Barcelona

Barcelona was incredible.

This was my best weekend abroad so far. I shared an apartment  using Airbnb, a company that connects homeowners to travelers, with two friends in the heart of Barcelona. The apartment had colorful tiled floor and funky modern decor, including a retro painting of Marilyn Monroe. Our  apartment’s owner was  young man who was extremely nice and full of advice. It was great to have an immediate connection with a local Barcelonian who knew the area. I also  felt like we  belonged to the city by the end of our stay because we quickly became acquainted with the never failing routine of the  neighbors’ dogs  barking at us as we made our daily climb up  the towering flight of stairs to our apartment. This staircase could have equated to at least level 12 of the stair master at my gym back in the states. (just saying, our calves should be sponsored by Nike asap)But it’s the little things like this that make you feel at home that a hotel can’t offer.

Best moments:

seeing Gaudi architecture; his work must be witnessed in person. The buildings are completely bizarre ! Parc Guell also has one of the best views of Barcelona .

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eating tapas; if you know me at all, I am terrible at making decisions when it comings to ordering food at restaurants. Tapas is the solution to my misery.

The best tapas I had were at Sensi Tapas, I split with a friend Baby chorizo sausage braised in beer (Really good sauce to dip bread in),Duck timbale with potatoes parmesan (that was my favorite one), Iberian pork tataki (rare cooked pork), and Sauteed “Sant Pau” white beans with squid.

I also had a really really really good glass of sangria there too.

http://www.sensi.es/tapas/

Walking everywhere and anywhere: my legs were killing me after this trip, but basically no matter which way you turn in Barcelona there is always something to see if you simply take a walk.

I think the key to getting to know city is getting lost with good friends at hand. We had a great time being at the beach at sunset, just taking our time strolling through the parks, and watching the “Magic” fountain light show at night. We also randomly bumped into a cafe with the world’s best hot chocolate. This redefined my perception of a cup of hot chocolate. (good bye instant swiss miss)

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La Boqueria: this is large open market that holds everything your arteries could and sometimes shouldn’t desire. There are stalls full of sweet chocolates and candies, rows of fresh fish with gaping mouths and wide eyes, shelves of fruit where you can buy a plate of freshly cut coconut or figs or even dragon fruit, and stalls of huge pork legs, rabbit, sausages, and chicken all waiting to be grilled. There are also colorful hot peppers, homemade sauces, and jams.  This is a must see and eat. I hope to go back to Barcelona to cook.

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Shopping: Zara for extremely good prices. La Rambla (street) for those lovely souvenir vendors who won’t fail to bargain the hell out of you, and also for the street performers, local artists, people watching, street food, and even Christmas lights at night. (there are already twinkling lights up and down the trees and streets) . Local shops, there was this tiny shop with imported Italian masks that brought you right into a Phantom of the Opera fantasy. There was also another store of hundreds of handmade leather flats  in all sorts of colors and shapes for women. I also had my first churro from a tiny shop dedicated to this delicacy.

Most of all I just enjoyed getting to know and laugh with my friends who traveled with me .

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Rodin

Le Penseur. Rodin

After my class today, I rushed off to the Musée Rodin.  This museum contains a chapel, the Hôtel Biron, a sculpture garden, and a central  building for expositions.

Today, I had just enough time to walk through the garden as the sun set.  I had the incredible experience of observing Rodin’s work as orange and rosy beams of the fading sun struck across the old sculptures.  If that wasn’t enough, the glassy pond nestled in the back of the garden alongside turning leaves,  blooming bushes, and crunchy bramble underfoot made the garden even more unforgettable.

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garden, cranberries.

I am going to go back to the museum soon to visit the sculptures that are located inside the Hôtel Biron like “the Kiss”.

Lastly, I have not mentioned this before but I the ability to visit museums all the time because I am a long stay resident in Paris. Residents between the ages of 18-25 are granted free admission to all of the national museums.

I am truly thankful for this opportunity to save money and to have the chance to really sit and observe the art in Paris.

 

Brussels in a heartbeat

Last Friday, I visited Brussels with one of my classes. I  had a short visit to Grand Place,the main city square. Around the square were twisting cobble stone lanes of door to door shops and restaurants with huge drooping lamps  and lingering smells of hot waffles and chocolate in the air.

Not a bad place to be.

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On my lunch  break, I had a short walk around the square. I passed through a small market that sold trinkets, handmade scarves and jewelry, and local art. I saw lots of souvenir key chains and pictures of this statue of a boy taking a pee.  I later learned that they were replications of the Manneken Pis, a famous statue that has many cult stories of its existence in Brussels.( for instance, one story is that  the statue was commemorated to a boy who went to the restroom on explosives during the Siege. That was one smart infant…) This statue is dressed up for every holiday occasion in Brussels and is seen in some image form in most restaurants and shops.

Then, for lunch,  I had a famous Belgium meal of fresh mussels and fries.

Lastly, I had planned to buy chocolates at one of the famous chocolate shops in la gallerie de la reine but I ran out of time due to class. However, I was able to buy Neuhaus chocolate while running to meet my train. I had:

Manon Choco Café -coffee buttercream

Aphrodite-vanilla butter cream on gianduja (gianduja is a sweet chocolate that contains hazelnuts. yeh I no idea either)

Seduction- nougat with dark chocolate and raspberry cream (but really, it is that good)

Pagode-coffee ganache  on gianduja

and a chocolate and coconut bar too.

the chocolates were delicious. rich. creamy.

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After my day in Brussels I took a train to Amsterdam for a complete flip of venues.

The Eternal City and beyond

Returned from Rome Tuesday morning and I am off to Brussels and Amsterdam tomorrow.

Rome was perfect. small crowds, nice weather with light rain, and endless pasta, fired pizza, and sweet tiramisu.

Just some of the sites I saw were the Vatican City (Honestly, if I could have, I would have just laid done in St.Peter’s Basilica. Otherwise, there is no possible way to take in all of the golds, curves,and shadows of that cavernous and sacred places), the Colosseum, the Forum, Basilica of St. Paul (one of my favorite places), the Spanish steps (have an interesting story there), the Trevi fountain (tossed my coin and took a sip of the lucky water), Gianicolo hill at night (beautiful, peaceful view of the entire city), Piazza Navona (where the incredible 4 rivers fountain resides), and the Pantheon.

I stayed at nice hostel for the price, Hostel Beauty on Via Napoleon III. I shared a room with two friends that had a big widow that opened up to a busy street and colorful apartments across the way. The hostel receptionists were all nice, they gave us maps that had tiny pictures of all the main monuments in Rome. I took this map everywhere, circling my visits as I went. I also met really interesting residents at the hostel. A friendly and quirky Italian who had just moved from Florence to Rome who witnessed my first bite of Roman lasagna  and two students who are currently studying in the Czech Republic and they were in Rome for the weekend. I went with them on my last night to a warm and classic Irish pub. go figure? Irish pub in Rome? The pub had a live Irish singer who played the guitar and sang about the potato famine in front of a great crowd.  I tried my first creamy Irish Ale, suggested by a friend. Definitely a man’s drink but I am getting used to/ able to enjoy beers/ales. Though being a girl, I think  I still prefer wine or sex on the beach. 

Overall great weekend.

Favorite foods were

– at Da Zi Umberto in Trastevere. I had baccala – fried cod fillets and Carbonara pasta. best I have ever had.

-Gnocchi with three cheese and seafood risotto at Ristorante Rosa Rosae

-every pizza and cone of gelato in the city

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pizza

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Colosseum

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walking around the forum. little alice in wonderland Image

forum at night

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The Pantheon, makes you feel very minuscule.

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Trevi Fountain. coin toss and tourists.

This was my second time in Rome, so cheers to the Trevi.

the midterm

No matter where you go to college, the dreaded week of midterm exams will always be a stressful period and a lesson in time management/realization of how far you are into your current semester of school and that you should probably show up to class more often and awake.

Therefore, I forgave and forgot my midterm exam week of the sniffles, late night cramming, and complaining about all of the above with other afflicted classmates, when I found Jim Carrey’s impression of an angry St. Bernard.

I hope you enjoy too.