10 Things I Love About Madison, WI

Sooo, it’s moving week.

Well, actually last week was moving week, but I’m back in Madtown finishing things up in lab and this is moving week for reals.  It is no secret that while I am very excited for my new life and job in Minnesoooota, I am really, really, REALLY going to miss Madison.  There have been tears (AKA me crying in Target…yep, Target).  And I’m sure just about everyone is sick of me whining about how much I’m going to miss this place…I promise, once I’m out of here I’ll be fine!  I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about why Madison means so much to me, and there is just so much to it.  So, instead of some sad “I’m gonna miss these things post”, I thought I would tell you some things about Madison that I love the most!  Here we go!

Ultimate Frisbee- MUFA (Madison Ultimate Frisbee Association) has got to be the largest organization in Madison.  It is a great sport for staying active and it is hands down the BEST way to meet other young people.  Honestly, it’s how I met my best friends here.  If you haven’t played before, totally fine!  Everyone (except  about 2 people out of about 800 that I’ve probably played against) is super nice and there are many different leagues.  Ultimately (zing!), this organization and the people who play the sport made a huge difference in my life in so many ways.

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The Terrace - Ha, man, I think THIS is what I’ll miss the most! I don’t know how any college campus can beat the terrace at UW- Madison in the summer– lake, beer, tons of space, and music.  Go, just go.

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City Bar Trivia - I usually don’t frequent City Bar on weekends, in fear of running into my students (undergrad bar), but on Monday nights this is the BEST trivia in Madison.  The owner writes his own and it is always keeping us guessing!

You can eat local, fresh veggies almost all year round. Besides the amazing farmers market downtown, there are dozens throughout the city that happen during the week.  There are also many CSA programs that make it really, really easy to eat healthier!

Winning Sports Teams– After living here, I can’t imagine not cheering on the Badgers and Packers every weekend.  Camp Randall is a very, very cool college football atmosphere and this town in general is crazy about ANY badger sports.  I’ve also never lived in a state where pro football is a way of life, and I’ll gladly rep a cheesehead anyday after becoming friends with so many die hard fans.

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Everyone is active.    I swear, everyone I know here is training for something.  Add in the lakes, sports and social clubs, ultimate frisbee, and miles of biking/walking trails– there is TRULY a way for everyone to be active. My favorite view of the city on one of the paths!

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People love winter. Kind of. Ok, maybe after last winter some people will NOT agree with me.  But expanding on the “everyone being active” thing, people here LOVE winter sports.  Many coworkers of mine are usually itching for that first snowfall to snowshoe or cross country ski.  The morale during winter here is more tolerable than when I lived in Iowa, that’s for sure.  Unless it was the winter that never ended, like last year.

The restaurant scene is unbeatable.   Sure, I became an “eat local” restaurant snob, but how CAN YOU NOT when your weekend dining options are The Old Fashioned, Coopers Tavern, and Merchant?!  This place made me a foodie by providing so many amazing places to experience food.  Why do I not have any money saved after grad school? Because I was too busy eating at so many cool places in this town– I still have so many to check out on my list! Iphone 7 5 14 467 e1406693703115 1024x1024 10 Things I Love About Madison, WI

The beer is unbeatable.   Let’s be honest, the only time I drank beer before I lived in Madison was probably during a game of flippy cup in college, and I hated it.  Now, I love a good beer!  Any town that can change my mind on beer in just a few short years must have something good going on.  #spottedcowforlife

You can bike anywhere.  Really, you can, trust me.

Concert on the Square.  Every Wednesday night, the Madison Orchestra puts on a free concert around capitol square.  You can bring your own blankets, food, alcohol, you name it!  The concerts are always themed– my favorite was ABBA!

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So that’s 11 things. icon smile 10 Things I Love About Madison, WI You get the point– I love this place and I feel so lucky I got to live here for four years!

Tell me…what’s your favorite city you’ve ever lived in?

Twosday (Colorado Family Vacation Edition)

Heyyo! Happy Twosday, where we talk about marvelous things and it is double the fun!  This week I’m highlighting some of my favorite parts of our family vacation a few weeks ago.  A mere 5 hours after returning from Europe, I was up an at ‘em again with the fam to head west and visit my sister Liz, who is living in Colorado for the summer working!  Here we go!

Two Mountain Pics

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Two Stores I Loved Near Estes Park

1) Glen Haven General Store—go there, deal with the grumpy owner, and get the amazing cinnamon rolls.  You will thank me later!

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2) InkWell In Estes Park.  A Super cute journal/paper/book/gift store that has something for everyone.

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Two “can’t miss” eats in Denver

1) VooDoo Donuts—deelish, outrageous donuts.  My favorite is the dirty old bastard (peanut butter and oreo).

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2) Brava-  fresh, wood oven  fired pizzas in downtown Denver.  Delicious and huge!

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Two pictures I can’t stop looking at from the Chihuly Exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens…

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Two Fun Things I Got To Experience With My Sister….

1) We saw The Avett Brothers in concert at Red Rocks.  That amphitheater is as close to heaven as you can get!

IMG 7112 1024x768 Twosday (Colorado Family Vacation Edition) IMG 4879 1024x768 Twosday (Colorado Family Vacation Edition) 2) Drag Queen Bingo @ Hamburger Marys.   This was hilarious and so fun!  My sis even won a round!

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Stay tuned for more Colorado and Denver Eats Recaps!

What about you?  What is your favorite thing about Colorado?

as always, twosdays is inspired by Then Heather Said.

12 Tips For a 12-Day Backpacking Trip in Europe

Happy Monday! We’re back to talking travel today, because it’s just too hard to include everything in those Europe recap posts!  While we were in Europe, my roommates and I would find ourselves making mental notes of things that were helpful during our trip, and I am sharing them with you today!   As always, if you have any specific questions about our backpacking trip to Europe, feel free to send them my way!

europetips 12 Tips For a 12 Day Backpacking Trip in Europe

1. Take no more than 5-6 outfits and just make sure you can mix and match your tops/bottoms.

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2. If you are under 30, take your student ID from college or grad school.  Im pretty sure this saved me about $150 throughout the trip at museums!  Some places have an age restriction, but I got into many places for a discounted price or free!

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3. Four is the perfect number for traveling.  Whether it was buying discounted train tickets around a table through renfe, booking private rooms in hostels, or sharing taxis– we found that four was the perfect number for splitting costs and keeping things affordable, as well as ease of travel.  Four is a small enough number where everyone’s voice gets heard and you get the knowledge/input that you may have missed if you were on your own.

 

4. If you fly budget airlines (Ryanair or Easyjet), read the fine print.

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And print those boarding passes out ahead of time, yo.

 

5. Utilize AirBNB.  If you are going to be in places for more than 24 hours, this may even be a cheaper option than a hostel.  Our locations for our apartments we chose through AirBNB were AWESOME and our hosts were gracious and patient with answering our questions as first timers. If you want information on where we stayed in Barcelona or Brussels, email me!

 

6. Be prepared to pay in euro.  While more and more places are accepting cards, many places (restaurants in particular), have a minimum to use them or only accept euro.   While we’re on the subject, do not exchange for euro at the airport. It’s a ripoff.  Find an ATM!

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7. Utilize public transportation when you can.  Many of the metro systems in the bigger cities have a “10 ride pass” for a discounted price and  multiple people can use one card/pass!

8. Download the “WordLens” App for your smartphone. This app is AWESOME and FREE.  You select a language conversion (example: Portuguese –> English), hold your phone up to the sign or menu you are trying to translate, and it translates into the language you select!!!

 

9. Things I brought that I wouldn’t bring again:

  • jean capris, “extra” tshirts (you only need like 2, max)

10. Things I’m glad I brought:

  • electrical outlet converter, travel size sunscreen, sleeping pills, kindle, all-in-one shampoo/conditioner, extra chapstick (with SPF!!)

11. Things I’m glad I didn’t bring:

  • towel (just rent one at your hostel if you need to, it’s better to pay 1 euro to rent than lug that thing around), more than two dresses, and makeup.

12. Less is more when it comes to packing. 

Seriously, it took all of my might not to bring more than two pairs of shoes and a few more dresses/skirts, but looking back I am SO GLAD I didn’t bring them.  The less you can get by with, the more organized and happy you will be!

Any tips you having on backpacking vacations? Any other questions about traveling in Europe?

Easy Caprese Salad (for one)

Soooo, I can’t believe it’s Friday.  Let alone, I can’t believe I’ve been back in Wisconsin for almost a full week.

And while we’re on that topic, I can’t believe I’m moving away from this place in two weeks.  But that’s another story for another day.  Anyway, so y’all know I’ve been traveling for the past month, which means, I have had very few home cooked meals.  Which also means, I haven’t been eating well and it was time to get on track.

Solution: go to the grocery store, buy veggies, eat them. Right?

Ehhh, not so fast.  Remember, I’m a former veggie hater.  So while I’ve made progress and like many veggies now, I still have to work at trying to fit them in at all meals.  I LOVE the concept of salad, but I need more than veggies on my salad.  As I was walking through the grocery store (first time grocery shopping in a month = me doing the happy dance), I saw some fresh mozzarella.  And it hit me.  Caprese salad with crunchy (y’all know I’m a texture freak) bread cubes and mozzarella.  ALL MAH FAVORITE THINGS- cheese, bread, veggies.

So here we are.  This salad takes literally 5 minutes to put together and is easy to proportion for one serving, or easy to double!

Easy Caprese Salad (one serving):

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup toasted bread cubes or (7-8 “cubes”, depending on how big yours are)

1 roma tomato, cubed

1 clove garlic

3 basil leaves

1 handful romaine lettuce

2 tbsp. fresh mozzarella (or 3-4 slices of the fresh mozzarella log is what i use)

2 tbsp. balsamic and oil dressing

Directions

For bread cubes–I used Italian bread.  Cut into 1 inch cubes, place on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

For salad- Cube tomatoes.  Mince garlic.  Chop basil into pieces the size of your desire.  Combine in a small bowl.

Spread tomato mixture on top of romaine lettuce, and top with mozzarella, balsamic dressing, and those beautiful bread cubes you just toasted.

THAT’S IT! Veggies with cheese and bread. icon smile Easy Caprese Salad (for one)

 

What about you?  What are some “must have” food combos you like?

Brussels, Belgium– Foodie Heaven in Europe (Recap #5)

We made it!  The last Eurotrip Recap!

In cased you missed it, here’s where we had been by now:

Barcelona

Madrid

Lisbon

Lagos

AND NOW ONTO BELGIUM!

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I was surprised at how much I loved  Brussels, Belgium, because I definitely heard mixed opinions.  Our time in Brussels was short, but delicious!  We arrived after a long travel day to catch overtime of the USA vs. Belgium game, only to see the good ol’ USA lose and hear the streets of Brussels erupt!

Here we go with our last stop on the trip!

Getting there: We were coming from Lagos, Portugal, to Brussels,  which is a little unusual. The closest and cheapest way to get to Brussels was to fly RyanAir from Faro (40 miles away from Lagos) into Brussels Chareloi Airport (Brussels South).  RyanAir is another budget airlines– so keep your bags small and print out your boarding passes ahead of time (otherwise you will pay 70 euro extra!).  Brussels Charleroi is an hour away from the center of Brussels, and there is an easy to find shuttle that takes you into the city.  You can buy your tickets online or at the airport.

Where we stayed: Another apartment from AirBNB.  Great location and price!  If you want details, let me know!

Getting around: We stayed pretty close to the center of the city (near De Brouckere Metro Station), so you can easily walk or metro to anywhere you need to go!  You can also take the train to nearby cities, which we did.

What We Did:

Grand Place- This is probably the most famous Brussels landmark and is the central city square.  It is beautiful!  There are many shops and restaurants around it, but we didn’t do much looking in the actual square.

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Place du Grand Sablon- We walked about a mile from the Grand Place and came upon this really pretty courtyard and church, known as the Place du Grand Sablon.  There are also a lot of good chocolate shops around this area, so it is the perfect place to rest and enjoy some delicious goodies! icon smile Brussels, Belgium   Foodie Heaven in Europe (Recap #5)

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Mannekin Pis - This famous statue of a little boy peeing is very close to the Grand Place on a corner, very easy to miss except for the crowds all around it!

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Chocolate Museum- Located right by the Grand Place.  Doesn’t take long to go through, but has interesting facts, history about chocolate and a demonstration free samples with your 5 euro admission!   A must see for you chocoholics like myself. icon smile Brussels, Belgium   Foodie Heaven in Europe (Recap #5)

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Bruges-  We took a 10 euro train ride to a nearby small city, Bruges, about an hour away.

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There are lots of pretty canals to walk along to get to the city center,  In the center, there is a Basilica but also many pretty old buildings and churches.

 

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The restaurants here are very pricy! It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of Brussels, and Bruges is a gorgeous old town.

 

What we ate:

Ummm, everything in sight.  Brussels was my absolute favorite food place ever because they had all my favorite indulging, non-nutritionist loving foods.

Chocolate. Waffles. Frites (Fries). Beer. Doner. 

Chocolate-

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There are millions of shops throughout the city.  You can go high-end with Neahaus or Pierre Marcolini, but you can also get traditional Belgian chocolate for a little cheaper from Leonida’s. This is where we bought most of ours and it was just as good as the really expensive stuff!  Another fun shop that I bought chocolate from was Elisabeth.

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Waffles

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There are also waffle stands all over.  The waffles are AMAZING, but the stands will try to trick you by advertising “Waffles for 1 Euro!” and then charging you also for all your toppings!  I was told to just get the plain waffles, but I loved the ones with chocolate and banana!!

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Frites-  Guys, fries are my downfall.  In Belgium, they eat them not only with ketchup, but with mayo and millions of other sauces.  I’d highly suggest trying out new sauces!!!

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Beer –  Belgium is great for beer lovers!  There are shops with literally over 300 kinds of Belgian beers- flavored, blonde, dark– you name it!   I tried “sour beer” for the first time and really liked it!  We also went to this awesome bar, Delirium.

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Delirium is full of tourists, but it is over a block long and has over 2,000 beers! Iphone 7 5 14 1827 e1405089930888 768x1024 Brussels, Belgium   Foodie Heaven in Europe (Recap #5)

We went and had a hard time choosing just what to get!  They also have a separate absinthe and tequila bar!

Doner — I was in Doner Kebab heaven.  One place we went even put FRIES on my doner sandwich.  Seriously, if you go to Europe YOU MUST TRY THIS.

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The Beaches of Lagos (Eurotrip Recap #4)

Today’s recap will be short and sweet, because you can only say “THIS IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACH I’VE EVER BEEN TO” so many ways.  This was my favorite afternoon on our Europe trip.  We timed it perfectly– the halfway mark through our 12 day journey, just when we were dying for an afternoon of relaxation!    While in Lagos, I felt like I was living out the Travel Channel’s “Top Beautiful Beaches” show (if there is such a thing). So I’ll get right to it.

The Beaches:

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I felt like I was in a postcard the entire time.   The two beaches we went to, Praia Dona Ana and Praia Camila were beaches that looked like they were carved out of rock formations, as they were all over!  The water was also so clear and so blue.  The actual sandy beach wasn’t necessarily the “white pristine” beaches of Mexico, but the view was the most beautiful I have ever seen.

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The water was extremely cold, but we braved it and had fun swimming around!  June/July are busy seasons for the beaches, but we were still easily able to find spots to lay out and tan!

lagos2 The Beaches of Lagos (Eurotrip Recap #4)

Photo credit: Amy

Getting there: We took the EVA bus from Lisbon to Lagos.  Because I couldn’t understand the Portuguese website, we didn’t buy these tickets until we got to the hostel in Lisbon and had help from the staff there.  They then directed me to the english version of the website I couldn’t find before, and we purchased our tickets 24 hours ahead of time.  Super easy.  Bus tickets were 20 euro and travel time was about 4 hours.

Getting around: It’s a pretty small beach town.  There are taxis, but we just walked everywhere.

Where we stayed:  

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Dona Ana Garden.  The location was PERFECT for us, as we were literally a 5-10 minute walk from two of the best beaches there- Playa Ana and Playa Camila.  However, this was probably a 15 minute walk from the “downtown” area of Lagos, so it depends on your preference of what you want to be close to!  We booked our rooms online and paid a small down payment, but we were not told that when we paid the rest after our stay it had to be in EUROS, not cards.  This was my only complaint about the place, as we were never told this and the closest ATM was a 10 minute walk, almost making us miss our next bus. Other than that, this is a great place to stay!

What we ate: 

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We were only here for one night and stumbled upon a fun Aussie Bar called “The Green Room”…very similar to a local Chipotle!  Their mojito’s were strong and the burritos were huge.  Would definitely eat there again.

Bottom Line:  Go there.   If you visit Portugal, it’s a must.  I’ve been lucky to be on a lot of beach vacations in my life, and this one takes the cake.

I Love Lisbon (Eurotrip Recap #3)

Five years ago, I took a month-long class in Europe over the reformation of the Lutheran church.   We visited Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and the Czech Republic.  Out of those countries, my favorite was Switzerland, mainly because I could stare at those majestic alps forever.  Well, after this trip, Switzerland now has company in my “must see again sights in Europe”.

Portugal.

Oh my, I can’t even begin to tell you.  We were literally in Lisbon (the capital) for an hour when I looked at Joy and was like “I can already tell this is going to be my favorite place I’ve ever been”.  And I was right.  Let’s recap our time in Lisbon, shall we?

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Getting there:  We flew from Madrid –> Lisbon via Easyjet.  Easyjet is a “budget airline”, so basically your ticket is SUPER cheap (i think one way ours was 35 euro each), but you have to bring SMALL bags and print your boarding passes ahead of time because they nickel and dime you for EVERYTHING.

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In the end though, this luggage restrictions weren’t a big deal for us because we had backpacks.  The flight was a couple hours, which beat our other option of taking an even more expensive overnight train –> Yes to pretending to be on the hogwarts express, but hell no to sleeping in a train car with strangers.  Once we got there, it was about a 30 euro taxi ride from the airport to our hostel which was down by the river in the heart of the city.

Getting around the city:  We actually took a taxi to the monastery, because it was cheaper than the metro! We did metro to the bus station when we were leaving– it was very easy to use and also clean.  No House of Cards situations in these subway stations!

Where we stayed:  THE BEST HOSTEL EVER.  Travellers House in Lisbon just does everything right.  Amazing location, amazing staff,  and even a hot cooked breakfast in the morning.  Our room even had a balcony overlooking the street and plaza.   They also led tours daily to different parts of the city and nearby towns.

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What We Did:

Praca do Comercio- This plaza was right near our hostel and one of the first sights we had of Lisbon, right on the river.  We all pretty much fell in love.

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Jeronimos Monastery- Located in Belem, a little farther out from the main plaza.  You can get a cheap taxi or take the metro there.  This is a beautiful old monastery.  Architects and artists say this landmark is one of the best examples of Portuguese architecture.  I don’t know a lot about architecture, but I can tell you that this monastery was so incredibly beautiful.  Once inside, I felt so peaceful. Do not make the mistake we did and go during Sunday mass, or you will wait for over an hour to get in.

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monastery I Love Lisbon (Eurotrip Recap #3)

(photo credit: Amy!)

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Tower De Belem-   At the monastery, you can by a joint ticket with the tower for a discounted price.  We YOLO’d it and bought both (i think it was 10 euro for both, so not expensive).  What we didn’t know, is that the tower was a good 20 minute walk from the monastery.  The tower is located right on the river, so the views are very pretty and worth the walk!  The stairs to the top are very tight (think one way traffic) and if you are claustrophobic, you will not like the stairs up to the top of the tower.

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Sao Jorge Castle-  This is in the alfama neighborhood of lisbon, but don’t let that fool you– it’s pretty close to the heart of the city!  It’s probably a 15-20 minute walk from the main plaza.  However, it is VERY hilly around the castle which sits on a large hill/cliff, which is why it has the best views.  I would recommend taking a tram up to the castle to save your feet and then walking down after. icon smile I Love Lisbon (Eurotrip Recap #3)  The castle has amazing views of the city and some cool history.

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castle I Love Lisbon (Eurotrip Recap #3)

Fado-  Nope, this isn’t some traditional food, as I thought it was!   Fado is a traditional Portuguese type of music/song.  It is especially big in the Alfama district.

Nightlife- We had heard the nightlife and clubs in Lisbon were some of the best in the world.  What we didn’t know, was best in the world meant “more expensive than you could ever imagine”.  It was disappointing.

What we ate:

Food in general was cheaper in Portugal compared to Spain.  A rule of thumb we followed throughout the whole trip was to find restaurants with crowds, as that means it must have something going for it!

Pastel De Nata- this is a very common Portuguese pastry, with a flaky crust and creamy egg center.  They are sold at many bakeries around the city and you must try one!  I can’t say they were my favorite pastry of all time, as they did not contain chocolate. icon smile I Love Lisbon (Eurotrip Recap #3)  However, they were still delicious and you definitely need to try one.

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Bakery by our hostel- I know, worst title ever.  BUT, there was this bakery that was kitty corner from our hostel (Travellers House on Rua Augusta) that had the BEST CHOCOLATE CROISSANT I had in Europe.  And let’s face it, I ate a lot of chocolate croissants in Europe icon smile I Love Lisbon (Eurotrip Recap #3)  Seriously, if you are on Rua Augusta, this will be the best 1 euro you’ve spent.

Miraduro Santa Luzia- Because we were in Lisbon such a short time and were running around seeing many sights, we kept it pretty simple with our meals.  However, we had the best meal at this restaurant on the river by the castle, Miraduro Santa Luzia.  The server was so animated, they had TV’s for world cup soccer, and a river view.  Can’t ask for much more!

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Seafood- Fresh fish is very popular, due to Lisbon being on the water.  My roommates ordered seafood/fish a few times and had good things to say!

Ham flavored chips- Yes, these exist in Europe.  After trying them, I think it’s perfectly fine we don’t sell them in the states. So gross.

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Sangria – yep, they have it in Portugal too!  Yep, we still drank it by the liter!

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Bottom Line and Tips:  I LOVED Lisbon.  I love the vibe, the people, and that it’s on the water.  I could have easily spent a couple more days exploring Lisbon, but if you are on a schedule, I feel that 2 days is enough to get a feel for the city!  Also, don’t be worried if you don’t speak Portuguese, many places have English translations!

Past Recaps:

Barcelona

Madrid
 I Love Lisbon (Eurotrip Recap #3)

Madrid Recap (Eurotrip 2014)

Happy Madrid Tuesday!  This was the second stop on our tour de Europe.  Yesterday, I recapped our 3 day stay in Barcelona.   We had to pick and choose our stops along the trip since our time was limited, so Madrid was our last Spain destination.

But first, let’s have a selfie.

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Madrid Recap: GO!

Getting there:

We took the high speed train from Barcelona-Madrid.  The “AVE” high speed train takes 2 1/2 hours.  You can buy tickets through renfe.  We got the cheapest tickets, which is a “table”, which is simply for seats around a table at the end of the train car.

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These were half the price of a normal ticket and were 50 euro/person.  I would suggest buying your tickets ahead of time, as the train was completely full on our trip.  The website can be a total pain to use (I was almost in tears), so I suggest using this guide on tripadvisor to guide you through it though.  It is the cheapest to buy directly from renfe though, so it was worth the headache!

Where we stayed:

Las Musas Hostel, which was referred to us by our friends who have been to Spain many times.  We split a four person private room and were delighted that we had our own bathroom!  This is a total bonus of this hostel, as most have a shared bathroom on the floor even if you have a private room.  The staff was VERY HELPFUL, which I think is a huge selling point of the place.  The only bummer was that the wi-fi was really slow.

What we did:

Puerta Del Sol -  I assumed this was some old door in Spain (high school Spanish skillz).  It’s actually a big plaza with shops.  Ha!  Very touristy, but lots of shopping around there.

Reina Sofia-  There are three major national art museums in Madrid, and since we only had two days there we picked just one.  The Reina Sofia was also recommended to us by friends who had been to Madrid and the Reina Sofia won out, as we heard it had Picasso’s and Dali’s work.  It was huge and had a lot of very cool Spanish artwork, including the famous Guernica, by Picasso.  None of us were huge art enthusiasts, so we were fine just spending a couple hours though–but you could spend all day if you wanted to!  The museum costs 10 euro, but I was admitted to free with my student ID!

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Parque del Retiro-  this park reminded me of Central Park in New York City.  There is a pond in the middle and several monuments throughout the park.  We spent an afternoon walking through the park on all of the different paths just taking in all of the trees and flowers!  After an ice cream stop, we played cards in the big grassy areas until we were hungry to venture off for dinner.

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Plaza Mayor- This is a big plaza with restaurants.  I wasn’t that impressed, as we just went there during the day.  There were lots of restaurant options though!

What we ate:

Tapas!!!!  Our friend Sean told us that Madrid is home to the “real” tapas experience.  Remember in Barcelona, where we had to pay for each tapa?  In Madrid and the “real” tapas, you order a drink and they bring you full plates of tapas.  THIS WAS AMAZING AND SUCH A BARGAIN!

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Another drink that we tried that is popular in Madrid was a “calle mocha” –> half red wine and half coke.  I thought it sounded disgusting, but it was delicious and refreshing!!

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We also had these amazing meatballs!  No idea what the restaurant was called, but the sauce on them was awesome.

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Mi Perro Se Lamma Gabby- Yep, that’s the real name of the place!  This was a cool bar with great mojitos.  You were served light tapas with a drink purchase as well.  Very colorful atmosphere.

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Bottom Line and Tips:

Loved the food and drink in Madrid!  Lots to do and in my opinion, was easier to get around than in Barcelona!

72 Hours in Barcelona

Happy Barcelona Monday!  Today we are recappin’ our first stop of the Euro-journey 2014. Enjoy!  All recaps will be organized similarly to highlight the big things– transportation, lodging, site seeing, and most importantly– food and drink!

Getting to Barcelona:

We flew into Barcelona from the states. Our apartment was near La Rambla and it was a 28 euro taxi ride there from the airport.  We decided to taxi it there than metro it, as we were sleep deprived and hadn’t planned anything out/no idea where we were going.  Taxi was a great choice!

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Where we stayed:

An apartment we found on AirBnB. It had a great location near the metro station “Poble Sec” and was a 10 minute walk to La Rambla, the touristy central area of Barcelona. We liked that It was off the beaten path. Message me if you want more details!

Getting around the city:

We bought 10-ride metro passes for 10 euro each and used those to get around the city.  multiple people can use the card per trip (you just swipe it multiple items), so we would swipe the card 4 times for all of us to go one trip on the metro.  For two days, 3 cards worked well and saved us at least 20 euro on cabs!

What we did:

Festival Sant Joan- This took place the first night we got in and it is a huge celebration of the shortest night of the year in Barcelona. Great timing! Basically, everyone (and I mean everyone, even little 2 year old kids) were setting off fireworks and partying all night. We only made it til about 3 am and it was still going strong! It was fun walk down to the beach and see all the festivities, but also terrifying as fireworks were flying at us.

Sagrada Familia and Parc Gruell- The artist Antoni Gaudi has some extremely cool artwork and architecture that is located in Barcelona. I’m not an art buff, so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking…the stuff he designed was so unique, I can’t even compare it to anything else!  The Sagrada Familia, in my opinion, is the #1 site to see in Barcelona.  The construction of it is still going on!  It is elaborate and there are so many interesting and flat-out weird details.

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Gaudi also designed a neat park, called Parc Guell which is located on a hill (be prepared to walk!) and has great views of the city.  We also visited another one of his buildings, located in one of the shopping districts.

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La Rambla- this is the very touristy main pedestrian street with lots of shops and restaurants. We ate here a few times and had great meals, but they were expensive compared to other places in Spain and Europe!

Picasso Museum – The biggest collection of Picasso paintings. As I said before, I’m not an art buff at all, but it was cool to see how his work changed throughout the years. I feel pretty good saying that after going through that museum, I could pick a Picasso inspired painting out of a crowd!

Parc de Ciutadella- We randomly found this park by the Picasso Museum. It had beautiful fountains, and there is also a zoo!

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Iphone 7 5 14 1362 72 Hours in Barcelona

What we ate:

Ahhh, the most important part!  Lets start with what we drank, because that’s easy.

Sangria.

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Liters and liters of sangria.  It’s funny, waiters there (and all Europe) totally stereotype American girls and associate them with sangria.  It wasn’t 2 minutes of sitting down at a restaurant that they were offering us sangria right away…and of course we gave in and it was awesome!

I also had an awesome kiwi mojito at a bar near the Parc Ciutadella.  The mixed drinks tend to be more expensive, so I normally stuck with sangria, but this was a nice change!

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We ate a mixture of things…tapas were a big thing, as they originate in Spain!  We later learned in Madrid that the tapas advertised in touristy parts of La Rambla in Barcelona are extremely overpriced (more on this later), where you buy each tapa alone or buy them as part of a pre-packaged full dinner. However, we never ate a bad meal! We especially liked Luiza, as they had AWESOME white sangria.  Seafood is also very popular (and fresh).  Prawns were popular and delicious– both grilled and in paella!

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But my favorite, FAVORITE, FAVORITEEEEEEEEEEEEEE thing I ate in Barcelona (and Europe) was not new to me.  It was an old favorite…

DONER KEBAB.

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I first had a Doner sandwich in Germany when I was there five years ago from a Turkish food cart.  I fell in love.  It is a shaved beef sandwich and most places it shave the meat for your sandwich right in front of you!  It is served with this garlic sauce which is TO DIE FOR.  It’s pretty scarce to find a kebab place in the midwest, as evidence last year when I went nuts for one I found in DC!  It took me by surprise when we saw our first doner shop in Barcelona and I knew I had to have my roommates try it!  They approved, and I probably made them eat a doner sandwich at least 3 more times during the trip. icon smile 72 Hours in Barcelona

Bottom Line:

Take the metro rather than a cab, except to and from the airport.  It’s cheaper!

Gaudi’s work, in my opinion, is the #1 thing to see in Barcelona.  Followed by the Picasso museum.

Eat in areas not on La Rambla if money is an issue!

Eat some doner. Seriously.

And that’s it!  Next up, Madrid! 

Have you ever been to Barcelona? What is your favorite thing about the city?

 
 72 Hours in Barcelona

12 days, 4 roomates, 3 countries, 1 backpack

OH HI. How are you?

I’m exhausted. But a good exausted! I’m blogging from Denver right now, with the fam.  Yes, Denver, by way of a 4 hour sleep in Iowa after traveling a full 24 hours from Europe on Friday (July 4th). If you’ve follow me on instagram (emhi10s), you’ve seen that I’ve been backpacking (well, beginner backpacking) Europe the past few weeks!  As the post is titled, here are the deets.

12 days- Including getting there and back. We left June 22nd and returned July 4th.

4 roommates- I was lucky enough to travel with 3 out of my 7 college roomates–> Amy, Katie, and Joy. Four was the perfect number for the trip!

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3 countries- We ventured to Spain, Portugal and Belgium. Yeah, we were busy those 12 days!

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1 backpack- Y’all know that I LIVE AND DIE by carrying-on luggage when flying, but 12 days with just a large backpack took it to a new level! To make a long story short, I loved having less stuff and didn’t miss a lot of the things I had to leave behind!

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Because I LOVE TRAVEL and I LOVE PLANNING (all caps necessity for that kind of OCD love), there are lots of recaps coming your way! Get ready!