no matter where you go, there you are

Friday, April 2, 2010

food, glorious food! fooooooood, glorious fooooooood!

the belly rules the mind ~ spanish proverb

Eating is a necessary process the body must succumb to in order to survive. So is keeping oneself hydrated, but water is free out of a bathroom sink so that is irrelevant. Eating, especially on a budget, was where my struggles lay as I galavanted across central Europe. Although it shouldn't have had such a domination over my thoughts, every Euro I spent had me converting that to dollars and got me to have a minor mental freakout that I would never have spent that much on an item at home. Anyway, the financial deal with my parents for my trip was that they would pay for any expense I had while visiting with Anne. Therefore my first week in Europe was all on me and I had some interesting "meals" to say the least.

My flight from Boston filled me up pretty well so that I wasn't hungry until 11 or 12 my first morning in Paris and because I didn't want to spend time sitting in a restaurant and everything pre-made in delis etc seemed like it cost a fortune, I settled for buying items such as pudding, apples, bread and cheese at markets and eating little snacks throughout the day. This worked for the first day...almost. By the time I returned to the Eiffel Tower for my bike tour, I was starving and so I spent almost $7 on a candy bar and a bag of chips. Fulfilling, but not part of the plan.

This kind of situation continued to happen over the next few days as I completed my France sightseeing and moved onto Italy. Another problem I ran into was that I budgeted for a certain amount to be spent on small groceries that should last me a little while, and sometimes I ended up spending too much so I had to make it last longer than I originally intended. Which is how I ended up in Rome eating bread and cheese for the majority of 3 days. Gelato, and the hostel's free breakfast and dinners helped to quell the stomach growls as best they could.

One perk about starving yourself and eating so little is that when you finally get a chance to eat a real meal, it probably tastes even better than it should. I can say no bad things about the spaghetti or homeade gnocchi bolognese that I had in Florence and Venice. Man, that stuff was DELICIOUS!! Once I began traveling with Anne, the food issue became easier for me to work around so when we parted after Italy I then had a much easier time filling the belly in Munich and Western Austria.

In writing this post I wanted to reflect on my food consumption habits, but also write a few tidbits of advice for anyone reading who cares about how to ration your food you do have, and what types of food are affordable and fulfilling as well.
1A) Stay at hostels with free food - Many hostels have breakfast included and the breakfasts can range from poor (bad rolls and crappy spreads for the bad rolls) to excellent (cereals, toast, different beverages). And some hostels may even have dinner included. Take advantage of these included meals. They're included so you've already spent the're just getting your money's worth out of it. Which leads me to...
1B) Steal the free food...aka get your money's worth - I know this sounds bad, and my parents gave me slightly disapproving looks when I told them how fun taking the free food was, but it really was awesome. When no one is looking, throw a few extra rolls into your bag. Buy some cheese at a market and you've got lunch for 2-3 days. Works wonders and saves you a ton. Depending on the food, they'll probably have to throw it out at the end of the day if it's not eaten, so why not save the bread for yourself for later? I think the best time I had with this was when, at our hostel in Salzburg, I wasn't going to pay for breakfast so Anne paid for the "all you can eat" option and then she got cereal and bread for me and we stole 6 rolls. I wanted to try and get 8 but Anne wasn't cool with that. Ahhh, good times...and I had my lunch for the rest of the trip.
2) Gelato is GOD - Gelato is amazing. Just putting that out there. It's fantastic and cheap and when your tummy's a growling, there's no better way to make it feel better.
3) Instead of meals, buy small grocery items...and ration them well - Grocery items, like fruit, granola bars, bread and cheese last quite a while depending on how you ration them and cost about the same as one prepared meal you may buy at a deli or restaurant. For rationing food, I would suggest doing it by eating a sampling of things like a pudding and roll with a little cheese one day and an apple with a granola bar another. Mix it up, and don't eat it all at once, hence the term ration. Though you may want to because you're not feeling overly stuffed, try your best not to. Because if you eat it all, you then have to pay more to buy more. Small items are also best because they're easy to carry.
4) Bring a water bottle and fill it up every morning in the hostel. - Though one bottle might not get you through the day, there are places you can find to refill as long as tap water from the bathroom is acceptable. Water is free, cheap and healthy. It keeps you hydrated and that's the goal when you're spending 8-10 hours a day walking around.

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