A Week in Food

One of the best parts by far about traveling through Europe is getting to taste different types of food—especially because little Paderno del Grappa has no variety in food. One of the top five reasons I love travel weeks is because we get to eat something other than pasta and red sauce.

For my second travel week, nine friends and I traveled to Barcelona, Dublin, and Paris. I was so excited, mostly about the prospect of Spanish food. Having an abundance of Mexican food is something I’ve really missed about America. So boy was I excited to eat my heart out in Spain, Ireland, and France!

The first stop was Barcelona. Here I enjoyed a delicious quesadilla at our hostel, authentic Spanish tapas with sangria, and AMAZING paella with chocolate cake to top it off. I also tried hot chocolate with churros, one of their favorite desserts.

Tapas – meatballs, crab and potatoes
Chicken quesadilla
Crushed tomato bread
Veggie + meat paella dish
Couldn’t resist this chocolate cake

After experiencing Spanish cuisine, we headed to Dublin where we were met with good old comfort food and a variety that almost matched America. Ironically enough, our first night in Dublin we ate at a restaurant called Mexico to Rome that served Mexican, Italian and Irish cuisine. Odd, but their burritos were delicious! The server there even brought us glasses of water for FREE, without us even asking! Another thing I really miss about home.

Oh burritos, how I missed you!

The next day we took a trip through the countryside and west coast of Ireland and saw the Cliffs of Moher—quite beautiful! One of the best parts though was, of course, the food. We got a tour of a family farm that’s been there for over 100 years. Afterward, the young couple served us homemade cake and coffee in “Granny’s Cottage” where their grandmother used to live. It was a very welcome treat after walking in the freezing cold and wind for an hour.

Enjoying homemade cheesecake and coffee at Granny’s Cottage

Later that day I had seafood chowder and fish n’ chips. It reminded me of home in Seattle, where we love our seafood. The next day I had perhaps my favorite meal in Ireland—Guinness beef stew at the Guinness Storehouse. Absolutely amazing and perfect for the cold, blustery day.

Good ol’ fish and chips on Halloween

After three days of homey food, we were off to Paris. I started my Parisian food experience with a banana and Nutella crepe for breakfast (embarrassingly followed by a McDonald’s cheeseburger because I was still hungry). Later that night three of us treated ourselves to a nice three-course meal. My friend Mike ordered escargot and we all tried it—it actually tasted pretty good, but the sliminess made it something I would not order again.

Escargot – not as bad as I thought!

I chose to order a French version of Caesar salad, followed by flammekueche, a thin pizza like dish topped with onions and slices of cheese. Not bad! Then I topped it all off with my dessert of choice—three scoops of ice cream.

French Caesar salad
Flammekueche
Raspberry, chocolate and Madagascar vanilla :)

Now as if those first seven days of food weren’t good enough, the best part was my last day in France. I made it my goal to seek out a Ladurée shop, the famous French macaroons that I had heard of and been told to try. First, however, we stumbled upon a fancy bakery where we couldn’t pass up their bread. I tried the chocolate and orange bread…a weird combo, but somehow tasted absolutely delicious.

Amazing chocolate + orange bread

A couple hours later, we found it—Ladurée on Avenue des Champs-Élysées, otherwise known as the most popular street in Paris. There was a huge line out the door, a promising sign yet surprising because I did not realize how popular these macaroons were. After standing in line for a good 45 minutes before I finally got to buy some, I soon realized just how worth it the wait was.

Our first bite into a Ladurée macaroon! Pure bliss!

Having never eaten a macaroon before, I had no idea what to expect. But my first bite into my chocolate macaroon was pure, decadent bliss. I have never tasted something so delicious and flawless, I can’t even explain it in words. A crispy outside cake layer with the smoothest ganache filling…these were TO DIE FOR. And the flavors, oh the flavors! I splurged on chocolate, coffee, raspberry, and green apple macaroons. Every single one was amazing, even the green apple.

Raspberry macaroon

To make it even better, I enjoyed my last bites at the Eiffel Tower during sunset. It was perhaps my favorite moment of the entire week. Absolutely priceless. :)

This post was cross-posted to https://www.biz.uiowa.edu/cimba.

46 Days Later

“What is your favorite CIMBA memory?” the piece of paper said. A slideshow of photos of us played in the background, a sentimental tune to go along with it. You would have thought it was the end of the program, but in reality it’s a little more than halfway through. Hard to believe, but only 38 days remain until I’m headed back to the states.

As I sat there filling out my reflections page for the CIMBA yearbook, I realized how much I am going to miss these people. I had no idea how close I could get to a group of 75 strangers in less than two months. But it makes sense when I think about it—we all live in the same building, went through the same intensive leadership training, take the same classes, and eat three meals a day together. Most of us came here knowing nobody, give or take a few. We have learned to rely on each other for support, since we are all far from home and out of our comfort zones. CIMBA 2012 truly is a little family.

All you need is CIMBA! My friend’s addition to the Lennon Wall in Prague

What was originally 84 days here has suddenly turned into 38. I have had an amazing ride thus far, and I am only beginning to pinpoint how this experience is changing me. Just a few things I’ve noticed/learned…

1. Before coming to Italy, I relied on iPhone Maps like no other. Need to find a certain store? Whip my phone out, type in the store, and my handy-dandy iPhone gets me there every time.  But this is not the case in Europe. I’ve had to learn how to find my way around foreign countries without technology. It’s maps all the way, and let me tell you, I’ve become a master.

2. I never knew how it felt to be the minority and feel out of place before, but my European adventures have changed that too. Something as simple as walking into the cafeteria and seeing only Italians in the room makes me feel very self-conscious. It’s made me wonder how international students must feel coming to University of Oregon. The majority of people there aren’t too welcoming, but it is amazing how much a slight smile means.

Celebrating the last night of Oktoberfest

3. Europeans really aren’t that much different than Americans. Sure, we speak different languages, eat different foods, and wear different clothes. But we all celebrate, socialize, and love the same. One of the reasons I enjoyed Oktoberfest so much is because of the unity I felt there. Thousands of people from all over Europe and America who don’t know a thing about each other, yet we all danced to the same music and gave cheers to one another. It was an unforgettable experience and I want to go back.

4. Europeans are much more fashionable than Americans and I absolutely love it. Being a fashionista myself and wanting to work in the fashion industry when I graduate, one of my favorite things about being in Europe is observing all the dress. Unlike America, no one here is caught dead in sweat pants with a messy bun on the top of their head. Whether male or female, young or old, day or night, everyone I see dresses impeccably (especially more so in Italy). I wish some of the Americans would take a hint.

Amazing ceiling inside the Residence Munchen

5. Another thing Europe’s got on America is their stunning architecture. I knew the buildings here would be old and cool, but I didn’t realize they’d take my breath away. During my first travel week I saw several cathedrals with painted ceilings and stained glass that was incredible. I still can’t believe people managed to build all that hundreds of years ago, before technology or construction tools even existed. Looking at these works of art gives me hope, for if the Europeans could do that without so much as a ladder, we certainly can better our game.

So far I’ve traveled to Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and Italy of course. On Saturday I leave for my second travel week to Barcelona, Dublin, and Paris. I can’t wait to see what new things I’ll learn in these countries. Ciao!

This post was cross-posted to https://www.biz.uiowa.edu/cimba.

30 Hours, 5 Villages, 1 Amazing Weekend

I never would have thought a 30-hour weekend trip could be one of the best vacations of a lifetime. But our adventure to Cinque Terre this past weekend certainly was.

Cinque Terre, literally translated as “five lands,” is located on the West Coast of Italy near the city of La Spezia and consists of five villages that are reachable only by train or walking. Discovered years ago by Rick Steves, he made the small place the tourist attraction it is today. I, however, had heard about this beautiful place from my professor who taught at CIMBA several years ago. I jumped on the opportunity to visit as soon as it arose.

About 50 of us CIMBA students left on a bus at 3am last Friday, in order to reach Cinque Terre by 8am and give us a full two days. Our plans were immediately interrupted when the bus driver sideswiped a jeep parked on the side of the highway. To his credit, it was 5 or 6 in the morning and pitch black, but the damage was done―there was a humongous hole in the rear tire. We sat at the rest stop for a good three hours before someone showed up to fix it (the actual repair took only 20 minutes). As frustrating as the delay was, I’m just glad we were all okay! (Even crazier, my professor notified us there was a landslide on part of the Cinque Terre hiking trail on Monday, the day after we left. Talk about bare misses and some good luck!)

It was 5pm by the time we arrived in La Spezia, stopped by our bed & breakfast, and figured out the train system to get to the first Cinque Terre village. After all that trouble, as soon as we stepped off the train in Riomaggiore, all worries and stress were immediately gone as we saw what stood before us. The sight literally took our breath away―the sun was beginning to set on the Mediterranean, and the beginning of the hiking trail was only meters from the edge of the train tracks. We immediately knew the trip was going to be worth it.

We spent Saturday evening hiking through the first three towns, my favorite part being the “La Via dell’Amore” (or The Way of Love). About a kilometer long, this beginning part of the trail featured romantic elements, including an arch with two interlocking wire hearts and couples’ graffiti all over the place. It was really cool and we actually saw a lot of couples that looked like they were on their honeymoon.

That evening I had the most delicious dinner, seafood spaghetti with white wine. Of course we topped it off with gelato afterward. We decided to finish the hike the next morning, but little did we know how challenging it was. The stretch between the last two towns lasted a good two hours and was continuously uphill with narrow dirt paths. The views we saw, however, were INCREDIBLE and so worth it. Cinque Terre is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. To top it all off, after our treacherous hike we ran into the Mediterranean to cool off, then grabbed more gelato before it was time to head home. All in all, a great weekend and I am making it a goal to return to Cinque Terre someday. Molto bella!

This post was cross-posted to https://www.biz.uiowa.edu/cimba.