Toronto + Niagara Falls 2017

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I’m taking a short commercial break from posting about my Europe trip so I can talk about my visit to Toronto a couple weeks ago!  I partially doing this because I love the pictures, but mostly because my Canadian friend, Stephen, asks when I’m going to post this at least once or twice a week.  (Here you go, Stephen.  Thanks for being a loyal reader, and A+ for enthusiasm!).

After I got back from London, I had a couple of weeks at home, and then I headed off to Toronto for some classes at the Canadian Barista & Coffee Academy!  I got to talk about coffee for four whole days with all kinds of well-respected roasters, baristas, and coffee shop owners – it was a dream.  Plus, I got to work on some really beautiful espresso machines, and I poured my first successful tulip!  I got so excited that I forgot to take a picture, but here’s a visual: it was symmetrical and had 5 whole layers!

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After my coffee classes were over, I took a few days to explore the Toronto area, and luckily, I had my friend Stephen to show me around.  Stephen and I originally met while we were both studying abroad in London, and he’s been trying to get me to visit ever since.  Suffice to say, he had a long list of places to show me, and I had a long list of coffee shops to visit!

One of my favorite nights involved Thai food and meeting up with Stephen’s friends to visit some of their favorite bars.  After a couple beers, they all decided it was time to give me a real Canadian experience, so we walked to Smoke’s Poutinerie.  I finally got to try poutine, and a group of drunk college kids spent the good portion of the night telling me I look like Bjork (which is just the least true thing I have ever heard in my life).  All in all, it was the best late-night Toronto experience I could ever hope for.

The next morning, we grabbed a coffee and headed to Niagara Falls!  The falls were on my bucket list, and I still can’t stop thinking about how beautiful they were.  After taking approximately a million pictures, Stephen and I went to an amazing Greek restaurant, found a cool brewery, and then he beat me at mini golf.  On our way back to Toronto, we stopped in Niagara-on-the-Lake where, in true fashion, we ended up at a British-style pub and listened to a live band!  It was the perfect last night in Canada.

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Things to do in Toronto & Niagara Falls:

  • Country Style Hungarian Restaurant – I have a newfound love for Hungarian food, which is not easy to find in Reno.  Luckily this place has plenty of good options like paprikash and schnitzel!
  • Put a Cone on It – this is a coffee/ice cream shop in Korea Town that I stopped at every morning before class.  They only have espresso drinks, but they make great cappuccinos.
  • The White Brick Kitchen – a restaurant on Bloor that has really great sandwiches and fries.  It’s also close to some artsy, local shops!
  • Bellwoods Brewery – probably the most beautiful brewery I’ve ever seen.  Apparently, it gets ridiculously busy some nights, but when we went, it was such a lovely place to relax and try local beer.
  • Ramen Isshin – this is an insanely popular ramen joint, but if you’re willing to wait about 20 minutes, it’s definitely worth it.
  • Get Well – a local barcade where I played Mrs. Packman and somehow won a Star Wars game purely by pressing a lot of buttons!
  • Salad King – a restaurant that does not, in fact, serve salad but does serve delicious Thai food.  It also has huge windows with a great view of downtown.
  • Smoke’s Poutinerie – only for the purest of Canadian experiences.
  • Manic Coffee – a recommendation by one of my instructors!
  • Koutouki – a lovely Greek restaurant near Niagara Falls.
  • Niagara Brewing Company – lots of beer choices and live music!  We got a flight, and I think their cream beer had to be my favorite.
  • Boxcar Social – probably my favorite coffeeshop in Toronto, I finally found pour-overs, and the aesthetic was beautiful.

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Im Glad She’s Not my Girlfriend by The Soulboy Collective

Copenhagen 2017

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After Budapest, I headed to London for a few days to see The Lumineers, Stevie Nicks, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (*cries*), and after spending a few days walking around my old favorite spots, I flew over to Copenhagen!  Copenhagen was by far the one place I wish I had spent longer.  I was there for 2 nights, but I could have easily been there for a week, I loved it so much!!  I wouldn’t say Copenhagen has the most fascinating touristy attractions (tbh I skipped most of them), but the food, bars, music scene, and overall culture was just my type.  Plus, if I had more time, I definitely would have checked out some of their art museums, because I’ve heard they’re amazing!

When I got to Copenhagen, my airbnb host gave me a tour of the town and showed me where all of the best restaurants and bars were!  Funny enough, he was an Irishman living in the city (when I asked why he moved to Copenhagen, he claimed he was a “sexual refugee” which still makes me giggle).  The next day, I followed his guide and ended up eating the best schnitzel at one of my favorite restaurants during my whole trip + I was in beer heaven.  Copenhagen is so hip that it’s hard to choose exactly what to do – I was overwhelmed by all the hipstery things I wanted to experience, but luckily I think I got the chance to visit a lot of the best spots.  At one point, I ended up stuck in the rain, and I had Sufjan Stevens stuck in my head, and overall it was a perfect moment.  Next time I’m there, I definitely want to rent a bike and ride all over that damn town and I’m going to make it to the Little Mermaid statue!

On another note, all of this talk of Copenhagen is making me miss Copenhagen, who wants to go with me?!?!?!?!?!

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My most favorite places in Copenhagen:

  • Stroget – the longest pedestrian street in Europe – it’s super touristy and filled with shops, but some of the architecture is cute, and there’s plenty of great places to check out on its side streets!
  • Nyhavn – this is Copenhagen’s harbor and one of my favorite places to walk around and take pictures.  Around here, a lot of the restaurants and bars will be filled with tourists, but it’s one of the best parts of the city to walk through!
  • Paper Island – after walking through Nyhavn, go cross the bridge and walk over to Paper Island where there’s a huge food market filled with food stalls.  I got a beer and hung out with all of the hippest millennials Copenhagen had to offer.  (Plus there’s an amazing view from the outside!)
  • Original Coffee – there is no lack of specialty coffee in Copenhagen, but I especially enjoyed the espresso and aesthetic here.
  • Torvenhallerne – a large food market filled with groceries and stalls to stop and have a pastry, sandwich, or coffee!
  • La Pentanque – a cute French restaurant and crepe place where I had the most delicious dessert crepes!  The owner is friends with my airbnb host, and he was super welcoming and helpful at helping me translate the menu!
  • Tight – by far one of my favorite restaurants on my entire trip.  I had the pork schnitzel with potatoes gratin and ratatouille, and it changed my life.
  • Black Swan Beer Bar – a fun bar with tons of beer options!  My favorite option for a pint.

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Eugene by Sufjan Stevens

 

Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing

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While Insta has proven to me that the ~hip~ people of the world have been spending their weekends partying in bunny costumes, I have spent mine doing laundry, petting my hedgehog, and watching Stranger Things.  *raises the roof*.  I just got back from Toronto, where my friend Stephen took me to all kinds of breweries, Niagara Falls, aaaaand (!!) I had poutine for the first time!  Where can I get poutine in Reno??  I need it more frequently in my life!  Usually when it comes to deep-frying foods at home, I dodge it like it’s hot (the messssss), but for poutine, I might be willing to pull out all the stops.  Or maybe I can rig it with some extra-crispy tater tots right out of the oven?  Canadians: would that be sacrilege??

On another note, I will be spending my Halloween night eating white chili with my cousins and taking the kids trick-or-treating!  I found an amazing vintage 1960s dress at a thrift store the other day that I was planning on utilizing in my costume, but now that I’ll be walking around in the cold weather, I’m thinking of pulling out my classic Rosie the Riveter costume and calling it a day.  It’s almost a tradition at this point after all.

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A couple of weeks ago, I surprised my parents for their birthdays by coming home from London a week earlier than I told them.  (Although, they did end up going on vacation for their birthdays, so I had to pretend I was still in England for a few extra days yikes!).  I showed up at their front door and rang the doorbell cake-in-hand.  They were so excited, we went to a delicious steakhouse for dinner, and then we celebrated with this cake for dessert!  It was exactly what I wanting, and they loved their birthday present (me, obvs).  This cake was the perfect addition: a lightly sweetened pumpkin cake with a touch of sage flavor and a sticky brown sugar icing that tastes faintly of caramel and butter.  It’s the perfect fall dessert and makes a great addition to a Halloween party or even a Thanksgiving dessert table (it has sage in it after all!).  Plus, you can decorate it like a pumpkin or turkey or something if you really want to make it festive.  Obviously, I went the easy way with a few sage leaves and a rustic ‘happy birthday’ sign.  Have a spooky night!


Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing
Serves 6-8

*Cake is for High-Altitude baking.  Please refer to alternative measurements if you do not live at high-altitude!*

Cake Ingredients

1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. + 6 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder*
1/2 tsp. baking soda**
1 egg
1/2 c. Tbs. buttermilk
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350* F.  Grease and flour two 6-inch cake pans.  Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.  In a medium bowl, cream the brown sugar, sugar, egg, buttermilk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.  Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk.  Then add the remaining flour mixture and milk.  Divide the batter between the two cake pans.

Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick shows a few crumbs.  Let the cakes cool.  Meanwhile prepare the icing (below).  Level each cake, and cut each cake in half so you have 4 even layers.  Spread frosting between each layer, stacking them until there are 4 cake layers.  Frost the outside of the cake.  Decorate as desired.

* Use 3/4 tsp. baking powder for regular-altitude recipes.
**Use 3/4 tsp. baking soda for regular-altitude recipes.

Icing Ingredients

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. milk
1 3/4 – 2 c. powdered sugar

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add brown sugar.  Boil over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Cool to lukewarm – add milk.  Gradually add powdered sugar, and beat until thick.  If it becomes too stiff, add a little hot water to thin.  Frost over cake!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Atmosphere by Joy Division

 

 

Budapest 2017

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One of the best parts of traveling throughout so many countries was being unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised by cities I knew little to nothing about.  Enter Budapest, one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to!  I had a concert in London planned out for a random weekend in July, and I needed a place to visit for a few days in between Luzern and London, so off to Budapest I went – and I’m so glad I did!  Budapest is such an amazingly historic city filled with all kinds of nightlife, hip coffee shops, food, and culture.  I was there for only one full day, but I already can’t wait to go back!!

I stayed in a cute little airbnb with a loft bed – something I thought was a good idea until I had one too many limoncello shots at an Italian restaurant down the street courtesy of the owner who had a massive crush on me – in a great area of town near many of the most popular sites.  I rode on the oldest subway in Europe, ate TONS of paprikash, and bought a hedgehog toothpick holder!  I walked from Buda to Pest, saw all of the historic sites, paid tribute at the Shoes on the Danube Bank monument, and fell in love with a  coffee shop.  The people were so nice and welcoming, and I had the most beautiful day exploring such a cool city.  Budapest, I love love love love you!!

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What to do!

  • Fisherman’s Bastion – a part of the old city that has beautiful architecture with an even more amazing view!
  • Hungarian Parliament Building – one of my favorite buildings to take pictures of in Budapest!  I didn’t tour it, but I would absolutely recommend looking around!
  • Hősök tere – a famous square that has tons of cool sculptures and places to walk around.
  • Matthias Church – right next to Fisherman’s Bastion, so you can either take a tour, or just look at the detailed architecture.
  • Chain Bridge – this bridge connects Buda to Pest, has great views, and is a quick walk across and back!
  • Shoes on the Danube monument – a heartbreaking, yet beautiful, monument built to remember the Jews who were shot in the Danube River during WWII.  It’s not a common touristy visit but definitely important.
  • Ride the oldest metro – Budapest is home to the oldest subway, (Line 1!) and while it may not be the coolest thing to do in Budapest, it’s still fun to see the old railway cars and subway stops.
  • Borlap – a somewhat touristy restaurant, although I noticed plenty of locals there as well!  Their chicken paprikash was my favorite meal I ate in Budapest, and they also had yummy aperol spritzes!  They are also located right near plenty of other great bars!
  • Kaffeine – a very impressive coffee shop over in Buda that has delicious espresso drinks as well as pour-overs yay!  The baristas know their shhhtuff, and they have a Black Eagle espresso machine!  The street it’s located on had some other great restaurants and shops I wish I had time to check out.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Take it Easy – Triathalon

 

Interlaken + Luzern 2017

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After having the loveliest couple of weeks in Italy, I took a train from Milan to Interlaken, Switzerland.  It was honestly probably one of the most beautiful rides of my journey – taking a train through the Burnese Oberlands was incredible, especially cozied up in a cute carriage with a cup of tea in my hands.  10/10 recommend.

On top of the amazing train ride, Interlaken itself was one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever been – everything looks like a Christmas card, and I seriously can’t imagine what it must look like in the snow!  A holiday dream, I’m sure.  Everything is so close that I spent my entire time strolling around the town visiting cute restaurants and walking along the river, which I swear, must be colored with blue no. 1.  Plus, after spending so many days sweating my balls off in France and Italy, I was stoked to be in a colder climate wearing – get this – a coat in July!  I found a cute little café playing Leonard Cohen, and even though the waitress thought I was insane, I drank tea in the rain and watched people walk along the river.  One day, I wanted to be outside and see a view of the city – I decided to forgo taking the fernicular to the top of the mountain, but ended up following a trail nearby that brought me to the most beautiful little clearing where I saw a view of the entire town as well as the neighboring areas.  I went in my ankle boots, which were not the ideal shoes for a hike, but when in Rome (Interlaken)!

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After Interlaken, I took another train over to Lucerne where I stayed in the prettiest Airbnb that was just a five minute walk from the lake!  I saw Old Town and the Kapellbrucke, dined on sunny patios, and visited cute local shops.  I spent my nights watching the sunset while sitting on the beach.  Behind me, locals hung out on the grass drinking, bbqing, playing games, smoking, and laughing.  At dinner, I would eat cordon bleu with mayonnaisey french fries and hoppy, local beer.  I also spent a lot of time hanging out in a specialty coffeeshop called Café Tacuba, where the owner let me use his espresso machine and even taught me how to roast coffee!  All of his coffee comes from farms his friends and family own in El Salvador, and he always had the nicest people hanging around the shop for me to make friends with!  It was the coolest.

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Things to check out in Interlaken:

  • Ladelokal – the cute little café along the river. It’s perfect for a cup of coffee or tea, and they have nice pastries as well!
  • Maharaja Indian – delicious chana masala and roti!
  • Restaurant El Azteca – so, I wouldn’t recommend going all the way to Switzerland if you’re in the mood for really good Mexican food. However, if you’re from Mexico, the American west coast, or anywhere else where delicious, authentic Mexican food is around every corner, this was one of the best Mexican restaurants I found in Europe!
  • Take a quick hike! – if you go near the fernicular, you’ll see a little trail off to the side. Take it, walk past the “zoo”, and you’ll eventually reach a point on the trail where there’s a little clearing.  There’s some nice picnic tables and an amazing view of the town!  If you want a longer hike, you can go all the way up to the top for a panoramic view!
  • Walk along the river – there’s so many incredible views to see walking along the river. Get a coffee or tea and walk around the entire town.  It’s amazing.

And in Lucern:

  • Café Tacuba – obviously, I’ve already crushed hard on this place. It was the first specialty coffee I had in over 2 weeks, and I was excited!!
  • Mirch Masala Indian – there’s a very lovely patio and delicious vegetarian Indian food!
  • Old Town – cute shops and cafes with outdoor seating!
  • Visit the beach – there’s a park right next to Lake Luzern that has a great beach area although there’s plenty of places to sit along the lake! It was my favorite spot to hang out after dinner, and the view is stunning!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: I Warned You by Good Morning

 

Venice + Lake Como 2017

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Are you guys tired of seeing my Italy posts?  It was one of my longest trips (besides London), so I have a lot of material (and this is without sharing so many photos, and I’m not even writing about Lucca/Milan, because they were quick trips, but still.  That’s how much Italy stuff I have).  However, I’m just going to keep telling myself that no one is sick of my Italy posts yet, because not loving Italy is something I can’t quite comprehend.

Anyways, after San Gimi, I went over to Venice.  I was only there for one night – I actually was supposed to go for two nights, but my mom called me and told me that she recommended that I stay in San Gimi another night, because Venice is absolutely mad crazy busy with tourists in the summer.  I’m so glad I stayed in San Gimi another night, although I did still have lots of fun during my night in Venice!  I still can’t quite get over staying in a town on top of a giant pool of water – my train went right over it, and then my mom picked me up at the station and we waited like, ½ an hour for a water bus, and how weird are water busses?!  After, we walked around Venice for hours looking at pretty masks and all of the buildings.  Pro-tip: If it’s June in Venice, the sidewalks will be so packed you literally cannot walk more than a couple steps at a time.  If you’re not patient, like yours truly, it’s maddening.  A local told me the best time to go would be in late April-early May.  Anyone have any tips on this?  I’d love to visit again!

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Also!  If you get a chance to get out at night after all the tourists have gone to bed, Venice is so amazing!  I got super lost, ate some ice cream, and saw some of the most beautiful sites.  That was by far the best part of Venice in my opinion.  After I got back to my hotel, my mom snuck me into the hotel room, and I shared a bed with one of my aunts and my mom.  It was a squishy night for sure.

After Venice, we took a train ride over to Milan where we saw the Duomo!  So, so gorgeous.  Also, we found a really lovely restaurant that we ended up at twice!  However, the highlight of the Milan trip was our little day-trip to Lake Como.  We took the funicular up to the top of the mountain and ate at the loveliest restaurant, and I had the BEST roast with polenta.  Then we took a boat trip around the lake and got gelato, and it was a perfect day!  All in all, such a lovely day trip and a nice way to end my stay in Italy!

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Some fun things to see in Lake Como/Milan (honestly I wasn’t in Venice very long, and I can’t even remember the name of the only restaurant I ate at.  Sorry!)

  • Boat Ride – Take a boat ride around the lake – we found the hour long tour was plenty! Then, get some gelato across the street from the boat station!
  • Fernicular – the fernicular goes to the top of the mountain in Lake Como and has absolutely the most stunning views and some cute shops! Definitely go if you can.
  • Ristorante Bellavista – this restaurant is located on the top of the mountain in Lake Como which you can get to by hiking or taking the fernicular. The beef + polenta dish was amaaaazzzzzininininggg!!!
  • Ristorante Il Tavolino – Our favorite restaurant in Milan we went to twice! The waiters were very sweet and got us way drunk on limoncello shots both nights!
  • Frank – a nice cocktail bar in Milan! Good whiskey!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Creature Comfort by Arcade Fire

Cinque Terre + San Gimignano

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I’m currently in rainy Ireland, sleepy from my flight over and also the 2 pints I drank last night (when did alcohol start having these effects on me, I’m too young for this?).  While the cooler fall weather has been very welcome lately, I can’t help but be really jealous of 3-Months-Ago-Sara.  How come 3-Months-Ago-Sara got to lay on the beach drinking aperol spritzes, and Current-Sara is slightly damp from the rain and falls asleep after a couple of Guinnesses?  In just a few weeks, I’ve gone from Fun-Girl Mode to Hibernation-Mode.  Okay, not entirely, I have actually been super entertaining in Ireland, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyways, have you guys heard of Cinque Terre and San Gimignano?!  They were honestly my most favorite places in all of Italy, so I’m super excited to share this post!  You’ll notice by the pictures that they aren’t very similar at all – Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 towns along the Riviera coastline, and it’s filled with these amazingly colorful, boxy houses on the cliffs!  On the other hand, San Gimignano is in Tuscany, and it’s probably what most people imagine when they hear about “Italian wine country”.  Both of them were so different, but I had just the most amazing time in each!

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Cinque Terre

Story time! In Cinque Terre, I stayed in the bottom town called Riomaggiore.  I was obsessed with the rainbow buildings, and I spent a large majority of my time there hanging out on the rock beaches and taking millions of pictures.  Anyways.  One of the days while I was laying on the beach, a local man walked up to me and asked if I wanted to do a night kayaking tour he hosted after 10 p.m.  Although I’m afraid of 1. the ocean, and 2. the ocean at night especially, I decided to say “fuck it” and have an experience.  I know it’s probably a bad idea to kayak off to a secret beach with a strange man you’ve just met, but he claimed that if I were to go with him, I would see glow-in-the-dark plankton, so obvs that convinced me.  I met up with him late at night, put on a super-sexy wetsuit, and our 1 1/2 hour kayaking tour took about 3, because apparently I’m that bad at kayaking.  There was no moon that night, and it was super dark, and I was kind of freaking out, because I JUST KNOW there was a whale swimming under me the whole time, but I made it!  We went to a dark cave where I saw lots of glowy plankton that looked like millions of stars in the water!  And then we went to the secret beach where I swam (SWAM!) in the dark natural pool there.  I was so proud of myself for being brave, and I had a cool experience!  So there’s your life lesson for the day: sometimes scary things are rad, and also there are some things you don’t tell your mom you do until after the fact!

Another funny story: while I was in Manorola attempting to get a picture of myself in front of the colorful houses with my mini-tripod and self-timer, a big tour group from China walked up and started taking a bajillion pictures of me.  I’m pretty sure they got better pics of me than I ever got!  Also, I think they were under the impression that I was a celebrity – as it turns out, the #papz is not for me.

Anyways, as stated above, I stayed in Riomaggiore, which is the bottom town of Cinque Terre.  I absolutely looooved staying there!  There’s only one street in the whole town, and the beach is honestly less than a five minute walk away from anywhere!  It was so perfect, 10/10 recommend.  I spent my first full day in Riomaggiore, hanging out on the beach, eating lots of food, and doing my night kayaking tour (although you can also do a day kayaking tour if you prefer).  The next day, I took a train to the other 4 towns, walking around each, eating lemonade-vodka granita, and doing the little hikes to the pretty views in each town.  After visiting all of them, I’m still glad I stayed in Riomaggiore (it’s a little quieter and less touristy than some of the other options).  However, I loved being able to take a day trip to the other 4 towns!  It was one of my favorite places on my trip, and I really can’t get over the pictures.

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San Gimignano

After Riomaggiore and Lucca, I took a train over to San Gimignano , which was another favorite of mine – it’s nestled in the hills of Tuscany, and it looks just like the paintings you’d expect to see in a cute Italian bistro.  I spent most of my time there getting lost in vineyards, and I’m still not even sure I was allowed to be in those.  However, I did do some more legal things like pottery shopping and visiting some of its beautiful sites.  Also, a young wine sommelier befriended me and taught me how to drink wine the right way!  I was reminded of how delicious amazing wine is, and totally neglected to mention that I usually just choose a bottle with a pretty label and <$10 price tag.  Convenient!

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Good stuff in Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore unless stated otherwise):

  • Colombo Guesthouse – this is where I stayed, and it was perfect!  Really clean, nice rooms with small kitchens.  Also, it’s on the main (and only) road, so it’s really close to the beach, train station, and restaurants!
  • Vertical – a little cafe that’s good for a cup of coffee and some breakfast!
  • Night kayaking – if you can track down the guy who offers this, it’s an amazing experience!  He doesn’t really advertise, but if you ask around, I’m sure someone can point you in his direction!
  • Gelateria Centrale di Germani e Giaccio – gelato!  Enough said.
  • Mamma Mia Take Away – a little friterie that has delicious cones of fried food that you eat with sticks!  It’s the perfect lunch while looking at shops or walking along the beach.
  • Marina Piccola (Manarola) – I stopped at this restaurant on my way back to Riomaggiore, and it was a nice change from the restaurants in Riomaggiore.  I sat outside, stared at the water, and ate lots of pasta – pretty good food, beautiful view!

Places to visit in San Gimignano:

  • Pottery shops – There are tons of great pottery shops throughout San Gimignano – I picked out a couple of ceramic roosters for my mom and aunt, which was interesting – “hi, can I take pictures of your roosters?”
  • Linen – okay, it sounds boring, but I loooved the linen stores!  So many great dish towels that would make amazing props for the blog – I had to leave before I bought one of everything (although I did indulge and buy a cute linen bread basket).
  • Palazzo Buonaccorsi – a historical home owned by a very sweet man who rents out beautiful rooms in a quiet area of town (aka – away from the super touristy areas!).  Lots of great shops and restaurants nearby.  Definitely recommend!
  • Restaurants in alleys – if you get the chance, skip all of the super touristy restaurants in the square, and make your way through alleys where you’ll find tons of small, local restaurants!  There’s lots of hidden gems on these side streets that you won’t find on Yelp or Tripadvisor!
  • Enoteca DiVinorum – a cool bar with an amazing view of the countryside!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Lauren – Men I Trust

Lyon 2017

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After my trip to Paris with my aunt and grandma, I headed off to Lyon which I had heard from just about everyone was a cool place to hang out for a few days.  I was looking forward to having some lazy days in Lyon since my trip to Paris was such a whirlwind of getting on and off the metro to see all of the city’s museums and attractions.

My stay in Lyon is what I can only describe as the trip where I lost my dignity, and I mean that in the best way possible.  A few not-so-glorious moments for your pleasure at my expense:

  • discovering Lyon’s hills while carrying the worst, heaviest, bulkiest, more horrible, wobbly suitcase imaginable ughhhh (in Italy, my mom adorned her The Gold Bitch and she was later disposed of in favor of a smaller, well-behaved suitcase – more on that later).
  • sweating like I’ve never sweat before whilst climbing up Lyon’s hills with The Gold Bitch – and lots of cute French boys judging tf out of me.
  • finding my apartment building but realizing I didn’t have the gate code, wifi, or any means of communication
  • almost crying in front of an adorable old French man who tried to help me, but alas, did not speak English whatsoever.
  • finally getting through the damn gate and carrying The Gold Bitch up a ton of stairs leading to, you guessed it, more profuse sweating
  • barely getting the front door shut before ravenously stripping off all my clothes and taking the iciest shower until my heart rate decreased to a normal level.
  • getting stuck in torrential downpour with a large bag of groceries and having the paper bag fall apart and carrying all of my veggies home in my arms – and getting judged by more attractive French boys (actually this was kind of amazing, because I felt like I was in a romcom set in the early 2000s which pre-teen me would have loved).
  • going to my first specialty coffee shop on my Europe 2017 trip and not being able to get inside because I was pulling on the “push” door – then getting embarrassed that I couldn’t open the door, so I pretended to take a phone call until someone else went in, and then I casually strolled in and the beautiful men behind the bar were laughing at me.
  • essentially just embarrassing myself in front of a lot of attractive French men
  • probably some more stuff that I have chosen to erase from my memory

Aside from all of the incredibly embarrassing things that I actually find funny af now, Lyon was absolutely amazing.  I don’t know if it was the sense of freedom that comes with being completely alone on vacation, or if it was just the magic of Lyon itself, but it was for sure one of my favorite stops on my trip.  I didn’t plan a lot, mostly just walked around the town and looked at beautiful architecture, ate lots of food, enjoyed the Lyonnaise Airbnb I stayed in, and took a million and a half pictures.  I stayed in the center of Lyon, which is less touristy than Old Lyon and definitely where I’d recommend staying.  I didn’t necessarily leave the area, except for walking to other neighborhoods and whatnot, but the proximity and walkability is what I loved about staying there.  I also had the cutest Airbnb, and one night I decided to cook dinner to get a sense of home.  I had the windows open, the rain was pouring, and there was classic rock music playing in the background.  The neighbor was cooking something with lots of garlic and butter.  It was lovely.


Some things to do:

  • Take a taxi from the train station to your Airbnb (jk, kind of)
  • Visit Old Lyon – this is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it’s full of great shops and restaurants. It’s a little more touristy than I usually like, but it really is beautiful, fun, and full of energy.
  • Esplanade de Fourvière & Fourvière – climb almost 800 stairs to get to the top of Fourvière hill, where you’ll get a panoramic view of the city facing the Soane River. You can also take a funicular apparently, but I did not realize that until later, and honestly, I probably deserve to climb 800 stairs with all the pastries and wine I consumed in France.  Next, stop into the pretty church if that’s your thing!
  • Parc de la Tête d’Or – this is one of the biggest (the biggest?) park in France, and get this, there’s a freaking zoo in the center of it – that was another accidental find, but it was so cool, and I saw some giraffes! The zoo is free to the public and very open, so it’s totally normal if you just happen upon it.  There’s also some botanical gardens and a really peaceful lake to enjoy some ice cream by.  I spent the good part of a day here, so if you like the outdoors, I would recommend bringing a picnic!
  • Café Mokxa – this is where I had my really embarrassing moment but also my favorite coffee in France. They have such a lovely outdoor area, but the inside is relaxing too.  They have all the regulars – espresso drinks, slow-bar, plus iced tea!!
  • Le Jardin Gourmand – I had a late night dinner here after searching forever for a restaurant (not because of lack of restaurants, but because I was having a hard time choosing which one I wanted to go to). I had the steak with peppercorn sauce + wine, and there’s a very lovely view of the city from the outdoor seating area.
  • Glacier Terre adèlice Lyon – I passed by this place once, and the line was absolutely insane, so I knew I had to come back. Luckily I did, because there was no line at 9 p.m., and I had some amazing pear ice cream!  Yay!
  • Stroll around Lyon’s center – I stayed very close to Hotel de Ville, so if you walk up and behind that area, you’ll find a large assortment of cool restaurants, bars, vinyl record stores, and shops (Café Mokxa and Le Jardine Gourmand are both in this area).

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Grapevine Fires by Death Cab for Cutie

Paris 2017

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My grandma: “Sara, take a picture of me taking a picture of you!”

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I’m finally getting around to selecting and editing about a million 500 pictures from my past month in Europe.  I know I should be better about editing photos so they don’t pile up, but I’m just having too much fun on my trip, and sometimes the trains don’t have wifi that I can use to edit while I’m riding to a new destination (first world problems).  However, thanks to a super rad, wifi-enabled train from Stockholm to Gothenburg, I now have a bunch of photos edited and ready to share.  Thx uber-cool Swedish train.

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The first stop on my trip was Paris, and I was just sososo happy to 1. be in Europe in general, and 2. be back in Paris!!  Last time I was in the city, I only had one full day, so I was extra excited to spend a few more days and see the sights.  One of my favorite parts of Paris aside from the wine, cheese, and pastries is how much there is to see and do.  It’s also one of my favorite places to get pictures with all of the romantic scenes and flower + produce markets around town.  Ugh ♥


Here are some things that I did + some restaurant recommendations:

  • Eiffel Tower (duh) – make sure to drop by after dark, get a nice seat, and catch the twinkle lights!  I believe they go off at 10:55 and 11:55 in the summer, and it is definitely worth a visit.  Don’t forget a bottle of wine or prosecco and a picnic blanket!
  • The Palace of Versailles + the gardens + the horse carriage museum !!
  • Au Pied de Cochon – their French Onion soup was really good, but I think weirdly enough their green bean salad is what won me over.  Also they have their own signature song!
  • The street shops along the Seine – knick-knacks, art, books, etc.  Some of my favorite art in my house I bought two years ago from an artist selling his drawings on the sidewalk in Paris.
  • One of the many cafes along the Seine – stop by for a glass of wine or coffee after checking out the shops.  I’ll be the first to admit that the coffee is definitely not my favorite, but the atmosphere is worth it.  Also, I didn’t have a chance to try any specialty shops out (boooo), but I’ve heard Paris has a really cool specialty coffee scene.
  • Shakespeare & Co. – I think this may be my new favorite bookstore – I walked in serendipitously not realizing how well-known it is!  But lucky me, I found it and discovered its diverse range of genres + amazing history.
  • Monet’s Gardens in Vernon-Giverny  – one of my favorite parts of my trip was getting to visit Monet’s house and gardens!  The gardens themselves are filled with an amazing variety of flowers, plants, and trees.  Monet’s house is absolutely beautiful, and I completely fell in love with the kitchen.  Plus you get to check out a bunch of his paintings!!  Just take the short train ride over to Giverny, it’s such a lovely half-day trip.
  • Notre Dame – I didn’t get to climb to the top, but I totally recommend going if you can!  If you like churches, the inside is very pretty.
  • The Louvre – I went to The Louvre at night when it was less busy – while I didn’t stay for very long, I managed to wave hi at Mona and check out the Winged Victory of Samothrace!
  • Restaurant Aux anysetiers du Roy – probably the best Boeuf Bourguignon I’ve ever had evereverever in my life – it’s a one-woman show around there, so try to go before or after rush hours.
  • BRIEZH Cafe – crepes!!  Of course make sure to get some good crepes while strolling around Paris – my choices were the ham & cheese and the caramel apple, and they did not disappoint.
  • Street markets – one of my other favorite parts of Paris is strolling through the street markets looking at pretty produce, charcuterie, cheese, and flowers! – one time I had a chocolate croissant from a walk-up bakery, and I swear to god it changed my life.  I haven’t found that market bakery since *cries*.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Let it be Me by Ray LaMontagne

Beef Sliders with White Cheddar + Bacon + Peach-Bourbon BBQ Sauce

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Well guys, I’m graduated!!!  A couple weeks ago, I crossed the stage, didn’t even trip in my tallest heels, and I’ll be mailed my actual diploma in a few weeks time!  It was great.  The tradition at UNR is to go to the famous college bar, The Little Waldorf, before graduation and drink mimosas and maybe relive your most wonderful/awful times as a college student?  Idk, because I had never even been to The Wal until that day, but I was able to get past the sticky, beer-soaked floors that I’m sure have never been mopped, and my friends and I drank cheap champagne on empty stomachs and it was perfect.  After graduation, I stuffed my face with Thai food at our favorite local joint, and then after I attempted a nap, we had a huge graduation BBQ with my friends and family.  My parents ended up playing rage cage with all of us young kids, and also it was my first time playing!  Of course I had all of my college experiences the day I graduated.  But it was a super amazing time, everyone drank and had fun, and I got to sleep the whole next day with a less-than-fun hangover (shoutout to Gatorade for getting me through that one).

I’m off to Europe in less than two weeks (!!!), so I’m trying to enjoy some of my favorite Reno summertime activities before I leave.  Namely, Lake Tahoe, fun outdoor bars, and sitting at patios at cute local restaurants.  Also, I spent the last weekend in San Francisco drinking lots of coffee and cocktails with my cousin.  We even found a bar that had a “bondage” theme, and I was impressed.  Oh SF, I <3 u.

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Since I’m leaving so so soon, I’m trying to get all of my cooking in while I can.  Although I’m soooo excited to eat at wonderful European restaurants for 4 months, I also will miss the luxury of a kitchen, even though I’m sure my airbnb hosts will be accommodating if I really get the itch.  Namely, I’ve been taking advantage of my BBQ, because we just got a brand new sparkly one, and in the summertime, I’m pretty sure the only acceptable food is any that is BBQed.  The other day I was craving burgers like no other thing in the world, but I wanted something a little more creative than my standard beef-cheddar-veg-bun combo I normally go for.  I really love smashed burgers, but since it’s summer I have a difficult time cooking indoors when my brand new sparkly grill is in eyesight from my kitchen window.  Also, I really wanted something with BBQ sauce but not ribs or pulled pork, so I just combined everything into one package and then added bacon for good measure.

It’s a little more work to make the homemade BBQ sauce, but it’s honestly a super easy recipe and totally worth the effort.  However, if you really can’t be bothered, you can always buy some store-bought sauce, but you’ll probably miss out on peaches and bourbon which is not the kind of world I want to live in.

P.S. the BBQ sauce will make quite a bit, and you definitely won’t need all of it for the recipe.  You can either put it in jars and seal it (if that’s your thing) or you can use it for another recipe, but I’d use it within a week (or two if you’re willing to risk it, which I am).  This sauce would be perfect on pulled pork, ribs, or chicken.

Also, I served my burgers with wedge salad, but some oven fries would be amazing too.

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XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Warned You by Good Morning