Sure, by this point we know what documents we need to go abroad, how to mentally prepare, how to pack, how to get around, and even specific places you should visit.
But…. I’m sure you’re all wondering one very important thing: how’s the food?!
Well, I’m not here to burst your bubble, but not all European food blew my socks off. It wasn’t all made of dreams and rainbows. However, there were some really great dishes I had! It’s sort of like anywhere else you’d go in America – some places are awesome, and some places are less awesome, or not awesome at all. As always, let me start with the place I spent the most time, my beloved Italia.
These are actually pictures of the food that I would make at home, but you get the point – try some pasta. The spinach and ricotta filled ravioli was actually my favorite dish, but tended to be a little pricier than your average plate of pasta at restaurants. The kind I bought was from a grocery store, and I sprinkled cheese and truffle sauce on it! Yum! Of course, bread, butter, and olive oil are staples. It is pretty mandatory to try pizza, too. I don’t have a picture, but it has very thin crust, and I preferred to eat it folded in half. Also, their fresh fruit was so good! I could not get over the taste of the apples in Italy. Most obviously, get some wine – cheap, expensive, white, red – it doesn’t matter. Have wine, have wine often.
Some other staples in Italy are gelato, tiny coffee shots (café), and unexpectedly, kebob shops. I never knew there would be so many kebob shops, but you can find some pretty good ones that are really reasonably priced (at least throughout Florence). The coffee pictured above was a Nutella café, as Italy is famous for Nutella and coffee, what a delicious combo! The little coffees are actually pretty bitter (pure caffeine in a shot?), but the larger cappuccinos are tasty. Finally, gelato must be consumed nearly as often as wine if you want the best experience possible. (Actually, I heard once that gelato has four times as much sugar in it than American ice-cream! Scary!) My favorite flavors were cinnamon and pistachio.
While in London, my friends and I ate at the same mom-and-pop breakfast place both mornings we stayed there. It was so cute, called Frank’s, and dirt-cheap-yet-delicious. Also, as you can see, large portions of food! Not to mention free coffee refills included with the price of breakfast. All that for just £5! The traditional English breakfast included either toasted or un-toasted bread with butter, hash browns, baked beans, sausage, bacon, and an egg over easy. You also had some other options, such as steamed tomatoes.
For dinner we went to a fancier restaurant closer to the city center and both of my friends got fish-n-chips, while I had a large salad, due to my general distaste for seafood. I tried some of their fish, though, just to have the experience, and I really regretted not ordering it for myself! It was definitely tasty, and part of the England experience. Eat the fish-n-chips!
Now this gets into a little bit of a grey area, because I only went to Germany for one day – in Munich, for Oktoberfest. Also, I attempted to order something from a menu that was supposedly in English, but we all got something completely different than what we thought we ordered. So, I actually have no idea what I was eating. We had a great potato dish, and the meat was good, though I’m not sure what type it was. We thought the white thing on our plate was some sort of sauerkraut, but it ended up being very dry and extremely spicy. I opted out of that one after I gave it an initial taste (I don’t do spicy, either). The donuts were actually moist and had bits of apple in them! Very tasty. Finally, as a cool souvenir and treat all-in-one, I got the gingerbread Oktoberfest heart necklace. It was awful. Only buy them for decoration, not to eat.
Although I only stayed in Barcelona for four days, I definitely fell in love with their food. If you just go to a tapas restaurant, or only order tapas items (appetizers), you will be just fine. You can order a couple and it will fill you up. They are super tasty and generally inexpensive. The top left item, the Spanish omelette with small pieces of bread, was my favorite by a long shot. Next to that is the Spanish dessert, flan. It is good, but may not be for people who have food consistency peculiarities. On the top right was a California salad, which had avocado, ham, cheese, corn, and bow tie noodles served cold. That was probably my second-favorite tapas. The bottom left are sautéed potatoes with a special sauce (a crowd favorite in my group). Next to that is a spiced rum cake, which actually tasted very strongly of alcohol. These people are not messing around! Finally, it is almost required to have a sangria while you are there. They are delicious, but don’t try to share a pitcher like that with less than four people, or you might be in trouble! (Notice our three glasses. Yes, we were in trouble after three of us finished the pitcher, and trying to catch a flight. Live and learn, they say!)
When I travelled to France, it was the week of Thanksgiving. My hostel in Paris served the residents pumpkin pie, candy corn, and crepes. It was really nice to have a taste of home, and you definitely can’t leave Paris without trying their crepes! A tried a crepe from a street vendor as well, who put Nutella and banana in it and wrapped it up. It was to die for. I also tried French onion soup at a fancy restaurant, which was the best French onion soup I’ve ever had! I guess the French really know how to do it. I tried a macaron as an obligatory dessert option, but it wasn’t as good as I hoped (it was a bit too dry for me). French baguette bread was tasty and made their sandwiches supreme. Pictured above were some of my friends trying escargot for the first time. They weren’t sure what to make of it at first, but they ended up loving it! The thought still disturbs me, but I wish I would’ve tried it just for the experience.
So there you have it, my food experiences from five different countries. Not being able to stay long in most of them, I’m sure I’m missing out on tons of other great cuisines! What are you favorite international dishes?