Rome is a city with a lot of history which makes the historical sites fascinating to visit but in my opinion it was also a very overwhelming city. I’m not sure if the high tourist season or the sweltering heat of the summer were to blame but the city felt a bit like a huge amusement park. I visited the big attractions like the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi fountain etc…but I what I wanted to share and what was actually was one of my favorite parts of Rome was when we traveled across the river to the Trastevere to have dinner one night. The Trastevere is a quaint neighborhood in Rome with narrow cobbled streets. There were less people, the streets were walkable, the restaurants were packed with people speaking Italian instead of English…we had finally found an area that was calm and welcoming. Visiting the Trastevere was the perfect way to relax after a full day of visiting all of Rome’s incredible sites.
Florence is an amazing city and it continually surprised me around every corner. First it was the grandeur of the Duomo, next it was walking through the Uffizi and Accademia museums and then finally arriving at the Piazza Michelangelo at the perfect time to watch the sun set over this beautiful city. Of course my favorite part of Italy was the delicious fresh pastas and house wines at every restaurant we visited.
Highlights from Florence:
I definitely recommend walking the 400ish steps up to the top of the Duomo as the view from the top is spectactular. We did have to wait in a short line but it is definitely worth it!
At the end of the second day we stumbled upon Piazza Michelangelo at just the right time to catch the sunset over the city. This was a spectacular view of the city and the sunset made it even better.
Although I didn’t have time to enjoy any of the vegan restaurants I was surprised to find that Florence was fairly vegan friendly. I stumbled upon quite a few vegan/vegetarian restaurants which made me love the city even more.
My summer travels through Europe have begun and I am loving every minute of it! The first country we hit was España and I must say it is quite a different experience being in Spain since I studied abroad in college. Madrid felt the same but Barcelona blew me away. Maybe it was the beautiful summer weather and the location of our hostel but I am now having dreams of living in Barcelona sometime in the future. I’m very glad I’ll be back there again to visit other friends on my trip.
One of the best things about Barcelona was an amazing restaurant I discovered through that handy Yelp app. It’s called Quinoa and they have vegan and vegetarian options including an all vegan dessert menu! Spain is full of rich and heavy foods so to find this charming hole in the wall that had the most amazing salad I had ever eaten (at least that is what I told the waiter in Spanish after I ate it) was like finding a diamond in the rough! I highly recommend this place for vegans and vegetarians looking for something different, light and healthy while in the beautiful neighborhood of Gracia in Barcelona.
The hostel we stayed in was fabulous as well. They had a lovely outdoor terrace that I enjoyed each morning with my tea and avocado toast. And although I am not sure how I missed it on my first trip, Park Guell is a must see attraction. Adiós Barcelona y Buongiorno Firenze!
Although I am a self-proclaimed hater of Los Angeles (the traffic drives me insane) I did enjoy a wonderful Saturday afternoon in the neighborhoods of Studio City and Venice Beach. First stop was Le Pain Quotidien on Venutra Boulevard which had a plethora of beautiful pastries (even vegan options!) and a delicious variety of bread with fresh and flavorful jams. The restaurant has an adorable ambiance with quite a few vegan and vegetarian options for breakfast and lunch making it a place I would definitely return to if I lived close by.
Vegan Blueberry Muffin – would return to try this
Vegan Carrot Cake – tried and loved
Freshly Baked Bread (different varieties) – could eat every day!
Later in the day my sister and I explored the Venice Canals, a wonderful hidden gem in Los Angeles. Then we got a refreshing ice tea at the Toms Cafe at their flagship store on Abbot Kinney before a quick but mouth-watering bite to eat at Seed Kitchen vegan restaurant on Pacific Avenue. This place is located close to the boardwalk so the outdoor seating offers plenty of great people of watching. It may not be the prettiest city I’ve ever been to, but the food does keep me coming back every so often.
Although skeptical about my long weekend to Texas, the city of Dallas was not half bad. Of course having my vegan partner in crime to hang with all weekend is probably what made it so amazing! A few highlights from the weekend:
A delicious Thai restaurant to start off our Saturday…gracaias a Noodle Wave.
We also found a great coffee shop in Uptown and spent Sunday afternoon being dorks and grading papers together now that we are both teachers. 🙂 A very cute comfortable spot to do some afternoon reading.
And finally a VEGAN DINER IN TEXAS you say!?!? Yes, and they have absolutely amazing food! The vegan breakfast quesadilla was mind blowing, and even the non vegans who came with us were very impressed.
Day 2 was full of wonderful island surprises as we set out on the road with minimal plans. Without extensive plans we still seemed to find some amazing places – just check out the list below!
1. First stop – breakfast! Always tough to find something vegan and/or vegetarian friendly but this was a great find! In the heart of Hilo, Conscious Culture Cafe, 110 Kaewe St.. Urbanspoon. Highly recommend – buckwheat waffle with passionfruit syrup
2. Next, heading down south, we explored Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Although it was a brief visit, seeing a volcano that close was quite spectacular. We checked off the 1. Steam vents, 2. Jaggar Museum with view of the crater rim, and 3. Thurston Lava Tube.
3. Starving and hoping for a vegan/vegetarian meal we were delighted to find this hidden gem – Ono Café at Volcano Garden Arts, Volcano, Hawai’i. Delicious healthy food in a very quaint and beautiful garden just below the Volcano National Park. And…vegan carrot cake for dessert?!?! Perfection.
4. Continuing our drive around the island we stumbled upon Punalu’u Beach Park, Black Sand Beach. A beautiful and unique place with a sea turtle sighting!
5. Finally to end our long day we spent the evening by the pool at Hali’i Kai Resort in Waikoloa and watched another beautiful sunset.
We took a couple days to do a full ‘recorrida’ around the Big Island, and I am so glad we did! Every stop we made was one WOW after another. Having travelled around the island a bit, I would recommend splitting your vacation time on the island between the Kona and the Hilo area. Although the Hilo area is called the wet side, and it definitely does get a lot more rain, there is lots to explore and it is worth suffering through some rain showers.
Our first stop was the Waipi’o Valley Lookout. Absolutely majestic. A spot just off the 240 highway, this place is a must see. I would also recommend a quick stroll through the small shops in town afterward.
Waipi’o Valley Lookout
Next we took a scenic route off the 19 hwy. One of the things we have noticed is that many streets and highways are not very well marked on the island. There are many things you might miss if you don’t already know they are there. For example, Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Gardens is something you must see but you might drive right by it if you’re not sure where it is! Off the 19 about 30 miles before entering Hilo, there are signs for a scenic route that lasts about 4 miles. Off this road is the beautiful Tropical Botanical Garden that is full of exotic plants, flowers, waterfalls and spectacular views of the ocean.
To end the day we had a delicious Thai dinner in the town of Hilo, stayed at the Hawaiin Hilo Hotel and crashed after the long drive and many adventures from the day. The view from our room was a great relaxing way to end the day.