Archive | Night Life RSS feed for this section

If I am what I eat, call me Bocadillo de Jamon: Madrid

11 Apr

After a weekend of no sleep and beach parties in the Barcelona sun followed by a couple days of detoxing on the pristine Ibiza beaches, I couldn’t imagine how Madrid could get any better. Besides the little bump in the road when the airport ATM ate my debit card and absolutely no one could help me, Madrid quickly proved me wrong and stole my heart! Above all reasons to love this lively capital city is a wonderful man by the name of Chimo.

This is Chimo!

This is Chimo!

I have found that spending time with locals makes a travel experience 10 times more enjoyable and unforgettable. I was extremely lucky to be connected to Chimo because he is the cousin of my mom’s Marquette roommate’s husband. Chimo adopted the 4 of us girls for a couple days: Wined and dined us, but mostly wined as he tried and succeeded to get us pretty tipsy by midday. For our first meal in Madrid, Chimo took us out for an authentic Madrileno lunch. We first tried to meet him for our reservation at a restaurant in the city, but when we showed up the gates were up and it seemed closed down (Holy Week shenanigans..). Change of plans: Chimo arranged for us to meet at Casa Carola a bit outside the city, so we hopped in a cab and he met us there on his bike.. Harley that is. Yep, he’s a badass dad. Chimo took charge and ordered the table Cocido Madrileno, a traditional stew from Madrid. It was a rainy day in Madrid, so this hearty soup did the trick!

The base: stock and noodles

The base: stock and noodles

Beef, Chorizo, Pork Belly & Blood Sausage

Beef, Chorizo, Pork Belly & Blood Sausage

Chicken, Beef Bone Marrow & Jammon Iberico

Chicken, Beef Bone Marrow & Jammon Iberico

CHICKPEAS! Cabbage, potatoes, and carrots

CHICKPEAS! Cabbage, potatoes, and carrots

We went back for seconds.. or thirds.. fourths? I can’t remember. As much as I was paying attention to how delicious our meal was, Chimo’s stories were way too distracting! He definitely wins coolest father for life award! We heard of his wild experience running with the bulls and another event where he ran to the center of the arena and had to crack open a bottle of beer before the bull charged him, or else he couldn’t take the beer! What Europeans do for a drink, I tell ya! As if we weren’t stuffed enough at this point, out came dessert.

Flan

Flan

Arroz con leche

Arroz con leche

Torrijas - taste like french toast!

Torrijas – taste like french toast!

And the best for last! As if the wine during lunch didn’t already do the trick to the 4 detoxed girls, Chimo ordered 2 bottles of the Spanish version of grappa called Aguardiente and Orujo de hierbas. With the exception of Chimo because he’s a champ, the unanimous favorite was orujo de hierbas because it was sweeter and stung less. He had to practically shove it down Madison’s throat, but once it was down she kept coming back for more! “Arriba, Abajo, Al centro, Al dentro!” 

DSCN1777

"Do it, bitch" - Chimo

“Do it, bitch” – Chimo

DSCN1782

Now it was time to walk it all off! We got a tour of the city from the best, wisest, and funniest tour guide in town: CHIMO! We met back up in Puerta del Sol which is a sight in and of itself. This place is loaded with hooligans. You feel like you’re in an amusement park and it doesn’t feel safe. The costumes weren’t even good, they were cracked out versions of Spongebob, the Smurfs, Mario, and Spiderman with a beer belly.

solmadrid sawmadrid

Before leaving the square we stopped to pop a squat on Spain’s “Km 0” point.

DSCN1784

Chimo took us past the Opera House to the enormous Palacio Real and Catedral de La Almudena.

Holy Week procession

Holy Week procession

DSCN1814 DSCN2008 DSCN1821 DSCN1829

You can’t really escape the gypsies and hooligans in Europe. Gypsies with their squeaky toys and headless business men congregated in the other famous plaza in Madrid, Plaza Mayor. We soon discovered how fun it is to hang out here in the late hours of the night with our 1 euro bocadillos de jamon as Luke pets babies in their mom’s arms…

DSCN1865

DSCN1870_2 DSCN1874

 

 

mayorr

To finish off the tour, Chimo walked us around El Mercado de San Miguel right outside Plaza Mayor. This semester abroad has made me a big fan of the public markets and that much more excited to come home to Milwaukee’s. The best paella we had in Spain was right here in the San Miguel market. We also had the churros with chocolate and drinking the leftover chocolate from the cup put us right over the edge! Chimo couldn’t leave us without feeding us some sort of alcohol, why not Vermouth! I’m not used to seeing something other than beer on tap, but the sweet Vermouth de Grifo was a nice fruity change.

Paella with squid ink

Paella with squid ink

DSCN1878

Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Vermouth de Grifo

Vermouth de Grifo

Our first night we met up with Luke and Brad who met us here from Seville. Right up the road from Puerta del Sol we discovered this unbeatable deal of a bucket of Heineken for 5 euro at Bulevart. We were sold! The big Spain v. France World Cup qualifying game was on, so it was fun to see the place riled up with sweaty B.O. smelling fans from both sides. Luke flooded the bathroom (adding to the stank) and we befriended a lonesome guy who we saw hanging out with drug dealers and prostitutes the next day. Oh the friends you make in Europe..

hein

Day 2 and Round 2 for Tapas con Chimo!! After buying a pair of handmade espadrille sandals from Casa de Hernanz right outside Plaza Mayor, we met Chimo a couple metro stops outside the city at La Repanocha de Tapas. The owner and cook is Chimo’s friend Quique and everything he made was melt-in-your-mouth outstanding!!

Quique and his ladies

Quique and his ladies

Some people don’t like tapas, or don’t understand them, but that’s because they’ve never had tapas like this before! The name derives from when people didn’t want bugs in their drinks so they would cover them with their plate of food, therefore “tapas” comes from the Spanish word “tapar” meaning “to cover”. Just like yesterday, we let Chimo take the reigns and the food never stopped coming.

Spanish omelette with tomatoes and onions

Spanish omelette with tomatoes and onions

Goat cheese salad

Goat cheese salad

Cecina - say it with the Spanish accent (Allison's fave!)

Cecina – say it with the Spanish accent (Allison’s fave!)

Bacalao with avocado

Bacalao with avocado

Blood sausage spring rolls

Blood sausage spring rolls

Tripe (Cow stomach)

Tripe (Cow stomach)

Entrecotte from the Esla Valley

Entrecotte from the Esla Valley

Tangerine and Mascarpone ice cream

Tangerine and Mascarpone ice cream

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

There’s no way anyone could possibly say they don’t like tapas after a meal like this one. We undoubtedly had enough food, but it was so delicious that I could have gone back in for seconds! Allison had to excuse herself from the table when the tripe came out, but everyone else dug in and devoured it, scraping the bottom with pieces of bread. Once again, no meal with Chimo is complete without the digestivos: Orujo blanco and Orujo de hierbas.

hierbas

Chimo left each of us with flash drives full of Spanish music, aka my new favorite playlist. None of us wanted to say goodbye. It felt like we had spent weeks with Chimo and it was all coming to an end. But not to worry because we all planned a Route 66 road trip together, so the good times will continue!

CHIMO, YOU DA MAN!

CHIMO, YOU DA MAN!

I won’t bore you guys with “museum talk”, but we spent the rest of the afternoon museum hopping from El Museo del Prado to La Reina Sofia. The Prado is one of the world’s largest museums, neck-in-neck with the Louvre. La Reina Sofia has wild modern art and is the kind of museum where you’ll find a massive crowd starring in deep focus at a blank white canvas on a wall.. WHAT DO YOU SEE THAT I DON’T?! As cheap college students we discovered the free entrance deals for the Prado 6pm-8pm and La Reina Sofia 7pm-9pm. A quick (free) walk through both is definitely worth it just to say you’ve gone!

DSCN1923 DSCN1926

I was most surprised by how cheap Madrid is! If you’re smart, you could spend close to nothing and still have an unbelievable time! Which was very relieving as Allison took on the role as my Sugar Mama and paid for everything after my debit card dilemma. Besides Bulevart, we found a few other awesome dirt cheap places for food and drinks! One of the chicest looking is called Copas Rotas (right outside the walls of Plaza Mayor) and caught our eye with it’s unbeatable 1 Euro glasses of wine, beer, and tapas! The bartenders were gorgeous too.. you can even hear it in the sound of their voices as they call your name to come grab your tapas. I’d let them grab my tatas any day..

DSCN1927 DSCN1929 DSCN1931

Next may be our favorite and easiest to find: Museo de Jamon. It’s a chain all around the city. As Madrid’s ‘fast food’ stop, we ate here at least 1 dinner, 1 lunch, and a couple late-nights while we were there. A ‘cana’, small glass, of beer is 1 Euro and their addicting Bocadillos de Jamon are also 1 Euro. Literally it’s just crispy bread and a few pieces of their Iberian ham and just like that it’s mouthwatering, but Brad made sure to pick up some BBQ sauce to layer on and sweet baby Jesus that took it to a whole new level!

Got dat "secret" SAWCE

Got dat “secret” SAWCE

This last place was introduced to us on our last night by Chimo’s nephew Luis, his girlfriend Maria, and a group of their friends and is called 100 Montaditos. It’s also a chain and had a Panera-like feel except with cheap beer deals! For 2 Euros you get a pint of beer from the tap and a sandwich from a huge selection. From Jamon, to pollo asado, to tuna, to brie and patata, they had it all! Although I had a bocadillo de jamon stuffed in my purse for a snack on the walk home, I couldn’t pass up this steal! If you’re sick of beer, we had Tinto Verano (similar to sangria, but simpler). Ah, every sip brought be closer to sweet summertime!

100

Luis

Luis

Maria

Maria

It was so good that Al, Brad, and I made sure we made it our last stop before the airport the next day. Nothing says Spring Break like a little flight pregame and some Bocadillos de Jamon!

If that doesn't scream happiness..

If that doesn’t scream happiness..

Last thing on the list for a Must-See in Madrid is Parque del Retiro. It reminds me a lot of Vila Borghese in Rome because they’re so huge and there’s so much to see and do. Right near the front there’s a giant pond where everyone rents out row boats, and you’ll always find those jackasses trying to capsize. On the other side of the pond, past the statue, are more beautiful gardens, gazebos, and we even came across some vicious peacocks. Not sure if their screams were mating calls or if they were planning an attack on us.

DSCN1949 DSCN1958 DSCN1963 DSCN1969

Lesbianest..

Lesbianest..

DSCN1985

If this “foody” post doesn’t scream “I’m my father’s daughter” I don’t know what will. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Big Rich!

At the end of the week, the 4 of us unanimously agreed that we preferred Madrid to Barcelona, although was greatly influenced by the incredible time we had with our new friend Chimo! That said, we loved all 3 cities and could not have planned a more perfect week! Still can’t believe I just spent Spring Break in Spain.. This life I live is unreal. I don’t have many weekend trips left, but my exploration of Rome continues and is sadly coming to an end way too soon. BRB as I go ball my eyes out!

Until next time,
Ciao!

Advertisements

No Wonder They Siesta: Barcelona

2 Apr

“Strut like you mean it, free your mind, it’s not enough just to dream it. Come on, Come on!” – Cheetah Girls

DSCN1470

Our Spring Break trip began just as any usually does: in pure chaos! and European chaos is much different than American chaos – communication barriers, unpredictable transportation, and lots of smelly and greasy people crammed into tight spaces. Allison, Madison, her friend Nikki, and I decided to do a Spain Spring Break – so you could pretty much just call us the Cheetah Girls! We started in Barcelona, then went to the island of Ibiza, then Madrid, and back to Rome for Easter. Our two goofball friends Brad and Luke were in Barca and Madrid with us (to get an idea of the type of guys they are check out my Prague post, total crackups).

Allison

Allison & I on our balcony

Madison

Madison

Unlike American flights, RyanAir doesn’t expect you to be at the airport until right before your flight, so we timed it to be there just an hour before. Just our luck, not only did we take the bus during rush hour, but there was a car accident causing us to arrive 20 minutes before our plane took off. You never think you’ll to be that group of people sprinting through the airport and tripping over each other, but when you are it’s not as funny as it looks. Madison’s duffel permanently broke open after security and then I almost had to pay 50 Euro for my oversized carryon. That was a nightmare and a half to “shrink”. I almost started layering on all my clothes #RyanAirProbz

The flight was a breeze, just a quick hour and a half. To get to our hostel we had to take a train and then the metro. On the train there was a man walking up and down the cars playing amazing Spanish music. On board entertainment? I’ll take it! When we came out from underground and were surrounded by a big industrial city it felt like we were home in America! Barcelona’s a pretty genius city because to get to the metro they paint arrows and a “yellow brick road” on the streets and sidewalks because they know that people will be too belligerent to find it otherwise. Right outside the metro stop and the first real piece of Barca that we see is Antoni Gaudi’s colorfully aquatic themed Casa Batllo.

Bar-Casa-Batllo1-e1316671103315

CasaBatllo

Once again (thanks to our flawless trip planning skills) our hostel’s location couldn’t have been more perfect! We walked up from the metro and were smack dab at the tip of Las Ramblas, the most famous and lively strip in Barca. I couldn’t believe the amount of gorgeous Spanish men we had already seen and we hadn’t even been in the city for more than 20 minutes.. Jaw Droppers, 95% of them! Why didn’t I study here and pick up a spicy guapo Spanish man?

We stayed at St. Christopher’s Inn, the same company as my hostel in London, with the same Aussie packed Belushi’s bar and discounts. And if you’re really looking for some convincing.. it’s a block off Las Ramblas and right next to Starbucks and TopShop. Gameover. To get the night going we posted up at the bar for massive nachos and a bucket of Heinies.

DSCN1620

belushi

IMG_1678

We had a gorgeous bartender named Mo and let me tell you.. God definitely spent Mo time on that lucky man. Epitome of tall, dark, and handsome (with an accent, muscles, and tattoos).

Brad and Luke took the metro from there place to meet us at Belushi’s and when they got there they were unbelievably squirrelly! But that’s standard when you put the group of us together. Barca nightlife is unlike any I’ve ever experienced before. At around 1 I led the group to a club everyone had raved about. It was quite a hike and when we asked a couple Spaniards if we were heading in the right direction they told us we’d need to hop in a cab because it was too far. Those people must not understand how accustomed we have become to walking in Europe because we walked the 15 or so blocks and made it without a lousy cab ride! Lazy Americans my ass!

The club was called Sutton and we lucked out with free cover from a Facebook group I found. Sutton was outrageous, I felt like I was in Vegas. Everyone was dressed to the nines, “Vegas” show girls marched around, and bottles on bottles of Chandon were carried out on platters lit with sparklers. WE MISSED JBIEBS BY 1 WEEKEND!!

sutton suttonnn

The 6 of us danced on top of a platform in the middle of the dance floor all night long and left after we heard a few too many corny pick up lines.

Our 2nd day in Barcelona was spent wandering the city. A couple blocks down Las Ramblas we stumbled upon El Mercat de la Boqueria, the massive food market full of fresh fruits, tapas bars, and the freshest and largest fish market that I’ve ever seen, smack dab in the middle.

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

DSCN1496 DSCN1450 DSCN1453_2 DSCN1461

I was on a hunt for grilled octopus, but instead I popped some scrumptious cod fritters in my mouth.

DSCN1462

Cod Fritters

Cod Fritters

DSCN1457_2

We aimlessly strolled through the winding streets surrounding Las Ramblas and came across the Barcelona Cathedral. After one lap inside we sat on the steps outside to take in the Barcelona street life: scattered groups of chatty hot Spaniards and musicians hanging out near trash cans.

DSCN1473 DSCN1475

Next on the agenda: Bike ride through Barcelona. Along the way to the bike garage we dipped into Playa Real for a peek. It’s a gorgeous square surrounded by palm trees and patio seating and if I had more time (& money) I’d definitely grab dinner somewhere around it! Before our 2 hour ride, we grabbed lunch at Walk to Wok (recommended stir fry chain). The cooks were smokin’ hot Spaniards that were fun to chat with over some udon noodles, “Barcelona isn’t Spain,” one of them admitted.

DSCN1493_2 DSCN1494 All around the city are bike garages under the company, Budget Bikes. It was hands down the best way to see every part of the city. From the long stretch of beach…

DSCN1500

Only I would take on a bike in wedges..

Only I would take on a bike in wedges..

DSCN1525

Cruisin down the boardwalk

Cruisin down the boardwalk

to dodging people and cars through the chaotic city center, and past beautifully artistic monuments…

La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi

La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi

DSCN1550

Barcelona's Arc de Triomf

Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf

DSCN1556

Everywhere we wanted to stop were major pickpocket traps, so we clutched onto our bikes for a swift getaway. The brakes were a little faulty and because we were riding in the middle of the road with all the crazy European drivers, I almost crashed into the back of half a dozen cars. We met hot Alejandro back at the bike drop off (I’ll never get sick of the European cheek kisses), rewarded ourselves with a Dunkin Doughnut, and SIESTA-ED!!

That night we went down to the beach clubs – True Barca! We had to take the metro, which is a lifesaver in Spain, and it was packed with party people headed to the beach! Catwalk, Shoko, and Opium are the major hotspots that sit right on the beach. One of the club promoters pulled us past the line into Shoko where, once again, we danced on top of a huge platform in the middle of the dance floor until creepy men started sneaking up behind us.

shoko shokoo

By the end of the night I was salsa dancing with a black man and Allison pulled me away from dancing with a Cannibal. Alright not really, but he was bleeding from the neck all over his white deep V. I don’t know how people party until the sun rises on the beach every day! Let’s just say Allison and I missed hostel breakfast the next morning.

Last day in Barcelona! The group split up, so Al and I headed North on the metro to Gaudi’s famous Park Guell. It’s in a less appealing part of the city with the longest escalator I’ve ever seen taking you from the main road all the way to the top of the hill.

DSCN1567The terrace of Park Guell is lined with a multicolored mosaic bench that serpentines all the way around with palm trees at its back and it overlooks all of Barcelona with the sea in the distance and La Sagrada Familia poking out in the middle.

DSCN1580_2DSCN1575DSCN1599 DSCN1597 DSCN1589Underneath the terrace were acrobatic and magic acts, jewelry vendors, and just some plain old circus freaks. Even in early Spring there were tons of people around the Park. I can’t imagine the hype in the heat of the summer.

DSCN1605 DSCN1614

I just think it’s so cool that I learned all about Gaudi and his incredibly unique work in the 6 years that I took Spanish classes and I never sat in those classes imagining that one day I’d be standing in front of it.

After a quick stop into a bakery for a white chocolate covered elephant ear, we took the metro straight to the beach.

Spanish musicians on Public Transportation

Spanish musicians on Public Transportation

We took a walk to the end of the pier down at the marina and that’s when we noticed.. A MALL!! HALLELUJAH! I wanted to fall down and kiss the ground!

mall

I can’t remember the last time I saw a multistoried indoor mall. Barcelona has such glamorous, fresh, and vibrant fashion and the Maremagnum Mall definitely showcased that. I could have gotten a lot more credit card happy, but it was a test of my wise budgeting skills.. and I passed!

Back at the hostel we had our first taste of Sangria in Espana! Definitely adding that to our list of summer concoctions!

IMG_1699

Now here’s where our genius dumbest idea ever comes into play. We had to be at the airport at 5 AM the next morning to catch our flight to Ibiza, so Allison and I thought it’d make sense to pull an all nighter and have some fun with our fellow hostel guests!

We were off to a great start! We made friends with a huge group of semi-socially awkward French men in the lounge area, then went out to buy 50 cent doughnuts while being followed into the store by 2 scary black men, and then we made it back to the hostel bar where we befriended a German guy that looked like Calvin Harris and a hilarious Irish guy.

Calvin Harris?!

Calvin Harris?!

When I asked the Irish guy if he knew the love of my life, Colin Farrell (cause how could he not..) his response was, “Well futbol isn’t fun anymore cause we have 4 on 5 now that Colin Farrell left to make a 2 hour long video about a man stuck in a phonebooth.. WHO WANTS TO WATCH A PHONEBOOTH FOR 120 MINUTES!”

When the bar closed at 3, we went up to our spaceship bunk beds (coolest and comfiest beds on Earth) to take a “power nap”. Thank the Lord that Madison was sane enough to go to bed at a reasonable time because without her to wake us up at 4 AM we would have missed our flight. To make things better.. when she woke me up I was passed out upright in bed with my computer on my lap (probably typing this god awful post to all of you). I miraculously managed to not forget anything at the hostel (found my lock in the pocket of my leather jacket 3 days later) and passed out in a McDonald’s booth in the airport until I was scolded, “No dormir, no dormir!!!”

IMG_1713

Next stop: IBIZA!

Buda Buda Buda Buda Rockin’ Everywhere!

3 Mar

After a very stressful weekend, a sad loss of my iPhone, and not much inspiration, one Skype convo with my mommy and I’m back on the blogging train!

buda

A week ago, Allison, Kurt, Kyle, and I took a trip to the wild city of BUDA! Never thought I would make it there, but after many Europeans raved about Prague and Budapest I am now able to cross those 2 magical lands off my list! Not knowing too much about Budapest, except for caving and thermal bathes, we booked our trip through Andy Steve’s, son of travel guru Rick Steves, program called WSA (Weekend Student Adventures). I 100%  recommend Andy’s trips to any college students traveling around Europe! Him, his girlfriend/work partner Jenna, and our Hungarian tour guide Bogi, were SO much fun and made what would have been a completely chaotic trip, if we did it on our own, into an unforgettable adventure!!

Coming from 50 degree and sunny weather in Rome, the dinky RyanAir plane landed on the snow covered runway and the whole cabin started clapping. Apparently it’s quite the achievement for a RyanAir plane to successfully land.. well good thing majority of my future flights are RyanAir.. that’s reassuring.

545338_10151289622643465_1017268218_nOf course, no journey is complete without some sort of problem. Not even 5 minutes in Budapest and Kyle’s card is eaten by the ATM in the airport. The group’s stress quickly passed as we were welcomed into the Hungarian city with a nice piece of Hungarian ass and a babushka.

datassTransportation from the airport to the hostel was very seedy. I felt like I was riding my way into the movie, Hostel. It was late at night and we had to transfer buses on this dark, sketchy, empty street in the middle of no where. We finally made it to our hostel around 2 AM and the party was just getting started.

Let me explain our hostel. It was called RETOX Party Hostel. If that doesn’t say enough, I don’t know what will. The reception desk is pretty much a high top bar table surrounded by sloshed staff probably on their 20th beer of the night. There’s a courtyard bar that’s clearly covered in the winter. Retox is run by a group of people who took a trip to Budapest much like I did, and loved it SO MUCH that they decided to stay and make others fall in love with the city just as much. These people are the definitions of functioning alcoholics!! They party till 6am, get up at 7am, and the place is impeccable when everyone wakes up. They make Charlie Sheen look like a lightweight and Project X look like a church group. They’re smart people! Knowing what condition their hostels guests would be in during their stay, the room keys are attached to bracelets so you could never lose them. I’m surprised I returned to Rome, but I’m even more surprised that I returned without an ass tatt or nipple piercings (Just a couple of the services Retox provides). I would return to this place without a doubt!!

retoxx

549798_10151277323236513_2058448494_n

Beer pong off tabletops

Beer pong off tabletops

retoxroommroom

The bar looking spotless in the morning

The bar looking spotless in the morning

The greatest example of the effect Retox has on its guests was waking up the morning after to one of our bunkmate’s rolling over and mumbling in the most confused tone, “Where am I…?” We laughed about that for days. A backpacker’s worst nightmare, traveling so much that they don’t know what country they’ve woken up in. We bonded with Chip, a Georgian who tried but failed to get us drunk everyday starting at 1pm.

Friday morning we met Andy, Jenna, Bogi, and the 12 other traveling students. It was the perfect sized group and I felt like over the course of the weekend I got to know a lot of them really well! It snowed that morning and the city looked like a Winter Wonderland. We had a walking tour before our afternoon of caving, so I strapped on the “gymies”.. can’t remember the last time I wore an outfit like this.. sad.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Inside the gorgeous cathedral is St. Stephen’s actual fist, the patron saint and first king of Hungary. One great thing about the WSA trip is that they take care of all the bus/metro/tram transportation and hold onto all of our tickets and we took a TON of public transportation over the weekend that I would not have been able to master on my own. And probably would have gotten a few fines along the way. We made our way up to Buda Castle Hill where we saw St. Matthias church and Fisherman’s Bastion which are the best lookout points of the city!

st matthias

snow

Up next was our big caving adventure!!!! The minute we got off the bus the snowball fights began. I think I got a chuck of ice straight to the head, but I was so on my game and my aim was at its prime! We hopped in our jumpsuits and hard hats and followed our caving guides through the snow.

Nothing like those saggy crotches!

Nothing like those saggy crotches!

caves

The whole adventure felt like I was reliving my childhood: snowball fights and crawling and climbing for 2 1/2 hours. We split up into 2 groups depending on difficulty levels and I couldn’t be happier that Allison convinced me to go easier because even “easy” was a struggle. Our guide was Frodo, “cause I’m tiny and hairy!” He was a blast and in his broken English said, “Having a group of girls.. It feels like Christmas morning!” I’m sure he had no problem literally pushing our butts through the caves. He seemed to be very impressed with my caving abilities and I have Mr. Patton and my high school rock climbing/bouldering class to thank for that (nostalgic moment)!

cave

cavee

At a few points we all turned off our lights, sat in silence, and all you could hear was your heart beating and you couldn’t even see your hand waving in front of your face. It was pure meditation. That is until we heard the other group catching up to us and decided we’d sit there in the dark and scare the crap out of whoever crawled up first. Hide-n-Seek.. literally my childhood. Frodo showed us this hole in the ceiling that he was small enough to basically dive through, so I thought I’d give it a try.. these Hips Don’t Lie. Made it halfway and couldn’t pull myself out, as mom would say to me, “You look like a stuffed sausage!”

Frodo was liking the view from behind.

Frodo was liking the view from behind.

When we finally came out, it was night time and we were covered in clay. Nothing like another snowball fight to clean off a little. I can’t believe people explore these caves for a living, it was an amazing experience I’ll never forget! We were on our own for dinner but a few of us took Andy’s recommendation for dinner at a place called, Most. We bonded with a couple girls studying in Paris, and stuffed our faces with delicious pad thai and beer.

most

Hostel tip: Be the first one to hop in the shower, or be prepared for an ice cold one. Everyone was soooo pissed at me for using up all the hot water, but you know what I say to that, “You snooze, you lose!” Friday night our hostel organized a Booze Cruise on the Danube river (included in WSA). Before we left, Andy bought a bottle of the Hungarian liquor, Palinka, so we all squeezed up into our bunk room for some Hungarian Welcome shots! Our entire hostel, plus a couple hostels nearby, all headed down to the river where as we waited to get on, another snowball fight broke out. While getting pelted with hard snowballs, the hostel owner screamed, “BOAT. TOP DECK. CHAMPAGNE. EXPLOSION. FACES.” Everyone raced onto the boat and grabbed their bottle of champagne. Allison and I had a lot to celebrate that night, so poppin bottles on the Danube couldn’t have been a better celebration!

You got it, Retox!

You got it, Retox!

Standard public transportation in Budapest..

Standard public transportation in Budapest..

cruisecruisee

Parliment

Parliment

As Hungarian legend has it, everyone is supposed to kiss someone under each of the 7 bridges we go through, but me and Allison decided it would be best to not go back to Rome with herpes of the mouth. Cause you know, what happens in BUDA stays in BUDA, except Herpes.. that shit will come back with ya.

Andy filmed the Harlem Shake Budapest edition in his underwear and a dinosaur head (keep in mind it was less than 20 degrees). Try to find me.. I’m the girl swaying back in forth because I had no idea what was going on!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jabNFZleDtk&list=UUThVbARchXemBHvs8ihWoWA&index=1

After breakin it down on the dance floor all night long, the boat docked and we found ourselves hittin up the famous $1 pizza shop for some late night gourmet slices. The pizza is made down the street and then a guy runs it down to this tiny shop (very cost effective thinking!) Here’s a look during the day because obviously this was not a one stop kind of place..

pizzaa

pizza

Saturday morning everyone struggled to get out of bed at 9, Kurt practically punched me in the face as I tapped him to wake up, and apparently my bunkmates weren’t too happy with me snoozing my alarm every couple minutes. What’s not to love about Demi Lovato and Benny Benassi at 8 am?! We grabbed breakfast and walked around the Central Market Hall, the biggest market in Budapest. It’s right on the river because boats used to drop off all their produce and other food to that location, so they built a gorgeous market hall. Another nostalgic moment, it definitely reminded me of Milwaukee’s Public Market! Many people got the Langos which is traditional fried dough with sweet or savory toppings. Looked DELISH and if I wasn’t already dreading to put on a bikini for the first time this year I would have indulged in one as well!

market

We took the underground metro to our 2nd huge Budapest adventure which the city is most famous for: Thermal Baths. We went to the Szechenyi Baths which is the largest medicinal and one of the largest public baths in Europe. It’s been open for over 10o years with pools inside and out ranging from 110 degrees to ice baths. It was so cool to be in the hot baths outside as the snow fell down on us. Little old men played chess in the water, majority of them in speedos with their big bellies hanging out.. yum.

We jumped from the super hot baths to the ice cold ones to the burning saunas to the lukewarm pools. In one sauna there were 3 young kids hovered against the wall covering their eyes and mouths with towels.. I felt like I was in a gas chamber – not to be diabolical or anything. On the bright side my nasal passages were cleared right up! It was an unbelievably relaxing experience – definitely romantic!

baths

bath

That night Andy took us out for a Hungarian dinner and it felt like the first time we were all together telling stories and picking Andy, Jenna, and Bogi’s brains about traveling. Many people tried goulash for their first time, but Kyle and I split Hungarian style pizza and the delicious duck breast with cabbage pasta and cinnamon apples! We definitely left room for the night’s main event!

Saturday night’s event was the ruin pub crawl. Many years after Budapest’s Jewish Quarter was destroyed in World War II, some of the broken down abandoned buildings were transformed into these hip ruin pubs.

ruin

We went to the third best bar in the world, according to Lonely Planet, called Szimpla Kert. At night this pub is bumpin, with old eclectic furniture (some hanging from the ceiling), a huge outdoor movie projector, an old stripped down communist car you can chill in, and several rooms including an outdoor courtyard. Drinks are cheap, people are friendly, music is awesome, there’s a hookah bar, and the environment is trippy.

szimpla

Sidenote: During the day Szimpla turns into a food market (taste testers up the wazoo) where vendors sell honey, chili, baked goods, produce, and my favorite, BudaPesto 😀

szimplaa

Another famous ruin pub we went to was called Fogas Haz (meaning “Teeth”) where there was an awesome DJ in the main room, tons of smaller rooms upstairs, and a huge courtyard and tent area in the back. It felt like these bars just went on for miles.

fogsor

After stopping for some $1 pizza, a few of us stayed up really late hashing out high school and college stories, making fun of Kyle who passed out next to us and snored like a bear, and bonded in the best way any college students can: playing Never Have I Ever. Paxton, the clown of the group who’s studying in Prague, literally made me laugh till the break of dawn. At some point slap happiness came over me, but he was definitely my main source of entertainment that weekend, I think everyone else would agree.

Since it was so late when we went to bed and we didn’t want to wake anyone up by turning on the bathroom light, Paxton and I brushed our teeth with his flashlight headband. Trying to go to the bathroom in the pitch black stall was a hassle and I heard him outside whispering, “Need me to shed some light on the situation.” He could do a perfect Charlie Day impression, and he had no idea who Charlie Day even was, and he was our Jaimie from Eurotrip – camera and all! HYSTERICAL!

After saying goodbye to the majority of the WSA group Sunday afternoon (tear tear), a few of us wandered the streets until we found this tea house called Sirius Teahaz. It feels like you’re in Alice and Wonderland. There are all these little doors that you need to crawl through to fit in, mouse sized private rooms, and ramps to sit up in little alcoves. We took off our shoes when we walked in and sat on pillows on the ground, sipping our tea. If my cousins (or other family members are reading this) you guessed right, I obviously got Camomile. Very cool place!!

sirius

siriuss

siriusss

Our last stop before heading to the airport, Kyle and Kurt took Allison and I to the Candy Shop.. 😉 But really.. it’s called Sugar! and it’s any woman’s fantasy land. Cupcakes, macaroons, gummies, oh my! I got my cupcake fix and Al went straight to the gummy section! Best quote from Allison that weekend, “This trip has given me a new appreciation for gummy bears… and Jews!”

sugar

It was really sad to say goodbye to Budapest, our new friends, and even more, Retox. As much as I love my clean, warm, bed bug free bed here in Rome, I really miss Retox.. and our bunkmates.

tel aviv

Until next time,

Ciao! ❤

And we danced, and we cried, and we laughed, and had a really really really good time.

22 Jan

Okay, so we didn’t dance, but I MET MY COUSIN FOR THE FIRST TIME TODAY and we everything else!

First, a brief recap of my first 4 day weekend!

1. Allison and I explored, as always. This time: La Fontana di Trevi! I have a definite love/hate relationship with this spot. Love because when I was there 6 years ago, I threw a coin in, wished to return, and well.. obviously that came true! Hate because of all the damn Gypsies! No one exaggerates the stories they tell of these people. It just makes the experience uncomfortable when you’re grabbing onto your purse for dear life while all these men are running up to you, throwing things at you, and mumbling in your face, as they try to rob you!

DSCN0210

2. Befriended some pretty important people (aka bartenders and bar managers.) Meet Flavio: Bartender extraordinaire at good ol’ G Dee-Jay Bar. I’m also on a first name double cheek kiss basis with the manager of Sloppy Sam’s, Luigi. Saw him in the middle of Rome today and he came up to say hi.. I actually LOL’d after the fact..

Flavio

Flavio

3. Grant and I thought it’d be a great idea to steal a random’s vespa. When in Rome is the new YOLO, right? JK mom & dad, it didn’t leave the parking spot.

IMG_4119

4. We cooked our first feast and yes, Allison and I ate the entire thing all by ourselves! It’s in my genes.. thanks Big Rich.

Makeshift pizzas using tortillas!

Makeshift pizzas using tortillas!

Spaghetti Aglio Olio, Pesto chicken with lentils, and a Caprese salad (minus the basil)

Spaghetti Aglio Olio, Pesto chicken with lentils, and a Caprese salad (minus the basil)

5. Oh you remember hottie from Scholar’s who looks like a mix of actors? (I promise, in person he does). Never thought I’d here from him again, whoops thought wrong. So wrong.

I promise you that I asked him to cook for me..

I promise you that I asked him to cook for me..

6. Honestly thought I got mugged today. Strangest thing happened! So we went to French photographer Robert Doisneau’s exhibit for my photojournalism class. It was really inspiring and his photography is amazzzzinggg. But anyway, on the way back to campus we got on the tram. There was a woman holding a baby covered in a blanket and another teenage daughter who got on with us. I’m not even kidding they “unintentionally” cornered me against the back wall and were literally on top of me! My friends and I couldn’t stop laughing because it was just bizarre, but then it felt like my purse was being played with. I looked down and my purse was open! I immediately pushed away from them, but I still had my camera, phone, and thank God my wallet was in my pocket. I think the baby was just kicking it and it was open from when I pulled out my sunglasses, but CLOSE CALL!

mugged

7. BOOKED 2 MORE TRIPS! It was going to be a surprise, but I’m visiting my best friend in London this weekend for her birthday!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s about to get CRAY up in HUURR!!! I can’t tell if I’m more excited to see Ciara, or hot british men with accents (Kidding Kierzyyy)! Also just booked BUDAAAA! Aka Budapest: Thermal bathes, caving, Hungarian food, and Andy Steves (Hahaha Kurt’s man crush! and travel expert Rick Steves’ son). I died when I came across this requirement for the trip..

Picture 21

Can’t wait to travel around Europe with babushka man, Kurtle Wittmeyer.

IMG_4155

8. BEST OF ALL! I MET MY 4th COUSIN, CINZIA! Ah words can’t even explain how happy I am! Honestly, we did cry, laugh, and have a really really really good time. I met her at work, Hausmann & Co., an orologeria and gioielleria (watch and jewelry store) smack dab in the center of Rome right next to the Spanish Steps. Which if I may add, I never would have thought that a week into my stay I could navigate (BY FOOT!) 40 minutes to the center of Rome. It took me a second to recognize her because the last picture I saw of her she had longer hair and was it taken a couple years ago. We hugged, kissed, and just paused for a few seconds to look at each other. I find it so crazy that after 19 years of my life I’m finally meeting one of my relatives halfway across the world. She took me out to this adorable buffet lunch and was introducing me to everyone she knew! She only had an hour break to fly through years of our lives and learn as much as we could about each other. She is SO cool and easy to talk to, speaks perfect english except I kept catching myself answering in Italian or at least saying “Si!”. She went through the family tree, all the way back to our connection being that her Nonna was the sister of my great Nonna Concetta. She explained why my family is in the states and her’s is in Italy, and that’s when she started crying. The story of her Nonna and Nonno was the most romantic, heartbreaking, and unbelievable story I’ve ever heard and I got really emotional too. It is legit a story from an old romance movie, I wanted to die at all the sacrifices they made for each other!

I had the best time and she told me to pick a Sunday while I’m here and she can introduce me to the rest of her family! I’m so excited!! She showed me around and walked me down this amazing famous street called Via Margutta which was home to the famous Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini and is where parts of Roman Holiday (Audrey Hepburn) were filmed.

Rome

It was such an amazing afternoon and really meant the world to me.

Dad, Cinzia's helping me pick out a Rolex (for myself) send me some money!!!!! :)

Dad, Cinzia’s helping me pick out a Rolex (for myself) send me some money!!!!! 🙂

Well it’s back to the books for me…HAAA! Yeah right. Can’t wait to fly through class tomorrow, have our Prague family dinner, and then it’s off to the land of pints, pubs, pounds, and pretty sexy men!

Until next time, Ciao!!!

Being all touristy

14 Jan

You can’t get more touristy than a large group of Americans with dorky headphone radios and giant cameras hanging from their necks jumping on and off transportation around the city with a Roman tour guide. We had John Cabot’s Navigation 101 where we were supposed to learn how to use the bus, tram, and train systems of Rome. That will take a lot of practice because my tour guide said something about validating tickets (have no clue what she’s talking about) or else you could get an outrageous fine.

We walked from campus to the Colosseum. It’s about a 25 minute walk although it was longer because we had to stop to take pictures of every damn church and monument.

DSCN0029

DSCN0033

DSCN0036

And let me tell you, there are a lot of churches and monuments in Rome.

It’s so sad to pass by all of the people laying on the street asking for money. We passed a woman without a nose, legit it was just 2 holes in her face. They’re all over. I remember when I was in line at the Vatican years ago, there was an old woman on the ground holding a baby and the woman’s scalp was cut off. Also, the street vendors are pains in the butt! And those people who dress up to take pictures with tourists.

Picture stolen from roommate, Alex

Picture stolen from roommate, Alex

Of course they don’t tell you that a picture costs money, but thank god I’m smarter and saved a couple people from that trap.

I have been to the Colosseum before, but never entered from this side. It was gorgeous to see be able to see it from all the way down the street and then walk all the way up to it. Allison ditched her group and snuck into mine, so thankfully I had someone to take touristy pics with!

DSCN0047

DSCN0056

Picture 14

IMG_3969

From there it was planes, trains, and automobiles.. well trains, buses, and trams. We went to Termini station which is the HUGE train station in Rome, built in the late 1800s! We walked through other piazzas with very high end shopping and hotels and stood next to smelly Italians on the bus.. very normal.

DSCN0074

Later in the day I got my first gelato of the semester down the street from my apartment!!! Got pistachio and it was the BOMB! I think that’s my dad’s favorite, Big Rich knows best.

IMG_3971

It was our friend Sari’s 21st birthday, she pregamed dinner with a bottle of Lemoncello. We tried finding this pizza place, Dar Poeta, but got lost. I asked people for directions and it seemed like they loved being able to help, but it didn’t help. I’m so thankful I didn’t bring any heels because I would be wiping out all over these cobblestones. I saw a couple girls in pumps and they looked so dumb. We ended up at this adorable restaurant full of locals called La Casetta di Trastevere. It looked like the restaurant in Love Actually when Colin Firth proposes. There was clothes hanging on lines from the ceiling and 3 levels of seating.

IMG_3973

I got Cacio e Pepe which is the classic Roman version on Mac n Cheese, and holy crap.. IT WAS INCREDIBLE!! Everyone was nibbling off my plate, it was just THAT good.

IMG_3974

We went back to Scholars Lounge for the rest of the night. It’s honestly so cool. The entire staff is from Ireland and the place is packed with locals and students from John Cabot and other schools. Allison and I are the best wing women for each other. Like my mom told me, not having my phone definitely allows me to meet so many more people. Met this Roman who looks like what Andrew Lincoln (Walking Dead)+Bradley Cooper+Jude Law’s child would look like.

IMG_3980

IMG_3983

If Jude Law, Bradley Cooper, and Andrew Lincoln had a child..

If Jude Law, Bradley Cooper, and Andrew Lincoln had a child..

As if crossing the ocean wasn’t enough to get away from the cheese heads, the Packers game was on the projector screen, and there were tons of peoples in jerseys. Terrible. We closed the bar at 4 and I had the best Sunday ever because of it. Woke up at 5pm and never got out of bed. It’s thunderstormed all night and I START CLASS TODAY! WOOOHOOO…

Taking a trip to the grocery store first thing this morning.. this should be good.

Until next time, Ciao!!

Mom, I didn’t blackout

12 Jan

FIRST NIGHT OUT IN ROMA!!!!!!!!!!!

And let me tell ya, these people don’t mess around.

I went out with a girl from Marquette, Allison, and some of her friends. Like I said, we went back to Tony’s because it’s just THAT good! But don’t worry, I’ll start switchin it up. I had the spaghetti carbonara which is a classic Roman dish. I must say, Big Rich (the best dad in the world) makes an unbelievable carbonara sauce that definitely measures up to what I had!

IMG_3930

IMG_3927

FYI dad: cause I know you like to reinvent the wheel, don’t lose the onion and parsley, it wasn’t the same without it! I almost made the rookie mistake of getting the table water with our vino, but water isn’t free here and I’m a cheapo! The pizza here is phenom and this should be everyone’s first stop in Trastevere! Tony, the owner brought out free dessert and wine! WINNING!

Next we went down the street to someone’s off campus apartment. Perfect location, but Rome has very strict noise laws so I don’t think the constant “shushing” is worth it. Met this hot Italian American who has family in L’Aquila and is visiting them next weekend, I totally wanna get in on that! From there we walked right downstairs to G Dee-Jay Bar and it was 5 euro unlimited shots for ladies! The DJ was on a balcony and pullin out so many hip hop oldies, it was UNREAL.

IMG_3933

IMG_3934

After we completely took advantage of the deal and Andrea and Fabio (the bartenders), our pack went off to another bar. Sidenote: my parents were curious and yes there are still a ton of cigarette smokers! We met this guy named Reed (like Criminal Minds, just cuter and actually normal) and he went here last semester so he led the 15 of us. It was a long hike over the Tiber River to Campo de’ Fiori and on the way Reed pointed out the ruins where Caesar was killed. Imagine 15 drunk kids freaking out over Caesar’s death.. hysterical.

IMG_3942

We ended up at Scholars Lounge which is an Irish bar. It was so cool and they were playing the best music. The minute I walked in Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark went on, bringin it back with the oldies! I amazed myself at how outgoing I was compared to how I am in the states. The bathroom was co-ed, so as I’m washing my hands next to an older Italian man we just started talking in Italian about family and random stuff. Casual. But then I met this guy from Manchester.. HOLY ACCENT! I died. It’s so unfortunate that their accents make them so much cuter than they are! I think I told him to take me to a Manchester game and he said he has season tickets, BOOYAH.

IMG_3962

How we found our way home, I couldn’t tell you. My navigation skills were above par last night.

Until next time,

View from our kitchen window

View from our kitchen window

Ciao!