Dinner at Il Treatro del Sale

Il Teatro del Sale is an all you can eat dinner followed by a show, and the kind of dining experience you’ll remember forever. You’d think it would be overflowing with tourists, but when we went we were the only non-Italians in attendance. It’s the kind of place you immediately feel at home in, almost like you’re all having dinner in someone’s (huge) living room. There are private tables and community tables and as everyone gets up to collect the next dish at the same time, it feels like one big group dinner.

It’s run by a husband and wife team, he handles the food, she handles the entertainment. Together, they make quite the pair and have turned the place into a Florentine treasure. There are hundreds of dinner options in Florence, but you can tell this one is in the heart of the city and its history.

It’s a members only club, so to attend you have to become a member. It’s 7 euros to join and around 35 for the meal. Not exactly cheap, and also the (unlimited) wine that is included is quite literally undrinkable–and this is coming from a girl who thinks Franzia and two buck chuck is surprisingly tasty. We kept checking to see if other people were drinking it, wondering if maybe it had oxidized and no one noticed, but no. It was only a small few, but some people went back for seconds. We tried to power through, if only to be polite, but it was honestly like drinking nail varnish. Suffice it to say, we did not finish our (small) glasses, and they only sell wine by the bottle. The cheapest is another 30 euros, not ideal, and not an inexpensive night.

That said, everything else was amazing. The food was delicious. Like, really, really good. And there was tons of it. I eat a lot and even I was super overwhelmed with the amount and variety in front of me. The service was excellent, though we had an amazing language barrier experience.

The way the place runs is there’s always food being served on a table that you can just go grab. While this is happening the chefs are cooking a ton of other things right from the kitchen, and when that is ready the chef yells out, in Italian, what the next course is, and you line up and wait for them to hand you a plate. Easy enough. However, this was described to us as “when the cook screams, you must go running because there is a situation in the kitchen.” After a slightly concerned second wondering exactly what situation occurring in the kitchen would cause the chef to scream, we realized what he meant. It was hilarious and sweet and so nice to not be the one making little sense in a second language for a change!

The show afterwards was my favorite part. It was two older guys, and I’ve never seen anyone love what they do so much. One of them was literally grinning and jumping around the entire time, and if I can be half as happy and content as he is, I will consider myself a success.

They serve brunch as well, and next time I’m in Florence I will definitely be back. I highly recommend this place to anyone wanting an authentic Italian experience!

48 hours in Florence

YOU GUYS. I had the most incredible Semana Santa in the history of the world. Probably. At least top 10.

Just so we have a general timeline to work with here, I left Logroño on Thursday, April 6th, spent the night in Barcelona airport once again (it went better this time). I flew out on the 7th at 6:00 am, and started a whirlwind trip around southern and eastern Europe.

Florence from April 7th to April 9th
Venice from April 9th to April 10th (too short!)
Slovenia from April 10th to April 12th
Zagreb from April 12th to April 16th
Zadar from the 16th – 17th
Split from 17th to 19th
Mostar from the 19th to the 20th
Dubrovnik from the 20th to the 22nd

Whew! It was a LOT of travel and a lot of moving around, but it was the perfect road trip itinerary and a great way to see Croatia. The only things I would change would for it to have been longer, so I could have spent more time in Venice and Mostar. Also so I could have gone to Sarajevo and Montenegro, haha. It’s never enough!

Doing Florence in 48 hours is sad, because you’ll fall in love and have to say goodbye so quickly, but totally doable. The city is very walkable, things tend to be grouped together, and in just over an hour of walking you can see the major sights.

  • I’d recommend starting at the Galleria dell’Accademia and checking out the amazing artwork and saying hello to David.
  • Then I’d head to the Duomo and see the Cathedral, climb to the top if you were smart enough to book tickets, and hang out in the plaza for a bit. Everything is so beautiful.
  • On the way to Ponte Vecchio stop at Palazzo Vecchio before windowing shopping all the gorgeous old jewelry.
  • Take a left and head to San Niccolò, a laid back and artsy neighborhood filled with great places to grab some food and have a few drinks. Even when Florence is packed around Easter holidays, you’ll still feel like you’ve escaped the tourists.
  • Make your way up to the viewpoint Piazzale Michelangelo, where you can soak in everything you’ve just seen and done. If the timing is right, you could enjoy the best sunset in town.
  • Head to Il Teatro del Sale for a unique and authentic dinner. You’ll have done all the touristy bits in the beginning of the day and end it with a view, dinner, and show that you’ll remember forever. Not a bad itinerary!

Florence was the perfect introduction to Italy, and it was the perfect time to go to Italy, considering my recent Italian news! I arrived at 8 am on no sleep, but as our (amazing, beautiful) flat wouldn’t be ready for hours, I decided to explore the city. I wandered around Ponte Vecchio (in my exhaustion it took me far too long to realize that’s where I was/it was even a bridge, haha), and looked at all the jewelry I’ll never be able to afford. I ended up at Piazza Pitti, where people were sunbathing and locals were selling artwork and crafts.

I found the perfect place to lay down and wait for Rach to arrive, and my favorite part of Florence, just by heading to the greenest bit on the map. I walked quite a ways until I got to Piazzale Michelangelo, where I was rewarded with the absolute best view of Florence. I headed down to the gorgeous Rose Garden and read my book, basking in happiness and feeling pretty astonished that I could finally call this country a little bit mine.

Rachel arrived and we settled into our flat. YOU GUYS. This flat… there are not words or pictures that do it justice. It was HUGE. And GRAND. Its front door was the biggest door I’ve ever actively used. It had a little old lift that we got slightly stuck in. The windows and shutters were dreamlike. Oh and also it had a mural painted on the ceiling, because why not. The bed was far too enticing, but seeing Rachel was just the boost of energy I needed, and we headed back across the Arno to go to Culinaria De Gustibus Bistrot. And thank god we did. Our food was amazing. We had so much of it, and they kept bringing us free extras. I cannot recommend this place enough. It was cozy, had a great ambiance, and a great place to catch up over a bottle of wine.

After an early night we decided the next day would be our tourist day. We’d hit all the major sights. Advice: book everything in advance. We didn’t and definitely should have. First we went to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see David. The line was long but there were people selling tickets to skip the line for only about 10 euros more, which seems like a scam, but is not. We decided it was worth it, especially as we had discovered we couldn’t go to the top of the Duomo at the Cathedral of Florence because they were booked for days.

I’m not going to lie, we were slightly uncultured and honestly debated if seeing David was worth it. In case you need any convincing, I am here to tell you that it is one million percent worth it. He is stunning. When I was in Amsterdam I was happy I went to the Van Gogh Museum, but none of the paintings really surprised me. I’d seen prints, they were cool to see in person but that was kind of it. David was nothing like that. He was huge. He was a masterpiece that caused awed silence and extended observation. The whole museum was worth it on its own but you guys. Don’t miss David.

From there we headed to the Cathedral and Palazzo Vecchio, which are pretty close to each other. After that it was a direct shot across the river and back to my favorite place, the neighborhood leading to Piazzale Michelangelo, San Niccolò. We grabbed a menu of the day lunch at Trattoria Cent’ori (good not great), before heading up to check out the views. We wine hopped our way back to our flat to get ready for the ultimate dining experience: Il Teatro del Sale.

We spent the next day wandering around eating, taste testing all the gelato, and checking out Palazzo Vecchio. Even though we only had a weekend there, I feel like we saw the main things, and even got out of the tourist heavy areas for more authentic experiences.

Hasta Luego, Logroño

Well, it’s been awhile, hey?

I’ve finished my year of teaching, and had originally planned to spend the summer in Logroño taking intensive Spanish lessons. Due to some unexpected family circumstances, I’m actually in the process of moving to London/in with G! But worry not, because I have quite the backlog of travels to update on, and a three week trip around Eastern Europe I’ll be leaving for in just a few short weeks. Lots of writing to do before then!

So, how about a quick wrap up of my year in Logroño? I say quick, but I have no idea where to start, really. It was one of the best years of my life, but nothing like I expected. I was expecting something a bit more like studying abroad–a huge crew of friends, drinking maybe a bit too much, feeling like a real visitor. Instead, oddly, I felt at home immediately. I don’t think my schedule or life changed much from LA to Spain. You know, other than a daily siesta.

When I first arrived, at 1 am, jet lagged, lost, overwhelmed, and desperately missing Katie, I parked at Parque Espolon and walked from the beautifully lit park to my flat just around the corner. As I saw my new home and roommates for the first time, I immediately knew it would be an easy settling in process.

touching down for the first time

first night

last morning

Logroño, I hope, will always feel like home. I know the art store next to my flat, the chocolatier a few doors down. The grocer who always gave me a discount on fruit. The bus driver who would wait that extra 30 seconds as I ran from the school right as it was meant to be leaving. Seeing the pilgrims walk the camino I used to dream about, years ago in Boston. It’s a small city, and I know the streets well. I walk them and feel capable and happy. Even Spanish, which sadly I didn’t come close to mastering, stopped being a barrier. Stopped being anything I worried about. I went to the dentist for x-rays, I got my cat a pet passport, and then went back to get it fixed when it was filled out incorrectly, twice. I got a bike fixed, went to the doctor’s a few times, finagled myself a last minute regreso, filled out all my renewal paperwork, and then amended it twice. By the end, I even made some dreaded calls–no hand gestures or facial expressions to rely on. I don’t speak Spanish. But I survived in it. And I’m going to keep taking lessons here in London.

I made friends, but not how I expected to. Other than my roommates, my American/English friends were few. But the kids I taught? They were friends. After my last day all my students found my instagram and one messaged me saying her parents wanted me to know if I ever needed anything, they would try to help. The English teacher and I had plans to meet up and speak only in Spanish. She left me with pages and pages of worksheets the students had had to translate from Spanish to English. I have to do the same. My last days at school I had dozens of letters and gifts from my kids, and it was the sweetest goodbye. Sometimes they were monsters, but I came from a tough industry and luckily a bunch of 6 year olds did not have the ability to phase me. And when I had to leave suddenly because of a family emergency, one of the families I gave private lessons to helped me sort my paperwork and another looked after my cat for almost three weeks, just happy to help. I really met the best people.

 

I’m sad to have left, but so deeply, incredibly glad to have had the time there I did. Am I done with Spain? I don’t know. I want to explore the south so badly–had I gone back next year I would have been in Granada, and that I think will always feel like the city that got away. But I have other things I need to do. Start a life, a daily life, with my incredible partner. Also probably live in Italy, and Mexico, and maybe Amsterdam? But I know this… I’ll go back to Logroño, walk the streets and remember it as home. And I am definitely not done with Spanish.

Hasta Luego, Logroño!

 

 

 

 

SUPER BOWL 51

I know this is late but it’s a basically my version of a major life event so I’m posting about it anyway. Also if you hate the Patriots (i.e. are one of the 99%) I’d suggest giving this one a pass.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT SUPER BOWL?!

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

When we won in 2014, I was ecstatic. That was an epic Super Bowl, it was ON MY BIRTHDAY, we seemed to break the curse of last minute miracle catches (or we at least learned to overcome the curse, the miracle catch still happened). It was the first time we had gone to the SB since I got settled in LA. (We actually played a month after I first moved there, in 2012, and I watched at a party of 100+ Giants fans. After we lost I hid in the bathroom while Katie got the car from the valet. It’s not a high point.)

2014 was spectacular. It felt like a magical season, the day we signed Revis I texted a friend saying if we didn’t win the Super Bowl that year, I wasn’t sure Brady would ever get another ring. Then Gronk stayed healthy and it felt like our year. This season, I knew we were good, but it felt so impossible. That Brady could have five. That we could win twice in three years. That we could do so without Gronk.

Then we beat the Steelers in the Championship (fun fact, Katie is a Steelers fan and it’s like they waited until we no longer lived together to match up in the playoffs, which was v. considerate of them), and suddenly we were Super Bowl bound.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Gareth was there that weekend for my birthday. Months before, when he realized it was also SB weekend, I don’t think he was very excited. I am generally not super fun to be around during playoff games (right, Jake?), and I basically cried stressed out tears all through SB 49. I love winning Super Bowls but can’t actually handle the emotions of the Patriots playing in one. (I KNOW IT’S JUST A GAME, caring too much is the definition of being a sports fan.)

Anyway, back to SB 51. Wow, was it bad, huh? I remember when the Broncos were blown out by the Seahawks thinking we probably still would have lost but we’d never let ourselves be embarrassed like that in a Super Bowl. And suddenly it was happening. The game didn’t start until 12:40 am my time, and an hour in it was so clear we had lost I stopped feeling upset. I realized it was the last game before a very long off season, and decided to enjoy watching them play for the final time until September. I did stay aware of what we needed for a comeback, and truly believed if any team could make a historical, never before seen comeback it could be us. But did I think the odds were in our favor? Definitely not.

"sad we're losing" face

“sad we’re losing” face

And then suddenly we were unstoppable. Everything changed. We got our own miracle catch, and made TWO two point conversations to tie the game. It was insane. It was the most amazing comeback, most amazing game I’ve seen. And then it was overtime. We won the coin toss. It’s football and nothing is ever certain (the Falcons will back me up on this), but it didn’t feel like we couldn’t lose. Not after everything.

I did a presentation on American football for my kids at the beginning of the school year, and when the playoffs started I showed them clips and kept them informed about what was going on. When I went to school the next day, everyone knew we had won and all my classes were begging to watch. So not only did I get to see it live, but I got to relive it about six times that week, haha.

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

And now I get to update my bio section for SB 51 and rewatch this commercial about 1000 more times. What a season!

Spain – 6 month update

Hmm, just maybe I fell behind on these? Well, what better month than to check back in than month six. Half a year in Logroño! As much as I have traveled in the past, this is the longest I’ve ever been abroad. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I don’t miss Katie/LA, but overall this whole process has been much easier than I ever expected. I think a lot is due to how easy life in Logroño is, to the fact that I felt really ready to do some traveling, and to the close proximity to my friends in London and G.

I posted recently about the best and worst things about living here, and it’s all still accurate. The weather has finally turned and it’s been downright warm a few times already. I got a sunburn during my crazy bike ride adventure! I sat by the river in a t-shirt and ate ice cream! What is this Los Angeles?!

The shift in weather has also brought much more energy and motivation with it. Sometimes I wonder how I could accomplish so much or stay so happy in LA and I’ve decided it’s 100% the weather. I’ve also decided this is the last winter I’m going to experience for a while. Hopefully I’ll be getting that confirmed sometime soon when I hear back about my placement for next year.

Big events since my two month update include:

Thanksgiving in London

December trips to Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague, and Wroclaw

My mom coming to Spain and spending Christmas with G’s family in England

An incredible New Year’s Eve

Lee visiting me in Spain and our trips to Pamplona and Belgium

The Super Bowl

Rachel visiting Logroño

Faye visiting Logroño


As for work, I’m still loving my private lessons and still struggling with the school placement. I’ll update more after everything’s over, but it’s hard being alone in a classroom! I have seven and a half weeks before my contract is up (but who’s counting, right??), and feel ready to not step foot in an elementary school for a few months.

I’m still finalizing it all, but I think I’ll be able to spend a few months here after the school year ends. I’ll take 3-4 hours of Spanish classes a day, and just enjoy the summer. I am a pretty big nerd and so excited to get to spend some time learning and feeling like a student again. Also after all that my Spanish better be at a place I can be proud of, I feel pretty plateaued at the moment.

I’m going to take a few tests this summer as well, probably the GRE as it’s good for five years, hopefully a DELE exam at the end of my Spanish lessons, and then a test that is the first step in a years long application for my dream job that I won’t be posting about until after it’s over. But basically I’m spending all my free time studying for it, hence the lack of updates here.

very serious student right here

As of now I’m still studying like crazy, working on a new cross stitching project, and will soon have a little more than two weeks off for Easter which I’ll be spending it in Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. I’m SO excited.