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: 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.