of the newly elected representatives go to the blessing at the Cathedral and half go to a similar, secular ceremony with the Humanist Association (These are rough tour numbers, don’t hold me to it strictly).

From here, Hassen directed us to Glo, where we had a quick, but awesome late lunch – great if you need veggie-friendly options for folks in your group (raises hand). A little bit of everything, but focuses on fresh, local, etc. – all the trendy and healthy stuff we typically look for today. So – refusing to give up just yet, we walked around a bit afterward to window shop…this, of course, turned into real shopping at some of the co-op artist studios that seem to line the more popular streets of Reykjavik. And this obviously turned into a recommendation for a bar from a local artist.

Her initial recommendation was Kaldi (or the bar across the way, depending on our taste in drinks). Kaldi would have typically been our speed – local, lots of wood, warm lighting, local beer…but the place was packed with what we assume was a wedding party out celebrating. Still refusing to give up on our afternoon just yet, we headed across the way from Kaldi to recommendation #2 named Vedur. Good bar – GREAT happy hour prices. This is where I learned about the happy hour app in Iceland. Since everything is so expensive the happy hours are a great way to have a few drinks without spending the equivalent of a white tablecloth dinner.

Fully satiated, we agreed to hit up a local grocery store for some bites to bring back to the AirBnB – the plan being to relax, blog, upload some photos, nap (in Bren’s case), and then head back out for a beer or two at Kiki. Unfortunately, my googling failed us a bit and Kiki was closed when we headed back out, but we did end up going next door to Bravo, which was equally great and probably a bit more relaxing. I’ll be able to update you on that assumption later, as we currently plan to end Wednesday night at Kiki – we’re thinking a few drinks at a gay bar will soften the blow packing for him will deal later that night.

More soon!

Day 2: A Lava Cave, a Glacier, and Whales

Helgafell – The Holy Mountain

Shortly after waking and meeting our guide around the corner from our AirBnB we were driven out to Helgafell – The Holy Mountain, 45 minutes west of Reykjavik, where we would be going underground into one of the many lava caves that pepper the country. The entire way out there the only thing I could think of was the roads in Ireland and how we would hold our breath as if that could make us and the car skinnier – the roads were mostly covered in inches of unplowed snow, but our guide was awesome (an obviously skilled at powering through the stuff). The only time I was a bit nervous was upon first entering the access road as she chuckled at the sign that said “Impassible!” in English and Icelandic.

Lava Cave Entrance
Lava Cave Entrance – Holy Mountain

But we made it though! Upon getting out to the site the sun was just starting to rise – this was about 9:15 am at this point – the wind was intense to the point that our guide helped another guide by holding his van’s door in place so it didn’t blow back and break off the hinges. We strapped on our boots, crampons, and helmets, and followed her out to the cave site where the other company’s guide was already at work digging the entrance out. It’s apparently been snowing here more than usual, so between the additional snow and high winds, the way in was completely stopped up with snow. About 15 minutes later we shimmied our way into the cave – claustrophobes beware.

Inside the lava cave
Inside the lava cave
Cave Entrance
In we go

Once inside the space opened up immediately to the point where we could stand at our full height (most of the time). Over the course of the next 90 minutes we walked through two major channels within the cave and explored the hardened lava that seemed to form drips and waves on the ceiling and walls – completely alien landscape. This experience hands down was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had while traveling. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking down below.

After exploring the lava cave we jumped back into the van and headed down the snow-covered roads to continue our tour at the Perlan Museum (the “Pearl”), which is where most of the city’s hot water is stored – but was semi-recently turned into a museum. Inside you can walk through an indoor ice cave that was created from part of a glacier they have now moved and self-contained within the museum. Once inside we were able to see an awesome photography exhibit, spend time inside the ice cave, and then walk out onto the Perlan’s 360 observation deck for some awesome views of the city and surrounding countryside. This was a really inexpensive way to spend a few hours and learn a lot about the area.

Afterwards, our tour guide was kind enough to drop us off at the whale museum (Whales of Iceland), which was something that was definitely on Brendan’s to do list. The museum was pretty cool in that it was a self-guided and self-paced audio tour through one of the big buildings along the harbor. Inside they had massive models of different whales suspended from the ceiling, as well as an interactive touchscreen (and a coffee shop, because I was fading quickly).

Tour and museum’d out we headed for what turned out to be a 3-hour awesome experience at a local bar we stumbled upon named Skuli Craft Bar. The bartender, originally from Stockholm, was beyond engaging and talked with us for almost two hours before we then both were pulled into two different conversations with other travelers. Environment and vibe alone I’d recommend this place in a heartbeat if you need to sit and take in some great Icelandic beer and conversation.

Skuli Craft Bar

Since it was pushing 6pm at this point we decided on a late dinner reservation at Essensia, which was featured and raved about during one of the in-flight promos. Sad to say the food was average at best, so we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a must-do – not a bad meal though. We just should have stayed at Skuli instead! Lesson learned though, 4.5-star reviews aren’t always as they appear!

Thoroughly fed and “hydrated” we trudged back to the AirBnB in the Icelandic rain and wind – onto the next adventure tomorrow.