Bean There, Drunk That: Foundation Coffee Co.

To make studying for the MCAT a little more interesting and somewhat bearable, I have decided to go on the hunt for the best skim milk cappuccino in downtown Tampa, FL. (I know I said I gave them up, but with all this studying I need a mid day treat and pick me up). There are so many coffee houses and cafes to check out…this will take a while. I am not a professional coffee taster, but I am a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur. I love all kinds of coffee including, but not limited too, iced, cold brew, black, espresso, flavored….I like it all. However, I love cappuccinos…so, so much.

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It was not until I went to Europe last summer that I truly appreciated a good cappuccino. It is difficult to find a cappuccino comparable to those of the country of origin, Italy, but I am trying and am on the look out. I will be exploring the city trying to discover hidden gems as well as try the chain coffee shops to get my daily afternoon pick me up. I am also looking for a nice place to study. So let’s get started.

Yesterday, I made the almost one mile trek from my condo to Foundation Coffee Co. Located in Tampa Heights, this shop is found in a trendy building., in an area of Tampa that is known to be home to many “millenials” and “twenty somethings” aka people like me. Many hipster looking people walking around outside gives the cafe the vibe of a cafe in Amsterdam (without the weed and canals). Upon entering, the chattering of students and friends fills the room. On the right there is a ceiling high fountain which will immediately capture your eye. With many bar stools, a few tables and some couches, there is room to sit comfortably inside. There is also a large patio.
However, in the midst of a Florida summer, I did not want to be drenched in sweat as I enjoyed my drink.

The crowd is a mix of gym goers coming and going from the local gyms, business men and women stopping in for a quick pick me up, friends catching up and students discussing class work. The atmosphere is friendly and inviting. If you are going to study and you are easily distracted, this may not be your coffee shop because the girls laughing in the corner may take away from your focus. The menu is simple, espresso drinks, cold brew, nitro brew and a few iced teas. The barista will happily discuss the brew of coffee they have that day with you and customize your drink in any way you wish…even with macadamia milk. There are a few options for food and sweets, but not very many. I am a big snacker when I study so I did not find the options they offered appealing to my preferences. If I was not focusing on watching what I was eating, I would have gotten the pineapple pound cake though. It looked amazing!

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Now, for the cappuccino. I ordered a regular cappuccino with skim milk. I then put one packet of natural sugar in the drink, which is normal for me.  The presentation was perfect. A white mug, creamy color and heart made in the foam. It was definitely instagrammable. However, the taste was not preferable to me. I found the coffee to be bitter and have a bit of a harsh after taste. The company brands themselves as a specialty coffee-house who takes pride in the whole process from the bean to the filtered water. To me, the coffee tasted like it was over roasted, over processed or possibly just too finely ground. I am not sure why the flavor was not what I expected. It was not terrible, but I would not order a cappuccino from this coffee shop again.

All in all, the atmosphere and feel of the coffee-house was just right. The seating arrangements, decorations and all were appealing. However, the cappuccino just was not up to par. Here is my rating:

Flavor of Cappuccino: 6/10

Presentation: 9/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

https://www.foundationcoffeeco.com/

36 Hours in Venezia

Stepping out of the train station and immediately getting a view of the Grand Canal was breathtaking. We had already visited Florence and Rome, but Venice was our favorite as soon as we got off the train. The atmosphere was like a beach town, without a beach. You could automatically tell the vibe of the city was completely different. While the city was not totally clean or well structured, the wearing away of paints and old buildings were so charming.

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(View right outside the train station)

As soon as we reached Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia the first beautiful thing we saw was the train station itself. Recently remodeled, it was clean, open and appealing to the eye. The next beautiful scene was the Grand Canal. Flowing in front of the train station, you get a wonderful view of the city. We turned left out of the station and continued down the tourist filled street along the canal. As a prime vacation destination, this area was tourist central. However, it was not overwhelming or crowded. Everyone was calm and just enjoying themselves.

After walking about 7 minutes we arrived at Campo S. Geremia, the square where our hotel was located. We spent one night at Hotel St. Geremia. This charming hotel was situated on the corner of the square with a view of 2 small cafes and the church of San Geremia. Since we booked a private room, we had a balcony over looking the square. I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone on a budget. It was pretty nice and very charming.

Once we checked in and dropped off our backpacks, we set out to explore. Wandering around the narrow streets, over canals was enchanting. The streets were filled with small restaurants, cafes and shops. The locals were all extremely nice and inviting. This was different from cities like Rome. While roaming around we got lost and loved every minute of it. We walked and walked until we got hungry. Then we decided to head back. As we walked, we continued on until we found the large parking garage where all the locals parked their cars. We just followed the Grand Canal back towards our hotel after that.

We ate dinner at the small café across from our hotel. I forgot the name, but I had four cheese gnocchi and Bernhard had seafood pasta. His was better than mine. They were both still good though! The food was reasonably priced, but we were so hungry we forgot to look for the service fee on the menu. They charged a whopping 12%. Paying that was a doozy.

After we ate, we found a Laundromat because we needed to do some laundry. The Laundromat was kind of expensive, but we had no choice. Our clothes did not dry in the allotted time so we brought them back to the hotel and hung them out on the balcony. In the morning, the manager of the hotel came and sort of yelled at us because it is illegal to hang your laundry off a balcony in a campo, or square, in Venice. Who knew?

The next day we had a small breakfast and set out on the hunt for good gelato. A gelato placed named Alaska had great ratings on Trip Advisor and came highly recommended by many travel blogs so we decided to check it out. It was not too tricky to find, I think we searched for about 30 minutes. This gelato was worth every second we spent looking for it. It was the best Gelato we had on the entire trip. The shop is owned and operated by a very nice man. I highly recommend the coffee flavor and banana. The flavors were so rich. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

After our morning gelato we set off to get lost again. Since it was our last day in Venice we wanted to make sure we saw of the sites. With less than 48 hours in Venice we did not make it out to the island of Burano. However, we saw everything else in the city including the Doges Palace and Bridge of Sighs. The sites were not as stunning as Westminster Abbey or the Coliseum, but they were unique and lovely in their own way.

We wandered around until lunchtime and found this very nice restaurant near a canal. If you are looking to try some local cuisine, I highly recommend the cuttlefish. I tried it and was completely blown away. The black sauce it is cooked in looks a little weird, but it was amazing. It is so hard to describe the taste, but it really is a must try. I also had a Bellini, since they originated in Venice. It tasted just like it looked, pink and delicious. The fruity, sparkling drink was great for lunchtime. I sampled an Aeperol spritz as well. This is an orange aperitif prepared with Prosecco and Aeperol. This was a little bitter, but still good. As you walk around Italy, but especially Venice, you will see so many people enjoying this cocktail. Bernhard ordered Sea bass and we were surprised when the whole fish came out on his plate. Even though we were a little skeptical, he tried it and loved it.

After lunch it was time for our walking tour and Gondola ride. We opted for this option because a gondola ride is 80 euros for only 30 minutes. With the tour we got a small discount, but we had to share the gondola with 4 other people. If we could do it again, we would just pay the 8o euros and have the gondola all to ourselves. We booked the tour on Viator and the local contact was Bucintoro Viaggi. I would not recommend this tour. The walking portion was pretty boring and you did not really see the interesting landmarks of the city. The best part of the tour was the gondola ride. It was just like the movie, romantic and beautiful. Even though we had to share the gondola, I felt like I was alone with my boyfriend and we had a wonderful experience. The gondolier took us down some smaller canals, then onto the Grand Canal. We saw the Rialto Bridge from the water (it was under construction but still pretty). We turned off the Grand Canal and saw some beautiful window displays from high-end stores before our ride was over.

After our gondola ride, we went to Alaska to get one last taste of gelato then picked up our bags from the hotel. Off to the train station we went. Our next adventure was an overnight train to Vienna. Venice was my favorite city we visited in Italy. The relaxing vibe of the city instantly made me feel calm. Wandering around is the best way to see the city and really experience it. Make sure you get a map though because it is hard to find your way back! It is easy to get caught up in the romance of the city. I am so lucky to have been able to visit this wonderful city with the man I love.

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Venice Must Dos:

Wander around and get lost

Get gelato from Alaska

Gondola Ride

Try the Cuttlefish

Drink a Bellini

Enjoy yourselves

 

European Adventure: Part 1

Wow, we are already on day 15 and country number 4 of our European adventure! This trip has exceeded every expectation I had before leaving the states. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect trip! First off, I am traveling with my boyfriend and that makes is twice as much fun. Bonding over the experience of traveling, seeing new things and experience new cultures together is amazing. It’s also fun when you can’t find the underground or figure out how to work the hostel laundry machines because you work together to come to a solution. 

For the first 13 days of our trip, our home away from home was a ship. We sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the beautiful Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas (I will review the ship later). What a great way to start off this adventure. The cruise was amazing and so much fun. From the flow rider to the shows and ice skating to formal nights we were very entertained.

The first seven days of the cruise were all at sea. While I did get a little restless towards the day 7, my boyfriend absolutely loved the leisure time. We read, walked, ate (a lot) and went to every show. We also did the ice skating and rock wall. I carved out time everyday for the flow rider because it was that much fun. 

On day 8 of the cruise we arrived at our first port, Ponta Delgada. It is an island off the coast of Portugese. It is known as one of the islands that make up the Azores. It was incredible. Next, we went to Lisbon, Portugal. We took a city tour and explored on our own as well Amazing. After that we were inVigo, Spain. Since Vigo was a relatively small town, we decided to take an excursion to Santiago de Compestela. My favorite stop was Le Havre, France. We visited the small town on Honfleur and I absolutely fell in love. 

Now we are in London!! It is a dream come true and I am loving every single minute of it. We have done and seen just about everything including Stonehenge and Windsor Castle.Our hostel is in Soho and has a wonderful location near everything. Today I had afternoon tea in a palace and saw Kate Middleton…but I will write a whole post just on that when I have more time. 

This is just a short synopsis of what we have been doing. I’ll be writing more in depth posts with photos and what not when I return stateside. 

Next stop: Paris

Radiant Rainbow River

If you know Dunnellon, you know and love the beautiful Rainbow River. If you grew up in Dunnellon, you probably grew up on the banks of the river with a fishing pole in your hand. Or maybe, if you were like me, it was just watermelon…anyways, we are so lucky to be able to experience this incredible work of God that is basically all of our backyards. The picturesque views offered at every point of the river are like something out of a Florida fairytale or folklore. Every summer, especially now that I do not live at home, I am so excited to come home and head to the river. It is a summer must in my book!  If you do not know of Dunnellon, Florida and have not had a chance to check out the Rainbow River for yourself, you definitely need to this summer.  Here is why:

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The city of Dunnellon is small, really small, and that is the fun part. When you get off the highway and drive towards Dunnellon you will see farmlands and cows. You will probably think where the heck am I.  Then, you will cross a bridge that gives you your first glimpse of the wonderful Rainbow River. This bridge will lead you into town where you will see mom and pop shops and local restaurants. If you are into antiquing, this little town will not leave you disappointed. Dunnellon was founded in 1887. However, the discovery of phosphate in 1889 led to an expansion of the town, making it a boomtown. This where Dunnellon got the name for its annual festival, Boomtown Days. Mining for phosphate was centralized around the Rainbow River. Since the phosphate mining days are long gone, the town is usually pretty quiet, except in the summer when tourists flock to the Rainbow River for a day of fun in the sun. Fun Fact: If you are a fan of horror movies, the film Jeepers Creepers was filmed in and around Dunnellon.

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The Rainbow River is fed by Rainbow Springs. As a fist magnitude spring, Rainbow Springs pushes about 490 million gallons of water a day through the system. WOW! It is the fourth largest spring in Florida. The water is crystal clear and always looks so inviting. At a crisp 72 degrees all year long the water is very enjoyable, especially on those hot Florida summer days.  If you are interested in picnicking or taking a quick swim in the swimming area, Rainbow Springs State Park is where you should head. The swimming area is large and during the summer there is a life guard on duty.  At one time, the park was a local amusement attraction. In the 1930s, the family owned park advertised submarine rides and animal shows. Since the park was so far off the beaten path and trying to compete with other places like Disney World, the park eventually closed and was bought by the state of Florida after changing hands a few times. In the 1990s a group of volunteers who named themselves “Friends of Rainbow Springs” got together to help clean up the park and prepare it to be reopened as a nature preserve. Today, Rainbow Springs State Park is open daily and is home to beautiful scenery and nature walks.  They wind through the park and offer wonderful views of the river and small waterfalls. Towards the back of the park there is also a butterfly garden. The views are phenomenal; we even chose to take prom pictures at the park one year because the scenery is that spectacular. Growing up I would head over to the park on my bike with a sandwich and a book. I would walk the trails until I found the perfect spot to just sit and read and observe the beauty. If you are interested in visiting Rainbow Springs State Park just visit the link for more information. https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Rainbow-Springs

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The Rainbow River, flowing from the headspring, winds through town and is about 5.7 miles long.  At its end, it merges with the Withlacoochee River which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The river was named as an “Outstanding Florida Waterway” as well as a registered natural landmark in the 1970s. Home to all kinds of wildlife, I have seen river otters on multiple occasions. If nature photography is something you enjoy, head on out to Dunnellon for your chance to photograph birds, alligators and all sorts of other creatures.

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If you enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding, the Rainbow River is the place for you! There are so many small nooks and crannies along the water that are begging to be explored by curious adventurers. As a no wake zone, the whole river is very favorable to those partaking in these water sports. If you decided to canoe, kayak or paddle board make sure you take some time to get out of the boat and enjoy the water. It can be so refreshing after a few hours in the sun.

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If you are looking for a more laid back activity, I would recommend floating down the rainbow river in a tube…it is fun, and very popular in the summer.  Some of you are probably like what does tubing down the river even mean? It means just that, getting in a float and enjoying a leisurely 4 to 4 ½ hour float down the Rainbow River. It is one of the most relaxing experiences.  All you have to do is sit back, enjoy the day and let the river take you.  This allows you to become one with nature for a few hours. Oh yeah, you probably want to put on sunscreen as well because 4 hours in the sun will burn almost anyone. I usually pack a cooler with a few snacks or a light lunch. A radio is a great idea as well!

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Tubing begins at the KP Hole County Park. This is a small park a few miles down from Rainbow Springs State Park. You cannot tube from Rainbow Springs State Park. At the KP Hole there is a $5 entrance fee and a fee to rent the tube. There is also a swimming area if you are just looking to swim. The KP Hole stops access to tubing at around 2pm to ensure guests are off of the river before dusk. Due to the popularity of the experience and the small size of the park, the park often hits capacity pretty early on the weekends. Once the parking lots are full, the KP Hole will begin turning guests away. Have no fear! There are plenty of other companies that will help you get to the river!

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Part of the charm of Dunnellon and the Rainbow River is the size of the town. With approximately 2,000 people living in the city limits, the best way to experience the charm of Dunnellon is to visit the family owned mom and pop shops that make up the town. There is a tubing company called Ride and Tube just outside of the city towards the KP Hole County Park. Based out of the Sunoco gas station, the whole business, including the gas station, is family owned and operated. You will often see the whole family, mom, dad and two sisters, working there during the summer to provide you with a great experience. Ride and Tube offers parking, tube rentals, shuttle drop off at the river as well as shuttle pick up when you are finished. From what I have heard, they just got a brand new yellow bus and it is nice! If you are interested in getting more information about Ride and Tube you can call (352) 489-0466 or visit https://www.facebook.com/rideandtube .

Any and all of these activities are a great option for a hot summer day in Florida. The river gets rave reviews. Last summer a family from Iceland vacationing in Florida came to tube down the river twice because they loved it so much…Iceland, whoa. The river is known for its cleanliness and family friendly atmosphere. Since no disposable containers are allowed on the river, there is hardly any trash cluttering this natural wonder. Alcohol is also prohibited on the river contributing to the family friendliness of the experience.

If being in or on the water is not your ideal scenario, there is still a way for you to enjoy the river! Dunnellon has a wonderful restaurant on the Rainbow River named Swampy’s Bar and Grille. With patio seating and a gorgeous view, you can’t go wrong. A local favorite, Blue Gator restaurant and tiki bar is located just a few miles down the street. Blue Gator is situated on the Withlacochee river and also offers wonderful views as well as live music. If you are looking for a cozier restaurant, Stumpknockers is a quaint little restaurant situated on a quiet part of the Withlacoochee River.

If you decided to come to Dunnellon and visit the spectacular Rainbow River here are some tips for you:

  • Come early. Due to popularity, spots may fill up quickly. I would recommend arriving no later than 11.
  • Store your snacks in non disposable containers (Tupperware) or you will be made to throw them out
  • Wear sunscreen and reapply generously
  • HAVE FUN!