My 25 Euro Cornetto

I just missed my train and am drowning my sorrow in a giant cappuccino at the station café. Is there anything more depressing than a train station waiting room at 7:00am? Maybe the Reg bookstacks during finals week.

My original plan for this morning was to stopover in Florence for 2 hours before my train to Naples. I had already day tripped there last week but I did not get a chance to see the Galleria d’Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s David. But this dummy here just had to stop to get the pisctacchio cornetto she spied in the bakery window, didn’t she? So now I get to spend two extra hours in Bologna Central Station – 25 Euro poorer and kicking myself over and over again for making such a rookie mistake. I am angrily chewing. The brioche should taste perfectly sweet and doughy, but all I taste is salt.

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Sometimes these were filled with strong rum cream. Venice was pretty great because of that.

I should rewind and first say, Buongiorno! Back in November, I spotted a $350 round-trip ticket from Cairo to Rome for January and I went for it. The great thing about working at AUC is that we get the American, Coptic, and Islamic holidays off, allowing me to take a 15-day (!!) vacation this month. What’s not so great is the little spending money I have saved up from my job. But through proofreading and babysitting gigs, I’ve managed to scrape enough together to travel quite comfortably for two weeks.

After five months of living in a Muslim country, I kicked off in Rome with a huge fanfare of prosciutto. Melon-wrapped prosciutto, prosciutto Panini, prosciutto and mozzarella sampler plate, cheap supermarket prosciutto on a 1Euro baguette – alas, I am now officially done with prosciutto.

From Rome, I went on to Florence and then Venice, which together constitutes the holy Trinity of any Italian trip. Though each city has a distinct individual history, they all are located in Northern Italy and you just feel the reliance on tourism in the restaurants, stores, and sights. Well of course there are natives (even native Venetians though they only number 66,000), but I couldn’t easily shake off the “Disneyland” vibe from any of those cities. If you will allow me a few myopic generalizations, Rome is for the famous monuments, Florence is for Renaissance art, and Venice is for honeymooners.

Thus, I’m dedicating an entire post just for Bologna because:

  • I think it’s under appreciated.
  • I had to hunt for the Bolognese tourist attractions amongst a sea of local spots, whereas the exact opposite was true for the Trinity.
  • There are already thousands of travel articles written about Rome, Florence, Venice.

I’ll definitely get that Bologna post up soon. Recently, a lot of my friends are planning trips to Europe and have asked me for backpacking advice. As I wrote my lengthy replies, I realized that I actually am qualified to share practical tips and design itineraries for 20-something kids who want an exciting yet affordable travel experience. A lot of travel sites with lengthy forums and discussions seem to be dominated by an older demographic and those with families. It’s probably because us youngins’ tend to wing it, which I’ve come to believe is always not the best way to travel.

But for now, I will say ciao to the North as I make my way South to the sun-drenched region of Campania. I’m planning on hitting Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi coast. It’s also going to be my first time Couchsurfing! Please pray that no pistaccio baked good will cause me to miss another train. Grazie.

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The coat of arms for Rome, Florence, Venice, and Bologna. Sorry Rome, but why are you so basic?

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I am not a foodie but I eat well

I am not the person to whip out my DSLR camera to snap food before consuming it. I am also not the person to seek out restaurants known for their hip, new-fangled way of preparing grilled cheese or tiramisu. But I love eating well and eating diverse. Cairo is an amazing city for trying cuisines from all over the world. My favorite restaurant in Cairo (and one I already frequented four times) is Mori Sushi, and I am constantly getting recommendations for Thai places, Indian restaurants, Yemeni joints, and Syrian bakeries.

So enjoy this collection of my screenshotted snapchats, poor quality photos sent over Facebook chat, and my trademark unimpressed selfie face (but with food). I think this presents a more accurate view of my Cairo life anyway. Hover and click for captions.

Favorite Food Places in Cairo —

The Provencal Market Scene

No proper Provencal town is worth it’s calissons unless it has a thriving Sunday market. On today’s study tour with IAU, we stopped by the biggest flea market in the Provence region, located in Carpentras a.k.a. residence of the Avignon popes. And I swear Provence has the best markets in France, for any market-y thing you want – food, clothes, trinkets. But of course, the star of the market for me is food, the smells, the colors, the exotic varieties, the freshness.

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When I saw these chilies, I thought I was in China for a second.

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A bouquet for your beloved? Smelled of lavender.

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Now that is what I’m talking about, good ol’ French comfort food. My host mother made tartiflette for dinner once and I melted into a puddle of cheesey carbs.

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For the more adventurous market lover, maybe you can find some way to eat these sea urchins (?)

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…or dried fish of some sort?

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Bright colors are quintessential for your cookware. Ah they just make me feel like I’m Snow White in a cottage with my singing birds on my shoulder.

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What better way to celebrate the Christmas season than with red and green cheese??

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Things I’ve seen made into a French sausage (a thick, dry sausage): figs, Roquefort cheese, chestnuts, cherries, apples, candied walnuts, and my favorite, pistachios.

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Market shopping basically becomes scarf shopping for all women. I managed to find great brands at the pop-up thrift stands. A thick ESCADA sweater: 2.50 euro.

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And they had a great wild farm for ducks to make foie gras and a bunch of other great dishes! No. That was sarcasm.

Not pictured but no less awesome: Arab baked goods, creole Caribbean food truck, beautiful antiques street with countless sets of silverware, fur coats galore, a lot of whole chickens on a spit, olives, assorted tartines – or stuff french people make to be spreadable on bread.

Soupe au Pistou

For my French class, we have Funday Mondays where we go out into the world and use French with actual Frenchies. This week’s Funday was to a “l’atelier de cuisine” or a studio of food or a place that teaches cooking classes. Pistou is the Provencal term for “pounded” which is basically what we did to a huge handful of basil. Then, we made it into soup. Soupe au Pistou, voila.

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Everyone getting intimate with vegetables.

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We also made these roll up tiny croissant-textured things that is basically pastry dough with onions, pesto, and cheese inside.

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I had at least ten. Nothing with butter can taste bad.

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The soup! Yes…look at that huge pot of simmered veggies.

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Happy campers.

Epic Table Top Cheese Melter Dinner Event

Epic Table Top Cheese Melter Dinner Event

1. Place perfect, creamy Swiss cheese (already sliced) on individual mini spatulas.
2. Place spatula with the cheese underneath the hot plate and watch it start to bubble like nobody’s business.
3. As the cheese gurgles, place boiled potatoes, a variety of deli selections (including a salami with pistachio pieces), and some olive bread on your plate.
4. Pull spatula out once cheese is liquidy and slide the cheese onto your plate.
5. Proceed to devour everything with fervor.