Thursday, August 28, 2014

A review on European Croissants

Gino's (Venice): 1.20
With its close proximity to Casa Artom, Gino's was the first place I got a croissant. This one came with a surprise inside. What I thought was a little strip of honey ended up being some apricot jam, not bad but I was not expecting it at all. Very sweet and flaky on top, not as moist as I would like on inside.

Rosa Salva (Venice): I was told the chocolate croissants here are the best. I ran here today...during a thunderstorm and was disappointed. This was the most expensive croissant, at 1.40. It was very dry and the only thing saving it was the chocolate cream which reminded me of the chocolate fritelles from Tonolo.

(Rome) 1.50-- Forgot the name of the place, but it was a Nutella croissant. Giant croissant with a ton of Nutella. Delicious and soft with an orange hint to it.
In our hostel in Rome we got packaged croissants with cream or chocolate. They looked really weird and again an orange hint to it, but were surprisingly pretty good. Soft and spongy, good for a packaged baked good.

Fuori (Venice): €1
Probably the best croissant I've had in Venice. I have gotten their chocolate one and blueberry jam. They have a very flaky outer crunch to them.

Le Grenier à Pain (website) (Paris)
Address: 38 Rue des Abbesses, 75018 Paris, France
Of course Paris had the best croissant, no questions asked. I am adding all the details for this one because it was THE BEST and cheapest coming in at only 1. It was flaky and buttery and everything you could ask for in a croissant.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

For all those going abroad in the near future.

Make friends with locals.
Not only can they show you the best places to eat, drink and hang out, talking with people from other countries and backgrounds is fun. They are interested in everything that makes you different from them just as you are curious about them. You'll figure out if "Italians really do this and that?" It lets you joke about the stereotypes about each other and argue about who really has the accent. You'll find out that British people don't really drink tea and eat crumpets all the time but they do say "mum" and "proper" and their impression of an American is, "omg that's so awesome!" It lets you learn more than reading an article about that country's government or tourist attractions.

Research a little before you travel.
Nothing is worse than spending hours figuring out where you want to eat or how to get there. Google map directions to several places and screen shot them. Make a google map with your hostel and all the attractions you want to see. Then you can decide where you want to go first or where a good place to meet up is. This also will save you from walking all the way to a site just to find out it's under construction or costs 100 euros. Also, as a food snob it prevents you from spending money on a crappy meal. Figure out logistics. How much money will you need for transportation from the airport to your hostel? What about bus tickets or a metro pass?

Travel in small groups, or travel alone. Yeah, yeah everyone tells you not to travel by yourself but some of my best experiences were when I was by myself. If you aren't independent enough to go to a different country or city completely by yourself at least once, then try staying in a different hostel or room but meeting up with the group for dinners or main attractions. This allows you to explore at your own pace, eat where you want to eat and wake up and go to bed when you want to. I wouldn't recommend going out and drinking by yourself or walking around alone at night but taking some time to experience a city alone is truly relaxing. While it seems fun to travel in a big group with all your new friends, this quickly grows old. It's hard to please everyone and everyone has their own ideas on what they want to see and for how long. You'll deal with some control freaks, people who always get lost, people who take forever to get ready and people who can't make up their mind. While these qualities are inevitable, and you may even have a couple of them yourself, dealing with more than one can be frustrating.

Travel with different people.
Remember this is your experience and no one should take away from what you want to see and get out of the experience. If you think someone is holding you back, let them go and do their own thing, don't hold each other back just because you want to do different things. Maybe your best friend wants to go to a soccer game and spend 150 euros while you could care less about sports and just want to buy a 30 euro drink at a fancy bar. Don't spend the money if you don't want to! People budget their money and time differently. This doesn't mean you should never travel with your best friend, but you might not necessarily travel best with them and traveling (like living) with someone really lets you see a whole person, which may be a good or bad thing. When you travel with different people you are able to have different experiences and especially early on, you'll learn who you travel best with.

Don't plan your trips too far in advance. 
Sometimes an opportunity will come up to travel to a place you don't have on your initial list. Sometimes the spontaneous trips are the best ones. Leave a couple weekends open in case you decide to do one because changing flights and trains is expensive and complicated.

Do day trips from the big cities you visit.
Some of the most beautiful places weren't the touristy areas or the giant monuments in big cities. I loved going to North Berwick, a tiny beach town near Edinburgh. It's nice to get away from the crowds and see where locals go. Either look something up before or ask your hostel receptionist or waitress. Many locals are more than willing to recommend their favorite spots and relieved that people want to see more than the cookie cutter attractions.

Explore the city you're living in.
Get to know the streets and landmarks. Get lost. Find different ways to get back home. Help a tourist find their way around. Make the city your home. You'll feel safer and more comfortable and locals will treat you with more respect if you act like you know what you're doing. Find a place to read, to sun bathe, to throw a ball around. Get outside, even if it's raining.

Talk to the person next to you on the plane, bus or train. You hear really cool stories, get advice or find connections. People are nice and interesting and you never know who you might meet. Ask them where they're headed or where they're from (not in a creepy way). You might meet a girl from Britain on the bus from Croatia who is studying in the same city as you and knows a good place to get hot chocolate.

Take pictures. 
Let yourself be a tourist. Take pictures at the beginning and the end of your trip to see how your city has changed and too see how you and your friends have changed. Maybe you don't get on Facebook much, but your family and friends will want to see photos when you get home so you have something to point to when you are telling your stories. Even if you snap them all on your iphone, some pictures are better than none.

Eat your weight in pasta.
Try rabbit or wild boar or whatever the local delicacy is. Maybe you'll love it maybe it will be the most repulsive thing you've ever tasted. Stay away from American fast food; you're in Europe. Eat the food of that country or city! Learn to cook. You'll save a ton of money and find out what you like best and maybe make some friends if you share.

Relax, don't get too stressed out and find someone to talk to or another outlet because with the time difference or lack of phone service or sketchy wifi sometimes it's hard to keep in touch with your best friends from home.

Have fun. You're about to have the experience of a lifetime.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Food, futbol and fitness

Obviously going abroad you have to be ready for a culture shock, and I definitely started to miss little things from home. Some of these things seem trivial, but some are really important parts of my life. 

If you know me, you know that I love my sports. Going abroad with 15 girls who care more about the tailgate than the game was somewhat difficult. Luckily, as the semester progressed we were able to drag a few out to an AC Milan soccer game in this random city called Udine. This was my first soccer game in Europe and Udine actually won this game (AC Milan was supposed to). The crowd was drunk and rowdy and very passionate. Somehow we managed front row seats which I was pretty stoked about, but there was a reason the locals didn't buy them since we did have somewhat of an obstructed view due to the benches.

Being Health and Exercise majors, I was lucky to be surrounded by health conscious students. No one ended up joining the local gym because it was extremely expensive and we would be paying for days when we weren't even in Italy. Plus the gym didn't open until 9am and closed pretty early. There was an 7 mile run called Su e zo per i ponti which means "up and down the bridges." Everyone in the house participated and we got to run all around Venice. It was really great to be motivated by others in the house, especially my roommates, and no one made you feel weird or embarrassed for doing a core workout in the hallway.

When I was in Barcelona, I splurged a bit and bought tickets to an FC Barcelona game. I couldn't go to Barcelona and not go to one of these games. My friend Megan from home is huge soccer fan and actually knew all the players. (I had to do a little research, because honestly I'm not that big of a soccer fan, but no one really watches any other sport in Europe.) The atmosphere in Barcelona was different than in Udine. There was more of a mix between young and old and more "sober" passion.

I attempted to watch some March Madness, but the time difference was too hard and I only watched part of a Kentucky game and my bracket was probably the worst it's ever been. On the way to Campo San Margherita there is little betting store and they have screens with several games playing. Occasionally I would stop by and watch through the window. One time I caught a basketball game and spotted Rudy Fernandez playing for Real Madrid. (Go Blazers!)

Callie made one of the best investments of the trip. A 3 euro mini soccer ball and a football that we would bring on trips. We played in Sicily on the beach and in the courtyard of Casa Artom. It was fun to get outside and play some team sports, even just casually. 

Can't remember exactly where this was in Venice but I spotted an Oregon logo! There is also one outside the Nike store by the train station.

Another way I relieved the stress from this semester was cooking. I ended up eating at weird times, and usually by myself, but I liked it better that way. I wasn't competing for space in the kitchen and it was quiet in the morning and right after exams. I made homemade pizza, a lot of cookies and pancakes, and grilled cheese. It was great experimenting with the random ingredients Italy has, and sometimes the lack of familiar ones made me have to improvise. Sometimes these experiments turned out great and sometimes not so great. But all I would have to do was send a group message that there was food upstairs and it would be gone in a matter of minutes, even if I wasn't too proud of the result. (I guess being known as a good cook has its perks!)

Overall it was a good semester. I lot tougher than I was expecting but I'm lucky I was able to find some familiar things and learn to love another sport.

The Girl Next Door: Peggy Guggenheim

So despite being right next door, I waited until the last day of classes to finally make my way inside the Guggenheim. Maybe it was because it was so close, I knew it would always be there. Maybe because once the weather turned nice, all its visitors blocked my way back home. Maybe because I'm not an art person.

I am glad that I finally decided to go inside. It was not the nicest day, in the middle of the week, meaning there was no line, and only a small crowd of school children.
Relatively new, it is one of Europe's most prestigious modern art museums.

Peggy Guggenheim inherited a fortune from her late father who was on the sinking Titanic. She lived in Venice for most of her life collecting art pieces, and commissioned the last privately owned gondola. She became somewhat of a celebrity in Venice, having 11 dogs, and known for sunbathing naked on her roof.

Her ashes are buried in the garden next to the graves of her "babies" aka dogs.

One of the several Picasso's!

This is supposedly a view from the Eiffel tower. I guess it's pretty similar...?

An incredibly detailed view of the grand canal complete with gondoliers.

Jim and I found Casa Artom!!

This was my favorite piece. Like a spoon which flips your image, something to do with optics which I can't really explain. As you walk forward your image becomes 3D and eventually flips back upright.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A different view of Venice

As I am entering my last week in Venice, I can’t help but to think how lucky I am. With all the studying and traveling this semester, I began to take for granted what a beautiful city Venice is. My weekly trips to the grocery store, and even my daily runs began to become to routine, I began to be more annoyed with all the tourists than amazed at the sights around me. One of my favorite views of Venice is from the water. Whether I am crossing a bridge across the Grand Canal or taking a vaporetto, the view is so much different than anything you will see when walking the streets. At night, the lights reflecting on the water are unreal, and I can’t help but think, my life is a postcard and this semester I have been living a dream that many only see on the Travel Channel.

The Grand Canal

The Accademia Bridge

Casa Artom

A gondelier on the Grand Canal

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Island of Malta

Not one of the places I thought I would ever end up, and to be honest I thought Malta was part of Italy and may or may not have gotten it confused with Sicily before. Malta is its own country, heavily influenced by the UK. That means English is one of its official languages and is a popular destination for European teenagers to learn language. Our taxi driver gave us 3 reasons why Malta is such a popular destination for people our age learning English. 1. The nightlife is good. We were staying in Paceville which is the heart of the club and bar scene in Malta. Almost a ghost town during the day, starting after dinner time, the streets become crowded with young people made up for a night on the town. Midnight seemed to be when most places were just starting to get crowded and noise could be heard from our apartment until 6am. 2. English is the Maltese people’s second language, which means they talk a lot slower and more direct than other English speaking countries. It is easier to learn here rather than a place like England which has its own slang, accent, and dialect. 3. The weather. While we happened to come on a weekend that wasn’t the sunniest, Malta’s weather is never “bad.” Although it was cloudy with a high of 59, the low dropped only to 55, even at night. In the summer months there are bustling beaches, clear, blue water, and rays for tanning.
Got the exit row on the way there!

Date Pie

The Azure Window, G

Ramla Bay

Malta had everything: a city with department stores, cars, buses and restaurants. Ancient ruin like structures and stone buildings and churches. Natural rock formations, clear water, and sandy beaches. Palm trees, grassy fields and hills.