Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Walking a half marathon in Berlin

We have walked 28 kms over two days of adventuring in Berlin!

Yesterday we spent the day checking the area near a portion of the Berlin Wall called Eastside Gallery, which is a 1.3km international memorial to freedom. We plan on renting bikes and checking out more of the wall later on. Near this portion of the wall we checked out the fantastic vegan grocer, Veganz, the adjacent vegan cafe, Goodies, and the upstairs vegan shoe shop, Avesu, and finally the upscale vegan restaurant Mio Matto. What a day in vegan paradise!

We also spent quite a bit of time in this large abandoned/repurposed warehouse complex. Some portions are empty while others have breathed new life with coffee shops, a skate park and a crossfit studio. It's interesting to see a few businesses sprinkled among abandoned buildings, squalor, broken glass, and extensive graffiti. I have mixed feelings of the epidemic of graffiti in Berlin. I enjoy photographing the very well done pieces, but do not agree with the vandalism. It is particularly sad to see sculptures, murals, and heritage buildings vandalized, and generally done so by "taggers" with no aesthetic appeal.

Today started the morning with breakfast of tofu quiche and bagel at the vegan cafe No Milk Today. We also purchased one week metro passes, which cost about $28 euros each, and explored further afield. We went to the Hamburger Bahnhof Contemporary Art Museum. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and perhaps I've been spoiled by so many other fantastic museums, but I was not moved by much of the exhibits. I did enjoy the Marx collection which included some Andy Warhol pieces as well as the sound installation by Susan Phillipz.

Ah if we could only spend everyday strolling, viewing art and enjoying wonderful food...

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Ferret kisses and other adventures

We arrived in Frankfurt on Saturday April 5, 2015. The hotel I picked out, Neue Kraeme was perfectly situated to interesting architecture, public transportation and a 30 minute walk to the vegan grocery store, Veganz. We spent the first afternoon getting a lay of the land, wandering the nearby streets. We picked up a SIM card for my iPhone for about $30 euros which comes with 3GB of data. Having a phone with internet has totally changed travelling! It's so convenient to use maps/GPS, metro apps, and to find sites and restaurants.

Sunday we woke very early in Frankfurt and wandered the streets for a while checking out a large square and a bridge covered in lovers locks.

We made it to a quaint vegan bakery, Edelkiosk before heading to the train station for our trip to Berlin. At the station we chatted with a homeless man with two ferrets. After giving him some change I had intended to snap some photos of the ferrets scurrying around on the floor. However, the gentleman excitedly insisted he place them on my shoulder for J to take a photo. The photo was not flattering as I looked both perplexed and fearful as one of them starting kissing/tasting my face. You will just have to use your imagination.

We were pleasantly surprised to find vegan labelled lunch options in the train station, although we had packed snacks just in case. (In a previous trip to Bhutan, the tub of peanut butter we hauled around had been a life saver). We purchased our tickets online (after correcting my first mistake of buying tickets from Berlin to Frankfurt instead if the other way around). Using the very helpful http://translate.google.com/ we deciphered our tickets as car 2 and seats 25 & 26. Unfortunately the big 2 I saw on the outside of the train was for second class not car 2, which meant I inadvertently roused a sleeping woman who was "in my seat". She was thankfully nice when we realized the mix up. With our backpacks on, we then weaved up and down the bouncing and lurching train, through the dining cart twice, until we finally found our seats, probably moments before J would become sick. Settled in, we made the 4 hour trip and arrived in Berlin Sunday evening, to our lovely studio apartment on the fourth floor of a typical German walkup apartment. We used AirBnb which allows you to rent vacation rooms or whole apartments around the world. We like it as it is more affordable than a hotel, you can have a kitchen, you get to live in a local community and the great mapping features allow you to pick out a rental according to the area amenities you desire. This one is 500 meters from a yummy vegetarian restaurant, Yellow Sunshine, where we ate great vegan burgers soon after arriving. We again got the lay of the land by wandering several blocks before going to bed.

For my photos check out https://www.flickr.com/photos/8751723@N02/

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Off to Germany!

We arrive in Frankfurt on April 5 and stay one night before departing on the train for a 4 hour tour of the countryside to Berlin. We will spend 11 nights in Berlin in an Airbnb vacation rental apartment before coming back to Frankfurt for our final 2 nights.

I've been preparing for the trip by reading the English Berlin magazine; The ExBerliner, chock full of articles on events, dining, shopping, entertainment and culture. Another helpful guide is Timeout Berlin, with great tips on attractions and museums.

So why Germany? So many reasons! It is a direct flight; no exhausting transfers or lay over. Berlin is full of amazing history, architecture, art and museums. We also adore vibrant cities and just spending time wandering the streets snapping photos, window shopping and checking out the local cuisine. Ah the food; Berlin is becoming known as a Vegan Mecca. This is a great article on the many vegan offerings Travel Guide: Vegan Berlin. And of course the always helpful HappyCow, the worldwide vegan friendly listings, has lots of suggestions for Germany. There is even an all vegan grocery; Veganz.

Adventure awaits!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Grenada so far

We arrived in Grenada a week ago and are staying at the marvellous Vegan Lodge. Each morning we start the day with a big bowl of lovely local fruits; banana, star fruit, mango, passion fruit, etc, toast, smoothie, and muesli. Each evening we enjoy an inspiring meal of homemade soup, salad, a creative main dish and finish with sorbet!

After breakfast, we depart for the day on a local mini bus which is about $1.00 each to St George's. Once in St George's we either stay there or take a second bus to the Grand Anse Beach area. So far in St George's we've wandered the streets taking photos of boats and buildings, sipped a piƱa colada by the waters edge, had a vegetable stuffed roti, and toured the tiny museum. Other days we head to the beach area and laze about under an beach umbrella and float in the ocean. We pick up snacks at the nearby IGA at the Spiceland Mall and grab lunch of either vegan sushi or pasta at restaurants next door. 

We took a special trip to the Grenada SPCA and dropped off the medical supplies we hauled from home and a cash donation. They were happy to receive it all. They have a very caring and clean facility. They provide spay and neuter to the homeless dogs and cats as well as low cost vet services for pets. A common surgery is leg amputation for dogs who have broken legs from accidents. While we were there we saw one dog post this surgery, a litter of abandoned pups, and a few other dogs and cats. 

Today we went on a snorkelling trip aboard a beautiful catamaran. It was crewed by three wonderful guys who took us to Flamingo Bay and the underwater sculpture garden. The sea was not kind to J so tomorrow we shall enjoy the water from the shade of our beach umbrella. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Off to Grenada, Caribbean!

We are about to embark on a 2 week stay on the lovely Grenada Island in the Caribbean. A little background from wikipedia "Grenada is an island country and commonwealth realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Grenada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela, and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Grenada is also known as the "Island of Spice" because of the production of nutmeg and mace crops of which Grenada is one of the world's largest exporters. Its size is 344 square kilometres (133 sq mi), with an estimated population of 110,000. Its capital is St. George's. The national bird of Grenada is the critically endangered Grenada Dove." 

Obviously the Caribbean is a lovely place to visit in the depths of a Canadian winter but why did we pick this island? We first became aware of Grenada via the media coverage of the unique Vegan Lodge, a vegan bed and breakfast located in the interior jungle area of the island. This lovely oasis is run in a very ecological manner including carbon offsetting (a tree is planted for every guest), onsite fruit orchards, harvested rain water (for drinking and the small pool), solar heated hot water, and vegan meals etc. We look forward to relaxing in the jungle and walking or taking the bus to the beach and town areas. Check out some lodge photos here; http://www.thelodgegrenada.com/gallery.html Grenada was also named a top spot to visit in 2013 by National Geographic!

Grenada is known for it's spices and chocolate and also offers some exciting activities. We are looking forward to hiking to the many waterfalls, visiting the picturesque town of St Georges, relaxing, and snorkelling from the many shore accessible sites. We have our gear all packed and ready to go. Grenada is also home to the world's first underwater sculpture garden, which we look forward to snorkelling through!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

More vegan adventures in Calgary

This week I tried out the new raw, vegan, gluten free Healthy Delights Living Foods, that just recently opened up at the Calgary Farmer's Market. I picked up the dehydrated 'cheezy' tomatoes, made with nutritional yeast and they were very savoury. I also picked up the lovely raw chocolate cheesecake picture below. It was nice to stumble upon the booth as I was at the market visiting a favourite vegetarian vendor, Hearts Choices. They have many vegan items and my favourite is the frozen lemon grass faux soy product. I use it to make Banh Mi Vietnamese subs. Yum!

Also opening this week is the new organic market, Mrs Greens. It is located in the far South, 130 ave SE off of deerfoot. I won't likely make the trek very often as I am very fond of my close by Community Natural Foods Market. However, it was a fun field trip. The store is bright, clean and the staff are friendly. The space is a bit sterile but that may change as they settle in. Some areas were not yet open, such as the salad bar. One staff stated that they would be clearly labelling vegan items with a special colour, which is a great idea. I did pick up some vegan snack foods that are not commonly found elsewhere (shown in the photo below). 

I tried the Daiya pizza for the first time and I was underwhelmed. It was ok but small with scant toppings. I prefer making my own or ordering from a few spots that have vegan pizza such as Famoso or the newly opened Gordo's Pizza. (Both of these pizza spots offer daiya cheese, and Gordo's also has a vegan gluten-free crust option.) My favourite at Gordo's is the veganized pizza bread sticks, called cross bones.

Back to Mrs Greens; I did take advantage of the opening special coupon for $15.00 off your purchase of $50.00 which was available in the in store flyer. Below you will see a few snaps of some other vegan offerings. Mrs Greens has the largest variety of Gardein vegan foods as well as several Sol Cuisine items I have not seen elsewhere. If you are in the far south Mrs Greens is a good bet for vegan staples and offers a full grocery.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Road trip!

We left Calgary the evening of August 1, 2013 and made our way to Golden, BC. We spent the night at the decent and affordable Rondo Hotel. The next day we went on to Kamloops. We thoroughly enjoyed Beat Nation a wonderful contemporary Aboriginal exhibit at the Kamloops Art Gallery. The exhibit was a eclectic mix of artists and medias; music, video, dance, clothing, neon, painting, carving etc. After Kamloops we spent a night in Chilliwack before heading over the border.

We spent Sunday in Seattle and checked out the vegan diner; Wayward Vegan Cafe , Vegan Haven; a lovely vegan store who's proceeds support a pig rescue, and Araya's Place. At the vegan store we picked up delectable snacks including Go Max Foods chocolate bars, and Earth Balance cheddar flavour popcorn. We spent the rest of the day walking through the surrounding neighbourhood.

Everything in Seattle was booked or super expensive so we opted for a campground in the nearby town if Kent. Big mistake. We spent a night that sounded like we were continually about to be hit by a semi, in our freeway ditch camp site, So we moved a little further out from Seattle, to Tacoma, and are staying in a cheap and cheerful motel.
Prior to heading to Tacoma we went into Seattle and enjoyed an amazing lunch and dinner at the vegan Plum Bistro. A sample of their menu:

CHIPOTLE PEACH TEMPEH & TOFU charred French beans, avocado puree, vino butter sauce G/F

In between we wandered down the waterfront, checked out Pike Place Market, and browsed antique stores. We got a bit lost on our way out of Seattle but we made it back to Tacoma safely.

We were pleasantly surprised with Tacoma! We stopped initially for the affordable lodging and the Lemays Car Museum. The museum is housed in a spectacular building and showcases a wonderful collection of vehicles.

We also enjoyed wandering around Tacoma looking at the buildings. We enjoyed the yummy raw vegan meal at AmeRAWcan Bistro.

Today we headed back to Seattle for a final trip (and more lovely dining at Plum Bistro). We checked out the Seattle Art Museum.

We enjoyed special Japanese fashion exhibit. The museum also had selected works of the phenomenal collection of Herb and Dorothy Vogel, who amassed their important modernist collection on their modest salaries as a postal clerk and librarian. The selected works at the Seattle museum were not my favourite but I am mesmerized by their story. It was appropriate that I stumbled across this statement, by Craig Damrauer, in the gift shop:

"Modern Art = I could do that + Yeah, but you didn't"

The couple were also the topic of the fascinating documentary, Herb and Dorothy;

After the museum we visited the Sea Shepherd Gallery and Educational Centre. "Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations."
Sea Shepherd is also featured on the popular show; Whale Wars. It was great to speak with the supporters and purchase a new hoodie, t-shirt, decals and a flag!

To check out our photos so far go to; http://www.flickr.com/photos/8751723@N02/ Tomorrow off to Portland!

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