Best Sights and Tastes from Spain

After spending three months abroad I am looking forward to relaxing a bit before I head back to school. I have some ideas for the blog in 2013, but for now here are some picture highlights from the last leg of my travels this semester in Spain. Included are some of my favorite sites from the trip as well as my favorite dishes. Can’t explain why, but somehow foie gras will always be more exiting for me on vacation than a cathedral, unless it’s La Sagrada Familia that is. Have a great New Year wherever you are celebrating this year and see you next year!

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Cheers London, Hola España

Yesterday was sadly my last night in London.

It was perhaps the quickest semester yet, I felt like it had only just begun to be honest. While I have been to London before this trip, living in south east London was a completely different experience. I feel like I really traveled around the city, taking in the food, theater, markets and I even went to my first football match. I traveled to Dubai and Italy this semester and though I learned often outside of the classroom, my classes have made me think in different ways from Vassar. It was kind of sad leaving campus this past Friday. Who knows when I will be in New Cross once again, but when I am hopefully I can raise a pint at the Hobgoblin once more.

Now I am all packed up to travel to Spain until Christmas. It will definitely be different from London, and much warmer! My time in London dispelled the stereotype that food in London is drab and boring, but I am looking forward to tapas in Spain. Pan rubbed with tomato, cuttlefish, and perhaps paella too. But for now, I am going to post below a few last memories from London I never got the chance to write about, between packing up and writing essays for the end of the semester. Warning, tons of food pictures below! Hasta luego.

IMG_2885Our last class trip (if you can call them that, they were better than trips, adventures really) was to the Barbican to visit the Rain Room. It is a temporary exhibition that is completely free to enter, though the wait in line can be a deterrent. As a class we arrived early and were able to gain quick access to the space. Gallons upon gallons of water pours down, but as you walk through the path clears. If you were to run through you would get soaked, but with a slow walk you can manipulate the elements. How much do you wish you could actually control the rain around you, right?

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In what appears to be an industrial space under a bridge near the Shard is actually the space for some great, unexpected food. Maltby and Druid streets offer a great range in eats, but we came for St John Bakery, and specifically the doughnuts.IMG_2927 IMG_2926You can only pick up a treat from the bakery on Saturdays, and we were glad we went. The space is large, with tables in the front with goodies, and an expansive kitchen behind. They offer fresh bread, which local restauranteurs snatch up by the dozen, but for me it was the vanilla bean custard doughnut that was the must try. I cannot do this doughnut justice, but to say it was the best I have ever had. Coming to London and not stopping by here would be a mistake.

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Also be sure to check out the market on the other side of the bakery. Lots of options there as well, including some impressive pastries and incredibly rich smoked salmon.IMG_2929 IMG_2932As it was our last Saturday in London, it was almost necessary to make a last stop at Broadway market. This was one of my first memories in London, and I do not think I could get tired of it. The street itself is rather gentrified, but the food and shopping available makes this market my favorite in London by far.

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Besides having another tuna sandwich like I tried earlier in the semester, I also dug into a pumpkin whoopie pie from Violet Cakes. While I did not try it, the rose and pistachio whoopie pie I spotted inspired me to tackle making chocolate lavender whoopie pies once I get back to the states. If that works out, I will post the results.IMG_2936If that was enough for one day, we also went to Ottolenghi for dessert after dinner. I have Ottolenghi’s first cookbook, and hopefully will be purchasing his second, Jerusalem, once I get back to the states. Plates full of treats like the ones below are displayed in the window of the shop, and you can pick and choose directly from the display. I chose a lemon and pistachio polenta cake and what I assume was a plum cake of sorts. Even though the polenta cake is prettier, I think I preferred the plum cake. Simple is sometimes best.

IMG_2938 IMG_2939And to finish off the last two nights in London, we had two incredible meals. One was at an incredible tapas restaurant called Fino in Fitzrovia. Along with a pitcher of sangria we shared dishes such as black squid ink risotto, cod fritters, papas bravas, and chipirones. We finished with doughnuts, but were experiencing extreme food comas because we ate so much.

 

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For our last night in London we ate at Asia de Cuba in Covent Garden. I have eaten here with my family before, and alike the tapas from the night before, the concept is to share large dishes. The food is inspired by both Cuban and Asian cuisine, and it was another incredible meal. We shared Thai beef salad, calamari, pork belly, scallops, seared tuna with wasabi mash, steak marinated in coffee, crispy tofu, and miso black cod. And of course, finished the meal with what else, doughnuts. This place is perfect for the adventurous eater who can never decide on just one dish to order (like me!), but less adventurous eaters will be content as well. I saw my sister attacking her noodle boxes like a champ.

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And that was it. The semester went by too fast, but I realize how lucky I was to have the time I did in London. London is definitely a city in which each person can find their bit of enjoyment. There is a roaring music, theater, shopping, and food scene–and even more. It is not possible to experience London in one trip, but I think I got sure close. IMG_3003

Chelsea, Chelsea!

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Last Wednesday I was able to go to a Chelsea match against Nordsjaelland, which was very exciting! We wrapped up in tons of layers and drank hot chocolate to warm up in the cold. We had amazing seats (lower west 7th row!) and everyone around us was incredibly nice which is kind of funny because I think us Americans view football fans as crazy and rowdy, but our crowd was quite the opposite for this game. Chelsea ended up winning the match 6-1, but it was not enough to keep them in the Champions League. So it was a great game to watch, but kind of bittersweet for the fans.

Sorry all of the pictures are literally the same thing, and the lights for the field completely distort each of them, boo!

But like any sports game, it is the coolest to see the players you watch on TV from time to time playing right there in front of you. It was my first live football match and it will probably be a bit until my next, but if you are planning on studying abroad in London in the future you have to get football tickets!

 

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Weekend Edition: Bologna

Contrary to what popular media portrays the American study abroad experience to be like, I have spent most weekends actually chilling out in the London for the weekends. I think a lot of people jump at the opportunity to fly to a different country every weekend when they don’t have class–namely, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris–and while traveling can be fun, I think I’ve realized that when you are studying abroad in London, there is really no reason to leave. Theater, food, shopping, sports, museums, you name it, it is here and that is why it is such an exciting (and expensive!) place to be.

That being said, I did have one weekend trip planned (besides Dubai, of course) which was to go to Bologna in Italy. It is completely random to choose Bologna, but the price was perfect for the flight and I really liked Italy last time I was there, so it was a different city to check out. The flight from London to Bologna is a little under two hours, making it incredibly easy to get to. We were also able to find a hotel in the center of the city that was the same price as a hostel, so we had good and convenient accommodations for an unbelievable price.

I was able to meet up with a good friend from Vassar, eat at some delicious restaurants on recommendation, enjoy gelato multiple times a day, and climb the Due Torri. Bologna has a lot of shopping, but it is not necessarily a huge tourist city, so we basically ate and then walked around in between meals, stopping to take pictures and go into buildings we happened to walk near. It was a lovely detour, but as this weekend is my last in London, I really have to focus on work. Even so, there is plenty of fun planned for the rest of my time here!

Check out some pictures from my trip below!

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We literally jumped off the bus and ran straight to a gelato shop. Priorities, yes.

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I don’t think you can visit Bologna and not climb the towers. It is quite a climb, but the views are spectacular. I’m a huge fan of this kind of tourist attraction, I like seeing cities from above and taking tons of pictures.

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We were starving after traveling and the flight and hopped into a random cafe for a late lunch snack. It was simple and cheap, and kind of hilarious interacting with the staff there that did not speak much english. We were also able to have tagliatelle bolognese, tortellini in brodo, a pizza larger than my head with ricotta, prosciutto and eggplant and one night for dinner we had an appetizer that was basically fried dough with cured meat and soft cheese. There is plenty to eat in Bologna, that’s for sure.

IMG_2841IMG_2820And that’s all folks! It was fun to travel for the weekend (especially to Italy), but I now appreciate living and studying in London so much more. Ciao.