Oslo + Bergen 2017

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One of the places I was absolutely most excited to go during my Europe trip was Norway.  Not only am I obsessed with lefse and green mountains, but I have Norwegian heritage, and I just really couldn’t wait to visit the motherland and meet my kin!!  And guys.  It was #perfect #worthit #thebestnorwegianexperienceever #hashtag.  It was four hashtags amazing, and I had some of my greatest times there, and when can I go back?!?!

I started my Norwegian adventure in Oslo, where I saw viking ships and so many naked people!! (And by people I mean statues).  I stayed with a man from China who had lived in Norway for years, and he gave me some of the best recommendations and was the nicest ever!  I spent my nights before dinner eating chocolate, drinking tea, and sitting in his kitchen talking about the world with him.  After dinner, I would walk around Oslo until late hours of the night, because it’s ALWAYS sunset there after 9 PM.  I found some amazing coffee shops with beautiful blonde baristas and even found a secret lake where the metro ends.

After Oslo, I got on an eight hour train ride through the Norwegian mountains to Bergen, and it was absolutely, hands-down, the best train ride I took in all of Europe.  The rail slowly climbed through the tippiest-toppiest point of Norway, through a field of white and blue even in the middle of July.  In the more hospitable parts of Norway, I looked down upon rows of tiny, brown cottages with white trimmings, rainbow flower gardens, and older couples sitting on their porch enjoying wine and snacks.  I snuggled in my seat with a cup of milky, black tea from the snack carriage and stared in awe for the entire journey.  I think it may have been one of the best parts of Norway.

When I arrived in Bergen, the magic ended momentarily when I got caught in the biggest rain storm in my life, dragging my suitcase through puddles while trying to find my airbnb.  And although my suitcase never dried the entire time I was there, I had a blow dryer to fix my hair, changed into a new dress, and met up with my airbnb host at a tiki bar with his friends, where we drank the sugariest drinks of my life and danced and danced and danced.  It was one of the times that I felt most welcome, and I will always cherish the experience of being taken in my a group of strangers in Bergen.  After the tiki bar, we met with all the other Bergen locals at the kebab shop down the street and sleepily leaned against the doorjambs while we waited for our takeout.  Upon arriving home at 3 a.m., I cozied up in my jammies, drank a pot of tea, and ate while chatting with my new friends.  Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe Bergen is just a secret hub of amazing Middle Eastern food, but I think it was the best kebab of my life.

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Oslo Stuff:

  • The Kasbah – a super cool Mediterranean restaurant & cafe with a boho vibe in a locals’ area of Oslo.  This place has lots of seating, some great hummus, and a yummy chicken pita!
  • Supreme Roastworks – A lovely coffeeshop with an even lovlier barista walking distance from The Kasbah.  I went twice, and I highly recommend their pour overs ♥
  • Sognsvann – the secret locals’ lake that is literally at the end of the metro.  Get off at the metro stop with the same name, and enjoy a serene walk around the lake right outside of the city!  Also, don’t forget to bring a picnic, because it’s the perfect spot.
  • Vigelands / Frogner Park – For a free, outdoor art experience, stop by Frogner Park and see hundreds of naked people statues.  The gardens are breathtaking, and honestly I just can’t believe this whole art gallery is in the middle of a park!
  • Oslo Opera House – the perfect, and I mean perfect, place to sit with a bottle of wine to watch a sunset.  I ate one too many chocolate-covered marzipan bars here while walking along the opera house roof and watching a pink and purple sky.
  • Bygdøy – take a ferry to this island to see all the museums including the Viking Ship Museum which I can’t recommend enough!!
  • Fuglen – an adorable coffeehouse with a name that translates to ‘the bird’.
  • National Gallery – a museum full of Monet, Degas, Picasso, and Munche!  I saw some of my favorite art pieces (I loooove Degas!) and then I went for more coffee at Supreme Coffeeworks.

Bergen Faves:

  • Selam – a really delicious Ethiopian restaurant recommended by my airbnb.  It’s barely advertised, hardly noticeable, but has a beautiful inside and delicious sega tibs!
  • Kaffemisjonen – my favorite coffee place in Norway, this is about a minute away from Selam.  The baristas are so knowledgeable, and the atmosphere is relaxing on a misty day.
  • Mount Fløyen – take a fernicular up the mountain for a pano view of the city.  Also, there is a music note fence up there, and it’s so cooooool!!!
  • Walking around town – it sounds silly to add this as a favorite ‘thing to do’, but this was one of the coolest experiences in Bergen!  I found some really adorable bakeries, great thrift shops, walked by the zoo, and got to see some adorable houses.
  • Fish market – ok, ugh.  I couldn’t do this.  I had to walk through it multiple times to get to Bryggen, and I gagged the whole time.  But if you like eating fish and whales and reindeer, I guess go here and live your best life.  On the positive side, the market vibe was wonderful!
  • Bryggen – old town Bergen with the best art shops, sweater stores, and restaurants!  10/10 recommend.
  • Naboen – a really wonderful restaurant with delicious steak + potatoes + beer.  It’s a more upscale place, and I had a lovely romantic solo dinner.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: It’s Always You by She & Him

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Pistachio Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

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I’m just going to start off this entire post with the disclaimer that this recipe for zimtsterne is absolutely not traditional.  I’ve been known around these parts to bastardize traditional recipes, such as when I baked a “New York” cheesecake with mascarpone + amaretto or when I made tater tot poutine.  And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the internet, it’s that people get actually upset when you don’t make a recipe exactly like their recipe.  It’s the precise reason that I probably will never post a recipe for goulash or huevos rancheros, and why I keep disclaimers on these posts in the first place.  But I digress…this is about cookies.

Ever since I went to Germany, I’ve been obsessed with Germany.  Like, all I think of is Five Elephant and eating schnitzel with fries + mayo.  And then yesterday, I went to a local bakery in town, Bavarian World, and honest to god it’s probably one of my favorite places in Reno.  On one side, there’s a bakery/market that has absolutely the best baklava and pretzel rolls, and pecan cakes.  And then on the other side is a restaurant that I’ve never eaten at, but I have secret dreams of going on a date there Fast Times at Ridgemont High style.  While I was in line waiting to buy my pretzel rolls and roast beef for Christmas-day lunch, I saw a package of zimtsterne, a star-shaped cinnamon cookie,  which I had never heard of before, but then I got really excited (!!!) because I literally stayed up the night before trying to think of a cookie I could make with pistachios.  And even though zimtsterne is usually made with almonds, I am having a love affair with pistachios almost always, so I figured I could add those too.  Yay Bavarian World!!!

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This past week, I’ve had approximately three or four different Christmas parties to attend, and I am partied tf out.  I have spent two too many mornings hugging a Gatorade and popping Ibeuprofen for my headache after an evening of Moscow Mules and late-night tacos.  Which is why I spent my Friday night listening to She & Him Christmas albums and making this cookie dough.  And it was perfect, because it has to chill for at least a few hours, and it was perfectly chilly by the time I woke up to bake them this morning!  Traditionally these cookies are made with a meringue, but there are two ways you can go about things:

1. If you’re a sinner, you can just add the egg whites straight to the dough (hi), which yields a denser, chewier cookie.

2. If you’re a traditionalist, you can whip up a meringue and fold the nut mixture into the meringue which will result in a cookie reminiscent of a macaron.

Out of sheer laziness, and because the last time I whipped egg whites ended in an epic failure, I went with the “adding the egg whites” option, and I love that the texture is somewhat biscuit-y and chewy.  However, next time I’m going to try it the meringue way, because I also love airy cookies.

Now, if I can just somehow get myself back to Germany ASAP I promise to try real-life, traditional, Christmasy zimtsterne.  Scout’s honor.

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Pistachio Zimtsterne
Makes 28 two-inch cookies

INGREDIENTS

100 g ground, unsalted pistachios (about 1 c. whole)
200 g ground, unsalted almonds (about 2 c. whole)
100 g (about 1/2 c.) powdered sugar
50 g (1/3 c.) flour
2.5 g (1 tsp.) cinnamon
Zest of 1/2 orange
4.2 g (1 tsp.) vanilla extract
2 egg whites

Glaze

200 g (about 1 c.) powdered sugar
30 g (2 Tbs.) orange juice
30 g (2 Tbs.) milk
2 g (1/2 tsp.) vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine pistachios and almonds.  Pulse until they are finely ground, but be careful not to grind them too much, or they’ll turn into a nut butter!  In a bowl, combine the ground nuts, powdered sugar, flour, cinnamon, and orange zest.  Stir in the vanilla extract and egg whites until a crumbly dough forms*.  Using your hands, knead until everything is mixed together and the dough forms.  Flatten, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill at least an hour, but you can make it up to 2 days in advance.

Preheat oven to 350* F (170* C).  After the dough has chilled, roll it on a powdered-sugar surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out about 28 cookies, re-rolling as necessary.  I like to dip the cookie cutter in powdered sugar before cutting, because it prevents sticking.  Line on a greased baking sheet.  They can be pretty close together, because they don’t puff up much.  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly browned.  Let cool completely.

*Alternatively, for airy cookies, you can whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the dry mixture into the egg whites, add the vanilla, and finish the recipe as directed.

While the cookies are baking, combine the remaining powdered sugar with the orange juice, milk, and vanilla.  I start with 1 Tbs. each of orange juice and milk and add more liquid to get my desired consistency of icing.  After the cookies have cooled, dip each one in the glaze.  Add sprinkles if desired!  Let harden, and keep stored in tupperware.


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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by She & Him

 

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

 

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

Rome + Florence 2017

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My first stop in Italy on Euro-trip 2017 was Rome!!  For some reason, my crazy ass decided it would be a good idea to spend only one night in Rome and fit in both the Colosseum and the Vatican.  lol.  It all worked out.  It was great.  On the other hand, I would not recommend that crazy schedule to anyone.  This is coming from present-traveler Sara who has lived and learned from this experience.  Past-traveler Sara was ambitious but now understands the stress of having only one night in a city.

However!  Apart from the craziness that was Rome, I was absolutely enthralled by it.  After finding my apartment, I headed over to the Colosseum!  Pro-tip: You need to have your tickets printed if you buy them online (and trust me, you want to buy them online, or you will regret everything while standing in line in the blistering heat for 2 hours).  Anyways, printing: I did not print my tickets.  I went to the Colosseum on a Sunday.  Guess what’s not open on a Sunday?  Effing printing services.  BUT.  There is a really nice touring agency near the Colosseum that will print your tickets for you for a pretty cheap price so yay!  Learn from my mistakes – print your tickets, and do not call your mom crying, because you had a bad traveling day, and you want to make your Colosseum time frame, but you can’t find a place to print anything on a Sunday.  Lesson learned!

After the Colosseum, I met up with my mom, grandma, and aunts who happened to be in Rome while I was!  I met my mom at the Spanish Steps, and then she took me over to the Barcaccia Fountain to fill my water bottle!  Then, we ate arancini and pasta, and I drank lots of wine!

The next day, I headed over to the Vatican (got totally lost on the way but made it nonetheless!).  Again: buy tickets in advance!!  The Vatican was amazing and definitely something pictures can’t do justice.

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After the Vatican, I took a short train ride over to Florence for a few days.  I got to see all the amazing leather shops, buy some fun jewelry, and eat lots of pizza!  I also accidentally ordered a giant gelato cone (why don’t the gelato shops tell you when they serve giant gelatos??).  Plus, David taught me that the thing they say about men with big hands is NOT true*!  Thx David!

*I had a friend tell me that David was thought to be “strong of hand” which is why his hands are disproportionate to the rest of his body.  Another friend told me that when David was built, it was common to make mens, ahem, groinal-areas smaller, because only women were to be portrayed as sexual – anyone have any thoughts on this??

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Thanks to my mom for letting me use some of her iPhone pics for this post!


Some things I loved about Rome:

  • Colosseum – buy tix in advance!
  • The Vatican – again, buy tix in advance.  And don’t forget to leave a large amount of time to see it!  Also, and this is very important, even if you’re really hungry, don’t go to restaurants around the Vatican!  They are the worst, most expensive tourist traps ever.  I spent 18 euro on the worst salad of my life.  It was sad.
  • Spanish Steps – fun to walk around, and the view from the top is amazing!
  • Barcaccia Fountain – it’s right next to the Spanish Steps, and you can walk out and fill up your water bottle!  I guess it’s not necessarily that exciting, but it’s definitely something fun to check out!
  • Arancini – I only had 2 meals in Rome, and like I said above, one of them was the most disappointing salad ever.  But definitely find a restaurant with arancini!
  • Aperol Spritz – find a cute cafe to drink Aperol Spritzes.  If you’re there in the summer, it will be hot, and this is the only cure!

Things I loved in Florence:

  • Ponte Vecchio – a little touristy but definitely fun!  There are lots of cool leather stores and jewelry shops to check out.  Plus, there’s a cool place to take photos of the river!
  • Stay in the heart of Florence – I was in a historical apartment five minutes from the main train station, and I could walk EVERYWHERE!  There were tons of great restaurants, gelato shops, and shopping nearby!
  • Accademia Gallery – go say hi to David, and check out the super cool musical instruments exhibit!
  • Ristorante Accademia – my mom, grandma, and aunts raved about this restaurant for 2 years before I visited it on this trip.  I went with the family, and the owners and waiters instantly recognized everyone.  We had plenty of limoncello shots + their veal picatta!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Chateau – Angus & Julia Stone

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