Despite Maarten's claims that Bruges was a boring tourist town, his dad insisted that we see it. So we went for a little day trip and it was so lovely! The canals reminded me of Venice, and while Maarten was right (it is touristy), I was glad we saw it since we had skipped out on Venice. Later that night we watched In Bruges which was, in the weirdest way, a surprisingly great movie.
^^ All the pretty doors! Heart eyes.
^^ All the black and white!!!
After Bruges, we headed to Ghent where we purchased the most overpriced waffles, watched stumbling drunk people in the middle of the day, and incessantly commented "that's so cute!" to a degree of which I'm slightly ashamed.
^^ One of the thousand churches that Maarten's dad took us too. We started to get a bit immature...
But you do see why I thought everything was cute, right?
My friend Maarten met us at the (beautiful) train station in Brussels. As we walked through the icy streets, Rachel and I were completely in awe of the charming Chirstmas-like city. Maarten took us to a bar where we got delicious and cheap belgian beer. As soon as I tried it, I understood why Maarten thinks that American beer is shit. It is!
Maarten's family was was the absolute sweetest. They hosted us for a week in their lovely home. We woke up every morning to coffee and a delicious breakfast of fresh croissants, jams, fruits, and local cheeses that his mom had made for us. Since Maarten had to work some of the days we were visiting, his cute dad played tour guide and took us all over the country. His dad was obsessed with churches and so we saw tons of cathedrals, and it was really neat to see them from his perspective. He was also obsessed with sweets which really worked in our favor, and we sampled so many belgian chocolates. Oh my gosh. I am drooling just thinking of them.
^^ The most delicious carrot soup and meringues the size of our heads.
^^ Maarten's dad and brother took us to the Atomium, which was built for the world fair in 1958. It was massive!
^^ The peeing boy statue "Manneken Pis" and a thinking man made of chocolate. Haha
^^ Aren't these buildings just beautiful?
Had I not known Maarten, I probably wouldn't have thought to visit Belgium (no offense Maarten!), but it turned out to be one of my favorite countries in Europe. The people seemed so open-minded and friendly. The food was delicious! And the cities couldn't have been cuter. Maarten and his dad made fun of us for calling everything cute. Haha.
Rachel was so sweet to take me out for my 5th wedding anniversary while we were in Rome. Naturally, we got lost in the cold rain on our way to the restaurant and ended up traipsing through thorns and bushes, hugging the nonexistent shoulder of windy one-way road. We reached the address we had written down to find a dark warehouse in the middle of a field, with nothing else in sight. Rachel was sure we were going to die, but we finally found the restuarant a few miles away. It was a local spot, where servers carried around a big blackboard menu of the day, written only in Italian of course. We pretty much picked our meals at random and they were so delicious! Unfortunately Rachel got food poisoning so the whole thing is kind of a touchy subject.
Because of Rachel's food poising incident + my UTI, we spent our only full day in Rome very uncomfortably. We tried to cram in as much sight-seeing as we could, and my hourly attempts to find a bathroom detracted from this a bit, but added a little humor.
^^ Floor, ceiling. Sistine Chapel.
Rome was kind of our last straw for all the pushy men selling random shit. We both freaked out on people at different times, and I was sure that one of us was going to get physical but we never did. The day ended with Rachel getting mugged, so that was cool. They stole her coin purse which had some money and Jon's anniversary gift in it. It was the perfect end to our time in Rome. ;)
At this point, I am second guessing my decision to post individually about each city I visited (I didn't realize how excessive it would be.) But. There's no going back now!
Rachel and I took a day trip to Siena. In a classic Rachel/Elle move, we opted not to pay the 2 euros for a map at the train station because we figured we'd find a cheaper one somewhere else. First of all, it was the most bizarre Willy Wonka-esqe train station. There were at least 15 sets of escalators to get to the top. I'm not sure how this was possible, but it was. At each level, we were like, wait, what? How? Second of all, my retrospective self is palm facing, thinking wtf- why would I not have paid 2 euros?!
We never found a cheaper map, so we guessed our way into the city. On our way from the train station, we wandered into the cutest restaurant, Il Vinaio, and stopped for lunch. We ate the most delicious pumpkin sage ravioli and drank the cheapest, best chianti. Rachel and I never quite knew how much wine we were ordering and were always so pleasantly surprised at how far our euro or two got us (in this case a huge carafe). Good thing we didn't buy the map ;)
^^ There were huge rubber meerkats (and snails and a few other random animals) all over Sienna. I have no idea why. But they made me smile so much, because the reminded me the silliest story Jon (who I was missing so much!) told me while we were in Spain a few years back.
I love Florence! I had been with my family 5 years prior, and it was so much fun to go back. We actually stumbled into the same gelato shop that my family and I had eaten at on our bike tour years ago. It was just as good as I remembered! Rachel and I stayed at an airbnb (of course (they tended to be cheaper than hostels for us)) with the nicest couple. They gave us all sorts of great recommendations. Our host worked at a restaurant in the city, and we decided to splurge one night and eat at his restaurant. We shared the most delicious pear, sheep cheese, honey pizza, a bottle of rosé, and tiramisu. So so good! When we asked for the bill, our host shrugged and said "20?" (The bill should have been at least double that.) He was the sweetest!
^^ Chianti every night! Also, this restaurant/jazz cafe was adorable. Heart-eyes.
^^ I think the Duomo in Florence is perhaps my favorite building of all time.
^^ You have no idea how much I needed this carrot juice. (The things you miss abroad...) I had been sick since Cinque Terre, and the pizza all day err day wasn't seeming to speed up the recovery process. It was the perfect cafe in the perfect location, tucked along the flea market. I found the most beautiful vintage earrings there, which I bought as an anniversary gift for Jon but they were stolen in Rome :(
^^ If you go to Florence, you must go to Gusta Pizza. THE BEST of all time. We ate there twice in a row and were not ashamed one bit.
Sitting on cold, dirty concrete has become one of my favorite things, providing a time to relax, meditate, or rest and read, the breeze granting refuge from the warm, sticky city air. I've discovered that waiting is nice. In my times of waiting, I don't wait, but instead use the opportunity to breathe.
We were in Pisa just for a day. We lay on the grass watching all the tourists taking photos of themselves pushing over the leaning tower, and laughed til our cheeks were sore.
I must note that our airbnb host in Pisa was incredible. We had the most relaxing room, with a freaking sauna shower! That is all.
feminist. linguist. traveller. foodie. crafter.
All photos are the property of Elizabeth Cheney and may not be used without permission.