Italy: The Best Gelato of my Life

italy and houses near the coast

Italy is one of those places that everyone always talks about, but you never really realize how cool it is until you are there. My initial reaction was and is: WOW. The history, the food, the people, the language, the GELATO. I can hardly contain all my excitement.

Our first week in Italy was in a quiet suburbia near Castleforte, and an hour from Rome. Rome was, yes, breathtaking. What was even more breathtaking was the kindness we received from our host family, Luleciano and Ewa and their two kids Greta and Giulio.

People are amazing, honestly. A year and a half into this crazy world travel life and I still find myself smiling profusely at the generosity and friendship we receive from absolute strangers.

After knowing my family for no more than two days Luleciano took us to visit some of the most beautiful places in the region.

We climbed on the rocks overlooking the sea and felt the soft Italian ocean breeze across our faces. During the warm summer time, they come here to hike and dive of the rocks for oysters.

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Later we visited a city called Scauri for the best gelato ever.

I’m not kidding. The shop, Lavezzi Gelato, has been around since the late 1800’s which means plenty of time to perfect their recipe. The current owner is a childhood acquaintance of Luleciano. When you walk in there are these giant golden tubs of gelato in all the flavors imaginable, and… wait for it… a chocolate fountain. I’m curently reflecting back on my beautiful chocolate lined cone filled with salted carmel, and yeah I don’t think it gets much better. I’m sad to say Italy has probably ruined ice cream for me, which isn’t the worst thing to complain about.

Thankful for amazing host families, my family, gelato, and of course Italy😄

A post shared by Izabel🌈 (@izzyantle) on Apr 26, 2017 at 1:15pm PDT

 

The day before we left our Italian family they held an annual BBQ for Italian independence day with all their friends, and invited us too. The day was spent sipping and eating homemade wine and cheese while listening to sound of Italian. I learned how to make artichokes with Ewa and to properly say “mamma mia!”.

Travelers are pretty seasoned to goodbyes, but I gotta say this one wasn’t easy.


Hi friends, family, and anyone else reading! We are currently in Elena, Bulgaria after a crazy busy few months of not-so-slow travel and I am just getting around to writing about it all :). Another post or two on Italy are in the works, and then on to Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Thanks for reading! xx – Izzy

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The Sahara Desert

People in the Dunes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Our experience in Morocco for the last three months would never have been the same without Mr. Harim and the British Language Academy. For the majority of our stay in this country we have been living in the basement dorm of the English school and volunteering as workawayers and guest speakers. Everyday in the evenings we talk with the students in groups about everything from food, to Moroccan culture, to Islam, to women’s rights. Hearing a young Moroccan perspective on these topics has been interesting, educational, and eye-opening.

Mr. Harim is the founder of the British Language Academy schools in Casablanca, Berrechid, Fez, and soon El Jadida, Morocco. He is one of the most generous and kind people I’ve met, and his dream for the schools is inspiring. If you are ever in Morocco, volunteering at this school is a life changing experience I would highly recommend.

With his help we have visited other places in Morocco such as El Jadida, Casablanca, The Atlas Mountains, Fez, Essaouira, and most recently: the Sahara Desert.

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volunteer in morocco, workaway, sahara desert

All our Workaway friends in the desert


The Sahara Desert

We arrived at desert camp after a two-hour bumpy camel ride through the golden dunes of the Sahara.

camels in the Sahara desert, workaway, Morocco

Friendly camels

Sahara desert, workaway, Morocco

Our tiny oasis, tents at the base of a giant sand dune

Sunset in the Sahara

We stopped half-way on our camel ride to watch the sun set.

As in Moroccan culture, we were greeted upon arrival with sweet mint tea and nuts. Desert life is very laid back. We explored the nearby dunes, gazed at the stars, talked, sang, and laughed for hours. For dinner we ate a savory vegetable tajine together. Later, we danced to the beat of the Berber drums and the light of a crackling fire, as a million stars shined brightly above our heads.

Berber musicians in the Sahara desert

Berber musicians

Night in the desert is very cold, so around eleven we feel asleep under four blankets apeice in the tent. The next moring, we woke early and climbed to the top of a multi-hundred foot dune to watch the sunrise. The treck was exhuasting to say the least, as climbing up a mountain of sand is not easy, but the veiw of hundreds of miles of dunes surrounding us illuminated by the early morning sun made the climb worth it. Finally, we sprinted and jumped down the cool, orange sand back to camp, and rode our camels back to base camp on the edge of the desert.

Sahara Desert, Morocco, Turban

Lauren and her Berber style turban

People in the Dunes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Friends in the Dunes

The desert trip was the culminating event of our stay in Morocco, and one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in my life. Now we have about a week left on our visa, and are preparing to head back to Spain on the 24th. I’m so thankful for our time here and all the experiences and people who have made it so memorable.

Thanks for reading and happy travels 🙂 xx -Iz

1/20/17 – Morocco: The Atlas Mountains

Morocco, mountain travel

I felt the chilly mountain air brush against my face as I stepped off the bus. It was two a.m. and we had just arrived at a Berber homestay in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. I looked over my shoulder only to find myself staring into a snowy mountain range illuminated with the glowing light of sky filled with stars. I’ve never felt so awake at two a.m. in my entire life.

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Staying warm with friends

I heard the others laughing and breaking into excited conversation as they too saw the gorgeous scene.

We walked into the house and I chatted with my friends Salma and Shaema for some time. Then,  the Berber family that hosted us for the night carried into the room a delicious dinner of cous cous. We ate around a gigantic shared clay dish, and then ran to the roof to see the stars and mountains again.

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Dinner!

The view was impossible to be captured on camera. Sparking snowy peaks, the glow of the moon, and a million stars over our heads. Words can’t describe it. Soon after, I was asleep sandwiched between all three of my sisters on a bed inside the house at around four am.

The next morning we woke up early, quickly bundled up in all the layers we had and ate a Moroccan breakfast of msamen, which is a type of fried pancake, and bread with cheese, honey, olive oil, and sweet tea.

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my Moroccan breakfast

After breakfast we traveled for another few hours through the Atlas mountains to a ski resort called Oukaimeden. Bus travel with Moroccans is no ordinary experience. Five hours through the mountains we clenched our teeth and gripped our seats as the bus raced around sharp turns. Meanwhile Arabic pop music played in the background at full volume. Surprisingly none of the Moroccans actually seemed to notice the crazy driving. There was dancing in the aisles, singing, and a lot of laughter of course.

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the ski hill

The skiing ended up not being what we anticipated, but more of a giant ice-covered sledding hill. My family separated from the group to go on a hike. The view from the top of the mountain was unreal. Miles of steep, blue mountain slopes spread out before our eyes, and jagged, snow-cloaked peak lined the horizon. I stood motionless, entranced by the dramatic beauty of a scene unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

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It was soon time to go, we hiked back down the mountain to find our friends and shortly after drove to Marrakesh to experience the Jamaa El Fena square and medina at night. The square was a cultural experience, but also loud and chaotic so we explored the back alleys of the medina and found a quite Hammam spa, with a restaurant upstairs. We spent three hours sipping wine, which is pretty much a forbidden luxury in Muslim Morocco, and eating a nice tajine dinner.

On the way home I gazed at the twinkling stars that blanketed the sky outside my window, a stunning finale to an amazing trip.

Foraging in Norway

Foraging in Norway, mushrooms in the forest

Foraging in Norway, Grass covered roofs of mountain cabins

On a warm Saturday morning, I woke up in one of the most magical places you can imagine. The sun rose slowly over the mountains, illuminating a thick blanket of fog and bringing light to our cozy Norwegian cabin.

The cabin had all the elements of a fairy tale cottage. From the wooden roof covered in grassy moss outside, and inside wool blankets and sheep skin draped on chairs for added warmth during cold norwegian winters.

After a lazy morning involving hot drinks, home cooked breakfast, and the warm glow of the fireplace we went outside to explore.

Foraging in Norway, A cozy wooden cabin in the fall

One of the most amazing parts of Norway is the appreciation Norwegians have for nature. Everyone and anyone is always out hiking, biking, walking, running, or even cross-country skiing on roller skates. Norwegians preserve their nature, and teach their children about its importance.

After only a few minutes of walking we came across a hilly slope, a creek, and a heap of blue berries to forage. What seems like such a simple thing was an amazing experience. Nowadays, even berry picking has been taken under the control of agriculture. You arrive at the farm and pick the berries. It’s ok, but there is something about the search that is so exciting. Being alone surrounded by trees and wildlife, stepping carefully over creeks, eating the berries right out of nature, and coming home with fingers and lips stained purple from the juices.

Foraging in Norway, wild blueberries in the mountains

After a while it is easy to get absorbed into the whole process. We spent hours collecting and eating as many berries as possible. At the end, I could barely feel my fingertips. It is the way our ancestors ate thousands of years ago; before agriculture, GMO’s, and supermarkets. 

Foraging in Norway, we made blueberry jam

We made jam

A week later we were lucky enough to be invited by our professional forager friends to go mushroom picking. They were very surprised when we told them that people don’t do this in the US. And it’s true, either everyone is too afraid to pick something and accidentally die, don’t know how, or don’t see the need to when there are mushrooms at the grocery store. Maybe a combination of the few. Occasionally my mom would pick mushrooms on hikes – but we were always afraid to actually eat them.

Foraging in Norway, mushrooms in the forest

The mushrooms we picked were no supermarket mushrooms. They tasted amazing, far better than any supermarket mushroom I’ve ever eaten. Again, we foraged for hours under the shade of giant green pines searching through leaves for a prize mushroom. Fall weather here has really been surprising us. It was very warm, with beams of sun peaking in between the branches of the trees. A perfect day for foraging. We learned a few tips and tricks as we went along, and had quite a few mushrooms between the eight of us in the end.

Foraging in Norway, girl stares at tall pine trees

I’ll finish this post with a quote about foraging from a book I recently finished and would definitely recommend to anyone who eats food or wants to learn about food, called The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

“I don’t want to have to forage every meal. Most people don’t want to learn to garden or hunt. But we can change the way we make and get our food so that it becomes food again—something that feeds our bodies and our souls. Imagine it: Every meal would connect us to the joy of living and the wonder of nature.”

 

as always happy travels xx -Izzy

 

PS: Here is a link to a cool video by Jessie Hoff of www.jessehoff.com also about foraging in Norway. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-Ujr6e97mY.