Milan Per Un Giorno

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I apologize for my lack of posts. Since I got back from Europe I have been catching up on summer activities, hanging with friends, and also catching up on sleep. With all of that meant no posts for a little over two weeks. It has been a nice little non-posting vaca but I am back and ready to share my time in Europe with you. My first post is what to do in Milan when you only have 24 hours.

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1. Start with Coffee

If you are smart you will start you day off with free breakfast at your hotel/hostel but if you are like me and can’t seem to get out of bed instead head into the heart of Milan and get yourself an Italian coffee. I headed into tourist central and decided to have coffee in the Galleria next to the Duomo. Some might not suggest this but I found an infamous spot, Camparino, to sit at.  When you sit down and have your coffee you are removed from the hustle and bustle of all the tourist. I started my morning with lemon pie and a cappucino.  Perfetto!

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2. Visit a Church

My next plan was to go into the Duomo but I quickly learned that it is not just shoulders you need to have covered but also your knees so I could not get in with my shorts. My advice for anyone visiting Italy and wanting to go into any Churches come prepared with a pashmina to either wrap around your shoulders or legs, depending on which one isn’t covered. Some churches will sell covers too.

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3. Explore

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A perfect way to see a city is by bike. If you want to bike around Milan you can rent one from BikeMI. You have to create an account online before. It is € 2.50 to create the account and then it gives you a user name and password. You go up to one of the bike stations (that are everywhere) and put your information into the kiosk then go get the bike that it tells you to. The first 30 minutes are free then € .50  per 30 minutes after that and you can only use it for two hours at a time. This is a great way to see the city but also scary because you are biking around not really knowing where you are going and you have to be careful of cars. I was trying to go see the Navigli District but no surprise I got lost. I finally just put my map away and biked around for a bit. Then I found someone nice enough to just show me where I was on my map so I could find my way back.

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4. Public Transit

Use the subway system in Milan. So, so easy. I am serious if I can do it and I didn’t get lost once then anyone, including a four year old, could do it. Not sure if I was buying the correct ticket but it was € 1.50 a ride.

6. Find a Hidden Spot

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For lunch I went to Panzerotti Luini and I highly suggest you do to. Italy is expensive, but this little lunch spot was cheap. It was great to watch the business men and women stop by for a quick lunch. They serve panzerotti’s that are sweet and savory; these are similar to calzones but much better. I almost feel like I am insulting it by comparing it. The dough is similar to an elephant ear dough; light and fluffy and a very simple dough flavor. Then you get the fresh tomatoes and the salty creamy mozzarella taste and voila you have magic. Be prepared for a line but it moved quick.

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5. Don’t Miss Apertivo

This was my favorite discovery about Italy. Apertivo is basically happy hour but much better. Starting around 5 pm most bars/restaurants start apertivo hour. You order a cocktail like normal but you get a buffet with it for FREE! Seriously this is no joke. I couldn’t believe it was real. It was like I had died and gone to happy hour heaven. I ordered a negroni and it as € 9, yes expensive but I got dinner for free; cheese, olives, bruschetta, salad, rice, meats. I had happy hour at a bar in the Corso Como area. So so good and so so amazing.

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6. Mushrooms

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This is my final suggestion. If you love mushrooms go to Antica Trattoria Della Pesa and get the funghi porcini pasta. This was defineitly a fine dining situation (I spending about $50 by myself #sorrynotsorry) but it is worth it. This tagliatelle pasta was the most perfectly cooked homemade pasta I have ever tasted and the sauce though no cream was incredibly creamy. Perfect bites of mushrooms that still have a bite to them. I am becoming depressed just thinking about it knowing I don’t know when I will have it again…

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Midwest Tour

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(The Wit rooftop bar where my cousins wedding was at.)

Last week I did a little midwest tour. I started in Chicago, then made my way to East Lansing, then headed to Grand Rapids, and ended the trip in good ole Lapeer Michigan. Here are pictures of some of the things I ate.

Chicago – The trip started in Chicago for my cousins wedding. The reception was held at The Wit. We ate a lovely brunch before though at a restaurant called Summer House.

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East Lansing – We got to hang in my old college stomping grounds with my mom. If you are in East Lansing for an amount of time you should make your way to Grand River. This is the Main Street that runs outside of campus. On Grand River you will find a lovely spot called the Peanut Barrel. Here they have a killer olive burger. They way to get it: on rye bread, with lettuce tomato and onions, no cheese. You heard me correctly no cheese. This might be the only item in the world that I don’t request cheese on. I’m already starting to rethink my decision…washing it down with a Michigan beer like Oberon is the icing on the cake or shall I say olive sauce on the burger.

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Grand Rapids – I made my way over to the Downtown Market. It was so cute. The cheese counter, fish counter where you can order raw oysters at their tiny three seat bar, olive oil shop, flower shop, ice cream shop, juice bar, the list goes on and on. I had a green drink because at this point in my trip it was very much needed.

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Lapeer – Visiting my dads house is all about the breakfast and happy hours on the infamous deck. My dad switched things up on me this trip and served banana and raspberry waffles versus banana pancakes. Yum!

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(Sagebrush Cantina! One of our favorite Mexican restaurants)

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Food and Drinks in Santa Barbara

This past weekend I went to Santa Barbara for my friend Haley’s wedding. I met Haley studying abroad in Greece and her wedding was basically a reunion for a few of my Greece friends and myself. I was obviously so excited to go to the wedding, be in Santa Barbara, and see my friends, but I was also excited to try In-N-Out for my first time. It was the perfect welcome-to-California burger. I was a little surprised by the animal sauce though. It wasn’t as “saucy” as I imagined if that makes sense; maybe they just didn’t put enough on my burger? With that said though it was a very good burger.

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The wedding was amazing! The cocktail hour was overlooking the water and the bride was stunning. We even got a shout out from the father of the bride during his speech; “Michigan Girls” that is us. We felt so special we all shouted and put up our arms—unplanned. Its fair to say we all think the same crazy way.

Below are the rest of the pictures from the trip. Pictures of brunch and bottomless mimosas, the WEDDING!!!!, biking on the water, and some food. I kept just diving into each meal and forgetting to take a picture till basically the plate was empty.

Brunch at State and Fig

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Drinks and dinner at the Boathouse of Hendry’s Beach

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Scallops on the half shell

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How everyone felt at the end of the weekend.

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A Time For Firsts

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MGM Pool Party – AfroJack

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 The Bride!

This past weekend I experienced a few “firsts.” The first of the firsts was Vegas. One of my friends bachelorette party was in Las Vegas. I was so excited to experience the crazy party city! But what I decided to do, instead of what my smart sister decided to do, was fly standby. The night before I checked the listings and my fear was confirmed; none of the flights going or returning looked good. Awesome. I called my dad and discussed all my options. I was flying through Salt Lake City so maybe I could take the bus or maybe I could rent a car and drive. Both of those options would not get me to Vegas in time for the pool party we were scheduled for on Saturday so those were out. We finally decided we will just see what happens that morning and say a little prayer that the the standby gods show me a little sympathy.

I wake up at 3 am for my flight and feel good. I get ready and drive to the airport. I get through the airport and then what do I see? My flight is delayed for an hour and twenty minutes. Just enough time for me to miss my connection in Salt Lake City which was the only flight that day that looked good. Once again awesome.

I get to Salt Lake City 30 minutes after the flight I would have gotten on leaves. So I start the waiting process. The 11:01 am flight roles around. I am 15th on the list. Everyone but me and the standby person ahead of me get on. Next flight is 2:09 pm, getting me in at 2:39 pm. Which isn’t too bad, still plenty of pool time. I am 28th on the list and I get on. That is the name of the game, you don’t know what is going to happen till the plane door closes.

Vegas was amazing and crazy at the same time. I did make it to the pool party and it was so much fun. Unfortunately my sister who had bought her ticket who arrived at 9 am had already left the pool, not by choice, for “sleeping” (sleeping is code for something else if you catch my drift) but the bride was roaring to go and it was a blast.

Fast forward through dinner, clubbing, and 19 hours later you find me back at the Las Vegas airport trying for the 10:55 am flight. I somehow get lost in the airport because I couldn’t find the D Gates security entrance. If you are nice enough to the TSA though, they will escort you through the C Gate security and then through the locked door to get on the tram. Lets just say I was struggling. Keep fast forwarding through the day and you will see me sitting at multiple different D gates for the 10:55 am flight, the 1:57 pm flight, the 4:45 pm flight and then finally at the 6:36 pm flight that I shockingly got on. What wasn’t good about me getting on that last flight though was that it missed the last flight to Denver so I was stuck in Salt Lake City. Which is probably the most opposite city of Las Vegas.

Normal me would 100 percent just sleep on the airport floor, but apparently I have changed and I am still trying to deal with this change even as I write this post. I…bought…a hotel room. The second first. Does this mean I am old? That I am a mature adult? AHHHH. I don’t know what it means but I will say I felt great the next morning.

I finally got on the third flight out on Monday and made it to work in Denver only three hours late. So 30 hours in the airport for 19 hours in Vegas…totally worth it!

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New Activities

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When I moved out to Colorado I realized how active one person can be. The average person living in Denver either is incredibly active or knows someone who is. If they think of any sport you can possibly do in the winter time then at least one person they know is very passionate about that sport and does it every weekend; skiing, ice climbing etc. If they think of any sport you can possibly do in the summer then at least one person they know is very passionate about that sport and does it every weekend; hiking, mountain biking, climbing, etc. With all this “activeness” I realized there was a lot more “stuff” to do out there then I imagined. Take snowshoeing for example, the most I had heard about it was from Kirsten my sister’s American Girl doll she had when we were kids. In the books that came with her it describes them as real people and Kirsten and her family snowshoed. It was one of her accessories you could buy. I must say Kirsten and her family were on to something because I went snowshoeing for the first time with some friends in Rocky Mountain National Park last weekend and it was awesome.

The weather was perfect; it was warm the sun was out. We started at Beaver Lake then stopped at Nymph Lake and then finally Dream Lake before we turned around. Seriously so fun!

The night before  snowshoeing we stayed in the city and had dinner at a little Idian restaurant called Nepal. If you are looking for Estes Park dinner suggestions then my number one suggestion would be Nepal. It is owned by am adorable Nepalese family. The food was delicious. The restaurant is decorated in things all Mount Everest and the dad of the family, who we were lucky enough to have as our server, will tell you all about his experience climbing the mountain at age 60.

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Bear Lake

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Dream Lake

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We also enjoyed some great views of wild elk. Even one decided to cross the road in front of us.

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Happy New Year!

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Happy 2014 everyone!! I hope everyone had a great time celebrating the new year! I flew to South Carolina so celebrate the new year with my old friends from when I lived there. We hit up all my old favorites like Poe’s on Sullivan’s Island and I finally had my first pain killer (now called game changer) from Home Team.

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I couldn’t bring myself to buy a real ticket and decided to risk it and fly standby around the holiday. It went shockingly well. So I learned I will not throw in the towel just yet for my non-revenue travels. What I did learn though was not to talk on the phone while you are in line to get on the plane. I forgot my water bottle at the chair I was next to at the gate and sat in the wrong seat. You would have thought it was my first time flying.

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Can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for me…

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My Two Favorite Things; Cheese and Roger Federer

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My train rolled into Geneva at 5:30 pm and the dark was just setting in. I got out and started to walk to my hostel when I saw the snowboarders standing waiting to get on the train and that’s when it set in that I was in Switzerland. And that I was in the land of my lover…Roger Federer.

I walked to my hostel nervous about my first official alone hostel experience. I am one of those people who has a hard time with hostels. I’m outgoing and love meeting people but when its forced I feel like I’m back in college and its freshman year where you walk around asking if people will be your friend. My nightmare. So I walked into that hostel (Geneva Youth Hostel) with my positive thinking cap on. When I walked into my room there were two Canadian girls there talking about what they were planning on doing that evening which was eating fondue. I quickly channeled my inner freshman spirit and invited myself along. It ended up being just fine.

We dined right on Lake Geneva at a restaurant called La Buvette des Bains. Its was at the end of a pier where the public swimming area and the public bathhouse are. It definitely has the hole in the wall feeling so instantly I  felt like it was going to be good. It also almost felt like you were sitting  in a cabin in the mountains somewhere. We showed up without reservations and were lucky enough to snag some seats even though there were lots of empty tables. When they pointed out their reservation system they pointed to a wall of post its. They were very advanced, but once again another sign it was going to be good. Another interesting thing about this restaurant is it is community dinning so we got sat at table of eight with four seats already occupied. We didn’t have to deal with the awkward small talk because our neighbors spoke French which was good but we might have missed some potential best friends though.

Fondue is the national dish of Switzerland. It is traditionally made with cheese, wine, seasoning, garlic and kirsch. Kirsch is a fruit brandy traditionally made with cherries. You can get fondues with different things in them like mushrooms, onions, meats, etc. The earliest record of fondue dates back to the late 1600′s and at that point they added eggs to it which makes it like a souffle as well. It was created for winter times by peasants in the mountains because they cooked what they had; bread, cheese and wine. Fondue took a big turn when cornstarch was added in 1905 which made it not separate and very smooth. There is controversy over whether the dish was created by the French or the Swiss but the Swiss locked in as theirs in 1930.

The fondue was delicious. It was hearty, earthy, and immediately stick to your ribs good, which was good considering it was probably below zero with windchill (I’m for sure exaggerating). We just got bread to dip in our cheese but you can also get a meat plate that has carne secca, a dried Spanish meat, pickles, and pearl onions. Fondue in Geneva, since it has a heavy French influence, is made with half gruyère and Fribourg-style vacherin, which is  a cow’s milk cheese. Another littler fact is we never found chocolate fondue. Clearly an American thing.

We finished our bread when there was still a little bit of cheese left but we weren’t too upset and didn’t order more because we were pretty full. We got some strange looks when we didn’t finish our fondue but we didn’t understand why. It was at the next restaurant in the old town that I read about how you are supposed to finish fondue. The crusty, not burnt, cheese crisp the cheese turns into at the bottom of the pot is the best part of fondue. They sometimes put a splash of wine on it to help it become golden. Clearly I didn’t do enough research on my fondue. Who know there would be these secrets.

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We walked around the old town and stopped in for hot chocolate and crème brûlée. I also made sure to use a Suisse Credit ATM. I felt like that was something you have to do.

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I got up the next morning for sunrise; it was at 8 a.m.  so it was not impressive. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy on top of the alps so it wasn’t the best sunrise but still pretty.

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St. Pierre Cathedral

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Maison Tavel

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The famous flower clock.

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Dijon Part Deux

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In my previous post I mentioned that I didn’t have time to eat in Dijon. That was a mishap on my planning side but what I made sure I had enough time for was buying the traditional food; so I could try it when I got home.

I did my research so I was prepared and the first stop was for pain d’épices which means spiced bread. This bread is a traditional French bread and is very well known for the Dijon area. It is made traditionally with rye flour, honey and spices. First thing you notice when you take a bite is the dense cake/bread consistency. Then the spices and then the almost overwhelming honey flavor. Honey can taste very different from different regions of the world and this one is extremely floral. With that said I still loved it but if you aren’t a honey lover you could have an issue with it. It is perfect for this time of year.

The second item on my shopping list was mustard. I got traditional grainy dijon mustard and I have to save it is the best mustard I have ever tasted. I wasn’t shocked by this discovery, considering it originated there, but still when I tasted it my eyes opened wide and I had to saw wow. I can’t describe really why its better but it is fresher and has a more powerful punch. What can I say if you are a mustard person I guess you should add Dijon to your “places to go” list.

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Dijon: More than just Mustard

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J’adore Dijon France. I loved my time there; my two hours there to be exact. I was travel ambitious and planned to visit Dijon then make my way to Geneva, Switzerland before nightfall. In result of this squeezing two cities and two train rides into eight hours I did not get to have my fabulous leisure lunch in Dijon and I made it to Geneva maybe five minutes before it was dark. But with that said I would not have had my December 1st any other way.

I didn’t start planning my trip till the Sunday before my trip, and I left on Tuesday. When I tried to purchase my train tickets online, the type of tickets I was purchasing were not available to be printed they needed to be mailed. So that was a no go since I dind’t leave enough time for that. So on December 1st at 8 am I found myself in the Gare du Nord train station at the kiosk trying to purchase my ticket. Luckily, since it was a main train station, the ticket office was open and I was able to get a real person to help me pick the best times/tickets and also accept my credit card (tougher to find than you would think).

I was traveling on a Sunday so I knew things would be closed but I didn’t think that would be something I enjoyed but it really made my trip even better.

What I saw in Dijon while strolling around was the real French life. I saw families walking around. A man running to the patisserie to pick up his baquette then finishing his morning run home. Kids and families enjoying the holidays and ice skating in the city center. I felt like someone had invited me in to their personal life and I was there to watch and observe. I also was trying my best to look, speak, and act French—I wore my beret.

Dijon is known for the mustard, obviously, and they have another little gem, an owl on the side of the Notre Dame Cathetral. If you walk around the city you can find a walking tour of different sites all marked and arrorws leading to each stop. The path will lead you pas the owl on the cathedral. It is a good luck charm and you are supposed to rub the owl with your left hand make a wish. It was beautiful watching people walk by the owl. Even if they had walked by 100 times before it was just a simple act to rub the owl.

Since I didn’t have enough time for lunch at a restaurant in Dijon I settled for a jambon et buerre baguette (ham and butter) on the train. I also remembered I had put a pain au chocolate in my purse from the hotel breakfast earlier that morning. This visit if you asked me if there was a pain au chocolate in my purse the answer would have be yes 99 percent of the time.

I sat there on the train and watched the French coutry side. I sipped on my coke and smiled to myself. I reached into my purse and pulled out the smushed pastry wrapped in napkins then thought nah I’m not hungry for that. I went to put it back in my purse then thought who am I kidding and pulled it back out and took a big bite.

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The marker for each stop and the arrows leading you to each stop.

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The good luck owl.

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Had to get a photo of this family helping the boy reach the owl.

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Maille house of the Maille Mustard.

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