Travel

Second Winter Break

Last week was my spring break – hard to believe it considering the crazy weather we’ve been experiencing across the US! I spent my vacation in New York and NJ visiting family before heading down to University of Maryland to visit a friend. Unfortunately, the icepocalypse in Nashville followed me back up north and it snowed for a majority of my trip. Luckily though I was still able to squeeze in some quality time with my friends and family, which of course included some amazing food and drinks *disclaimer it’s pretty much all terrible for you, with the exception of Hu Kitchen, but hey it’s ok to indulge every so often 🙂

Hu Kitchen

So the first day I arrived in NY, I had the whole afternoon to kill before my cousins got off of work so I had grandiose plans of meandering the city streets and doing lots of exploring since I hadn’t been since the summer. But those plans were thwarted when my best friend Stacey told me I just had to try Hu Kitchen. By now many of you may have caught on to the fact that we love cooking together and are pretty much kindred spirits when it comes to food so the bar was set high for this place. Hu Kitchen beyond exceeded expectations! It was a combination cafe, market, and coffee shop with a juice/smoothie bar and tons of “grab-n-go” snack items. Their motto is to “get back to human” so all of their foods are made from whole food non-GMO ingredients with no added sugar, preservatives, chemicals, fillers, etc. Honestly, I was in foodie heaven. I spent a solid 15-20 minutes debating what to order before deciding on their stuffed acorn squash, chili lime broccoli, curried sweet potatoes, and of course a coconut cinnamon macaroon for dessert. It was a great place to hangout as well and a friend of mine from my Israel trip met me for coffee and we got to catch up! I even tried their on tap kombucha tea, which was one of the best I’ve ever had. Between seeing her and working on meal plans for my clients, I ended up spending over 4 hours there! Before I headed out I purchased some snacks for the road – chia snap crackers, dried broccoli nuggets, and my personal favorite sweet kale chips. It’s a blessing and a curse there isn’t a location in Nashville because I’m pretty sure if there was I’d have to direct deposit my paychecks there 🙂

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Ovelia’s

Later that evening, we went to a Greek restaurant in Astoria near my cousin’s apartment. We split the tzatziki sauce as an appetizer, which is one my favorite Greek delicacies. For my entrée, I opted for the Soutzoukakia, which was essentially greek style falafel over cauliflower rice and a tomato based sauce. Perfect start to our evening out.

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Bamboo 52

The next night we went to Bamboo 52 in Hell’s Kitchen because we were all craving sushi. I had some of the most unique rolls there. My roommate and I split the Fantasy Roll which had banana topped with spicy tuna and the American Dream roll filled with scallop, lobster, jalapeño, and a honey wasabi sauce. Banana sounds so strange in a sushi roll, but trust me it worked!

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Barcelona Bar

This was a shots only bar in NYC that has over 100 shots to choose from. Some shots even come with music and props to wear while taking them. My roommate and I had the “Leggo My Eggo” one. They wouldn’t tell us what was in it but it tasted like coffee and maple syrup 🙂

The Park

The Park is a favorite spot of my cousins’ so we decided to head there Saturday night. I had only been there for brunch before (where I had the world’s best Bellini), but at night they have a great upstairs area to dance. Definitely could see why my cousins love it so much, and I’m sure it’s even better in the summer when they have outdoor areas as well.

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Amy’s Bread

This tiny cafe is famous for their hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows and since it was snowing when we were in NYC, I knew I had to take Alison here. Of course, being the weird chocolate hater that I am, I opted for a coffee instead but I couldn’t resist getting a marshmallow and I plopped it right into my drink!

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Dylan’s Candy Bar

What you are about to read will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Dylan’s Candy Bar serves candy-themed alcoholic drinks upstairs in the NYC location. Take a minute to imagine that. Yup, it’s even better than anything you could have possibly imagined. When we went, we were the only ones at the bar (granted it was 3pm on a snowy Sunday…) so the bartender had us try some new concoctions of hers. My roommate got a gummy peach ring infused whiskey drink and I got a coffee cake martini, which mostly had espresso and caramel vodkas. It was a beyond delicious way to get a little drunk sweater going before heading to Central Park to take some pictures in the snow.

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Lombardi’s

No trip to NYC would be complete without authentic NY pizza. So what better place to take my Atlanta-native roommate than the first pizzeria in NYC. It was one of my uncle’s favorite spots growing up and it’s become one of mine as well. Whenever I have a friend visit NYC with me, I always without a doubt take them here. They specialize in margherita pizza, and to try to describe it here would never do it justice, so I’ll just leave your mouth-watering with this picture.IMG_3317

Turning Point

For the middle part of our “spring” break, my roommate and I went to my hometown in NJ. So naturally I had to take her to one of my all-time favorite restaurants at my favorite beach, Pier Village (no not that’s not the one from Jersey Shore, in fact my roommate referred to it was “quaint” so there!). Turning Point is an all-day everyday brunch place (yes, you heard me right, you can brunch here every single day). You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu from their Crunchy Monkey pancakes, Hawaiian Style belgium waffle, and pesto egg skillets to a wide array of salads, sandwiches and soups. We started with their fruit bruschetta appetizer, which has chopped strawberries and mango with mint served with house made cinnamon pita. For the main event we each got benedicts – mine with lobster and avocado and hers with sautéed peppers and sausage on cornbread. Absolutely scrumptious!

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that’s sand on the snow!

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#yolkporn

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Bagel Talk

I couldn’t let her leave NJ without having a bagel from my favorite bagel shop near my house. The south just can’t seem to get it right when it comes to bagels, sorry Panera doesn’t quite cut it. I mean take a look at this baby.

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Panda House

So Nashville has GREAT sushi places, amazing Thai, but absolutely no decent chinese food. Zero. Slich. Nada. It’s probably for the best because it forces me to come up with my own much healthier recipes, but when I’m home you better believe I’m eating chinese takeout. Two of my favorite dishes are sesame shrimp and chow mein (basically lo mein with really fat noodles). But I will say, that even growing up we always ordered the steamed dishes and got the sauce on the side because it truly doesn’t need to be swimming in the thick sugary, sodium filled sauce – just a little bit goes a lonnnng way. And of course, egg drop soup is a must have starter!

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Clydz

One evening, we met my cousin Hannah for happy hour at Clydz in New Brunswick. The drink menu actually reminded me a lot of Patterson House with their unique combination of ingredients, liquors, and bitters. I got the Fig Gin Jam (made with real fig preserves), Hannah got the Cucumber Gimlet (cucumber, lime, mint and gin) and Alison got the Decadence (essentially a chocolate martini). Great place to catch up and enjoy a nice cocktail!

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L.P. Steamers

Later that week, I made it to Maryland, despite the snow’s best efforts to stop me. We took a day trip from UMD to Baltimore to go to the National Aquarium. We spent almost 4 hours in there – it was HUGE! From a gigantic 400lb sea turtle to finding nemo, a hot and humid rainforest exhibit, and being waaaay too close for comfort to a shark, this aquarium had it all. Afterwards we headed to L.P. Steamers because what better way to end a day at the aquarium than eating crab. We ordered a dozen crabs to share, which took us 2 hours to eat! Well worth the work (and everlasting old bay spice smell) though – by far the best crab meat I’d ever had and it’s off season!

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That about wraps it up! I’ll leave you with some more pictures from my trip and be sure to look out for new recipes coming your way soon!

so glad I got to see this girl after almost 2 years!

so glad I got to see this girl after almost 2 years!

this mushball is Elmo, the dog I grew up with

this mushball is Elmo, the dog I grew up with

my cousin's bf's dog - what a cutie!

my cousin’s bf’s dog – what a cutie!

delicious homemade brunch cooked by my cousin and me

delicious homemade brunch cooked by my cousin and me – whole wheat blueberry pancakes and broccoli basil egg white scramble

frozen inner harbor Baltimore

frozen inner harbor Baltimore

Aquarium Pictures

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Feliz Mardi Gras

In honor of Fat Tuesday, I wanted to recap my experience this past weekend in New Orleans. My over-eager roommate and I booked our weekend adventure back in September. No, that wasn’t a typo, in September we decided that we were absolutely going to Mardi Gras this year and secured all of the arrangements. After a lot of research, when we finally decided on a hotel, we knew it was nice but we didn’t know just quite how nice it was until we got out of the cab from the airport and started laughing. Let’s just say it wasn’t your typical college Mardi Gras weekend accommodation…(yay for booking early???)

ready to go in our hotel lobby

ready to go in our hotel lobby

I’ve heard New Orleans was a unique place, and I’m sure that it was only heightened by the fact that it was Mardi Gras, but believe me when I tell you this is a whole other planet! Even just the stores we passed consisted of some of the strangest combinations I’d ever seen, but somehow they worked! Two of the most common ones were “daiquiri and pizza places” and “praline and hot sauce shops.” Oh, and how could I forget that most restaurants advertised “cocktails to go.” Like I said, another planet with NO LAWS.

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The entire French Quarter had such a festive atmosphere and everyone was really friendly…for the most part. The parades were super elaborate, the floats cost thousands of dollars and the people riding them had insane costumes – definitely one of the highlights.

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Now, on to the cuisine, because let’s be real would you expect any post of mine not to include food? Saturday morning we had a great brunch at the Royal House replete with pineapple cucumber mojitos and a traditional New Orleans shrimp creole. We also wandered into one of those praline and hot sauce stores where we found out they were sampling upwards of 20 different hot sauces, the hottest ones required you to sign a waiver (seriously, a waiver!). Spoiler alert – I didn’t taste one of those. But I did end up buying a mild one (and a cafe au lait and bananas fosters flavored pralines because who can resist those?). Lastly, we ended our weekend late Saturday night at the iconic Cafe Du Monde for their famous beignets and coffee. They DEFINITELY lived up to their high expectations 🙂

 

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It was a short trip that was definitely Mardi Gras focused, so I’d love to go back to New Orleans to do more sightseeing and exploring because I know there’s tons more to see! But for now I satisfied myself with a homemade shrimp creole omelet (look out for that post soon!) 😉

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Couldn’t have imagined doing this weekend with any other Krewe!

The Amateur Photographer Takes on Israel

Since I returned from my birthright trip with Israel Outdoors, I’ve been struggling with how to convey this incredible, jam-packed, emotional, meaningful, tasty, and fun adventure. On one hand I couldn’t say enough to do it justice and on the flip side, I didn’t want to ramble on and on about the minute details and inside jokes and risk having my readers fall asleep on their computers. With that in mind, I decided to mainly post pictures, especially since I got an awesome DSLR camera for Hanukkah approximately 6 hours before my flight left for Israel. (Thanks mom and dad!) Make sure you click the pictures to enlarge them and get the full caption. If you want more details, reach out to me and I’d be more than happy to tell you the nitty gritty.  Shalom!

 

Being Outdoorsy

 

As Touristy as It Gets

 

FOOD

 

Top 7 Reasons Why Lakes Trump Beaches

For the last summer hurrah, my friends and I spent the weekend at our friend’s lake house at Lake Burton in Georgia. As someone who grew up 20 minutes from the NJ coastline, a beach getaway was always chosen over a lake. Now living in Nashville, it’s been a difficult adjustment being landlocked. I’ve been told about how much of a fun alternative lakes could be, but I wasn’t entirely convinced to say the least. While I was excited to try something new, I was skeptical of how lakes could top being able to relax in warm sand. After just a short 48 hours at the lake, I was converted to a lake lover.

And here are the Top 7 Reasons Why Lakes Trump Beaches

7. S’mores

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With caramel swirl marshmallows and peanut butter…enough said.

6. Lilly’s Seal of Approval

Apparently Lilly was a fish in another life because she LOVED the lake – swimming, pontooning, etc. Definitely an added bonus that she could come along for the fun 🙂 

5. More Opportunities to be Adventurous

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I’m not exactly a thrill-seeker but the lake brought out an adventurous side of me, which included jumping off the boathouse into the lake!

4. No Jellyfish

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In August, it’s jellyfish galore on the jersey shore which definitely is a bummer when you want to go in the ocean. At the lake, there are no evil fish cramping your style.

3. Pontooning

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Captain Lilly

Probably one of the most relaxing parts of the trip, it was a great way to tour the lake and all the amazing houses along it. 

2. More Privacy

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Although the end of the drive was beginning to seem like a scene from the Blair Witch Project, I guess that’s the price you pay for an amazing, secluded house right on the lake. Even at a gorgeous beach house, more often than not, you share access to the crowded public beach. 

1. Jetskis…without salty water stinging your eyes

This was absolutely my favorite part of the trip. Jetskiing was soooo much fun. I can’t imagine doing that in the ocean because the salt water would splash in your face and hurt like hell. 

So while I’m not promising to completely give up sandy toes and salt water wavy hair, I definitely am looking forward to my next trip to the lake 🙂

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The Land of Breakfast Tacos

This past weekend I ventured into the territory formally currently known by the locals as “The Republic of Texas.” My esteemed tour guide, Ilana, gave me the complete historical, cultural, and culinary Texas experience filled with tacos, hot sauce, tequila, guns, and of course, lots of Texas spirit.

Texas State History Museum

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning to head over to the Texas State History Museum. I learned a lot about the Republic of Texas and about how much charming Texas spirit its inhabitants have. We even ended our tour with an inspirational video urging us to reach our full potential as the “Lone Star leaders of tomorrow.”

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Alamo Drafthouse Cinema/Esther’s Follies/6th Street

Friday night we went to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to see the “Bangerz and Sass” Sing-along. What’s Bangerz and Sass you might ask? Well, I was wondering the same thing, so here’s a snippet of the show’s description straight from their website: “Well for starters, after going to Miley’s Bangerz tour this year we immediately knew we wanted to have a special night of Miley Cyrus amazing at the Alamo. But as great as she is, we knew that we wouldn’t be satisfied if we only played her hits and didn’t hear from any of the other leading pop princesses of today. So we went through all of our Katy Perry collection and fell in love with everything there. Then we wanted to hear some Taylor Swift, because we were starting to feel 22 and we felt like she belonged with us…Our DJs are taking all of that and mixing it together into the hottest party of July, featuring plenty of Katy Perry’s “Fireworks,” a total “Party in the USA,” and soooo much more.” It was a great prelude to a night out on 6th Street, which was essentially one big street party until 3am. And this happens EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Everything really is bigger in Texas.

Esther’s Follies is a musical comedy show downtown. A lot of the jokes centered around making fun of Texas and politics. Most of them were hilarious even with my limited knowledge of the state, and any others were easily explained by my friend and just as entertaining! There was also a magician who performed several acts, and I was honestly so impressed because I have absolutely no idea how he was able to do all of his tricks. He even used an adorable little white puppy as part of his act so that certainly didn’t hurt 🙂 Esther’s Follies is right on 6th street, which made for easy access to downtown after the show. One of the show’s jokes was about the people you’d meet on 6th, and I have to say it was HIGHLY accurate. According to the comedians, 6th street has “hicks, ganstas, UT frat stars, and cougars.” We certainly encountered many of those real life characters, which made for some very interesting stories… Finally, the award for the world’s greatest brother goes to Ilana’s brother, Ben, for driving out to come get us downtown and for stopping me from consuming too much ice cream under the influence. Thanks, bud 🙂

Red’s Indoor Shooting Range

Now for the most Texas/terrifying thing I’ve ever done… shooting. Definitely nothing like I was expecting, but I’m really glad that I could check this one off the bucket list! And I actually hit the target a lot!

Austin Food Tour

Ok so now time for easily my favorite part of the trip – the food. Friday night we dined at Perla’s Seafood and Oyster Bar. We were given hush puppies instead of your typical bread basket to start and as an appetizer shared a gazpacho with crab meat as well as an order of the wood grilled brussels sprouts. For my entrée, I enjoyed the fish and shrimp ceviche and sipped on an amazing cocktail with coconut rum with puréed strawberries and mint.

Saturday brunch was at Kerby Lane. I ordered an omelet with mushrooms and pesto and Ilana and I split a cinnamon roll and lemon poppy seed pancake. The cinnamon roll pancake was easily the most delicious pancake I have ever eaten in my entire life! Saturday afternoon we stopped at Juiceland for a midday snack, and if you know me at all my order will not surprise you in the least (it’s a variation of the Ninja Bachelor Party juice): pineapple, spinach, kale, mint, and jalapeño. Ugh, Nashville really needs an elaborate juice bar like Juiceland. Dinner on Saturday was at Torchy’s, which had extremely unique and tasty tacos. I had one with fried avocado and the other with ahi tuna. We also split guacamole as an appetizer…obviously. Amy’s ice cream was our late night snack. It is seriously the smoothest, creamiest ice cream. And like Jeni’s, they carry some pretty interesting flavors. For example, Cop Stop was coffee ice cream with donut pieces – YUM!

On Sunday morning I was finally able to try the long anticipated “breakfast taco.” After 3 years of having Ilana talk about the wonders of this glorious yet mysterious food, it was my turn to have a taste. Did it live up to the expectations you ask? Absolutely!! Last, but certainly not least, we were able to squeeze in a visit to Hopdoddy before my flight Sunday evening. The place was very reminiscent of Burger Up, but certainly more elaborate. I had the ahi tuna burger which was topped with wasabi and teriyaki sauces, fried seaweed, pickled ginger, cucumber, and avocado. Extremely messy and difficult to eat, a fairly long wait given the time of day we went, pretty pricey, and probably a full day’s calories, but sooooo worth it. Now excuse me while I recover from the weekend’s food coma…

Thanks again, Ilana!

Changing Your Opinion of NJ and NY: One Picture at a Time

The Shore

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No, the Jersey Shore is not what MTV would lead you to believe it is. It actually can be clean, classy, and beautiful. Proof. This was taken at Sea Bright, NJ.

Bagels

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I still cringe when people refer to the bagels at Panera as “bagels.” Sorry, they’re not. THESE are bagels. Best when eaten with lox and whitefish salad from Barney Greengrass, my favorite Father’s Day tradition. 

Asian Food

The only place that comes close or surpasses the Asian cuisine of NJ/NY is the west coast. Everywhere else just does it wrong. A prime example of this excellence would be Teak in Red Bank, NJ. Roll over the pictures to see a description of each!

Central Park

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Just a concrete jungle? I think not. This massive, world famous park spans over 50 city blocks and covers 843 acres of land. My favorite parts are the reservoir running track and, of course, the zoo.

Baked by Melissa

Thought I’d end with some bite-sized food porn from the NYC bakery, Baked by Melissa. These quarter-sized speciality cupcakes are a one of a kind treat. They are perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth without demolishing your diet, or the magic bullet for indecisiveness by allowing you to order multiple flavors in lieu of one boring normal sized cupcake.

But then unfortunately, you have to dress like this for 3-4 months and the bagels just don’t seem worth it anymore…IMG_0345

The Beany City

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to Chicago to visit one of my closest friends. It was my third time in the city, but my first time in the summer time (…if you want to call 60 degrees in June “summer”). But hey, I’ll take anything above -17 degrees!  Since I could feel my toes when I walked around outside, I was able to do a more in-depth exploration of the city. Below are the highlights of my trip. If you ever make it up to the Arctic tundra (preferably when it’s thawed for the summer months), I highly suggest you visit these places!

The Bean at Millennium Park

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Most people refer to Chicago as the Windy City, while well deserved, I prefer to call it the Beany City. The Bean is an iconic mirrored sculpture stands in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. Although I had been there before, I’ve got to say that this is one tourist site that doesn’t old in my opinion – too many instagramable moments to keep this girl away!

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After you’re done with #thebean, be sure to check out the rest of the park, including Lurie Garden, a five-acre garden filled with beautiful purple flowers.

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Garrett’s

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While I do my best to eat healthy, I have to admit one of my biggest weakness would have to be caramel corn. Every year around the holidays, I look forward to the big tins with assorted flavors of speciality popcorns. This weekend, December came early for me as I was introduced to Garrett’s, a 65 year old gourmet popcorn store native to Chicago. They have a variety of cheese and caramel coated popcorns. I opted for the Pecan CaramelCrisp, and let’s just say my bag didn’t last me very long!

Beatrix

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My friend and I had a lovely late lunch at this restaurant in the River North section of Chicago. We celebrated her recent engagement with some delicious brut champagne and a fantastic outdoor view of the city. It was hard to decide what to order because honestly everything on this menu was so up my alley. They had fresh-squeezed juices in uncommon flavors like blackberry lychee lemonade, a wide-array of salads with unique toppings, and amazing ethnic appetizers. We eventually decided on the hummus, which was so great that it inspired me to try making my own (so keep an eye out for that post!). For my entrée, I ordered the crispy kale salad, which consisted of papaya, pumpkin seeds, and dates on top of a bed of mesclun greens and kale chips. My favorite meal of the weekend for sure!

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Lion’s Head Pub

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This was my first time in Chicago since turning 21, so I was able to experience the nightlife. Lion’s Head Pub had two distinct floors, the lower level was a traditional pub, while the upstairs was named “The Apartment” and was decorated as such (couches, bed, and all). The highlight though would have to be the ice luge. It chilled the shots so much that it cut out all the burn. Unfortunately, as we left to go bar hop, it started to rain and rather than wait outside in the massive lines, we opted to go home and drunchie instead.

Old Town Pour House

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Ironically, this was one of the bars we were trying to get into the night before, but instead we turned it into our boozy brunch spot the next day. The place had an awesome interior – great backdrop to rehash the night among friends. I ordered the breakfast burrito filled with tons of creamy avocado, eggs, and tomatillo salsa. The perfect hangover cure.

IMG_4670Special shout-out to Angela for being the best Chicago tour guide – so happy I got to spend the weekend with you!

The Time I Pretended to Study Abroad

Two weeks ago, my parents gave me the most amazing early 21st birthday present: a week and a half long trip to Lisbon, Madrid, and Barcelona to travel with my best friends from home who are currently studying abroad in Europe this semester. Rather than chronicle my adventures in an extremely long essay style that probably won’t get read, I decided to make superlatives to highlight some of my favorite memories. If you want to talk to me more about a particular item on the list, definitely post in the comments and I’d love to chat! Enjoy!

So now, in no particular order…

Prettiest View Park Güell, Barcelona

Park Güell, Barcelona

Best Restaurant/Meal Restaurante Pinquio, Lisbon

Massada de Mariscos (Seafood Stew) at Pinoquio, Lisbon. Definitely worth the splurge

Massada de Mariscos (Seafood Stew) and olives. Definitely worth the splurge in price and calories.

Best Drink White Sangria, Restaurante Pinquio, Lisbon

Sangria at Pinoquio, Lisbon

Sangria at Pinoquio, Lisbon

Best Soup Seafood Soup, Casa de India, Lisbon

Seafood Soup at Casa de India, Lisbon. Oddly enough, it wasn't an India restaurant but I never figured out why that was the restaurant name

Most Exotic Food I Ate Gulas (baby eels), Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

Best Paella (I was in Spain after all) Pollo Rico


This restaurant served huge family style pans of various paellas for super cheap. The only downside was that the heads were on the shrimp and it took a while (and a few glasses of sangria) to get used to having eyes staring back at you on your plate.

Freshest Food La Boquería, Barcelona 

This is definitely not Chipotle's guacamole...This market also had the world's biggest grapes and sweetest mangoes.

This is definitely not Chipotle’s guacamole…This market also had the world’s biggest grapes and sweetest mangoes.

Close runner up - look at that fruit! Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid.

Close runner up – look at that fruit! Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid.

Favorite Fact Learned in a Walking Tour Tapas Story, Madrid

On the walking tour in Madrid, we learned the history of tapas. Apparently, poor workers couldn't afford to buy both beer and food on their lunch breaks, so they naturally chose beer and ended up being super unproductive for the rest of the day. Therefore, the king mandated that all alcoholic beverages be served with a small portion of food, which later became known as tapas because they were served on top of the drink to prevent sand/dirt from getting into the drink. Above is another one of my favorite tapas, Spanish Tortilla.

On the walking tour in Madrid, we learned the history of tapas. Apparently, poor workers couldn’t afford to buy both beer and food on their lunch breaks, so they naturally chose beer and ended up being super unproductive for the rest of the day. Therefore, the king mandated that all alcoholic beverages be served with a small portion of food, which later became known as tapas because they were served on top of the drink to prevent sand/dirt from getting into the drink. Above is another one of my favorite tapas, Spanish Tortilla.

Best Bar La Chapandaz (The Cave), Madrid

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Super unique venue, drinks came from ceiling!

Super unique venue, drinks came from ceiling!

Best Club Opium, Barcelona 

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Cliché, I know, but a club with great music and an outdoor patio leading to the beach - what more could I want?!

Cliché, I know, but a club with great music and an outdoor patio leading to the beach – what more could I want?!

Best Hostel Stay Inn Hostel, Lisbon

They had friendly, helpful staff and the place was impeccably clean. I felt compelled to provide this incredible view of Lisbon as well :)

They had friendly, helpful staff and the place was impeccably clean. I felt compelled to provide this incredible view of Lisbon as well 🙂

Best Tapa Burrata with Blueberry Jam and Nuts, Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

Fun fact this is the only cheese I really like. The combination sounds gross, but it was actually unique and delicious. I also HIGHLY recommend visiting this market if you are ever in Madrid. It has tons of stations with a wide array of prepared tapas, so it was an easy way to sample many different foods.

Fun fact this is the only cheese I really like. The combination sounds gross, but it was actually unique and delicious. I also HIGHLY recommend visiting this market if you are ever in Madrid. It has tons of stations with a wide array of prepared tapas, so it was an easy way to sample many different foods.

Most Surprising Find Sushiya, Barcelona

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Who would except to find amazing Japanese food in Barcelona? But since they are so close to water, their seafood is incredibly fresh. This was quite possibly the most delicious tuna tartare I ever had. I also had fantastic rolls and a great seaweed salad (because no sushi meal is complete without one).

Who would except to find amazing Japanese food in Barcelona? But since they are so close to water, their seafood is incredibly fresh. This was quite possibly the most delicious tuna tartare I ever had. I also had fantastic rolls and a great seaweed salad (because no sushi meal is complete without one).

Best Patatas Bravas Orixe, Barcelona

Best Brunch Bar Celoneta, Barcelona 

At the restaurant Bar Celoneta on the shore of Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona, they have an amazing weekend brunch special. For 19 euros, you get 2 cocktails, unlimited access to a vegetarian buffet with tapas, pastries, and fruits, and a custom made omelet with eggs or chickpea flour (I was adventurous and tried the chickpea one which tasted like a falafel pancake). The hummus and Rossini cocktail (strawberry puree and prosecco) were definitely the highlights for me!

At the restaurant Bar Celoneta on the shore of Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona, they have an amazing weekend brunch special. For 19 euros, you get 2 cocktails, unlimited access to a vegetarian buffet with tapas, pastries, and fruits, and a custom made omelet with eggs or chickpea flour (I was adventurous and tried the chickpea one which tasted like a falafel pancake). The hummus and Rossini cocktail (strawberry puree and prosecco) were definitely the highlights for me!

Coolest Tourist Sight Palace de Pena, Sintra (outside of Lisbon)

Sintra was a city about a 45 minute train ride outside of Lisbon. There were a bunch of other castles and other tourist attractions but due to the fog and rain we only went to the Palace de Pena. It housed the royal family of Portugal in the 1800s. Unfortunately the pictures do not even come close to doing it justice because of the uncooperative weather.

Sintra was a city about a 45 minute train ride outside of Lisbon. There were a bunch of other castles and other tourist attractions but due to the fog and rain we only went to the Palace de Pena. It housed the royal family of Portugal in the 1800s. Unfortunately the pictures do not even come close to doing it justice because of the uncooperative weather.

Most Impressive Architecture La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Fun fact - the church is still being worked on and won't be complete until 2030.

Fun fact – the church is still being worked on and won’t be complete until 2030.

Most Relaxing Place Barceloneta, Barcelona

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Y'all know how much I love the beach, so naturally it was perfect to spend the day lounging, taking pictures, and just enjoying the surroundings. P.S. does that last picture look familiar (hint: look at my about me page!)

Y’all know how much I love the beach, so naturally it was perfect to spend the day lounging, taking pictures, and just enjoying the surroundings. P.S. does that last picture look familiar (hint: look at my about me page!)

Favorite Park Park Güell, Barcelona

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Park Güell not only had the prettiest view of my entire trip, it also had such a variety sculptures, buildings, and greenery. Great place to explore for a few hours. Also, I think the building on the left looks like a gingerbread house personally.

Park Güell not only had the prettiest view of my entire trip, it also had such a variety sculptures, buildings, and greenery. Great place to explore for a few hours. Also, I think the building on the left looks like a gingerbread house personally.

Most American Thing I Did Hanging with US Marines 

When we were out during our first night in Lisbon we randomly met a bunch of US Marines who had been training with the Portuguese army for the past few days. They were so friendly, and we ended up hanging out with them at the bar for the rest of the night. It was incredibly humbling to meet boys who were our age or even younger who were overseas serving our country.

When we were out during our first night in Lisbon we randomly met a bunch of US Marines who had been training with the Portuguese army for the past few days. They were so friendly, and we ended up hanging out with them at the bar for the rest of the night. It was incredibly humbling to meet boys who were our age or even younger who were overseas serving our country.

Close runner up - drunk eating McDonald's, literally the only thing open 24 hours. Clearly the reason Europeans are so much thinner than us Americans is that they don't drunchie.

Close runner up – drunk eating McDonald’s, literally the only thing open 24 hours. Clearly the reason Europeans are so much thinner than us Americans is that they don’t drunchie.

Best Attempt at European Lifestyle

Long days sightseeing and nights that lasted until dawn required something to fuel these adventures. I am not a coffee drinker and try my best to avoid caffeine in general (with the exception of my 5 hour energy drinks during finals week). However, like I said it was near impossible to keep up without an energy boost. European coffee is typically espresso which is like a shot of highly concentrated coffee. It is SOOO bitter - wow. Much to the enjoyment of my friend, I took them like shots and then chased them with juice. It probably was hilarious to watch/super embarrassing for me, but hey a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Long days sightseeing and nights that lasted until dawn required something to fuel these adventures. I am not a coffee drinker and try my best to avoid caffeine in general (with the exception of my 5 hour energy drinks during finals week). However, like I said it was near impossible to keep up without an energy boost. European coffee is typically espresso which is like a shot of highly concentrated coffee. It is SOOO bitter – wow. Much to the enjoyment of my friend, I took them like shots and then chased them with juice. It probably was hilarious to watch/super embarrassing for me, but hey a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Most Random Thing I Did

So as I mentioned earlier in the Palace de Pena caption, it wasn't exactly ideal weather in Lisbon for most of our trip. So one day my friends and I decided to go to the electricity museum because it was indoors and free so why not? We got to act like elementary school kids in science class for about 30 minutes and then braved the weather again.

So as I mentioned earlier in the Palace de Pena caption, it wasn’t exactly ideal weather in Lisbon for most of our trip. So one day my friends and I decided to go to the electricity museum because it was indoors and free so why not? We got to act like elementary school kids in science class for about 30 minutes and then braved the weather again.

Best Dessert Pastel de Nata at Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon

Custard filled tart - basically tasted like creme brûlée inside a pastry

Custard filled tart – basically tasted like creme brûlée inside a pastry

Cutest Perro

I saw a lot of dogs in Europe, and shockingly although most of them weren't on leashes, they still followed their owners dutifully (if I tried that with Lilly, it would NOT end well). Anyway, one day the cutest little jack russell puppy wandered over to me so I couldn't resist playing with it, and I even was able to have a Spanish conversation with his owner about how I have a jack russell terrier too. #typical.

I saw a lot of dogs in Europe, and shockingly although most of them weren’t on leashes, they still followed their owners dutifully (if I tried that with Lilly, it would NOT end well). Anyway, one day the cutest little jack russell puppy wandered over to me so I couldn’t resist playing with it, and I even was able to have a Spanish conversation with his owner about how I have a jack russell terrier too. #typical.

Best Local Shop Manuel Tavares

I stumbled into this store within my first couple of hours in Lisbon. It turns out that is one of the oldest wine shops in Lisbon! We befriended, Rick, a really nice man who worked there and he let us try a bunch of the port wines and dried fruit they sold. Seriously, he was one of the nicest people I encountered on this trip, if you ever travel to Lisbon please visit this store and show him this picture - I assure you that you will be well taken care of!

I stumbled into this store within my first couple of hours in Lisbon. It turns out that is one of the oldest wine shops in Lisbon! We befriended, Rick, a really nice man who worked there and he let us try a bunch of the port wines and dried fruit they sold. Seriously, he was one of the nicest people I encountered on this trip, if you ever travel to Lisbon please visit this store and show him this picture – I assure you that you will be well taken care of!

Favorite Souvenir

I found this beautiful sangria jug in the Born district of Barcelona which is well known for their shopping. I obviously was drawn to it for the overwhelming amount of purple ceramic - can't wait to put this to good use!

I found this beautiful sangria jug in the Born district of Barcelona which is well known for their shopping. I obviously was drawn to it for the overwhelming amount of purple ceramic – can’t wait to put this to good use!

Close runner up - I bought this sangria jug back in Portugal, however it broke in transit to Spain :( On the bright side, I like my new one much better!

Close runner up – I bought this sangria jug back in Portugal, however it broke in transit to Spain 😦 On the bright side, I like my new one much better!

Honestly my pretend study abroad week was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I know that is said time and time again, but now I truly understand how great of an impact traveling can have on a person. I hope to have the opportunity to continue exploring other countries throughout my lifetime.