As an adult, the term “Eurotrip” has a completely different meaning than it did five years ago while I was studying abroad in Paris. This time around, instead of traveling on a limited budget with my best friends, I was eating at incredible hole-in-the-wall places, visiting a lot of museums and, of course, finding as many authentic pastries as possible; all with the company of my mom, brother and some of our family friends.
Our first stop was Iceland. We arrived in Reykjavik at 6:30am after a 5-hour red-eye flight, which my brother and I decided not to sleep on. So it’s basically 2:30am according to our bodies, and we can’t check-in for another 8 hours, so we find coffee. A lot of coffee. Not only did the freezing temperatures instantly wake me up, but the warm latté didn’t hurt either. Logically, the next thing we decided to do, is visit the Viking Museum to: 1) Learn all about the country of Iceland and, 2) Play dress-up in all of the Viking gear they have laid out! Day 1 was finally complete with some of the freshest fish, my brother getting a nice shower of white wine, the adult drinking game of Bananagrams and ending the day with an Icelandic nightcap: Brennivín.
Day 2 in Iceland is probably in my top 10 of best days ever. It started at Sandholt Bakeri for breakfast where quiches, homemade jam and lattés were enjoyed, followed by purchasing an incredibly flaky pistachio pastry and drooling over their handmade chocolates. It took every ounce of my small bit of self-control to not order five of everything. With good feelings and full tummies, we then went on our own version of the Golden Circle Tour. Stop #1 was at Thingvellir, a stunning National Park filled with mountains, waterfalls and views. We then went on to see the Geysers with the absolutely lovely smell of sulfur which had quadrupled due to constant eruptions. The last stop of the day was the most incredible thing I have ever seen: Gulfoss Waterfall. It is so stunning, and rather intimidating, but can remind anyone of how incredible nature is.
After seeing some of the top wonders (in my book) of the world, we decided to spend our last evening in Iceland dining at one of the most elegant restaurants in Reykjavik—The Fish Market (Fiskmarkadurinn). They buy fresh from local fishermen each day, so the menu is always changing. As the six of us walked into this place, we were almost shocked as to what we saw: the lights were dim, there were so many trees, plants and dark wood, which made the space so warm and inviting, something that many other places we went to in Iceland were not. The unique points: the homemade bread was served in a bag filled with stones to keep it warm, they (sadly) served smoked puffin for an appetizer, which I just couldn’t muster the courage to try, but fishy and gamey was the general consensus – I’m still wondering if any other place serves it! Each entrée came with a seaweed salad and wasabi mayo, a clear winner in my book. From their buttermilk salted butter, to the rock shrimp tempura, and incredibly juicy steak, all perfectly paired with the wine list, The Fish Market is a must eat at if ever in Reykjavik. Although you must save your pennies, it will be one of the best dining experiences of your life.
With full tummies and very little sleep (a recurring theme), we flew to Amsterdam the following morning. The quick flight brought us to what is now my new favorite city. It’s green, beautiful, the people are friendly and fashion-forward and it has three of the best things: stroopwafel, cheese and tulips. My mom and I broke away from the group and wandered aimlessly through the streets, stopping every minute to “ooh and ahh” over just about everything. We peeked into the Vanroselen Chocolate Shop, chatted with the shop owner whom my mom swears is related to Julia Child, and came out with a dozen handmade chocolates, which in itself is proof that the people are splendid. The afternoon was spent meandering through the streets, trying on clothes, smelling a hundred types of tulips, and eating so many cheese samples. New things I have learned: gouda with asparagus, pesto gouda, chili pepper gouda and somewhat sweet gouda with cinnamon are all things that everyone needs in their lives, so I thank the woman in the shop cutting the cheese for me, allowing me to sample each kind 10 times. The day ended on a high note; the six of us all saw different parts of the city and enjoyed every one, ending with some ice cream with an added waffle on top.
Day 2 is when things got interesting. We woke up, filled ourselves with caffeine, and then thought we would become “Amsterdamians”: for the morning: we rented bikes. A fun, little-known fact about myself: I have only recently regained my biking skills, so deciding to test them out by riding in a city that has more bikes than people, is a real gutsy move for me. We hopped on, found Vondelpark, and rode around for about an hour. Sans helmet, I tried to keep my nervousness to myself, but after about 90-minutes of a leisurely bike ride, I decided that was enough. From there, the three guys separated and rode around Amsterdam for the rest of the morning, while us ladies put on our shopping shoes. A few hours and purchases later, it was Rijksmuseum time. While I can appreciate beautiful and old art as much as the next person, what was truly amazing about this little outing was what came after the museum: stroopwafels. Let’s start with a waffle, that is so sweet and lovely, but made pancake thin. From there, the best caramel you have ever tasted is drizzled on top of the waffle, and is finished by putting yet another thin, sweet waffle on top. It’s a waffle-caramel sandwich. Yes, that’s right, a SWEET sandwich. This is heaven, and I must get a waffle press like it to recreate this as soon as possible. Stuffing my face with stroopwafel, we walked through the streets, up the canal to get dinner at Café de Prins — an incredible recommendation by none other than my lovely fiancé, Roberto. As pancakes were something that I was told was a must eat while in Amsterdam, I wanted to find someplace that had the best of the best, which was how Café de Prins was decided upon. Right as we walked in, you could instantly tell that this was where the locals hung out. It was loud, it was friendly, and it was fabulous. We had local beers, and then proceeded to eat too much delicious food. Dinner concluded with the most adorably small and delicious pancakes. Unfortunately, they lasted all of two minutes, as I couldn’t stop myself from eating them that fast. If you’re ever in Amsterdam and want to be surrounded by some of the friendliest people and full of the yummiest food — Café de Prins is your place!
Our final evening in Amsterdam ended the way you’d think - moseying through the streets, stumbling upon the Red Light District, and off to sleep as Paris was waiting for us in the morning!
For those of you who don’t yet know, Paris is one of my favorite places in the world. I know so much of the city like the back of my hand. After studying here and and eating croissants with an espresso for petit-dejeuner every morning, it feels quite like home to me. We spent five quick days in the marvelous city; I ate far too many pastries and drank the best cheap wine that I remember oh so well.
The first day in Paris certainly dictated how our whole week there was going to be: crazy. I met with a friend of mine for rosé wine and Carrefour cookies in the Tuileries. From there I met back with my family for a dinner cruise on La Seine. It was filled with champagne, wine and dancing. Of course, there was some food, but I can tell you that everyone I was with was most excited to drink and dance the night away, as we cruised past the Eiffel Tower during its first light show of the night.
Over the next days, we went to museum after museum, got lost on our way to Versailles, drank champagne in the middle of the day and shopped until our feet hurt. For me, the most exciting parts of these days were the copious amounts of macaroons, espressos and baguettes that I consumed. Our days were mostly dictated by food: croissants, fruit, jam and espresso was breakfast every day; salad with a couple of glasses of champagne or wine for lunch; and dinner was either crepes or finding whichever cheeses looked most interesting at the local fromagerie, grabbing a baguette, and enjoying it under the Eiffel Tower.
One of the days, I took my Mom to my old stomping grounds: where I lived, shopped, bought pain au chocolat for my semester abroad. At the Porte d’Orleans metro stop, right around the corner from the Rouge Pomme (best soupe a l’oignon ever!), is this family run and owned patisserie. The sign hanging outside of their shop just says Patisserie, they have incredible baguettes for only €0.90, and the service is amazing. After purchasing 3 baguettes, a dozen macaroons, and a few mouthwatering pastries, I felt elated that this little place was just as good as I remember. From there, Rue Mouffetard was a must see. Aside from plenty of boutiques, there is also an open-air market, where you can find the freshest foods. It also houses wine shops, fromageries, seafood, so many luscious fruits and vegetables, and flowers, whose aroma permeates through the entire street — I could have easily spent an entire day here.
There are many places to go solely on this street: Bocamexa for some incredible cactus-filled burritos, Mococha Chocolats for some unique flavors such as tonka bean and lemon myrtle, and Pomi near the square at the bottom of the street so you can bite into the juiciest fruits and simply people watch.
Eating in about a dozen cafés, drinking so many amazing French wines and champagnes, and being able to show my family my side of Paris made this trip absolute perfection. Highlights for anyone that visits:
Best place to stay: Hotel le Clos Medicis — about a breath away from Jardin de Luxembourg, wonderful boutique-type rooms, the metro and RER stations are within a few blocks, and it’s right near Rue St. Michel (shopping galore!).
Petit-Dejeuner stops: Anywhere surrounding the Odéon metro stop. Whether you want Le Français (croissant, espresso, confiture), or Le Complet (croissant, eggs, fruit, bacon, jus d’orange), many of the little spots have just that. You’ll see locals standing at the bar, grabbing a quick café and on their way, somehow that makes me feel like it’s the place to be!
Afternoon Drink: Anywhere that isn’t along Les Champs-Élysées (crazy prices!). We went up to Montmartre one afternoon, and stumbled upon a small café that had a small wine selection, but both the white wine and champagne were perfection.
Patisseries: The cute, small family-run place near the Porte d’Orleans metro stop as mentioned earlier - you will not be disappointed! Dalloyau, near the Luxembourg Gardens for some impeccable macaroons with unique flavor combinations such as grapefruit-raspberry-lychee and the most flawless pastries you could imagine.
After traveling to three cities in nine days, where I ate my weight in bread, drank enough wine and beer for a large family, I was exhausted, but I enjoyed every moment that Iceland, Amsterdam and Paris had to offer. A crazy itinerary? Maybe. Worth every moment? Definitely.