Category Archives: food

Food, Glorious Food!

If you have not realized already, I’m a pretty big foodie. My favorite thing about travelling is always trying new foods, browsing food markets, and making sure I do not miss trying out a local specialty! So it only seems appropriate for me to do some food-reflecting. Lemme tell you, these lists were not easy. I decided to only limit myself to the top 5 for each category in no particular order but each one of these lists could be a lot longer.

So without further ado…

Favorite Spanish Food

  1. Garbanzos con espinacas This is one typical example of a first course of a “Menu del dia”. It’s basically spinach and chickpeas blended with some flavors that makes for a very hearty and tasty dish.
  2. Pisto con huevo A type of vegetable stew with a tomato base and a nice egg on top.
  3. Tortilla Española This is the Spanish version of an omelet. It’s a lot like a quiche but without the crust and can be plain or with things like onion, pepper, meat, etc. One of my favorites had cheese, ham, and pineapple!
  4. Croquetas De jamón y queso or just plain, these things are an amazing mix of whatever ingredients you would like and bechamel (basically flour and milk) then fried to perfection.
  5. Patatas Bravas The secret to these fried potatoes is the red sauce that you see drizzled atop. It’s usually a little bit spicy and makes this typical tapa to die for.

Best Meals Outside of Spain

  1. Salmon crepe at Café in Versailles The best crepe that I had while in Europe. It consisted of salmon and egg inside and the top was drizzled with a creamy sauce that included chives. It was amazing!
  2. First night in Lisbon I do not have a picture. But man, this seafood dish was spicy and the most flavorful dish that I had the entire time in Europe.
  3. Italian night in Sevilla The family and me hit up a Rick Steve’s recommended restaurant after a flamenco show and it was amazing. I got a salmon dish that was baked inside a crepe that was then layered with tomato sauce and more cheese than you can ever imagine. It  was piping hot and so filling but I could not stop eating it!
  4. Homemade meal in Germany From the pumpkin soup to the homemade tiramisu at the end, this meal was amazing. The stuffed pork we had was perfectly tender and accompanied by one of my favorite German foods- spaetzle!
  5. Paella in Valencia The most famous place for paella in the world is Valencia, so naturally we had to make sure we got the best and I can assure you that we did! Everything about this massive rice, seafood, and chicken filled dish was savory and we did not leave one piece of rice in the pan!

Things I’m Excited to Get Back To (I don’t think these really need explaining)

  1. Hummus
  2. ANY and ALL Mexican food
  3. Greek Yogurt, Frozen Yogurt AND Smoothies
  4. Veggie Burgers (accompanied with Sweet Potato Fries)
  5. Peanut Butter and Chocolate combination items (like cookies!)

Best Ways to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth (this list was about 50 things but I managed to narrow it down to 5)

  1. Hot Chocolate from Demel in Vienna Seriously best cup of hot chocolate ever. It was like they melted a candy bar, mixed it with the best milk and topped it with delicious whipped cream. Perfect way to escape the frigid Austrian air!
  2. Napolitana de chocolate from Mallorquina in Madrid I still believe this is the best way to spend one Euro in Madrid. Perfect combination of dough and sweet chocolate that is great at any time of day.
  3. Gnutella and Banana Crepes (Paris does them well, but any place is just fine!) Melt in your mouth goodness that can be found at stands any time of day. 
  4. Dried Fruit from food markets (like la Boquería in Barcelona or Naschmarkt in Vienna!) My favorites are strawberries and mangos but this stuff is better than any candy in the world. I could eat it all day long!
  5. German gummy bears Words cannot describe how perfect these gummy bears are. The flavor is juicy, the chewiness is divine, now if only they could stick around for longer! (Or delivered to the US!)

And one love that deserves a category all to itself:

SWISS CHOCOLATE From Milka to Lindt, you have to love it allllllll!

Welp, now I’m hungry!



Filed under food, reflections

Slow down you crazy child…

So for my final Euro-trip I headed north to Austria to visit my best friend Kelly (the same one who visited me in Madrid last weekend!) I got in very late on Thursday night after a looooong day of traveling and she greeted me and took me to her dorm. Drastically different from my sitch, she lives in a residence of just foreign students which made for quite the experience! Her floor is really lively and it seems like a great time to live with a big group of kids from all over. Even though I love the experience of living with a host, I think that this way of doing it would be really really fun, and Kelly seems to agree.

Friday we woke up early to catch a three hour train to the land where the hills are alive... Salzburg!

First sight: Sound of Music themed cow

It ended up being really cold and rainy the entire day, making our self-guided walking tour a little less than pleasant. There were plenty of Christmas markets though to warm our spirits through hot wine and fun treats.

All the apples had little hearts on them like this!

True to form, I tried the inescapable Mozartklugel, a truffle that has become a tourist gimmick even though it is the size of an eyeball. Lemme just say I was not a fan (but I also just do not like dark chocolate).We rounded off the wet day at a really cool restaurant recommended by our hostel and I had amazing sausage that definitely made up for my failed attempt at eating Brautwurst in Germany.

Much better than before 🙂

When we returned to the hostel for the night we opted to watch Sound of Music (much to the worker’s dismay who responded “You want to watch Sound of Music now?” trying to conceal her confusion as to why we would not just join the party going on at the hostel bar instead). But feeling like the rain jilted me of my true Sound of Music experience, I was determined to watch the movie (not to mention, one of the girl’s I was traveling with hasnever seen it!)

Thankfully, Saturday brought better weather and we embarked on our day in very much the same manner as before, only this time our feet weren’t soaking wet and heads not turned to shield the rain. Lemme tell you, it was a very different city we saw and it turned out to be very pleasant.

Good work Salzburg, you redeemed yourself

We saw the Mirabell gardens where the Von Trapp kids frolic singing Do-Re-Mi, Mozart’s Residence, and visited more markets! Then, we headed back to Vienna for the night where Kelly and me had a fabulous Italian dinner and took a stroll around the city, taking in the lights and sounds of Vienna.

I love Christmas in Europe!

Although I had been in Austria since Thursday, Sunday was my first actual day in Vienna. It was a bit cold but nothing a headband bought at a metro station can’t fix.

We went to a church mass with wonderful music recommended by none other than my buddy Rick Steves. The man does good but am I am happy to be done with studying his Best of Europe book! After the service we hit up Demel, a famous Vieneese chocolate shop, for the best cup of hot chocolate I have ever had. We then went to the Schonbrunn Palace and, of course, stopped along some Christmas markets along the way (can you tell they are everywhere?!) True to form, I had some wonderful roasted almonds that were heavenly.

Monday was spent at Naschmarkt. Kelly, knowing my affinity for food markets, had a strong inkling I would love this place, and love it I did. Every food market is a little bit different and this one was no exception. Filled with vegetables, fruit, olives, and cheese, it also had Indian spices, flowers, falafel, and sushi galore. I sampled some falafel (one person was offering 20 pieces for 2 Euro!) and picked me up some amazing dried fruit! This one also has a bunch of little cafes and restaurants interspersed among all the stands- we chose a Chinese place that hit the spot and filled us up for a long wait at the…

Opera! After visiting the Albertina Museum (showcasing Impressionist paintings that were so pretty and a good change from the older art I’m studying at the Prado) we headed to the opera to try to get standing room tickets for the premiere of Macbeth. Vienna is known for it’s classical music and I knew that this was something I would love to do. It’s really cool because you can get standing room ticket for 3-4 Euro, so we took our chances and ended up getting seats. I absolutely loved the show. I was unsure of what to expect but this was unlike any opera I have ever seen and it definitely exceeded my expectations.

And now here I am, on my last flight back to Madrid, snacking on this baby I picked up at Naschmarkt. Gosh am I gonna miss pastries…

It tastes a lot better than it looks, I promise

Vienna was so different from Madrid but I really liked it. I am still in awe by how many food stands selling Doner Kebaps and sausages one city can have, but it can definitely come in handy when you need something cheap and on the go! The buildings were so big and beautiful and the city just embodies classiness. While the weather was cold some days, I am thrilled I came during Christmas time for the markets- I think I could just tour those and eat all the different food and drink hot wine all day long!

But alas, all good things must come to an end. I cannot believe that when I get back I will have ten days left in Madrid before heading home. Where does the time go? Needless to say, I have a long to-do-before-I-leave-Madrid list waiting for me upon my arrival!

P.S. Does anyone recognize where my title comes from? Lemme just say it was the very first song I listened to when I got off the plane after landing in Vienna. One of my absolute favorites and it just felt appropriate…

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Tis the Season!

So I think it can be said that Christmas is officially upon us. Being in Madrid, it was hard once the Christmas decorations started to be put up because I felt like something was missing… That something was Thanksgiving! Since they do not have the holiday to mark what I consider to be the official beginning of the Christmas season, they kind of haphazardly start decorating window fronts, changing shopping bag designs, and selling Christmas treats. But I knew that I had to hold off on jamming out to Christmas carols until the end of Thanksgiving.

The day started out just like any other normal Thanksgiving… With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade! Sure it does not rival watching it on the big screen and we did not get to actually begin watching it until 4PM, but I got to see Dora and Snoopy in all their glory and that is all that matters!

After “slaving” away in the kitchen we ended up with this spread. In the mix is roasted chicken, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, bread, olives, corn, and gravy! We had some friends come over to hang out before they had a dinner at 9PM hosted by the university but it was me, Kelly, and Taylor who took to conquering all this food… and conquering it we did!

The meal was followed by a cookie dough and ice cream dessert combo and many hours of Glee! What a wonderful day…

As I mentioned earlier, my best friend Kelly came and visited from Vienna for the weekend and we had a wonderful time and I loved being able to show her around! After she tagged along for a field trip with my school at a local TV station, we paraded around the city with our other friend Colin who came up to Toledo for the day! We immersed ourselves in Spanish culture with calamari sandwiches, sangria, Retiro, and then Christmas lights!

Kelly and me in front of the big tree in Sol!

Now they first put up this tree about three weeks ago and finally on Friday night lit it up (talk about anticipation!) After, me and all my friends walked around the city to see all the other lights that were finally turned on! In one plaza, they put up another big tree, ice skating rink, store, and there were carolers!

The Madrid group taking in the X-mas spirit!

I am so happy the Christmas season has finally kicked off and cannot wait to go to Vienna next weekend and see all the markets (and Kelly, of course!) They put up a really big Christmas market in Plaza Mayor that I am eager to go check out… Two papers stand in between me and it though and I’m finding it harder and harder to keep up motivation!

Hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings!



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First Thanksgiving Feast!

It’s that time of year again…the time of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving! Now, when I initially got to Spain I was stuck in the mindset of recreating the perfect Thanksgiving complete with turkey, football and pumpkin pie; however, as the holiday approached, I started to think about what truly makes Thanksgiving, “Thanksgiving.” I realized quickly that it is not the food (although it is always amazing), but rather, the environment and company that make this holiday so special. There is no way I could ever recreate the same ambiance with my family in Spain so why force it? Instead, I have decided to settle for what I got and my friends and me are trying our hardest to celebrate it our own way. This leads to tonight- my first Thanksgiving feast in Madrid!

My sorority sister Kristin invited me to a dinner with her and her friends tonight who were celebrating Turkey Day two nights early since most were going out of town for the weekend. I put together an appetizer of brie, apples, and grapes for all to share and it was surprisingly well received! With this whole lack of a kitchen thing going on, I don’t have much to offer, but I am glad when I can make do!

Did my best to plate it prettily!


After our appetizers that included my dish, shrimp wrapped in bacon (SO GOOD, who knew?!), more bread and cheese, and patatas fritas (potato chips- we are still in Spain after all) we went on to the main dishes…

Corn, peas, mash potatoes, salad, chicken, stuffing, and mac n' cheese!


All of it was amazing and even though we settled for roasted chicken instead of turkey, it felt like a real Thanksgiving meal and I loved the company.

After, we had an amazing dessert from a local bakery that was absolutely to die for.

SOOO tasty!


Long story short, although I am definitely missing my family and friends from home like never before, I am glad that I have times like these to keep me sane and remind me how lucky I am to be where I am with the people I have met!

Kelly comes tomorrow and I am going out of my MIND excited. I am sure there will be many more stories to come, especially when we celebrate Thanksgiving on the actual day! For now, this food coma will hold me over do just fine!



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The City of Gaudi

I finally made it to Barcelona this past weekend to see what it has to offer. We left really late on Friday night so did not sightsee until we woke up on Saturday morning.

Lesson learned: Read between the lines. For starters, we flew on Ryanair into the Girona airport. When booking the flight, we did not realize that this airport was 90 minutes away from the actual city of Barcelona and that once we landed we had to take a bus (tacking on an extra 21 Euro) to get to the city and then take the metro to get to our hostel. Once you add in that extra fee, you find that it is probably the same price to take another airline to the actual airport in Barcelona, making the trip a lot shorter and a lot more convenient. This similar theme came up again when checking into our hostel. Although it was a great location and cheaper than the other hostels in the area, they don’t let you in on the fact that there is an extra charge if you want a sheet/blanket/towel. So again, once you add in that charge, the other hostels that most likely included these already would probably be nicer and the same price! No matter now, we made it through, but now I know to be more vigilant when booking such items!

But moving on to the actual weekend. We woke up on Saturday and started off walking down the main avenue of the city, Las Ramblas. As you walk down, they have stands selling lots of flowers and souvenirs, but also birds, reptiles, hamsters and the cutest bunnies!

It took all I had to resist.


My favorite thing we visited was definitely La Boqueria, a food market that is open everyday and absolute heaven. Christine and me could not resist the fresh squeezed juice that each stand offered, it was soooo good!

I got Mango Pineapple Orange!

These food markets are definitely going to be something I miss when I am stuck going into Publix where everything is already processed. It is just crazy seeing so much fresh fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, and cheese all under one roof. And the amount of people there is insane. My friends enjoyed crepes and I picked up some amazing dried mango and strawberries that were to die for. We went in the morning as it was an easy stop off Las Ramblas, but ended up going back for lunch and it too was amazing.

I want to go back.



We continued our walk down until we got to the port and beach. It was stunning and made me wonder what it would be like to live here in the summer. I definitely think I could do it.

The group on the beach!


We then went to Park Guell a large park full of Gaudi architecture and sculptures.

Christine and me at the entrance of the park!

After, we went to La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral started by Gaudi that I have studied since middle school, and it was breathtaking to see it in real life. What makes it so special is that fact that it is still not complete, even though they have been working on it since 1883 it is still not expected to be done for another quarter-century.

So amazing


Later, we went to the Magic Fountains for a show. It was absolutely stunning and unlike anything that I have ever seen before. For about 20 minutes, these fountains change colors and shapes to recognizable classical music. I felt like I was on a Disney ride the entire time.

After we grabbed dinner and managed to make it out for a very little bit. One of the places we went to was called Dow Jones. They had screens around the bar with the prices of the drinks. As the popularity of a drink went up or down, so did the price. It was unique and made for a fun game but what was most exciting was when the stock market crashed, and people rushed to the bar to get the lowest prices.

The screen showing the prices


To say that we fit in well more than a days worth of sightseeing is an understatement and probably a mistake seeing that by the end of the day we were exhausted. Not to mention, the next day we woke up and were unsure of what to do.

We went and saw two of Gaudi’s famous houses- Casa Batillo and Casa Mira and then went to Barcelona’s Cathedral.

Casa Batillo at night because it looked cooler then

We walked in on a mass that was interesting to see since I have not yet experienced a Spanish mass. Some churches close to the public during mass but this did not which I think made for a bit of distraction. Instead of it being quiet, you have tourists wandering around and snapping pictures. To me, it seems like it would ruin the ambiance, but so it goes.


After the mass starting around noon, people gathered in the plaza in front of the church for a dance. This happens every Sunday and Saturday evening and it was quite a sight!

Nothing like a good dance after mass...

The dance is called sardana and can go on for up to two hours! They say that they let tourists participate, but after watching one Asian lady try to break in, I can attest that they are a little picky about who can join in their festivities. I felt bad for the woman but will admit it was a bit funny watching her go around the circle and trying to join hands with the Catalonians.


The prevalence of Catalan was not as severe as I thought it might be, and I found that I could get along just fine speaking Castellano and English. In fact, I think most people talked to me in English even when I would try to speak Castellano because they are so accustomed to tourists. My friend who is currently studying in Barcelona said this too, as she is frustrated with not being able to improve her Spanish. So overall, while I did like Barcelona, I am happy to be living in Madrid!

After a long trip home, I am back in the city and cannot believe that it is the last week of November. While the thought of not being home for Thanksgiving truly saddens me, I am lucky that Kelly is coming to visit for the weekend and so I will get a little taste of home!

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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

So once the temperatures started dropping (although we still have gorgeous weather here!) I started to notice shacks being set up around the city to sell “castañas asadas,” or chestnuts! I never have had them before, only sang of them time and time again. When my mom was here, it made her happy to see them being sold and said that they used to eat them growing up during the holiday season.

I walk by such a cart frequently and have always been tempted to try them (just because it seems like the thing to do) but always was scared because I did not know if you just get them and eat them right away, or how exactly it all works out. But yesterday I barely got over my hesitation (I walked back and forth three times and then, waited to watch someone else make a purchase) and finally decided 2 Euro was worth the sacrifice (even if I did not know how to eat them once they were bought).

So I handed over my money to the cute old man selling them, he made a sly comment about how he saw me looking earlier and I went on my merry way back to my apartment warm chestnuts in hand! Thankfully, at first sight I realized that they are quite self-explanatory when it comes to consumption and you just need to peel the last remnants of the shell off and pop them in your mouth!

They were warm, sweet, and oh so tasty! And I found out later, they are good for you too!


My chestnuts in a a nice paper cone!



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Grand Voyage to Ikea.

La Mallorquina is a Madrid staple located in the heart of Sol. It serves the best chocolate napolitana’s in the country and is always bustling with people. When I heard that my British friend James had never tried one of these amazing pastries, I immediately forced him to go with me after our class last Tuesday. More than pleased with his purchase (it is literally the best way to spend 1 Euro in Madrid) he decided that, in return,  he would take me to Ikea the next week for lunch. Yes, that Ikea.

I have always heard of Ikea but never been to an actual store since they are not around in Miami or Colorado. I was actually talking about the store earlier this month with my friend from Duke who was appalled that I had never had their meatballs.

So me and James made a trek to the nearest Ikea that took a little over an hour to get to after we left class today. The mall it is located in was well worth the trip, less alone the chance to experience my very first Ikea store. It was pretty much located in the middle of no where in what looks like to be a developing area. But the mall, called La Gavia, was amazing and had just about every single store imaginable and felt both clean and modern. We only spent time in the Ikea store but whenever I get the shopping bug, I am definitely going back here!

I was starving by the time we got there, so we bought a very cheap but delicious lunch that was accompanied with Lingonberry juice which is apparently a Swedish specialty. Although Ikea is apparently famous for it’s meatballs (I learned that it serves 40,319,365 individual meatballs a year!), I was not intrigued and instead got some sort of salmon wrap and a drink for only 2.50! What a deal.

James referred to Ikea as “Sweden’s best import” and informed me that his entire house, as well as every other house located in England, is outfitted in items solely from Ikea. I loved wandering the store and could not help but wish that I had an Ikea near me to outfit my future room and home!

I am now proud to say that I have experienced Ikea and now have a catalog placed by my bedside, just like James said everyone in Britain does!


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