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Vegetarian Dining Abroad

Monserrate cable car ascent, Bogota, Colombia
Travel

8 Reasons to Travel to Bogota, Colombia (Despite What People Tell You)

On our connecting flights into Colombia earlier this month, we encountered a horrible person. This is not unusual on a plane, but the encounter was so pronounced that it left a prolonged bad taste that colored the beginning of our trip.

We were flying into Cartagena, where we began our Colombian adventure. The guy on the plane, an American, had long ago fallen in love with the city and had visited there 78 times, he said (but who’s counting?) — and had bought property and established some kind of nonprofit. He was in love with Cartagena, obviously, and told us we’d love it.

Then when we told him we were heading to Bogota as our next stop, he said this, actually out loud and not in his head: “You’re going to absolutely hate it. First of all, you’ll probably get kidnapped. And then of course, you’ll be sick from the altitude, which would ruin your whole trip even if you weren’t kidnapped. Also it’s freezing. I wish you had my email address so you could tell me afterward how much you hated it and I was right.”

Legit, this monologue happened. At one point I told him, “OK, stop talking now.” Neighboring passengers rolled eyes. It got awkward.

Much as we wanted to, we found that we couldn’t immediately brush it off. While in Cartagena, David and I asked several people (Colombians) how we might expect to find Bogota when we got there. And, frankly, we were not comforted by their answers. Many people underscored the danger of assault and also the altitude and weather challenges.

So several days later, by the time we took off from Cartagena on our way to Bogota, and someone sitting next to me on the plane made the sign of the cross, I felt a sense of dread.

But spoiler: In the end? We absolutely loved Bogota. Maybe even more than we did Cartagena, though that city is more of the seaside Caribbean vibe that is typically more my vacation speed. Here are all the reasons Bogota ranks high on our list of experiences: Continue Reading

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Travel

Pregnant in Paris: A Babymoon in the Land of Unpasteurized Cheese

I’ve been a vegetarian for so long (20-plus years!) that I don’t experience any sense of active compromise when I’m quickly scanning menus for the limited dishes I can eat. And certainly when I travel, I don’t necessarily expect to eat that nation’s specialty, and I don’t bemoan it if I can’t. I’m very used to this, and I like to think I’m low maintenance in that regard, though I do actively seek out vegetarian restaurants when I travel if it’s a possibility.

You’d think that a babymoon in Europe (France, Italy, Spain) would be kind of a perfect scenario for a pregnant vegetarian: first-world cleanliness practices, and tons of bread and pasta and cheese as national specialties, available anywhere from street corners to fine dining rooms (especially compared to some of the more far-flung or meat-loving places where we’ve traveled recently, like Indonesia, Istanbul). Easy peasy, right?

Totally wrong, as it turns out. American pregnant women are not advised to eat unpasteurized cheese (or milk, or juice), and it turns out Europeans are not real big on pasteurizing their stuff. Ironic, right? Given that Louis Pasteur‘s birthplace was indeed France. Continue Reading

Valentine's Day in Paris
Travel

A Very Clichéd Valentine’s Day in Paris (Or Why We’re Never Celebrating Again)

Several years ago, I had the privilege of covering the opening of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas casino resort. It was a really wildly splashy affair (in the recession, no less) that involved a spectacular black-tie New Year’s Eve dinner designed by Colin Cowie, and a concert in a rather intimate ballroom by such up-and-comers as Jay-Z, Coldplay, Beyonce, Kanye West — you know, no biggie. Of course, the fabulous food and champers flowed, and surprises like poolside concerts and other treats popped up around the property all weekend. After that, David and I decided, “OK, we don’t have to do New Year’s Eve anymore. We can put the whole holiday to bed. We’ll never top this.”

Valentine’s Day in Paris was kinda like that. From the second deck of the Eiffel Tower after sunset, we declared, “It’s a wrap on Valentine’s Day.” Continue Reading

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Travel

Hotel Review: Viceroy Bali (a.k.a. Heaven on Earth)

When I married my husband in 2010, we agreed that travel would be one of our very top priorities over the first couple of years. With only two blank pages left in my passport since then, I’m proud — and totally thrilled — at how many incredible places we’ve seen. And in the process of travel, we’ve been privileged to stay in some of the most jaw-dropping hotels in the world. That said, it takes kind of a lot to blow our minds these days.

Tuesday night (after a fatiguing day of travel that began in Nha Trang, then Saigon, Kuala Lampur, and finally Denpasar in Bali followed by a 90-minute airport transfer), we were introduced to the Viceroy Bali — and I was promptly rendered speechless. Continue Reading

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Travel

Nha Trang, Vietnam: Spa, Sand, Simpsons-esque Starfish, and the Deeply Satisfying Resolution to my Search for Veggie Pho

A short, hourlong flight from Saigon landed us in the southeastern town of Nha Trang for the beach portion of our trip (pause to note I hardly find a trip worth taking if I don’t find a beach on some part of it. You can take the girl out of California, but…)

Quick backgrounder on Nha Trang: it’s a vacation destination populated by tons of international tourists, largely Russian (on account of the communist connection? Not totally sure). It’s also a huge draw for backpackers, and though we are beyond our backpacking years (no, wait, I was born past my backpacking years), it has a fun, youthful, lively energy. You will also find at night a healthy (“”) selection of bars offering “buckets,” basically copious amounts of cheap alcohol designed to inspire bad decisions among 22 year olds for under $1 US.

Also, remember those zillions of motorbikes that threatened our demise in Saigon? Oh man, did Nha Trang also have its share. Cross the street at your peril. Think more Vietnmese Miami than sleepy beach town. Totally alive. Continue Reading

Travel

Restaurant Review: Seven Hills Restaurant, Istanbul, Turkey

You can’t top the view from the roof of the Seven Hills Hotel, 360 degrees of sweeping vistas that include Istanbul’s most important monuments. My husband and I mused that everyone seemed to want to sit on the Bospherous side of the terrace, when you can have a waterfront view in tons of cities—but where else in the world can you feel like you’re levitating above the magnificent Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia? (So I recommend sitting on that side instead.) Continue Reading

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Travel

Restaurant Review: Sea Satin Market, Mykonos, Greece

This may be a controversial viewpoint, but here’s only my own perspective. I’m a vegetarian, so when I travel internationally, I don’t expect to get to sample all of the flavors of the country. I am often relegated to sides. So my expectation of, say, amazingly fresh fish was not a factor on our visit to Sea Satin Market. I had some tzatziki and the like, which was actually pretty amazing and reasonably priced. But whatever. Here’s the draw: We went at sunset and sat at absolutely the most pristine oceanfront table I’ve ever laid eyes on—even superior to any table we had on our Bora Bora honeymoon. Gorgeous, simply dressed candlelit tables open to the twilight air as the waves lap at the rocks below and the sky changes Crayola colors. It’s a don’t-miss for the view and location alone. The funny thing is that we showed up without a reservation at about 8:15 p.m. and got the best table in the house (which would have been an impossibility in a place like our home town of Los Angeles). There was nearly no one there yet. Like most places in Mykonos, it doesn’t start buzzing until after 10 — after which I hear people have mad crazy fun dancing on the tables. But if like me you’re an early riser versus a night owl, go for the sunset and you will not be disappointed.

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Travel

Hotel Review: El Establo Mountain Hotel, Monteverde, Costa Rica

I feel guilty writing a tepid review of this or any property without this preface about my predisposition: I love the sun. My husband jokes (fairly) that I have a solar battery. If it is not charged up, I am depleted. Happiness and comfort wane immediately. So please consider this review of a hotel located in a so-called “cloud forest” through that filter.

Ahem, now then.

Continue Reading