Category Archives: Travel

Exploring East Berlin in Winter

Other than a food tour, we had zero hard commitments on our Berlin itinerary.

Street art in a backyard area of Mitte This left of plenty of time to explore East Berlin, and hang out in Mitte in particular.

Berlin backyard decorated with hanging flags

The backyard alleyways would be perfect for a beer in summer, but still seemed festive in winter against grey skies.

DSCF9284 street art mitteThe street art and architecture was more interesting than some of the more widely documented sights.

Berlin TV tower

So we wandered and walked in the cold, enjoying a wintery city that we had pretty much to ourselves.

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Ivy covered wall east berlin

ape in front of currywurstdeserted streets in winter BerlinBerlin statue

Berlin TV tower fogBerlin river scene in winterIf you are planning a trip to Berlin, plan Sunday carefully.  Our Sunday turned into a museum day because what we didn’t realize is that most shops and eateries are closed by law until 1 pm on Sunday. (The opposite of Italy, where IF something is open on Sunday it is only open until about 1:30 pm!)

 


Berlin Food Tour

I like things, but I definitely like places more.

For Christmas, I was thrilled to be gifted with a trip to Berlin- a city we have long wanted to explore.

I like exploring, but I like eating more.  (It is one in the same, right?)

I think food is one of the past ways to experience a culture. So the first thing I did was sign us up for a Berlin Food Tour.
A tray of cured meats and bread in Berlin Mitte

We met up with Bastian of Berlin Food Tours at about the exact moment I started to have a massive cough attack.  I was mid-recovery from the Roman flu, which has been rough this year.  But by the second stop, post-kofte made to order in a market square, I had revived.

And… I may have eaten more than my allotted share of spicy salami on fresh pretzel.

Mitte wine shop

Riesling is an affordable white wine gaining in popularity

Riesling in small shops with lovely owners on brisk days also does wonders for the state of one’s constitution.

A fluffy (and delicious) hamburger patty

But Berliner Buletten is really where the comfort food is at.  An impressively fluffy hamburger-meatball hybrid served with hot mustard? I went back to get some more for dinner.

A curry wurst stand

Really though, no trip to Berlin is complete without currywurst.  Jostling in line and eating the city’s signature dish: sausage and a curried ketchup sauce that was conceived in Berlin during the 1940s.

Sausage with curry sauce- a Berlin staple

Goes exceptionally well with dark lagers.

Well. Most German food seems to go well with beer.

dark craft beer

But it wasn’t all meat and beer, we made plenty of stops to satisfy any sweet tooth.

colorful macaroons on a platter

Overall, eating our way through Berlin was a huge success.

Sign reads Eat Berlin at a food shop in Mitte

 

 


48 Hours in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Before I left, we left.

Rome can be a fantastic city to live, but just like anywhere, it’s good to get out.  We needed a break from the distractions of daily life. The work emails, the over-committments, the stuff… oh god, how did we end up with so much STUFF?

Before two months apart, we decided to spend two days on the beach.

Croatia has been on my ‘must visit’ list for four years. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Italy. I had heard only good things.  When Vueling started to offer direct flights from Rome to Dubrovnik for less that 70 Euro return? I was in.

48 hours is not much time, but Dubrovnik is a teeny tiny fairytale village, so two days was enough for us to explore and relax in a lovely setting.

If you have two days in Dubrovnik, here’s what you should do. (Let me warn you now that I have zero food recommendations. All of our restaurant picks were disappointing).

Evening arrival: Drinks at Cafe Buza.

buza

The old town in Dubrovnik is completely walled in with outside access allowed through a series of gates.  ‘Buža’ means “hole,” so to find Cafe Buža, climb the stairs from Gunduliceva (one of the main squares with the morning food market).  Turn left, with your back to the cathedral, and then right when you see the city walls.  Keep walking along the wall until you see a sign for cold drinks.  Here is the hole you need to climb through.

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The next morning, get up early before the crowds and explore an empty city.

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Have a coffee in the center.

stairs in Dubrovnik

Climb the stairs before the heat.

Speaking of stairs, they can be a killer.  We chose accommodation in the old city and avoided some steep climbs (though probably missed out on some views). Thanks to Livia for the tip!

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When your traveling companion finally wakes up? Time to do the walls!

DSC01284Entrance is about 10 euro, and worth it. (“About” because Croatia has not yet switched over to the euro).

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The views are incredible, and a leisurely 2 km stroll will give you a bird’s eye tour of the entire old city.

If you need more views, you can consider the cable cars at sunset.

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DSC01312Grab a drink at the observatory, but make reservations if you’d like to stay for a meal.

And now? You’ve seen Dubrovnik.

It is beautiful and charming, but tiny. It is also filled with so many tourists. It reminds me a bit of Sorrento. So like Sorrento, I advise you to see it, enjoy it, and then get out and explore the islands.

Day 2: Island hopping

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We booked a 35 euro day trip to see three of the Elaphiti islands northwest of the city.  It was great to be out on the water, and though this was not a luxury cruise, it did include a fresh grilled fish lunch in the price.

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Three islands in 6-7 hours means you are moving frequently, so it might be better to plan on going to just Lopud for the day.  Lopud has lovely sandy beaches, which will give you a break from Croatia’s beautiful (but sharp) rock beaches.

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Finally, head home relaxed, with a boyfriend saying things like “Why are you smiling so much?,” “I never see you this happy,” and “what a fantastic weekend holiday.”


Eating in Barcelona

Breakfast

 

Eggs Benedict at Le Coq & Le Burg

 

Cute interior serving, as the name suggests, eggs and hamburgers.

Lunch

The best meal of the trip was at  Café de l’Academia. For 10 euro you can sidle up to the bar for a salad, the plate of the day and dessert.  If you choose a table over the bar, the menú del día will still only ring in at 14 euro.

Located in a tiny courtyard, set back from the busy streets of the Barri Gòtic, Café de l’Academia is a casual affair. Market fresh veggies and catalan sausages were on my  menú del día, which I ate in absolute engrossed silence. I refused to share.

Perhaps then it was bad karma that got me in the end. We discovered this restaurant on Friday, and since it’s closed on weekends, that meant I could only eat there once.

Afternoon snack

Jamon. Jamon everywhere you look.

And what goes better with jamon than cheese?

Conveniently located a few steps from Café de l’Academia is Formatgeria La Seu.  Owned by the lovely Katherine, a Scottish woman who chastised me for leaving my iPhone sitting on the counter after taking some shots of her cheese shop.

She was right. There is something about being a tourist that makes the sensible part of your brain turn off. I would never put my phone down in Rome and turn my back, but I was so caught up in the Spanish farm cheese that I couldn’t think straight.

Three cheese and a glass of wine for 3 euro. No wonder I wasn’t paying attention to my things… it was the best snack of the trip.

Tapas

Barcelona is not known for tapas, but the popularity of Tapas 24 shows just how in demand the dishes can be. Started by Carles Abellan, previously of elBulli, the place is essentially standing room only.  I managed to snag a spot at the bar without a wait: the beauty of dining alone.

To start, pa amb tomàquet – Catalonian bread with tomatoes. Being the self-proclaimed bruschetta connoisseur that I am, I wasn’t expecting much, but one should never underestimate the power of tomato, garlic, salt, new olive oil and fresh bread. Delicious.

Next up, la bomba de la Barceloneta. The ultimate comfort food.  Potatoes, meat and romanesco in a perfect little pouf.

I ate many bombas. I ate many patatas bravas. This was the best of the bunch. I wanted 2. 3. 4! But I made the mistake of ordering a croquette to switch things up. I won’t bother with the croquettes in the future.

Finally, calamari with Romanesco.

Cava

In between, during and after all this eating was cava. So much cava.

For a quick drink after browsing the market, try  Mam I Teca.

To visit any/all of the above:

Le Coq & The Burg
Avinguda Gaudí, 8
080025 Barcelona
Neighborhood: Sagrada Familia
0034 934 330 908
Tue – Sun: 9:30am – 6pm

Café de l’Academia
Calle Lledo, 1,
08002 Barcelona
Neighborhood: Barri Gòtic
0034 933 19 82 53
Mon – Fri: 1:30pm – 4pm & 8:45 pm-11:30 pm
Closed the month of August

Fromatgeria Le Seu
Carrer de la Dagueria, 16
08002 Barcelona
Neighborhood: Barri Gòtic
0034 934 12 65 48
Tues-Thurs: 10:00 – 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Fri- Sat: 10:00 am – 3:30 pm & 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Closed the month of August

Tapas 24
Carrer de la Diputació, 269
08007 Barcelona
Neighborhood: L’Eixample
0034 934 88 09 77
Mon: 8:30 pm – 11 pm
Tues – Friday: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm & 8:30 pm – 11 pm.
Sat: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Mam I Teca
Carrer de la Lluna, 4
08001 Barcelona
Neighborhood: El Raval
0034 934 41 33 35
Weds – Fri: 1 pm – 4 pm & 8 pm – Midnight

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Location, Location, Location

I am regrettably late on my weekly La Dolce Vita post.

I have an excuse- I was in Morocco.

Not only am I surrounded by beautiful scenery and incomparable culture in Italy, I am also strategically located to take short trips all over Europe and North Africa.

Location, location, location: definitely a major part of my sweet life in Italia.


Sunsets from the Train

Regional trains are not overly pretty, but sometimes you catch it at the right time and get to enjoy beautiful scenery for about 2 Euro a ride.

After an awesome day trip to Castel Gandolfo, we were treated to a gorgeous Lazio sunset over the fields outside of Rome.

Summertime and the living is easy.


Two Days in Amsterdam

In March, my old roommate from Santa Monica let me know that she would be in London for Spring Break.

We did the logical thing, and decided to meet in Amsterdam.

The tulips were beautiful.

And I was struck by how different the architecture looked compared to Italy.

I was easily entertained by the separate bike lights.

Which are cute but also practical because bikers are everywhere.

Being open-minded, we wandered down to the Red Light District, and then quickly wandered out… a little shocked.

I knew Amsterdam had canals, but let me just emphasize that it has A LOT of canals. Everywhere.

One of the highlights was a visit to the Heineken museum and brewery.

Of course, I’m a fan of any museum that offers free beer at the end.

The Van Gogh Museum offered 0 beer, but was still the best part of the trip.  I think we spent about 5 hours trying to see every painting, and were in luck that there was also a special Picasso exhibit at the same time.

Finally, no trip to Amsterdam is complete without french fries and curry sauce.  I had to pass on the hamburger vending machines though.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city.  It was strange to be constantly mistaken for a local because I’ve gotten so used to standing out as a foreigner in Italy.

I was shocked at one point when a bus driver waved to me, stopped and asked where I was going, let me buy a ticket on the bus, gave me CHANGE, and then told me when to get off.  NONE of those things would happen in Rome. Ever.  Here, you are the one required to flag the bus driver down, and you better already have a ticket when you get on board.

Oh, and fuhgetabout change anywhere. Ever.

BUT, I was happy to come home to Italy and fall back into the chaos of Roman life.

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Things That Make Me Happy I Live in Italy

Food. Food. Food.

I was really unnerved by these hamburger vending machines in Amsterdam:

That just ain’t right.


An American in Marrakech

One of the best things about living in Rome isn’t just being able to experience Rome itself, it’s the ability to get great deals on flights all over the world.

This weekend, our destination of choice was Morocco.

The cheap flights come with one condition: only a single piece of carryon baggage (under 10kg) allowed.  Since we were traveling light, and I had read on lots of forums that photography was frowned upon by many Moroccans, I left my DSLR at home.

The highlight of my trip was definitely visiting my friend’s 800 year old home.  She wanted to show us a Berber village while we were in Morocco.  Her family was so welcoming- there was lots of mint tea and laughter.

As I type, I keep looking at my hands because they are now covered in beautiful Berber henna designs.

Back to Marrakech for one more day.  Watch out for motorcycles when walking down the narrow alleys.

Wool dyers in the souks

If Morocco has been on your list of places to visit, move it to the the top.  Be ready to be overwhelmed by colors and activity, to bargain, to accept invitations to mint tea, and have an amazing time. I can’t wait to go back.

Being back in Rome, fresh off the plane from Marrakech on one of the biggest American holidays of the year, feels a bit strange.  I am sorry I can’t be home to celebrate with family and friends, but I am so thankful for all the experiences I have had this year.

Much love and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!