Italy | Eating in Bars (aka Cafes)

By Andrea Zachrich

What are bars in Italy?

First thing to know, cafes are called bars in Italy. They also sell alcoholic drinks, and might change into more of a traditional bar in the evening, but during the day its where you would go to get a coffee or a pastry or sometimes gelato if they have it. I remember first landing in Milan and telling my friend Mike something along the lines of “Wow, Italians must drink a lot because I see at least one bar per street block”, but they’re not (entirely) there for serving alcohol. I’m not sure why the meaning of bar is so different in Italy and America, but these are the places to go for coffee and snacks during the day.

Second important thing to know: there are different places in the bar where you eat depending on how you order. If you sit down at a table in a bar, they will bring you menus and usually charge you a service fee of 1 to 2 euros. If you walk up and order at the counter, they expect you to stand at the bar and eat/drink your food while standing there, and do not charge you the service fee. I kind of felt like I was in the way while standing at the bar, but you’re not and they expect you to do it. Some bars will allow you to sit down at the table after you order, especially if they’re not busy, but most don’t want you to because they charge people a little extra to do so.

Bar near our daily meeting place at Piazza Belli


In addition, coffee is served a little differently here. If you order a “caffe”, they give you an espresso (usually a fairly small one), but it should only cost around 1-2 euros. I haven’t found anywhere that will serve me a large cup of coffee like you could get at a coffee shop in America. You can, of course, ask for cappuccinos and items like that made using a standard espresso machine. If you’re lactose intolerant, you might be out of luck because many bars don’t have milk substitutes (although I have noticed the most common one is soy, so I would try to ask for that). Also, there’s usually not a menu for coffee, but if you see an espresso machine behind the counter, they should be able to make all the standard drinks.

Also, iced coffee is not really a thing here, BUT there is something called “crema di caffe” and it is my favorite Italian food item thus far. I’ve gotten one everyday since we’ve been here. It’s essentially a creamy icy espresso slushie with a touch of sweetness.  It’s delicious and I would for sure recommend it while you’re here. It’s often so thick that they usually serve it with a spoon instead of a straw. They keep it in one of those machines that constantly stirs it, so look for that behind that counter. Sometimes they call it “cold coffee” as well.

One last thing: to-go coffee (or “take away” as I’ve commonly heard it called here) is not very common. A lot of places will do it, but most expect you to take the 4-5 minutes to stand at the counter and drink your coffee, and you should! It’s fun to stand there and people watch the other people in the bar. If it’s not too busy, the people working there can be fun to talk, help you with your Italian, to or give recommendations if you ask and they’re in a good mood.

Eating in bars was something that really confused me until our professor explained it, so I thought I would save you the embarrassment of being the clueless American who has no idea what’s going on.

Crema di Caffe (take away, I know, I broke my rule but I was late)

Italy | Casa Manco

By Andrea Zachrich

Looking for some amazing Pizza?

Casa Manco has some of the best pizza in Rome.

This pizza tastes how all pizzas should taste. The dough is light and fluffy and thick and not overcooked. They have a variety of toppings (in fact, it changes everyday). It’s not very expensive. And its amazing.

Tell me this pizza doesn’t look amazing

Casa Manco is located in Testacchio New Market near the Jewish Ghetto in Rome in Box 22 of the market. It’s a little stand where you walk up and order your pizza, and then either walk around eating your pizza or go sit at the tables in the food area of the market. It’s made fresh regularly, and you can often see pizzas being made in front of you as you order. The people who work there are also very nice, and they take credit cards (a rarity for smaller places in Italy). You pay by the weight of the pizza you order, so you can get just as much as you need or want for lunch, and save some money by not having any waste. The prices are very reasonable too. When I went for the first time, I got a TON of pizza for just under 10 euros and took half of it home for dinner that evening.

When we went the first time, I got a sample of 4 kinds of pizza: plain cheese, salami, tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, and gorgonzola and pear. They were all delicious. You can’t go wrong with a plain cheese pizza when the dough and ingredients are exceptional as they are at this pizza stand. The salami was also very good mostly because the salami on the top of the pizza was amazing. It’s a little spicy, but full of flavor. This one was my favorite of the four I tried. The tomato and mozzarella had the least amount of flavor, but don’t let that stop you from getting it because it also tastes very good. The gorgonzola and pear was, while it seems like an interesting comment, was delicious. I don’t even like gorgonzola that much, and I really enjoyed this pizza. The friends I went with to Casa Manco also got a variety of pizzas, including “grice” pizza (pecorino cheese and black pepper), eggplant and spicy provolone pizza, and onion pizza, and everyone really liked whatever they got. I have since tried many of the pizzas there, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. If you happen to be in this part of town, I would definitely stop by, and even if you’re not in this part of town, you should also make a trip over because this pizza is delicious.

The market its in is also interesting to walk around it. They sell fresh fish, meat, fruits, and veggies, and much of it is beautifully displayed in the stands in the market. If you’re looking to save some money and cook dinner while in Rome, this market has all you need at reasonable prices, and its very fresh.

One important thing to note about the market (including this pizza place), is that it closes for the day in the afternoon, so you can only go to Casa Manco for lunch (or breakfast). We tried to go once for dinner without paying attention to the hours, and we were severely disappointed because we missed out on some great pizza that evening.

So far in Italy, I have only had better pizza in Florence. So, if you’re in the mood for pizza and its not after 3pm, you should make the walk over to Testacchio Market and enjoy some Casa Manco.

We found it!

Italy | Best Otaleg in Trastevere

By Andrea Zachrich

Otaleg is what word backwards? I’ll just give you a minute…

GELATO!! Otaleg is easily one of my favorite gelato places in Rome, and certainly my favorite in Trastevere. What I look for in a gelato place are:

The Flavors

Are they unique flavors? Do they have the classics and some new, more creative flavors?

This place has it all! They have more interesting flavors such as mango with chocolate (which was delicious by the way) and classics such as stratiacella (chocolate chip) and fondente (dark chocolate). They would also occasionally change out their more creative flavors, so there was usually something new to try when I went in.

The Price

Is it cheap? Does the gelato place scoop a decent amount for what you pay? (Giolitti, for example, is a little on the high side at 2.80 euros for a small with two flavors, but the scoops they give you are huge and they don’t charge extra for the panna (whip cream)).

Side note: try panna if you get the chance! It’s essentially whip cream without the pressurized air (so like it’s literally whipped cream). It’s delicious and almost like you get another scoop of ice cream on top of your gelato

This place is simple: they charge a euro for a scoop. So two flavors is 2 euro, and 3 flavors is 3 euro, etc. All the scoops are the same size, because they use a little ice cream scooper (which is a little unconventional for a gelato place, but at least it’s standardized). It’s also really tasty, so I think that it’s worth the price!

The Presentation

Is the inside cute? Do they have all the flavors displayed nicely?

I know this is nit-picky, but when you get gelato nearly every day for a month, you have to have some way to distinguish between the places! This place has a modern look, which is different from many of the places in Rome. The flavors are displayed in front of you, and the flavor names are written in Italian and English. While the English is unnecessary (you will learn food names in Italian quickly, trust me), it does make ordering easier because you don’t have to ask (or guess) what all the flavors are.

Cool, modern interior of the gelato shop!

How to get there

This place is very centrally located in Trastevere, and is right by the main church of Santa Maria de Trastevere on Via d. San Cosimato. Here’s a map to help you find it!

Notice how close it is to the main square and the river!

Giolitti will always have my heart, but this place was much closer to our apartments, so it was a good subsitute when my love of Giolitti’s wasn’t strong enough to walk all the way across the city in the summer heat. If you happen to find yourself in Trastevere, and want some gelato, I would definitely recommend this place!

Rome | Ara Pacis

by Andrea Zachrich

The Ara Pacis, also sometimes called the Altar of Augustan Peace, is one of my favorite monuments from ancient Rome. It’s a cunning piece of propaganda by Emperor Augustus, and its excavation story is pretty awesome. Being particularly well-preserved, it can tell modern scholars a lot about the imperial imagery and symbols. It’s also very pleasant to visit because the altar is kept inside of an air-conditioned building next to the Tiber River.

Ancient History

The Ara Pacis was dedicated in 13 BC by Augustus and the senate after his return from three years abroad and completed in 9 BC. Originally, it was in the Campus Martius just outside the official city walls of ancient Rome and on an axis with Augustus’ Mausoleum. The altar was dedicated to the goddess Pax, the Roman goddess of peace. It is made entirely of Italian marble, and it would have been painted in antiquity (the museum had a rendering of what it might have looked like painted). I would suggest googling mock-ups of the paint because it’s gorgeous and there are a bunch of different ones online.

Side note: Almost of the marble reliefs or sculptures from antiquity would have been painted. They look so pristine and white because all the paint has faded off because they’re 2000 years old. Not painting a sculpture is a modern Renaissance concept that attempted to copy artists from antiquity, but these more modern artists failed to realize that these statues were painted, they just don’t have their paint any more. Occasionally, scholars can tell what color something would have been based on microscopic residue of different kinds of materials that would have made different paint colors.


The altar is a pretty basic, open air altar surrounded on 4 sides by walls to protect it. The outside of the walls is where Augustus put his most aggressive propaganda because these would have been the areas that the normal citizens would have been able to see (only the elite and those who ran the cult could go inside). The four sides all have different representations of fictional and real people and items that were intended to make the people view Augustus as the savior and peace bringer of Rome.

The front side, which includes the entrance to the altar, includes depictions of Aeneas or Numa and what scholars believe depicts a scene where the shepherd who raised Romulus and Remus finds them. I say that “scholars believe” that this is what was depicted there because most of the panel has been lost. The depiction of Aeneas/Numa shows the main male figure sacrificing a pig. We are unsure which of the figures it is, but I think it’s more convincing that the figure is King Numa – the second king of Rome who is legendary in ancient Rome for bring peace to the city while he was ruler. Aeneas, although an ancestor to the founder of Rome, has no obvious associations with peace. Already on the front of the structure, Augustus has managed to associate himself with powerful men from Rome’s past.

The sides of the Ara Pacis depict real people, although scholars have yet to agree on exactly who is who. Both sides show what is believed to be the dedication procession for the altar. We even have a depiction of Augustus (well, just of his head because the body has been lost). All the figures are wearing Roman togas. There are priests leading the procession, then Augustus, them Marcus Agrippa (Augustus’ best friend and right hand man), and then his family (including women and children). It’s hard to tell exactly who is who beyond Agrippa, but it’s likely that Augustus’s beloved wife, his grandsons, and his sister are included in the line up.

Similar to the front, the back of the monument features two reliefs. The one on the left is of a seated female deity surrounded by symbols of fertility and wealth such as babies and fruit on her lap, sacrificial animals, and other female figures riding a dragon and a bird. The deity could be many goddesses: Pax, Aphrodite, Demeter, or Roma, and the babies could be many babies: Romulus and Remus or maybe Augustus’ two grandsons (whom he was counting on to succeed him before they both died as teenagers). Similar to the front, the other relief is poorly preserved. Many scholars think that it is a seated Roma, sitting on weapons taken from the enemy. This interpretation is based on coins that show a similar image.

Close up of the sides

All around the bottom of the monument is a frieze that depicts acanthus leaves and bunches of grapes. Acanthus leaves in ancient Rome were symbolic of long life or immortality. Grapes were symbolic of fertility and prosperity. Perhaps, by using these plants, Augustus was trying to say that he had brought long-lasting peace to Rome and has made the empire prosperous and wealthy. Also, hidden among the acanthus leaves and grapes, are small depictions of animals. The most famous is a chick escaping from a nest being attacked by a snake, which many scholars believe represent Aeneas escaping from the Trojan war.

The Inside

You can actually walk around inside of the monument, which is very cool. The inside features carved garlands connected by cow skulls. Garlands were used as decorations during celebrations and also symbolize wealth and prosperity. The cow skulls were most likely symbolic of the animal sacrifices the ancient Romans performed as a way to appease their gods. The altar inside is fairly simple, and shows scenes of sacrifice.

Modern History

The first fragments of sculpture from the monument were discovered in the 1600’s and shipped all over Italy, but archeologists did not realize what it was until the late 1800’s when a scholar identified the pieces using information from Augustus’ memoirs. In the early 1900’s, they attempted to excavate it, but it was underneath a Renaissance Piazza and a famous theater, and the excavations were compromising these buildings, so they stopped. Then, for the 2000 year anniversary of the birth of Augustus in 1938, Mussolini decided he wanted to excavate it. The excavation was an extraordinary feat of engineering that involved freezing the ground water to support the buildings above while the Ara Pacis was dug out piece by piece. It was then reassembled where it is now. Originally, Mussolini commissioned a building to be put up around the altar, but by the early 2000’s, it was in poor shape. The American architect Richard Meier (the same guy who designed the Getty Museum in Los Angeles) won the project to rebuild the building. This created some controversy both because he was American and because the building is very modern and does not match with most of the buildings in Rome. The building by Richard Meier is the Ara Pacis’s current home.

You can get a bit of a sense of the building design and altar size in this picture!

Tips for Visiting

Our class went on a Friday evening, and we were the only ones in the museum. When I walked past it a few other times to show friends and my brother the structure, I also saw very few people inside, so I think it’s a safe bet to go whenever you like. It might even be nice to go right in the middle of the day before or after lunch as a way to get out of the sun for a little while. If you don’t want to pay for the ticket, you can see most of the structure through the windows from the outside, and this is how I showed the monument to my brother and my friends who came to visit Rome while I was there. Personally, I would go inside, but I’m also a bit biased because I study the ancient Romans. The Ara Pacis is a fascinating monument with an interesting ancient AND modern history.

Class picture in front of the monument! We got yelled at for standing on the stairs.

Italy | Alla Fratte

By Andrea Zachrich

What is it?

Alla Fratte is a delicious Italian restaurant in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome. It has incredibly fair prices for the food they serve, has a nice atmosphere, and great service (a rarity in Italy!) We found it by chance one day when we searched something along the lines of “good, cheap restaurants in Trastevere” and this place popped up.

Where is it?

It’s in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome fairly close to the main church (Santa Maria in Trastevere). If you want to learn more about Trastevere, peep at my post here! I included a screenshot of a google map below so you know exactly where it is.

Here’s the exterior. I swooped this photo off their website, by the way.

It’s the big red dot in the center!

What should you order?

Everything. I did not have one thing there that disappointed in the four times we went, and neither did any of my friends. I especially liked the appetizers – they have great bruschetta and prosciutto and cheeses (check out the picture below). You also can’t go wrong with any of the pizzas. I really enjoyed the gnocchi as well! If you go as a group, they also do group specials. We went as a group of six one time, and started with a pizza as an appetizer, then some pasta, and then a cooked meat platter (it was amazing!) I wish I had pictures of that meal. The group meal was a little more expensive, but the individual items are super reasonable – especially for Rome. I put a couple of photos of the menu below to give you a little bit of idea about prices.

Why should you go there?

As talked about earlier, it’s got amazing food. I also really enjoyed the atmosphere. The outside of the building is covered with ivy, and the inside walls are covered with murals of famous Roman landmarks such as the Spanish steps. It’s got an old school vibe with table cloths on the tables and a tiled floor.

The interior! (I also swooped this off their website).

The service is also very good. They spoke English quite well. We also had a very funny moment with a server there involving one of the friends in my group. The first time we went there for lunch, my friend (for whatever reason) decides to try and speak in Spanish to the server, but he does so in the most gringo accent I’ve ever heard. The server started laughing, and actually starts to mimic my friend’s American accent in Spanish, and had the whole table cracking up. I can definitely appreciate a place that has a good sense of humor (especially when dealing with us silly Americans).

For some reason, this is the only picture I have of the food we ate there. We usually ate it with so much gusto that I would forget to grab a photo until it was mostly eaten.

Prosciutto e mozzarella we split as a table!

The only bummer about this place is that it’s not air conditioned, but don’t hold it against the place. If you go for dinner, and not for lunch, the temperature inside is not too warm because it’s quite a large restaurant.

So, if you have a decent sized group, or are just looking for some good Italian food while you’re in Trastevere, this is a great option! I hope you enjoy!

Denmark | Kronborg Castle

By Chloe Zgorzelski

“To be, or not to be: that is the question” 

  • Hamlet: Act III, Scene I 

These are also the infamous words that prompted my weekend excursion to Kronborg Castle, the location that inspired William Shakespeare’s infamous tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.  

Kronberg Castle

For those that need a little refresher, Hamlet is the story of the Danish prince Hamlet and his tragic fate. The play opens with Hamlet being summoned home to Denmark and away from his studies in Germany to attend his father’s funeral. Upon his return, he is shocked to learn that his mother, Gertrude, has already remarried to his uncle Claudius, the dead king’s brother. As you can imagine, drama and antics abound throughout the five-act play. Ghosts, Poison, Revenge, Murder, Duels, Quarrels, Love, Loss, Death, and more ensue, yet by the end all of the main characters face their eventual death.  


The Castle Courtyard 

Shakespeare’s inspiration for the tragedy was the Danish legendary hero Amled and the majestic castle of Kronborg, which Shakespeare lovingly renames ‘Elsinore’ in the play. It remains a mystery whether or not Shakespeare himself actually visited the castle, but it is doubtless that he heard many stories about the famous castle from his actors who performed here while touring Europe. These actors would be able to relay the gossip and stories of the castle’s decadent court life. Today, Kronborg Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it receives approx. 250,000 visitors annually.  

One of my first weekends in Copenhagen, a group of my fellow UCEAP classmates and I made the trip up to Helsingør to see and explore the castle that served as the inspiration for the Shakespearian play many of us were required to read at some point during our high school careers.  


Some of my UCEAP Classmates & I on the Roof of the Castle 

 The castle was beautiful and majestic, just as I expected it to be. It was complete with a giant moatRenaissance architecture, and a picturesque view of Southern Sweden located just across the water. During the summer months, the castle has actors roaming throughout the castle portraying the characters from Hamlet and reenacting the play’s most infamous scenes. We are so lucky to have had the opportunity to quite literally see the scenes from Hamlet that we learned about in our classes in real life in Hamlet’s ‘home’. To me it was a dream come true to see the infamous “To be or not to be” scene performed right in front of my eyes in the Kronborg Castle Ballroom. 



To be or not to be? 

We were able to explore the inside and the surrounding grounds of the castleclimb the 199 steps to the roof and witness the amazing views of Sweden’s coastline, explore the casemates (dark, cold, and gloomy passages located under the castle), and find the hidden, underground Holger Danske statue.   

Apart from being home to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Kronborg castle also served as the headquarters for the collection of the Sound Dues (a toll that constituted up to two thirds of Denmark’ state income in the 16th and 17th centuries) for over 400 years. During its heyday in the 1500s, the castle was home to a lavish court life that prospered until a major fire struck the castle in 1629 with which most of the castle’s fortunes faded.  


Overall, I had a great time with my classmates at the castle. It was an experience that brought learning to life and many a fond memory from my high school AP Literature Class to mind. This day excursion is definitely worth your time and a must-do when studying abroad in Denmark. It will leave you mesmerized by its beauty and engulfed in the story of the play that’s set here.  


Chloe Zgorzelski studied in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2018:

Denmark | Puppets, Pastries, and Pools

By Chloe Zgorzelski

Eleven hours of travel and one piece of missing luggage later, I finally touched down in Copenhagen, Denmark on the evening of August 2nd. My first week in this cobblestone city was filled with welcome dinners and first encounters with my new peers, city walks and sightseeing adventures, & afternoons spent exploring my new home away from home.

One of the first things I set out to explore was Kongens Have, the park right across the street from my dorm. While soaking up the warm Scandinavian summer sun and enjoying a picnic lunch, I heard soft, fairytale- like music coming from the opposite corner of the park. Walking over to investigate, I discovered that the noise was coming from most adorable marionet puppet show! Every summer a theatre group called Marionet Teatret puts on free, daily puppet shows in the Kings Garden of Kongens Have for people of all ages and nationalities. The half-hour show I stumbled upon was called “Venner I En Nøddskal” which translates in English to “In a Nutshell”. It featured a squirrel and other woodland creatures and emphasized the necessity of both bravery and boldness in the pursuit of friendship. I really enjoyed this little show, and I appreciated that everyone who stopped to watch was able to understand it and enjoy, despite differences in age, culture, and language.

I also had the opportunity to try a variety of Danish pastries during my first week in Copenhagen. Pizzasnegles, onsdagssnegle, chokoladesnegles, and pølsehorn were just a few that I got to try. My all-time favorite so far has to be the “onsdagssnegle” that I tried from Sankt Peders Bageri, a family-owned pastry shop located in Copenhagen’s Latin Quarter. “Onsdagssnegle” directly translates in English to “Wednesday snail”. It is named this because Sankt Peders, Copenhagen’s oldest bakery, only bakes and serves them on Wednesday mornings. While the name may seem complicated, the pastry is basically just a cinnamon roll covered in either cinnamon sugar or frosting. However, I would argue that this cinnamon roll in particular is the most delicious one I have ever tasted. So, if you need me on a Wednesday morning, you’ll know where to find me.

Also – It is interesting to note that while some pastries in the U.S.A. are commonly referred to as “danishes”, these pastries in Denmark are not called “Danishes” they are simply just pastries.

After walking around the city for a few days, I noticed this really cool shop near my dorm named Posterland and I was excited to go inside and check it out. This store did not disappoint. It is set up similarly to a vinyl record store, but instead of selling music’s greatest hits, the store specializes in one of a kind posters and graphic art. You can find everything here from posters depicting Hans Christian Anderson’s infamous fairytales to giant wall posters of the latest and greatest Danish boy band. This store made me smile, and I really enjoyed sifting through the posters – old and new – and learning a little bit more about Danish culture in this unique way.

Another highlight of my first week was swimming in Copenhagen’s infamous canals. Yes – the same canals and waterways that all of the harbor ships and ferries also share. To my surprise, I found out from some local Danish friends that the water in the canals are actually clean enough and safe enough for people to swim in! During the summer months, this is an extremely common practice for the Danes, as most buildings are not air conditioned (it isn’t necessary due to Denmark’s long, cold winters). When I went, I saw a ton of people laying out on the docks, sunbathing, and enjoying lunch by the waterfront. As long as you watch out for the boats that share the waterways, the canals are a fun way to escape the summer heat and enjoy the afternoon after a long morning of class.

Even though it had only been a week, I was beginning to feel myself fall in love with this city a little bit more and more every day. I love wandering around its cobblestone corridors and next to its dreamy waterways. I feel so instantly at home. The people here are so friendly. I’m loving my classes, the people I am meeting, and the relaxed overall pace of Denmark. I can’t wait to see what’s in store the next few months.

vi ses næste indlæg! xo Chloe

Chloe Zgorzelski studied in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2018:

Japan | Tokyo Disney


During my stay in Japan, I had the chance to visit Tokyo DisneySea! While there are many Disney theme parks around the world, DisneySea exists only in Japan so it was definitely a place I had to visit. Tokyo Disneyland is located adjacent to DisneySea, and shares some of the same rides as Anaheim’s Disneyland such as Space and Splash Mountain. 

It was a 2-hour journey in order to get to DisneySea, which consisted of taking 3 different trains and walking through the entirety of Tokyo Station, one of Japan’s biggest train stations. After getting off at Disney’s Maihama Station, we took the Disney Resort Liner monorail, which took us past Tokyo Disneyland and the resort hotels of DisneySea (which is actually in Chiba Prefecture, not Tokyo!).  

To my surprise, DisneySea was a lot cheaper than any other Disney parks I had been to, with a one-day pass costing only 7400 yen, or about $70 USD. The food was generally cheaper too. Despite going on a Thursday, the park was still very crowded. We waited 100 minutes for Journey to the Center of the Earth, DisneySea’s most well-known ride where guests go on a rollercoaster adventure into the iconic volcano that looms over the park. 

Although we went to the park in mid-November, the park itself was decked out in Christmas decorations and merchandise since Japan does not celebrate Thanksgiving (obviously) or any other holiday in November. It was really cute to see the Christmas performances, and could still feel the “magic” as I walked through the park as Christmas music blasted over the speakers.  

One of my favorite things about DisneySea was seeing how many people dressed up! I saw many parkgoers dressed up as various Disney characters, couples who wore matching outfits (apparently it’s a thing!), and many group costumes too that made me wish I had come coordinated with my friends. However, one thing I DID NOT like was the Nemo & Friends Searider. Disclaimer: If you have suffer from any sort of motion sickness DO NOT get on this ride at all costs. All the riders are put into a moving capsule where you “swim” with Nemo (a video is projected in front of you), and are catapulted through the ocean. This was probably the worst 2 and a half minutes of my life, but besides this ride I had a great time at the park.  

Japan | Omakase & World Trade Center


During the last week of my study abroad experience I had the opportunity to eat at Sushi Kanesaka, a 2 start Michelin restaurant next to Tokyo Station. I had my fair share of sushi during my stay, but I really wanted that “wow experience” before going back to the states. I went with my friend Duke and we made lunch reservations a week in advance.  

The restaurant is located inside the lovely and modern Palace Hotel on the 6th floor with 12 seats atop a wooden counterThe atmosphere was great. It’s warmly lit with cool square spotlights that aren’t too bright and definitely set the mood. It was a nice mix of locals coming in from work and a group of friends traveling from Thailand celebrating a birthday. We ordered the omakase (roughly translates to “I trust you” from Japanese), which essentially gives the chef the freedom to serve us whatever he sees fit. We were served tuna, yellowtail, octopus, squid, and abalone – to name a few. This was without a doubt the best sushi I have had in my entire life. The courses flowed together in perfect harmony and I loved anticipation/excitement in between every dish. The service was hospitable and polished but not overly formal. Prices start at ¥6500 for lunch, and I recommend coming for lunch to save you from paying the premium of a dinner menu. A 10/10 experience. 

After lunch, I visited the observatory on the 40th floor of the World Trade Center Building. The ¥600 fee to the top is extremely worth it, and the WTC’s prime location next to Hamamatsucho Station make it easily accessible as well. The panoramic views are completely surreal, and I felt as though I was looking at a painting. Off into the distance you can see Mt. Fuji, Skytree, Tokyo Tower, many – many skyscrapers, and Tokyo Bay. My friend left right after to take a final, but with the help of strategically places chairs and a self-timer on my Canon camera – I managed to get a few good photos.  

Despite never visiting the World Trade Center, it was a very nostalgic experience. Every corner I turned, I could look out into the distance and a memory from the past immediately popped into my head. On one end I could see the Odaiba Ferris wheel where I visited teamLab borderless and Tokyo DisneySeawhile on the other I saw Chiba prefecture where I played countless tennis matches with Footloose and made so many amazing memories. What an experience. What a day.  

Japan | Food Heaven


The last article I talked about Tokyo nightlife and all the fun things to do, but now I’m going to talk about the real reason you came to Tokyo: THE FOOD. There is no question that Japanese cuisine ranks supreme above the rest and you ultimately can’t go wrong when you’re in Tokyo. There’s a lot to do and see but the main attractions are the restaurants and the main activity is eating. Most restaurants in Tokyo aren’t open until 11 AM or afternoon time, except of course Tsukiji fish market so plan ahead. Once you’re at the restaurant, there are a few things you should know. One, do not stick your chopsticks straight into any of your food – especially rice. Also, don’t pass food chopstick to chopstick. Both of these are extremely disrespectful and should be actively avoided. Credit cards are accepted in more restaurants now, but make sure to always have cash with you as Japan is still considered a “cash society.” After you have finished your meal, DO NOT tip.  

Now I can get onto the good stuff: the food. Pictured above are fluffy pancakes from Happy Pancake and matcha/milk tea ice cream from Saryo Itoen in Haneda Airport. I ordered the traditional pancake, what Happy Pancake is known for and was absolutely blown away by the texture. The pancake is very eggy in nature, which allows for the pancake to be so airy and fluffy. I’ve had my fair share of matcha flavored food in Japan, but I never had a matcha – milk tea swirl. This was my last dessert in Japan, and a pleasant way to bid farewell.  

Featured above is a heavenly dish from Matsuya known as the “Barbecued Marinated Beef Set Meal.” Let me start by saying I ate here soooo much throughout my stay in Tokyo. Matsuya is a chain establishment and is considered “fast food” even though it looks nothing like fast food in AmericaSuch good food for such an even better price. 11/10. 

These next two photos are from a gem I didn’t quite discover until halfway through the quarter. To the left we have #11 from Gutara Ramen, and to the right we have the chashu bowl with rice and grilled onions. Unfortunately, the restaurant was occasionally closed due to unforeseen circumstances, but we won’t talk about that.  

Finally, the two photos on the left are actually not Japanese food, but from a Korean district. On top are side dishes from a Korean Barbecue restaurant, and below that is a hot dog with traditional Korean toppings. On the right is tempura udon from a restaurant next to campus that makes their noodles from scratch daily. The pictures do all the talking.