After regulated Cuba, it was strange to jump into a city fueled by capitalism. The streets were full of delicious things to eat and there were way more than four different vegetables. We found a hostel (Hostel Home) in the Roma district close to a metro station. Our layover was for about 30 hours so we had time to see some new things. Four years before we had flown into Mexico City from Tijuana for a long weekend, we had checked out the most famous tourist sites in the city and the pyramids of Teotihuacan on that trip. This time we would just eat and do a lot of walking through the city. Making your way though the neighborhoods you never knew what you will come upon. Maybe such wonderful things as the most delicious gorditas ever right around the corner from the hostel!
There was a large political demonstration in a neighborhood park nearby. Every few minutes there was canon fire in response to the speeches that echoed through all of the downtown area. We got as close as a few blocks, then our ears couldn’t take the explosions. All the locals saw it as pretty normal.
There were some very good vegetarian options in the city. We found a super busy vegan taco cart called Por Siempre. We got some “pastor” tacos with some kind of homemade fake meat and grilled pineapple. The flavors were strong and delicious; the texture perfect! The best part was the toppings bar with salsas, potatoes, beans, and grilled onions and such. The cart blared metal music and had a spot to park your bicycle– super hip.
Another place we ate was called Vege Taco in the Coyoacan neighborhood. This small restaurant had a three course lunch option of salad, soup, tacos, and a healthy drink for around 100 pesos ($5).
Coyoacan is a beautiful, artsy neighborhood with an amazing crafts market. There was something new and exciting around every corner and I couldn’t taste half the things that I wanted. It would take years to do a proper eating tour. We also found the same amazing coffee roastery we went to last time, Cafe El Jarocho.
Back in the Roma area we found another taco restaurant (we walk a bunch then eat a bunch) and had second lunch. This is when I officially decided that pineapple was a very underrated taco topping.
Later on we stumbled into a bar in the Roma after walking a long ways.
I’m pretty sure the skulls where real. Couldn’t convince myself otherwise.
I’ve never been super into Italian food. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really found the good stuff! We CHOWED down in Italy! Italian food is based on simple, fresh ingredients and exquisite craftsmanship. Every restaurant worth its salt makes their own pasta and menus change seasonally. Thank God we walked so much to stave off too much weight gain.
Breakfast every day was cappuccino and “cornettos”, which are Italian croissants filled with Nutella!!! Yummers!
The antipasto was also amazing! Here’s some bruschetta and prosciutto with melon before lunch!
“Suppli” are basically breaded deep-fried risotto balls. I want to eat these every day for the rest of my life!
Cured meats, bread with gorgonzola truffle spread, tapenades, and veggies at the Mercate Centrale in Firenze. Definitely go there for the amazing local food choices!
The most epic meat and cheese board in the world from La Prosciutteria in Roma.
Pasta made from scratch is SO MUCH BETTER than dried boxed pasta. The pasta was really thick and rich! I tried spinach-ricotta ravioli with garlic sage cream, spaghetti a la pesto, and many more!
Last but not least, dessert! Authentic tiramisu is not very sweet with a very strong coffee flavor. This one was pistachio flavored, hence the green color.
Gelato was also a daily occurrence. This one was from Perche No! in Firenze, which I had dreamed of visiting since hearing so much about how good it was from a high school history teacher. He’s now retired and I half expected to run into him there! I can’t wait to go back to Italia with Zach someday and try all the goodies again! Until then, I’m on the hunt for suppli in California!
Our second day in Roma included the necessary trip to the Vatican City (“Vaticano”). Since it was Holy Week, we expected it to be thronged with tourists, and it was. You couldn’t walk five steps without a street vendor trying to hawk you a selfie stick. Lines were long to go into St. Peter’s Basilica (“Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano”), but we survived all the waiting and pushing for a chance to go inside the world’s largest and most famous church. After clearing the ticket booth and two sets of metal detectors, the line of people began filing up a winding staircase inside the Duomo. The church is one of the most famous work’s of Renaissance architecture, designed in large part by Michelangelo. It wasn’t until we made it to the first balcony that we got to view the magnificent ceiling and cupola. Believe it or not, this entire ceiling is not paint, but a mosaic!
After getting up close and personal with the amazing mosaic interior, we continued upwards. The stairs got steeper and narrower, with the outside walls even tilting in on us. I’m not normally a claustrophobic person, but the tight spaces and the slowly plodding line made this trek a little nerve-wracking! I was really glad when we finally got outside at the top!
The view over the rest of the Vatican and out into Rome was stunning!
After taking pictures and buying some postcards from the rooftop gift shop, we headed back down 500+ stairs to go inside the cathedral. So much ornate sculpture and artwork it was overwhelming!
One could easily spend hours navigating the interior of St. Peter’s but by this time our crowd tolerance was wearing thin. We headed outside, past the Swiss Guards, and off to a well-deserved lunch!
[Disclaimer: I apologize for having some trouble with photo uploading in this post. Please CLICK on photos to make them bigger!]
Buongiorno! Guess what? I’ve been traveling across the pond again! I never expected I would get back over to Europe so soon after our fall backpacking trip, but a combination of a friend studying in Rome plus a super-cheap-flight was too good to resist! Sadly, Zach couldn’t get out of work to join me for this one. Instead my travel companions were Kelsey and Colton (a long-time friend and her awesome boyfriend). Together we teamed up to find our mutual friend Amanda in Roma! Having a friend already know the city and speak Italian made our trip so much easier! We didn’t plan a lot ahead of time and relied on Amanda to show us the sights. She was the best tour guide ever! On our first day in the city, after sleeping off enough of our jet lag to be functional, she gave us a whirlwind, 22-mile walking tour of so many famous spots!
First we stopped at La Bocca della Verità (“the mouth of truth”), located outside the church Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. This ancient sculpture of the god Oceanus has been used as a “lie detector” since the Middle Ages. Apparently if you tell a lie with your had in the mouth, the god will bite your hand off! I don’t know, but I didn’t try it…
This small church had some throw-backs to the pagan practice of skull-worshipping. The supposed skull of Saint Valentine is even enshrined there!
Next we climbed the Aventine Hill to Rome’s famous Orange Garden. We found a great view of the city and the Tiber River (“Tevere” in Italian) up here!
On top of the hill is Basilica di Santa Sabina, another small, old church with a beautiful pastel-colored ceiling.
Also up there is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a UN-recognized sovereign state and the world’s oldest existing chivalrous order. Woah! I had never even heard of these guys, so learning the history was mind-boggling! Rome has so many ancient secrets! The Knights of Malta don’t allow visitors, so all you can do is peek through a tiny keyhole into the garden of their church headquarters, Basilica di Santa Maria del Priorato. When you do, you get a very awesome and surprising view!
One of my favorite things about Rome was the super-old but still-maintained free water fountains all over the city. Clean, fresh, cold aquifer water! Amazing!
Ice cream and snack trucks for tourists were also abundant. (Sorry for the stupid spot on my lens in this photo!)
Down the hill we went to the famous Circus Maximus chariot racetrack. It’s basically just a field now. We still had some fun reenacting the races.
What would a trip to Rome be without the epic Colisseum? It was thronged with tourists, of course, and we opted not to go inside. The beast of a structure is definitely impressive enough from the outside!
And with that, I’m only about halfway through our marathon Rome day, so check back tomorrow for the rest of day one!
We’re back, people! Sorry it’s been so long since you’ve heard from us! We’ve mostly been living it up in sunny San Diego, saving money for our next big trip. One perk of SoCal life though, is the chance to jet into México cheaply and easily! Coming up are some tales of our recent trip to México City!
We literally ran out of work around 11pm the night of our flight, rushing to cross the border. Delta Airport Parking is a convenient place to park on the US side if you’re going to the Tijuana International Airport. It’s only seven dollars a day and they will drive you to/from the border 24 hours a day. A $12 taxi ride took us to the aeropuerto. Then we had to get $25 tourist visas to go past the border zone. They don’t check if you have them on the way there, but do on the way back. The visas last for six months so hopefully we can use them again. Airport security was different. “WE DONT HAVE TO TAKE OFF OUR SHOES!?!?!” ¡Viva México!!!
Since our flight left at 12am and lasted about three hours, it was still dark when we made our way towards the Metro. Conveniently located right by the airport and taking you all over the city, the Metro is a cheap and efficient way to get around. We grabbed some churros and easily navigated the subway to the Roma, a hip neighborhood where Jaime, our CouchSurfing host lived. The architecture was cool, eclectic and Spanish with crooked walls from many, many earthquakes. Our host was a great tour guide as we searched for early morning food. We ate lamb tacos and tamales with mole. We talked about food. Life was good.
Getting some energy after eating, we let our guide go off to work and walked several miles to the Centro Historico, home to beautiful government buildings, museums, and many cool bars and restaurants. Walking was really nice; its our favorite way to enjoy a new city.
As I said, there are a lot of awesome places to eat and drink in the Centro Historico. One awesome place we found was an old cantina, La Faena, which served dual functions as both a bar and a bullfighting museum. Notice the very complicated matador-themed crown molding. The best thing about cantinas is that with every drink you order you get some free food. The more you drink, the better the food! We started off with some bar nuts here, and after a few rounds were given amazing bean tacos!
I ate grasshoppers.
Pulque. It’s a lightly alcoholic drink made from the sap of the agave plant and flavored with various fruits. Super thick and milky and not for us. The bar was awesome though.
Eventually, all the food and walking, plus the effects of being up all night caught up to us and we took the long walk home to crash for a nap at Jaime’s house. The rest of the night involved some more relaxed wanderings around the neighborhood.
Coming up next: our trip to the pyramids!