For the first two weeks of June, Brown Women’s soccer relinquished the familiarity of Chipotle and BGO on Thayer for the streets of Spain, France, and Italy to dive into a new world of flavor.
Three countries, several pounds, and numerous gelato cones later, I’ve dubbed myself a European connoisseur, ready to help others eat like a local, because as the saying goes, “When in Rome…”
Spain: Tapas, sangria, and late night munchies
Heading into our first stops, Madrid and Barcelona, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Our first hotel meal, ironically, was spaghetti and meatballs, so it wasn’t until later that night I had my first taste of Spain.
In Spain, tapas are a diet staple. Tapas, a wide variety of appetizers and snacks, are offered at every restaurant and bar. These dishes are small, inexpensive and perfect for grabbing a bite to eat before you head out for the night.
A few tapas between friends, along with a pitcher of local sangria will have you the perfect amount of full and buzzed before you hit the clubs without spending a lot.
Though we all can agree that late night munchies are the easiest to blow through our already empty college bank accounts, at least one time you have to experience late night/early morning churros and hot chocolate in Spain, all the locals will agree.
I advise, if you are in Barcelona, you must, must, must make a trip to La Bocqueria. This market located on La Rambla (the heart of Barcelona) has fresh fruit, fruit juices, raw fish and meat, candied nuts, gelato, chili peppers, paninis, taco bowls, quiches, empanadas, and burritos each for just a few euros.
La Boqueria is the perfect place to either grab a quick bite to eat or stock up on groceries for the week without putting a dent in your shopping budget.
France: The Quaint café experience
Though we only stayed in France for a few days, I feel as though I gained a pretty good read on French eating habits. Warning, eating in Europe includes a lot of carbs — bread comes with almost every meal. France was no exception.
I feel bad for all you gluten-free‘s out there, you might need to make a few exceptions and endure the stomach aches. French finings consists of croissants on every corner, along with pastries, macaroons, and other sugary sweets.
Unlike Spain where you can grab a bite to eat on the street quickly, you’re better suited sitting down at any cafe in France to grab a coffee and bakery item for only six or seven euros, and watching the tourists and locals pass by.
Italy: Pizza and pasta done right
Our last and longest stop of the trip was Italia. No wrong can be done when your most famous food items include pasta, pizza, wine and gelato. The key to dining like the locals in Italy is to find quaint restaurants on side streets, the places in main squares are always over-crowded, over-priced, and overrun with tourists.
No matter where you go in Italy, whether it be Pisa, Florence, Venice, Rome or Cinque Terre, you can never go wrong with pasta. My favorite meal of the trip was a small, homey restaurant in Florence called “Osteria Il Gatto e la Volpe.” The pesto gnocchi might been the best thing I’ve ever tasted, and the whole meal was under ten dollars.
Disclaimer: In Italy, be on the look out for the ‘Coperto’ or service fee they charge per person—it adds up. Water is never free in Europe, and a bottled water can be up to 5 euros, so opt to carry a reusable bottle and refill it at fountains to save up.
No matter what country you visit in Europe, daily gelato is a must. I never really figured out the difference between gelato and ice cream but two euros a day for a cone of heaven was worth it. I recommend the mint chip, or mixing it up with a scoop of fruity gelato and chocolate to balance out the palatte (I wish I’d figured out that combo earlier in the trip).
After sixteen days of stuffing our faces with five course meals, gelato and carbo loading, Brown Women’s soccer’s European excursion sadly had to come to an end.
Though part of me was craving guac from Chipotle on the return flight, food in the U.S. cannot compare to European eating. If you’re a food, like me, make sure you have your camera ready at all times because you’ll have plenty of opportunities to eat for the insta.