A few months ago, I took you all back to my time in France – more specifically, Lyon – and highlighted three fantastic meals I had during the first year of my stay there.
I’ve been feeling the travel itch lately. I’m not quite sure what it is…perhaps the fact that I’ve been in Sacramento for 2 1/2 years now. I’ve taken a couple of trips to New York, and down to Santa Barbara to visit college friends or for work…but after spending most of 2008-2009 in Lyon, and returning for a month after graduation in 2010, I feel like I’m overdue for a Euro trip.
Yesterday, we got some surprising news at work and the word that keeps coming to my head to describe it is bouleversant. Bouleverser is a French verb that basically means to be knocked off your feet, or to (figuratively) turn things upside down. Without going into too much detail, I’ll say that my job is safe for now…but there’s a lot of uncertainty about the next month and what the future will bring.
I’m choosing to look on the bright side, and imagine what kind of opportunities a change in employment, or even some time off, may bring.
Though I already shared some delicious meals from Lyon, I wanted to highlight food I had during my travels outside of the Rhône-Alpes region. I traveled to ~12 countries during my year abroad, and I ate a LOT of food. France may be known for its cuisine, and Lyon may be the gastronomical capital of France, but the rest of Europe is not to be discounted!
Spain is the land of tapas. I visited both Madrid and Barcelona, but my trip to Madrid in November 2008 was definitely focused on the food. (My trip to Barcelona in February was much more about drinks, dancing, and sunshine!) My friend Mike was studying there, and knew all the great tapas places.
At Cerveceria 100 Montaditos, there are literally 100 mini sandwiches to choose from. If you’re a French-speaking anglophone with minimal Spanish skills, you should probably stick to what you recognize on the menu…e.g. el pollo.
We hopped around the city to several different tapas spots: Meson del Champiñons (where we returned more than once) had delicious stuffed mushrooms. The 2nd place had some more adventurous choices: Chicken on the left, blood sausage in mini tortillas on the right.
El Tigre is perhaps one of the most well-known famous tapas bars in Madrid – the three of us purchased one 3€ beer each and before we knew it, these two plates full of deliciousness arrived our way…fo FREE!
No trip to España is complete without Churros con Chocolate. And this is no Hersheys hot cocoa mix…Spanish hot chocolate is THICK and RICH.
Belgium – Brussels & Bruges
If you ever go to Belgium, I guarantee you will find yourself face to face with many food carts selling frites, or French fries. Not only do they sell amazingly crisp frites, but most carts offer dozens of sauces to go on top. Smart not to order ketchup, or you’ll get sour looks from the locals. These fries from a cart in Bruges were topped with a yummy curry sauce.
Across the street from this particular frites stand was:
The clock tower from In Bruges!
Besides beer and chocolate, another must have in Belgium is gaufres, or waffles. We waited until we got to Brussels to try a taste:
Holy mother of waffles. Once again, the best food happened to be located right next to a famous landmark:
As I already mentioned, beer is also a must-try in Belgium. We got lost after finding Mannekin Pis and stumbled into the first bar we could find. It happened to be Delirium Cafe, possibly the most famous bar in Brussels.
Have you ever heard of Delirium Tremens? It came from this place. They have over 2,000 beers, so we went back more than once to make sure we made a dent in the list 😉 At the time, I wasn’t as much of a fan of IPAs and hoppy beers as I am now, so I enjoyed that the Belgians have a penchant for fruit-flavored, yet strong beers.
Nice, French Riviera (Côte d’Azur)
OK OK, I know I said I wouldn’t be talking about France here, but the South of France is really another story when it comes to cuisine. Marseille and Nice were also two of my favorite places I visited- I couldn’t leave both of them out!
Socca is a Mediterranean specialty (basically a thick crepe/pancake made out of chickpea flour and olive oil) that I had never seen nor heard of before coming across this lady at the market in Nice. But we were intrigued by the fact that she was cooking up this pancake-looking treat in a huge cast iron skillet over a fire pit.
They get wrapped up and
eaten plain DEVOURED. Then you can walk 5 minutes from the market and take in this view:
Surprisingly, there was a quintessentially French dish I never tried until we were in Nice:
Croque Monsieur! Cheese on ham on bread on cheese on ham. Deeelish.
We didn’t sunbathe topless, but we did enjoy the lax liquor laws on the rocky beaches:
Oh, you want more? Here’s dessert:
During the same trip to Nice, we made a pit stop to border city Ventimiglia, Italy (my only time ever in Italy!) and enjoyed some Italian gelato.
In the middle of my winter break, I made a solo trip to Salzburg, Austria to take a Sound of Music tour. (Yes, it was the best thing ever.) The last stop on the tour was a small cafe in the Lake District of Austria, where I enjoyed a hot chocolate and apple strudel. Heaven!
A crepe with chocolate and banana in Marseille, France. Also heaven. This was also the point where I remembered to bring my nice camera with me on trips 😛
Have you traveled to Europe? What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten while traveling?