Travel snacks

Hello friends! Good morning to all of you. I haven't been outside yet, so I can't say whether it's frosty or not, but for the sake of my drive I'm crossing my half-painted fingers. This evening I will be jetting off in my little yellow bug as I head down to Memphis, Tennessee for the United Professional Theatre Auditions. Not one to deny myself some exploration, I have lengthened the trip by a few days, with plans to stop in Blacksburg, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, and Tyler, Texas.  It didn't really occur to me until I relayed my plans to loved ones exactly how far I was driving. When they asked about my audition, I replied "I'm driving, and taking a little road trip." Maybe because I'm not crossing or reaching an ocean it doesn't seem that far to me. (Although a pit-stop in the Gulf of Mexico doesn't sound too bad...Bud Light Lime on the Sarasota shore sounds quite divine...!!)

So when I took in the length of my trip, my mind went to one thing: food. And gas. And money.  In the past, when I've traveled cross country, I've stopped at Mom and Pop dive-y restaurants, or sought out Anthony Bourdain's favorite dishes.  In New Orleans, I had Alligator Sausage and Shrimp Cheesecake and a Watermelon Mojito.  This, on top of two entrees I split with my boyfriend at the time, we also had an $80.00 bill. Worth it, but also not your everyday kinda meal.

Food is important to a traveler. It allows you to taste the scenery, examine the culture through another sense.  This being said, I will be sure to nom upon several of the local (and thrifty) eats as I make my way southward, in addition to having my epic baby cooler full of amazing travel goodies. 

1. Dry roasted almonds

Image

If you've been reading my blog, you are already aware of the slightly-beyond-platonic relationship I am maintaining with almonds.  I never thought I'd be one of those women in the opening montage of The Devil Wears Prada, the ones who wear La Perla and count almonds as a snack, but hell, here I am. They taste really good. I even bought dark chocolate covered ones yesterday, but I don't have a picture because I ate them all in the parking lot.

2. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate

Image

If I could have any job in the world, I'd want to be one of those kids on the chocolate cooking show sketch from All That. Do you remember it? They were called Randy and Mandy or Candy or Sandy or something rhyme-y and on the brink of stripperdom, and they attempted to make chocolate inspired recipes, but it always just ended up exploding into chocolate warfare. One time Chris Farley guest starred as a man who was addicted to ketchup. I miss the 90s.

Here I have regular dark, dark with raspberry (because ya gotta get a little crazy), and dark chocolate covered cacao nibs. If you've never had them, I highly recommend. They're crunchy and bitter, providing you with a slight endorphin kick and leaving your taste buds melting in rich bliss.

3. Luna Protein

Image

One of my favorite things ever are things that are not cookie dough that taste like cookie dough. The raw real stuff will always win, but when it's not around, I find substitutions. Chocolate covered cookie dough bites, cookie dough pop-tarts, cookie dough truffles. I love them all. So when I found Luna Protein offered a "HEALTHY" option, I nearly punched the GNC lady in a fit of joy.  For those mornings when I need to get on the road ASAP and have to skip a proper breakfast (silent tear will fall), these might just do the trick. And then I'll be eating cookies for breakfast, which I was never allowed to do, because Cookie Crisp, while it tasted like a brown unicorn, contained about 60 grams of sugar.

I also bought mint chocolate chip and lemon vanilla, and I'm surprised I stopped there.

4. Kombucha Multi-Green

Image

YUM! Who doesn't love getting in their daily dose of Algae? This girl does. This is like drinking the cast of The Little Mermaid. There are all these weird green-bits dancing around the bottom, and if you don't think about it at all, then the stuff is amazing.

5. Red Wine

Image

This is not for the road trip, rather the road trip unwind.  One cannot travel without a way to properly say goodbye to the road each night. You need a comfy bed (or couch, or sleeping bag) and a glass of red. The first, Velvet Moon, is something Trader Joe Guy encouraged me to try.  The second, Red Truck, is one of my favorite wines, rivaling the WalMart Lucky Ducky.  Kate first introduced me to Red Truck when we ate cheese and dried apricots on the floor of our shared bedroom at the Renn Faire.  I brought it to share with one of my good friends, Joshua, and he hadn't had it since college, when they drank it outside of trailers under the Texan stars. It's an easy-going, comforting red blend, that wraps you like a warm cheese and encourages you to sit down and snuggle into an afghan blanket.

6. Granny Smith Apples

Image

Crunchy and tart, these are the highest one the sour apple scale, and I love them for that.  They remind me of that scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Meg Ryan peels an entire apple in one long spiral. I love them for that even more.

7.  Baby Carrots

Image

Because what's a road trip WITHOUT Vitamin A?!  Like the apples above, carrots provide a solid crunch. I wish I could say, "studies have shown...", but I heard this from word of mouth so who knows if it's true--crunchy foods relieve anxiety and energize you.  Regardless, this bag will approximately last me one hour of this over-a-week-long-trip.

8. Bubble Tape

Image

This had to come along for the ride, because sometimes, when you're on the road of some Tennessee Highway, and Jerry Lee Lewis starts playing, the one thing that will perfect the moment is blowing a bright pink bubble.

Lisbon, Portugal

Some nights are made for afghan blankets, and some are made for nostalgia.  Thursday I spent the evening at my old stompground, the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, to visit friends, pick up a rug, and see the Christmas Spectacular, "A Dickens of a Christmas."  Sentimentality, commence.  I'm one of those people who saved the napkin-my-used-to-be-best-friend-wrote-a kind-of note-on for me, so this visit had me gushing and hugging. My brief trip consisted of draft beers in festive dive bars, fir-scented garlands in a mansion, and a few rounds of Fluxx in ye olde common room.  So surreal to see the place blanketed in snow. Several people asked me about Portugal , and I found myself searching for the right words to describe that country. It's been over a month since I trekked across the pond with Alex into the playground that is Lisbon. I've neglected to write about it, most likely because I liked to keep it secret for a short bit.  More likely out of laziness.  The memories felt safe in my mind, but now I have to write about because I don't know how long they'll stay in my brain without proper documentation.

To put it simply: Portugal was freaking amazeballs. 

photo (15)

Like, really amazeballs.

Image

The film pictures are from Alex, and he is kind enough to let me share them here; the rest are from the iPhone.  I have a few digital photos, which will find their way to internet-land shortly, but for now these will do.  Day one consisted of jetlag and complete dependency on a Lonely Planet guidebook.   Said guidebook solved miracles, and jetlag was quickly remedied with two glasses of wine at lunch.  This was a mission of ours: we wanted to have two glasses of wine at lunch at least once. I was inspired by an episode of Gilmore Girls to add this task to our Portugal Bucket List. For those of you who have seen this show, Richard and Emily are arguing one evening and the topic of international travel arises.  Essentially, Emily is gonna pack her bags, sling them over her bony shoulders, and shout "BYEEEE" as she avoids letting the door hit her on the ass on the way out. It goes down something like this.

Emily: I'm going to go to Europe all on my own. And I'm going to order room service, and sleep in, and drink two glasses of wine at lunch.

Richard: Only prostitutes drink two glasses of wine at lunch!

And so that's how we became prostitutes. Totally worth a good Pinot Grigio.

Image

After two glasses of wine and two shots of espresso, we visited a restaurant called Guilty, where we ate salty pizza and drank sangria.  Rather than call a cab, we opted to walk home without any idea of how to get back to our hotel. A would-be disaster in many a foreign country, the high hills of Lisbon allowed us to pick out our hotel from the tip of a skatepark, and we walked back with a sense of discovery.

On Tuesday, our first full day, we ventured into Alfama to visit Feira da Ladra, the thieves market. There were all sorts of bizarre knick-knacks. There were all sorts of tourist traps. There were all sorts of black and white pictures of Portuguese people from how ever many years ago. I gleefully purchased a pair of gypsy pants (which Uncle David later hated on) and two tiny juice jars to serve as Alex and I's wine glasses for spontaneous sips along the water.

Image
Image

Lunch was ham, cheese, and butter sandwiches Alex had prepped for us back at the hotel, along with a bottle of white wine. We ate on stone steps and watched the waves. There was a dog who decided to be our friend. A man tried to sell us weed, and then sunglasses. We declined. It was nice.

We heard rumor of a place called Principe Real, a neighborhood with a little park and several adorable little shops for browsing, including a patisserie with a large oil painting of Marie Antoinette and pistachio flavored macaroons.  Fortunately and unfortunately, we had a very vague idea of how to actually find said neighborhood, which meant an uphill adventure through the winding and colorful backstreets.  As useful as a guidebook is, it will never properly illustrate the gleam of Portuguese desserts through shop windows, the feel of the cobblestone underneath one's foot, or the delicate roar of a foreign melody dancing in a traveler's ears.  Neither will it satisfy the accomplishment of finding Principe Real all on own's one, AKA stumbled upon randomly after taking several wrong turns.

Image

Principe Real was Mt. Olympus, essentially. It sat on top of the city, allowing us to peer down at the glorious city lights below. We wandered, and then dined at Lost N Esplanada, a part restaurant/part gypsy camp overlooking the yellow windows of Lisbon. We sat on cushions, accompanied with iron lanterns and silk slippers on dark green walls. Tea lights hung from the ceiling. Fellow explorers lounged while they sipped their red wine.  Alex and I had our own little corner carved in the giant mountain of shops and restaurants, privately glancing over the city that we so barely knew. When we left, we somehow made it back to the main road in five minutes, despite our blatant intoxication. I made friends with the cab driver and tried to convince him Alex and I were brother and sister. I cannot remember if he believed me.

Image

Porto was next. Porto was beautiful. Porto was our private flat where we danced to Miley Cyrus like "cultured Americans" and perched on our balcony with cheap glasses filled with cheap wine.  There were sketchbooks on bed, and The Best Spongecake in the Universe in the sheets.

Image

We met Miguel number one, a Chai Latte gent with green eyes and a leather jacket. (News Flash: Portuguese men get a thumbs up.  If I knew the words, "I am a single and not looking for commitment" in Portuguese, I would have said them. Unfortunately, our guidebook had no such translation, although it DID have the phrase, "I have many diseases." I didn't need to use this, BTW.) Anyway, Porto was even better on day number two when we rented bicycles and sped along the coast up to the beach.  We opted to buy beer from a convenience store rather than the ritzy restaurant, and sat on the rocks rather than in chairs. You know what feels amazing? Getting saltwater splashed while holding a can of Superbock as you stand barefoot on the rocks.  There's a lot of ocean. I'm glad I get to see it from multiple angles.

Image

Lesson learned from our day in Porto: I will always run into the ocean, no matter how cold it is or how see-through my shirt will become.  I have pictures from this instance, but mama always said don't put your nudes online for free.

In the evening we witnessed live Fado.  Fado is Portuguese music, sung by Portuguese people, about how much they love Portugal.   While watching the red lips of our music artist, Alex and I dined on cod fritters, fava beans, and sheep's milk cheese from the Azoures. At one point in our lives, Alex and I ate Dairy Queen in a parking lot. I like our friendship.

Image

Alex jumped for joy the day we went to the Ocenario. It was my first Aquarium, and now I can never go to another one ever because I'm positive this is the best one that has ever existed.  There was a scary crab and a sneaky Octopus.  I liked the sunfish, because it was awkward and yet still demanded attention and I think I identified with that.  That night we were lazy and drank in the hotel room. I sang Alanis Morissette to our bidet, and we ate cheese and clementines and climbed onto the balcony, where we scared away pigeons.

Image

To end the trip we took a renegade tour of the city where we were able to say goodbye to each of these places. The sun was setting and we took pictures, and at the end of it all we drank ginjinha, a cherry liqueur that is the bee's knees of Portuguese booze.  Miguel number two, our two guide, thought Alex and I were the bee's knees of the tour group, and gave us the remainder of the bottle to chug on our own time.  We did so after drunkenly walking through the botanical gardens around 10/11 o'clock at night, while sitting on stone and overlooking the city (again, God bless the hilly geography of Portugal.) Miguel #2 also recommended that we skateboard down the hills on trashcans, but we neglected to do this. Next time.

SAPPY MOMENT WARNING. As lucky as I am to travel, I am even luckier to have had such a good companion, especially one who loves eating and drinking and walking as much as I do. Alex is a friend who constantly makes me feel like dancing. We have a rhythm and language. My Uncle David tells me that when the two of us are together, we tend to disappear into our own "Alex-and-Amanda" land. We are a little insane with one another, and always have been. We've eaten raw sugar cookie dough on the playground and recounted the story of "Kiki's Delivery Service" via Photobooth. We are the picture definition of weird-o's.  Below is 2009!

Image

Foreign travel is a B-L-E-S-S-I-N-G!!!!!!!!!!!! Having a friend who will run through the streets of life with you...is even better.  :)