Brunch and Cake “Taking the Cake” in Barcelona

I think it is impossible not to laugh when you meet up with someone familiar in a strange new place. The comfort of being with a friend mixes with the adventure and excitement of being somewhere you have never been before resulting in a big smile, a giggle, and, as cheesy as it sounds, the realization of how incredible life is in that moment.

When I first got to Barcelona, I wandered down Las Ramblas, a touristy main street, past the big stone cathedral and into a neighborhood called El Born with narrow streets and lots of people. For once, I was able to find the Air B & B where we were staying without getting lost. It was a tall building with a gated door and I rang the bell and spoke in Spanish (!!) to the owner who buzzed me in. I pushed open the big metal gate-door and walked up four flights of musty stairs (because in Spain the first level is usually level zero) into an apartment where my new travel buddy, Quentin, was waiting for me. This is where the laugh/giggle/chuckle comes in. I was so nervous that I was going to get lost on the way to the apartment or that we wouldn’t find each other because cell phones don’t work without wi-fi, that when I saw him I couldn’t help but smile and laugh with relief and amazement that we finally made it to Barcelona, the number one place on my list of cities I wanted to visit.

I felt a surge of this same strange mixture of feelings when we met up with our friend Will, who is teaching English in Barcelona, for dinner. We were sitting outside at a Café eating and watching skateboarders stick and fail to stick their tricks, when a familiar smile made it’s way into my line of site. The small giggle/laugh inserted itself again here with the combination of the the old friend and the new place.

Luckily, Will shares my obsession for chocolate and sweets, and knows all of the good places to go in Barcelona. To start, the next day he took us on a tour of the city on bikes. We rode up to montjuïc and had a beautiful view of the city. Our bike tour ended at one of the best food places I have been to so far. Although, Quentin pointed out to me that I think every place we go is the best place we have been. I realized that everytime I eat while traveling I usually think it is the best meal I have ever eaten… each new treat is the best one. However, this new best meal was at a place called “Brunch and Cake”. I had a sweet waffle covered in cheese and bacon with lettuce on top. It was something I would never think to make on my own and was the ideal combination of sweet, savory flavors with crunchy, thick textures. After devouring the waffle, Will and I split a huge slice of Oreo Cake. While cake is usually the last thing on my dessert list, behind ice cream, cookies and regular chocolate bars, this cake definitely “took the cake” for the day and satisfied my sweet tooth after our bike ride with the dense sweet flavor of what seemed like a million oreos crushed into one bite.

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Old faces, new places. Brunch and Cake took the cake. And that’s an un-wrap.

Confiserie Sprüngli

This mini-post will be dedicated to Confiserie Sprüngli, an extravagant chocolate shop in Zurich. It was founded in 1836 and is known for it’s handmade macaroons that parade in pyramids in the window.

Mom and I walked into the first Sprüngli shop we ran into (there are some scattered about in Zurich and even one at the train station so you can’t miss it as you leave the city), and walked in circles around the store staring into each and every one of the glass windows displaying sweet after sweet. There were tons of colorful macaroons, shelf after shelf of cakes, pastries and small sandwiches, and then a long display dedicated to small hand-crafted truffles.IMG_6008

After much deliberation, Mom and I decided on a small traingular cake with a chocolate layer on the outside and hazelnut filling on the inside. Needless to say, it was one of the best slices of cake I had ever tasted. The hard chocolate on the outside contrasted perfectly with the fluffy mousse on the inside, while the tast of dark chocolate and sweet hazelnut combined to create the ideal level of sweetness on the taste buds.

Sprüngli, just like the idea Swiss Chocolate, has a good reputation and a lot of hype, but it does not disappoint.

And that’s an un-wrap.

Vienna Austria: The Best Chocolate Cake in the World

Austria… a place known for its incredible opera, for its rich history and most importantly, for its incredibly rich chocolate cake: the Sacher Torte.

Kalina and I took the train from Prague to Vienna and arrived in the afternoon. After meeting our friend Caro who was kind enough to let us stay with her and dropping our bags at her place, we rushed off to see if we could get tickets to the opera that night. The Vienna Opera house, Wiener Staatsoper, is only a five minutes walk from Caro’s place. The streets were strung with lights for the holidays, with each main street leading away from the main circle having its own set of lights. My favorite were the huge chandeliers that hung every block illuminating the cold stone and cozy shops.

When we got to the opera, the man at the ticket window scoffed at us tourists asking for standing tickets so close to show time. People line up at three o’clock for a seven showing just for the standing room seats. We left his window and went around the back of the opera house to ask another window and saw a huge line of people. We decided to just get in the line (though we weren’t even sure it was for the tickets or what exactly we were standing in line for), and it worked out perfectly! Within five minutes of waiting while the snow fell delicately in the street lights, the line began to move steadily and we made it to the door where we bought standing room tickets for 3 Euro each– an incredible deal since the guys dressed in costume on the streets were trying to sell us “student discounted tickets” for 40 Euro. Kalina and I couldn’t believe we were actually being given the opportunity to go, and rushed inside to see the theatre and try and find a good view from the standing section.

The inside of the opera house seemed like a museum. I definitely felt underdressed in jeans and sweater when ladies with heels and men in ties passed me on the stairs. We found our section and ended up picking the last row in the very center of the theater— I guess you could say we were the exact point farthest away from the stage, yet we could see everything.

Kalina and I were in such a rush to get tickets and were happy just to be able to see the opera that we didn’t even realize what specific one we were going to see.  We didn’t realize how fortunate we were to be seeing Fledermaus. A local older man next to us, who had seen this specific one over thirty times, said it is only shown during the new year and is only performed four times a year at the famous Wiener Staatsoper. Lucky us!

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The performance was amazing and incredibly funny. It was a comical story of revenge. We had little screens where we could read the English translation, but it was a little bit delayed. So the audience would laugh at something and then Kalina and I would laugh a couple of seconds later. Sometimes, the screen would skip a couple of lines because they were talking so fast and therefore we would miss the joke all together.

After standing (with a few breaks sitting in intermission) for three and a half hours without eating dinner, we were starving. Kalina and I practically ran out of the opera house at 10:30 when the curtain closed and went straight to a food stand on the corner that sold hot dogs and Asian noodles. I have never seen such a strange stand, even in New York. We bought a carton of hot fresh greasy noodles and hot dog about a foot long. I decided spur of the moment to order the cheese hot dog instead of the regular– which we learned later is one of Vienna’s specialty street foods!– and it was delicious. It came in a long baguette with a hole instead of a hot dog bun and the cheese melted from the inside of the dog out with each bite.

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Also conveniently located right across from the opera is Hotel Sacher where the famous Sacher Tortes are sold. Kalina and I had read about this special cake and made sure to stop by after our deliciously nutritious street food dinner that we devoured in about five minutes. The Sacher Torte recipe was invented by Franz Scher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich. There are now a couple of places that compete for the best Torte in Austria, but this specific hotel was voted the best (or at least that is what the internet told us). I think I might agree with the world– these cakes were the best I have ever tasted. Maybe it was still the lingering hunger from waiting so long to eat dinner. The cake was dark in flavor and light in texture with a perfect layer of chocolate on the outside. It was rich, but not unnecessarily though and I savored every single crumb and was left still wanting more.

The perfect end to a crazy, hectic, wonderful day.

Goodnight Vienna. And that’s an un-wrap.