Category Archives: THIS vs. THAT

HOT POT OR NOT: Where to Soak in Reykjavik

When visiting Reykjavik, you will notice the same street sign all over town: a head floating above two squiggly lines and an arrow. This is the universal symbol for “hot pot.”

This way to the hot pot!

In Iceland, the hot pot–their term for what others may call a pool, hot tub or public bath–is an integral part of the culture. Many Icelanders regularly visit hot pots to relax, catch up with friends, gossip and debate the latest political issues. Since the water is geothermally heated and not treated with any chemicals, visiting the hot pot is also considered part of a healthy routine.

No trip to Iceland is complete without at least one hot pot stop, and if you’re staying for more than a couple days it’s worth it to fit in a few. But if you only have time for one, it can be difficult to figure out where to go given that there are so many in Reykjavik alone and each offers a distinct experience.

On one end of the spectrum there’s the spa-like hot pots with huge pools, on-site cafes and additional services like massages and facials. On the other end are the no-frills municipal hot pots, which are closer to community pools. So which will give you the best hot pot experience?


Representing the municipal hot pots is Laugardalslaug, the largest in Reykjavik and considered by many to be the nicest. It has all the facilities you’d expect to find: six hot pots at different temperatures ranging from 37 to 42 degrees Celsius (98.5 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit), indoor and outdoor swimming pools kept at moderately warm temperatures, a sauna and a steam bath. Additionally, there are two water slides into the large outdoor pool, which are great fun for kids (and adults). Laugardalslaug is Continue reading

Wine for the Weekend, Vol. III: Acre and Red Diamond

It’s that time again for a new installment of our cityseekr featured series, Wine for the Weekend. Last time we gave you our impressions on two delicious wines from Bogle Vineyards on the Sacramento Delta. This week we’ll be looking at two wines selected from the shelves of Trader Joe’s: Acre Russian River Chardonnay and a Shiraz from a favorite label of mine, Red Diamond. Both wines can be had for a mere $7.99 each, or perhaps even less.

In addition to being featured on TJ’s “Frequent-Flyer” mailer, the cashier mentioned that the staff had a tasting event earlier that week and the Acre Chardonnay was a favorite among most of them. It was hard to determine if this sudden showering of praise upon this lesser-known chardonnay was indeed authentic, or merely a ploy to quickly sell the bottles they have. After tasting the wine for myself, I came to the conclusion that perhaps it was a mixture of both.

The 2011 Acre Russian River Valley Chardonnay (ABV: 13.5%) is an exclusive among Trader Joe’s much celebrated stock of affordable, but delicious wines–known colloquially as “Two-Buck Chuck.” There is some mystery surrounding who actually makes the wine, given that the bottle is an exact replica of the much more expensive wines produced by the now-defunct Acre Wine Company. However, despite the confusion surrounding the wine’s genesis, it really isn’t that bad at all. I’ll be the first to admit that Chardonnay is not my favorite grape, and while some winemakers really understand how to bring out its subtle complexities, a much larger number, in my opinion, can’t  seem to get it right at all. Like the reasoning behind Trader Joe’s sudden “craze” for this particular wine, I feel that the Acre Chard doesn’t necessarily get it right, or wrong–but somehow meets somewhere in the middle. Don’t look for something to knock your socks off, but also, don’t expect to spit out your first sip. I’d recommend this as the perfect PC wine to bring to a party or event.

Label: 5/5 (Despite being a copy, the label is indeed quite attractive)

Aroma: 4/5 (Nice, complex fruity/floral aroma)

Flavor: 3/5 (A little too dry for me; flavors tend to messily blend together instead of remaining distinct)

As I mentioned earlier, my experiences with the Red Diamond label have always been good. I’ve tried many of their reds and whites (their white wines are inferior, in my opinion, to the reds) but never happened to stumble upon the 2008 Red Diamond Shiraz offering until only recently. Shiraz is another name for the Syrah grape, which is a personal favorite of mine. I typically enjoy the peppery and rich flavors that often accompany the wines made from these particular grapes. However, I never really tasted a Shiraz that had such full-bodied, fruit-like qualities as this charming Red Diamond selection. In fact, the hints of pepper and chocolate I had come to expect from Syrah/Shiraz was noticibly subdued if not completely absent–which, to me, was unfortunate. However, the refreshingly smooth texture of the wine combined with a very distinct flavor of blackberries in the finish made this Red Diamond selection a very graceful and elegant wine for the price.

Label: 4/5 (Very interesting, if somewhat uninspired, minimalist design; the red and black colors are, of course, eye-catching)

Aroma: 3/5 (Nothing particularly captivating about the aroma; a rush of berries with a hint of spice)

Flavor: 4/5 (One point off due to a personal preference for a spicier Shiraz, but the flavor of this one is nothing short of smooth and delicious)

That about does it for this entry in our continuing series on delicious wines you can score on the cheap. As always, your comments and suggestions are always welcome. We hope you enjoy!

Have you tried the wines reviewed this week? What did you think? Let us know via the comments section, and don’t forget to follow cityseekr on Facebook or Twitter



Wine for the Weekend, Vol II: Bogle Simply Boggles

If you happened to read and enjoy our first article in this series, then you already know that we here at cityseekr are tasting our way through various inexpensive wines that can be found at your local grocer, often for less than $10. This installment of “Wine for the Weekend” highlights two wines from the Sacramento-based Bogle Vineyards.

Bogle Vineyards is a family-owned and operated group of vineyards, a winery and a tasting room that is located on the Sacramento River delta in Clarksburg, California. With over ten vineyards along the delta and nine more throughout the rest of the state, Bogle is indeed a California wine maker to be reckoned with.

However, the good thing about most family-run vineyards is that their wines tend to take on a flavor and substance that reflects, in some cases, several generations of honing the family’s own unique wine making craft. Truly, in the wine trade, age and tradition are of the utmost importance when producing wine of tremendous quality. Bogle Vineyards exemplifies this traditional ideal in wine making, at a price that most can afford.

This time we will explore two wines of both the zinfandel and chardonnay variety: Continue reading

Wine for the Weekend, Vol I: Blanc et Noir

We here at cityseekr understand times are tough, and many of us might find it difficult to enjoy a decent bottle of wine on a budget. However, what many don’t realize is that the selection of delicious but affordable wines available at such grocery outlets as Trader Joe’s or Safeway is quite expansive, indeed.

Long gone are the days when great bottle of wine would run no less than $15. Unfortunately, this was a time when the average wine enthusiast related the actual cost of the wine with its resulting taste–i.e., the more expensive the wine, the better it will taste. This correlation was, and still is, certainly false. Many wine producers, distributors and sellers took advantage of the economic “miracle” of the last decade and over-charged for wine that would most definitely turn the noses of even the least experienced of wine connoisseurs. Today, market forces have driven down the cost of wine to something more manageable for the 99% of us who have barely $10 a week to spend on such beverages.

The proposed format of my reviews will include one red and one white wine selection, chosen mostly at random, or by label (if I find the label to be particularly captivating). Every now and then, I may review an apéritif or a beverage best enjoyed after dinner or during dessert. In the end, my goal with this series is to bring to your attention several affordable but delicious wines available at your local grocery store, my thoughts on how they taste, and whether or not I recommend that you buy a bottle.

This week I’ll be reviewing two wines showcased by Trader Joe’s: Comique Révolution Blanc (Central Coast) and Three Knights Pinot Noir (Los Caneros). Continue reading

Père-Lachaise vs. Recoleta

THIS versus THAT: Cemetery Showdown

Some may find it strange to visit a cemetery while on vacation.  However, cemeteries can often times help convey centuries of history, literature, politics and art.  In particular, Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires are two fantastic examples of cemeteries that are attractions in themselves. The tragic stories, beauty and solemn peace found amongst the tombstones is simply to die for!


Situated in the 20th Arrondisement of Paris, the Père-Lachaise Cemetery is a veritable who’s who of French and international writers, musicians, politicians and the wealthy elite.  Built in 1802 and stretching across 110 acres of north-eastern Paris, the cemetery was actually not a very popular with many Parisians who preferred to buried closer to the city center.  All that changed in 1804 when Molière and La Fontaine’s remains were transferred here, giving the grounds much needed prestige.  Previously, Moliere’s remains had rested in a cemetery that was reserved for unbaptized babies due to the fact that at the time of his death, actors were not given proper burials.  Molière’s move to Père-Lachaise over 125 years after his death definitely cemented his position amongst France’s literary heroes.  Over the next 200 years the cemetery became the final resting place for many of France’s beloved artists, including Chopin, Balzac, Pissaro, Edith Piaf, Proust and Yves Montand. Interestingly enough, two of the most visited graves at Père-Lachaise do not belong to Frenchmen, but rather an American and a Brit. Jim Morrison’s grave is by far one of the most visited graves in the cemetery. . . and it is also the one that attracts the most graffiti and vandalism.

Photo courtesy of Liz Gancher

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