As discussed in the previous post, Madeira, the little Portuguese island off the coast of West Africa, is an amazing little paradise of mountains, gardens, and overall pleasantness. In this post, we are getting down to what matters: the vegan food, and the hotels. Although the remote location means the extreme vegan ballerness of mainland European cities hasn't reached Funchal yet, there are still lots of good options and cute restaurants to check out. And as far as lodging goes, we stayed in THREE different hotels over this trip! Okay, one was in London and one was not planned, but you'll see! We had an incredible time in Madeira and you can read about all the sights and stuff to do here.
Not just a fortified wine! The small island of Madeira, off the southwest coast of Portugal, is a popular resort-holiday spot for European vacationers, and for dern good reason. One of two autonomous regions of Portugal, Madeira is gorgeous, relaxing, and manageable enough to see in a short visit. Quiet but not boring, the best thing to do there is enjoy the scenery and the vibe, not run to check off a list of museums and sights that tourists must *absolutely* do like in many places, so you are free to enjoy your time in a stress-free and carefree manner. Because it's one of the most popular cruise ship ports, it's hella filled with white-haired people at all times. Also, the resorts tend to cater to families more than young adults, but happily that means nightlife is not the focus (i.e. you don't hear awful house music emanating from clubs when you are in bed at 10pm). My kind of place!
You know why Ireland is so green? Because it is ALWAYS RAINING. That's what we learned anyway on our trip through the Irish countryside, on our journey from Cork to Dublin. We spent most of this time exploring County Cork after flying into and enjoying the city of Cork, because the region is home to two of the very special places we had to see: Blarney Castle and Ballymaloe. Also, as Husbo says to everyone going to Ireland, you don't go for the cities; you go for the countryside, the gorgeous, green-as-heck, rainy-to-make-it-all-so-green countryside. And if I can so enjoy myself when it's so cold and rainy and my shoulders shoot up so high that I get bodybuilder neck (i.e. no neck) then it must be a special place.
Apparently Cork is a city; I had to look it up because I was about to call it a little town (it's a quiet village). But it's a lovely little place and an easy town (village) (city?) to see when visiting a wider swath of Ireland and especially en route to the countryside (which is the best part of Ireland). I was there for the weekend recently to speak at the Indie Cork Film Festival, an annual autumn event that I recommend going to if you're in town. Hooray for independent film and lovely Irish people who pronounce it 'fillum' (LOVES IT). I was also there three years ago (!) during a visit to the countryside of County Cork and so will be mixing information (food) about both trips herein. Try to guess which info is from which trip! What a fun game!
Almost one year ago, as we traveled across China by train, we were arriving in Xi'an to see the famed Terracotta Army and its thousands of impressive underground Warriors. If you followed along that journey, or just read that post, you know that seeing the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an, although clearly amazing, was quite the harrowing experience. See, China has a lot of people. And most of those people were also trying to look into the excavated pits to see some of the Warriors when we were. To be fair that was our fault for going in August. We didn't get the best view, and it was probably the most stressed out I've ever been. Haha that's not true I'm stressed out all the time but still, wow. So when we heard that the Terracotta warriors (not all; there are thousands) were going on tour, and one of those tour stops would be Liverpool, we thought 1) jfc we went all the way to Xi'an to see them and they are coming a mere two hours from home?? 1b) it's okay Xi'an was amazing and it was worth going, and 2) we should go to Liverpool and see our old friends again! So we did. And we liked it, and we loved it.
Fourteen months ago, we embarked upon the most insane adventure yet. About 10 months ago, we ended that trip with a short jaunt through one of our favorite cities, Berlin. That's right people, this is the last post for our sabbatical adventure. After such exhilarating, exhausting travels, ending our nearly 4 months of being dirty and hungry (not really) (but kind of) in Berlin would be a relaxing treat for us. It's a city we know well and love, one we didn't have to frantically rush around in order to see all the big tourist attractions, and - most importantly - the one that would have all the vegan food I could want, including my first real vegan ice cream in almost 4 months. Yup, I went the entirety of last summer without good (non-fruit sorbet) ice cream (by the time we got to Berlin, it was fall). I'm sure I don't have to tell you that this summer I've been more than making up for that nonsense, but that's not what we're here to talk about today. No, today we are pretty much going to be looking at pictures of all the junk I ate in 24 hours in Berlin. (If you want a tourism guide, go here: Berlin Travel Guide)
When Husband and I were planning our trip through Andalusia, we were as gung-ho on going to little-known Ceuta as we were on going to our main attractions Seville and Granada, even though there's nothing to do there, it's not necessarily beautiful, and it's not known for any particularly good food or landmarks. Why would we be so determined to visit this lil baby hamlet (#yayhamlet) for barely 24 hours when we had such a tight schedule? Because Ceuta is a Spanish town, but it's in Africa. So weird right! Located across the Strait of Gibraltar at the northernmost point of Africa, Ceuta is a Spanish autonomous city, which for us means one thing - another addition on the Travelers' Century Club list. Yes we are nerds but we want to hit that 100 mark!
After a few days in Seville, Husband and I traveled to Granada, mostly to see the Alhambra. I have to admit, I had no idea about the Alhambra before this trip. How could I have known, when most of my life I thought Granada was a fake camp made up in the song I refer to in the title? (By the way, today I learned that that song won a Grammy.) (So has LeVar Burton which is my favorite random fact.) (Obama has two.) Obviously, I had no idea of the wonder that was in store for me. Not only is the Alhambra even more incredible than you can imagine, but Granada itself was probably my favorite city of our whole trip through Andalusia. Is it because it was the only one with a strong vegetarian restaurant that I really enjoyed? The world will never know. But that wouldn't change the fact that I had a very enjoyable time.
Recently, Husband and I spent a weekend in Madrid, and then two weeks later we returned to Spain for an extended trip through Andalusia, because whenever we go to Spain, we go back two weeks later. Not really on purpose, it's just how our travels always fall and it's weird but hey we like Spain. If we go to Spain once, we go twice, usually in the same month. But this part of Spain, the southern part, was new to us, although I did spend a weekend during college in Malaga at a resort I found on hostelworld.com for supercheap but I didn't leave the resort the whole time so it doesn't really count. Also I was alone at the resort, which was filled with Spanish families and lots of children and everyone stared me and it was the most awkward thing ever. Anyway, we're not here to talk about that. We are here to talk about something that finally surpassed the awkwardness of that Malaga weekend: Easter week in Seville. See, we didn't realize that Seville was the epicentre of Easter, not until we were smack dab in the center of the insane crowds and shocking costumes. I don't know if you know this, but you know Jesus? Hoo boy, he's big there. And Jesus Fever spreads at similar strengths throughout all of Andalusia, so while I'm just talking about Seville today, the rest of my Andalusia posts will feature similar levels of craycray bananapants.
Last summer, Husband and I spent a lovely vacation all over Malta, a tiny country with many beautiful sights and at least one very amazing Eurovision song. It’s just below Sicily and to the east of Tunisia so, unfortunately, it’s often overlooked when people plan vacations to the area and choose the more well-known places. They/you shouldn’t, because Malta is a wonderful spot for a holiday. It offers a calmer, smaller experience than the more famous places in the area but with natural beauty and charm and (most importantly when coming from Britain) warmth. I wrote about Valletta, the capital, a while back and I’ll be writing about all the different places we saw eventually, but today I want to talk about Gozo, the even tinier island just to the northeast of the main island. Gozo was probably our favorite part of Malta. It had stunning natural beauty and interesting archaeological sites. The seemingly endless dirt ‘roads’ and desert-like atmosphere made it seem like we were discovering new land, which is a hard feeling to have in Europe.
Perhaps my favorite part of the world (if only because it includes Florence), Western Europe is where I became a travel enthusiast. And a gelato enthusiast.