spend a weekend in europe without leaving boston

Boston has always reminded me of Europe, likely because of its pedestrian-friendly streets and beautiful modern/historic architecture. Its resemblance is the reason I fell in love with this city to begin with. I always dream about being back in Europe. But let’s be realistic for a sec, I can’t just hop on a flight after work one day just to get my favorite dessert from Tonolo Pastry. Or can I?

I did some research, which involved a lot of eating (yay!) and found the best way to pretend you’re in Europe while never leaving the city. See my three-day itinerary below!

friday – day 1 

dinner at la voile: Start your vacation off with an adorable dinner after work. La Voile has two locations (one on Newbury and one on Beacon/Washington St.); but don’t worry, they will both make you feel like you’re in the South of France. If you really want to feel French, opt for the escargot as an appetizer and a crème brûlée for dessert – I’ll leave the entree up to you.

saturday – day 2 

breakfast at the patisserie on newbury: Your morning should start with something sweet. You’re on vacation, after all. Choose one of their yummy croissants or a few macarons to really feel like you’re in the heart of Paris. Avoid anything that’s typical or can be easily purchased in Boston or the United States (like red velvet cupcakes!)

early lunch & tea at the boston public library: Walk along Newbury street and enjoy the scenery before heading to the Boston Public Library. You’ll want to head to the historic McKim building right in front of Copley Square. (Avoid the Johnson building this time around as it’s too new and modern for your European trip.) As you walk through the Gallery Lobbies, make sure to note the Venetian elements – the carving of the traditional Lion of St. Mark, names of famous Venetian doges and painters, decorative domes suggesting Venice’s glory, and much more. Then head to the Puvis de Chavannes Gallery to view the famous murals from the French artist, Chavaness. End the indoor tour with a visit to the majestic Bates Hall before heading to the stunning courtyard for lunch and tea. While enjoying your meal and chatting with your travel buddy, view the courtyard in detail – it’s an almost exact replica of the Cancelleria Palace in Rome, Italy. [P.S. more info on each of the galleries and its European elements can be found here.]

walk along the public garden & boston common: Next, you’ll want to head east to enjoy a nice stroll along the stunning Boston Public Garden. The garden is small compared to London’s Hyde park – but trust me, there’s quite a lot to do here. You can take a ride on a swan boat, chase little ducks down the path, take pictures on the bridge, relax on a hill, play at Frog Pond’s spray pool, or act like a kid at the Tadpole Playground.

finish with dinner in the north end: When your stomach starts to growl a little, continue walking east until you reach the north end. You’ll be walking straight into Italy for dinner. Giacomo’s or Panza or Ill Panino are all great options – but honestly, anything here will make you feel like you’re in Rome, Milan, or Florence (depending on the type of restaurant you choose). Don’t forget to end your yummy meal with something even yummier from Bova’s Bakery.

sunday – day 3 

get a crepe at the delicious neighborhoods cafe: You’ve gone to France, Italy, England, and now you’re back in France for your last day in Europe. Look at that, three countries in three days. Neighborhoods Cafe has savory and sweet crepes, so do as you wish. They also serve espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos – it really doesn’t get more European than that.

finish your vacation with a foreign movie at the coolidge corner theater: Once you’ve digested your breakfast and coffee, walk next door to the movie theater to purchase your ticket. (Choose a foreign movie so you don’t ruin the mood!) If you have time before the movie, walk around Harvard St. and stop along some of my favorite Jewish/Eastern European shops like Kupel’s Bakery, the Butcherie, the Israel Book Shop or head to Brookline Booksmith where you can get lost in books from all over the world.

nine-day trip to iceland (itinerary & map)

a lot of people have been asking me to send them my iceland itinerary, so i figured i might as well post it here. my trip was a total of nine days, which was enough time to get around the entire island. however, we did have two extra days in reykjavik, so if you need to make it a seven-day trip, i don’t think you would have an issue with it. below you will find the following: the full itinerary, tips regarding the itinerary, and the map.

click here to download the itinerary and follow along as i provide tips for some of the main attractions.

day one

selavallalaug (secret pool)

okay, so it might not be such a secret anymore. but i still think this place is pretty cool. it’s actually a little hard to find at first, so listen up. you’re going to pull into where the map tells you to, park your car and head towards the mountains. it’s around a 15-20 minute walk, in which you will have to cross a small waterfall. have your hiking boots on, you don’t want to get stuck walking for a mile or so with sandals – not fun.

rutshellir

when heading to skogafoss, be on the look out for an adorable little house inside a mountain. you’ll likely see a few photographers there also getting that money shot.

skogafoss

this waterfall is pretty spectacular, specially if it’s the first one you see in iceland. you are able to walk behind it, so make sure to bring your rain jacket and protective camera gear with you on this stop.

solheimasandur plane wreck

there’s this abandoned us navy airplane that is honestly pretty cool. you’ll have to park your car in the designated slot and walk 4 km to the plane. the walk isn’t hard, it’s just long. there will come a point that you’ll think you will never get there – but i promise you will.

day two

fjadrargljufur

they say this is one of the most beautiful canyons – and they are right. if you’re heading around this area, don’t forget to stop here. it’s a pretty easy walk up to the canyon, so you don’t need to get prepared for a full on hike or anything like that.

jokuslarolon

we booked a tour on an amphibian boat so we could get a closer look at the glaciers on the lagoon, but really, the glaciers are awesome regardless of where you see them from. they also have private tours on rafts and other glacier activities, so make sure you search a little before deciding on one.

ishusid pizzeria

there’s going to be a point (or several) where you won’t realize just how late it is. it never really got dark there when we went in late may/early june – so you can only image how many times we skipped dinner. we stumbled (through the help of yelp, of course) into this pizzeria at around 10 p.m. and had a fantastic meal. the place is new and super on trend. they have cozy seating, a cool atmosphere, and an great view of the harbor.

house on the hill

when it comes to booking hotels, i highly suggest going through booking.com. they really help you stay organized and the reviews/photos in there are super helpful. i needed to call out this hotel, because i just found it so adorable and pretty cheap. this literal house on the hill offers private rooms with a shared bathroom and kitchenette or completely private room/bathroom with a shared kitchenette. we went for the shared bathroom option and were amazed at how clean it was. the rooms were adorable, filled with sunlight and decked out with little sofas and a flat screen TV. the kitchenette had everything you needed, from a coffee maker (and coffee beans) to a toaster to a huge fridge that had a slot designated for each room. plus, they refilled their cookie jar every day.

day three

atv tour

while day three is pretty spectacular due to the amazing views you will find along the costal route, there aren’t really any must-see’s in this area. a lot of your day depends on the weather and the views you want to stop and capture. so if you’re looking for some adventure, i highly recommend this atv tour in the forest of hallormsstaðu. the owner is super relaxed, so just email him to book it and that’s it! you’ll pull up to this random area up on the hill and go from there. (p.s. he takes credit card, as does everyone else in the island, so don’t even worry about exchanging money.)

day four

karfla power plant

okay so this plant is actually pretty weird (in a good way). tours are available starting in june. so don’t be idiots like rob and i who went on may 30. if you don’t want to take the tour, i still suggest driving through this alien plant. it will smell like rotten eggs the entire time (it’s the sulfur), but it’s worth it. look out for the krafla viti crater, which is right through the plant and up the hill.

hverarond

not far from the plant are these really cool hot springs. the also spell like hell, but you can walk around them and pretend like you’re in mars the entire time.

myvant nature baths

we finished our busy day at this nature bath, which was nicely located just a few minutes from our hotel. it’s a very small version of blue lagoon, so it’s not a must, but it’s still nice to just sit down and relax. i do have to warn you that if it’s very cold outside, the water temperature also drops. they do lower the entrance fee, but it’s still not as enjoyable as you’d hope.

day five

lava cave

i didn’t get to do this, but i’m highly suggesting it based of pictures and reviews i saw.

viking rafting

white water rafting in a glacier-turned-lake is by far one of the coolest things we got to do. plus, this place takes really good care of you. they give you a full dry suit (minus the gloves), hot chocolate, and an adorable cottage to hang out before and/or after your adventure. they also provide dinner or lunch for an additional fee.

day six

akranes

there’s a cute little town about an hour before reykjavik that i highly suggest making it a pit stop. here, you will find two lighthouses(one of which you can actually go inside of) and a rusty old boat, which photographers love.

day seven

fridheimar farm

if you’re not a fan of tomatoes, then skip this entirely. this tomato farm offers a tomato-only lunch inside their greenhouse. so not only will you get to see the tomatoes they grow, but also get to taste them in multiple forms. they serve their famous tomato soup on buffet and offer a variety of tomato based foods, drinks (alcoholic and not), and desserts.

day eight

reykjavik

as you might have guessed, the city itself isn’t really that big. there’s a ton of food and drink options, but as far as cultural activities go, I’m afraid there’s not as many. however, i do highly recommend visiting the harpa concert hall and the hallgrimskirkja church.

day nine

solhestar

i recommend this place for three reasons. 1. i had a great experience here. 2. it’s close to reykjavik and only 40ish minutes from blue lagoon. 3. they offer private horseback ridings sessions, which gives you the freedom to choose the time that works for you and not the other way around. we didn’t make a reservation here since we kinda did it on a whim, but i highly suggest you do – particularly if you are going later in the season.

blue lagoon

i left the best for last for a reason. having a time to relax at the spa before heading back to the hecticness that is life is a must. you’ve just spent nine days road tripping, hiking, and exploring. now, you need to rest and enjoy yourself. make sure you get your reservations for the blue lagoon way before your trip to ensure your seat. you don’t want to go to iceland and miss this – that would be awkward.