bruges – a new place in slc


So, for those of you who don’t know, I spent a semester of my high school career in Belgium. It was hard…very hard; just ask my dad about the phone bill in December of 1992. I was really young (14 to be exact) and not fully prepared to be away from my family for that long. Anyway, I digress.

There were some things I loved about my experience (at the time; there are lots of things that I love about it now…in hindsight). Two of those things: frites and gaufres. Or, in English, fries and waffles. Belgian waffles are familiar to most people, but did you know that fries are really Belgian and not French? Probably not.

Moving on: in Belgium they have fry and waffle stands, just like we have hot dog stands. It’s amazing. The fries are twice fried. Once to cook the potatoes and once to crisp them up. The waffles are not made from batter, but dough; delicious dough full of little chunks of sugar that caramelize when they bake.


When I was in NY, the girls and I went to this place called Pomme-Frites that was amazing. Just like I remember fries in Belgium, right down the curry ketchup (something I find completely and totally disgusting, but authentic, nonetheless).

Then, two days ago, while traveling through the tubes of the Internet, I discovered a place in Salt Lake, serving frites and gaufres (again, fries and waffles). I had to try it before leaving town. The good news, I needed to go to Salt Lake today to run a few errands anyway, so this was just the slightest detour.

Bruges is the name of this fabulous little place, named after the city in northern Belgium where the owner grew up (think Venice, but cooler and cleaner). You can read all about it on the website.

Anyway, it was so worth the detour. The frites are authentic in preparation and taste (the shape was slightly different than those I had in Belgium), served with real European mayonnaise. Not the same as American mayonnaise, but for those of you who think you would never eat fries with mayonnaise (and are currently judging me for doing so), I hope you realize that “fry sauce” is just mayonnaise with ketchup. I know, I thought it sounded disgusting, too…and then I tried it. So yummy! And if you still can’t stand the thought of it, they have other options.

Frtes with mayonnaise…and the little wooden thing…that’s a little fork type thing for eating them. Brilliant!

And then there were the waffles. I wish I had taken a picture of Pierre (the owner) pulling the dough off the parchment and putting it into the waffle iron so you could all see what I’m talking about. But I didn’t. I did, however, capture the end result…a delicious Liege waffle. (Belgians do make batter waffles, too…but the dough ones originated in Li├Ęge, which happens to be the province where I was living in high school.)


It was amazing! It’s only been open five weeks and I hope it sticks around for a while. And yes, I did get both waffles and fries. Sue me.

but first…the rest of london

And this is the end of my trip to Europe…over a month later.

I’ve been to London before and I liked it fine, but this trip I fell in love.

We spent some quality time at Leicester Square. This is where discount show tickets can be purchased. And how many did we see in those last few days? FOUR! So, five in total. (We saw Les Mis at the beginning of the trip).


I love that Erika loves theater because it means we went lots. What did we see? Carousel – not fantastic but I remember watching it as a kid at my grandma’s house (my grandma also loves musical theater) so I was excited to see it. Wicked – phenomenal again! Hairspray – absolutely fabulous live…except for a small issue with American diction. And my favorite of the week (not including Wicked because I’d already seen it)? Billy Elliott. Incredible.

And…a food picture. Why I didn’t take my camera to Chicago is beyond me, but I didn’t. How I love taking pictures of food! Almost as much as I like to eat it. This was at this darling French patisserie just off of Piccadilly Square. It was lovely…and the owner was there so I got to chat him up in French. I so need to move back to Europe.

And this was New Year. Seriously. Our hotel was right by the London Eye (as seen in this photo all lit up by fireworks). It was INCREDIBLE. New Year is not my favorite holiday (I don’t hate it…I just think it’s overrated), so spending it in London was fantastic!

Why yes…we do look exhausted. Thanks for asking.

And in case you were wondering where my darling cousin is in these pics…she was back in California. Her trip was just a bit shorter than ours.

paris

I was just so excited to have made it to Paris with no passport to speak of that I would have happily slept anywhere…especially after the cab driver was so fun and flirtatious. Have I mentioned that I love that I speak French?

However, this was not anywhere. This was by far the nicest hotel we stayed in…especially because the “triple” room was way too small, so we ended up getting two rooms. Tanya and I shared this one. It was fabulous! Holiday Inn Paris Gare de l’Est…it’s only a three-star, but I loved it…once we got the room thing figured out.

These are some random pictures I found on my camera. When I went to the embassy to get my new passport, I wasn’t sure what I would be able to take in with me, so I asked Tanya to bring my camera to me. As I sat in the embassy, waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, Tanya and Erika were doing a little sightseeing and taking some pictures. I do love the metro sign above, though. So Parisian!




I wasn’t feeling fantastic, but there was no way I wasn’t going to let that ruin my one day in Paris. So what did I have for lunch? Cheese. Yes. Cheese…and a little bit of bread, and a Sprite. And that was after I’d already had a banana and Nutella crepe for breakfast.

Don’t you judge me!
And inside the Louvre. The breakdown of my day…four hours in the embassy, an hour wandering the Tuilerie Gardens, an hour eating lunch, three hours in the Louvre, Notre Dame, dinner, and the Eiffel Tower. Yes, that’s one packed day.


Yes, that would be throngs of people crowding the Mona Lisa. I don’t seem to remember it being this crowded the last time I was there. Nor do I remember the Mona Lisa in a room all by herself (or almost). But, it was ten years ago.








So, Erika didn’t really get why Tanya wanted so badly to see the Eiffel Tower…until she got there. It’s impressive. Apparently she didn’t realize how pretty it actually is. When you think about when it was built and the craftsmanship that went into it, it’s pretty amazing!

I know there’s only on picture of food on here…(I think there are more that Tanya took), but the restaurant where we had dinner was amazing, so I wanted to be sure to share that. (I didn’t take pictures because it was one of those places where you just don’t take pictures.) Brasserie Julien is in the 10eme arrondissement (for those of you who know Paris). It was just this great French restaurant with a kind of art-deco look. The service was slow (which, had we not been in a rush to get to the Eiffel Tower, I would have actually enjoyed), but the food was absolutely delicious. I loved it!

In case you are heading to Paris anytime soon and want a great (not inexpensive) restaurant (and have three hours to enjoy), here’s the address:
16, Rue Fbg St Denis
75010 Paris, France

berlin

This is a photo journal of Berlin. Again…there are a few stories, but mainly it’s a lot of pictures, that may bore you. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This was the view from the plane (obviously) flying to Berlin. It was absolutely amazing. Having spent a little over a year in Switzerland, flying over the Alps was such a happy thing.



As we are about to land in Berlin…absolutely beautiful.

I had to throw this in…this was the fabulous (free) laundry room in our hotel. If you ever go to Berlin and want a nice, yet affordable, place to stay, the Suitehotel Berlin is where it’s at. Yes…free laundry. Unfortunately I forgot how driers work in Europe (no exhaust, so there’s a collection bottle that has to be emptied) so it took five years to get things dry…until I remembered that part.


Checkpoint Charlie. I basically knew nothing about the history of Berlin or what happened there, so this was an amazing experience for me.


The wall…or where it once was. It really was incredible.



Brandenburg Gate. For years this stood on its own, blocked from east and west.

Tanya was loving her apple strudel.











We took a walking tour of Berlin (most of the pictures above are from the tour and eventually, I may actually put captions on all of them, just not today). It was friggin’ freezing…but totally worth it. You can see our tour guide, Nigel, in the picture below. He used to be a spy for Britain. It was incredible. If ever in Berlin, you should totally do this walking tour.
This is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. It’s kind of amazing. You can read about it here. Interesting little tidbit: the chemical that was used to coat the cement was made by the same company that made that gas that killed so many during the Holocaust. Kind of sick.


The Hotel Adalon. Three windows up, four to the left from the corner. This is where MJ hung his baby out the window.

This was the traditional German restaurant we finally found (Berliners really like Italian food…who knew?). It was recommended to us by this nice store clerk where I had been looking at (and eventually purchased) the most beautiful purse I have ever owned. Anyway, I really wanted to have traditional German food and this was it. I actually really liked it. But I pretty much like any food…I’m not gonna lie. I wish I knew the name of it, but it’s just off of Freidrichstrasse, to the west, and south of the big mall there…in case you ever go. It’s on a random side street, but you can see the big German dude out in front. Awesome.






The following are amazing pictures from this amazing chocolatier in Berlin, Fassbender & Rausch.





Somehow, I had never realized that pretzels were German. I don’t know why, but it’s true.

All was well in Germany until I left my passport in the taxi and was worried I was not going to be getting on the plane to Paris with Erika and Tanya, but they let me through with just a photocopy! Hallelujah!

roma

So, these pictures are not necessarily in order (and actually mainly in reverse order). But this is a brief photo-log of our adventures in Rome. There are a few stories to go along with pictures, so scroll down for those.



First, I love this picture with the mask. But the best part was when the little, Asian store clerk started yelling at us, “No picture! No picture!” It was seriously amusing.


So, when we arrived in Rome, we were staying at a hotel in a neighborhood that Erika wanted to stay in. It was kind of ghetto (which, interestingly enough, I am normally fine with in Europe, but something about spending Christmas there and traveling with money this time made it so I was a spoiled brat…and I wasn’t the only one).

When the taxi driver pulled to a stop in front of a nondescript building, none of us noticed the building because we were all looking at the car accident and the dead body (graphic, but true…under a sheet thank goodness) on the road. Romans driving abilities are…interesting.

Upon entering the hotel, things didn’t get worse…but they didn’t get better. First, we could barely get into it because the door was working, and while the “hotel” was clean, it felt a bit like an orphanage…a smoky orphanage. The thought of spending Christmas there started to break my heart. That night, after eating a delicious meal at midnight, we decided we couldn’t stay in the hotel and for the next several hours (we finally went to bed around 4 am) we figured out where we could stay and what we would say to get out of our current situation.

We ended up at the Central Park Marriott. It was incredible. Our room was a) not in the orphanage style and b) had an amazing balcony with a perfect view of St. Peter’s and Vatican City. The photo above is the view from our patio. Christmas was absolutely perfect!

Christmas Eve and an American gospel choir was singing on the Spanish Steps. It was one of those perfectly serendipitous moments…it felt like Christmas.

We were in Vatican City on Christmas Eve and the paparazzi were setting there cameras up…anxiously anticipating a view of the Pope. We, however, did not stick around long enough to have that experience ourselves.

My darling cousin with the cutest little restaurant manager ever. Ever. He joked with us about Governor Schwarzenegger (my cousin, like me originally, is from California). It was pretty much hilarious. It was not the pizzeria I was hoping to find (my friend, Kyle, recommended Buffeto’s off of the Piazza Navona…but I couldn’t remember the name), but it was pretty dang good, nonetheless.



The delicious gelato (the best in Rome according to my friend, Brian) that I happily ate even though it was pretty freaking cold outside. And I have to say, it’s the best gelato I can remember ever having.
These last three pictures are of our delicious Christmas dinner experience. Again, a restaurant manager/owner enamored by my lovely cousin. It was hilarious. First of all, he lured us into the restaurant with his fabulous Italian charm, then he made recommendations, with stories about how his wife makes the pasta fresh, and at the end of the meal we had racked up a bill worthy of dinner and a show.

The good news is, we got the show. Mr. Owner was absolutely hilarious. (And yes, Tanya and I are have a sword fight with bread sticks…because we’re mature.)

While I can’t say that Rome is my favorite city in the world, it is definitely worth visiting. And considering that I didn’t get to do the shopping I was hoping to do (Christmas Eve and Christmas can really cramp a shopaholic’s style), I will be going back someday…hopefully when it’s just a little warmer.

Yes, this post is mainly about food…but I’m me and it was Italy, so it all makes perfect sense.