Tag Archives: restaurants

lisboa con las chicas

Let me just start off by saying that this was one of the best weekend trips I’ve taken since I got to Spain. The combination of the beautiful city, friends I was with and lots & lots of laughs all came together perfectly. This trip was the last few days we would be spending with Jackie’s two best friends, Sally and Meg, who had been visiting from the US since the weekend before.  Although it was short, the two-hour long flight really made all the difference.  We had nearly the whole afternoon on Friday, plus all day Saturday and Sunday to explore.

After a few minor mishaps at the beginning concerning the apartment we were staying in, we were all a little on edge.  Jackie, Meg and Gabby went out to buy some snacks, wine and breakfast for the next morning while Sally, Lauren and I stayed back and started getting ready.  Worried they would return with even more woes, I was delighted when they came back in wonderful spirits and very excited to get our first night in the city started.  Between Friday and Saturday night, we managed to explore a large part of the Portuguese nightlife here in Lisbon.  We started out in Barrio Alto, one of the many hills of the city, lined with bars and filled with just as many locals as tourists.  We also got to see a Fado show, Portuguese flamenco, which was really beautiful.  Lastly, we went to two different clubs in the city, Urban Beach and Luxe that were both really fun.

  

Scenes from the trolley car.

We spent Saturday doing a little bit of shopping, taking the local trolley up through the Alfama neighborhood and strolling back down, taking in breath-taking views of the riverside and the city-side of the city.  Sunday was a little more relaxed (if that seems possible); we headed over to Belem, for the Pastéis de Belem, a very famous egg custard pastry.  It was really good, although I don’t know if I would say it merits being as well-known as it is.  Then we headed over to the beach town of Cascais.  There we relaxed on the beach and enjoyed the best gelato in Portugal.  I chose chocolate chip and lemon raspberry in a cup, which was so yummy.

Besides the wonderful sweets, we also tried many traditional Portuguese dishes.  Friday night we tried a tasting menu with Portuguese chorizo & blood sausage, baked cod in a thick cream sauce, kale soup, roasted potatoes and pork with a variety of seasonings.  If we thought the service in Spain was bad we had no idea what we were in for in Portugal though.  We had been to the southern beach towns of Albuferia and Lagos two years ago, but had completely forgotten the services issues we had there (we ordered four English breakfasts for four people, and for some reason the waiter had only written down an order for three).  Here, we got lucky though with a free sampling of chocolate and fruit mousses for dessert to compensate.

 

Saturday for lunch we had the funniest waiter I have ever had.  His broken English and radical change in mannerisms through out the course of the meal had me crying and falling on the table laughing.  Jackie and I shared a huge piece of fresh sole fish (although we had ordered swordfish… oh, language barriers) and roasted chicken.  Lisbon was such a beautiful city, and, just like with every other city I’ve been to, I really hope I have the chance to go back someday.  A lot of parts of the city reminded us of Prague; the style of the buildings and architecture was just very similar.  Every trip I go on, I hope to cross somewhere off the list, but unfortunately, that list is just getting longer and longer!  I hope you guys enjoyed your weekend just as much as I did!  Ciao, amores:)

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

un viaje florentino

This past weekend was my first time visiting Italy (of many more to come)!  A few months ago my Uncle Mark & Aunt Ginger sent me the itinerary for their two-week long Italian vacation (super jealous), hoping that I would be able to join them along part of it.  It just happened to work out that they would be in Florence for a week, including the weekend of May 25 – 27, so Dan and I booked a trip to meet up with them! We decided to fly through Bologna and then take the train to Florence, since, with all costs included, it still wound up being about half the price.  I took the bus to the airport from my office (20 minutes door to door!) and met Dan in the RyanAir visa check line around 1pm.  Of course, there were a million people that decided to rearrange their luggage once they got up to the counter, so it took us forever to get through to security. The security line was even crazier and Dan told me it was because 99% of people that go through security it is actually their first time doing so.  That’s actually not true, but I believed him, mostly because I’m gullible, but also because people really were taking forever!!

We got in the long RyanAir line and finally after passing the ticket scanner, we were informed that we were at the wrong gate.  We had nearly gotten on a plane to Santiago de Compostela, in the northwest corner of Spain!  Crisis averted, I anxiously ran to find the other gate and then waited in that line for another 30 minutes.

After a normal burning hot/freezing cold RyanAir flight we landed in Bologna and took a cab to the train station.  There were two trains to Florence leaving within the next fifteen minutes, so I was getting anxious in the ticket counter line.  There were only first class tickets available for the second of the two, and the next train was not for another hour!  We quickly paid, grabbed our tickets and ran (again) through the crowded station to our platform.  Tons of people standing there, but no train.  Taking the reactions of everyone else into count, I deciphered the Italian train status update and gathered that the train was 20 minutes late.  Once we got on it was smooth sailing for the rest of the weekend though, and we kicked it off with free wine and snacks in first class wooo!

Our hotel was only a ten minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence, so we checked in rather quickly upon arrival, dropped our bags and headed over to the San Lorenzo Mercato, the infamous Florence leather market.  It was closing in an hour, but we weren’t sure when we’d make it back there (we walked at least three more times in the next 48 hours), so we wanted to check it out!  I wasn’t planning on making a purchase just yet, but I did decide to try on a jacket (or 5 or 6) just to get a feel for what I wanted and how much it would cost.  Twenty minutes later we headed back to the hotel with my new leather jacket in hand!  Usually it takes me forever to make decisions, but the fact that I loved it and that Dan and I tag-team bargained with the vendor until he dropped the “special price” over 50% is what sold me!

After phoning Uncle Mark & Aunt Ginger’s hotel and showering, we met up with them right outside of our hotel to walk around the city before dinner.  We saw the Capelle Medicee, the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, Ufitzi, Piazza della Signoria y Palazzo Vecchio.  The sun was just setting and everything looked so beautiful in the light!  We made our way over to Acqua al 2, a trendy restaurant that Jackie had recommended to me, since her boyfriend James studied in Florence during the fall, and they had gone there for his birthday.  We enjoyed six tastings of fresh pastas with all different vegetables & sauces, three different filet mignons (one with blueberry & one with balsamic) and three delicious fresh salads.  It was a perfect dinner for our first meal in Florence since we got to try all different things and it really was very affordably priced.  Thank you so much for the recommendation, Jack!!  We finished the night with gelato and made plans to meet up at the leather market around 9am.

 

We started both Saturday and Sunday morning in the hotel with the free breakfast of croissants and rolls with nutella & jam, juice and coffee (cappuccino for me, café con leche for Dan), which gave us the energy to power through the long days ahead!  We spent all day Saturday driving around Chianti and the Tuscan countryside, stopping for wine tastings, fresh tomato/mozzarella/basil paninis, drinks looking out over thehills and lots of photo opportunities in small hill towns all afternoon.  It was beautiful and relaxing and certainly made up for the anxious travel day Dan and I had had the day before!

We made our way back to the city later on, enjoyed a snack of a smooth fresh pecorino (which was amazing), prosciutto de Parma and wines we had tasted and bought that day before heading across the river for a late dinner.  Mark & Ginger ate at the restaurant earlier in the week per the recommendation of their concierge but had no idea how popular it would be on a Saturday night!  We waited a while, but between the free glass of prosecco, people/food watching and conversation it seemed to pass very quickly. We had watched heaping plates of shellfish coming out to almost every table, so we knew we had to order that to share.  We also ordered a buffalo mozzarella stracciatella, which was fresh, torn, smooth buffalo mozzarella served over crispy fresh vegetables, and the traditional panzanella (Italian bread salad with balsamic vinegar and typical veggies).  After about 20 minutes it seemed the heaping pile of mussels, shrimp and clams was not getting any smaller, but when we turned around the table next to us had ordered TWO of them!!  Not only that, but when they finished those, the waiter brought out four plates of linguini with clams, one for each of them again!  We left around midnight, hoping to make it over to a gelato place that four local tour guides/waiters/etc. had recommended, but the gate was literally closing as we turned the corner.  We meandered around the city for a little while, taking in the city at night, which was absolutely beautiful.

Sunday morning, Dan and I headed over to the Galleria dell’ Accademia bright and early to see the David.  We didn’t have a reservation, but we actually made it into the museum in 15 minutes.  The statue was so impressively huge and detailed, I couldn’t believe how all of the photos I had ever seen of it did not even do it justice.  Dan made me snap this picture, even though it wasn’t allowed!!  I was freaking out they would kick us out of the museum, but of course no one even noticed.  The Prisoners were also very interesting, unfinished works by Michelangelo which make the sculptures seem like they are stuck in the blocks of stone.

We met up with Uncle Mark & Aunt Ginger at their hotel around 10:30, stopped in the Santa Maria Novella Farmacia, an ornate, beautiful pharmacy belonging to the church and then made our way across the Ponte Vecchio and up to the Piazza Michelangelo for the great view of the city.  We also stumbled upon a beautiful rose garden that I would highly recommend visiting!  It’s down the far left side of the Piazza, toward the Boboli Gardens.  I love stumbling upon things like that, and it was great to not have a set agenda because we could take the time to explore!!  While making our way over to see the Pitti Palace, we passed a church that was built in the year 1078 too!  We were getting so hungry passing pizzeria after pizzeria, but were determined to make it to Gusta Pizza, James’ favorite pizza place during his semester abroad.  It was definitely worth the wait, I got an arugula pizza and Dan got one with spicy salami.  As if that wasn’t filling enough, we had to stop at the gelateria from the night before.  A small cup of tiramisu gelato & pear ricotta gelato put me in a serious food coma, the perfect state in which to get on the train back to Bologna.

       

 

The weekend was a perfect balance between touristy site-seeing and relaxing, and I’m so happy we got to spend it with Uncle Mark & Aunt Ginger.  Thank you guys so much for everything, and enjoy the rest of your trip!!  Hope everyone else had a great weekend too.  Ciao, amores:)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

un finde rural

Casas colgadas, the San Nicolas bridge, and the newer part of the city

In the fall Dan and I bought a Groupon for a two night stay in a rural bed and breakfast about 45 minutes outside of Cuenca, Spain.  Cuenca was on the list of four or five cities near Madrid that my roommate Eva had given me when I first arrived (by the way, I’ve visited all of them now!).  Being half way between here and Valencia, it was about a two hour drive, so we decided this Groupon would be perfect for devoting a weekend to this small city.

Knowing ourselves, we booked the trip for a few weeks after we had started work with anticipation of how nice a weekend of r&r would feel.  We spent a lot of time driving through the country side of Castilla – La Mancha, the province where Cuenca is located.  It was absolutely gorgeous and full of green rolling hills and steep stone canyons.  It was such a contrast to the landscape of La Rioja, where I was just a few days before, but they were both beautiful in their own ways.

The house we stayed in was really cute and was in a small town that, I kid you not, did not even have a convenience store or a bar.  The owners were so kind, so we decided to take them up on their offer of a barbecue dinner on Saturday night, which was delicious!  Other than that, we enjoyed Castilla – La Mancha delicacies like wild boar, Castillan soup, red wines and manchego cheese.  We also stopped in the adorable bakery Ruiz I had read about on Lonely Planet, but since we couldn’t decide what looked best we got one of everything to share, haha!

  


On Saturday we explored the historic part of Cuenca after lunch at this amazing restaurant, including the Plaza Mayor, Cathedral, quite a few lookouts over the mountains & newer parts of the city, and the casas colgadas.  The casas colgadas or “hanging houses” literally appear to be hanging off of the cliffs on either side of the historic part of Cuenca.  They’re so surreal looking and I’m still confused about how they actually stay up, even after exploring the Spanish Abstract Art Museum, which is actually housed in one of them!


On Sunday, we drove north of Cuenca to see the Ciudad Encantada, or Enchanted City, which is filled with crazy natural rock formations that used to be all covered by water.  It was really awesome, and it felt so great to be outside in the woods, something I really haven’t done since I left the US.  We also stumbled upon quite a few beautiful lookouts on the side of the road into canyons and rivers, which were absolutely stunning.

    

After a delicious lunch in Plaza Mayor (with a few scattered showers here and there to keep it interesting), we headed home.  It was such a relaxing weekend away; I’m so happy we had purchased that Groupon so long ago!  Hope you guys enjoy my photos of the trip.  Ciao, amores:)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

chicas en la rioja

I’m so sorry I haven’t been posting very often!!  With just a few weeks of work under my belt I have been coming home and passing out very early almost every night.  However, once I get used to the new schedule, I promise I’ll be able to keep up with blogging even better than usual!

To add to the lack of time for blogging, last Tuesday & Wednesday were public holidays here in Madrid.  My four friends and I took these days off as an opportunity to plan a spur of the moment roadtrip to Spanish wine country.  La Rioja is about a three and a half hour drive from Madrid.  We picked up a car Monday afternoon and to our very pleasant surprise were given a white Audi A4 for the price of the four-door automatic car we had rented, since they had all already been picked up.

We stopped in Burgos for a yummy 7 euro dinner of traditional tapas (including blood pudding), red wine, salad & complimentary honey liquor, as well as to check out the famous cathedral there where El Cid is supposedly buried.  After that we headed to a bed & breakfast in Navarette, a small town about 10 kilometers outside of Logroño, the most commonly visited city in the region.

   

We headed over to a bar across the street for breakfast.  A few confusing encounters in bars, a piece of tortilla and a cup of black tea later, and we were on our way. Our first stop was Laguardia, a small town on the top of a hill and also a former fifteenth century fortress.  We enjoyed the beautiful views of the vineyards before settling on our first wine tasting.  We took a tour of a family-owned winery, very typical of the town.  Because Laguardia used to be a fortress, there are small basements in the bottom of nearly every building, which were used to hide food, water, etc. if need be. However, now they are used for wine cellars, wine-making, restaurants, bars or as part of personal homes. We got to see how the Carlos San Pedro Bodega makes their wine and also got to taste a glass before it goes into the final step of its aging in the bottle.  I’m really glad we started our trip at such a small scale winery because it was so cool to see the differences between this and the other ones we got to visit.  After the tasting we enjoyed some Basque Country pinchos before continuing on our way.

       

Next we stopped at Marques de Riscal, a fairly well-known winery in another small town, Elciego.  We took a tour of the new state-of-the-art winery, the older one and the storage rooms.  There were barrels upon barrels of wine, and they even have a huge storage area with bottles that they have saved from every year’s harvest. We also got to see the hotel at the vineyard, which was designed by Frank Gehry, the arquitect that designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.  We enjoyed a glass of red and a glass of white and then headed into Logroño to explore a famous tapas street there, Calle del Laurel.  Each bar had their own specialty, which was the only dish that some of them made, ranging from pineapple shrimp kebabs to sautéed mushrooms.

          

Wednesday morning we woke up bright & early, packed our things and got back in the car to head to a reservation we had made the day before for another tour!  We toured the Dinastia Vivanco Bodega and also checked out the Wine Culture museum, which is supposed to be the most interesting one in the region.  It was really cool to see all different things about the history and culture of wine-making though, and I’m definitely glad that we got to see it.

   

After the Dinastia Vivanco, we started heading home, but stopped in the capital city of the region, Haro, for lunch.  We had heard great things about Haro being a cute and fun small city to visit, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to our expectations.  Our experience wasn’t as crazy as the last stop we made on our way home from Sevilla in December (remember the Trujillo story?), but it certainly made us bring that up again.  We had a delicious menu del dia, but could not even finish a bottle of wine between the five of us, having drank far too many glasses of tastings in the past 48 hours.

{how red, white & rose wines go from grape to bottle}

All in all it was a really great weekend two days off in the middle of the week!  In between stopping at all of the vineyards we had a great time driving around the countryside and listening to awesome cds that Gabby, Lauren & Jackie had made for the trip.  Going to wine country for two days in the middle of the week with four of my best friends is definitely something I am going to miss when I go back home to the US.  Everyone always says that since I’m here, I have to take advantage of all of the cool things to do, but this experience has made me realize that you can do that anywhere… no matter where you’re living!

Hope everything is going great with you all and maybe this will inspire you to go exploring this weekend!  Animo, amores:)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

feliz cumpleaños, dan!

Dan’s birthday is so close to Christmas (it’s December 23!) that it usually gets celebrated the week before or nearly forgotten in all of the holiday travel mayhem.  Last year we made the most of it by staying in to have a great homemade dinner, cake, and presents in Boston, and I hope he had just as much fun celebrating this year with our families and friends!

{Mom in front of the carousel and christmas markets; Plaza Mayor}

We took my favorite walking tour of Madrid, starting at the Templo de Debod & Parque del Oeste, seeing the Christmas lights in Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol, & Plaza Mayor, and having a snack of jamón and queso at Mercado de San Miguel with our families before having dinner at the oldest restaurant in the world, Casa Botín.  The atmosphere was great inside and the food was excellent, as well, though I think there may be too much hype over the place.  Of course, we enjoyed ourselves, but I would have to say I’ve had better meals in Madrid, and though I’m glad I went once, I don’t plan on going back.

That wonderful time with our family was followed by homemade chocolate cake with white chocolate frosting (by me!)  and presents at our friend Kenny’s apartment.  It was great to hang out with everyone for the night before we all went our separate ways for Christmas.  Dan and I had flights early the next morning to Prague, so we decided against going to the club in efforts to call it an early night.  Another post coming soon about spending the Christmas holidays in Prague, which I started on just four hours of sleep… so much for going to bed early!

¡Feliz cumpleaños, amor!  Espero que te hayas disfrutado:)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized