Venice, Florence, and Rome: Gelato, Gelato, and More Gelato

Spring break part two! I met up with friends from my London program in Venice, ready for our week long Italian adventure.

As you can tell from the title, our dessert of choice was gelato…and also a little bit of tiramisu just to mix things up.

Our two days in Venice consisted of walking around town, exploring narrow shopping roads, and stuffing our faces with pasta. Venice is a very small town and was easy to tour on foot. We visited St. Mark’s Basilica, the bell tower, went on a gondola ride, ate dinner by the grand canal, and of course ate gelato every chance we got.

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There are two criteria when judging a gelato: flavor and location of consumption. Gelato isn’t just a dessert, it’s an experience! The gelato can be absolutely delicious, but you won’t remember it unless you were able to enjoy it with a great view.

Here is the most memorable gelato in Venice

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It was salted caramel and tiramisu gelato that we ate in front of the basilica while watching a live band perform at a restaurant nearby. It was delicious!

Next stop: Florence

Looking back on spring break, Florence was probably my favorite part of it. The city was small enough that you could get most places by walking but big enough so that you never ran out of things you wanted to see. I came to Florence with a list of things I wanted to do and see and accomplished all but one of those things. During our two busy days we visited the Uffizi Museum, the Piazza del Michelangelo, the Academy, climbed the Duomo and the bell tower, walked along Ponte Vecchio, had the best hot chocolate in the world, and managed to eat delicious pasta and pizza when we could. On top of all that we also ate lots of gelato, mostly while we were on the go which is why I only took one photo of gelato in Florence on our first day.

 

 

Next stop: Rome

One train ride later we arrived in Rome! Our two days there included the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, the best dinner I’ve ever had, gelato, and cannelloni.

After the most amazing dinner, we all went to Venchi (this place had chocolate flowing down the walls so you know it has to be good), and then went to sit in front of the beautifully lit up Trevi fountain. Delicious gelato with a perfect location.

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With our eight day trip complete and our bellies full of gelato, we were all happy to head back home to London.

 

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Berlin: Dessert for Breakfast…Again

I guess since the title of this blog is eat dessert first it’s fitting that in Berlin I basically ate dessert for breakfast…twice.

For the start of spring break I decided to go to Berlin for the weekend to meet up with two of my best friends who are studying in Salzburg. This weekend trip was filled with so much food. From croissant French toast to kebaps to sushi to pad thai, we had it all.

On our first morning in Berlin we walked around the corner to a cute brunch spot and had the most amazing croissant French toast with maple syrup, whipped cream, and fruit salad. Despite the fact this brunch place wanted us to believe we were eating breakfast, we were definitely eating dessert. It was sugar on top of sugar…and it was absolutely delicious. So delicious that the next morning we went back and had it again.

 

Although it’s not a dessert, another food highlight of this trip were the kebaps. I had never had one before this but apparently they’re a big deal in Germany so we stood in line for an hour to get the best kebaps in Germany from Mustafa’s. Even though it was my first kebap, I knew it was the best in Germany.

 

Between our meals we also experienced Berlin and all of its sights. We did a free walking tour (perfect for broke college students) which took us to the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, and Humboldt University. On the second day we went back to the Berlin Wall to walk along the East Side Gallery, a collection of street art painted on the East side of the Berlin wall.

For me, this trip was mainly focused making fun memories with my friends and there is no better way to do that than with food!

 

Edinburgh, Scotland: An Excursion to Remember

For our first big group excursion, our program directors took us all to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Highlights included Edinburgh Castle, St. Giles Cathedral, the Writers Museum, the Scottish National Museum, and hiking up Arthur’s Seat.

The first day in Edinburgh we got a great introduction to the city. It is a gorgeous place full of so much history. After exploring Edinburgh Castle and St. Giles Cathedral, a group of my friends and I headed to a pub for dinner and had a traditional Scottish dish called cranachan for dessert. It was mostly whipped cream, but also had layers of oats and fresh fruit, plus a little bit of whiskey. Unfortunately we devoured it so quickly I didn’t get a photo but this is basically what it looked like.

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Dessert #2 in Edinburgh was a giant Nutella hot chocolate which was poorly timed as we drank it minutes before hiking up Arthur’s Seat. However, it was still totally worth it! I’m pretty sure they just poured hot milk over Nutella, but it was incredible. Not quite as incredible as the view from the top of Arthur’s Seat though.

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Although this was a quick trip it was very memorable! A great bonding experience for the whole program.

Paris: Crepes, Macarons, and a Whole Lotta Selfies

Planning our first weekend trip started with the most spontaneous decision I’ve ever made: to buy tickets on Tuesday night for an overnight bus to Paris that left on Thursday night. Who does that?!

After an 8 hour overnight bus ride, which is just as uncomfortable as it sounds, I arrived in Paris with three friends.

Highlights of the weekend included Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Louvre, Sacre Coeur, the Arc de Triumph, and of course the Eiffel Tower (which we had to visit twice because it was so cool).

As a tourist, you learn to master the art of the selfie, as evidenced by these masterpieces.

 

Now let’s talk about dessert!

France is especially famous for their crepes, so we obviously had to find the best crepes in Paris to make our experience complete. But most of the time, the best memories are made when you just stumble across things. As we wandered, about to cross a really cool bridge that I can’t remember the name of, it started to snow and we saw a man with a little crepe stand on the other side of the street. We ran to him and got our Nutella crepes we had been craving, realizing as we stood on the bridge that the Eiffel Tower was peeking out through the fog. So we ate our crepes on the bridge, admiring the Eiffel tower, when a woman in a beautiful wedding dress comes around the corner and we realize that we are interrupting wedding photos. So just to recap…we are in Paris AND it’s snowing AND we’re eating Nutella crepes AND we’re staring at the Eiffel tower AND there are adorable wedding photos happening right next to us. It doesn’t get more magical than that.

 

After a successful experience with our first dessert, we spent the beginning of our last day in Paris hunting down the Laduree macaron store. We each bought eight macrons wrapped up in fancy little boxes and brought them with us on the 8 hour journey back to London. They were so delicious that I forgot to take a picture until I had already eaten a few.

 

 

Salted caramel was my favorite and I will be saving this adorable box forever.

Overall, our first weekend trip was a success, full of iconic Parisian desserts.

 

London: Cookies or Biscuits?

The first two weeks in London were a crash course on how to live in a big city, how to live with a family you’ve never met before, how to ride the tube, how to avoid pick pockets, how to pass your classes, and for me…how to bake chocolate chip cookies.

Baking has always been a form of stress relief for me. During finals week I guarantee you will find me baking chocolate chip cookies. At the end of my second week in London, to say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. So I decided to bake cookies.

Before coming to London, I assumed that baking was universal. I could make my cookies anywhere. I was very wrong. My world turned upside down when I realized that cookies aren’t even called cookies in London! In the U.K. they call cookies biscuits. The debate between what makes a cookie different from a biscuit different than a cake is one I still don’t understand at all.

The trip to the grocery store was pretty straight forward, I had to guess which type of flour to use (self-raising or regular) and had to do some measurement converting when I realized that butter doesn’t come in sticks.

Once I was home, I asked my host parents for cup measurers to which they responded “what’s a cup measure?” and offered me a tea cup. I ended up using a scale, converting all my measurements into grams and hoping for the best. With the dough finally ready, I preheated the oven using the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion on my handy dandy iPhone, which was covered in flour and sugar at this point.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I put the cookies in the oven and set the timer. It had already taken me about twice as long to get to this point than it would have at home, but I was confident I had made it through the worst of it.

This is what it looked like after the first batch was out of the oven…

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Not exactly what I was hoping for.

With each batch I tried something new. First it was lowering the oven rack, then changing the oven temperature, then baking the cookies on parchment paper, and finally baking them on tin foil. Although none of the cookies turned out exactly how I wanted them too, my host parents and roommate Bridget were happy to eat them all.

 

This experience baking cookies turned out to be a perfect illustration of my first few weeks in London. At first you think it will be fairly similar to home, but then after you realize it isn’t, you adjust and fail, adjust and fail, adjust and fail, until you finally figure it out. After this grueling baking experience, I was hopeful that I would be more successful the second time around.

 

 

 

Iceland: Dessert for Breakfast

On my way to London, I decided to stop in Reykjavik, Iceland with two friends. We stayed there for three nights and had a blast visiting the Blue Lagoon, exploring downtown, and getting trapped in the snow. Iceland was the first stop on my international study abroad adventure and I was ready to hunt down my first dessert and try some traditional Icelandic food. All three of us were enthusiastic to try new things until we discovered that traditional Icelandic food consists mostly of strange salted or pickled fish and the occasional sheep’s head and that eating out in Iceland is too expensive for a college student. So we settled on burgers and sandwiches most nights. As for desserts, we didn’t come across many…so we decided to have dessert for breakfast most days. Enjoying hot chocolate or coffee with croissants, cakes, and scones before we started our day. Based on the crowded coffee shops, I assume this was a typical morning stop for most people living in Reykjavik.

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Although I was disappointed we didn’t get the chance to try an adventurous Icelandic dessert, we still had some memorable adventures in Iceland. We were able to visit the Blue Lagoon hot spring, complete with mud face masks, which was a great way to relax after an 8 hour flight. The next day we roamed around the city for a few hours, walking along the water doing a little shopping. On the last day, we hopped on a tour bus to take us around the Golden Circle which consists of geysers, waterfalls, and the split between the tectonic plates. Unfortunately, after our first stop, we had to turn around because of road closures due to the snow. But this mishap lead us on a unique journey to a farm with a giant greenhouse dedicated to growing tomatoes. It even had a restaurant inside that only served tomato based foods! Apparently the Kardashians have been there before so we felt pretty cool after hearing that.

All in all the three of us had a great time. For our first time traveling without adult supervision, we were all very proud of what we’d accomplished. We hopped on a bus at 4am, headed to the airport, and were on our way to London.

Seattle: Hot Cakes

Hi everyone!

The stories to follow document my semester abroad living in London and exploring other countries in Europe. Since my giant sweet tooth has a huge impact on my life, I thought that eating desserts all over Europe would be a great way to experience new places and cultures. Thanks for joining me on my study abroad adventure!

My delicious journey began in Seattle with my favorite dessert of all time, chocolate lava cake. Since this dessert holds a special place in my heart, it seemed fitting to come to Hot Cakes before I set off on my study abroad adventure. Surprisingly I had never been to Hot Cakes before I made this spontaneous decision to drag my parents to Seattle at 10pm the night before my flight.

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With my suitcases packed at home and my belly ready for chocolate, I sat down and tried to relax as I enjoyed this delicious dessert. I was surprised to see how busy Hot Cakes was at 10pm on a Monday night and also to see that lava cakes were not the only thing on the menu! So of course we had to get a grilled cheese sandwich to complement our dark chocolate cakes.

As documented by these photos…

I thoroughly enjoyed this dessert which was a great opening act for the sweet adventures to come.

The next morning I set off for the airport, met up with some of my fellow study abroad buddies, and said goodbye to my parents…a very bittersweet moment.

Let the dessert-filled journey begin!