Copenhagen: Smorresbrod at Cafe GL. Torv.

We were very close to a place I had picked out for smorresbrod. I usually make a map of all the recommended restaurants and interesting places, then kind of wander without a strict schedule. If we get peckish I look at my map and there is usually a place nearby. Today it was the Cafe GL. Torv. The building, which houses the cafe, was built on top of an old moat – with beer bottling and food servicr since 1671.

It was some of the best food I have ever eaten. I expected it to just be herring, herring, herring, but there was a dazzling array of open-faced sandwiches.  I don’t drink much these days, but I noticed a drink being served at another table with a very long story, and I am a sucker for a good story.

So, a barrel of this aquavit was forgotten on its trip to India, and returned to Denmark. It turned out that the longer maturing time and the rolling seas of the trip had made a smoother, more rounded spirit. Today they distill the aquavit with special herbs and spices like caraway and star anise, then pour it into sherry casks and send it on a long ocean journey across the equator and back.

So how was it? Well, to me, all this stuff tastes like rubbing alcohol. So, it was a smoother, more rounded rubbing alcohol with notes of caraway and star anise.

It was a smorresbrod restaurant, and they recommended two per person, which was way too much. The Green “pliace was possibly the best sandwich, Pliace is a fish, but this was battered and fried Jerusalem artichoke, like a vegan fish and chips. It was amaaazing!

We also ordered a roasted beef, which was cooked to just the right level of pinkness and topped with vegetables, fried onions and edible flowers. Delicious!

Pork roast with mushrooms

And basically a Danish avocado toast with super ripe avocado, smoked and fried onions, aioli and egg.

The most traditional of the sandwiches was shrimp and dill. We were stuffed! I wanted to return later in the trip but didn’t get a chance.

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Copenhagen: Skt Petri and its Environs

The buffet breakfast was unrivaled. There was even an entire section devoted to vegan offerings.

And my favorite, a full English fry-up

as well as the usual granola/meusli bar

After breakfast, we wandered around the neighborhood checking out the architecture and ended up in Gammeltorv, Copenhagen’s oldest square. The town hall was located here from 1479 until it burned down in 1795. I figured out a complicated way to transfer the Krone to a USD. Just ignore the last number, double the first two and remove 1/4. If something is 115 Krone, it’s 11 x 2 = 22 minus 1/4 = $15. In general, Copenhagen was much more affordable than Stockholm. That may be because our hotel in Sweden was in a commerce center with nice places to take business associates out to lunch. Whereas in Copenhagen we were right by the college, so there were lots of little places to stop in for a delicious bite. So that is your budget travel tip of the day:

Stay near colleges!

And of course some window shopping.

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Copenhagen: Skt Petri Hotel

Bridin had a connection and got us rooms at a gorgeous 5-star hotel called Skt Petri (Saint Peter). It was well-located a block from the train, two blocks from a food hall, and with a walkable neighborhood of shops and restaurants. We arrived on the big party of Pride Week only 2 blocks away, but we were exhausted and needed immediate sleep. After a plate of pasta with mushrooms and an unidentified plate that might have been dessert?

Skt Petri was very chic.

And a little quirky

The room was really nice.

and what is on TV 24/7?

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Lithuania: Hill of Crosses

I’ve been curious about the Hill of Crosses ever since our first trip to the Baltic, but this is the first time Bridin suggested we go. There is an expensive parking lot with a gift shop. It’s kind of a long walk to the hill. But you can also park on the side of the highway for free and you are right next to the hill.

LOCATED 7.5 MILES NORTH OF the town of Siauliai, in northern Lithuania, the Hill of Crosses was created on an old hill fort. From Atlas Obscura:

“The nearby city was founded in 1236 and occupied by Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire during the 14th century. Crosses are thought to have first appeared on the site during this time as a way of expressing the desire for Lithuanian independence.”

“During a peasant uprising against Russian control of the area in 1831, the practice of placing crosses in remembrance of missing and dead rebels began. By 1895, it is recorded that there were 150 large crosses on the site, and this number grew to 400 by 1940.”

“During Soviet occupation of the area that lasted from 1944 to 1991, the Hill of Crosses became a symbol of defiance. Three times during the Soviet occupation, the hill and its crosses were bulldozed. Despite these attempts to end the symbolism of the site, both locals and pilgrims once again begin erecting crosses.”

“It’s estimated that there are more than 100,000 crosses on the hill as of 2007. Thousands visit the site each year, with the most famous visit occurring in 1993 when Pope John Paul II came to dedicate the site. A stone marker bearing his words, “Thank you, Lithuanians, for this hill of crosses which testifies to the nations of Europe and to the whole world the faith of the people of this land” now lies at the foot of the hill.”

Bummed out Jesuses:

Ripped but bisected Jesus

Cheer up, sleepy Jesus…

Why do I feel like this Jesus is holding up a severed head like Kali?


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Lithuania Bound: Rucava, pop. 495

We went on an overnight trip to Lithuania, and on the way we stopped in a little Latvian town called Rucava . The visitor center was located in an old mill that Bob’s grandfather used to own.

It’s cool that he has an ancestral mound and places like this. My ancestors’ farms and land are long gone, not that there was much to begin with. There were lots of old instruments and a random assortment of fishing equipment and a very unusual bear-like decoration.

A very pagan-looking partier

I am peasant. I make the rye bread. I bring to castle.

On the upper floor there was an art gallery displaying the cool collage artworks of Agita Laugale.

View from the upstairs windows

As we drove, we counted 15 stork’s nests. On the way back, on a different route, there were 24.

People even have plastic storks in their yards instead of the plastic flamingos Americans love.

We stopped in a small Lithuanian town for lunch, and there was a weird small town suspicious vibe, like, “You ain’t from these here parts, is ya?” Some of that can be attributed to it being a former Soviet-occupied country. In the first little restaurant we walked into, as Bob and I awkwardly stood around waiting to be seated, a woman came out of the kitchen and screamed at us in Lithuanian. Then Bridin came in, and I suggested we find somewhere else to eat, as we had just been yelled at. Bridin pointed out the screaming coming from the kitchen, and in an effort to assure me it wasn’t personal, said, “See? she yells at everybody.” But it takes around an hour to be served in Baltic restaurants, and I didn’t want to spend all of that time listening to screaming. We found a nice little pizza place around the corner. Pizza in Eastern Europe is pretty dependable.


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Liepaja: Wandering Solo and Thrifting

That little shop in the market whet my appetite for some thrifting and I found several places within walking distance. I like taking pics of the buildings as I wander. I felt very safe just creeping down empty lanes and alleys.

I liked this painting. I was looking for one like it for ages for my retired seafarer room.

Another painting that caught my eye…why is the angel forcing that child off the cliff?

I loved this little person, but they were super heavy. I can only buy small and lightweight souvenirs.

I did buy one of these. It seems like the back should be open for you to store your garlic, but it’s a purely decorative anthropomorphized garlic.

There were lots of trippy figurines.

I was naturally drawn to the albums


and the dolls…

The second thrift store I went to was closed for another 30 minutes and I decided not to wait, but this cat hung out with me for a while.

Afterwards I had lunch in a hipster Asian fusion place called TEIKA, where I was finally able to explain to someone how to make real iced tea!

There were gladiolas everywhere. We didn’t know where the fields were, but it seemed every single person was casually carrying a bunch home from the market.

I started off with their delicious wild mushroom soup, which I had ordered to go the other day and had to return for. It has little pate choux dumplings in it.

Followed by shrimp in a buttery sauce meant to be eaten on French bread.

I ended with a salad that had many of my favorite ingredients: dried cranberries, raspberries, almonds and arugula, but it was advertised as burrata and seemed to be whipped brie. Very unusual. It was topped with an adorable chunk of honeycomb.

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Liepaja: A Relaxing Day

Monday Morning, I wandered over to the pharmacy to pick up a few things. I had to get something for mosquito bites and Bob wanted baby aspirin. I used my finely honed mime skills and semi-literate translation app. We were doing OK, with her figuring out everything I needed until I scared the crap out of her.

“You can’t give aspirin to babies!!! Aspirin will hurt the baby!!!”

“No, for me, for the heart.”

“For you,  not for baby? No aspirin for the baby???”

“No, I’m not going to hurt the baby! I mean, there is no baby! Only me.”

So if you’re ever in Eastern Europe, ask for “Cardio aspirin.” NOT “baby aspirin.”

We met up with Bob’s mom and went to the movies. I love the movies here because they have these snacks that are like styrofoam bacon. You know Asian shrimp chips? Like that, only little bacon chips. I had thought we were buying too much, but Bob’s mom was right. I ate the whole dang container.

One of Bridin’s favorite restaurants is Olive. They have a varied menu, but everything we have tried so far is delicious. Fruity iced drinks are very popular right now. But they are made with mixes. It’s very hard to get regular iced tea made with real black tea.

We shared shrimp on rosti. It was fantastic.

I ordered a curry with handmade tagliatelle.

Sometimes it’s nice to just have a mellow day.

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Liepaja: To Market, to Market

  1. We had a lovely day visiting the outdoor market, then hit the grocery store, which I always find fascinating. Just like last year, there were huge jars of chanterelles for 4 Euro, and this year they had boletus.

The mushroom monger wanted to take a selfie after I asked him if I could photograph his wares.

Last time I was fascinated by the pictures in a closed thrift store. It was open, and I went in. With the current anti-Russian sentiment, I was very surprised to see this.

I love the market!!!!

We then hit the grocery store. I could peruse grocery stores for hours.

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The Postman’s House in Liepaja: Oh, Balls!

Bob’s favorite restaurant in Liepaja is Patnieka Maja, which translates to “Postman’s House.” It makes us joke about Dr Zhivago and a mime-type joke of  “past-your-neck” like “past-your-eyes milk.”Located in the center of a park, the old house has lots of flowers and a large, multi-step wooden deck. It’s a comfortable place to spend an hour or two, which is how long you are usually there.

People complain on the internet about the wait for menus, drinks, and your eventual order. It’s not that strange in Europe. And the lack of friendliness isn’t that weird in a post-Soviet country where you don’t speak the language. We bring our own bottles of water and plan to spend the afternoon.

One of their most popular dishes is a Latvian smoked cod stew, but we usually go for meat and potatoes. The pork is always good in Latvia.

We especially like the ribs.

Which are accompanied by strange little potato boats.

Last time we were here I was tempted by a house special called “Naughty Letters,” which was bull testicles. I am just a very curious person, and have also been known to accept dares even when no one is daring me. When am I going to get this chance again? Last year I saw a couple next to us get what I assumed was this dish, a shiny meat bag filled with meatloaf. It looked like haggis. They were loving it.

So, this time around, I really thought about it, and as Bob has learned to do over the years, he just said, “I’m not going to tell you what to order.” I am not a fan of organ meat in general, although I do like in descending order:

Foie Gras. Like meat butter. Pure heaven. And I would rather be a foie gras goose than a Foster Farms chicken any day.

Gizzards: I grew up eating chicken gizzards, and I enjoy them fried in batter at Dinah’s in Glendale.

Cow’s stomach (tripe) in fiery hot menudo. Again, I grew up with it and I don’t know if I would like any other preparation.

Beef heart: I had a carne asada-style preparation at St John’s in London, and it was OK, if not amazing. Chef Kuniko Yago prepared beef heart dumplings once for a Jonathan Gold event and they were honestly one of the best things I have ever eaten.

Tongue: I once had an amazing banh mi sandwich made by Chef Ray Garcia, but I’ve also had it several times where I don’t like the powdery texture.

Sweetbreads: I was once bullied by two esteemed chefs into eating some at a food event. They were crisp, fatty and delicious. I tried them at an Argentinian chain restaurant and didn’t get past the first bite. Good chefs can make anything delicious and bad cooks can make anything awful.

I am not in love with Haggis, though due to my Scottish heritage I have eaten a polite serving several times. It’s sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs), along with oats and spices, cooked while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach. It could do with a lot more spices.

I can’t stand chicken liver, beef liver, brains or kidneys.

So…I tried asking questions to figure the testicles out. I asked if they were filled with beef, like haggis. I mean, I eat hot dogs and sausages in natural casings (intestine). So it would be like that, or like haggis. Just plain old ground meat. The menu does say “stuffed.” I ordered it. It took FOREVER to arrive, along with Bob’s lovely fish.

It wasn’t the same thing as I saw last year.

I sliced into it, and discovered that the purple veins went through and through. It was not full of meat. Well, it WAS. Full of testicle meat. I’m knee-deep in my own dare now. I can’t back out. I cut a bite and it tasted –exactly like beef liver. Which I hate. Of course it was organ meat…sexual organs. Of course! Well, I just had to know, and now I knew.

Later that night, after Bob had left to stay with his mom, I thanked the gods for Pici Pizza! And then I made jokes about balls the entire rest of the trip, which you know is the real reason I ordered them.

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Day One Continued: Riga to Liepaja

We had lunch at Flying Pigs, which again, was delicious. I don’t usually trust menus that have too wide of a variety of food, but Bob’s mom’s Thai noodles, Bob’s shish, and my shrimp salad were all perfect.

We drove past the medical museum but didn’t go in, but the murals were cool

Random stuff:

I pointed out the exposed brick to Bridin and asked, “Is that a style?”

She said, “That’s from getting bombed.

The drive through the green countryside to Liepaja was gorgeous, if long.

The thing about driving in a country that is 50% forest is that once you have passed that rest stop in the middle, there is nowhere to stop for two hours. I finally accepted that I was going to have to piss in the woods. We pulled off on a dirt road. Nervous, I asked, “Isn’t this someone’s driveway?”

“No, it’s just a dirt road.”

We pulled over and I asked, “What is that? Is that a sign? Is this a hiking trail?”

“No, it’s fine. Just go.” So, I walked behind the trees and saw that it was a mailbox! I looked behind me, and there was a house that was probably already watching me. We went further up the road, and I waded DEEEEP into the forest. My feet sunk into about four inches of organic decomposition. I later told Bridin there were mushrooms. She asked if they were edible, but I didn’t want to investigate any further. Anyways, I’m a city mouse; how would I know?

No sooner did we pull back on the highway, what did we see? A friggin gas station!

When we arrived at Art Hotel, they had given me the same room as last year, so I was pleased.

We walked over to River in the hotel next door on Bridin’s recommendation. I ordered beef cheeks with a cherry sauce that were tender and rich. Bob’s pork was nice. The beef here isn’t usually very good because they aren’t pumped full of crap and grain fed like ours. Grass fed is ethically better, but the meat is tougher. I stole some of Bob’s potatoes. Latvians are realllyyy into potatoes. They sell enormous sacks of them by the side of the road.

The server was unfriendly until I said, “Thank you,” in Latvian and she rewarded me with a smile.

As usual, the next morning Art Hotel had a fantastic buffet breakfast.

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Latvia Day One Continued: Art Nouveau

There is a large Art Nouveau district in Riga, though you can often see turrets, curvy lines, faces, goddesses and floral decorations on buildings all over the city. 850 buildings from the turn of the century (1990, the “early one.”), are considered authentic Art Nouveau, with many of them protected by UNESCO.

We enjoyed the buildings of mikhail eisenstein on alberta and Strelnieku streets. it is considered an open-air museum. He was born in 1867 to a poor Jewish family in Saint Petersburg. He lived and worked as an architect for 20 years in Riga, where he designed almost 20 Art Nouveau masterpieces.

2A Alberta Street 

The building is covered in screaming faces and a more Egyptian/robot vibe, if there is such a thing. You can also pose with the cool griffins. The arches at the top are also a beautiful use of negative space.

4 Alberta Street

Looking much more like a confectionary than any of the others, it nonetheless features lions, gorgons and griffins. Three faces near the top appear to be deep in conversation or maybe singing.

8 Alberta Street

Part of a row of attached 3-story bays, with lions’ heads, pelicans, flowers and trippy faces.

12 Alberta Street

This building, in the style of National Romanticism, is way more about the turrets and I didn’t get a lot of detail.

13 Alberta Street

Peacocks, nymphs and satyrs frolic across this building’s facade. As we approached it, Bob kept pointing out a giant face.


Right there, under the flags!

I don’t see it!


This building isn’t listed anywhere, but I have photographic proof it exists. More singing people!

Stayed tuned for more…

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Day One: Riga

This is my third trip to Latvia, and Bob’s seventh. We were able to upgrade to Economy Plus, which was awesome. Unfortunately, they make you walk through Business class and see their cool little pods, which makes your section not quite as exciting. But we got priority boarding, what seemed like way better food, and a little cabin with only 24 seats.

Caprese salad on the plane

There were individual loungers that leaned way back and had a footrest pop up. We chose the bulkhead so we had extra leg room for Bob’s super long legs. I spilled a Diet Coke all over my seat and moved to an empty middle row to try to lie down, but the armrests of the loungers don’t go up, one bummer. I was unable to sleep, so by the time we landed in Riga I was totally discombobulated.

Bridin’s pup, Lily

Bob’s mom had gotten us rooms in a Hampton Inn, and it was way nicer than the chain in America.

We had dinner there, which was surprisingly good. We split a burger and I ordered pasta with bacon and onions, which Bridin once told me was very Latvian. When it arrived, she stated, “Latvians call ham “bacon.”

I said, “So do Canadians.”

The next morning their buffet breakfast was awesome. American hotels need to learn from this. Most European places have cold cuts and sausages that are basically hot dogs. The Hampton Inn also had all of the makings for an English fry-up and fresh peach-filled pastries that were divine. They seem to think Americans eat vegetables at breakfast too.

The next morning, we toured Riga, serendipitously happening upon a little festival in the park. Local senior centers were performing, and it was awesome! Latvian folk dancing is very much like Scottish Country dancing. And any moves that weren’t the same as Scottish Country Dancing, I recognized from square dancing and Ballet Folklorico. I wonder if folk dancing is pre-wired in the brain like language is.

These twins were charmed by Lily, as most people are, and let me take their picture.

There was a little market selling jewelry and crafts as well as refreshments.

Cherry – Cannabis Beer!

I was heavily pressured by two people into eating hemp seed halvah, “There’s no THC in it.” “There’s no sugar in it.” But it had an offputting smell so I held out. Plus, if something’s only merits are what’s NOT in it, that’s not much of a selling point.

This lady made candles to look like delicious treats. I didn’t buy one because I would constantly be disappointed they weren’t really dessert.

The ice cream man was very friendly. I ordered oatmeal, which was improved by the addition of caramel, but there were big, weird oats in it. Bob got sea buckthorn, which was very sour.

There were big cauldrons, one with borscht and one with sauerkraut. A man asked Bridin why I was taking pictures of the food. She shrugged and said, “Amerikkans.”

There was a monument in the park to Colonel Kalpaks, who led the Latvians against the Bolsheviks at the start of Latvian independence. Wikipedia says he was killed “by mistake” while fighting alongside the Germans against the Bolsheviks. I would kind of like to hear that story.

There was also an outdoor photo exhibit of people in the olden days. They looked a lot like my ancestors.

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San Diego Day One: Artichokes and Dead Boys

I like the Casbah, a punk dive bar in San Diego, and when I saw that the Dead Boys were playing, I bought a ticket. It’s not really the Dead Boys without Stiv, but it’s still amazing to watch Cheetah Chrome shred. And really, I like their songs so much I would even go see a Dead Boys tribute band. I took an Uber there, and there were three bands before the headliner, so I wandered down the street. The Crack Shack was right there, but I had that for lunch.

I had heard and read good things about Zinque. I ordered the artichokes, and they were exactly like the ones I had eaten in Rome. I haven’t found anywhere else here that makes them without the vinaigrette.

I also ordered a pasta with morels. Morels are tricky, as it is almost impossible to get all of the grit out of them. But they were pristine and delicious in this well-balanced pasta dish. I have discovered there are several Zinques in the LA area, so I won’t have to travel for this delicious food again.

Then back to the Casbah. I hung out a lot with one of the bartenders who was really cool. We would definitely be friends if I lived down there. I caught the end of some surf instrumental band called something pinche something. It was like Lawndale and Das Damen had a baby. I stood at the front of the stage to keep my spot and some guy pushed his way through us and set a whiskey bottle on the stage. I told someone standing next to me, “He must be the lead singer. He has that vibe. Yep. Meet Jake Hout.

They opened with Sonic Reducer. Hout was a combo of Stiv, Iggy, Tommy Lee, Mick, and Frank N Furter. The mosh pit got crazy. After about half the set, I got slammed from behind really hard and flew through the air losing a shoe, and landing on my stomach onstage. Some guy, being helpful, stuck his arms under my armpits and lifted me off the stage, but held me in the half nelson, feet off the ground, while I hollered ungratefully, “Put me down!!!” Later the rhythm guitarist kindly retrieved my phone from behind his amp.

Jake Holt definitely won me over when he went to the ground. Gotta love a frontman rolling around in front of the bass drum.

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San Diego Day One: Chicken Oysters and Haunted Hotels

I haven’t been to San Diego in a while. It used to be our weekend spot before we switched to Desert Hot Springs. I got into town around 4:3o and was a bit peckish. I just happened to drive by Top Chef Richard Blais’ “Crack Shack” chicken place, and I pulled right over. I loved the Pasadena location, which is now shuttered.

I ordered the chicken oysters, which I have never seen anywhere else. You could make a case for chicken oysters being a grown-up replacement for nuggets. We aren’t talking about “Rocky Mountain oyster” oysters. The chicken oyster is one of those chef’s secret fetish things. It’s a little oyster-sized bit of dark meat near the thigh that is supposed to be the best part of the chicken. Instead of the heavy, crunchy coating that is used on the bone-in chicken, the oyster coating is light like tempura. I also ordered the schmaltz fries to go, but by the time I made it to my hotel room they were cold.

So, wow, my hotel — Hotel Sofia in the Gaslamp. A lot of the hotels here are old brick buildings that look like they used to be apartments, or department stores, or orphanages, or asylums…OK, I’ll stop now. But my first impression was that this place is 10/10 haunted.

Check out these creepy pictures from their own website:

I looked up “Most haunted hotels in San Diego.” The Sofia was second, only beaten out by the Coronado. But I couldn’t find any specific stories except for this one from Tripadvisor reviews:

“Quite possibly haunted – the room just felt spooky, period. I’m sure it’s just wiring issues that go along with an old hotel, but lights would randomly go on in the room, stay on for an hour or so, then turn off just as mysteriously as they had turned on.”

Although a bit small, as older hotels tend to be, the room was clean and comfortable, and didn’t feel at all haunted.


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Symphony of the Seas: Cozumel Port

There was a lot happening at the port in Cozumel. There were about 30 shore excursions all searching for their people. After I found my group, I wandered off in search of tacos. I discovered Tequila A Go-Go, a 60s hippie themed bar.

I ordered steak street tacos and an iced tea. I was waiting for a while, since it seemed like the kitchen was in another building. My bill was over $40 USD!!! In LA three street (taco truck) tacos would be under $15. When I finally got my tacos, after worrying I would miss my bus, I saw that they had given me two orders. I had asked if an order was one or two tacos, and I guess my Spanish is worse than I thought. I was in too much of a hurry to complain and maybe I had ordered two orders. I gave the other plate to the tour guide, and he was very pleased. But yeah, $21 for a burrito? Definitely taking advantage of the cruise line gringos.

After the excursion I did some shopping. I bought a little charm. When I travel, I get a charm as my memento. They are cheap and take up no space packing.

There was a great mariachi band playing for the tourists. Turn up the volume!

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