Travel Finds: Pinnies & Poppyseeds

It’s weird for me to write a Travel Finds post about Edinburgh, but since I’m moving back to the States next week, it seems like the right time.  Prepare yourself for several Edinburgh posts; this city is amazing. Anywho, for my money, Pinnies & Poppyseeds offers the best shortbread Edinburgh has to offer.  For the past year, I’ve loved stopping at the P&P booth at the Stockbridge Farmers’ Market as well as enjoying the occasional P&P shortie at with my flat white at Brew Lab (a great spot for coffee near the Uni).  And now, P&P has opened an adorable shop on St. Mary’s Street, just off the Royal Mile.  While the shortbread is sorely missed at the farmers’ market, the opening of the shop means fresh P&P shortbread is now available every day!

The P&P shop (pic courtesy of P&P)

Personally, I think shortbread is just about perfect gift to bring back after a trip to Scotland or to bring a hostess.  It’s also probably the perfect antidote to the tourist fatigue I’ve often spotted on the Royal Mile.

Shortbread (pic courtesy of P&P)

And, in case you’re wondering, the “pinnies” part of the name refers to the cute aprons (ahem, pinnies) that are also on sale at the shop.

Pinnies! (pic courtesy of P&P)

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Travel Finds: M2 Boutique

There are some cities that just get under your skin. While I certainly love NYC, I also absolutely adore Chicago. My best friend from college relocated to the city nearly a decade ago and I’ve been a frequent visitor ever since. I love the distinct neighborhoods, the laid back vibe and the boutique shopping. Lucky for me, my girl Alyssa is a fabulous personal stylist and knows every great store in the city.  

Today Alyssa introduced me to a new favorite – M2 Boutique in Lakeview. I’m in the Windy City for a work conference and was looking for a funky necklace to jazz up my oh-so-professional – but sort of boring – black wrap dress. This morning I stole a necklace from Lyssa’s collection, this evening she took me to find one (or, erm, three) of my own.  

M2 is my kind of store.  It’s bright, playful and has an excellent selection of fun, on-trend accessories. Best of all everything is reasonably priced. I walked out of there with three funky necklaces for under $90. Take that JCrew. (I’m sorry JC – you know I love you – but really, $90 for a costume-jewelry necklace?  At the outlet? No thanks.) Thanks to Alyssa’s stylings and M2’s selection my work wardrobe just got a little funkier. Gotta love that.

m2

Image Credit – M2 Boutique (Facebook)

 

 

Travel Finds: Queen City Bakery

As a native South Dakotan, it’s a little weird for me to highlight something there as a travel find.  This is especially true in Sioux Falls, since I lived there for four years as a college student.  That said, I’ve visited Queen City Bakery on each of my last few trips home and it definitely deserves a mention.

Like me, the owners spent a few years in Brooklyn and, as a result, the bakery has a subtle New York vibe.  The coffee is from Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca, the hot chocolate is from Jacques Torres in Brooklyn and the tea is from SerendipiTea on Long Island.  Also, and perhaps more important for my recommendation, every baked good that I’ve tried there has been fantastic.

In additional to the bakery’s excellent offerings, it’s also located in my favorite part of town: near downtown, by the river (hello, memories of my 21st birthday).  And, it’s housed in a charmingly renovated industrial building. Good food, good coffee, lots of character; stop by the next time you’re passing through town.

QCB

Travel Finds: The Lake District

Over the long Easter weekend, the boyfriend and I packed up a rental car and drove to the Lake District in northern England. We met up with friends who live in London and rented a cute Airbnb flat near Keswick.

The weekend was great. The lakes and mountains of the region are stunning and we spent two great afternoons hiking and enjoying views like this one.

Crummock Water near Buttermere

Our group only had one real complaint: the food. Like many heavily touristed areas, we ended up wandering into a number of not-cheap places offering not-great food. Luckily, we also found a couple of really great spots and, in the interest of helping future hikers, these were the best.

Grange Cafe — Grange Cafe is located just down the road from Keswick on the River Derwent. We stopped in after a hike with great views of Derwent Water. Sadly, we found a parking spot around the corner from the cafe and had lunch at its main competition, a truly lackluster cafe called Grange Brigde Cottage Tea Shop. We then walked over to Grange Cafe and found a cozy cafe featuring the best gingerbread cake I’ve ever had (Grandma’s recipe, according to the owner). The homemade soups and other cafe fare being served around us also looked delightful.

Bridge Hotel – Midway through a hike around Crummock Water, we stopped for lunch at the Bridge Hotel in the village of Buttermere. The hotel’s pub served the best food we found all weekend. Highlights included a savory steak and ale pie, handcut and expertly fried chips, and a delicious sticky toffee pudding.

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Travel Finds: Winter 2013

I’ve been taking a lot of quick trips this winter: Lisbon, Barcelona, Glasgow and Paris, so far.  Along the way, I’ve found a few gems.

Paris

Via a recommendation from a friend-of-a-friend, I spent a boozy afternoon at Le Baron Rouge, an awesome wine bar on Rue Théophile Roussel in the 12th.  Wine is served straight from the cask and is remarkably reasonably priced (all about €4-5 a bottle).  We also enjoyed a fantastic cheese board and were tempted by the plates of fresh oysters that several other tables were enjoying.  Reviews suggest that the bar is often crowded but we found that rolling in mid-afternoon on a chilly Saturday awarded us both a table and quick(ish) service.  The Hip Paris Blog has a nice write-up here.

Barcelona

I went to Barcelona in January for a friend’s hen do (bachelorette party, for the Americans).  On our last day, we spent an afternoon at Aire de Barcelona, amazing Turkish baths in a renovated warehouse.  The baths are a series of pools and steam baths in a gorgeous cave-like setting.  Spa services (facials, massages, etc.) are also available.  Honestly, I was a bit skeptical of the idea pre-visit but after two hours of baths and a very reasonably-priced massage, I was not only blissfully relaxed but also felt refreshingly detoxed after the booziness of the previous days.

Pic courtesy of Secrets of Barcelona

Lisbon

Tasc’a Quinta is a tiny, cozy restaurant on Rua de São João da Praça in the Alfalma district of Lisbon.  It’s only open on Thursdays and our visit was a mix delicious Portuguese food, performance art and crowd participation (we learned to spin plates on the cobblestone street outside).  We lucked out and were able to get a table without a reservation, but I think that was out of the ordinary.

Glasgow

After attending a wedding at the beautiful Oran Mor, my boyfriend and I spent an afternoon exploring the West End of Glasgow.  Along the way, we wandered into the quirkily charming Hillhead Bookclub.  It was the ideal spot for a restorative pot of tea and I suspect that it’d be even more fun for evening cocktails.

Pic courtesy of The Skinny.

Travel Finds: Tinned Fish

A few weekends ago, I took a quick trip to Lisbon with a couple friends.  As far as I’m concerned, Lisbon’s the perfect city for a weekend getaway, even in January, which isn’t its best season.  For me and my friends, the weather was loads better than if we’d stayed in Scotland, but it was, admittedly, a little cloudy and chilly.  However, regardless of the season, Lisbon offers so many of my favorite things: narrow, winding streets filled with tiny restaurants and bars, wines that are both tasty and cheap, and delicious seafood.

My friends and I had been looking forward to at least one meal of grilled sardines but we quickly discovered that sardines are only in season from spring through fall.  Luckily, one of us had read about a cool little bar called Sol e Pesca that serves a wide variety of Portuguese tinned fish.  We stopped in and were all surprised to discover that tinned fish is pretty fantastic.  We tried a couple different plates that first night: sardines in tomato sauce, smoked octopus and mackerel, I believe.  Each was served simply, laid out with the addition of a few fresh herbs and paired with a big bowl of bread.  Well, we pretty much inhaled those and ordered another round.  What we’d intended to be a pre-dinner snack quickly turned into a full meal.

Not surprisingly, we wound up there again the next night.  The bar is an old tackle shop and the owners have kept it looking pretty fishy.  In addition, the house white wine was cheap and delicious and the bar staff was incredibly friendly.

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We also managed to snag a few tins to bring back to Scotland.  Turns out, tinned fish is the perfect Portuguese souvenir.  There are a ton of different brands, each with its own fun look.

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Since being back in Edinburgh, we’ve also discovered that it’s fairly easy to find the same types of tinned fish here in Scotland.  I’ve found that a tin of sardines (preferably with tomato sauce) and a baguette makes a great little meal for days when I’m feeling lazy.  In addition, taking a cue from Sol e Pesca, with a little bit of prettying up, tinned fish can be an appetizer worthy of guests.