Planning a 17-day Eurotrip: Copenhagen, London, Ibiza, and Barcelona

Eurotrip 2017

Four months ago I booked the cheapest multi-stop, flight-driven trip I could find for Summer 2017 in Europe. Last time I went in the winter, so it is time for a summer eurotrip. The past couple months I’ve been building out maps, researching restaurants, and learning Danish.

Flight deals

JFK to Copenhagen

3 nights in Copenhagen, $363.56 roundtrip on FinnAir

to London

5 nights in London , $42 one-way

to Ibiza, Spain

4 days in Ibiza, $48 one-way

to Barcelona

1.5 days in Barcelona, $38 one-way

JFK via Copenhagen

1 night in Copenhagen, $114 USD one-way

Total airfare, $605 for 6 one-way flights. 

Lodging

I stay in hostels booked on hostelworld.com. I pick hostels based on

  1. Proximity to features on my map.
  2. Cost (<$40/night if possible)
  3. Highest Percentile of Reviews. More popular and more people to meet and network with during the trip. (>2,000 reviews if possible.)
  4. Highest Rating (>8.5 rating is trustworthy.)

Total Lodging, $745 for 16 nights. I think this could have been cheaper had I not waited until the map was built to book the hostels.

Hostels

I like to be specific advice in the case you’re seeing this and planning a trip yourself.

Generator Hostel, Copenhagen

Wombats, London

Amistat, Ibiza (I didn’t want to stay in St. Antoni, but Old Town lodging prices were insane, >$150/night.)

360, Barcelona

GlobalHagen, Copenhagen

Food and Day’s plans

Using Yelp, Reddit, and various blog articles I generated a list of restaurants and sites to see in Copenhagen, London, Ibiza, and Barcelona. I plotted the entries on a map and hired an online contractor via Upwork to look up every place I had found (56 in total) on Yelp, Google, and Facebook. This was $25, a price that I set, which seemed like a reasonable rate to offer. Armed with the data, I got a weighted average for every restaurant in the target cities and then whittled down the map to a more streamlined size.

Planning the days

There are places on my itinerary that deeply pique my interest. I studied the destinations on the web rating data, qualitative assessments from online users, and a good match with my desire to be thrifty and focus on ultra-value food and fun opportunities.

Copenhagen

Going up the Frederiksgade Church Dome any day at 1pm for a view of the city.

The Olive Restaurant

Restaurant Karla

Paper Island Food Market

London

Though I’m not sure it will happen, I reached out to world-renowned food critic Andy Hayler and he’s interested in meeting up. I’ve suggested we meet at one of his favorite restaurants in London.   This would be a major highlight if it happens.

Fera at Claridge

Pollen St. Social

The Palomar

English Premier League Football Match: Southampton vs. West Ham

Harrod’s

I plan on exploring the city of London primarily by foot.

Ibiza

PC:http://www.capblancibiza.com/

Cliff Jumping

Drinks overlooking the Mediterranean sunset at Cafe Mambo.

PC: zone1-ibizaspotlightsl.netdna-ssl.com

Boat Party

Two world-class progressive house DJ’s Armin Van Buuren and Eric Prydz on the world’s best soundstage: The infamous Space Ibiza.

Barcelona

Tapas and Wine tour

I’m still working out the details on a Excel spreadsheet. I expect to be sipping a lot of Grenacha and eating obscene quantities of fresh seafood.

Sagrada Familia Church

???

Language Learning (Danish)

I like to be able to use some simple language to show my dedication to getting to know a culture. I started this process two months ago completing 25% of the DuoLingo for Danish. I learned very basic sentence structure. i realized this was more than I needed. So I made digital flashcards using the most common travel phrases I use. I eliminated questions, because I won’t understand answers.

Words

Hello!
Thank you.
Goodbye.
Cheers!
Excuse me.
I’m sorry.
Nice to meet you.
Yes.
No.
I would like…
Here you go.
the bill, please.
delicious!
I have a reservation.
The United states
I am from the united states
hostel
Bathroom
one, please
beer
coffee
one
two
three
four
five

 

I studied these words from Danish->English and then English->Danish. I used the Google Translate formula in google sheets to quickly make all the translations. I then generated ANKI flashcards with the ANKI desktop app’s built-in upload feature. ANKI is a program designed to model the human memory to refresh your brain right before you forget something. The timing of the cards is generated and tracking wholly by the program .

On paper this trip looks completely insane. Four cities in 16 days. Scandanavia, the UK, the Balearic Islands, and Barcelona over the course of two weeks. The schedule fits tightly into my job and personal life. I’m beyond excited to explore the design of Copenhagen, the pubs of London, the teal waters of the Balearics, and the hallowed ancient hills of Barcelona.

I want to see European summer through the eyes of locals. Unless absolutely essential, I won’t visit major tourist sights. Locals don’t visit them and they don’t define life for the average residents. I want to find the small places where Barcelonians lounge during the afternoon with a glass of wine. I want to sip coffee in a cozy sunbathed Nordic café. I want to cliff jump with Germans in Ibiza on summer vacation. I want to fight for a seat on the London Tube and chow on curry at Herman Ze German in London. I want to grab a beer and sit in a sunny park in Copenhagen. I want to see and live the worlds I’m not living, so I can come home and inform the life I do live.

Tidying up: Decluttering your space and its unexpected benefits

Decluttering your home

I finished reading The Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. In the book, she explores her method for decluttering the homes of thousands of messy clients around the world. She champions counterintuitive organizational methods.

Credit:http://abeautifulmess.typepad.com/

Why bother decluttering?

Kondo argues that our possessions are the physical artifacts of our decisions. Thus, a messy room indicates that our minds are disorganized. The state of our belongings is a reminder of what we value and plan to maintain. Ordering the home helps us order our lives. It helps us focus on the objects and thoughts that matter most to us. It helps us reduce decision fatigue and streamline our priorities.

Declutter once and for all

Because clutter begets clutter in mindset and in physical order, Kondo recommends tidying everything in one big session. She has observed in her organizational consulting career that gradual decluttering leads to frustration. For details on why, grab the book. The theme of batch processing of organization comes up in several places. You don’t have to do it all in one day, but this should be done over the course of a week or two. Envision what you want your home to look like.

How to attack the clutter

Lay out all your belongings in categories. Each respective category should be laid out in it’s own respective open space in your house. You won’t be moving your objects from one meta-hoarding space to another.

Discard what you don’t need first. Her method for choosing what to discard sounds hokey. But, it seems to work for me. Hold each object in your hands and note how it makes you feel. Do you love this object? Does it bring you joy? Do you feel guilt about it? Do you fear losing it would effect your future? Do you fear you’ll be disrespecting a family member or your own memories by discarding it? If you want to create your home as a joyful and guilt-free place, the objects in it should be thoughtfully chosen to evoke these feelings. How does it feel to walk into your living room and think: “I wish I could get a new TV, but my cousin was so nice to fix this one for me, I couldn’t get a new one.” Do you really think you’re cousin would be happy to know you’re not getting the TV you want because they fixed it? If an item doesn’t bring you joy or a sense of wholeness, get rid of it. Don’t dump it on another family member, don’t store it for future use. Get rid of it.

The Decluttering Order

Kondo specifies an order to discarding things, ordered from easiest to hardest to discard.

  1. Clothes

  2. Books

    1. Discard everything but the books you love keeping and the ones you are reading. Don’t keep around books you’ll “read someday”. The time to read a book is within a couple months of attaining it.
  3. Papers

    1. Discard all except items you are
      1. Using now
      2. Need for a short time
      3. Need forever
    2. Keep them all in the same place.
    3. Discard manuals, keep warranties (until they expire.)
  4. Miscellaneous

    1. Discard product boxes, you rarely need them.
    2. Throw away excess cords and spare items.
    3. Discard health craze items (ab roller, weight loss machine, etc).
  5. Mementos/Photos/Nostalgic Items

    1. This is difficult, but important, because it helps us come to terms with our past and keep it where it belongs (behind us.) Our space should reflect and amplify who we are, not who we were.

Storage

Kondo doesn’t like storage. In a contemporary society with Amazon and local stores, it is unneeded. Regardless, some things are prudent to keep around. They are best kept in closets out of the way (mentally and physically). Similar items should be kept together (clothes with cloths, electronics with electronics, etc…) They should be ordered vertically so each item can be easily picked from the storage area without having to dig through a stack or pile.

Credit:KierCouture.com

Offseason items can go on top of shelves.

Hang sponges so they dry out. Keep bathroom items out of the tub area so they stay dry and don’t collect scum.

Keep items off the kitchen counter. This is a space for food preparation.

Remove words on items showing words. They bring “noise” to an area. Get the book for a deeper discussion as to why this is.

Bags can go inside each other to maximize space.

Specific advice on clothing storage and folding

The book has some important tips on storing and folding various types of clothing. Keep your clothes vertically folded and standing next to each other. Not stacked. You’ll have to watch videos for a better explanation.  Everything gets folded and placed into drawers in your closet unless that is impractical as is the case with coats, jackets, skirts, suits, dresses, and some pants. Socks never get balled up (and stretched out.)

When are you done?

When you feel like your space clicks and doesn’t have any excess objects. This is purely qualitative. Kondo finds applying metrics only upsets people and leaves us feeling out of touch with the process of having the space the way we want it.

When to stop the decluttering

Every item will have its place in a room. It will be simple and natural to return it to that place when you are done with it. The items left after the declutter will feel important and worth treating well. It will naturally be easier for things to have a place, when there are fewer items vying for places.

Her clients show more respect for their belongings and feel a deeper sense of gratitude for them. They come to an understanding of what they value. They learn to let go of physical possessions that are holding them back.

The Magic of Tidying Up

The book was on my list for a while because it’s at the top of Amazon organization lists and I have a fascination with optimizing space. Programmatic organization first interested me last year when an NPR show pointed me to a book on personal organization by a computer scientist. The Magic of Tidying Up was one of my favorite reads of all time. I definitely recommend you get the book for a more rigorous  examination of the ideas explored here.

Over the past few months, I’ve been striving to live in a more simple environment. I’ve been purging belongings I don’t need. As Kondo mentions in her book, our fear of needing things is overblown. I can’t even remember the things I’ve discarded. And I notice that my mind is freed up to think about the tasks and thoughts I want to focus on, rather than on the clutter of objects in my space. Having a messy space means constantly being physically reminded by the objects around you “where does this go?” “what should I do with that?” “I should address this thing on this paper”. Clutter begets clutter in the mind and the world. I think it’s good to have things and think about the things in your physical space. But, these things should be thoughtfully ordered such that your mind is focusing on the things that bring you joy and fulfillment; the things that order your life to the production of the tasks that move you to your goals, whatever they may be. Are their objects in your space, on your desk or in your drawers, or on your floor, bring mild discontentment into your life? If you’re OK with that, ask why.

NYC Lower East Side Cheap Eats Tour

This past weekend I decided, last-minute (8 days out), to take a weekend trip up to New York for food touring. I went with my roommate Matt (from the Ecuador trip) and Yelp Elite friend, Kana. Both share a love for food.

How’d we get there? 

With two people, the best way to get to NYC (at least from Philly) is the Chinatown bus. The $20 roundtrip fare is cheaper than tolls/gas. The bus removes the hassle of parking in New York, which can be its own adventure. We left from Chinatown Philly and arrived in the heart of Manhattan at 120 E Broadway. The bus isn’t less comfortable than Greyhound.

Armed with our tickets and light backpacks, we stood in line in Philly at 9am for the bus. A weary traveler, a girl of maybe 23 years, ambled to the back of the line behind us. She wore a multicolored Adidas tank top and messy bleached blond hair. She’s a recent grad from the University of Virginia. She quit her job in investment banking and was on a mission of self-discovery in NYC, no return ticket booked. Our conversation on the way up helped pass the time on the Jersey Turnpike, between light naps. We talked about Excel, the meaning of work, and Charlottesville.

You can check the Chinatown bus schedule here.

The Food

Upon disembarking the bus and leaving the wafting diesel fumes behind, we scurried with packs in hand down the grungy trash-scattered streets of Chinatown in New York. We were in a hurry to find our food tour companion. I met Kana at a Yelp event in Philadelphia this past March. We shared food tour battle stories and argued over the merits of Yelp. Kana lives up in NYC and was a natural companion for the excursion this past weekend. She’s an insurance analyst by day, food aficionado by night. She might be the first person I’ve met that has a deeper passion than I for restaurants, chefs, and food. She has impressive pedigree, having eaten at nearly every restaurant I know of.  She’s level-headed, fun, and passionate about food. I’m grateful she joined us.

Our first stop was Lam Zhou. Lam Zhou is a barebones dumpling eatery in Chinatown. There are no decorations, signs, or artwork. The only interesting thing about Lam Zhou are the dumplings, and the noodles, and the women who labor in the back tirelessly pressing dumplings all day. The shop is compact, oddly yellow, and a dirty. The floor is lined with cheap wooden folding tables and chairs where diners share common space. The dumplings are excellent, crispy and chewy, filled with scallions, fish and soy sauce, and ground pork. You dip these pockets of love in a little vinegar, and you’re mouth fills with sweet, savoury, and acidic juices and meats. 8 of them for $3 is hard to beat in New York.

Methodology

The food tour was created by grabbing 450 cheap eats of NYC into a spreadsheet. They were filtered by rating and number of reviews. I eliminated restaurants with less than 25 reviews (this turned out to be too low of a cutoff) and cut off the super popular places with 1000+ reviews. These places have big, touristy lines.  I imported the remaining places  into Google MyMaps, which plots the locations on a map.

With this map, I plotted a tour route. Using Mapquest’s Route Optimizer, I picked 8 places close to each other. The app optimize d the shortest path between them.

The Food (2)

From Lam Zhou, we walked our way up the east side of Manhattan.

Clinton Square Pizza

I enjoyed both the NY Style thin crust and the Sicilian pizza. The Sicilian was the winner. It had thicker cheese and soft, buttery crumb. The sauce was too sweet on it, however.

Ni Japanese

One man runs this Japanese stall in the Essex Market. I found the salmon slightly overcooked and the rice too hearty. This place felt too much like an intentionally healthy meal to enjoy.

Gaia Italian Café

Despite the creepy mythological nomenclature, we gave this place a try because it shows up on cheap eats lists across the web.

We ordered the chicken “Milanese” panino and mushroom truffle ravioli.

The panino was 3.5/5 stars. The chicken cutlets were small though well-executed: juicy, well seasoned, crisp on the bite of the crust. The bread was thick, soft, and light crisp on the exterior. Unfortunately the bitter arugula dominated the flavor profile and made the pesto and tomatoes at most an afterthought.

The ravioli on the mushroom truffle ravioli was handmade, lightly chewy, and the right floury/doughy taste. The mushrooms inside were savoury, well-seasoned, and juicy. These were complemented by earthy romano cheese shavings on top. The sauce was a medium-bodied bechamel with hints of truffle oil. Light sprinkling of parsley balanced the cream and fat of the sauce with a fresh and green flavor and mouthfeel.

The ravioli was good enough to redeem the panino’s mediocrity, but not enough to make the experience 5 stars.

Xe May

Xe May is a hip and popular bahn mi joint. The sandwiches aren’t Saigon street prices at $9. But, they are tasty, a nice balance of fresh bread, sweet bbq savoury pork, and vegetables.

Fat Cat Kitchen

Close to Union Square. Their breakfast sandwich had a fluffy potato roll and well executed eggs. The bean spread on the sandwich was savoury and nicely seasoned.

Veniero’s

I enjoyed this place that came recommended by my Yelp friend. The chocolate cannoli was crunchy and buttery on the shell. The inside was sugary, but not grainy/powdery in texture. The milk chocolate added complexity.

Ise Kitchen

I’m so glad Yelp and Opentable pointed us to Ise in the East Village. The Hexagon meal was a no-brainer choice. It is five courses served on stackable trays. It’s unique. It’s well executed. Everything about the meal is efficient and thoughtful.

The starter layer of the hexagon is a few appetizers. There were a few preparations of Tofu along with salad-like app.

The sushi layer contained various types of nigiri including Tuna, Salmon, and Salmon roe along with a tuna roll and two other cuts of white fish. The fish was fresh and creamy as it ought to be. The rice was well executed. The next layer contained house-pulled Soba noodles. These were firm, spongy, fresh, and held onto their dipping sauce very well.

The final course was a chicken consomme mixed with the remaining soba dipping sauce. This was so cool. Very savoury and well seasoned.

I finished my meal with vanilla ice cream dusted in soy powder. The ice cream was silky and creamy. The sauce tasted like maple syrup and peanut butter. Amazing.

This is a good value for a meal of its caliber in NYC.

Blue and Gold Tavern

My roommate introduced us to this place. It’s a dark and grungy dive bar. But the drink prices were the lowest I’ve seen in Manhattan. $4 and $5 for a beer!

Crif Dogs

At the end of the night on Saturday many people end up at Crif Dogs. They have good hotdogs at a reasonable price. The dogs are all beef, have a nice snap, and can be topped with a tasty chili.

Emily

TheInfatuation.com led us to the Emmy burger in Brooklyn which it touted as the “best burger in NYC.” While the burger was delicious and came together with a unique emphasis on carmelized onions and charred cheddar, I don’t believe it deserves the top spot. The search for NYC’s best burger continues. This one is overpriced at $27.

Sheep’s Meadow

It’s become a tradition of mine to spend time lounging on Sheep Meadow in Central Park. There’s a massive green space, an excellent view of the skyline, and hundreds of interesting subjects for people watching.

Lodging

The cheapest non-Chinatown dump motel I found was the International Student Residence in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. While cheap, the accommodations were Spartan. The room was nothing more than wooden stall with a bunk bed and a trash can. There was no ceiling. The place was clean, but noisy and very tight. It’s hard to justify spend 3x as much for a hotel room in Manhattan, but I’d be tempted.

New York has a diversity of thought, activity, and resources unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s a privilege living 2 hours away. During my food planning, I found there are over 20,000 restaurants in the NYC area, with options consistently changing. Because the options are nearly limitless, choosing one place to eat is a problem in discipline and information science.  New York presents the perfect opportunity to analyze restaurant ratings in a rigorous manner. It gives one access to some of the best restaurant options in the world, within walking distance.

 

Welcome to the Optimized Now.

A guy traveling, eating the best food, exploring cultures, and thinking about productivity. For new productivity hacks or trip reports sign up for the emails. This is the easiest way to get posts.

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