Monday, September 28, 2015

24 Hours Tallinn, Estonia


After a two and a half hour cruise we arrived in the port of Tallinn, Estonia and checked in to the Merchant Hotel in Old Town. It's a funny hotel with big rooms of irregular size and the location is absolutely perfect to explore the entire ancient area on foot.

As the Christmas Market was going on we dropped our bags and headed out to do a little shopping and sightseeing. It was chilly and drizzly as we walked around the walled medieval town. The stone walls, streets, and buildings hadn't seemed to change much since the 11th century.

We were able to climb up to parts of the town wall for glimpses of red tiled roofs and church spires. For such a small town there are a lot of churches!
We stopped into the popular bar Hell Hunt for a few beers and snacks and then headed back to the hotel for a nap. We'd been up very early!

It was my birthday so we had a nice dinner planned at Restoran Ö. We started with cocktails from our hotel's "Ice Bar" which had a lot of flash but never had any customers except for us. They were quite intrigued by Forest & mine gin martini requests, obviously serving mainly vodka.

It was a quick cab ride to the restaurant which sat just outside the walls of the Old Town. The decor was a bit Scandinavian, minimalistic and beautiful. Our server was absolutely wonderful and even presented us with a few things compliments of the kitchen. And at the end of dinner when I asked for a cheese plate instead of dessert she stuck a candle in it! Very fun!
 
The next morning after breakfast, which was included in our hotel price, we walked to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the beautiful onion dome church.
We continued walking to the Hill of the Harju grounds where we came across archery lessons. Random. Forest and I had a little competition in which she won. Barely.
The town, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, is really charming and it is easy and relaxing just to stroll around. We headed back to Old Town and had lunch at the touristy medieval restaurant Olde Hansa.  Sometimes you just have to play the tourist that you are.
The place is lit entirely by candlelight, the only utensils are makeshift wooden spreaders and spoons, the cocktails were thematic and very herbal, and our waitress was dressed like a wench. We had a great time!

We just had just enough time after lunch to walk back through the Christmas Market and grab a hot Calvados before catching a cab and our ferry to Helsinki.

All photos of Tallinn here

Monday, September 21, 2015

Desert Destination

Trip date: March 2015

In March I left behind the rain of Seattle and flew to Palm Springs with friends for my 3rd annual trip. This time we were there for a full week and there were six of us. We left early in the morning and flew right into Palm Springs Airport as we had all purchased our tickets well in advance, bonus for me in that Delta upgraded me to first class, hello free Bloody Marys.

Once we landed we dropped our bags at our house, the Contempo Oasis, and fueled up on salads and sandwiches at Cafe Europa downtown. Nourishment was needed for the major grocery shopping we needed to do for the week. We set off in teams and soon were back at the house enjoying the pool, hot tub, and cold beverages.



Since I was going to be gone a whole week I decided that every day I would work in the morning, my room had a desk and stool that looked right out to the pool, encouraging me to finish my tasks and jump in!

Besides work I also decided that I was going to go on a 30-60 minute run/walk each morning. The area is riddled with midcentury modern homes so everyday was a little free tour!



Lauren, Mary, and I went to the tennis matches at Indian Wells one day. We had incredible seats in Stadium 2 and started the day watching Andy Murray v. Adrian Mannarino. We broke for lunch and relaxed with expensive glasses of champagne at the Moet Lounge while waiting for our table at Nobu. Sounds like New York right?

At Nobu you can wait for a seat at the window which over looks the court. There is a minimum charge and some time restraints and honestly we didn't think the view was that good so we just sat at a regular table.

After lunch I headed off to Stadium 1 and grabbed a seat in the nose bleed seats to watch some crazy storm clouds and also Jack Sock v. Roger Federer.



One afternoon Mary, Lauren, her brother and I went to lunch at Simon Kitchen inside the Hard Rock Hotel. It was good; crispy chicken skin appetizers, Iron Chef burger, spicy tator tots (that made great leftover clean-out-the-fridge totchos!) but not amazing.

We also went out one night, I reserved us all the private room at Tonga Hut. We entered through the "secret" phone booth and had an entire little room, all decked out in tiki and pirate decor, to ourselves. The drinks were good, the food was meh, the service was snarky.



But really some days it was all about the sun, the pool, good friends, and good homemade food. Exactly what I need in the middle of winter.



Flights and the same house are already booked for next year!

Photos

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Back in Madrid



Our Spain 2013 summer trip ended back in Madrid 14 days later. We arrived mid day and checked into the absolutely stunning 5* Hospes Hotel  in Plaza Independancion. The only short-coming of the hotel is that there is no pool, but having just spent the last 2 weeks at pools and on beaches it was fine for me.



We headed back to Plaza Santa Ana for some tapas and beers before wandering over to the Mercado San Miguel. If there is one do-not-miss place to eat in Madrid it is here. This modern market is filled with absolutely amazing food and wine stalls. You can wander around, picking up a small cone of mixed salami from one place, a glass of champagne from another, maybe a sea urchin, and then just grab one of the many stand-up tables and enjoy your finds. I made multiple discoveries and sadly was full well before I had a chance to sample even half of the offerings. This was a perfect dinner!


After dinner I compared gintonics at Bar Cock & Gin Club, two of the more well know cocktail places in town. Both were great, with Bar Cock feeling a bit more old fashioned (in a good way for me) and Gin Club being a little trendier. They are close to each other so no reason not to visit both!

For lunch the next day we did another market meal at the Mercado de Anton Martin. This one is a little smaller, a bit more trendy, and while very good (with fancy small dishes like foie gras risotto in a little bathtub!) it wasn't as fun as the other. Again, if you have time to do both why not?

Before heading to the fabulous Museum Reina Sofia we had a pick me up of chocolate and parros at the aptly named Chocolat.

This museum has the most amazing collection of art but the most famous must be Picasso's Guernica. And although that is worth the price of admission it would be a shame not to explore and see the other fantastic pieces. The Miro collection for me was the big treat!

Madrid has a little area that is famous for its shoe makers, specifically espadrilles. After a lot of searching I finally found the shop that is most well known, Casa Hernanz Cordeleria. I lined up with men, women, and children, all wanting the handmade and affordable comfortable shoes provided since 1860. It took a lot of pantomime and pointing since I don't speak Spanish, but I finally scored 3 pairs before leaving.

One last meal before our morning flight home. We chose the semi-fancy La Tasquita de Enfrente. This is the perfect place to have a nice coursed meal of slightly upscale Spanish cuisine without 1) breaking the bank and 2) having to pack formal attire. The chef could not have been nicer, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was really comfortable.

Adios Madrid! Photos here.