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.

Rome: A Layered City

Rome is a layered city. There is new and old everywhere you look. I heard it once decsribed as a lasagna because new buildings are built on top of the old. Construction takes forever here, because as soon as they dig down to build a parking garage or fix a pipe, they discover a lost building or artifact. For this post, I am going to honor the layers of Rome by writing about an old site we visited, and a new tradition we started.

When in Rome, you must see the Vatican (and the Colosseum and the Pantheon and the Spanish steps and so many other things, but I am going to focus on the Vatican, here or else it would be quite a long and boring read). And you must use the saying, “When in Rome” as much as you can J Our first day in the city, Savannah had organized a guided tour of the Vatican. We walked to the Vatican city and were blown away by the beauty of it. Did you know that the Vatican is it’s own country? I think my favorite part of our visit was seeing the Sistine Chapel. I had studied it in school, but seeing slide show photos of it or reading about it in a textbook does no justice to the actual work itself. Our guide gave us a ton of information before we entered, because there is no talking and no photos allowed inside the chapel. He told us how Michelangelo did not want to paint the ceiling and the Pope, with so much power, convince/forced him to do so. Michelangelo, who specialized in sculptures, had to learn how to paint a fresco which is not an easy task. The process includes putting plaster on the ceiling and then applying paint at the perfect time; not too early because it will soak in too much, and not too late because it will crumble off shortly after the plaster dries. Painting a fresco is extremely difficult and requires not only efficiency, but great skill.

After Michelangelo learned how to paint frescoes, he locked himself into the Sistine Chapel and put a sheet below so that if anyone got in they would not be able to see what he was working on. After two** grueling years, arguments with the pope, and lasting back problems from standing and arching backwards to paint, Michelangelo had completed a masterpiece.

Masterpiece has so many definitions and is sometimes applied to too many works of art or literature. But the Sistine Chapel with this amazing ceiling, The Last Judgment painted on the wall and other paintings throughout by other renowned artists, such as Perugino and Bottecelli, is definitely a masterpiece and inspires silence even if the room didn’t require it.

After seeing visiting the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica, something old and full of tradition, Savannah and I visited a gelato place called La Romana to start our own new tradition. Just like the new buildings that stand on top of the old, we, inevitably made our own new mark on a place where millions of others had for thousands of years before us. This time, our mark was in Gelato. The hostal we stayed at recommended La Romana and we decided to check it out. I am so happy that we did, because it was the best gelato I have ever tasted. It was fluffy and sweet, creamy like ice cream but light like gelato and they topped it with homemade airy and decadent whip cream. After our first night, Sav and I revisited the place every single night—one of the workers even began to recognize us. My favorite flavors were the dark chocolate, the biscotti and the yogurt with honey and walnut topped with chocolate whip cream shown in this picture. When in Rome, go to La Romana.IMG_5769

Old and New. New and Old. And Gelato that would never get old. And that’s an un-wrap.