Archive | May, 2011

French Fries,Waffles and Beer

24 May

Northern Europe must be my kind of place because so far the people there are serious about their french fries! I was already impressed after the cones and plates of fries piled high topped with ketchup and mayonnaise. (I was also surprised that I liked mayonnaise on my fries.) So, that was the first thing Beau and I tried when we got to Bruges, Belgium. The mayonnaise was just O.K. so we were a little let down. That didn’t stop us to getting fries a second time, and that’s when we found “samurai” sauce (aka super spicy mayo-based dip). It was AMAZING! And it is the reason why we ate two large servings of french fries with samurai sauce both days we were there. (We split them…so that’s just one a person…definitely less unhealthy than two each.)

Day two, serving number three.

 Belgium is known for a few other foods, which we also tried. The chocolate was super rich and you can find every type and flavor under the sun in any of the 100 chocolate shops within a five-mile radius of the center. The waffles were to die for! I’ve had waffles with nutella (in Florence) and it was good, but the waffles in Bruges blew them out of the water! They were so delicious that we turned around and bought another one from the same shop as soon as we finished eating the first one. (Luckily, there was a different attendant at the window, haha.)

As good as all the food was, I can’t forget to talk about the beer. We visited a brewery the first day we were there where I found my new favorite beer, Brugse Zot. The brewery, De Halve Maan- I definitely suggest going, you get a beer with your tour!, seemed small but went on forever. It was cool to learn some of the history and see how beer is made, but the best part was definitely trying the beer. We tried a few more Belgium beers throughout the weekend and found another really good one, Leffe. These are probably the only two not light beers I actually like.

Hops home-grown in Bruges

 

Real beer that actually tastes good!

 We didn’t just eat and drink while we were in Bruges. My favorite thing we did was ride bikes through the countryside. Not only did it burn off the extra calories from all the french fries, waffles and beer (hopefully!), it was beautiful! The sky, windmills and fields looked like postcards! We biked through two tiny towns outside of Bruges until our butts were sore, had a picnic lunch and found a windmill that was still used to grind wheat into flower. All for only the 6 euros it cost to rent a bike for the day!

This windmill is open to the public so we got to climb around inside and see how flour is made!

 

We biked through towns, fields and tree-lined trails

 

So pretty it almost doesn't look real.

 We opted to go to Bruges rather than the bigger city of Brussels thanks to my trusty Rick Steve’s guide book, and I’m so glad we took his advice!

XO

Hablas Español todavía?

17 May

An update on fluency: I’ve been told “has mejorado much en Español!” by people like my landlord or parents of kids I tutor, which is them saying I have improved a lot. Yay!

While this is exciting (not that I had any way to go but up, lol), there’s still a ton I don’t know.

Some days I feel particularly confident in my Spanish conversation skills. This usually results in me saying something I mistakenly think I know or am able to pronounce. This happened in Alicante. I was so proud of Laura and myself because we were speaking a lot in Spanish since it was the only common language we shared with our host. We were chatting it up on the beach when I thought I would offer everyone some peanuts I had brought for a snack.

Me: “Alguien quiere cashew-tays?”

Roberto y Laura: “Que dices?”

Me: “Cashew-tays. Sabes? Estos (pointing to my bag of peanuts).”

Roberto: (still looks confused)

Laura: (bursts out laughing)

Me: “What?! I know this word! You spell it CACAHUATES. Ya know, cashew-tays”

Laura: “No, dear, it’s kakaoowates.”

Roberto and Laura: (laugh at me extensively)

Oh well, at least I try.

XO

Alicante

17 May

FINALLY sand, sun and bikinis! Laura and I had wanted to spend most of our vacation on the beach and while it was just a little too windy and cold in Valencia and not possible in Florence, we got a full day on the beach in Alicante! It was just like summer and convinced me that I should probably live by the beach one day.

Yay!

 Chillin’ on the beach was the perfect way to end a week of traveling, especially considering our nearly empty wallets! (The beach is free, as well as the lounge chairs and umbrellas on it.) The town itself had ruins of a castle perched on a cliff above the city and a few cute shops and cafes in the old center, but not too much else. If you’re just looking for a weekend to have fun and relax on a beautiful beach, Alicante is a great choice.

View of the Mediterranean Sea from the top of the castle.

 We couch surfed in Alicante, as we did in Valencia, and had a great host (Thanks, Roberto!). His place was across the street from the water and he was extremely hospitable. (Coffee on the terrace looking at the water after waking up at noon? Yes please!) We had good experiences everywhere we surfed, so I definitely recommend it for anyone else with a nearly empty wallet, haha.

Apparently there is a huge party in Alicante in June for a week straight, if anyone is interested… 🙂

XO

Back to the Land that I LOVE

7 May

Yes, Italy! Laura and I’s next stop during Semana Santa was Florence. It’s the fourth city I’ve visited in Italy only a month after my trip with Beau. My general rule while here has been to try not to repeat countries and cities since there is so much still to see, but I can’t stay away from Italy. Going to Florence only reaffirmed that I am in love with everything about that country and absolutely MUST retire there one day…maybe with my own bed & breakfast.

Every city in Italy has had a homey and laid-back feeling with a hint of complete awesomeness in the air while also still staying true to itself and standing apart from all of the others. Venice was romantic, Cinque Terre was beautiful like I’ve never seen before and Rome was enormously impressive, Florence was artsy. From the sculptures in Piazza Signoria and the Dumo to the panoramic views from Piazzale Michelangelo, the entire city is a piece of art.

One of the statues in front of Palazzo Vecchio, the old palace.

 

The Dumo and baptismal chamber in front.

 

Night view of the city from across the Arno River at the top of Piazzale Michelangelo.

 I love Florence for more than just its art and beauty. The center of the city is compact, so it’s completely walkable and doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to get anywhere on foot. This convenience made it easy to really get to know the city and eat the best paninis (mmmm fresh cheese and yummy truffle sauce) and gelato (sheep cheese is the BEST flavor in the world). We walked though all the markets, which smelled of genuine leather, and shopping streets filled almost exclusively with high-end stores. Next time I am in Florence, I will have a bigger shopping budget!!

My favorite two things were definitely seeing The David and going to a wine tasting. The David absolutely is as amazing as everyone claims it is. The larger-than-life sculpture is so detailed, I honestly thought his skin was glowing in the light. It really puts all other sculptures to shame.

The Accademia's main attraction.

 

Bravo Michelangelo!

 I had never been to a wine tasting before, but this one will surely be one of the best I ever go to. Our host, Pinot (as in Pinot Grigio? LOL), really knew his stuff. He told us all about Tuscan wines, three of which we got to sample…if “sample” means two or three glasses of each, haha. We also tried extra virgin olive oil and 10-years-aged balsamic vinaigrette that was to die for! (And cost 35 euro!) We ate and drank all we wanted, then I bottle one bottle of each wine we tried.

Florence was an especially great trip because we stayed with Laura’s friend, Maddie, who was a great host and tour guide! The people were so nice there, as they have been everywhere in Italy and which always makes a place more memorable. I  Italia!

XO