Don’t worry, this isn’t your high school yearbook (phew!). Even though we still have a few more posts from our time in Italy to churn out, our sojourn in Europe has officially come to a close. As we’re writing this in a coffee shop in downtown Ubud, Bali, we’ve had a couple weeks to gather our thoughts and we thought we’d share some of our highlights.
The best things we ate:
Ristorante Marina Piccola… this is the Michelin rated restaurant that we serendipitously stumbled upon in Cinque Terre and enjoyed some of the best pasta we had during our month in Italy- get the spaghetti with mussels- and (probably too much) wine. While you’re enjoying your fresh seafood, you can watch the fishermen return to the wharf with their day’s haul, continuing a way of life that has sustained the village for centuries.
Kebab Baba… Lauren has been going steady with this Döner kebab joint ever since she studied abroad in Berlin, and Rachel can now confirm that they serve up superior Döner kebab. Make sure you come here hungry, because their portions are ridiculously oversized and you’ll find yourself finishing every bite of this easy €5 meal.
Swiss Cheese (not the holely generic swiss cheese, but literally all the cheese of Switzerland) (but also honestly everything we ate in Switzerland)... it should come as no surprise that we’ve fallen for Swiss cheese hook, line, and sinker. We are cheese lovers to the core, and if you’re interested in what’s essentially an ode to cheese, check out our blog post, Dreams are made of Swiss cows and cheese. Our top cheese picks (an incomplete list) are raclette, fondue, and Tête de Moine. If you are a fellow cheese admirer (and we don’t completely trust people who aren’t), make the voyage: your taste buds will thank you later.
California Bean… the first thing we started missing about American cuisine was scrambled eggs. We can’t quite figure out why they are such a difficult concept in Europe (the whole carb-heavy croissant breakfasts weren’t doing the trick, but we kept craving their yellow fluffy goodness. They’re easy to make, protein rich, and beautiful in their simplicity (find a better breakfast staple. We’ll wait.). To satisfy our Oktoberfest hangovers, we sought out the only place in the whole of Munich that served an “American breakfast,” and we salivated at the mere mention of scrambled eggs on their menu. We are not at all ashamed to say that this was our second most expensive meal on the continent. Not only did they have scrambled eggs (and bacon, sausage, freshly squeezed orange juice, and good ol’ filter coffee), but they did them well (and they had Tabasco, which nearly had Rachel in tears of pure joy). If you were wondering just how much we love our scrambled eggs, it’s worth mentioning that during our month in Tuscany, we made scrambled eggs every. day. We could eat them everyday for the rest of our lives and they would never get old. All hail scrambled eggs (and California Bean)!
Il Pizzaiuolo… When Rachel visited Florence for the first time in 2016 (wow, we’re getting old), she received a recommendation from a fellow traveler for what was promised to be “one of the best meals of your life.” Turns out, sometimes hyperbolic statements come true, and Rachel has been fondly remembering this meal ever since. We made reservations for the small bistro, and devoured some fried Buffalo mozzarella cheese and Linguine with squid’s ink, porcini mushrooms and calamari. This restaurant delivered some of the best (if not the best) pasta we’ve ever had not once, but twice. We’re already plotting how to get back for meal number three...
The best things we drank:
Glühwein… Traditional German Christmas markets (Christkindlmarkt) brought us together in the 6th grade, and we made it our tradition to visit our local Weihnachtsmarkt (which happens to be the oldest authentic Christkindlmarkt in the US) every year. Nothing makes us more nostalgic for one of our favorite German traditions than some good Glühwein (although rest assured we weren’t getting tipsy off of Glühwein in the 6th grade). Vienna (and the colder temps) was inspiring our holiday spirit in early November and we set out in search of some spicy mulled wine. Disclaimer: Glühwein is not for the weak of liver, this stuff plays in the big boy leagues and will hit you harder than Maria’s high note in “Do-Re-Mi” from the “Sound of Music.”
Wiener Melange… Vienna makes the list twice with Mozart’s favorite (and now ours too), the Melange. It is very similar to the cappuccino (the true differences are apparently a state secret), served with a heavenly dollop of fresh whipped cream on top. Vienna is the capital of coffee culture, and they mean business. We dropped in an Aida about every couple of hours or so to get our fix; in hindsight, it probably would have been more economical to start an IV drip. Sigh.
Beer at Oktoberfest… we’ve both had our fair share of beers from around the world, but nothing else quite compares to drinking traditional German beers the size of your head (1L to be exact) to the tune of an oompah band at the mecca for beer lovers surrounded by thousands of your new best friends.
$1 wine… this wine is listed here not for its superior or complex “mouth feel” (lol), but because it cost $1 a bottle (as the heading would suggest), is the most drinkable wine we’ve ever had, and was available to us across the street at our local bodega. This discovery was pure happenstance, as our inner cheapskates selected the cheapest wine available. Our time with our new favorite wine, however, was short lived. Mostly because we ended up buying our little corner store out of the stuff completely. You don’t know a good thing until it’s taken away from you, but we’ll remember you forever, $1 wine.
Patricia’s Aperol Spritz… As we mentioned in our blog post, When you Stoos, you (don't) lose, Rachel’s cousin, Patricia, is the queen of all things Aperol Spritz. At the risk of repeating ourselves (we’ll never stop singing Aperol Sprites’ praises to anyone who will listen), we’re addicted to Aperol Spritzes, and have no intentions of quitting. We truly don’t know how to function outside of European aperitif culture any more.
The flat tire… as chronicled in Cinque Terre, how can we resist ya?, we got a flat tire while driving the most colossal calamity of a “car” in existence. Because nothing with us is ever simple, it was quite the saga. We will forever hold a grudge against miniature Italian parking lots and Fiat automobile engineering (clearly not cutting edge).
The Italian transit system… our struggles with Italian public transportation are well documented in A beginner's guide to living in the Tuscan countryside. We’re willing to sacrifice a lot of things (including a portion of our sanity) to pinch a few pennies, but this is where we draw the line. Repeat after us: the Italian transit system is not your friend. It will bring you nothing but pain and will leave you stranded on the side of the road. It will never change, no matter how hard you try. Know your worth.
The hike to Tierser Alpl… You can read the recap of our Italian “127 Hours” experience in the Dolomites in One does not simply climb a mountain. We know that we tend to exaggerate a lot, but this was truly one of the most harrowing experiences we’ve ever faced.
The hike to Tierser Alpl… Sometimes the most agonizing experiences are also the most rewarding ones. This hike not only forced us to confront how far we can push ourselves, but it also gave us one of the most truly magnificent sunset views at the summit, which is something we’ll remember forever.
Oktoberfest… Not only was this pilgrimage to the Disneyland of beer a tremendous occasion for our friendship, it’s also just good old fashioned (literally) fun. Never let anyone tell you Oktoberfest is overrated or that oompah bands don’t provide the best party music.
Cinque Terre… in case you weren’t convinced enough in Cinque Terre, how can we resist ya?, Cinque Terre is the answer to the Mamma Mia shaped hole in our hearts. We loved the sleepy seaside village of Manarola and our farcical hungover hiking (where we somehow ended up racing against sun again?). Rest assured, we’ll be back.
Things we missed
- Scrambled Eggs (American Breakfast)
- Less carbs? (virtually impossible if you want to make the most of your Italian experience)
- Free water
- Real Salads (sans corn?)
- One-stop shopping (which we did actually find one of these places right before we left Italy, it was like a wonderland)
Pieces of advice
- If we haven’t been clear enough already, never rely on the Italian transit system… always rent a car in Italy.
- Shoulder season is the best season (next to Spritz season, of course).
- Don’t lose your wallet anywhere but Switzerland.
Don’t stand on tables at Oktoberfest (and don’t chug your liter of beer, no matter how many Australians are cheering you on).
There have been so many people along our journey that deserve our heartfelt thanks. To everyone that’s supported us along the way, read the blog, sent us words of encouragement, THANK YOU!
We would be remiss if we didn’t thank our families; Sabine, Lauren’s old host mom in Berlin who graciously put us up; Rachel’s Swiss family, a simple thank you could never repay all of your kindness!!!; our new friend, Joe, for his acts of gallantry and true friendship at Oktoberfest; and Heybet, for saving us and our POS car in Cinque Terre.
Cutest couple (ok maybe just one stereotypical superlative)
These people look familiar...