ROAD TRIP READING: The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck’s books are always a good option to take on a trip. His adventures in Russia are amazing, and his most famous novels usually set the scene nicely in America.

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The Grapes of Wrath follows the story of a family moving from Oklahoma in search of a better life in California. It’s not an easy journey – and the road that they travel, alongside the changing landscape around them, serve as a nice backdrop to the story of Tom Joad and his family.

As ever with Steinbeck books, the story develops slowly, and you are taken along on the journey as you read the book. It was also beautifully adapted into a film by John Ford.

One to take with you on a road trip!

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THE BEST PLACE I’VE EVER VISITED

Someone asked me the other day what was the best place I’ve ever visited.

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I thought about Paris: when I was 13, I visited Paris and it changed my world view completely. I’ve been there maybe eight times now, and I still absolutely love it. It’s beautiful, it’s iconic, it’s old and new at the same time.

But then I thought about Marrakech, my unlikely home away from home. Djeema El Fna (the main square) is the centre of the world, where all the action is. I love the food, the souks, the riads, wandering aimlessly, getting lost for hours…

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But of course there’s London, my adopted city. It’s grey, it’s gritty, but it’s perfect. Everything happens here, and I still choose to live here every day.

Then last year we travelled the Balkans, and visited Jordan, and the year before we were in Iceland and saw the Northern Lights.

I can’t choose, and that’s the best part. There really is a whole world out there… and I’m only getting started.

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What’s the best place you’ve ever visited?

THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN: A book to read to on a long journey

Reading The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann, is like going on a journey. You arrive in the Swiss Alps, feel the light breeze and breath in the deep air.

The Magic Mountain

The book follows the routine of the lead character in minute detail, and as you get to know Hans Castorp, you also connect with the environment around him.

The passage of time is slow; the days repetitive. As you turn page after page (the book is quite long) you start to feel like you’re in the mountains too.

Some books stay with you long after you’ve finished reading them. This is on of them.

Take it with you when you go on a long trip!

THE BORING SIDE OF TRAVELLING: Surviving long waits at the airport

I’m sure some people love wandering around duty free shops while they wait for their flights. I’m not one of them. And because I always get to the airport very early, I tend to wait around a lot.

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Here’s what you can do to make it better:

  1. Play a game: take a deck of cards or some other game with you and those extra hours will fly by. But remember: keep it small (as you’ll have to carry it around) and keep it simple (no one wants to focus really hard when they’re jet-lagged and half-asleep). Bananagrams, anyone?
  2. Make travel plans: this is the ideal time to finalise your itinerary. Open up that travel guide and get planning! And if you’re returning for a trip, you’re probably already missing your holiday, so check out the departure boards for unusual destinations and start dreaming of your next trip!
  3. Eat and drink: this one is a bit tricky, as some airports don’t really have that much to offer on that department. But when a good bar/restaurant is available, you should definitely check it out while you wait. It’s definitely better than waiting for stale airplane food.

Make the best of your travels!

VEGGIE TRAVELLING: How to make the best of food on the road

It’s not always easy to get veggie food in unknown places, but I’ve actually had lots of great meals abroad. And as my boyfriend is a vegan, food is always at the top of our mind when we travel.

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Here are my top tips for making the best of local food while travelling:

1. Do your research:

I always stop at Happy Cow before going abroad. It’s a really comprehensive directory for veggie places everywhere, and it includes not only restaurants but also health food stores. We’ve found some amazing gems through this website and it never disappoints!

2. Know the local fare:

Ah, the Balkans! We had the best time travelling across the region last year, but veggie food really isn’t that popular over there. Doing some research in advance makes life a lot easier in tricky places – locals may not be used to veggie diets, but most places offer dishes which are naturally veggie. If you know what you can eat in advance, you can simply look out for that on the menu.

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3. Consider self-catering:

Eating out is great, but making your own food can be easier sometimes – plus it’s a lot cheaper! This way you can make sure to get a good selection of food everyday. Then choose a good restaurant that caters for your needs and make it a special night out!

4. Choose the destination by the food:

I didn’t go to Rome this month because of the food (I promise!) but that wouldn’t be a bad option. Many places, from India to Jordan, have great veggie food and other places are catching up nicely – veganism is all the rage in Germany these days!

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Where are you going for that special dinner?

A WEEKEND IN ROME: Delicious gelato and beautiful ruins

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All I wanted was a good slice of pizza.

I went to Rome many years ago, but it was during the summer and mostly I remember feeling too hot to enjoy it. So I was looking forward to mild March days this time around!

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We left London Friday after work and got back first thing Monday morning, so we only had two days to explore. As it wasn’t my first time in the city, this was fine. But if you’re going to Rome for the first time you definitely need more than that!

Roman Forum:

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I was really keen to explore the Roman Forum and take some nice photos. We took a tram to the beautiful Piazza del Popolo and headed towards Via del Corso.

This is a great area to wander around – there are many beautiful buildings and you can also see some highlights such as the Spanish Steps along the way. Don’t forget to stop at the Perugina shop to stock up on delicious chocolates!

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We headed to the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II and stopped for lunch nearby. It’s a good idea to find restaurants in little streets to avoid the most touristy places.

The restaurant we visited was called Vinando, and it was a great choice. I had a delicious spaghetti with cheese and pepper, which I chose as it’s a Roman speciality. To drink we had a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Just perfect!

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We then climbed up Capitoline Hill, to see the square which was designed by Michelangelo. Rome is truly amazing in that everywhere you turn there’s some incredible part of history right there.

We finally got into the Roman Forum, and spent an hour or so exploring the many ruins. It is an amazing site, full of temples and arches and other ancient monuments. Tickets cost 12€ per person and also include entrance to the Colosseum.

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We then stopped at the Pantheon for a quick gelato break.

In the evening we went for dinner and beers at the Roma Beer Company, a nice bar with countless options of beers to choose from.

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Capuchin Crypt:

The next day we headed to the Capuchin Crypt. This is a unique site off the beaten track. Besides being a good museum with a nice Caravaggio, the main attraction is the crypt, with displays of bones arranged in many little chapels. It was really strange, but very interesting! Plus not many tourists go there, which is a rarity for Rome!

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We stopped for lunch at a local place nearby, Gran Caffe Roma, where I finally had that pizza I was looking for. It was delicious!

We then hopped back on the metro for a walk around Villa Borghese. This is a very nice park, perfect for a sunny day like this, and you get beautiful views over the city.

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Another gelato stop and that was the end of our little trip! A lovely weekend in a scenic city.

HOW TO DO IT:

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  • Go: There are lots of flights from London, with Easyjet usually being the best option. Flights take about 2h30. From the airport, you can get the Leonardo da Vinci Express to the city centre for 14€. But if you’re not alone, it’s probably better just hopping on a taxi instead – it costs around 55€.
  • Transportation: Understanding the public transport in Rome is not very easy. Firstly, it can be a bit tricky to work everything out and sometimes it can be a bit difficult to buy tickets in advance. The main thing to remember is that you must validate your tickets before every trip! Buses and trams are normally a better option than the metro.
  • Stay: I had my accommodation sorted, but there are lots of options of places to stay in Rome, so check Hostelworld and TripAdvisor. Book in advance to get the best deals.
  • Food: Italian food is really the best, so just go for it! The basics, like pizza and pasta, are always a safe bet. For dessert, you must try gelato and tiramisu, which are really available everywhere. Also don’t forget to try a good mozzarella, which you can have as part of Caprese salad. There’s also a great selection of fruit, and I love that blood orange is so common there!
  • Drink: The local wine is very good and the prices are great. Local beers such as Moretti and Nastro Azzurro are very good but not particularly cheap. Plus Italy is a paradise for coffee lovers.

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