And we are back now! Having recently traveled through Rome, Italy; Champagne,France; Stockholm, Sweden and Kevlavik, Iceland. We are in Denver again for some time leading up to another international trip to Paris, France for the Salon du Chocolat !!
The best part of most of my trips...besides the people I'm visiting and sharing the experience with, is of course--the food!
Starting with Rome. Tip to all travelers in this gorgeous historic place, DO NOT feast near the tourist attractions. If so, get a recommendation from a local. Likely, you will have mediocre(if that) food for a heavy price. My suggestion, is to take a few extra steps to the neighborhood of Travestere. Here you will eat what the locals eat, you'll find handmade pasta, sauces with rich flavors, and cold beverages to cool you after your walk around the city. We enjoyed gnocci at a small joint called Pasta and Wine. How more direct can you get? It was awsome..basically the Chipotle/Qdoba if you will, of Italy. You pick you pasta, you pick your sauce and you eat! Wonderful!!
We also stayed in a LOVELY bed and breakfast called GLI Artisti, located at Via Degli Scipioni, 53 Vaticano Prati, Rome 00192. A cute establishment on the 4th floor of a building within blocks of the Vatican City. Fresh espresso and capuccino every morning with fresh baked croissant, filled with nutella and fruit, little cereals, yogurts, fruit and sliced meats available as well. Everything was warmly and artistically decorated, a real gem! We would certainly stay here again.
Moving on to Champagne. We flew into the Paris, Orly Airport and rented a car for a whooping $66 for 4 days. Drove to meet up with some other friends at the Chateau d'Etoges in the Champagne Valley, the only place you will taste REAL champagne at its finest. We explored the World Heritage Site Wine cellars of Veuve Cliquot and Mumm and some other boutique wineries as well, the important guys who feed the big names. We toured the city of Reims, very important to the history of champagne and the region. Probably shouldn't have gone to an Italian restaurant in the heart of France, haha, we had a little trouble ordering our food, but nevertheless, everything was delicious and the Champagne on point! One thing I will never forget, is the magnitude of meals in Europe. Course dinners last at LEAST 3 hours, so make sure you're prepared to wine and dine all night:) Our first night in the Cheateau we enjoyed a 8 course meal (3 of which were dessert).
Champagne countryside was gorgeous with sweeping hillsides of grapes, majority chardonnay, pinot munier and pinot noir (all included in the creation of the best champagne). It seemed like most of the towns we drove through were uninhabitated, or at least no one was wondering the streets. I always wonder what people do for jobs in Europe; apparently, they are just awaiting the picking season. Over 100,000 people come from all over the world to help harvest the grapes. the government only allows the farmers to pick for a week and a half stretch. Why? I didn't catch that. But it is very important it is the most opportune time, and that there are enough people there to get the job done!
Our third country, Sweden. Wow! I really had no expectations going here...except that it was probably going to be similar to my visit to Switzerland...cold, and gorgeous. Yup, correct! But, when the sun was out, it was perfect. Stockholm and Sweden is a compilation of 14 island chain, surrounded by the Baltic Sea and Lake Malaren. We decided to try couchsurfing here, hosted by the magnificent Magnus and his husband Gustav. They introduced us to the country with a warm homemade soup on the evening we arrived, while telling us about the culture in their homeland. Luckily Magnus had time to explore the city with us, taking us first to the Vassa museum. The museum shares a deep part of Sweden's history showcasing the largest preserved object in the world. Vassa is a recovered warship dating back over 350 years ago. It left the port on its maiden voyage and sank within 20 minutes. No one could recover it for over 333 years. Impressive! 98% of the ship is the original, and the museum is still putting its pieces back together.
After the museum, we wandered the streets, thoroughly enjoying Gamla Stan, the old town; nearby there is a Medieval museum (free entrance) that you can get a better feel of how life was there in the 13th century. We tasted street herring and their renowned cinnamon rolls and of course Swedish Meatballs!
Kevlavik was a quick layover while in Iceland. We walked from the airport, a quick 1.5miles. I spent some time 4 years ago in Reykavik and was a bit shocked to see the negative impact tourism is having on the island. It just seems that the last 4-5 years, tourism has boomed and they just can't support it. It was even more apparent when we were boarding our flight to leave Iceland. There weren't enough workers and not enough space to keep everyone in the boarding process. It all worked out...but keep your eyes out in the future for what is happening in Iceland before you go. It's a beautiful country but you'll need to save extra money for any excursions, and you will need to do an excursion to see the sights, there isn't much going on in the city and prices are astronomical because everything is imported. One piece of advice would be to visit their grocery store! A lot cheaper and still delicious. I have yet to try puffin, their delicacy, but I'm still not sure I want to!
That is our 10 days in a nutshell, please feel free to ask questions or for advice about where to go in these cities. I will certainly return to them all! Especially to visit our new Swedish friends!!
Check out our instagram for food photos @MezclaMaggie