The trip against which all future trips will be judged.

0AXuANpTuKjpfwAG60wybzzGRsTpDshzDg0nIj1ibms,PC5F0DIy67OOTgvL5I4joosGpMGg2FE_tR8VX3Nmyt4,My89ULVudsPsmlWiUwh9xxYuurj_Fim6oiL_m9uL5GM__1446690643_76585Last week, Rob and I came home from a truly amazing trip to Iceland.

We rented this little cottage in the city center with Rachael (whose excellent writeup of the trip is here) and Lala and used that as a home base for trips outside the city as well as exploring Reykjavik itself. We probably spent a little less than half of the time together, and it was really fun both to hang out with them and to go our separate ways and reconvene to compare notes. I doubt I’d have gone to the very cool Settlement Museum without Lala’s urging, and I definitely would have been too intimidated to go to the neighborhood baths, which ended up being some of my favorite things to do, without them.

We did some touristy stuff, like the Blue Lagoon. We ate lunch in their fancy restaurant while wearing bathrobes and drank prosecco from the swim-up bar while floating in the water.
We ate the famous hot dogs, which were, in fact, delicious.


We saw unparalleled natural splendor, like the black sand beach with basalt columns at Vik:
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DOiTPeTuPeRgj9Kbe_2eSH7ZVJCQ5m59lMV7ujF7nw4,nlCk4MQcJztfxeoQn4fE6tx0TvLL4lEi3ytCHq31l_I__1446691742_39594We saw the northern lights twice and hiked on this glacier:




I ate a different kind of fish at almost every meal, went to a number of the excellent public geothermic hot baths, saw a couple of good bands, and danced to deep house music in a subterranean nightclub in the wee hours. Iceland is lace curtains on the windows, tiny backyard greenhouses, house cats prowling the sidewalks, knowing that a freaking volcano heated the water you’re showering with, streets named after Norse gods, sheep and horses everywhere, a deservedly legendary nightlife, and traditional sweaters worn without irony by people of all ages. It was a stunningly easy place to visit; everyone speaks English, every business happily takes debit cards for even the smallest transactions (we never took out any cash; I never even saw any until our last day there), and Reykjavik is small enough to navigate without much difficulty. Dried fish spread lavishly with butter turns out to be delicious, and chocolate-covered licorice is my new obsession. I never tried the fermented shark, but I tasted both whale and guillemot and genuinely loved Brennivin, the caraway-infused “black death” liquor, which is best ice cold and served in tiny glasses.

Made up my mind to make a new start, or, apparently the denizens of LA are all old friends of Rob’s

I went to California mainly to hang out with friends, read in the shade near water, and cast my eyes on things I hadn’t seen before. I’d only been to the Los Angeles area for work

unnamed-1We spent the first night in Santa Monica where we walked around on the pier and along the water, ate at The Misfit, and were asleep by 8:30. We stayed at the Seaview Hotel, which I’d chosen because of its convenient location, retro vibe, and relatively gentle price. While it turned out to be rather short on amenities—I had to wash my hair with soap because it hadn’t occurred to me that they wouldn’t provide shampoo—it was extremely long on charm. Rob and I both tend to get up early anyway and with the time difference factored in, we had hours to spend out on this deck the next morning before driving out to the desert.

unnamed-2Since we bought the tickets, I’d been daydreaming about drinking fruity drinks by the Ace Hotel pool. For years, I thought I hated sunshine and tropical anything, but it turns out that when there’s consistent shade available, it’s bliss to stare out at the mountains or float in the water or read with a fruity drink at hand. Who knew? (Everyone. Everyone knew.)

unnamed-3The other reason I wanted to go to Palm Springs, though, was to visit Joshua Tree. It was, unsurprisingly, spectacular. My only regret is that we didn’t camp out there, but that wasn’t in the cards for this trip. Just thinking about what the stars must look like out there though…swoon.

unnamed-9unnamed-8unnamed-4unnamed-6unnamed-5unnamed-7Then we went back to Los Angeles for the rest of the week. We spent a couple of days with a high school friend of Rob’s and his family who live in Eagle Rock. They took us to an unassuming strip mall in Burbank where I ate the best sushi I’ve ever had, to the Griffin Park Observatory, and for my first In-N-Out. (Confession: I kind of didn’t get the hype. It was perfectly good! But nothing special? But I’ve always wondered and now I know.) They had another old friend over for dinner one night and while everyone’s kids played, we drank wine and watched the sun set. It was magical.

unnamed-10Then, keeping in mind Benjamin Franklin’s words of wisdom about fish and guests, we took off, had dinner with a college friend of Rob’s and spent a night at a chic hotel in Koreatown, which has a gorgeous greenhouse-styled restaurant on its roof and concrete walls in its rooms that I was obsessed with.

unnamed-12IMG_4946.JPGOur last full day was spent running around indulging our various interests. We made a trip to The Fabric Store for me, where I got some spectacular material for a few projects, and visited Amoeba and Meltdown. We had been planning a trip to LACMA, but put that off since another old friend of Rob’s called in a few favors and got us on the guest list for an outdoor Van Halen show, which was fun and ridiculous—David Lee Roth had to stop the first song (“Panama,” for the record) halfway through because he somehow cut his nose on the microphone and had to go get taped up. The friends-of-friends section we qualified for was far enough back that it was easier to see what was going on onstage by watching other people’s phone screens.

unnamed-13(Fun fact: that hand belongs to Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali.)

Then, in a fitting LA-ish end to the trip, we met another old friend of Rob’s at the Chateau Marmont for a drink before crashing at an airport hotel and getting up early to return the rental car before heading home. Much like New York, Los Angeles is the kind of city that outsiders think is another, likely uninhabitable planet, but also like New York, millions of completely normal people live completely normal lives there. Everything everybody says about the traffic is true though.