BEAUTIFUL VIEWS AND VEGAN FOOD: 3 days in Bristol

We decided to go to Bristol for a city break. The city is hilly but easy to explore on foot. There is plenty to see and do just by walking around and exploring.

Harbourside is a good area to visit. There are plenty of bars and restaurants around, or you can spend some time wandering around M Shed, a museum about Bristol (and the current location of the Colston statue that was taken down by protesters).

Clifton is another good place to explore. The area where the famous bridge is located is full of nice cafes and restaurants. The bridge itself is set in a picturesque location, and it’s definitely worth a visit.

Banksy is from Bristol and you can see some of his artwork around the city. This site has maps and locations. There is also great street art by other artists all over the city.

FOOD:

Bristol has lots of veggie and vegan places, and pretty much every restaurant clearly advertises vegan options.

  • Koocha Mezze Bar: a persian-inpired vegan place with an amazing selection of unique mezze. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for £44.
  • Cafe Kino: a vegan cooperative with a good selection of food. Breakfast for two for £23.
  • Left Handed Giant: A microbrewery and bar in a picturesque setting by the river.
  • Om Burger: A vegan buger place with large portions and delicious food. Burgers for £10-12, fries for £4.
  • Eden Cafe: A cozy vegan cafe serving a great selection of healthy dishes. A generous brunch for two for £33.
  • Canteen: a bar with a fully veggie menu (the tempeh wings were amazing).
  • Oowee: a vegan burger place with big portions and plenty of yummy options. The lunchtime deal costs £8.50, or a large burger with a side and drink for £13-15.
  • Emmeline: A beautiful cafe in Stokes Croft with plenty of veggie and vegan options. Breakfast for two for £13.

GO:

There are many different areas in Bristol. We stayed in this Airbnb in Stokes Croft, an area full of street art with plenty of cool bars and restaurants.

Bristol is 1h30 by train from London Paddington Station.

ROOFTOP SWIMMING AND VEGAN CAFES: three days in relaxing Bath

We decided to go to Bath for a few days to enjoy the end of the British summer. I hadn’t been to Bath in many years, so it was a good time for a visit.

The picturesque city centre is a UNESCO Heritage Site, and it’s nice to just walk around and explore, stopping at Bath Abbey and the Crescent, going for a walk by the river for views of Pulteney Bridge or having coffee at one of the many cafés.

Bath is famous for its thermal water. Thermae Bath Spa is a popular spa with two large thermal pools, including a rooftop one with views over the historical centre. Entry, on a first come first served basis, costs £37 on weekdays for two hours.

FOOD:

  • Oak: a great place for a special meal, serving mostly vegan dishes. Dinner for two including drinks, dessert and tip for £65
  • Green Rocket: a vegan café just a few minutes away from the station, with a great selection of delicious food. Lunch for two including drinks and tip for £30
  • Cascara: a small vegan café with a nice selection of sandwiches. Lunch for two for £22
  • Indian Temptation: a vegetarian Indian restaurant overlooking Bath Abbey. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for £40
  • Thaikhun: a Thai place with plenty of vegan options. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for £36
  • Fudge Kitchen: a small shop with a good selection of fudge flavours, always including a vegan option. We had the chocolate one which was delicious. A generous slab for £5.50

HOW TO DO IT:

Bath is only 1h30 from London, and trains leave Paddington station every hour or so. Advance return tickets for £40. The city centre is easily covered on foot.

SUNSHINE BY THE THAMES: A Weekend in Twickenham

We decided to spend the weekend in Twickenham for a change of scenery. The area has plenty of local restaurants, particularly around Church Street, and there are lots of green spaces by the Thames. We were lucky with the weather, so we enjoyed plenty of time in the sunshine by the river.

The beautiful garden around York House is a popular option. You can grab a coffee at The Stables Café to drink by the river at Marble Hill Park, or take a walk on the Thames path and cross the river to reach Richmond.

We took advantage of the recent changes to local restrictions to visit local food places:

  • Sidra: a Lebanese café serving a great selection of mezze. Very generous portions. Lunch for two for £21.
  • Ruben’s Bakehouse: a local bakery and pizza place. The long queue in the morning was a great sign, and I was not disappointed. Great selection of pastries and bread.
  • Avocado & Lemon: a nice place for brunch with plenty of delicious vegan options. Brunch for two for £24.
  • Thakers: a veggie South Indian street food place with a great selection. Takeaway meal for two (with plenty of leftovers) for £39.

It was great having a little holiday, even without going far. I can’t wait for more of this in the near future!

2020 TRAVELLING: The year in review

At the end of every year, I write a reflection about my travels. This was a very different year and so is this review.

January and February started as planned, with short trips to Paris and Amsterdam, where we didn’t do much other than enjoy all our favourite local vegan spots.

By March, the world was a different place. I had booked trips to Thailand and Japan, and I had many other ambitions plans. Instead, I stayed home and watched the occasional plane fly by, wondering about the lives of the people who were still going places.

This year reminded me that most of all, I love cities. When people started taking tentative holidays to European resorts, I didn’t. My favourite metropolises were never free of restrictions. I stayed in, but still connected with many of the places I’ve visited.

Travel changes us. All the places I visited are now part of me too, and I’ve used my time at home this year to bring those places closer to me.

I cooked Japanese food and drank green tea. I read Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World”, which made me want to go back to Istanbul. When I saw a Chinook helicopter flying by, helping transport coronavirus patients, I thought of Afghanistan, where they served a very different purpose. I remembered a warm evening by the bay in Beirut when I heard about the explosion that destroyed the beautiful city. I bought panettone as I couldn’t spend another Christmas in Rome.

Travelling is an identity, and it is also a huge privilege. This being a normal year, by now I would have come home from many months of travelling. Instead I’m happy I get to plan future travels for another time.

In the words of Maya Angelou:

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

I don’t know where 2021 will take me, but I hope at some point, I’ll be off on a plane again – I can’t wait!

VEGAN BURGERS AND DUTCH MASTERPIECES: A rainy weekend in Amsterdam

We decided to go to Amsterdam for an easy weekend away by taking the Eurostar. We know the city well, so we mostly spent our time trying some of the many vegan places around.

  • De Hallen: This is a nice place to visit on a cold day. There are local shops, a food court, cinema and a street market. It’s a popular place to visit for local and tourists.
  • Rijksmuseum: to escape the rain we visited the Rijksmuseum, which has a great collection. The Gallery of Honour hosts many major Dutch masterpieces. Tickets for €20.
  • Tony’s Chocolonely: this popular chocolate brand has a superstore in the city centre where you can try all the different flavours, including limited editions.
  • Vegan Junk Food Bar: this popular place had been on my list for a while, and it did not disappoint. They have a great selection of burgers, loaded fries and more, and everything we had was great. We even came back the next day. A small feast for two for €46.
  • Juice Brothers: a good place for breakfast with a delicious selection of smoothies and bowls. An açai bowl for €9.50.
  • Go: To go from London to Amsterdam by Eurostar it takes 4h40 and it’s an easy and comfortable option. The way back requires a change in Brussels, but direct trains will be available from late April.

VEGAN FOOD AND BEAUTIFUL SCENERY: A winter break in Paris

We visited Paris for a relaxing weekend. We’ve been to Paris many times before, so we mostly spent time walking around and checking out vegan restaurants.

  • Hank Burger: this is an old favourite so we wanted to visit it again. They have a nice selection of vegan burgers and they are all delicious. Two burgers, sides and drinks for €27.
  • Hank Pizza: from the same people of Hank Burger, this vegan pizza place offers a selection of delicious pizza by the slice. A meal of two slices, salad and a drink for €13.
  • La Palanche d’Aulac: a vegan place with a good selection of Vietnamese starters and mains. Friendly service and generous portions. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for €38.
  • Cloud Cakes: this vegan café has a popular brunch on the weekends. A plentiful selection for two to share for €26. The lattes are delicious.

Musee d’Orsay: I hadn’t been to Musee d’Orsay in many years. It’s a good option for a cold day, and when we visited it wasn’t too busy. Buy tickets online to skip the queue for €15.40.

Stay: we stayed at Exe Panorama which is conveniently located very close to Gare du Nord. A good option if you’re taking the Eurostar.

2019 TRAVELLING: The year in review

I started this blog back in 2013 to document my European trips. In 2019 my husband and I finished our long-term plan of visiting every European country!

And of course there were also plenty of other adventures, as my work took me to many unexpected places.

  • In March we drank the good wine in Moldova.
  • Then I headed to Lebanon, where I got the chance to explore a little bit of Beirut.
  • In April we ate all the vegan food in Copenhagen and had a day trip to Malmo.
  • In May I discovered the beautiful Wroclaw and all its gnomes.
  • Later in May I ate all the good food in my favourite area of Rome.
  • In June we has fun exploring Plovdiv and Sofia in Bulgaria.
  • In August I had the unique opportunity to visit Afghanistan for work.
  • In September we finally did it! We completed our European adventure by visiting an amazing country, Georgia.
  • In October I went back to Kosovo, this time for work.

Another great year of many adventures!

In 2020 I’m planning to explore some of Asia and go back to my favourite country (Japan). Where will 2020 take you?

SUNNY DAYS AND OLD FAVOURITES: Christmas in Rome

This was my second Christmas in Rome. It’s a good place to visit this time of the year as there is plenty to do (including on Christmas Day itself) and the weather is very mild.

The main attractions are closed on Christmas day, but in the city centre there is plenty to do. It was a sunny day so we went for a picnic at Villa Borghese where plenty of families and tourists were enjoying a nice day out.

Attractions off the beaten track:

I know Rome well, so I prefer to avoid the crowds and check out some new sights.

  • Galleria Sciarra: a beautifully decorated building that not many tourists know about. A nice place to escape the crowds in central Rome.
  • Centrale Montemartini: This museum in an old powerhouse has an impressive collection of sculptures in a modern space. Tickets for €11.
  • I visited Palazzo Quirinale, which was hosting an exhibition about the volcanic eruptions of Pompeii and Santorini. It is a beautiful space and a nice place to check out for something different. Tickets €15 (or €8 at lunchtime during the week).

Food:

I always have a long list of food places to visit when I’m in Rome.

  • I went to explore some of my favourite places in Testaccio and Ostiense. We went to Pasticceria Andreotti for coffee, stopped for pizza at Casa Manco in Testaccio Market and finished with desert at Pasticceria Barberini.
  • Seu Pizza Illuminati: this place has been on my list for a couple of years, but it was definitely worth the wait. They serve a mix of traditional and unusual pizzas, as well as a good selection of starters and deserts. Highly recommended. Dinner for two including drinks, dessert and tip for €50. Booking essential.
  • Necci: Pigneto is an up-and-coming neighbourhood, famous for its cool cafés and shops. When we visited most things were closed for the holidays, but the popular Necci was open, so we stopped there for coffee. Two coffees and a cake for €8.80.
  • La Forchetta: a local restaurant in Prati serving a good selection of traditional Italian food. Dinner for two including drinks, dessert and tip for €52.
  • Guttilla: a gelato place serving a delicious selection of flavours (a cup for €2.20).
  • Cresci: a nice local bar with a good selection of tapas and plenty of other options. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for €30.

EXPLORING RUINS IN TULUM AND YUCATAN TRAVEL PLANNING: The end of our Mexican trip

Tulum had been on my list for years, and it lived up to my expectations. This relaxed town is famous for Mayan ruins overlooking the sea and perfect sandy beaches.

Tulum’s archaeological site is the postcard view of the town. The site opens at 8am (tickets $75) and it’s good to arrive early to beat the crowds. The site is well-preserved and picturesque. It’s located a bit off the town centre, but easily reached by taxi (we paid $90) or colectivo buses.

Near the archaeological zone are some great beaches. We visited Pescadores which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (and it looks it). The water is warm and there are plenty of boat tours available. It is the perfect image of a Mexican beach that you may have in your head.

Tulum town centre is full of nice cafés, souvenir shops and plenty of veggie restaurants. We visited a couple of nice places:

  • El Vegetariano: a laid-back vegetarian restaurant in the town centre serving a selection of vegan dishes. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for $380.
  • Co.con Amor: a vegetarian restaurant set in a beautiful garden in Tulum town. Large portions and delicious food. Lunch for two including drinks and tip for $410.

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: Tulum is well-connected by ADO bus to the main cities in the region.
  • Stay: we stayed at Biwa which was well-located in the town centre, had good service and excellent facilities. Alternatively there are plenty of other options close to the beach as well.

TRAVELLING AROUND YUCATAN – HOW TO DO IT:

We spent ten days travelling around Mexico, and it was a great experience. This is how we did it:

  • Itinerary planning: we travelled independently, but followed broadly this itinerary. The best way to get to Yucatán is to fly to Cancun (buses connect the airport with Cancun bus station and Playa del Carmen, where you can travel on to other destinations).
  • Travelling around: We used ADO bus to get around. Tickets can be booked online from 1 to 2 months before travelling, or directly at the station. The buses are comfortable, have air-con and are generally on time. For shorter routes colectivo minibuses are available and are pretty cheap. Speaking Spanish makes travelling easier as usually people only speak basic English.
  • Money: things are cheaper than in the UK. Many places accept credit cards, but for smaller purchases cash is ideal, and low denominations is preferred.
  • Food: Mexican food has plenty of veggie dishes, but these aren’t always clearly labelled. We had no problem asking for modifications to make dishes vegan, but speaking Spanish helps. Happy Cow has good options in most places. We ate very well, and particularly enjoyed the plentiful breakfasts, horchata and vegan tacos.

A TURQUOISE LAGOON AND RUINS IN THE JUNGLE: Visiting Bacalar and Calakmul

Bacalar is famous for its beautiful lagoon of turquoise waters. It’s a picturesque place with the most amazing views.

The water in the lagoon is very warm so you can spend a long time bobbing around and trying to spot the seven shades of blue for which Bacalar is famous.

There are many places for swimming (many are paid but it’s generally cheap: we went to Balneario Magico which charged $20 and had a restaurant, parasols, boats and kayaks for hire). You can also go in a boat trip to different parts of the lagoon. We hired a kayak ($200 for one hour) to reach the Canal de los Piratas, a shallow area with very clear water.

Other than exploring the lagoon there isn’t much to do, but you can visit Fort San Felipe (tickets $100) to get great views of the lagoon. The square in front of it is lively in the evenings as there are many restaurants and stalls selling food and handicraft.

FOOD:

  • La Playita: this beautiful restaurant overlooking the lagoon offers plenty of vegan options on its menu. Food is delicious. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for $405.
  • Mango y Chile: a popular vegan place serving burgers, tacos and a great selection of smoothies. Meal for two including drinks for $390.

CALAKMUL:

We heard about Calakmul and decided we wanted to check it out. Ka’an Expeditions have a popular tour so we booked a day trip with them.

Calakmul is an impressive Mayan city in the middle of the jungle. You can climb the different pyramids to get amazing views over the jungle and Mayan buildings nearby. There are plenty of howler and spider monkeys on the trees, and you also get to see the local flora and fauna.

It gets very hot, and there are plenty of mosquitoes, but when we visited the rain helped cool us down. Calakmul is very remote so there are few tourists around. It’s a great place to visit to see Mayan ruins without the crowds.

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: we stayed at Sun Ha which was well-located, had terrace views over the lagoon and friendly service.
  • Go: Bacalar can be reached by ADO bus from Merida and other popular locations in the area.
  • Calakmul: Ka’an Expeditions has day trips which include pick up from cities in the region, a four-hour walk of the site, snacks, a light lunch and entrance to the different attractions. Our guide was knowledgeable and we had plenty of time to explore.