Croatia, my love

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Eight days, good friends, ferries and locals. That was it.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed Croatia making its way into the public eye through word of mouth and mediums like ABC’s hit show The Bachelornow I’m beginning to understand why.

Croatians love their seafood, love tourists and genuinely want you to get to know their country. I spent 8 days venturing through the the town of Split and the islands of Hvar and Brač. We also hopped on a bus from Split to a seaside port called Trogir.

The country was nothing like I expected. Every person we met was so eager to help us get around, find restaurants, meet other locals and discover hidden secrets. Coming from Paris, where they seemingly hate American tourists, it was a nice change. There was the famous Diocletian’s Palace dating back to the Roman Era, where you could get lost and feel like you’re in The Gladiator. It was indescribable walking across the stone paths and stumbling upon tiny, family-owned shops and bars.

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Watching small Croatian children fish on the island of Hvar.

Split is right on the edge of the Mediterranean sea. There are restaurants lining the water just like Barcelona, but something felt different. The community is always bustling around the palace talking to each other, laughing, fishing, buying foods from the outdoor markets and playing music. As I sit here, I can’t help but crave to go back. I  loved lying by the sea in the sunshine and hearing all of the different languages being spoken.

We met a hubbub of the friendliest travelers from all over Europe and Asia. Even all of the little cats walking around seem uncharacteristically snuggly. This country might be small, but it’s the home of some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

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Public transportation in Croatia was more like having a constant tour guide. Riding the ferries was a genuine pleasure because they moved somewhat slowly, so you could sit on the top deck outside in the sunshine. The water was so blue, it almost seemed straight out of Photoshop. On any island we visited, there were young kids sitting on the side of the piers fishing beside the adult fishermen who were selling freshly caught sea bass, octopus and squid right off their boats.

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Croatia’s token octopus salad.

Cuisine in Croatia easily became comparative to what I might find in Seattle. I live on the Pacific Ocean, but it seems that the Mediterranean had something more to offer. In the morning, owners of restaurants walked to the pier, bought local seafood off the boats, and properly showed you a tray of the freshest daily options that evening. It was just magical. Our world is moving so fast, yet Croatia has the ability to slow things down. Even in gelato shops, there were machines that made daily gelato right in front of your eyes. I can’t brag enough about this country.

The first restaurant we visited was an accident and something right off Pinterest. Konoba Korta, oh how I miss you.

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Vegetable couscous with a spicy kick.
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Bacon wrapped chicken skewers with grilled vegetables.
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This was anything but your typical creamed tomato soup.

Our experience consisted of one kind server, two perfectly homemade brewed Croatian beers, a tomato soup, an octopus salad, two bacon-wrapped chicken skewers and a whole lot of smiles. When we got the check I almost dropped it when I saw the total. A meal I thought would cost $45, was only 80 Kuna, (the Croatian currency) which is equal to about $11.36. Unbelievable.

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That afternoon, we casually played soccer with some local kids who constantly made fun of our lack of skill. It was adorable.

Croatia reminds me that that even though there is a lot of darkness in the world, there’s good as well. Sometimes our minds are bogged down with such negativity, but if we take a minute to connect to one another, we can feel our purpose more easily.

Croatia, thank you!

T.

 

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Sangria: medicine for the soul

Last weekend, I was in a country that seems to understand that quality doesn’t mean a quantity of euros.

HOLA BARCELONA.

To get you to understand the environment I was in, I’ll post a landscape before I dive in to the beautifully cheap foods in Barcelona.

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Isn’t that beautiful? I know we see thousands of photoshopped landscape pictures all over advertisements and billboards, but that is an actual unedited picture…which I took.

So now you that you have an image of where I was, I will give you the low-down. Europe seems to be the most expensive area of the world, but I have discovered a city in Spain that understands how to bring in the big bucks.

It’s about quality. If you want to have a successful restaurant, you don’t need to charge thirty euros for a plate. Just IMG_0467charge fifteen euros for a pitcher of perfectly blended sangria and burritos. It really is that simple, people love burritos while in the sun… at the beach. We stumbled upon Carabela. The price range is from three-nine euros. So if you can’t afford much, you can definitely afford a gourmet meal like this one.

There were four of us in Barcelona eating at this juice and cocktail cafe and every single one of us, after trying multiple sangria mixtures throughout the city, agreed that this was the cafe we wanted to come back to three more times. That is really saying something. And here it is… so pretty.

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Those are freshly cut bananas, strawberries, oranges, limes, lemons all mixed together with some sugar, red wine and either lemonade or strawberry juice. We took a sip and starred at each other…thinking…smiling…confused… we couldn’t believe the wonderful mistake we just made. We simply walked up, were warmly greeted and sat down. That’s all! We tried sangria at other restaurants down the pier but nothing even came close.

It is truly amazing how easy it is to tell whether a restaurant takes four extra minutes to prepare their foods and drinks or if they throw it together. You think you know flavor, but when you find something that smacks you in the face with it, you begin to understand how important it is to do your research before entering a restaurant. Save those dollars for foods that do more than put nutrients into your body…find foods that make you close your eyes while you’re eating them.

And then this happened. A sandwich! A simple sandwich I could make at home, but because it was so freshly prepared, I knew it would take some time and love to accomplish this masterpiece. Avocado, lettuce, goat cheese, tomatoes and salsa on perfectly grilled toast. Not white bread you notice..this isn’t the United States.

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Remember, I don’t just blog about every food I eat while abroad. I only write about the foods that seem to jump off the plate and into my heart. I am leaving these images so large because I need you to see the intricate detail of the ingredients…it is vital you understand just how perfect the meals are.

And finally, so that you stop drooling and go find some food yourself, I’ll leave you with this last mouthful.

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Its called a magic burrito. Not because it has a wand and shouts “expelliarmus,” but because it looks like a painting and tastes like a trip to Playa del Carmen.  “Magic burrito” isn’t that actual name of it, but I am officially going to forever call it that.

In addition to the savory, tender chicken pieces, beans, cheese, some special sauce and other warm goodness, the chips and guacamole take the plate to a whole new level. You need that contrast of texture in the crunch of the chip and the cool, fresh waterfall of an avocado dip. IMG_0487

Now that you have some insight, go to Barcelona and visit this wonderful restaurant on the water. It is all outdoors, on old benches. Not to mention the adorable pup that meanders around and greets you with those puppy eyes. Take my advice because I will never write about a food that won’t move you.

T.