Holiday destinations acquire stereotypes, just like the travelers who go there become known for their nationalities… and the stereotypes that go with those. There are also the standard things you do in every destination. You go to India to do a Yoga teacher training, to Iceland to see the Blue Lagoon, to Turkey to go to a Hamman and get butt naked… you get the idea.
If you’ve been reading my articles about spas around the world, you might have noticed an emerging pattern. If you haven’t — newsflash: I seem to have taken a liking to getting buck naked in public. I mean, who doesn’t? Right? Righhhhhhttttt? Anyone? Well, ok, fine. Today, for a change, let me tell you about this one time in Iceland when I did not get naked at the spa. It does happen, sometimes.
I know some of my German friends would roll their eyes at me for saying that Germans love to be naked in public. But I think they totally do. If you’re not familiar with the Freikörperkultur, of FKK (free body culture), chances are you will after spending some time in Germany. And while some would simplify that the FKK movement was born as a form of resistance against the East German regime, nudism in Germany has its roots way further in history. After doing a little research, what stuck with me most is the use of nudity historically as a way for people to free themselves from the religious restriction that has taught people to be ashamed of their body, and from the industrial society. Without clothes, no-one is a factory slave, everyone is equal.
A lot of you wander here in search of vegan and long haul travel advice. But some of you (the ones who stick around and support me, I love you all so much!) have a genuine interest in me as a person and how my inner journey unfolds. I owe you a bit of an update… So it’s been six months – SIX! That’s the longest I have stayed anywhere in three years – since I arrived in Berlin from Milan. Obviously, the pace has been very different from the constant backpacking or bicycle touring you’ve known me to do, and the current state of the blog is a reflection of that – I feel like I have nothing exciting for you to bite into. It’s hard for me to share what I am up to for various reasons, and I have been postponing it up until now.
I had the immense pleasure to buddy up with TripCreator recently for an amazing trip to Iceland with my mom which you can read more about here, here, here and here. An extended layover in Iceland en route from America to Europe is a brilliant idea, as it is pretty much smack in the middle and it is honestly one of the most fascinating countries I have ever been too. Icelandair understood that and is now offering up to a seven-day layover at no additional cost on many trans-Atlantic routes. Hopefully this short clip will give you a little taste of all the magic there is to be found in Iceland and you’ll make it your next destination! 🙂
When I started researching options for where to eat vegan food in Reykjavik, I honestly wasn’t expecting much from a nation that eats puffin, shark and whale. But there is nothing I love more than being proven wrong about something, and Reykjavik emerged quickly as one of the most vegan-friendly places I have ever traveled to. For such a small capital, Reykjavik boasts more vegan-friendly restaurant options that I could visit in 10 days and the options were as diverse as they are exciting. Here are my picks. I would love to know if I missed anything, so please let me know!
I can’t really begin to explain how cool Reykjavik is. The northernmost capital of the world feels more like a small colourful village plopped against the stunning backdrop of Faxa Bay and the snow-capped mountains, where hip people strut and stop at even hipper cafes. Naturally, hip hotels and hostels abound in this design-forward city, and I found myself staying at the Scandi-Chic hostel-cum-hotel Hlemmur Square for a few days last month.
An extended layover in Iceland en route from America to Europe is a brilliant idea, as it is pretty much smack in the middle and it is honestly one of the most fascinating countries I have ever been too. Icelandair understood that and is now offering up to a seven-day layover at no additional cost on many trans-Atlantic routes. Once you’re in Iceland, because of the poor public transport system outside of Reykjavik, there are two ways to explore the rest of the country: either by A – joining a group tour (and you may have read that it isn’t exactly my thing…) or B – by renting a car. When I partnered with TripCreator on this trip, I was informed that the latter was the plan, and I did have a brief moment of panic because… I do not know how to drive! Thankfully, the funny and wild woman that is my mother volunteered herself to be my personal driver, so we were all set to go! Yay!
Do you sometimes think you’re a little too cool for organized tours, yet you’re often feeling too lazy to go through the hassle of researching your next travel destination and wished someone would just do it for you? C’mon, just admit it, we’ve all had those thoughts. Ha, I’m kidding! Kinda… Tour groups can be a great way to travel, especially if you are a solo traveler, but what I want to talk about today is a fantastic new way to have your itinerary all sorted and activities cherry-picked for you while retaining all the freedom of independent travel. Sounds too good to be true? Planning a trip to Europe soon or maybe you’re just a master-procrastinator and want to do a bit of daydreaming? Enter the award-winning trip-planning platform TripCreator.
I recently posted a “what’s in my camera bag” update where I discussed this little GoPro gadget that has completely changed the way my footage looks and I’ve been asked tons of questions about it. The Zhiyun GoPro Gimbal is a very portable (thus very traveler-friendly!) three-axis motorized stabilizer – unlike a traditional Steadicam that works with counterbalance weights and is super bulky and annoying to carry, not to mention difficult to learn how to use properly. I was really keen to put it to use, so I took advantage of my trip to Northern Italy to film as much as I could and I put together this little video! Can you see how much smoother the panning and moving shots are? Handheld footage can be very shaky and ruin videos, no matter how high resolution your camera is, so to me this is a wonderful investment that will make a world of difference in the overall quality of your footage. I find this specific gimbal great because you can attach it to different mounts, unlike most of the other ones out that that are fixed to a pole. I’m looking forward to do some bike footage!
Bologna is a charming overlooked gem amongst hotshot destinations like Rome, Venice and Florence and I fell in love with it the second I stepped foot into its narrow, glistening cobblestone streets. The porticos covering the majority of the walkways within the old city make it the perfect place to explore in any weather and the edgy vibe from the large student crowd, alternative culture, progressive left-wing politics and excellent food make it the ideal place for those in search of more off-the-beaten path tourism. And no, Bologna doesn’t equal mortadella. Here are a few things I got up to.
Parma is mostly known for ham and parmesan which, as you might have guessed, aren’t exactly my cup of tea. To be perfectly frank, I didn’t quite know what to expect from Parma, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised. And what better feeling is there than discovering activities, sights and food that are all in line with who you are and what you love! Parma turned out to be an unexpected little haven of health and vegan food – the art part obviously didn’t come as a surprise, but contributed to a lovely getaway I can’t recommend enough. Here is what I got up to.
I arrived in Italy straight from a hectic holiday in New York City and couldn’t have dreamed of a better place to start my trip than in Parma. A city rich in history, culinary wonders and culture, Parma is also a quaint and gorgeous place to unwind, cure a jetlag while roaming the romantic streets aimlessly, stopping in cafes at random for apero and indulge in a little dolce far niente for a day or two. It’s also home to the gorgeous and relaxing B&B Al Battistero d’Oro where I had the pleasure to stay in the first three days of my Italian holiday.
This post has been a long time coming because I still to this day cannot find the right words for it. My original thought was to offer some kind of guide to the places I went, what I ate, what I packed, how I paced myself and so forth. But for some reason, it feels pointless. Besides, during the month and a half that I cycled the 3,000km from Istanbul to Milan, I fully disconnected from any form of online activity, from updating my social media to gathering facts for the greater good of blogging. I was too busy taking in whatever the hell I was putting myself through, absorbing what was thrown at me, the brutal climate change after nearly two years in the heat of South East Asia and physically trying to keep up with a four-year veteran cyclist. Here are a few thoughts I gathered nevertheless.
Run-of-the-mill chain hotels and organized tour groups aren’t so much my cup of tea. As an independent people-person type of traveler who loves supporting small family-owned businesses instead of large impersonal corporations, getting off the beaten tourist path and meeting with locals wherever I go, peer-to-peer platforms such as AirBnB, Couchsurfing, Bla Bla Car or Warmshowers have always been some of my favorite alternative ways of traveling. What’s better than to discover a new place in the company of a local who knows the lowdown much better than a plain old book, takes you to all the magical yet unknown locations and is just so happy to help you discover their home town? One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting with locals and seeing “normal life” through their eyes in the places I visit.
I read so many Turkish hammam horror stories online from other travel bloggers that my curiosity got sufficiently piqued: I just had to volunteer myself on the naked altar of the body scrub sacrifice for the greater good of this blog (I know, tough…) – a rather painful and awkward experience by many if not all accounts. Tales of buck-naked merciless scrubs in crowded rooms, with nude masseuses getting to second base with prude North Americans had me sort of worried as I stepped inside Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami in Istanbul, not really knowing if the tales were true. Thankfully, I quickly learned that the Turkish hammam experience can be a blissful, relaxing and absolutely beautiful one. Without further ado, here’s how I found myself naked as a jaybird with a bunch of other women from all over the world in the center of Istanbul.
I walked – nearly cycled right into, to be more precise – the Banker Han Hotel looking rather scruffy, dirty and disheveled (my usual self since converting to bicycle touring really!), half worried that I was going to get the “eye” for showing up all hobo-like in this very trendy new hotel in Istanbul. Instead of that, the staff came right outside to welcome me and it wasn’t ten seconds before I was handed a cup of tea and offered a seat at the reception with the staff who kindly asked about my travel. Some places are just so cool and hip and welcoming and perfect, and Banker Han by the Sofa is absolutely one of those gems.
– Teşekkür Ederim, he says to me.
– … Techek ….huh? I reply with a foggy mind, having not slept for the greater part of the last two days as I commuted between Bangkok and Istanbul via Oslo.
– Just remember this: tea, sugar and a dream. Teşekkür Ederim. That’s “thank you” in Turkish.
And indeed that’s pretty much what I will remember of Istanbul. Cup after cup of “çay”, Turkish delight by the bucketful and a dreamy city filled with wonders (and people, lots and lots of them!) – a transcontinental city that is the confluence of East and West and a place I wished I’d had more than a week to visit. I kept busy exploring and admiring everything I could lay my eyes on during my short stay and wanted to share with you what I discovered.
Istanbul is a wonderful but hectic city and I arrived straight from Bangkok after a 40 hour commute, already frazzled by the pulse of the Big Mango. I was looking for a bit of a retreat on my first few days, a place where I could lay my head in peace while curing my jetlag. I found just that and much more at the beautiful Sumahan on the Water, a boutique hotel located on the greener, maybe less visited Anatolian side of the Bosphorus, the less harried and quieter Asian shore of Istanbul. It truly was the perfect introduction to this vibrant city.
One year ago today, on January 1st 2014 at 8am, we locked the door of our flat in Montreal for the last time, leaving behind an empty shell of what was our life of the previous seven years, and dropped the key through the mail slot. As it resonated loudly in the dark empty box, I felt an excitingly familiar feeling in my stomach: we were homeless, the unknown awaited us. It was amazing to ring in the New Year in such a drastic, life changing, exciting way, and the feeling hasn’t left me since.
We had a wonderfully relaxing two weeks in England catching up with friends and family. A bit of a holiday from the holiday really! We spent the first four days at a couple of friends’ flat in North London who were gracious enough to let us use their sofa bed. We (and by “we” I mostly mean Richard…) paid them back by cooking them some food at night and taking them out to Wagamama on our last night. I have to say that I could very much see ourselves returning to the UK and living in London in a near future and it was great experiencing life there from an apartment rather than an hotel room. Thanks Tara and Will! We love you!
Montreal is gorgeous and warm today, just as it has been all week, so I was out of bed rather early this morning for a wonderful 10K run around the Lachine Canal and the Westmount neighborhood, quite the perfect way to start a weekend indeed!
I wanted to share with you the third and final part of my trip to Italy, from when Richard came to meet me. We traveled from Rome to Naples (which we found completely awesome against all odds!), Ischia (where we stayed at the very fancy Terme Aragona Palace Spa and had our epidermis scrubbed and whipped into shape like nobody’s business!), Capri and Sorrento (where we stayed at the even fancier Grand Hotel Capodimonte. This vacation really made me feel like a princess ;). As you can see, it was all about food! I’m thinking about going vegan after this cheese overdose!
Well it seems I’m back sooner than I thought due to very crap weather and me being bedridden because of a rather painful gum graft surgery recovery. So I thought I would update you with some more photos from my recent trip to Italy while my cheek de-puffs (jeepers, I can’t believe I have been back for 2 weeks already!).
I was in Acquapendente in the Lazio region for a month long drawing class with university, after which Richard came to meet me for another week and we visited Rome, Naples, Ischia, Capri and Sorrento.
I spent the last six weeks in Italy, the first five for a drawing class with university and the last one travelling around with Richard. I am feeling impossibly rested and rather fat from all the cheese consumed. Here are some photos.