Friday Five

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Magical dusk at Barceloneta Beach.

This week was filled with several special moments, including celebrating a friend’s birthday, visiting Vicenzia, finding a new favorite cafe, and appreciating time for rest. I leave for Rome Saturday and friends of friends have graciously welcomed us to stay at their home for the night and even offered a ride to the airport. On Sunday, we leave for Greece where we’ll spend the rest of the Easter Break. Hopefully I’ll return with some color on my skin! It actually feels a bit strange that I won’t be celebrating this Easter at home. My church hosts a “passion week” revival and an extravagant Easter dinner each year, and although I can’t join them, I will keep this holiday in mind and be joyful nonetheless. Jesus has risen, people! Hallelujah! (:

Here are my five favorites of the week. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

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Sail boats were everywhere in Spain and it ignited a new desperate desire in me to find a sail buddy. Where’s a Nolan when you need one? (“Revenge”, anyone?)

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Coffee gelato + girl talk @ Amorino.

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We celebrated a friend’s 21st birthday with 21 gelato pops! (Scoops of gelato dipped in chocolate, then frozen) I tried the custard and mint — both were delicious. Now I’m looking for a reason to make my way over there and try more flavors.

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A new store has opened in Verona; it’s comparable to a Nordstrom or Whole Foods. The first floor is a sophisticated eatery complete with an oyster bar, sandwich counter, fresh produce, and more. The design is phenomenal and I found myself equally enchanted by both the food AND branding. I plan on copying this hanging clipboard design to showcase print in my future apartment. 

Happy Friday!
XO.

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Churros con Chocolate

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Spain’s most popular dessert is churros with a side of hot chocolate. Walk through the main streets and you’ll be able to find it offered at almost every dessertery. It is, however, more of a day treat, so when we were looking for the cure to our dessert fix after dinner (which was around 11 pm because Spaniards eat late,) no one was serving it anymore. We made just fine with waffles and cream, though. We’re easy.

We ate churros three times throughout the duration of our stay in Spain, but my favorites were the ones in Madrid from Chocolateria San Gines. The venue was recommended to us by a friend (and TripAdvisor), so we set time out of our day (before Taco Bell and after Starbucks — I know, the culture just oozes out of us,) to pay a visit. We ordered our own individual churros, but shared the hot chocolate. Hot chocolate in Europe is not like American’s winter favorite. It’s thick, with the consistency similar to rich fondu; and I’ve noticed most people use it for dipping, not drinking.

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The chocolateria was beautiful – walls lined with b&w photos of past celebrities, deep green, rustic seating, rich, gold accents, vintage-inspired decor, and simple table setting.
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XO.

Sweet Treats in Spain

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I love my American chained goodness, I do. But I adore how European cafes and restaurants all possess strong, unique branding. Or in Korean, “con-cept.” Little quirks – wallpaper, color combinations, type, presentation – when integrated to create one theme, have the ability to transport you to a new world.

My friend is currently studying abroad in Barcelona and was able to free up some of her time to show us around her city. (: Knowing my weakness for cute cafes and desserts, she led my roommate and I to a magical little dessertery called Pudding.IMG_5344

The entrance to a walk-in storybook. (:

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I wasn’t joking when I called this place magical. The strung lights on red/white really made the entire room glow and charming wall decor added to the surrealism. Artificial trees completed the storybook theme – I was just waiting for a trail of gumdrops to fall from the sky and singing blue birds to start sewing my clothes.
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We decided to sit in the sun room so we could have more natural light and also people-watch through the window. Exhibit A:IMG_5361
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PS. Do you see how much CAKE those people left on their table?! Unfortunately, the people escaped before we made our entrance so I didn’t get to see exactly what kind of people in their right mind would deliberately leave behind perfectly good cake. Lucky them, because some dirty, dirty looks would have been sent straight their way. Whoever can’t finish their slice of cake is weird in my book, AND SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED! Maybe even more so than people who don’t like dessert at all, because these people know better…  (We were THIS close to scooting over and rescuing the left over pieces. Spoiler alert: We didn’t. Yeah, that was kind of a low point.)
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White chocolate mousse pie.
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Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

How did the cakes taste? Oh, even better than they LOOK. Each bite proceeded with a loud, dramatic “MMM,” because it is impossible to enjoy your dessert without an expressive, “MMM.” Ya just can’t. Cake was not meant to be consumed in silence.
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And the three of us together before we curtsied to the dog posters and said farewell.

Thanks so much for showing us around, Kristen! You were a lovely host. (: Check out Kristen’s blog here to follow her Spanish adventures. Her photos on food and landscape are reason enough to check it out. And the hot dog on the left? My roommate! You can read hers here, where you will find ample posts on humorous vignettes, honest rants, and even more odd, disoriented photos… I know she’s kind of socially retarded and weird, but she’s my friend. So, just promise me you wont make fun of her! (“Mean Girls,” anyone?)

Enjoy! XO.

Eating in Paris

There are a lot of things I say that I don’t mean. Like…

“I’m on my way now.”

“Just five minutes away.”

“I’m gonna start dieting today.”

You get the point?

But there is also a list of things I am very reliable for. Like remembering really obscure quotes from movies. Taking 900 photos while on vacation. Owning an odd amount of nail polish. And more importantly? If you ever, ever need a breakfast/lunch/dinner date, I am your woman.

But speaking to this blog, one thing I promise to always be reliable for is bringing home food porn. (: Starting with Paris.

Let’s begin. 

They say you glow when you’re in love; and by looking at this photo, I think it’s safe to say that that statement is fully warranted. After two long months of separation anxieties and coping mechanisms of flirting with generic coffee, I was finally reunited with my love, Starbucks, and it was the sweetest reunion ever. (: And yes, Starbucks totally constitutes for food porn. Just ask every Instagramm-er out there. Better yet, look up #latteart.

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(So maybe I’m not exactly glowing, but my eyes do look a glossy. Tears of joy?!) While we’re on the topic of all things American girls love, I bring you my next goodie.
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That’s right. Paris not only has Starbucks but also CHIPOTLE! It was like I died and went to foodie heaven. (: My order? A burrito bowl with extra white rice, half steak, half chicken, medium salsa, tomatoes, corn, salad dressing, and a wittle bit of sour cream. My taste buds didn’t know how to handle this surprise treat, but they were so delighted that the excitement transferred beyond control and translated into flailing arms, random shrieks of OMG’S, and eyes opening as wide as a pair of Asian eyes can. I was given some dirty looks from Parisians at the other tables but you know what, true love has no shame.
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After curing a case of food-sickness, I got on the Parisian bandwagon and devoured dined Parisian cuisine. For one of the meals, we went to BREIZH CAFE because it was recognized for its phenomenal crepes and cider. I think the entire city of Paris believed the hubub because Breizh Cafe was ridiculously crowded. There was a maximum time limit per reservation for one hour. If this was America, those servers would be making BANK with that many turned tables a night.
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We ordered a bottle of pear cider for the table and it was plenty for the four of us girls. The taste of alcohol was subtle and just sweet enough to complement the meal.
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My beautiful dinner dates! (: This meal — and Paris, in general — was SO, SO much fun with these girls. I’m so happy I got to experience such a beautiful city with such beautiful people. Two are from my program, and also my hometown, and the last girl on the right is actually currently studying abroad in Paris right now so we met up with her for dinner. (: She was the one who actually introduced us to this cafe! IMG_3894_Snapseed
The menu was long and complex like anything that’s in a foreign language, so we decided to order a bunch of dishes and share so we could try them all. Family style! (: For starters, we ordered a salmon crepe. How CUTE is its presentation?!
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The ultimate symbol of accomplishment.
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Although the items were a bit pricey and portions were rather small, Breizh Cafe was a really enjoyable experience, from the food to the service to the ambience. (: It was unique and lively! Would I go there again? Eh, probs not… dat green tea ice cream, doe.

We went to another Parisian favorite, CHEZ JANOU. PLEASE do yourself a favor and go here. Oh, and did I say that Breizh Cafe was crowded? That was NOTHING compared to Chez Janou. Their waiting area + bar + foyer was comparable to a bathroom, and everyone was bumping and grinding on each other waiting for a table. Not even exaggerating. I wish I had proof because I’m pretty sure it exceeded maximum capacity by way too many and was the EPITOME of a fire hazard. And if your table was even approximate to the front, forget intimacy or even a decent conversation, because the people waiting will bump and grind all over your table, too. We made our reservation for 10 pm, and weren’t seated until close to 11pm. I know, I know, why did I tell you to go there? Because it’s awesome. And the people are hilarious. And the food is delicious. And they give out unlimited chocolate mousse. Yes, you did read that right. Just trying to save the best for last, that’s all. (:
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Lamb shanks with green beans.
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Duck with a side of potatoes.
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And this is the massive bowl of chocolate mousse. It was bigger than MY HEAD! And I, unfortunately, have a very big head. They kind of just PLOPPED it on our table and told us to dig in. We really wanted to do them proud by eating the most they’ve ever seen because then maybe they’d give us bumper stickers or put our pictures on the wall or something… but we could barely even put a dent in it. Not a whole lot of accomplishment going on here. But I probably made up for it later that night. Anyway, if you like good, timely service and your own personal space, then stay far, far away from this place. All your fears will come alive! But, if your love for chocolate mousse trumps all, then… I think we can make for good friends in the future. (:

Hope I delivered a fine share of food porn. Ciao for now!

Lunch in Bolzano, Dinner in Trento.

Last year when I was reading up on the different study abroad programs U of I provided, one of the things the Verona program offered that caught my attention — I know, as if I needed another reason to go besides the fact that IT’S IN VERONA — was its frequently planned group excursions. AKA pre-paid trips to an array of cities, restaurants, museums, tourist spots, activities, etc. The entire program travels together with all expenses — dining and wining and traveling — taken care of. Some on the lineup include: skiing in the Switzerland alps, dinner in Venice, horseback riding in Asiago, shopping at the Mantova outlets, etc.

Not bad, right? (:

And last Sunday was our FIRST excursion! It was only a day trip, but we were still fortunate to witness a broad scope of Italy. First, we went to Bolzano to sight see, shop around, and visit the museum hosting the Otzi exhibit. Otzi, you know, the “mummified” iceman they found in the mountains and were able to put on display for the public to see.

Bolzano was straight out of a fairytale. Magical and idyllic.

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Bolzano is right near the mountains. So the air is much colder, BUT there is NO WIND. Niente. So the cobblestones, sugared bread on the streets, pastel colored buildings, and the constant still, damp air makes you feel like you’re in Disney World Epcot. Just a large dome with good food and good scenery. Then THAT thought reminded me of my favorite book from junior high about the society that is presented as perfect and real but under all the layers it is actually a dystopia and everything from their dinner conversations to ways of thinking are constructed and manipulated by a higher authority because they are always under surveillance. (Guess the book. Hint. The cover has an apple on it.) Then THAT thought snowballed into all these other creepy pop culture references with altered realities all the way to lunch time when a lady yelled at me in fast and angry Italian and kicked me and my frans out of Burger King. But that’s beside the point. Bolzano was kinda weird and beautiful and uncomfortable all at the same time. Plus I was wearing these chunky rain boots but not a rain cloud was in the sky.

Final thought: Bolzano is one surreal place — for the good or bad.

But one thing holds true whether you are in Verona or Bolzano — Italians love their cappuccino.

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Defrosting our toes and sippin’ on some warm te + caffe. (:

Then ze 25 American tourists hopped back into the bus and headed over to Trento to check out the Castello del Buonconsiglio. THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN. A castle that still remains from the 13th century to real royalty, but now serves as an archaeological site for glimpses into the time period and a gallery of art.


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Hot Dog takes pics with her finger over the flash.
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Breathtaking view from one of the castle’s windows.
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^The whole gang cheesing. (:

After the tour of the castle, we had some time to kill before dinner reservations so we roamed around the streets of Trento and sipped on spritzers.IMG_2435 IMG_2440 IMG_2424
The dinner venue was an authentic German restaurant. All of us were starving out of our minds — both from that day, and from being cheap on grocery selections — and since this was considered a pre-paid meal, we all went HAM on ordering way too many dishes.

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^ This was a plate of meat covered in meat with a side of meat and some extra meat.
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In other news…
– I have my first exam tomorrow.
– I hear back from a few summer internship prospects within the next week. Keep this in your prayers! (:
– Going on our first trip with some friends. (: Right after class we’re taking the tran to Florence for the weekend and then visiting Mantova on Sunday.
– Staying in a hostel for the first time Thursday + Friday. Any thoughts/advice/precautions?

Hope everyone else is having a great week!

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