About Adam Groffman
In 2009, Adam Groffman quit his job as a graphic designer in Boston and went on a 15+ month trip around the world. The life-changing journey took him to places like North Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia. Since 2011 Adam has been living in Berlin—Europe's most hipster city.
Travels of Adam is a hipster travel & lifestyle blog for sharing his personal experiences and alternative & indie travel tips from around the world. He also is the editor of My Gay Travel Guide—a gay travel website written by gay travelers for gay travelers.
Latest Posts by Adam Groffman
There’s something special about New England. I don’t know if I can put my finger on it, but renting a car and driving through New England (especially in the Fall or Autumn) is quite special. I visited Rockport, Massachusetts on my most recent visit to the region. Even though I lived in Boston for years, I’d never made it up the coast to Rockport. The quaint seaside town sits on the tip of Cape Ann, just a few miles from Gloucester, another quaint New England town.
I’m fairly certain much of the tourism to Rockport and Gloucester is focused on weddings and romantic getaways. And it’s no surprise why! Just look at all the beauty in the details…
It’s quite fashionable to talk about the death of bookstores, books and/or reading these days. But while many people may be switching to e-readers, that doesn’t mean the death of books. In fact, on my recent tour, I purposely sought out some indie bookshops. Seeing what the locals read is as enlightening and interesting as checking out their grocery stores or street food.
Many of these independent bookstores in America offer online bookshops, but the real beauty of an indie bookshop is to see what they’ve got on their shelf. Personally I love peeking at the staff recommendations to see what the bookstore employees are reading themselves—that’s a great indicator of whether or not the bookstore is for you!
The Book Loft, Columbus, OH
This 32-room building in the German Village district of Columbus is the epitome of an indie bookstore. Whether by design or just because of haphazard planning, you’re almost guaranteed to get lost between the stacks. Over two floors and with a pretty garden in the back, the bookstore and cafe used to be a store, saloon and nickeloden cinema until it was repurposed. Today it houses over 100,000 books making it one of the largest independent bookstores in America.
The Book Loft (@TheBookLoft1)
631 South Third Street
Dog Eared Books in San Francisco, CA
This little bookshop in San Francisco’s hipster ‘hood, the Mission District, is a pretty sleek affair. The bookstore just reached its 20th anniversary and regularly holds local events. Inside Dog Eared, you’ll find just about everything—from quirky, indie authors to stuffy classics. There are even entire sections devoted to Beat Literature, Noir mysteries and sustainable living. Check the staff pics table for an even more eclectic selection.
Dog Eared Books
900 Valencia (at 20th Street)
San Francisco, CA
Brookline Booksmith in Boston, MA
My old local bookshop—the Booksmith—has long been a symbol of Brookline’s Coolidge Corner. They’ve outlived Barnes & Noble, so you know they’re a force to be reckoned with. The store hosts some of the best events in Boston—often partnering with the Coolidge Corner Theater to host authors and other guest speakers. The bargain basement downstairs is a great place to find used books, too.
Brookline Booksmith (@booksmithtweets)
279 Harvard Street
BookPeople in Austin, TX
In that city of hipsters, BookPeople has long been a staple symbol of the city’s literary history. The multi-floor bookstore feels a bit more commercial than most independent stores, but it’s a great place to book-browse or get some work done in the café. They sell @OutofPrintTees here, as well…and across the street is Waterloo—an excellent indie music shop. Make a day of being an Austin hipster and spend a few hours at BookPeople.
603 North Lamar Boulevard
Strand Bookstore in NYC
One of the most popular bookstores in New York City, the Strand is probably already on most tourist lists for Manhattan. But that doesn’t make it any less cool. Maybe it’s so popular because the Strand features so prominently in pop culture and makes occasional movie cameos. Or maybe it’s because one in ten people in the Northeast of America have a hipster tote bag from the Strand. Or maybe it’s because the bookstore was target of an improv gig. It doesn’t matter. Go here. You won’t be disappointed.
Strand Bookstore (@strandbookstore)
New York, NY
During my visit to San Francisco, I gave myself one priority: eat a San Francisco-style burrito. I’ve heard of these things for years but never had the opportunity to try one. There’s a burrito restaurant in Berlin that’s famous for them, but I wanted the real thing. So, after being in San Francisco for less than a few hours, I set out on a quest to find the best burrito in the city.
Taqueria La Cumbre
This is the taqueria that made burritos famous in San Francisco. They’re credited with inventing the style which is basically a massive (and often messy) burrito.
I went inside Taqueria La Cumbre and immediately recognized the look. This is the typical American burrito restaurant I remember from my days back in Boston where I spent about half my weekly food expenditures at Anna’s Taqueria.
The burrito came with a healthy chunk of tortilla chips which was nice. Little did I know that this is par-for-the-course in San Francisco. I went with my staple burrito: black beans & rice, with pork, guacamole, sour cream and jalapeños. It was big. And I mean very BIG. But still manageable.
Burrito score: ★★★★☆
515 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA
Thanks to a tip from Fluent in Frolicking, I went straight to Papalote for lunch on my second day in San Francisco. Papalote was much more crowded than Taqueria La Cumbre. I went with the same burrito as before and it was equally delicious but much more messy. It fell apart about halfway through but I still managed.
The best part of my Papalote burrito, however, was that it came with a side of salsa. And this salsa was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. No joke. I’m not sure what they put in their salsa but considering that they sell jars of it in the store, I’m guessing others have found it equally addicting.
Burrito score: ★★★★☆
Salsa score: ★★★★★
3409 24th Street (at Valencia), San Francisco, CA
And just because the salsa was so delicious, here’s a photo:
If there’s ever an event that makes ordinary people feel extraodrinary, I’d venture to argue that it’s a film festival. These events are usually peppered with a healthy dose of celebrities, but part of what makes them such successful enterprises is by involving the local and international artist communities as well. They’re sometimes quite democratic—just about anyone willing to pay the cost of a movie ticket can get into the premiere screenings, so long as your quick to buy your ticket (sometimes you’ve only got milliseconds!).
I had the chance to attend the Toronto International Film Festival at the end of this summer. Though I was only in town for a weekend, I spent a day in the cinema catching some new documentaries.
Artifact, Jared Leto’s movie about his rock band’s complicated business relationship with his record company, had its worldwide premiere at TIFF. While the film was a bit one-sided (very few reps from the record agency went on film to discuss the drama), it was still a poignant tale about artists trying to do their work, make a living and hopefully succeed at doing what they love to do. In Leto’s case, that was to make good music. The film featured plenty of artist cameos (my fav: Amanda Palmer) but its real value was in the story it told.
The documentary follows the band 30 Seconds to Mars during the production of their 2008 album, This is War. While producing the album the band was facing a $30 million lawsuit with their record company. The movie follows the band while they were simultaneously negotiating for a new contract and producing a rock album. It was an awesome inside look into how the music and record industries work.
This documentary, Love, Marilyn, is an attempt by director Liz Garbus to bring Marilyn back to life through her own words. Using A-list celebrities such as Glenn Close, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei and Lindsay Lohan to read aloud Marilyn’s own words was both moving and sad. You can’t help but feel like an outsider peeking into the messed up world of Hollywood, both old and new. Ben Foster and Adrien Brody voice some of the male influences in Marilyn’s life: Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, respectively.
With clips and movie reels, Garbus doesn’t just tell us Marilyn’s story, she makes us feel it. Using Marilyn’s own words is a powerful technique.
“I wish we could always live like this,” Q says with a dreamy voice, which seems to come from very far away. “We can.” I open my eyes and sit up against the chimney. “As long as we do art and live in the moment.”
The above quotation sounds like something you’d hear in some underground bar in Kreuzberg. “As long as we do art and live in the moment.” That’s the dream (and the reality) for many artists in Berlin. But in fact, throughout modern history (and if you read enough books and watch enough movies), you’ll hear the same thing repeated again and again.
“Life is for the living.”
As someone who once quit his corporate job to live out my travel dreams, these are ideas and philosophies firmly rooted in my own core belief.
While reading the new, indie ebook Kiss the Sky on my Kindle, I highlighted heaps of little quips and passages. The book, Kiss the Sky by DC Gallin is about a young, 20-something woman trying to make it in London as an artist all while enjoying life to its fullest—drugs, sex, squats, trips to India and warehouse parties. Gallin paints a vivid picture of London in the 1990s—one that matched the image in my head of a Britpop London. The characters bring life to the city that I have always loved; London never seemed so cool!
But while London’s bohemian heyday may be gone, the sentiments and philosophies that DC Gallin captured from a certain era still live on. Her travel and life lessons scattered throughout the indie ebook provide some great tips for making the most out of life.
“Give me the urban jungle anytime, horrible grey man-made concrete blocks, skies like wet duvets, studios without windows…”
“The trees of Hyde Park are still standing naked on this sunny morning…”
“The only free transport is the bicycle.”
“How come I’ve never noticed before how kindness is everywhere?”
“It never fails to surprise me how we can all connect on this unseen level and have this overwhelming feeling of trust and belonging.”
“Grown-ups make you groan.”
“Nakedness is a state of mind, nothing to get too excited about.”
“Easy, Claudia, don’t get on a bad trip, life is for the living.”
“…but you know what I mean, this can’t go on forever…”
“Good ideas spread the fastest, just like great tunes.”
“India is so alive and so sad at the same time.”
“Why didn’t you do what you really wanted to do in your life?”
“Nobody told us how to be born, how to suck our mothers nipple, or grow our first set of teeth.”
“Sometimes in life, when you think you have done something outrageous, it can turn out that it was needed to change everything.”
“I am awake,” I say. “I wanna do it my way.”
‘You always act like the world is your oyster,’ Ines says when she’s really pissed off with me. ‘So what?” I normally reply. ‘Who says it can’t be yours as well?’
“I wanna make them dance. Dance is the key to world peace.” “That sounds almost too simple.” “No it doesn’t,” Jamie says, shaking his head. “On the dance floor, we realize we’re one big family. All we need is China to join in, and we’ve reached critical mass.” “But everybody dances to different music.” “Rhythm, repetitive beats are universal.” I imagine a dancing world, kids, oldies, heavyweights, everybody, all colours, all races… Why not?
On the ’90s
“The nineties are the sixties upside down.”
Last week, I attended an event at Munich’s Westin Grand Hotel. The morning started off with a healthy breakfast from the new Super FoodsRx menu. Starwood Hotels have started to make their hotel restaurants healthier for travelers by offering more nutritional meals. As someone who’s always on the go and often eats fast and cheap food, having a hotel that offers local, fresh and healthy foods is a big plus. I have grown tired of fast food, and have sworn off the legendary döner kebab here in Germany.
Healthier eating is just one part of the revamped Adam, though. I’ve also taken it upon myself to get outside more. I have made some changes in my habit and lifestyle. I’ve found one of the best ways to move forward is to push yourself and set goals within a timeline. And so I’ve started pushing myself away from the computer screen and out there on the pavement! Running or walking, it’s nice to be outside more.
You know how you sometimes find yourself in a city that’s usually not regarded a tourist destination? And then all-of-a-sudden, there are a million things you want to see and do there? Yeah. We’ve got a pretty cool thing going on in America. So many cities with a surprising amount of things to do. And Columbus, Ohio just turned out to be one such city.
While I had several nights in Ohio to visit family, I took the time to explore a bit as well. And to help get started, I was invited on a segway tour to help orient myself in the midwestern city.
The Segway tour started in downtown Columbus and took us around several square blocks of important historical and government buildings. Most interesting, of course, was the Peanut Shoppe—a store selling a variety of nuts. Their window displays alone were worth the visit!
Nearby were several more historical buildings, including the Ohio Statehouse—the capitol building for Ohio. The Statehouse offers free tours during the week, but I was more interested in the Ohio Theater across the street.
The theater, which opened in 1928, was designed to be “a palace for the average man.” It went through a small battle in the 1960s to be saved from destruction, and today it’s home to all sorts of cultural events—from symphonies and theater, to a summer movie series and comedy shows.
Columbus, down by the river
After zipping through the downtown district, we made our way toward the Scioto River. Passing a larger-than-life statue of Christopher Columbus (the city’s namesake), I was surprised to find a full-size replica of one of his famed ships at dock: the Santa Maria.
Along the river is the new North Bank Park, which was sadly lacking in visitors when we passed through. Though from there, we headed to Columbus’ most popular park: Huntington Park, home of the Columbus Clippers baseball team. The baseball field allows for free public viewing in several places, which is a great, democratic way of getting people interested in the sport…for free!
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Columbus is the North Market. On my Segway tour, we only had time to drive alongside it (and learn a bit about its history), but it’s full of local restaurants and therefore a popular place for lunch.
Goodale Park and the Victorian Village
Next up on my tour of Columbus was the Goodale Park. I’m not sure how many parks we passed by on the Segway Tour, but all together, I found the city of Columbus to be very green-friendly. Goodale Park is up near the university so it makes sense.
The city also has an entire district full of beautiful, old Victorian homes. One of them, the Sells Mansion, was the former home of Peter Sells who founded one of the first circus acts in America. Legend has it that used to keep the baby circus animals in the mansion’s basement during the winter. To commemorate the Sells Circus’ history in Columbus, the city recently unveiled a new fountain featuring two baby elephants in Goodale Park. Certainly a quirky tourist attractions, something you wouldn’t find on most lists—a testament to our tour guide’s intimiate knowledge of Columbus!
Leaving Goodale Park, we went straight to my favorite area of Columbus—the Short North. This long street is, without question, the most hipstery area of Ohio’s capital. Graffiti and street art is on just about every corner, as well as your usual faire of coffee shops and vegan pizzerias.
Our Segway tour ended where we’d begun, but with the overview of the city, I was able to then head back to the areas I preferred the most (obvs, the Short North).
Our tour guide, a Columbus native, was able to tell personal stories about the city in addition to all the history. I wasn’t really sure what to expect of the city, but was happy to learn more about its historical roots and recent developments. The only downside of the 3-hour tour was we only got off the Segways during a short break by the river. So we didn’t have much time to explore the sights we were seeing, and even snapping photos while zipping by was a challenge!
All-in-all, it was a fun experience, but really only good if you have the time for an overview of the city. Because after doing the tour, you’ll definitely want to go back to many of the locations for more in-depth urban exploring!
Note: I was hosted by Columbus Tourism.
The Dominican hotel is located in downtown Brussels—just a few short steps from the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert where you can find all sorts of touristic (and local!) things to do. It’s a member of Design Hotels and the rooms certainly met a design level of standard. I loved the style of the carpets and couch in my bedroom which clashed in a same-same-but-different manner.
From Design Hotels:
Sweeping archways remind guests that Brussels’ Dominican abbey stood here in the 15th century. The façade of French Revolutionary painter Jacques-Louis David’s house, which also stood here, has been integrated in the new construction. A feeling of “dramatic intimacy“, as The Dominican Hotel calls it, is present in public spaces, including the central Grand Lounge, as well as private rooms, with their soaring ceilings and attention to detail. The 150 guestrooms and suites are individually designed; their layout around a central courtyard provides the ‘intimate’ part of the equation, reinforced by a rich combination of contemporary design and luxurious textiles.
The hotel pays attention to every detail. The most charming aspect of the room was immediately noticeable: it was the sound of monks. Obviously inspired by the building’s history, the hotel arranges for every room to play some inspirational music when you first enter. It was a surprising welcome made even more so because it seemed to come from within.
Turns out the sound came from the television, but because there was a speaker in the bathroom, you could listen to the TV while taking a shower or bath. Amenities included bath salts—something that did not come in my 5-star hotel stay in Budapest.
The room also had mirrors that were opposite of one another which added to the ambiance of this beautiful design hotel. The one negative was the terribly slow wifi (though it was free, which is often not included with hotels such as these).
The Dominican Brussels
Leopoldstraat 9, 1000 Brussels
My stay at the Dominican was sponsored in part by BElgien Tourismus.