Night walk across Tower Bridge

One of my friends took me out for an American dinner Tuesday night because I was being moody and needed a fun time. Afterward we walked past the Tower of London and then across Tower Bridge because it was right there, and there’s never, ever a time when it’s not fun to walk across this bridge at night.

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It was cool because we got to see the Olympic rings before they were let down the next day.

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See all the experiences I’m now able to share because of my iPhone?? iPhone, I love you.

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Rome: The Pantheon

Hello from England! Although I’m looking out my window and this is what I see …

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… life still isn’t so bad. I mean, it’s grim, but as long as you don’t go outside you’re grand. ūüôā

I’m drinking grape juice mixed with carbonated water and eating a happy, random meal. Goodlife vegan nut burger, onion rings, rocket salad with sliced strawberries and balsamic + olive oil.

Yesterday I came straight home because of the rain and watched a black and white version of Anne of Green Gables (!! love that book!!) on BBC and fixed up my pictures of the Pantheon.

By the time we got to the Pantheon we were beat. We’d already been to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain¬†so it seemed like we’d walked miles and miles. I was definitely envisioning a cab ride in our immediate future.

Finally we stumbled upon what I thought could be the back of it. Is this it?? Is this it?? It looks old so it must be it. Finally!

This fountain didn’t look so cool, but close up I was loving it.

The funny thing about this picture of my mom is that she looked concerned and asked me if I thought it was safe to drink the water from the street fountain. Around Rome there are tons of fountains where you can drink straight from the water that pours out onto the ground.

I said, “Well, I guess so. I’ve seen lots of people washing their faces with it and filling up water bottles.” As I said this she told me she’d already filled up her bottle and had been drinking from it.

I didn’t realize you could go inside the Pantheon as well, so we ran right in.

People kept talking so occasionally someone would come on the big speaker and tell everyone to shut up, which was humorous because they had to do it in several languages and still no one was quiet.

When we left we had what I’d consider to be one of the scariest cab rides of my life. In Rome there are no rules of the road. The only rule is that if there’s a space on the street and you think your car can fit – go for it. Same thing with crossing the street. Just run across and hope for the best.

Rome: The Trevi Fountain

I am in a bad mood today. It’s June 5 and it’s 52 degrees with rain.

This is my face, and this will be my face the entire summer.

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The 10 day forecast, along with my experience in England, suggests this is as good as it gets, and for that I’m so depressed.

After I got changed into dry clothes I started putting together some more pictures of the long ago (a month) good days, when I experienced glorious weather.

Rome!

We went to the Trevi Fountain on the first day after visiting the Spanish Steps. It was a scorcher of a day so I had to stop and buy some sandals because there’s nothing I hate more than hot feet. Except maybe wet feet. Then we went to Aldo, where I saw a guy so hot I actually couldn’t look him in the eye. I’m talking about the kind of hot where you just know you’re not good looking enough to be in his gaze, so you stare at the floor in pure shame.

I didn’t know if my mom noticed the hottie Italian cashier in Aldo, but when we left the shop she said, “Ohmygod that guy gave me hot flashes. Did you see him??”

She asked the whole weekend if we could go back to see Aldo guy, but we couldn’t. I seriously couldn’t look this guy in the eye!

I was so busy taking detail shots I didn’t actually get a shot of the fountain as a whole. Here’s one by mom:

I love looking back through vacation pictures, and that’s what I don’t get about men. They never take pictures of anything, and if they do they never look at them again. For example, one time one of my friends said something like, “Yeah, didn’t you see it in my album on Facebook?” And I was like ” … you mean the ‘album’ where you posted literally five photos from a week-long vacation?” ¬†He saw absolutely nothing weird about going on vacation for a week and posting five pictures. Another example: my ex husband went to Australia (!) for a week and didn’t take one picture of the beach. He said he forgot his camera every single day, which I totally didn’t understand because that would be number one on my checklist! Guys are so funny!¬†My camera goes around my neck before my clothes get put on my body. This is serious business. ūüôā

If you’re interested – previous Rome posts:

The food!
The Spanish Steps

Rome: The Spanish Steps

The biggest piece of advice we were given at our amazing little (smallest in Rome!) hotel was “get lost.”

I used to be the kind of person to create maps in Illustrator with attractions and sites to see, and organize them by area in order to maximize my site-seeing potential.¬†I realize this sounds like I’m trying to be whimsical and pretentious, but I’ve started doing this thing when I travel where I don’t plan anything other than my hotel. I just kind of turn up and hope to experience the city.

So, this was exactly what I wanted to hear. He outlined some of the must-see attractions on a map, but in the end said if we wanted to experience Rome we needed to get lost. He saw the big Nikon around my neck and said getting lost would give me the best photos to put on Facebook when I got back home ūüôā

I ended up taking so many photos (about 700) that I couldn’t do one post on Rome so I’ve decided to do several and focus on specifics.

We started off at the Spanish Steps.

Although the steps are littered with ugly tourists (not ugly individually, but ugly collectively), they’re lined with bright red flowers which makes everything seem happy.

The first morning we went it was cloudy, but the second time (and rest of the vacation) it was sunny and a perfect 75 degrees.

And when I stopped taking pictures of red flowers I finally walked up the steps.

I still don’t know how I managed to get a picture of these steps with no people in sight. Except for the person in the top right corner snapping a picture!

Can you imagine living in one of these homes? May be a bit loud, but pretty!

I can’t imagine a time in which I would get tired of looking at palm trees. Maybe it’s my Florida roots.

I’m also thinking maybe I could handle having a balcony on my house that looks like this. Maybe.

One of my favorite memories from Rome is when we spent a couple hours sitting on the steps catching rays and relaxing. I don’t get to feel sunshine often so I sat on the steps and picked up energy, like WALL-E or something.

Reliving these Rome memories is making it hard to get back to reality and think about the fact that I have another training run today after work …

Rome: the food!

Our first meal was had at a restaurant near the Spanish Steps. I know! It’s not good to eat directly in front of a tourist destination, but when you’ve been up since 1:45 am and you don’t get to eat until 11, anything will do.

And it was fine! It’s Rome, and it was pizza, so it was as good as any pizza we get in England.

The pizza was further proof that everything mom does is perfect. I looked over at her pizza:

And then looked down at mine:

Aside from the first pizza place, everywhere we went immediately gave us a basket of bread and water.

I’m thinking I need to get a bottle like this to serve water to people when they come to my house!

I had marinated artichokes as a snack, because they seemed to be on every menu. Only crazy people don’t like artichokes.

It was in Rome that I discovered my new favorite drink. I’m an iced coffee lover through and through, but this may have changed my mind.

Meet Marocchino:

Marocchino is a little espresso drink with a teeny bit of milk and cocoa powder – but it’s not sweetened. It tastes like really, really dark chocolate with a bit of coffee. I added only a small amount of sugar, but for the most part drank it bitter and it was everything I could ever ask for from a cup of coffee. Even McDonald’s in Rome had my marocchino lover!

Another one of my favorite meals was a really cheap sandwich from a cafe on a side street. It was an omelet that was filled with spinach, topped with a thin slice of mozzarella and put on a sandwich with some kind of heavenly bread. You know how bread gets sharp and cuts your mouth? This managed to have a crisp without the cut. Good stuff.

Mom had a simple salami + mozzarella. Also good!

In big cities McDonald’s is usually the only place with a bathroom, so we popped into it and were drawn to the McCafe and its huge display of amazing looking desserts.

Here you’ll find the best dessert to ever come to you on a tray:

I can’t believe how good this tiramisu was! I’m not much of a dessert person, but I had a hard time saving half for mama bear.

For dinner the second night we went to a restaurant recommended by the very kind guy at our hotel, which he also said is officially the smallest (legal) hotel in Rome. I’ll post all about that soon!

Mom had sliced beef with balsamic, tomatoes and rocket, and I had onion soup. I could only get soup because my stomach was very shaky due to all the cheese pizzas, gelato and soda I had. Turns out the onion soup was creamy too, but it was still good!

One last thing. I am so glad I randomly starting liking tomatoes before my trip to Rome.

I don’t even remember where this was taken. Maybe somewhere near the Vatican?

Food in Rome = A!

Remember when I went to Copenhagen?

I’ve had to answer the same question from multiple people: Why Copenhagen?

Why not? I wanted to go on a random trip, I’d never been to Scandinavia and the price was right for my budget (cheap).

I had an amazing time on my first solo adventure. I took 503 pictures in a day and a half and spent as much time as I pleased sitting at cafes on the harbor eating and reading in the sunshine.

When I think of Copenhagen, I think of the brightly-colored harbor, Nyhavn …

… all the boats

… and all the bikes! I’ve never seen so many bikes in my entire life. They were everywhere, and most of them weren’t even chained up. People park them anywhere and everywhere. I guess when everyone owns a bike there’s really no need to steal.

Plus, in my short experience, Danish people are just too happy to steal bikes. The Danes are extremely friendly, and speak better English than many native English speakers I know!

I’d like to post all my pictures, but obviously that’s not possible so here are a few snapshots!

The park and castle behind the hostel. The weather was so gorgeous that I seriously regretted not bringing my running shoes. You know the kind of perfect temperature where the only way you can imagine truly enjoying it is a nice, long run?

Yes, I stayed in a hostel. I thought I was too old to stay in a hostel (27), but I really wanted to save money. I stayed at the Generator hostel and paid about ¬£40 for a private room with a private bathroom/shower. I can’t say how glad I am that I stayed here. It was as clean and quiet as any hotel I’ve been to, and even better was the location. I was right in the city, about a five-minute walk from the harbor, which quickly became my favorite place.

I don’t know why, but I just loved this statue. I took a picture at every angle and considered making a whole post about it. I love the colors!

This was a dominant color in Copenhagen. So many statues!

I want to live in a yellow house.

Possibly the only time pigeons have looked cool?

These yellow flowers were on nearly every table of the cafes at the harbor and were all glowing in the sunshine.

 A bike outside the hostel.

From my top floor room at the hostel I could see this dome shining in the sun.

I went on an afternoon harbor cruise, which lasted about an hour. Best decision I made in Copenhagen! Although it’s easy to walk (or hire a bike) everywhere you’d want to go, I saw so much of the city from the boat and loved every second of it.

People always told me Copenhagen was very expensive, but I live in London so another expensive city simply seems normal.

In total, this two-day trip cost me about ¬£220. That’s a bit more than $300, and my total includes everything:

Return flights, including taxes (£65 / $100)
Private hostel room with en suite bathroom (£45 / $75)
Spending money (£110 / $150)

My only problem with the city was that many of the places I went to weren’t veggie friendly. In some cases, there were strictly meat options. For breakfast the second day, bacon and eggs was the only option, so I went with it. The bacon was GOOD, so I was a bit upset to drop more than half of it on the ground.

This is a problem that could easily have been avoided if I’d done a bit of research before I left, but I didn’t research a single thing. I bought a travel book to read on the plane, but that’s it. I wanted it to be a 100% random experience, and other than the food issue it was great.

Personally, I think this was a super cheap, easy trip, but my views on “cheap” are a bit skewed considering I live in London. In any case, Copenhagen is a great, friendly European city break and I’d definitely recommend it!

Off to Copenhagen!

This is officially the lightest I’ve ever traveled. Here are the entire contents of my bag for my two day trip. Well, a bit less considering I’ll be wearing the shoes, clothes and jacket.

A book (I picked Eat, Pray, Love although I couldn’t stand watching even 20 minutes of the movie. I still thought it was appropriate for my solo trip!), travel guide, two passports (one has my ILR visa and the other is my new one), Danish money, small camera, extra lens for my D5000, pen, booking information, 2 nakd snack bars¬†– I love these! They usually have only 3-4 ingredients and are vegan + gluten free. I hate granola bars, so these are a good alternative for me because they are generally made of dates and nuts.

I am taking EasyJet, so I certainly won’t be getting any food on the plane. I’m the kind of person who is hungry every two hours whether I eat a steak or a salad, so I MUST have emergency food when I travel.

I read an interesting NYT article the other day about the airplane food industry and the complex logistics it takes to feed that many people and keep the food fresh, and the problem of trying to make the food taste good to people whose taste buds are dulled by the elevation.

The only good airplane meal I’ve had was on Lufthansa, which this article mentions specifically. I just loved it!

I was going to Cologne for Christmas markets last year, and I was shocked to get food on the flight. They gave us a little schnitzel and German potato salad Рboth were great and actually tasted like real food! On the way back we got a pretzel and cheese, also good.

I’ve been so busy I haven’t had much time to research what kind of food I can expect in Denmark. Also, I kind of want this to be an adventure so I haven’t planned every single detail of this trip like I normally do. Mostly all I know is that it’s supposed to be nice weather. Can’t wait!

See you Thursday!

Eat, Pray, Love: Copenhagen Style.

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I booked a random trip to Copenhagen, and it’s exciting for two reasons.

1) Due to visa/passport renewals I’ve been a prisoner in England since September.

2) This is my first solo trip!

I’m really nervous, but excited, about #2. There won’t be any praying, but there will be lots of eating and loving the gorgeous scenery. I fully expect to take hundreds of photos.

My sister and her boyfriend came to visit me last year and took a side trip to Copenhagen. She said they got lost, so they asked a random guy if he spoke English and he looked confused and said, “Of course!” Ha ha!

Naturally I’m most looking forward to the food. This is one of my sister’s breakfasts while in Europe last year:

I love Europeans.

I also find humor in seeing the different names for common things like Lay’s chips.

I can’t wait!!

Has anyone else been on a solo trip or to Copenhagen?

Mediterranean-inspired halloumi baguettes

Everyone loves a good sandwich. That’s a basic fact of human life, right?

One of my favorite discoveries in England has been halloumi cheese. The cheese is Cypriot, of course, but it’s readily available here and when I was in the US I’d never heard of anyone eating it.

Even in England I think halloumi doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It is far and away one of my favorite snacks and sandwich fillings.

If you’ve never tried it, simply slice it and heat it on medium-high heat until each side is browned. It’s salty and chewy and unlike any cheese you’ll ever try. So addictive!

This sandwich is stuffed with whole foods and is a simple, quick lunch or dinner.

I used a half-baked baguette and spread pesto thinly on the bottom half. I generally don’t use a lot because pesto can have a strong flavor and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the other flavors.

I topped it with:

– Sliced, grilled (in a pan) halloumi

– Thinly sliced red onion (tip: soak red onion slices in a bowl of water for a few minutes to keep the flavor but take the edge off their bite)

– Pitted and halved kalamata olives

– Fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and patted dry

– Sun-dried tomatoes with a little of the jar’s oil drizzled over the rest of the ingredients

That’s it! I’ve also tried this sandwich with a fresh ball of mozzarella sliced and layered in place of the halloumi and it’s just as good, if not better!